Tennessee Tech News

Six Outstanding Alumni to be honored on Feb. 13

Published Tuesday Feb 10, 2009

Six leaders in fields of construction, education, medicine, agriculture, business and sports will be honored as Tennessee Tech University 2009 Outstanding Alumni at a dinner and reception on Feb. 13.

These six alumni, representing each academic division, will receive recognition at a celebration in the Leslie Town Centre: Kevin Brown, Dr. Jackie Corbin, John Hoskins, Connie J. Smith, Ray Morris and Casey Benjamin.

A reception in their honor will begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The public and campus community are invited, and reservations are required. To register online, go to ttualumni.org/netcommunity/reservations or call 931-372-3205. The cost is $30 per person.

College of Agricultural and Human Sciences
Kevin Brown, Ag Science, ‘77

As Tennessee's state conservationist, Brown leads National Resources Conservation Service programs and activities, managing about 200 employees and a more than a half million dollar budget.

Brown rose to this position after years of outstanding service and accomplishments with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After graduating in from TTU in 1977, he took an entry level position but soon earned positions of increasing responsibility.

Prior to his current position, Brown served as deputy chief for management in Washington, D.C. While in Washington, he also served as associate deputy chief for management, director of the financial assistance programs division and director of easement programs division. He served five years as state conservationist in Ohio before moving to Washington.

Because of his outstanding knowledge and abilities, Brown was selected to serve with the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee chairperson, crafting policy for the 2002 Farm Bill. This major legislation resulted in a 60 percent increase in funding for conservation and instituted major national conservation policy changes.

Brown often returns to TTU to talk to students about career opportunities, and he recruits students to the School of Agriculture. He is committed to increasing recruitment of students for careers with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Jackie Corbin, Biology, ‘63

Corbin, a Vanderbilt University professor and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researcher, was propelled into the scientific spotlight a decade ago with the launching of Viagra, the most successful drug debut in history.

Following his pre-med studies at TTU, Corbin’s graduate and post-doctoral work latched on to the type of research he’s pursued for more than 30 years. He immersed himself in the study of cyclic GMP, a molecule holding the key to several smooth muscle functions in the body, including blood pressure, nerve transmission and penile erection.

In the late 70s, Corbin and a post-doctoral student first identified a new enzyme, PDE-5, which serves to break down cyclic GMP. Pfizer, Viagra’s manufacturer, used the PDE-5 to develop a new medication to lower blood pressure. In drug trials and surveys, the new medication exhibited a side effect that led to a new trial focusing on erectile dysfunction. Viagra has since risen to $2 billion in annual sales.

Because of his credibility as a scientist, Corbin remains in great demand as a speaker, particularly to urologists and other doctors who trust him to explain the pure science, and not the hype, of the drug.

With support from two major government grants and drug company support, Corbin continues to explore other therapies for disorders like pulmonary hypertension and for ways to develop new and improved drugs for penile erection.

A star halfback on TTU’s football team in his college years, Corbin was a part of group that won three Ohio Valley Conference titles and played in the Tangerine Bowl in 1961.

College of Business
John Hoskins, Accounting, ‘78

Hoskins currently serves as a Tennessee Valley Authority senior vice president and treasurer.

As senior vice president, Hoskins serves the nation’s largest public power provider with 8.8 million customers in seven southeastern states. As treasurer, he is responsible for investor relations, financing, cash management and corporate credit.

During his tenure, Hoskins has overseen the issuance of $55 billion in debt offering and has worked to reduce TVA’s interest cost by 30 percent over 10 years.

Hoskins is active in his community, serving in a leadership capacity for the Combined Federal Campaign and as finance director of his church. The Knoxville native and resident has served as a College of Business Board of Trustees member since 2001.

He was this year’s recipient of the College of Business Board of Trustees Louis Johnson Outstanding Alumnus Award, established in 1980 to recognize graduates who make significant contributions to business through any outlets worthy of social achievement.

College of Education
Connie J. Smith, History, ’71, Special Ed., ‘74

Smith, who has devoted her 30-plus-year career to improving education in Tennessee, serves as assistant commissioner of accountability, teaching and learning for the State of Tennessee Department of Education.

Smith has been in education for 32 years as a special education teacher in Tullahoma, a special education supervisor in Wilson County, a principal in New York City, and as an assistant superintendent. She has worked with Tennessee school board members in professional development/strategic planning training and has taught in several colleges and universities.

For the past 15 years, she has been in the Tennessee Department of Education, working with development of a statewide initiative in school improvement planning and accountability and combining state approval and regional accreditation practices. Prior to that she worked in the department in the development of the Career Ladder and was director of the original Tennessee Academy for School Leaders, serving as executive director of assessment and accountability.

Smith earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tennessee Tech University, an Ed.S. in psychology and special education from Vanderbilt University, and a doctorate from Columbia University in New York City.

While in New York, she was employed by the New York Academy of Medicine to develop the National School Health Curriculum and was also an Effective Schools Principal and researcher.

College of Engineering
E. Ray Morris, civil engineering, ‘59

Morris, founder and president of Venture Construction Co. in Norcross, Ga., honed his entrepreneurial spirit at TTU.

Morris founded his company in 1969 after working as a structural design engineer for S.S. Kenworthy and Associates in Memphis and Eastern Engineering Co. (now Simons/Eastern) and as a project manager for McDonough Construction Co. and Tom McCord Construction Co.

Under Morris’ leadership and vision, Venture has completed more than 8,000 projects, retaining a general contractor’s license in 45 states and operating branch offices in six cities. Venture, which employs more than 270 people, specializes in restaurants, drugstores and shopping centers, completes 400 contracts each year.

Venture is active in 15 to 20 states on a regular basis, with geographic coverage from Miami to Detroit and from New Jersey to Louisiana. More than 10 percent of Venture’s work concentrates on remodeling existing facilities, much of which is done at night and with no interruption to operations.

A respected leader in his field, he has served as national director of the American Institute of Constructors, as a national board of directors member for the Associated General Contractors, and as past president and board of directors member of the Associated General Contractors of Georgia.

One of his legacies at TTU will be Ray Morris Hall, future home of the Millard Oakley STEM Center, a 26,000 square-foot, $8 million building to be located on TTU’s campus at Seventh Street and Stadium Drive. His significant contribution helped fund the facility scheduled to open in 2010.

School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Extended Education
Casey Benjamin, IS, ‘05

Benjamin, a shortstop with the Oklahoma City Redhawks, AAA affiliate of the Texas Rangers, played most of the 2008 season in the Pacific Coast League. He’ll attend spring training at the end of February with the Texas Rangers in Surprise, Ariz.

Since leaving TTU after the 2003 season, Benjamin has progressed through the Texas farm system, earning a place on the Texas League South Division All-Star Team in 2007.

Tennessee Tech’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2003, Benjamin enrolled in TTU as a business major in 2001 and began an award-winning, three-year playing career, helping the Golden Eagles capture the OVC tournament title in 2001 and advance to the
NCAA Knoxville Regional.

In 2002 and 2003, Benjamin was voted to the all-Ohio Valley Conference team before signing a free agent contract. He finished his career with the second most hits (209) in school history, although he played only three seasons, and ended 2003 hitting .418 with 17 doubles, five home runs and 44 RBI.

The North Dakota native returned to TTU to finish his degree through the Interdisciplinary Studies program.

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