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December 2021  

Golden Eagle community raises $105,000 for Football Operations Center on Giving Tuesday

The football team celebrates in the locker room with Coach Alexander.

Tennessee Tech celebrated its most successful Giving Tuesday ever by raising $105,252 for its Football Operations Center in just 24 hours.

Since 2016, Tech has participated in Giving Tuesday, an international day of giving when people all over the world support causes that have a positive impact on their communities. Tech's football program has a tremendous economic impact on the City of Cookeville and the Upper Cumberland community which is why Tech chose to make the Football Operations Center the focus of this year's Giving Tuesday.

Head Football Coach Dewayne Alexander and his wife, Angy, promised to match every gift made on Giving Tuesday, up to $35,000. Their commitment and belief in the project inspired many alumni and friends to make gifts as well.

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Tech earns fourth-straight OVC Sportsmanship Award for football

Coach Alexander speaks to members of the football team on the field

For the fourth straight year, the Tennessee Tech football team is coming home with the Ohio Valley Conference's Team Sportsmanship Award for football.

The award is voted on by the conference's student-athletes and coaches, bestowed upon the teams deemed to have best exhibited the standards of sportsmanship and ethical behavior as outlined by the OVC and the NCAA. Included in the areas for evaluation are the conduct of student-athletes, coaches, staff and administrators and fans.

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Tech launching new innovative computing degree

A photo of President Oldham and Board of Trustees member Tom Jones

Tennessee Tech announced it is creating a new degree that will provide students with a strong foundation in technical computing skills along with knowledge in varying majors across campus. This innovative degree is the first such program in Tennessee.

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Tech alumni and friends share what they are thankful for

What are you thankful for?

On Thanksgiving, we sent an email greeting to all Tennessee Tech alumni and friends and asked, "What are you thankful for?" We were inspired by the answers we received and wanted to share them with the Golden Eagle community.

"I am thankful for the good foundation I received at Tennessee Tech for what turned out to be a long and interesting profession and life." — Jack Hammontree, `63 accounting

"I am thankful for our School of Nursing, which provides our nurses -- the heart of medical and healthcare." —Barbara Reynolds, retired dean, Tennessee Tech School of Nursing

"I'm thankful for my parents. They went without so that my college education was paid for. They didn't work high-paying jobs; they just worked hard and saved so I could leave college with an education and debt free." —Kim Grahek, `93 history

"This year, we are thankful that we will add another alumnus to our family as our niece receives her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing this month. Congrats to Caroline Heck and all December 2021 graduates!" —Richard Suttles, `99 industrial technology, and Amanda Heck Suttles, `00 English

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Tech's Alumni Association gathers at Tennessee Titans game

President and Mrs. Oldham smile with members of the Alumni Association Board and Crawford Alumni Center staff at the tailgate

The Tennessee Tech Alumni Association had a great time at the Titans game on Dec. 12! Thanks to everyone who joined us. We plan to do this again next year! Tickets are always in high demand, so be sure to read The Alumnus regularly, check out our events page often and be sure your email address and other contact information are up to date.

While Tech alumni tailgated, Titans mascot T-Rac gave Awesome Eagle a tour! Awesome made sure there was plenty of purple in Nissan Stadium. Check out the video linked below.

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Tech alumni who worked for NASA invited to share their stories

The Alumnus Special NASA Edition with an image of the moon in the background and a cartoon of Awesome Eagle in a space helmet

Dec. 7 marked the 49th anniversary of the final moon-landing mission of NASA's Apollo program, and we want to honor Tennessee Tech alumni who have worked for NASA. The employment can be in any capacity (internship, co-op, full-time) and in any field (engineering, biology, marketing, communications, human resources, etc.). We know alumni who have worked for NASA have amazing stories to tell, and we want to record them for future generations! Click the link below to submit your story.

And save the date! We will host a NASA Celebration event for anyone who has a NASA connection during Wings Up Weekend, April 8-9.  If you are not able to join us in person, we will have a virtual gathering via Zoom on April 14. If you are interested in attending the in-person event and/or the virtual event, please submit the form below so we have a general idea of how many to expect. An official invitation with registration information will be shared soon.

