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June 2020  

New student fitness center to be named after Marc Burnett

An artist's rendering of the facade of the new fitness center and an inset portrait of Marc Burnett

The university’s new student recreation and fitness center will be known as the Marc L. Burnett Student Recreation and Fitness Center. Burnett spent more than 36 years influencing students on Tech’s campus, including his years of service as an administrator and advocate for diversity. A standout basketball player for the Golden Eagles, Burnett graduated from Tech in 1982 with a degree in English-Journalism. He was a five-time captain of the men’s basketball team and also earned a master’s degree from Tech. Burnett retired from Tech in December as the Vice President for Student Affairs. A year ago, he was appointed Tech’s first Chief Diversity Officer. He has raised approximately $1.2 million for the diversity scholarship initiative, was instrumental in the founding and leadership for what is now the Leona Lusk Officer Multicultural Center, and is the first – and only – African-American vice president at Tech. The naming of this building after Burnett will be the first building named for an African-American.

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Tech promises to help students financially
Stock photo of the Tennessee Tech sign with yellow and purple tulips blooming in front of it.

Tech is making higher education even more affordable for students. The Tennessee Tech Promise is a scholarship that ensures more students have access to an education. As a last-dollar scholarship, Tech Promise covers any outstanding tuition and mandatory fees not met by other scholarships or grants. Qualified students are eligible for up to four years.

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Tech alum appears on Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek poses with Sam Matson on the gameshow set

A Tennessee Tech alum who is a teacher at Cookeville High School appeared on Jeopardy! last month as part of the show's annual Teachers Tournament.

“It was an awesome experience, one I'll always remember,” said Sam Matson, who has three degrees from Tech: a BS in History ('06), a BA in Spanish ('10) and an MA in English ('13). “I met some great people in my fellow contestants and the Jeopardy! production crew and, of course, Alex Trebek.”

Matson is currently an English teacher and coach of the CHS academic team.

The Teachers Tournament is an annual tournament where 15 teachers from different parts of the country come together to test their knowledge and compete for $100,000.

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Tech President Phil Oldham to serve as OVC's Chair of the Board of Presidents for 2020-21

A photo of President Phil Oldham in a blue suit standing in front of the pergola on the Centennial Plaza

Tennessee Tech President Dr. Phil Oldham will serve as the Ohio Valley Conference's Chair of the Board of Presidents for 2020-21. The chair presides over meetings of the Conference Board of Presidents, which makes final decisions on league matters. This year's spring meetings were held virtually for the first time in league history.

Oldham will step into the leadership role as the league continues to navigate the changing landscape of the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During its meetings, the OVC Board of Presidents unanimously adopted a statement on its intention to compete in intercollegiate athletics this coming academic year. The statement reads:

"The Ohio Valley Conference has the intention to compete in intercollegiate athletics this fall while being committed to providing safe environments for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans in which to engage. The OVC is aware of the unpredictable and fluid nature of this pandemic and will respond accordingly."

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Alumni Book Club to read Where the Crawdads Sing in July

The graphic has Volpe Library as a slightly transparent background. A yellow bookworm with a mortarboard sits atop of a pile of books. The graphic reads Tennessee Tech Alumni Book Club along the spines of the books.

If you haven't joined the Tennessee Tech Alumni Book Club, it's not too late! We've had great discussions about Tara Westover's Educated: A Memoir and Malcolm Gladwell's newest book, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know. In July, we'll be reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. To join, click the link below to request access to the private Facebook group. If you have any questions or suggestions for books to read in future months, please email

Crawford Alumni Center trivia available for viewing on Facebook

A bright purplegraphic with 90s design elements. There is a repeating motif of a triangle made of white lines, a yellow squiggle, a pink zig-zag, and a turquoise bar. The graphic reads "Crawford Alumni Center Decades Trivia; Facebook /tntechalumni"

We hope you were able to join us for one of the LIVE trivia events we hosted on our Facebook page throughout the past few months. If you weren't able to catch the live event, you can still watch the videos on Facebook and play at a time that is convenient for you. Grab some friends or family members and make it a competition!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook for the latest information about upcoming events (both virtual and in-person), trivia, the Alumni Book Club, and more.

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Crawford Alumni Center tests alumni knowledge of all things Tech

A graphic that is made to look like a word find. The words Tennesee, Tech, Trivia, Puzzle, Crawford, Quiz, Games, and Alumni are circled.

In addition to our Facebook LIVE trivia events, we've added a new monthly feature in The Alumnus to test your knowledge of all things Tech. Last month we asked the following question: 

What Tech institution signed on for the first time in 1972 from the smokestack building and featured Don Caldwell (an advisor) and President Everett Derryberry?

