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February 2021  

Tech health services working to keep campus safe and healthy

Two masked nurses stand looking at a paper in a lab

Since COVID-19 reared its ugly head in the spring of 2020, the health care profession has been bombarded with challenges. At Tennessee Tech Health Services, those challenges have come in the form of trying to keep more than 10,000 students and approximately 1,200 faculty and staff safe and healthy during the pandemic.

Health Services is one of the five areas of focus for this year's "I Heart Tech Students" Campaign. Read the "I Heart Tech Students" story below or visit to learn more.

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Third annual "I Heart Tech Students" Campaign focuses on keeping students enrolled
Graphic for I Heart Tech Students

On Feb. 12, Tennessee Tech launched its third annual "I Heart Tech Students" Campaign. With a focus on keeping students enrolled during challenging times, the campaign raises money for Tech's Accessible Education Center, Counseling Center, Eagle Assistance Grant, Food Pantry and Health Services. While alumni and friends can choose to support one of these five areas, a gift to any area on campus will count towards this campaign. The campaign will run through Mar. 25, and on Mar. 27 -- Tech's Charter Day -- we will announce the total of funds raised. Visit to learn more.

Tech celebrates Black History Month

Black History Month Graphic - the letters of the words are filled with photos of students, faculty, and staff

Each February, Tech celebrates Black History Month with events across campus designed to facilitate constructive conversations about the importance of diversity and to celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to our university and society.

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Tech celebrates Flute Day with virtual performance

a screenshot of students playing the flute on zoom

During a time of innovation in remote collaboration and performance, Tech's Flute Studio organized a commission, collaboration and virtual premiere of "E Pluribus Unum." The work, meaning "Out of Many, One," brought together current and alumni members of the Flute Studio who are spread out around the country. The university premiered this recording on Feb. 6 in honor of Tennessee Tech's Flute Day, and the performance featured current students and alumni from 18 graduating classes, spanning from 1997 through 2024.

view virtual flute performance

Crawford Alumni Center wins Gold Award for Impact publication

a little crocheted Awesome Eagle doll with a copy of the 2020 Impact

the case gold award emblem

Tennessee Tech's 2020 IMPACT publication recently won the Gold Award in the CASE District III Fundraising - Annual Reports and Fund Reports Publication category! The CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) District III awards recognize the very best in advancement across the southeast. The 2020 edition of IMPACT highlighted the areas of focus for the 2020 "I Heart Tech Students" Campaign as well as other areas on campus that help students during tough times: Tech's Office of Intercultural Affairs, Veteran's Center, Accessible Education Center, Counseling Center, Eagle Assistance Grant and Food Pantry. Everyone who made a gift to the campaign last year should have received a copy of the publication last fall. The Crawford Alumni Center has extra copies available, so if you would like a copy, email and we'll put one in the mail for you!

Golden Eagle Football Spring 2021 season begins

An image of Tech football players on the field

Tennessee Tech Football's spring 2021 season is here!

On Feb. 21, the Golden Eagles took on Austin Peay at Tucker Stadium, and there are two other home games this spring: Sunday, Mar. 14 vs Murray State and Saturday, Apr. 3 vs TSU. All home games have a 1:30 p.m. CST kick-off time. There are also four away games that will be streamed on ESPN+.

Because of ongoing health and safety concerns and NCAA requirements, capacity at Tucker Stadium this spring will be limited to just under 5,500. Seating will be general admission. If you have reserved seats, you will still have them for the Fall 2021 season. Social distancing and mask requirements will be enforced for all attendees and staff. There will be no organized tailgating or Eagle Walk this spring. Signage is posted throughout the stadium, so please pay attention and follow. Updates and information will be available at


Tech baseball releases 2021 schedule

a Tech baseball player swings at a pitch

The Tennessee Tech baseball team has announced its 2021 slate, with 50 games currently on tap for the Golden Eagles. Tech will host 23 home games, including the first seven of the year. As with all schedules this season, in response to the COVID-19 situation as well as weather, the dates and times are subject to change.