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

Awesome Eagle stands in front of the lit up quad. He is wearing a Santa hat and coat.

Last month we asked the following trivia question:  

Tennessee Tech Football is proud to have had a number of players who went on to actively play in the NFL. Name as many as you can. 

The answer is tricky. Approximately 17 former Tech football players have been drafted, while 13 have had what one might classify as "an NFL career." Tech football alumni who went on to the AFL/NFL in some capacity include Jerry Daniels, Ted Schwanger, Don Simonic, Homer Schmittou, Tommy Hackler, Gordon Mason, Bill Hull, Larry Schreiber, John Tanner, Jim Bishop, Jim Youngblood, Mike Hennigan, Elois Grooms, Howard Stidham, Billy Blaylock, Frank Omiyale, Lonnie Warwick, Corey Chamblin, Josh Symonette, Tim Benford, Da'Rick Rogers and Wentford Gaines.

Since this was a hard question, we included everyone in the drawing for Tech SWAG this month, and Bill Nettleton, `76 civil engineering, was the winner! 

And now for this month's question: 

One of the newest Tech traditions, Lighting the Quad, is an annual event to celebrate the holiday season. The historic Quad is decorated with hundreds of lights, which are turned on every evening during the month of December. In what year did this Tech holiday tradition begin? 

Monthly trivia questions in The Alumnus are designed to test your knowledge of all things Tech! 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 

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Employer Spotlight

Energy Land and Infrastructure engineering firm looks to hire Tennessee Tech graduates 

A photo of Chuch Saunders

Energy Land and Infrastructure's (ELI) president and co-owners know the quality of a Tennessee Tech engineering education. ELI, a professional engineering and survey firm focused on energy, civil and transportation infrastructure, employs approximately 60 people. And nearly a dozen of those employees — including the president and co-owners — are Tech graduates! ELI perennially ranks in Nashville Business Journal's Top 25, based on its number of local licensed professional engineers.

In 2013, Tech alumni Thomas "Chuck" Saunders, `96 civil engineering, and Michael Ray `96 civil engineering, purchased the Nashville branch of a regional engineering firm that had been in operation since 2001. Today, ELI includes branches in four locations: Nashville, TN; Murfreesboro, TN; Arlington, VA and Raleigh, NC.

"We have 15-plus universities represented at ELI, and we have really talented people from all over the southeast," said Saunders, president of ELI. "But I always say Tennessee Tech is one of the best engineering schools in the southeast and best in the state. There's a lot of practical knowledge in the graduates coming out of Tech. When I hire a Tech grad, there's that instant comradery."

The Employer Spotlight recognizes companies that are led or owned by Tennessee Tech alumni and/or employ a significant number of Tech graduates. Tennessee Tech thanks these companies for providing co-op, internship, professional development and employment opportunities for students and alumni.  

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Donor Spotlight

Larry and Emma Ferguson Scholarship encourages students to pay it forward 

A picture of Emma and Larry Ferguson

Larry and Emma Thaxton Ferguson's love story began at Tennessee Tech, and for the next 60 years, the two remained grateful to the university that played a significant role in their lives. While the Fergusons had ties to other universities, Tech always held a special place in their hearts.

Larry and Emma both came from modest backgrounds and were the first in their families to attend college. They wanted to help future generations of students achieve their educational dreams and chose to include Tech in their estate plans. The couple designated their nephew, Mikell Thaxton, as the trustee and executor of their estate.

After almost six decades of marriage, Emma passed away in 2019 and Larry in 2020. The Fergusons included Tech in their will, and their estate gift established the Larry and Emma Ferguson Scholarship which will be awarded to students with financial need. Thaxton has worked closely with Tech to ensure that his aunt and uncle's wishes are honored, that a scholarship in their names is established and that students know their incredible story.

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Friends Remembered

A photo of Vickie Rector

Vickie Leann Madewell Rector, `93 early childhood education and `94 M.A., passed away on Dec. 10, 2021.

