Tennessee Tech celebrates Outstanding Alumni
Tennessee Tech University recognized eight outstanding alumni Friday, Feb. 1, for their lifetime achievements and enduring support of the university. Traditionally, the university names one outstanding alumnus or alumna to represent each college at TTU. This year, the university recognized an alumnus for the Department of Athletics, and the College of Education honored a married couple for their individual achievements.
Fewer than two years after graduating from Tennessee Tech, Katie Cartwright has provided free medical treatment to thousands of street children in Kampala, Uganda, and has started a non-profit organization to help the children who age out of the country’s orphanages and government assistance programs.
After she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing, she passed the state certification exam to become a registered nurse. In September 2011, she and a friend left for Africa to serve a six-month assignment with the Abaana charity. With help from TTU friends and the emergency room staff at Cumberland Medical Center, Cartwright collected medical supplies such as bandages and children’s Tylenol and raised money to support her commitment.
With hundreds of thousands of refugee children in Kampala, Cartwright sometimes treated more than 200 kids a day from tables on the capital city’s streets. She cleaned and treated a lot of infectious wounds and saw many children with malaria and high fevers.
“Anything I saw out of my scope, I took them to the local hospital and paid for the treatment out of the funds we had raised, about $500 altogether,” Cartwright said.
“As soon as I got there, Uganda felt like home. I loved working at the hospital, but I felt out of place. My element is working in a dirt field, and I felt a greater need to help these children.”
After about five months of working on the streets, Cartwright started praying about making a long-term commitment in Uganda. She founded Doors Ministries, which offers housing to 10 boys and operates a primary school for about 65 children. Cartwright is the school nurse, and she uses that position to educate students’ families on healthy habits and medical care.
“Nursing school prepared me to actually care for another human, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually,” Cartwright said. “Besides that, they taught me how to think. If I can’t find a cure, I think about how I can educate them or help them find resources or find medical help.”
Cartwright completed her senior management clinicals at Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville. The daughter of Jim and Janice Cartwright, she is a graduate of White House High School.
Dr. Lamar Parker
Lamar Parker graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology at TTU. He graduated from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and completed his obstetric and gynecologic residency training at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
Now with Lyndhurst Gynecologic Associates in Winston-Salem, N.C., Parker’s special interests include infertility, obstetric and gynecologic ultrasound, and minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. He has served as principal investigator on more than 100 clinical trials in women’s health.
Parker credits TTU professor Eugene Kline for instilling an investigative thought process into his students, and he recognizes Kline’s influence on his venture into clinical research.
“I was already interested in medicine when I enrolled at Tech, but I didn’t realize at the time what a wonderful chemistry department Tech had. It was a diamond hidden in the midst of an engineering school. The classes were a good size, small enough that you could communicate with your professors,” Parker said.
Parker is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and an assistant clinical professor in the departments of obstetrics and gynecology and obstetrical anesthesia at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He serves on the TTU College of Arts & Sciences Board of Visitors.
He is married to TTU alumna Marilyn (Anderson) Parker, and they have four children, Nick, Anderson, Grace and Seth.
When Jimmy Mackie left a cost accounting job in 1957 in Columbia, Tenn., his supervisor told him he was making a mistake and “wouldn’t amount to anything.”
A year later, Mackie had finished his second degree at Tennessee Tech when Joe Gibson approached his father, Danie, and asked if he knew of anyone who might be interested in buying half the Institutional Wholesale Company business. Danie said, “Well, my son needs a job.” Gibson delivered groceries from a distributor in Knoxville to schools, hospitals and restaurants in Putnam County.
“I didn’t know a thing in the world about selling groceries,” Mackie said, “and I had made up my mind I didn’t want to depend on selling to make a living.”
Mackie had business management and accounting degrees from Tennessee Tech, and he had served two years in the U.S. Army, but he approached the idea of buying a business with some uncertainty. The move would mean incurring some debt and taking a risk.
He took Gibson’s ledgers to Louis Johnson, dean of the TTU College of Business, and asked his advice. “He said, ‘It looks like you’ve got a good thing, but it looks like a lot of hard work,’” Mackie said. “I wasn’t afraid of hard work, and I had a family to support.”
Now approaching 55 years at the helm of IWC, Mackie has done every job in the business, from cleaning the toilets and driving the delivery truck to managing operations and, true to his career goal, accounting. He and his brother, Leroy, were co-owners for nearly three decades.
His sons, Bob and John, are part owners in the business now; both are TTU alumni. IWC employs many TTU alumni, and Mackie said several employees have worked with him for 30 to 40 years.
Having lived in Cookeville all but about two years of his life, Mackie calls himself a “local yokel.”
Supporting community causes and Tennessee Tech is a happy obligation for him. The Mackies support TTU athletics, cancer research, Boy Scouts and many other organizations. He and some locals who meet for breakfast at the Mini Burger raised funds to buy a large truck for TTU Athletics to haul football equipment to away games. IWC Cash & Carry is the presenting sponsor of "The Watson Brown Show," a weekly call-in show for Golden Eagle football fans.
