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April 2022  

Tech honors alumni who contributed to space exploration

Dr. June Scobee Rodgers speaks in a lecture hallOn April 9, Tennessee Tech's Crawford Alumni Center hosted a NASA Celebration to honor the many alumni who have contributed to space exploration.

More than 200 Tech graduates in engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, geology, sociology and business have worked for NASA, and hundreds of other graduates have worked for NASA contractors.

"The connection between Tennessee Tech and space exploration goes way back," said Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham. "President Kennedy was right when he declared that we're not going to the moon because it's easy. We are going because it's hard. I am proud that so many Tech alumni answered that call and put yourself in a situation to do something remarkable. It took hundreds of thousands of individuals doing their part to make it possible. Those are great lessons for us today as well: Take on challenges, do things not because they are easy but because they are hard and do it together. That tradition continues at Tennessee Tech."

Lieutenant General Don Rodgers, `57 electrical engineering, and June Scobee Rodgers served as the event's keynote speakers.

June Scobee Rodgers is the widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Richard "Dick" Scobee. She founded Challenger Center for Space Science Education to foster a new generation of "star challengers" -- young people who will reach for the stars no matter their circumstances. Each year, Challenger Learning Centers engage hundreds of thousands of students and tens of thousands of teachers in dynamic, hands-on exploration and discovery opportunities that strengthen their knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math. Rodgers is also the author of Silver Linings: My Life Before and After Challenger 7.

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view barry wilmore's video about his first time in space

Siraj to give 'last lecture' at Tech before going to National Science Foundation

Dr. Siraj speaks to a student in CEROC.

For Ambareen Siraj, the concept of "last lecture" still doesn't seem real.

But on April 29, the celebrated computer science professor -- widely known for her passion and contributions in the field of cybersecurity -- is slated to deliver parting words before well-wishers as she nears the conclusion of her 16-year career with Tennessee Tech. In early June, she'll be leaving the university for a new position with the National Science Foundation.

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Golden Eagles secure 3-2 victory over No. 1 Tennessee

A baseball player winds up to pitch

On April 12, the Tennessee Tech baseball team delivered one of the most impressive wins in program history by taking down No. 1 nationally-ranked Tennessee by a final score of 3-2.

In the process of picking up the school's first victory over a No. 1 team in any sport, Tech also snapped the Vols' 23-game winning stream, the nation's longest, and handed Tennessee just its second loss of the season.

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Tennessee Tech adds beach volleyball for 2023 spring season

a photo of two Wilson volleyballs with the Tech Athletics logo

Tennessee Tech University President Dr. Phil Oldham and Director of Athletics Mark Wilson announced that the Golden Eagle Athletics Department will be adding the sport of beach volleyball, with competition for the purple and gold set to begin in the spring of 2023. Beach volleyball will become the 15th intercollegiate sports team at Tennessee Tech.

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Alumni Association to host Atlanta events Memorial Day weeken

Join fellow Tech alumni for an evening of food and fun at Main Event-Atlanta Friday, May 27. The $30 registration cost includes dinner, non-alcoholic beverages and three hours of play including bowling, billiards, laser tag, gravity ropes and arcade games.

On Saturday, May 28, Tech will host another alumni event when the Atlanta Braves take on the Miami Marlins at Truist Park! Game time is 4:10 p.m. EDT. The cost is $82 and includes your game ticket, meal and access to Terrace Gardens for the pre-game alumni event. The menu includes hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, desserts, popcorn, kettle chips and Coca-Cola products. This event sells out each year so if you are interested, register now!

Click the links below to learn more about these Tennessee Tech Alumni Association events. Sign up for one -- or both! -- and spend Memorial Day weekend with us!


Alumni and friends invited to experience Rose Parade

a Dr. Seuss float in the Rose Bowl Parade

The Crawford Alumni Center is excited to announce another travel opportunity for Tennessee Tech alumni and friends! Dec. 30, 2022, through Jan. 4, 2023, we will enjoy the sights of Southern California...culminating in a once-in-a-lifetime experience: Grandstand seating for the Tournament of Roses Parade!

