TBR awards TTU first Geier, Philanthropy awards

Tennessee Tech University was recognized in the only two awards made by the Tennessee Board of Regents at its most recent board meeting. Both awards were newly created and made for the first time at the December TBR meeting.

TTU accepted the "Spirit of Geier" Award for its efforts toward increasing diversity among students, faculty and staff, and the first Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy was awarded to TTU alumnus Harry C. Stonecipher.

The "Spirit of Geier" Award:
Mrs. Rita Sanders Geier presented the first "Spirit of Geier" award, intended to recognize a TBR institution or individual who has shown exceptional commitment to implementing the intent of the Geier Consent Decree.

"Tennessee Tech was chosen to receive this award based on the energetic and persistent planning and implementation of its Geier programs," said Geier while presenting the award. Geier was the original plaintiff in the litigation initiated in 1968.

In the summer of 2001, TTU took the initiative and piloted its own pre-university program for minority high school students, which was used as a model for the first official Geier summer program this year. TTU was again at the forefront in engaging a Geier visiting professor, Dr. Frank Underdown, professor of physics and astronomy, visiting from Michigan Technological University.

"TTU initiated an ambitious plan to address a deficiency noted in the Consent Decree, namely, the low number of Black graduate students enrolled, and quickly put a program in place that resulted in doubling the number of Black graduate students in a one-year time frame," she said.

"President Bob Bell, faculty, staff, and students at Tennessee Tech have embraced the spirit of Geier wholeheartedly by adopting an atmosphere of opportunity as opposed to compliance. The university, the TBR system, and the state of Tennessee will benefit from their efforts for years to come."

Accepting the award on behalf of Tennessee Tech was TTU President Bob Bell, accompanied by Dr. Francis Otuonye, Associate Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies; Dr. Leo McGee, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs; Janie Robbins, Area Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies and Extended Education; Mr. Marc Burnett, Vice President of Student Affairs; and Ms. Rebecca Tolbert, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management.

"We're honored to be recognized by Mrs. Geier and the TBR for our efforts," said Bell. "Putting these programs together was easy because it was the right thing to do. I'm proud of the commitment and effort put forth across our campus."

The "Spirit of Geier" award was created by Tom Fuhrman, a highly recognized glass blower from Woodbury, Tenn., whose work is in the fountain court at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, as well as other museums and public spaces. Fuhrman's design was selected based on the insightful approach he took when creating the design.

"The piece represents an abstraction of the pillars contained within the Tennessee Board of Regents logo," Fuhrman said. "One pillar has white glass; the other has black glass. The black glass is smaller to represent the historically smaller presence of blacks within the system. Each pillar, however, supports the same weight. Sitting on balls, the pillars are really not stable - a fragile balance. They come together at the top in a crystal sphere that picks up all colors."

Agreement by all plaintiffs to the Geier Consent Decree was achieved in 2000 under the mediation efforts of Carlos Gonzáles who is now monitoring the compliance of all parties. If all aspects of the Consent Decree are carried out to the satisfaction of the federal court, Tennessee's system of higher education could be declared unitary in 2005, bringing an end to litigation that began in 1968.

The Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy:
TBR Chancellor Charles Manning presented the first Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy to Harry C. Stonecipher. Stonecipher, a Tennessee Tech University alumnus who recently retired as vice chairman of the Boeing Company, has donated more than $1.6 million to TTU for programs, lecture series, scholarships, and more, along with making numerous non-monetary contributions.

In the early 1990's, Mr. Stonecipher took on an active fund raising role at TTU by chairing its first major capital campaign. By 1997, his leadership helped raise more than $23 million for the campus. Upon his retirement from Boeing, Mr. Stonecipher has committed to an even more active role at the university, chairing the campus' first Foundation Board of Directors, a group carefully chosen to help lead the university's vision for the future.

Stonecipher has pledged another $673,000 to TTU over the next two years, bringing his total personal gifts and pledges to $2.2 million. His professional relationships with industries have resulted in more than $2.4 million in gifts and pledges to TTU. By just mentioning his name alone, Stonecipher has influenced others to donate their time and money to help raise funds for the university.

"Harry Stonecipher's one constant is his passionate devotion to lifelong learning and growth," said Manning. "His philosophy is to make people rise to meet challenges and their own abilities. He built his legacy on the premise that good leaders are not born, but purposely made. To encourage workers to reach their fullest potential, he created the first tuition reimbursement program at Boeing."

"The most important result of any visibility we receive from this award will be to encourage people to come forward to assist institutions that have been an important part of their lives," said Stonecipher. "At Boeing, all workers can study anything they want at any accredited institution they want, and Boeing not only will pay for it up front, but will give employees 50 shares of stock for earning an associate's degree and 100 shares for a bachelor's degree. Boeing believes in education.

"People who give to educational institutions want to give for something extra, not to replace what I consider to be the taxpayers' responsibilities. There is more money available in the world than good ideas to spend it on. Our job is to convince people that we have good programs, and if we do that, we will find that there is plenty of money out there to support those programs."

The Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy is a new award that will be presented quarterly at each Board meeting. Regents Award recipients may be individuals, corporations, or companies. They are selected due to their generosity of time and resources, influence on volunteers to become involved in fund raising, active promotion of the importance of higher education, leadership in philanthropy, and exceptional civic responsibility and integrity. Nominations for the award may be made by any TBR institution, and recipients are selected by a 6-member Committee on Donor Recognition composed of two representatives each from the TBR university group, community college group, and technology centers.

The Tennessee Board of Regents is the nation's sixth largest higher education system, governing 45 post-secondary educational institutions. The TBR system includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 26 technology centers, providing programs in 90 of Tennessee's 95 counties to over 180,000 students.

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