Two from TTU Win State Community Service Awards

Sue Ellen Odom-Burduck looks to help when others tend to turn away. Noreen Grisolano promotes a love of art under challenging circumstances. This year, these Tennessee Tech University family members have been recognized and rewarded for community service by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission with Rep. Harold Love Outstanding Community Involvement Awards.

Odom-Burduck, a secretary in TTU's English Department, and Grisolano, a senior arts major, were two of five faculty/staff members and five students selected from all of Tennessee's colleges and universities to be awarded the Love award, which recognizes leadership and commitment to volunteer and community service.

What stands out most to the people who have known Odom-Burduck during her 24 years at the university is the personal responsibility she takes for helping one-on-one. In one case, she befriended a student from Bosnia, who calls her a "guardian angel" for the help she received raising tuition money, adjusting to a new country, and for simple tasks like listening and cooking dinner.

In addition to helping students, she regularly visits former faculty and staff members in their homes, hospitals or nursing homes and runs errands for those not able to get out.

"The remarkable thing about Sue Ellen is that when she sees a person with a need, she responds to them automatically," said TTU President Bob Bell. "There is no need so simple that it falls below her threshold of concern." Odom-Burduck initiated the Clothesline Project on campus, coordinating efforts to have women create T-shirts to express feelings about abuse. She's been a vital force on the Commission on the Status of Women and for the Women's Center.

Her community service also includes work with Habitat for Humanity, Cookeville Vision 2020, Greenways, Pacesetters Inc., and Leadership Putnam.

When Grisolano moved to Baxter in 1986, she realized there was not an art teacher at Baxter Elementary School, so she volunteered to teach art to all first grade classes. The art program, now supported by parents, teachers and the PTO, became a model for schools in Putnam and surrounding counties. In 1996, she received a J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award.

Grisolano is considered an excellent community resource because of her grant-writing skills. The grants have brought arts and crafts teachers into schools, helped subsidize costs for art-related programs and provided seed money for community projects.

As a community volunteer, she has been influential in the success of the Putnam County library program "Spin a Tale, Weave a Story," an event that serves as a living museum of Tennessee history. She is also treasurer for the Friends of the Appalachian Center for Crafts of Tennessee and for the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists.

"She is what Webster calls a volunteer," said Bell. "I call her a servant -- a servant to the Upper Cumberland."

The Love award was named in honor of the late Rep. Harold Love, who sponsored the legislation to create the program as a way to recognize individuals committed to community service involved in Tennessee's higher education institutions. Recipients must demonstrate public service to the community and must have a positive impact on the people they serve. The president of the institution must also submit a letter of nomination.

Previous winners of the award from the university include health and physical education professor LeBron Bell, a recipient in 1991, students Destiny Locke and Genetta Gibson, who won back-to-back awards in 1995 and 1996, and Anna Labar, a student winner in 2000. Previous staff winners include Mary Ann Cummins in 1999, Pat King in 1998 and Gay Shepherd in 2000.