The Utah's Mighty National Parks trip filled up earlier than we anticipated, so if you are interested in the Rose Parade trip, be sure to sign up as soon as possible. Click the link below to view the full itinerary or to sign up. Use web code 157556 to register.

Wing Up Across America!

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Tech campus radio station WTTU celebrates 50th anniversary

A DJ sits in the broadcasting booth

When Tennessee Tech University started its first campus FM radio station, 88.5 FM WTTU, in 1972, then-president Everett Derryberry said, "It marks a significant milestone in the expansion of Tennessee Tech and should be a great step toward improving communications not only within the academic community, but in the surrounding area as well."

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Tracy M. Luna Memorial Scholarship honors band director's love for Tennessee Tech 

Tracy Luna stands in front of a marching band

It took only one semester at Tennessee Tech to change Tracy M. Luna's life.

Tracy enrolled at Tech in 1991, but he had to withdraw before completing his undergraduate degree. He would eventually earn a bachelor's degree from a different institution and enjoy a successful career as a high school band director, but he never forgot about Tech. When Tracy passed away in December 2021 after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife Laura wanted to honor his life with a memorial scholarship. And she knew she wanted the scholarship to be for Tennessee Tech students.

The Tracy M. Luna Memorial Music Scholarship will be funded through gifts from friends, family and the community Tracy loved. While a portion of the funds has been received, additional funds are needed to permanently endow the scholarship. To make a gift, visit or mail a check to Tennessee Tech, Box 1915, Cookeville, TN 38505, and indicate that you wish for your gift to support the Tracy M. Luna Memorial Music Scholarship.

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Woodsmoor Student Exhibition Awards recognize excellence in craft at Tennessee Tech

Westfield and Magnuson stand with Woodsmoor award winner Grant StewartSteve Westfield and Mark Magnuson established the Woodsmoor Annual Student Exhibition Awards Endowment to recognize and reward student artists at Tennessee Tech.

"The Appalachian Center for Craft is a perfect fit to Woodsmoor's mission to provide an open and moving experience in craft and art through the creation of new works," said Westfield. "The Woodsmoor Annual Student Exhibition Awards will encourage students to remain dedicated to their craft."

The first Woodsmoor Student Exhibition Awards were presented this year at the School of Art, Craft & Design's annual juried student exhibition.

Grant Stewart, a sophomore fine arts-wood major, received the Woodsmoor Excellence in Craft Award, which recognizes an artist who excels in craft, exhibits a strong understanding of traditional crafts and materials and executes creations with a high level of skill. Nobue "Kathryn" Shinn, a senior fine arts-fibers major, received Best in Show. Bridget Graessle, a junior fine arts-painting major, and Katy Beth Stovall, a junior fine arts-wood major, received Merit Awards.

Tech's student exhibition is only display in the Dogwood Gallery at the Appalachian Center for Craft through August. Visit to learn more.

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Tech Took Us There

College of Education alumnus hosts second annual Great Kilt-A-Thon to support students

Charles White stands wearing a kilt with his arm around Development Director Bobby TaylorWhen March ended, Tennessee Tech alumnus Charles R. White had two reasons to celebrate: One, he had raised more than $3,000 for low-income TRiO/Upward Bound students in the Knoxville area, and two, he could swap his daily wardrobe of kilts for pants. White wore a kilt every day for 31 days for the second annual Great Kilt-A-Thon.

"It was a great month, but I'm happy to put pants on again," said White.

White is the director of the Academic Enrichment Upward Bound Program, a federal TRiO program funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. AEUB serves students who are potential first-generation college students and/or who come from a financially disadvantaged background and provides support so they may successfully graduate from high school and enroll in college the fall after graduation with the goal of attaining a college degree.

The Great Kilt-A-Thon originated last year when White and his staff learned that one of their AEUB alumni -- now a student at UTK -- needed some financial assistance. She was a graphic design major and her computer died. She couldn't afford to replace it, so she had to find a way to purchase another computer or change her major and career path. Like many educators, White and his staff often give to students out of their own pockets. But a new computer was more than they could do. Because the financial hardships and needs of AEUB students do not come to an end when they graduate from high school, White and his staff needed a way to raise money to support current AEUB participants and the program's alumni through college.