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J.D. and Mary Van Brink named 2021 Golden Eagle Lovebirds
A snapshot of JD and Mary

John David (J.D.) Van Brink, '83 business management and '84 MBA, and Mary Ramsay Van Brink, '83 journalism, are the 2021 winners of Tennessee Tech's annual Golden Eagle lovebirds contest! J.D. shared the story of how he and Mary met, but it wasn't exactly love at first sight.

"My wife Mary and I met at Tech in our senior year in the fall of 1982," said J.D. "If you had asked us after our first meeting whether we would be celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary in 2021, we both would have called you crazy. We were standing outside the University Center and my future wife stepped on my left shoe. When I said, ‘Excuse me, but these are new shoes that I just bought yesterday,’ she stepped on my right shoe and said, ‘There. Now they are even.’ To say the least, I was not impressed by this obnoxious shoe-stepper.

"Not long after that dubious first encounter, we met again when Mary came to the lobby in her dormitory to tell me that she was supposed to keep me occupied because her roommate, Sallye, was going to be late for our study date. Sallye and I both majored in management information systems, had similar class schedules and got together frequently to study. While engaging in small talk, I noticed that the bottom of Mary’s shirt was moving. When I asked her if she had some strange deformity, she unbuttoned the bottom two buttons of her shirt and pulled out Babette, her pet guinea pig. At that point I thought that Mary was both obnoxious and weird and certainly not future wife material. But that all changed a couple of months later..."

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True To Tech donors share why they support Tech every year

True To Tech Stories

A photo of Lelia and her siblings on a porch swing

"My gifts can be divided into two broad categories: donations to specifically help students in need and honoring people who have impacted my and/or my siblings' lives, both personally and professionally," said Lelia Gibson, '97 agriculture and '99 MBA and 22 years True To Tech. "I live by the motto 'pay it forward.' I was assisted during my time as a student, so I need to do the same."

Gibson has given to the Diversity Scholarship Initiative (in honor of her friends President Emeritus Angelo Volpe, Marc Burnett and Robert Owens), the Commission on the Status of Women's Alison Piepmeier Award, Dr. Edwin Lamberth Scholarship (in Agriculture), the Bonner Family Scholarship (in Engineering and Business), the Norman Williams Scholarship (in Business), Tech's Food Pantry, the College of Business Student 2 Career Program and the Tech Women's Cub Scholarship.

"After 28 years at Tech (7 years as a student and 21 years as an employee), Tech is like a family," Gibson said. "It gives me great pride to do my small part to help my family succeed."

True To Tech recognizes donors who consistently give each year, regardless of the area they support or the amount of the gift. Once a donor has given to Tech for two consecutive years, s/he is recognized as True To Tech. Each year, True To Tech donors receive a True To Tech magnet and decal displaying the number of consecutive years they have given. Decals and magnets can be seen across the state on filing cabinets, doors, refrigerators and vehicles. We love to see True To Tech donors show their Tech pride. 


learn more about true to 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.

A black and white photo of the blizzard

Last month we asked the following trivia question:  

In 1985, the first blizzard took place during an NCAA National Invitation Tournament men's basketball game. What school did Tech play in this game?

While we didn't intend for this to be a trick question, the answer ended up being more complicated than we anticipated! The UT-Knoxville game was the NCAA NIT game we were referring to. However, while the blizzard at the game against UT was possibly the largest and most famous, it likely wasn't the first. Several "mini blizzards" took place at games in the months prior. To learn more about the history of the blizzard, be sure to check out the next story. 

We entered ALL guesses into the drawing this month, and congrats to Christy Vermillion, '91 technical communication, who won the drawing for some Tech SWAG!

And now for this month's question which hopefully will be less tricky: 

Serving as president for 34 years, William Everett Derryberry and his wife Joan Rew Derryberry left many indelible marks on our campus -- one being the Tennessee Tech Hymn. In 1957, Mrs. Derryberry said this about writing the hymn: "...words and music both being shaped and reshaped after many friendly arguments between my husband and myself." Upon completion, what famous Tech composer did Mrs. Derryberry send the Tech hymn to for feedback?

