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March 2022  

Fourth annual I Heart Tech Students initiative raises over $150,000

The I Heart Tech Students logo

The 4th annual I Heart Tech Students fundraising initiative raised more than $150,000 for campus programs that put students first! We are still counting checks that came in yesterday, but we are already well over the $100,000 goal. Thank you to everyone who made a gift and helped spread the word about this initiative. Your support allows students to continue to live Wings Up!

Golden Eagles announce 2022 football slate

Football players in Tech jerseys and helmets

The 2022 campaign will see some familiar foes and some new ones as the Tennessee Tech football team takes to the field in the fall.

Across the 11 regular-season contests, the Golden Eagles will host five home contests and compete in five Ohio Valley Conference matchups. Dewayne Alexander leads Tech into his fifth season at the helm as the program celebrates the 100th anniversary of its first varsity game.

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Celebration of Craft to be held April 2

Several students observe three people working on a blown glass piece.

Tech's annual Celebration of Craft will be held on Saturday, April 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville, Tennessee. This event is free and open to the public and will include live, narrated craft demonstrations, live music, a silent auction, Craft Center gallery sale, hands-on craft activities for children and so much more! Click the link below to view the full schedule.

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Alumni and friends invited to Wings Up Weekend April 8-10

A cartoon of Awesome Eagle and a graphic that reads "Wings Up Weekend - April 8-10, 2022"

This year's Wings Up Weekend is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet! From softball games and a football scrimmage to the Window on the World cultural festival and NASA Celebration, there is something for everyone. Click the link below to view the full list of events. We hope you'll plan to spend the weekend with us!

Crawford Alumni Center to host NASA Celebration Event April 9

A graphic with an image of the moon that reads "NASA Celebration Event" with a small cartoon of Awesome Eagle in a purple space helmet

Tennessee Tech's Crawford Alumni Center will host a NASA Celebration event April 9! Join us for an afternoon of NASA stories, special guest speakers (with keynote speaker June Scobee Rodgers and special guest Lt. Gen. Don Rodgers, `57 electrical engineering), door prizes and more. You don't want to miss this!

The Celebration will begin at 12:30 p.m. in Stonecipher Lecture Hall and is free and open to the public. This event is part of Wings Up Weekend, featuring three days of events for all ages. Click the link below to learn more.

Tech to offer new Design Studies, Animal Science degrees

a photo of board of trustee members sitting at a table

Tennessee Tech will have two new degree programs, designed to enhance career opportunities for students.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission gave final approval in January for the new bachelor's degree in Animal Science. This will elevate two existing concentrations (animal science and pre-veterinary) within the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture to a separate Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. This change was brought about by the increase in students in those concentrations (about a third of the total School of Agriculture enrollment). Students are already being actively recruited into the new degree program.

The board also approved sending a similar modification proposal to THEC to establish a new bachelor's degree in Design Studies by elevating two existing concentrations in the Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology (Housing and Design, and Merchandising and Design) into a separate Bachelor of Science in Design Studies, with two concentrations (Architecture and Interior Design, and Fashion Merchandising and Design).

For both programs, the change to a new degree program will enhance the career opportunities of graduates, along with strengthening the visibility and marketability of the program to prospective students.

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Women's History Month

Each March, Tennessee Tech celebrates Women's History Month and hosts events to honor and celebrate the stories of women. This year, Tech profiled a few alumnae who have achieved remarkable success in their careers.

Young alumna gives back with scholarships for engineering, international students

Chimezirim Ibe-Ekeocha

As a young alumna of Tennessee Tech, Chimezirim Ibe-Ekeocha, `16 mechanical engineering, understands the importance of receiving a quality education at an affordable four-year university.

Originally from Nigeria, Ibe-Ekeocha said she chose Tech because it allowed her to receive a good education, good financial assistance and the tuition was affordable.

"Tech gave me opportunities to learn through scholarship," she said. "The scholarships helped me afford the tuition. At Tech, I was an excellent student, but I feared not being able to afford the tuition. Had Tech not offered scholarships, I may not have been able to complete my degree or be where I am now."