A two time graduate of Tennessee Tech's College of Education, she taught school for almost three decades at Jere Whitson Elementary, touching the lives of "her kids" and helping make them better individuals.

She never knew a stranger, choosing instead to enjoy a lengthy conversation with everyone she met. She loved any animal, domesticated or not. Her friends, both at work and outside of it, were a constant source of enjoyment and inspiration. Above all else, she loved her family deeply, spending her time making forever memories with them.

In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to the Vickie Madewell Rector Memorial Fund at Tennessee Tech or to the Cookeville/Putnam County Animal Shelter.

The Crawford Alumni Center and University Advancement staff extend our sincere condolences to a beloved member of our team, Executive Director of Planned Giving Tiff Rector, `93 accounting and `94 MBA, to Vickie and Tiff's children Kinsley Rector, `21 nursing, and Tanner Rector, and to the Madewell and Rector families.

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Friends Remembered honors the memories of the Tennessee Tech alumni and friends we have lost. If you would like to include someone in Friends Remembered, please email


Archives with Atkinson Graphic

A photo of Archives' tree

Each year, Tech Archives participates in the Christmas Forest exhibit hosted by the Cookeville History Museum. The exhibit features Christmas trees decorated by numerous local non-profits. The trees are well-decorated and typically themed. It is a wonderful event to take part in if you are in town, but if not, here is a link to this year's trees.

Tech Archives makes its ornaments each year for the Christmas Forest exhibit. The students and staff participate and can keep the ornaments they make after the event is over. The ornaments reflect an event that took place in Archives that year. Last year, Tech Archives' tree featured instruments and photographs from the Big Name Entertainment exhibit. This year, the tree features our digitized items. We made miniature books representing the digitized items such as yearbooks, catalogs and scrapbooks.

University Archivist Megan Atkinson, Assistant Archivist Hannah O'Daniel McCallon and the University Archives staff are 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 their office with questions, and watch for more "Archives with Atkinson" in future editions of The Alumnus. 

view university archives' digital collections

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Class Notes

A photo of Blanton Alspaugh

Blanton Alspaugh, `81 music education, has received another Grammy nomination! He has been nominated for Producer of the Year, Classical. In total, Alspaugh has received 25 Grammy nominations and has won 11 times. Read more.

Teresa Bicknell, `91 M.A. administration and supervision and `93 Ed.S., was named dean of the Carter and Moyers School of Education at Lincoln Memorial University. Read more.

Samuel Day, `19 M.S. biology, was quoted in a Detroit Free Press article about a freshwater alga that could affect Michigan's prized trout fishery. Read more.

Mike Foster, `77 plant and soil science, is running for mayor of DeKalb County. Foster previously served three terms from 2002 to 2014. Read more.

Amber Greenwood, `06 accounting and `19 MBA, was named director of the Cookeville Gas Department. Read more.

Lamar Rogers, `74 agricultural science, was named one of Tennessee's inaugural recipients of the John Wooden Legacy award. The award honors scholastic basketball coaches around the country who are educators and have achieved excellence on the floor, in the classroom and in the community. Read more.

Scott Smith, `83 mechanical engineering, received the Merchant Manufacturing Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Smith is the group leader for intelligent machine tools at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Read more.

James W. Story, Jr., `77 music education, published a manuscript titled "This Is My Story, This Is My Song, This Is My Miracle." Story, a music director, composer and educator, used historical documents, oral traditions and interviews with family members to piece together his family history. Read more. Story was also selected as the 2020 Gallatin Citizen of the Year.

Photo top left: Blanton Alspaugh

We love hearing about the successes of Tennessee Tech alumni. 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

A golden Tennessee Tech ornament in the shape of a snowflake on a purple tinsel tree

The new Tennessee Tech University Spirit Shop is now open! Check out the bookstore's new website featuring additional apparel, accessories and Tech-themed items for students and alumni. And even more items will be added in the coming months, so check back often! 

The original bookstore website is still available and will focus mainly on textbooks and school supplies, while the Spirit Shop focuses more on Tech-themed gear.

The University Bookstore is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


The Crawford Alumni Center


Giving to Tennessee Tech