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Dr. Marie B. Ventrice

Last month we asked the following trivia question in honor of Women's History Month:

The first doctoral candidate to graduate with a Ph.D. from Tennessee Tech also became the first female tenure-track faculty member that same year. Name that graduate. 

In 1974, Dr. Marie B. Ventrice became the first individual to graduate with a Ph.D. from Tennessee Tech. In that same year, she was hired as the first female tenure-track member in the College of Engineering. 

In grade school, she was fascinated with engineering and applied to a couple of programs for college. One denied her because she was female, and the other only begrudgingly accepted her. While in school, she got married and had a child and made the choice to leave school at that time. When she and her husband, Dr. Carl Ventrice, moved to Cookeville so he could accept a job at Tech, he encouraged her to enroll, which she did. She noted that Tech accepted her into the engineering program with open arms. Dr. Ventrice won the Outstanding Faculty Award several times. She was the first director of the Center of Excellence in Electric Power, serving in that position from 1985 to 1988. She was appointed associate dean in 1989, a post she held until her retirement. In 1991, she won one of only two National Science Foundation grants with an emphasis on women. The five-year program provided more than $400,000 to encourage additional female scholars to enter engineering doctoral programs. 

Hannah Willis, `18 multidisciplinary studies and `21 M.A., guessed correctly and won some Tech SWAG! 

And now for this month's question: 

Who was the first individual to take a Tennessee Tech team to an NCAA tournament in the 1950s? Hint: Raised in Columbia, Tennessee, this 1934 business management graduate became a beloved dean and considered Coach Putty Overall his second dad. 

Photo top left: Dr. Marie B. Ventrice

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! 

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Donor Spotlight

Samuel E. Allen

Samuel E. Allen `79 finance, says there was never any doubt where he would attend college.

"Tennessee Tech was in my DNA from the very beginning," he said.

Allen grew up a block from campus and enrolled at Tech's nursery school when he was three. He attended Tennessee Tech Elementary School and remembers riding his bike through campus, playing tennis on the tennis courts, running on Tech's football field and watching homecoming parades. When it snowed, he and his friends walked to campus to build snowmen and have snowball fights. Tech's campus schools operated on the same schedule as the university, and Allen distinctly remembers hearing the following radio message on snow days: "All schools in Putnam County are closed -- with the exception of Tennessee Tech University and Tennessee Tech Elementary School.'

Allen has supported scholarships in his parents' names for many years. The Sonny Allen Leadership Award is awarded to Golden Eagle football players, and the Betty Sue Huddleston Allen Scholarship is given to students majoring in history. Allen says the time was right to establish his own scholarship, and he hopes the Samuel E. Allen Finance Scholarship will provide meaningful financial assistance to future students.

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Employer Spotlight

four Tech alumni employed by FUMC

At First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro -- in the heart of Middle Tennessee State University and Blue Raider country -- one might be surprised to find Tennessee Tech signs and church staff wearing purple. But the feeling of Tech Pride is strong among four of the church's employees. Despite being in MTSU territory, these four are proud Tech graduates.

Fred Halfpap, `87 finance; Drew Shelley, `03 civil engineering and `04 M.S.; Krislyn Durham `09 sociology; and Jackson Henry, `00 music performance, majored in different areas and came to FUMC for different reasons, but all credit their Tech education for preparing them for careers they love.

"Our church has 18 full-time employees," said Halfpap. "So having four Tech grads is a large percentage. We were all at Tech at different times and all came to work at the church at different times, but the experiences we had at Tennessee Tech really prepared us for where we are today. One place to begin our education and one place to serve."

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Friends Remembered

Millard Oakley

Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham shared the following message with faculty, staff and students on Thursday, April 21, 2022:

It is with great sadness I share with you the passing of one of Tech's most enthusiastic and generous supporters, Millard Vaughn Oakley.

Oakley was a former member of the Tennessee General Assembly and board member of First National Bank of Tennessee, which he co-founded. After practicing law for several years, he served in the Tennessee General Assembly for four terms, as the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance from 1975 to 1979, and as general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Small Business (1971-1973).

