Tech loves Cookeville

Tennessee Tech student Lindsey Ngo helps move debris on Wednesday at a neighborhood devastated by an F-4 tornado just a few miles from campus.Tennessee Tech loves Cookeville. That statement was never more evident than on Wednesday when hundreds of students, faculty and staff turned out to assist tornado victims in the community.

Even though Tennessee Tech did not have any injuries reported or structural damage to any buildings on campus from the F-4 twister that ravaged homes and business and killed 18 people a few miles away, President Phil Oldham canceled classes and closed campus on Tuesday.

He urged the Tech community to show its love for Cookeville and Putnam County by canceling classes and closing campus again and designating Wednesday a Tech Loves Cookeville day of service for those willing and able to volunteer and help the victims.

The Tech community responded in fine fashion. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff used chainsaws to cut trees, moved debris, carried supplies, and cared for the people affected by devastating loss.

“I know hundreds of you put your hearts and energy into cleaning up and helping people heal today,” President Oldham said in an email to campus late Wednesday night. “I read the posts, emails, and tweets and saw the photos. I am proud and amazed, but not surprised.”

Community officials asked for volunteers to stay away from the heavily damaged area on Thursday, prompting Oldham and university officials to resume classes and activities on campus.

“This will be a long physical and emotional recovery. There will be work days, weeks and months from now. Tech students, faculty and staff will be there,” Oldham said. “We will continue to organize and keep campus informed about ways to donate and volunteer. We will follow the guidance of our community leaders who have been working day and night to do the right thing. We will also make sure everyone on campus has the opportunity for the emotional support they need.

Information for those who still want to donate and serve is located on the Tech website at

“I have respect and gratitude for your work,” said Oldham. “You have poignantly demonstrated what it really means to be a Tennessee Tech student and live Wings Up with heart and passion!”

Oldham also asked that anyone on campus who needs someone to listen to their needs for absences, food, shelter, clothing or emotional support should let someone on campus know. 

“Faculty and staff will listen and help you,” he said. “If you don’t feel comfortable doing it in person, and we will get you to the right person.

Tennessee Tech students Caleb Moss and Rebekah Chadwick help pick up debris on Wednesday.

Tennessee Tech English instructor Andy Smith helps with volunteer efforts after an F-4 tornado touched down a few miles from campus.

Jeannie Mills Smith, Tennessee Tech’s director of student success center in interdisciplinary studies, helps with clean-up efforts after a tornado ripped through Putnam County on Tuesday.

Tennessee Tech students search through the rubble on Wednesday after an F-4 tornado ripped through Putnam County on Tuesday.

Members of Tennessee Tech’s softball team help with clean-up efforts on Wednesday in a neighborhood close to campus that was devastated by on F-4 tornado on Tuesday.

Members of Tennessee Tech’s softball team help with clean-up efforts on Wednesday in a neighborhood close to campus that was devastated by on F-4 tornado on Tuesday.

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