Tennessee Tech Alumni Association

Johnson, Omiyale, Hendrix and Neufeldt honored at Tennessee Tech Evening of Excellence 

Award recipients

Tennessee Tech’s 91st homecoming culminated in the university’s annual Evening of Excellence which honored alumni for achievements in service, philanthropy and career success.

The Tennessee Tech Alumni Association presented Ron H. R. Johnson with the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award, Frank T. Omiyale with the Outstanding Service Award, J. Elizabeth Hendrix with the Outstanding Philanthropy Award and Ellen J. Neufeldt with the Distinguished Alumna Award.

Ron Johnson, `08 English, is a global cyber and technology transformation executive within EY’s financial services office. Prior to joining EY’s leadership team, Johnson served 12 years as a Federal Bureau of Investigation intelligence and risk executive. He also served 16 years as an active duty and reserve United States Army senior intelligence officer.

Johnson first discovered Tech through Boys State and the All-American Football All Star Showcase. He initially enrolled at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville but transferred to Tech to play football.

“I was welcomed with open arms,” Johnson said. “And that journey set me up for success across the board – with the United States Army, the FBI and now my current role.”

Frank T. Omiyale, `14 marketing, played football for the Golden Eagles from 2001 to 2004 and was selected in the fifth-round of the 2005 National Football League draft by the Atlanta Falcons. After an eight-year career in the NFL, Omiyale returned to Tech to finish his degree. He is currently a teacher assistant and football assistant coach at T. W. Hunter Middle School and volunteers with nonprofits in the Nashville area.

“Who I am today is the result of a lot of decisions: decisions by strangers I didn’t know, decisions by people who are in my life and decisions I had to make for myself,” Omiyale said. “I want to say thank you to the people who tutored me – from a young boy to high school to college – helping me better myself in education and preparing me for things I could not even dream of.”

J. Elizabeth Hendrix, `63 secondary education, taught math for 36 years in Maryland, Colorado and Tennessee. She credits her parents, John and Anne Hendrix, for teaching her the importance of philanthropy. John had been a water boy at the University of Tennessee-Martin under then-Head Football Coach Everett Derryberry.

“Daddy was more than delighted when he heard that Coach Derryberry had become President Everett Derryberry at Tennessee Tech,” Hendrix said. “Daddy said I could go to college anywhere I wanted to. He would pay my way if I came to Tennessee Tech. So, I did, and I am very proud that I did.”

John and Anne supported Tech for many years. Hendrix followed their example and established several scholarships at Tech in her family’s name.

“I will continue to support scholarships so that others have the opportunity that I did, experience the success I had and one day be encouraged to give back,” she said.

Since becoming the fourth president of California State University San Marcos in 2019, Ellen J. Neufeldt, `91 marketing and `94 M.A., has focused on engaging, interacting, listening and building relationships with students, faculty, staff, alumni and community constituents.

Neufeldt credits her parents for the profound impact they had on her life and career. The Neufeldt family moved to Cookeville in 1970 so Harvey Neufeldt could join the College of Education faculty. Anne Neufeldt was an administrative assistant in the Department of Electrical Engineering.   

“My father, who passed away last year, loved every minute of being a professor and of debating issues,” said Neufeldt. “He loved to push his students to think about things differently. He was championing diversity and inclusion before anyone was talking about them. I know that I stand on the backs of giants: my beautiful, beautiful parents. When I was named president of CSUSM, I called my father and I said, ‘Dad, I’m going to be the president of CSUSM. And Dad, I would not be here without you.’”

Neufeldt says she received a letter in December 2021, announcing that she won Tech’s Distinguished Alumna Award. She took the letter with her when she went to visit her parents for the holidays.

“I was able to show the letter to my father, and that was the last day my father made complete sentences before he passed away,” Neufeldt said. “I got to share this with him, and that’s a very special moment that I’ll never forget. I can’t thank the Alumni Association enough for honoring me with this award but really, who you honor is my mother and father and what this university meant to them.”

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