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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A black and white photo of the blizzard taken from the top of Hooper Eblen Center

The blizzard is a beloved Tennessee Tech tradition. But do you know how it all began?

In the early days of ESPN (which launched in 1979), the network broadcast several university basketball games where students threw rolls of toilet paper onto the court after their team scored the first basket. Tech students wanted to join the fun, but there was just one problem: At Tech, the restrooms weren’t stocked with traditional rolls of toilet paper. Instead, they were stocked with the infamous "Tech squares." What started with just a handful of students throwing Tech squares quickly evolved and by 1985, entire arenas were taking part in the tradition.

In those days, Tech and MTSU were fierce rivals, and it was common for more than 3,000 Tech students to travel to Murfreesboro for an away game. Prior to one MTSU game, the president of MTSU warned then-President Roaden that all Tech students would be searched before entering the basketball arena. Anyone caught with Tech squares would not be allowed inside. But the cheerleaders had a plan. They always transported the Awesome Eagle mascot suit inside a large case. So, at the MTSU game, when the cheerleaders carried in the case, everyone assumed the bird was inside. It wasn’t. The case was full of Tech squares. Cheerleaders and players also snuck in the squares in gym bags and megaphones. The cheerleaders distributed the squares to the crowd and by the time MTSU officials realized what was happening, it was too late.

By the time the UT NIT game rolled around, Golden Eagles had perfected the art of the blizzard. Students researched the best places to hide the squares in the days leading up to a game, and engineering majors even calculated launch angles. The Tech sports information and stats crew learned to come prepared, employing massive golf umbrellas so the paper wouldn't completely bury their work space. It could take up to 20 minutes to clean off the floor after a blizzard. And for the remainder of the game, it looked like an outdoor Minnesota football game, with two to three feet of snowbanks on the sidelines -- hence the name "blizzard."

Tech eventually began stocking its restrooms with traditional toilet paper rolls instead of the squares, but students and administrators found a way to carry on the tradition and purchased Tech squares on their own. Tech coaches loved the blizzard, though some didn't publicly admit it at the time.

Eventually, the OVC tightened the rules, and Tech blizzards slowly faded away. But the tradition unified the campus, the team and the community, and alumni who were fortunate enough to experience a Tech blizzard still talk about it today.

Special thanks to University Archives, Sports Information, Megan Atkinson, Thomas Corhern, Frank Harrell, Geeta McMillan, Rob Schabert and Lee Wray for their help in researching the history of the blizzard!

Taking the Wheel by Lofton Carter

Mentoring: The Best Investment of the Year

401ks, Roth IRAs and mutual funds all have their place, but the most important investment is in ourselves. Our personal and professional development can rapidly come to an end if we are not making an effort to continually mature mentally, emotionally and spiritually. A vital player in this development is finding a good mentor. Having a mentor opens us up to new opportunities.

This month, Lofton touches on some of the most important aspects of building a mentor-mentee relationship. Click the link below to read his blog.

"Taking the Wheel" is a financial literacy blog written by Lofton Carter, '20 biology, an MBA candidate and graduate assistant in the Crawford Alumni Center. Lofton has a passion for financial independence and investing and is excited to share some investment tips with his fellow alumni through a series of blog posts. 

read lofton's financial literacy blog

 Archives with Atkinson Graphic

A photo of the archives' exhibit in RUC

The Tennessee Tech University Archives' newest exhibit is now open on the third floor of the Roaden University Center! 

"What Affects One Group Affects Us All: Black Student Activism at Tennessee Tech" highlights the range of Black student activism from 1968 to 2020. Students have pushed for the university and the broader community to respect the humanity, needs and culture of Black students and people. The exhibit displays photographs of events and clippings from publications written by Black students. 

For those who can't attend in person or who have low vision, the posters for the exhibit and a hyperlinked list of the items on display are available here

The exhibit is part of the Office of Intercultural Affairs' celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center (BCC).

