Kentucky State University valedictorian Cory May’s curiosity and passion have led the Mt. Eden computer science major down a wide and varying path.

He earned an associate degree at the age of 18 in professional studio recording and came back to finish his bachelor’s at Kentucky State at age 25. In the time between, he toured with Murphy’s Echo, the family band (comprised of his mother, Tina May, and brothers) and other musicians and spent time in Minnesota and Frankfort as a barista.

Thanks to his wife, Christina May, a Kentucky State alumna and artist, he decided to continue his education as a Thorobred.

She told him about a transfer student scholarship and the rest is history.

“Originally I was going to do journalism. Then I went to English,” May said. “Then I took one of Dr. Hannemann’s programming classes and I just fell in love with it.”

“Cory is one of the best students I’ve ever had,” Hannemann said. “He is exceptionally broad-minded and has a well-rounded skill set, which is why he was such a good fit for Kentucky State and which is why he thrived here.”

“I think at heart I’m an engineer and I ended up working with computers,” May said. “I like how computer science just solves basically most problems we’re facing in modern life. It’s dealing with health. It’s dealing with the environment. It’s dealing with politics. It’s all a web that fits together.”

Thanks to his success and the success of his classmates at a hackathon for HBCUs in Atlanta, May was offered a full-time job with IBM in North Carolina. He’s accepted the position.

“During this competition, Cory was able to utilize his knowledge of marketing to identify the profit areas that could be generated by a product,” Dr. Chi Shen, professor and chair of the division of computer science, said.

May said the hackathon was an intense competition that involved building a computer application in 24 hours and then pitching it to IBM executives.

May said the curriculum at Kentucky State prepared the team in a different way than their competitors.

“You take art classes and English classes and creative thinking classes, which really just teach you how to think out of the box and think on your feet,” May said.

While his short-term future includes working at IBM, May said his long-term goals include having his own start-up or writing his own computer software. He said he and his wife have also discussed several ideas for collaborating to create video games that deal with social issues. He’d be in charge of the technical aspect and she would provide the visuals.

“He is a geek in the best sense of the word – he is passionate about what he does and loves and is able to share his passions with anybody willing to listen,” Hannemann said. “His honors are well-deserved.”

May said finishing as valedictorian was his goal from the beginning. After all, his mother was the valedictorian when she completed her degree.

“It feels great,” he said. “I’m excited about it.”

May will join more than 100 of his classmates Saturday, Dec. 16 during fall commencement at Kentucky State University.