“We don’t do it to promote our business, I don’t do it to get my name on a building,” Mackie said. “I do it to help Tennessee Tech, and we do it for the community.”
Mackie has served on the TTU College of Business Foundation since 1982 and has helped raise funds to renovate classrooms in Johnson Hall, named for his early career adviser, Louis Johnson.
Mackie is a 1951 graduate of Cookeville High School and the son of Danie and Edna Mackie. He and Shirley (Hargrove) Mackie have been married since 1954. They recently bought a ’56 Studebaker Hawk and are enjoying membership in the 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk owners’ club. Being a part of the Frosty Acres Brand purchasing co-op, they have had the opportunity to travel to several parts of the world. The Mackies are proud to count TTU alumni among their friends.
“It’s one relationship after another, people I got acquainted with through Tech,” Mackie said. “It’s all because of Tech I have these wonderful relationships.”
Years after being a student-athlete, Ottis Phillips knows the true rewards of college athletics: meeting teammates who become lifelong friends and promoting the university to future students.
Phillips, president and owner of SEC Enterprises Inc., lettered in football for four years at TTU and was president of the Tech Letterman’s Club his senior year.
“I always wanted to play college football, and playing for Tech was a great experience for me," Phillips said. “I got to be associated with great athletes and great people. The relationships with teammates that I’ve maintained through the years have kept me involved with the program.”
Phillips has supported Golden Eagle football for almost three decades, and he attends as many football games as possible. In recent years he has traveled to cheer on the Golden Eagles against Auburn, Texas Christian, Louisville, Georgia and Oregon.
“You can’t buy that kind of exposure,” Phillips said. “A good athletics program raises the school’s visibility, and you get people interested in the university who were otherwise unfamiliar with TTU. You use these games to recruit student-athletes to TTU on scholarship. When they go on to play at the next level, that brings more recognition to Tech every time they are introduced on the field.”
Phillips helps attract students to TTU by serving on the committee to bring the TSSAA high school football championships to Cookeville. The games bring approximately 45,000 visitors to campus each year, and about a dozen student-athletes have signed with TTU after playing in the championship games.
Phillips has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in business administration from TTU. He started his career as an engineer with Fleetguard Inc. in Cookeville, a division of Cummins Engines.
“I was always interested in learning about the other parts of the business, be it sales or operations or marketing," he said. "That desire to have my hands in everything was a major motivation to be an independent business person."
Phillips’ first job in beer distribution came in 1980, when he joined Coors of the Cumberland in Nashville. For the next decade he worked in sales, project management and marketing across Texas and Colorado.
In 1990 Phillips returned to his hometown of Cookeville as general manager of SEC Enterprises Inc. He bought the business from owner Harold Evans in 1995.
Phillips is board chairman of the Cookeville/Putnam County Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association. SEC Enterprises supports community organizations such as WCTE, Genesis House, CityScape, the Cookeville Children's Museum, the Home Builders Association, the Cavalier Athletic Foundation and the Jaycees. SEC Enterprises is a major sponsor of the annual TTU Football Alumni Golf Tournament and the Tony Stone Barbecue Dinner.
“Cookeville and the Upper Cumberland is a great place to do business. Our customers and retailers are first class, hardworking, honest people. It's rewarding to see the support they give our brands," Phillips said. "There's no place I'd rather live or work."
To be among the 2013 Outstanding Alumni honorees is humbling for Phillips, who is more accustomed to serving on selection committees such as that for the TTU Sports Hall of Fame. “It’s a little strange to be on the receiving side. I’m very appreciative, because I know in a heartbeat that there are others more deserving than I am.”
Phillips and his wife, Cindy, have five children, Kristie, Beth, Parker, Emily and Hunter. Their three grandchildren are Caden, Leigha and Jack. He and his wife attend Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Cookeville.
The best expression of Chris Privon’s appreciation for his mentors is to be a part of challenging future engineers to succeed.
As a TTU student, Privon co-oped for a year at Fleetguard, working with Jack Gill, Jim Morton, Charlie Huddleston and other TTU alumni.
“They made time to talk with me and were kind enough to give me projects that pushed and exposed me to the broader Fleetguard operation,” Privon said. “If you showed initiative, they gave you opportunities to get great experience. They were great role models and mentors. The co-op program is one of the best programs at Tennessee Tech.”
Being a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, faculty encouraged Privon to write and present a paper at the ASME conference.
“My professors recognized that I have strong communication and presentation skills and they encouraged me to connect those abilities to my engineering education,” Privon said.
That experience, along with more encouragement and advising from professor Marie Ventrice, motivated Privon’s interest in the marketing and business aspects of an engineering education.
He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in mechanical engineering from TTU and earned a master’s degree in business administration at The Darden School at the University of Virginia. He joined Hewlett-Packard in Boise, Idaho, in 1983 and retired in 2009 as vice president of Imaging and Printing Group Services.