Currently, Ibe-Ekeocha works as a product manager for Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Indiana.

"Being at Tech allowed me to get acquainted with Cummins, and the knowledge I had learned in engineering helped me get my first job at Cummins," she said. "I have since been able to work my way up to become a product manager."

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Magura combines passion for education and communication to become leader in public broadcasting

Becky Magura

First-generation college graduate Becky Magura, `80 education and `81 M.A., took her energy and vision for communication and education and turned it into a lifelong career.

During her time at Tennessee Tech, Dean Rebecca Quattlebaum and Mary Ayers from the College of Education helped carve something unique for Magura and helped mentor and guide her into taking the step to having something that could be a career path for her.

"I actually went and looked at another school for my graduate degree during spring break, and when I got back, my advisor Dr. Ayers asked me if I went to look at another school," Magura said. "I said yes because I really wanted to combine education with communications, and Tech didn't offer that at the time, so I really was looking. Ayers then said to me they were opening a PBS station in Cookeville that would be housed at Tech and it would be a full PBS station."

Magura said that she always loved Tech and the emphasis it puts on education. She decided to stay, accepting a graduate assistantship for the following year, and was assigned to do her coursework in education and communication, working with the new Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) station.

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Encouraged by her own experiences at the university and a successful career in athletics, Murphy gives back to Tech

Dianne Murphy behind a large cutout of Tommy Tech

After a successful career in intercollegiate athletics, Tennessee Tech alumna M. Dianne Murphy, `72 health and physical education and `73 M.S., knew she wanted to give back to the institution that gave so much to her.

Murphy served as Athletics Director for the University of Denver and Columbia University. During her 11-year tenure, Columbia won 30 Ivy League titles and a national title in fencing, and in 2013-14 saw its most successful year with five Ancient Eight titles. In 2016, Murphy joined The PICTOR Group, an intercollegiate athletics consulting firm, as a senior partner. She now assists athletic programs increase their effectiveness.

"I have always had a plan, but the original plan was to be a basketball coach," she said. "I wanted to give back to the sport I love so much and that did so much for me, but I realized I probably didn't want to do that when I was in my 50s or 60s, so I decided early on that I would be an athletic director."

While Murphy was a student at Tech, she played on the first women's basketball team. She was also involved in volleyball and tennis. During her master's program, she had the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant coach under Marynell Meadors. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in administration, supervision and curriculum in physical education from Florida State University.

"It is easier now than it was then, but there were very few women as athletic directors, and I did everything I could to prepare and break that glass ceiling in college athletics and be a division I athletic director," said Murphy. "Now you see more and more women in athletic administration, but I always knew that I wanted to be in higher education, and I wanted to be in college athletics."

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Tech graduate has passion to bring economic prosperity to Putnam County

Amy NewAmy New has always loved her community, and the connections she made along the way led her back home to help fuel her passion.

New graduated from Tennessee Tech in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in business administration with a minor in marketing. She received a certification in The Tennessee Certified Economic Developer program. In 2021, she graduated with her master's in public service and leadership from Lipscomb University.

"Being able to create economic prosperity for everyone here in Putnam County, where they all feel like they have a good job that allows them to have enough money to pay all their bills while being able to enjoy living in this community is really a goal of mine personally and professionally for the chamber to create an environment like this," said New, who is the president and CEO of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce.

During her time at Tech, she had the opportunity to do an internship with the chamber of commerce as a student which helped her gain connections and a passion for the chamber of commerce work and economic development work.

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Alumna named ambassador for American Association for the Advancement of Science, featured in Smithsonian exhibit

Amy Elliott holding her baby next to an orange 3D printed statue of herself.Amy Elliott, who earned her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Tech, has joined an initiative designed to empower current innovators and inspire the next generation of pioneers.

Elliott is a 3D-printing specialist and manufacturing scientist for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), but her impressive career as a woman in STEM has found her on television, as an ambassador for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and even as a 3D-printed statue at the Smithsonian's Women's History Month exhibit.

"Everything that I have gotten to experience and accomplish has been amazing, and very unique, and has changed my life," she said.