University Archivist Megan Atkinson 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 black student activism exhibit online

read archives' blog

Follow Tech Archives on Facebook

Class Notes

Tre A. Lamb, '12 interdisciplinary studies, will launch his head coaching career on Feb. 27. Lamb is a former Tech offensive coordinator and led the Tech football team as quarterback from 2008-12. Read more.

Alex Martin, '17 economics, joined the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance as Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Regulatory Boards. Read more.

Sam Mahan, '02 marketing, has been named Senior Lender at FNB Bank. Read more. 

Jackie Heinricher, '96 M.S. biology, is the first female team owner in the International Motor Sports Association and is dedicated to bringing more women into the traditionally male-dominated sport. Soon the racecar driver and race team owner will be featured in a non-fiction documentary series about her racing life. Read more. Watch Heinricher on The Today Show. Visit

Tonya Connell, '93 finance and '95 MBA, was named the new Executive Director at United Way of Rhea County. Read more.

Natasha Calhoun, '10 multidisciplinary studies, has joined the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce as the Director of Membership Development and Experience. Read more.

Greg Johnson, '88 business management, will be the keynote speaker at the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) 2021 Vision Conference, to be held virtually in March. He is the CEO and Co-President of O'Reilly Auto Parts. Read more.

Abbas Motamedilamouki, '14 M.S. chemical engineering and '18 Ph.D., has accepted a position as Research Scientist at Merck in Boston, MA.

Parvin Golbayani, '14 Ph.D. engineering, celebrated his one-year anniversary as the (World) Divisional Quality Assurance Manager in the Performance Minerals Division at Specialty Minerals, Inc., located in Adams, MA.

Lynne Parker, '83 computer science, is assisting the White House with their artificial intelligence policy. Parker is a Professor in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and is on full-time assignment to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and currently serves as the Deputy US Chief Technology Officer. Read more.

Jennifer Pascal, '06 chemical engineering and '11 Ph.D., was promoted to Associate Professor in Residence and Associate Department Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut.

Sarah Beth Cain, '17 chemical engineering and '20 M.S., has been accepted to the Law School at the University of Tennessee.

Rocio del Pilar Tijaro Rojas, '15 Ph.D. engineering, is now the University Vice President for International Programs at the University of Arturo Pratt in Iquique, Chile.

Cynthia M. Torres Godoy, '12 Ph.D. environmental sciences, is the founder and first director of the Institute for Research Innovation in Mines at the University Catolica del Norte in Antofagasta, Chile.

Amber Asberry, '10 marketing, is the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors' Bureau's new Marketing & Sales Director. Asberry will oversee strategic marketing and brand management, along with event and group travel recruitment.

Cephas N. Ablakwa, '06 fine arts, '18 M.A., '20 Ph.D., is the new Director of Education and Engagement at WCTE. Read more.

Seth Bruton, '13 interdisciplinary studies, is Cookeville Leisure Services' new athletic superintendent. In his new position, he oversees all city-sponsored athletic programs. Read more.

Steve Corder, '96 computer science, is the new Chief Technology Officer for Cookeville's Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITT) Division. Read more.

Candice Neely, '15 B.S. interdisciplinary studies and '20 M.P.S., was featured in an Upper Cumberland Business Journal article about her position as Human Relations Manager for two Crossville Ceramics plants. Read more.

Juliet Ohemeng-Ntiamoah, '20 Ph.D. engineering, was one of several women featured in a U.S. Embassy Ghana Facebook post about the International Day of Women & Girls in Science. She is a wastewater process engineer with Jacobs Engineering Group, USA.

Laura Travis, '95 nursing and '09 M.S., was appointed the new vice president for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Dickson. Read more.

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

Tennessee Tech apparel and teddy bears

Feb. 23-25: 25% off sweats

Free shipping on online orders of $49 or more! 

The bookstore offers some high-end items including 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. These are great options if you are looking for something unique for yourself or a nice gift for someone else. 

The University Bookstore is now open to serve you. Their hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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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