Privon and his wife Keron, a TTU alumna, are serving on strategic planning teams for the TTU College of Engineering. He encourages students to take courses in business and non-technical subjects to broaden their horizons and find their interests.
“The college’s focus is to equip future engineers to solve societal problems, to become renaissance engineers,” Privon said. “When we inspire students to fix important problems, to learn to talk to people and understand their issues, then they contribute to society in a very fundamental and positive way.
“Engineering becomes a creative discipline more than a math and physics discipline. It becomes a way of empowering people and giving them the capability of using technology to solve problems. An engineer must first imaginatively understand a customer’s needs then be creative in developing a solution that works.”
Privon is active in the Boise community and serves on numerous boards, including Special Olympics Idaho, the Ore-Ida Boy Scout Council and Ballet Idaho. He chairs the stewardship council at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, and he served on the board for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho. He is an accomplished woodworker who often offers his woodworking skills for community projects.
The Privons have three sons and one daughter-in-law, George, Peter and Katy, and Chris. In addition to woodworking, Privon enjoys golf, skiing and travel.
When the New York Yankees light up the scoreboard in Yankee Stadium, few fans know the technology behind it. No one understands it like TTU alumnus Mike Lane and his team of technicians and engineers.
Lane grew up in Cookeville and was more interested in computer programming than sports, so the job of chief information officer for the Yankees is a perfect fit. He stays focused on the technical needs in the stadium, from firewalls and network security to wiring and connections for transport providers like ESPN, rather than the action on the field.
It’s the infrastructure at Yankee Stadium and the team’s facilities in Tampa, Fla., that holds Lane’s attention.
“The biggest challenge of my career was to design the infrastructure for the new stadium as a state-of-the-art venue that has to remain state of the art,” he said.
“To maintain that status for a year-round venue, I have to be intuitive and watch the latest technologies. Some will be fads, and business initiatives dictate if there’s a major change in infrastructure. You have to watch for technologies that are adaptive to your organization’s needs.”
Lane’s venture into supporting Major League Baseball came as a consultant in Tampa. He talked with general managers to understand program needs, then wrote scouting software that soon half the clubs were using.
Lane’s early programming experience came while he was a TTU student. His first job was at Cardinal Computer Store, and he worked at Averitt Express in network support.
“My career took off because I had great work experience. It was tough to work during college, but it put me a step ahead of the game,” he said.
Photography and flying are among Lane’s hobbies, both areas he took an interest in as a student at TTU.
“I always knew I would go to Tennessee Tech. It’s the only school I applied to,” said Lane. “I’m a bit of a sentimentalist. My family has been in the area for many generations, and it meant a lot for me to attend college in my hometown.”
Lane’s parents, David and Gay Lane, still reside in the Cookeville area. Lane and his wife, Christy, have two children, Nick and Emma.
Elois Grooms and Judy Grooms
College friends often claim common interests in sports, movies and favorite pizza hangouts, but few manage to share those ties throughout a 36-year marriage.
For Elois and Judy (Reed) Grooms, athletics and education have been at the core of their lives since they began dating as freshmen at TTU. Elois played football and Judy was active in intramural sports, and both were education majors. They married in 1977 after years of dates on campus and at their favorite Cookeville hangout, the Gondola Pizza House. They have two daughters, Alison and Meredith.
Elois played defense for the Golden Eagles football team from 1972-1975. The health and physical education major was drafted in the third round of the 1975 NFL draft and began his professional football career as a defensive lineman with the New Orleans Saints. He also played for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles.
A native of Tompkinsville, Ky., Elois was inducted into the TTU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986. He credits coaches Don Wade, Jack Henderson and Bob Joyce and adviser Delores Wheatly for their guidance and influence on his education.
Judy is principal at Cope Middle School in Bossier City, La. Named the 2012 Louisiana Middle School Principla of the Year, she has been at the school for 23 years as a teacher, counselor and administrator. She has been principal for 12 years.
"I enjoyed all those positions, because being a teacher helped me be a better counselor, and being a counselor helped me become a better administrator," she said. "Teachers identify with administrators who have been like them, in the trenches. I still go into classrooms and teach occasionally to keep current with the students."
The breadth of Judy's experience at TTU impacted her changing roles in education. She has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in elementary guidance and counseling.
"I had wonderful professors at TTU. Dr. Elinor Ross was a great teacher and undergraduate adviser, and I enjoyed working four years for Dean M.P. Quillen," she said. "I received wonderful career advice from Dr. Rebecca Quattlebaum, who encouraged me to seek my master's at TTU."
New nationwide standards in K-12 education challenge and motivate Judy to stay in touch with students and prepare for exciting changes in the classroom.
"Students are so technology-literate and savvy with social media. Teachers have to stay current with the same resources as our students," she said. "As educators we must model lifelong learning.
"Today's education majors will be immersed in Common Core Standards, which I am excited about. So much has changed in the last 10 years, I cannot imagine what future educational changes will take place."