Elliott went on to receive her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, which led her to be a contestant on the Discovery Channel's Big Brain Theory, a reality show competition for engineers, where she placed second out of 10 contestants. Since 2016, she has served as an on-camera science personality for the Science Channel's Outrageous Acts of Science, explaining the engineering and science behind viral video clips.

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Behind every great coach is a great staff -- Rosamond and staff reflect on what it means to be a part of TTU women's basketball

Women smiling at the camera in purple polo shirts.

This month, the Tennessee Tech women's basketball team advanced to the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. As the team studied their scouting reports during the voyage to Houston for the March 20 matchup against the Houston Cougars, head coach Kim Rosamond and her staff weren't relaxing on the nearly four-hour trip. They studied film, took notes, created game plans, figured out travel, food and lodging -- and that's just scratching the surface.

Behind every great coach is a great staff, and sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle over the course of a season. Rosamond doesn't want her dedicated staff to go unnoticed as the Golden Eagles celebrate their postseason run. After all, the effort that "the team behind the team" put in has also played a major role in the team's success this season.

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

Leslie Jordan as a toddler sitting in a car and wearing a gold Tech sweater with a purple T

Last month we asked the following trivia question:

What actor, known for roles in the television series Hearts Afire, Will & Grace, and Call Me Kat, and beloved for his comical social media presence, has a close tie to Tennessee Tech? Hint: His father is a Tech alumnus. 

The correct answer was Leslie Jordan! Leslie's father, Allen B. Jordan, graduated from Tech (then known as Tennessee Polytechnic Institute) in 1955 with a degree in business management and an ROTC commission. 

On Dec. 30, 2021, Leslie posted this photo and the following caption on his Facebook page: "With my sunglasses upside down, a sweater from my daddy's alma mater Tennessee Tech and a tea kettle for a pocket book, I was ready! Where are we going? Ready to take on 2022. Happy New Year y'all."

Congratulations to Jennifer Jones Bertram, `82 biology and `85 M.S., who won the Tech SWAG this month!

And now for this month's question:

In honor of Women's History Month: The first doctoral candidate to graduate with a PhD from Tennessee Tech also became the first female tenure-track faculty member that same year. What was her name? Bonus for an extra entry in the drawing: What year did she graduate? 

Photo (top left) Credit: Leslie Jordan's Facebook page, Dec. 30, 2021

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

Accounting alumnus establishes award for accounting faculty

David K. MorganDavid K. Morgan, `74 accounting, credits his Tennessee Tech education for a successful career as a certified public accountant. As a thank you to the department that prepared him to be a CPA and to the faculty who teach future accountants, Morgan established the David K. Morgan Endowed Accounting Faculty Award.

Thomas Payne, dean of Tech's College of Business, says Morgan has been a long-time supporter, served on a number of advisory boards and worked with his accounting firm LBMC to recruit Tech students and provide accounting internships.

"David is a leader who builds bridges among people and institutions," said Payne. "This generous gift provides a tangible way to recognize, reward and retain high-performing accounting faculty. In addition, the David K. Morgan Endowed Faculty Award will further enhance the reputation of the outstanding Tennessee Tech Accounting Program."

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Harriet D. Westmoreland Nursing Scholarship honors woman who devoted career to healthcare

Jim and Harriet WestmorelandHarriet Westmoreland dedicated her career to student health services, public health and the nursing profession. To honor her service and care for others, her husband Jim established a scholarship in her name. The Harriet D. Westmoreland Nursing Scholarship will be awarded to students majoring in nursing at Tennessee Tech.

"As we all know, medical staff are under pressure, so we need to help our future nurses all we can," said Jim.

Harriet earned her registered nurse degree in 1956 from Baptist Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She worked for 12 years at the University of Tennessee at Martin as director of Student Health Services. After the Westmorelands moved to Cookeville, Harriet spent 15 years in public health, serving as director of the Communicable Disease Program for the Upper Cumberland. She was a member of the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing Development Council for nearly 30 years and received WHSON's Florence Nightingale Award in 2007 and Distinguished Service Award in 2019.