The answer was WTTU, and five alumni guessed correctly! We entered all five names into a drawing, and congratulations to Alan Guinn!  He received some awesome Tech SWAG. And thanks to all the alumni who played along last month. We learned so much about WTTU from the emails we received, and we wanted to share some of these fun facts with you in The Alumnus this month. Check out the next story for memories from Alan Guinn...and Don Caldwell himself!

This month's question is as follows:

Once mandatory for young men attending Tennessee Tech and made voluntary in 1972, in what year did women first join Tech’s ROTC program?

If you know the answer, email We'll randomly select one of the correct answers to win some Tech swag!

Tech-themed games and activities 

Tech alumni share memories of WTTU 88.5 FM

the logo for WTTU 88.5 The Nest

Last month's trivia question about WTTU 88.5 FM inspired some alumni to share their memories of working for Tech's radio station:

"WTTU was a great addition to both Tennessee Tech and the Cookeville Community as a whole! It has been said frequently that I have a face made for radio! It's one of my great memories of Tech. The reason I initially started the Soul Show was that there were so many demo records coming in to the station that had great soul music on them, and everyone on air back then wanted WTTU to sound like an 'evolved top 40 AM station' ('Don't talk over the lyrics!') but they wanted to do it with Deep Purple, Moody Blues, James Gang, Led Zeppelin, and Black Oak Arkansas, some of which were on 45. Some of the guys would not even play soul music, and I thought it was significantly under-credited. I still remember some of those 'soul sounds' we played. Great memories. Four Tops. Marvin Gaye. The Temptations. Music for the ages, that."  —Alan Guinn, '75 history

"I was the founding general manager of the station, appointed by President Derryberry in the first quarter of my journalism teaching career at Tech. The 10-watts would reach to I-40 on the south and to Monterey on the east. We had some very enterprising student leaders who jumped into the broadcasting business and created many innovative programs, including broadcasting Tech football and basketball games. We were never sure if anyone listened to us, but the experience was a lot of fun. We had a $5,000 budget from Student Services Dean Dusty Rhodes which was overseen by Dean William Baker, the assistant to the president."  —Don Caldwell, '68 secondary education

We love hearing your memories and experiences related to Tech! If you have a story you wish to share, please email

learn more about WTTU 88.5 FM

Archives with Atkinson Graphic

A photo of the archives space with tables and chairs

University Archives is working to document, preserve, and make accessible the experiences of Tennessee Tech students, faculty, staff, alumni, and residents of the Upper Cumberland following the March 3rd tornadoes and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you have a story to tell? If your experience was mundane, we would like to know that. If it was challenging or sad, we would like to know that, too. All experiences are welcome in numerous formats such as drawings, blogs, comics, essays, photographs, songs, videos, or social media posts.

University Archivist Megan Atkinson is responsible for collecting, preserving, and making accessible materials of historical significance to the University and the Upper Cumberland. Follow Archives and Special Collections on Facebook, email Megan's office with questions, and watch for more "Archives with Atkinson" in future editions of The Alumnus. 

read archives' blog

Follow Tech Archives on Facebook

Career Corner with Russ Live!

On July 9 from 10 - 11 am CDT, Tech's Center for Career Development will partner with the Huntsville, AL Chamber of Commerce to host a virtual hiring event in Huntsville, AL, and all Tech alumni are welcome. The "A Smart Place" Recruiting Event will take place virtually via Zoom, and alumni will have the opportunity to hear approximately 20 Huntsville-based employers speak about their companies and employment opportunities. Everyone who logs in will receive a recording of the broadcast and contact information for each of the companies featured. Alumni who have a Handshake account can register for this event through Handshake. For alumni who do not have a Handshake account, please register via the link below. In this month's Career Corner blog, Center for Career Development Director Russ Coughenour gives additional details about this event and discusses how to know when it's time to relocate for a job opportunity.

Last month, Russ hosted the first Career Corner LIVE webinar to answer questions and give resume and interview advice to Tech alumni. If you missed the webinar, it is available to watch on YouTube via the link below.

Do you have a question about resume writing, interviewing, or career planning? Email Russ, and you might just see your question answered in a future edition of "Career Corner"!

read career corner

register for Huntsville virtual recruiting event

view last month's career corner live webinar recording

Class Notes

Grant Swallows, '03 B.S. journalism, '06 M.A. instructional leadership, '07 Ed.S. instructional leadership, has been named Director of Schools for Warren County, TN. Read the full story here.   

Ricky Shelton, '85 marketing, was appointed by Gov. Bill Lee to the Tennessee Homeland Security Council. Ricky currently serves as the mayor of Cookeville. Read the full story here.