Oakley also previously owned WLIV, a radio station in Livingston, Tennessee. He served on the Tennessee Board of Regents from 2006-2012 and was most recently a founding member of the first Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees, serving from 2017-2018.

A great supporter of his community, Oakley was also passionate about education and philanthropy. He was honored with the Tennessee Board of Regents' Award for Excellence in Philanthropy in 2011. In 2015, he donated Hartsaw Cove Farm -- one of Tennessee's Pioneer Century Farms -- to Tennessee Tech.

In recognition of this gift, the home building of the College of Agriculture & Human Ecology was named Oakley Hall. In 2010, Tennessee Tech opened the Millard Oakley Center for the Teaching and Learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Additional contributions to the university include J. J. Oakley Health Services inside Bell Hall and, just announced in 2021, the new J. J. Oakley Innovation Center and Residence Hall that is slated for construction soon.

Oakley attended Tennessee Tech and graduated from Cumberland University School of Law. In spring 2021, Oakley was recognized at the commencement ceremonies and awarded an honorary doctorate of agriculture.

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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


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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. 

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Class Notes

Archie and Rulan Tkachuk

DeAntoine Beasley, `04 health and physical education, is the new women's basketball assistant coach at the University of Illinois. Read more.

Dr. Katherine Bertram, `69 secondary education, announced her retirement. Bertram graduated from medical school at Vanderbilt in 1986 and did her residency in Nashville before moving back to Cookeville in 1990 to open a practice in a building on Whitney Avenue. Read more.

Casey Elrod, `13 sociology, was selected for inclusion in the Top 40 Under 40 Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers in Tennessee, an honor given to a select group of lawyers for their superior skills and qualifications in the field. Read more.

Ted Engel, `08 political science, announced his bid for 12th District Public Defender. Read more.

Nathan Groot, `17 music, successfully defended his dissertation titled "A new graded repertoire: A pedagogical analysis of works for viola by underrepresented composers" at the University of Georgia this month. Next month, Nathan will become Dr. Groot. He has accepted a faculty position at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts starting in August.  

Melinda Keifer, `83 clothing merchandising, announced her plans to retire and move to a part-time basis. Melinda began her employment with the City of Cookeville in 2010 and currently serves as the city's economic and community development coordinator. Read more.

Mackenzie Martin, `19 civil engineering, published a paper titled "Development, Calibration and Validation of a High-Resolution 2D HEC-RAS Model at St. Arbor Wetland to Extract Rating Curves at Levee Breaches" in Stream Lines, the official publication of clean water professionals. Mackenzie is scheduled to graduate next month with a master's degree in civil engineering from Tech. Read more.

Kimberly Meredith `11 M.A. curriculum and instruction, announced that she is seeking the Republican nomination for Anderson County Commission District 2, which includes the City of Clinton, South Clinton and North Clinton. Read more.

Kathryn Nash,`01 finance, was named President of Kentucky American Water. Read more.

Dr. Amanda Roberts, `01 agriculture, `17 M.A., `18 Ph.D., recently published a book titled Lite: The High Treason Incident. Dr. Roberts is an advisor in Tennessee Tech's Office of Teacher Education. Read more.

Ethan Roberts made the opening day roster for the Chicago Cubs. Roberts pitched for Tennessee Tech from 2016-18 and was a four-year letterwinner as a pitcher and shortstop for White County High School. Read more. Additional articles here, here, here and here.

Jeff Ross, `87 civil engineering, was featured in an article titled "Wilson Lock dewatering provides opportunity for inspection in dry conditions." Read more.

DeAnna Stephens, `98 journalism and secondary education and`00 M.A., an associate professor of English at Roane State Community College, was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. Read more.

William Stepp, `95 music and `08 Ed.S., is Cumberland County, Tennessee's new director of schools. Read more.

Archana "Archie" Tkachuk, `98 industrial engineering, turned her nonprofit orphanage in Ukraine into a crisis center. Read more.

Photo Top Left: Archana "Archie" Tkachuk and her husband Ruslan.

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

Tech apparel

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.


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