"Harriet Westmoreland has been an advocate for the School of Nursing," said Kim Hanna, dean of the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing. "And that includes the school's students, faculty, staff and administration and the community served by them -- the patients and families of the Upper Cumberland and beyond."

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Friends Remembered

Ben Bilbrey

Ben Thomas Bilbrey of Glendale, Arizona, passed away on November 12, 2021.

Ben grew up on his family's farm in Overton County and attended Rickman High School. He graduated from Tennessee Tech in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture.

After college, he was drafted into the U.S. Army for the war in Vietnam. He received the bronze star, purple hearts and numerous other medals but always said they meant nothing to him compared to the men he served with and lost.

Ben worked in the tire industry in Nashville and Phoenix and loved to fish as often as possible. Ben was a country boy, a son, a brother, a father, a grandfather, a friend and a veteran who left an indelible mark on many of the people he knew and loved.

read full obituary

Michael Birdwell

Dr. Michael "Birdie" Birdwell passed away on March 20, 2022.

Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham shared the following with Tech students, faculty and staff:

With deep sadness, I'm sharing the loss of Dr. Michael "Birdie" Birdwell.

When other dear friends and historians left us, Birdie wrote their final tributes that I shared. In his honor, Laura Clemons gathered facts and wove them into the beautiful message that I share below.

Birdie left a legacy of energy, passion and scholarship, and he truly was bold, fearless and confident.

Birdie chose to donate his body to science; there will be a Celebration of Life at a later date. He requested donations in his honor go to either Tech's Department of History (checks can be mailed to Tennessee Tech, Box 1915, Cookeville, TN 38505; make checks payable to the TTU Foundation and write History Department on the memo line) or to WCTE-TV.

To all who will miss him, we give our thoughts and prayers.

read Laura Clemons' eulogy for Dr. Birdwell

Bill Freeman

William "Bill" Andrew Freeman, age 68, passed away on February 19, 2022.

He was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Litton High School in 1971. He later graduated from Tennessee Tech in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. At Tech, he was a member of the Theta Tau Fraternity.

Bill went on to earn a Master of Science in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1976. He then moved to Austin and joined IBM. While working at IBM, he received a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982.

Bill was a member of the IBM softball team and a local sports fan. He had many hobbies ranging from photography, star-gazing and camping. He was an avid DIY-er and could often be found tinkering with an electronics project around the house.

full obituary

Dr. GreenSheila Ann Sullivan Green, age 72, passed away on Feb. 17, 2022, at her home in Knoxville.

Prior to coming to Tennessee Tech, Sheila taught at the Baptist Hospital School of Nursing in Memphis, Tennessee, and received two master's degrees prior to completing her PhD in Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Green taught in Tech's School of Nursing from 1996 to 2004 and served as both director (2004-05) and dean (2005-10).

During her career as a faculty member and administrator, Dr. Green led the School through multiple accreditations and, as a member of the Nursing Curriculum Committee of the six TBR universities, collaborated with other state leaders to develop the TN eCampus (formerly RODP) Master of Science in Nursing consortium (2003-04).

The Sheila Green Professor Emeritus of Nursing Scholarship has been established to honor her memory. Gifts may be made by mailing a check to Tennessee Tech, Campus Box 1915, Cookeville, TN 38505 or online at Make checks payable to the TTU Foundation and write Sheila Green Scholarship on the memo line.

Grady WilliamsGrady Pascal Williams, 87, of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, passed away on March 21, 2022.

He was born in Sequatchie Valley where he grew up on a farm. He graduated from Bledsoe County High School in 1953 and went on to Tennessee Tech University where he graduated with a degree in accounting with honors.