Dr. Jim Kerley, '76 secondary education, was featured in an article in the Crossville Chronicle about his book Leadership Lifeline, which was published by Covenant Books this year. Read the full story here.

Joey Wilson, '96 civil engineering, was named Tennessee Road Builders Association president. Read a message from Joey in the Tennessee Road Builder magazine here.

Brenda Shackleford, '88 civil engineering, recently joined the engineering firm Gresham Smith as a senior civil engineer in the Land Planning market. Read the fully story here.

Anjali Sivaainkaran, '16 music, was named the Director of Bands for Bowling Green City Schools. Read the full story here.

Savannah Tribble, '15 psychology, was promoted to Human Trafficking Task Force Coordinator for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and will be working with law enforcement agencies, non-profits, and national organizations to develop strategies to counteract and prevent human trafficking in Tennessee.

Dr. Subrata Saha, '69 M.S. engineering mechanics, was elected to be a member of the nominations committee of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, representing the Northwest Region. This year Dr. Saha was also elected the President of the Sigma Xi Chapter of the University of Washington and appointed Chair of the Bioethics Committee of the International Federation of the Medical and Biological Engineering (IFMBE). Dr. Saha is the Conference Chair of the 10th International Conference on Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine that will be held April 24-25, 2021, in Seattle. More information about the conference can be found here.

Robert Pugh, '99 history, has joined the Nashville office of Argent Trust Company as vice president and trust officer where he will assist clients with their trust and estate planning needs. An attorney and veteran trust and administration officer, Pugh joins Argent from Regions Bank in Nashville, where he served as a trust advisor. Before that, he was a trust officer at Old National Bank in Evansville, IN. Pugh previously practiced law for six years with Miller & Pugh Law Offices, P.C. in Peoria, IL, and served for four years as an assistant state’s attorney in Peoria County. He is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, Trust & Estates and Corporate Law Department sections.

Bonita Jo Atwood, '76 psychology, has been appointed by Gov. Bill Lee to the 16th judicial district circuit court. Atwood has served as a managing partner at Atwood and Moore since 1995, representing more than 7,000 clients in a wide scope of civil litigation. Read the full story here.

Dr. Naresh Sunkara, '03 M.S. chemistry, was featured in Chemical & Engineering News this month. The article focused on Dr. Sunkara's efforts to help students and postdocs learn about business. Read the full story here

Chris Stokes, '91 marketing, was named director of sales for US Cellular. Chris is responsible for overseeing the business and government sales teams in the Northeast and Southeast to help ensure customers are equipped with wireless solutions that can simplify and enhance their business or government entity. Read the full story here.

David Damsky, '15 wildlife and fisheries science, was recently hired as a biologist at Sheridan Bird Farm. 

Andrew Landers, '74 B.S. health and physical education and '75 M.A. health and physical education, will be inducted into the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame next month. He is best known for coaching the Georgia Bulldogs women's basketball team where he won 866 games. His teams won seven SEC regular season championships and four SEC tournament titles. The induction ceremony will be held remotely on July 21 and broadcast on WBXX-TV. Read the full story here.

Regina Santana, '96 civil engineering, was recently selected as the first female director of the Middle Tennessee division of the Tennessee Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA). Read the full story here.

Aaron Collins, '05 M.A. instructional leadership and '07 Ed.S. instructional leadership, was named Superintendent of Metro Technology Centers in Oklahoma City, OK. Read the full story here.

Rea Nkhumise, '16 M.S. mechanical engineering, was featured in Sowetan Live for inventing an automated pap cooker. Pap is a traditional porridge/polenta made from coarsely ground maize and a staple food of the Bantu peoples of Southern Africa. Read the full story here.

Email us your promotions, awards, and other achievements, and we'll share in the next edition of The Alumnus! 

Upcoming Tennessee Tech University bookstore sales

Two TTU tshirts

Through July 24:  25% Off Clearance

Through July 1:  BOGO 50% off drinkware, tees, and hats 


The University Bookstore also offers some high-end Tennessee Tech items including Cutter & Buck shirts, jewelry & watches, glassware, and home decor items. These items are exclusively sold online, and most are produced on demand so they take about 2-4 weeks for production and shipping. But these are great options if you are looking for something unique for yourself or a nice gift for someone else. 

NOTE: The University Bookstore is currently closed to visitors but is still open for online purchases.

shop the Tech bookstore online

The Crawford Alumni Center hopes all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends stay safe and healthy. Please continue to live Wings Up—just keep a six-foot wingspan between you and your fellow Golden Eagles!

The Crawford Alumni Center


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