He started his career in Chattanooga at the accounting firm of Hazlett, Lewis and Bieter. He loved being a CPA and spent over 47 years with HLB. While working with HLB, he took a two-year leave for military service as a U.S. Army Paratrooper Infantry Officer and was honorably discharged as a Captain. Grady officially "retired" from being a CPA when he was 80 but spent many hours at home helping friends and family with their taxes up until the day of his passing.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church Margaret Ferguson Scholarship Fund, Children's Hospital at Erlanger in care of EHS Foundation, or the Tennessee Tech Grady P. Williams Endowed Scholarship. Checks can be mailed to Tennessee Tech, Box 1915, Cookeville, TN 38505. Make checks payable to the TTU Foundation and write Grady P. Williams Endowed Scholarship on the memo line.

read full obituary

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

main stage of Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree 1977

This month, University Archives student intern Jacob Gentry, shares some of his experiences working in the Archives. Here is an excerpt from Jacob's blog post titled "The Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree and Finding My Calling":

"Almost exactly one year ago, I fell victim to the soul-searching state of mind that enraptures every senior as they arrive at their last year. I had inklings of what I wanted to do -- vague visions of myself surrounded by books and old things -- a la Evie Carnahan shelving dusty tomes in The Mummy (1999). Fate soon dispatched me a sign: a flier in Henderson Hall for an Archives Management and Research course. Through this class, I discovered a profound love of the archives and, after bugging Megan Atkinson, our university archivist, enough times -- she offered me an internship.

"As luck would have it, the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree hit the big 5-0 this year, and the Jamboree's board sought a research assistant for a book celebrating its semicentennial anniversary. One of Archives and Special Collections' primary duties is the preservation of the Upper Cumberland's history and culture; thus, the Jamboree board looked to Tennessee Tech for assistance. They had resources, decades' worth of raw materials (photographs, programs, negatives, documents, even an artifact or two) but lacked the technology to properly process it. That's where I came in."

Photo top left: Frazier Moss and others on stage at the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree, 1977.

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. 

jacob's blog post

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Class Notes

Leigh Lafever-Ayer

Dr. Adedeji Badiru, `79 industrial engineering, `81 M.S. and `82 M.S., is the recipient of the 2022 Industrial Engineering and Operations Management Society International Frederick Winslow Taylor Award. Read more.

David Cobb, `94 civil engineering, has been promoted to senior vice president of Operations and Content Planning at Disney Branded Television. Read more.

Ashley Dailey, `17 biology and chemistry, was named National Outstanding Medical Student by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Medicine Residents' Association (EMBA). Ashley is an osteopathic medicine student at Lincoln Memorial University. Read more.

Regina Johnson, `84 accounting, was appointed as vice president of internal audit at Ascend Federal Credit Union. Read more.

Leigh Lafever-Ayer, `89 marketing, was named Equality and Diversity Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors London in the South and Southwest Director of the Year Awards 2021. Leigh is vice president of human resources for Enterprise Holdings UK and Ireland.

Dana Looper, `14 sociology, is seeking the republican nomination for Circuit Court Judge - Part I for the 30th Judicial District which includes Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam and White counties. Read more.

Mary Beth Obetz, `77 science medical technology, was named to Marquis's Who's Who. Mary Beth worked in the medical field for 40 years and retired from the Lebanon, Pennsylvania Veteran's Hospital in 2015. Her last two positions were laboratory manager and quality technologist.

Robert L. Owens II, `98 industrial engineering, `00 MBA, `03 Ed.S. and `09 Ph.D., received the 2022 OVC Thurston Banks Award for Distinguished Academic Service. "Dr. Rob," as he is affectionately known, is Tech's Chief Diversity Officer. Read more.

Joshua Rapp, `14 interdisciplinary studies, is Odessa College's new director of theatre. Read more.

Gracie Rutz, a current Tech student majoring in wildlife and fisheries science, published a children's book titled Peewee the Peacock. Read more.

Dr. Whitley Shoemaker, `17 biology, was featured in the Oak Ridger in an article titled "Peek at back of eye 'sold' her on optometry" about her journey to becoming an optometrist. Read more.

Kirk Shrum, `01 M.A. instructional leadership, is the new superintendent at Visalia Unified School District. Read more.

Greg Wyatt, `94 marketing, was named the 2021 Knoxville Chapter PGA Teacher and Coach of the Year. Read more.

Photo top left: Leigh Lafever-Ayer

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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