Archived Donor Spotlight


-Gerald and Gina Padett

Gina Padgett, B.S. '03

Gerald and Gina PadgettAs the Assistant Director for the Crawford Alumni Center, Gina Padgett has the unique opportunity to witness the far-reaching effect of a Tennessee Tech education and what it allows students to achieve after graduation.

"I love interacting with our students and alumni and being part of their Tech experience," she said. "The students connect us to the future, and their excitement about college life, career possibilities, and life in general is contagious. When I interact with our alumni across the country and around the world, I see and hear about the pride they have for Tennessee Tech--what they learned and experienced here, in and out of the classroom. I can't help but feel honored to be part of something that makes such a difference to so many."

A Tennessee Tech employee for 17 years, Gina began her Tennessee Tech career in the Office of Communications and Marketing (then known as Public Affairs), and now serves as Assistant Director in the Office of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving. She and her husband, Gerald, are members of the President's Club and longtime supporters of Tennessee Tech.

"Working with alumni, I often hear how the education they received from Tennessee Tech changed the course of their lives," said Gina. "It certainly has in our family. I am an alumna, and several family members are also alumni or current students, so we understand the value of the education that Tech offers."

In addition to the students and alumni, Gina says she enjoys working with the faculty, staff, and administrators at Tech.

"Their camaraderie, shared goals, and commitment to excellence inspire me to be innovative and make coming to work each day more than a job," she said.

While their support has touched many different areas on campus, Gina and Gerald have chosen to focus their philanthropy mainly on the School of Music and the Maggie Phelps Endowment for the Millard Oakley STEM Center.

"The study of music and STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are mutually beneficial to society, and they are important to our family," Gina explained. "Several family members are music educators or are involved in community music programs, and one of our daughters is preparing to teach a STEM subject. Technology is part of almost everything we encounter each day, so STEM education is vitally important to our economy. In addition to being a creative outlet, music education also helps students develop skills that promote learning in STEM subjects. At Tennessee Tech, the School of Music offers high-quality educational and performance opportunities for students, and the Millard Oakley STEM Center provides state-of-the-art educational opportunities to both teachers and children."

"Gerald and I agree with Tech's mission and vision for the future, and I believe that Tennessee Tech is truly making an impact," she added. "We give because we want to make a difference in the lives of others, and we believe supporting Tennessee Tech will help us do that."


 

-DeWayne Allen

IME '99

DeWayne AllenDeWayne Allen values both the education he received and the lifelong friendships he made while attending Tennessee Tech. In appreciation for all the University has given to him, he includes Tennessee Tech in his philanthropy in the hopes of making a difference for future generations of underrepresented students. Allen's gifts to the Tennessee Tech Diversity Scholarship Fund ensure that underrepresented students will have the opportunity to join the Tennessee Tech family, regardless of their financial situation.

"I attended Tech as a transfer student without even coming to visit the campus or even knowing anything about the town of Cookeville," he said. "My roommate and other dorm-mates really went out of their way to help me adapt with the culture change, both as an African American and as an engineering major. There was an adjustment for me, but over time, my confidence grew and now I look forward to the change. Change management has become one of my core competencies and has led my career to all sorts of locales all over the world."

Allen graduated from Tennessee Tech in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. Today, he is employed with UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS) in Rockford, Illinois.

When asked what advice he would give to the Tennessee Tech students of today, he replied, "I urge today's students to continue to broaden your skill sets and have a passion for learning and sharing your expertise with the world around you."

"I have a goal in life to leave a positive legacy wherever my life journey takes me," he added. "Giving to Tech is an important part of that goal."


 

-Andrew and Jeannie Smith

Andrew Smith, English Instructor and Faculty Head, Treehouse Learning Village
Jeannie Smith, Director, College of Interdisciplinary Studies Student Success Center; B.S. '90, M.A. '08

Andrew and Jeannie SmithAndrew and Jeannie Smith's belief in nontraditional learning inspires them to help others in their pursuit of a college education and give back to the alma mater and place of employment that has given so much to them.

"My mother was never able to finish her college degree due to financial reasons," Jeannie said. "I knew I had to finish mine to make my mother proud of me. I was a working mother of two, and Tennessee Tech made it possible for me to complete my degree through educational benefits. I want to help other working adults find a way to complete their degree. The contributions my husband and I make will hopefully help make their path a little easier."

Jeannie, a two-time alumna of Tennessee Tech, received her Bachelor of Science Degree in psychology in 1990 and Master of Arts Degree in instructional leadership in 2008. She is the Director of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies Student Success Center.

"I have a great job being an advisor at Tennessee Tech," she said. "I am able to share my story on how I completed my degree and show students a path to complete theirs. I am able to encourage adult learners and watch them gain confidence with each course they take. The College of IS has some of the best students. Adult learners are blessed with life experiences that enhance any classroom. Do you have a friend or family member that needs to complete a degree? Send them to our office where caring advisors can help them find a way."

Andrew, a faculty member in the Department of English and faculty head of the Treehouse in New Hall North, shares Jeannie's passion for helping students.

"Tech has felt like home to me since I first started working here as an adjunct back in 2001," he said. "Now, as a tenured faculty member who is married to someone who is so loyal to Tech, we could say school spirit for the Golden Eagles is our family way. Like Jeannie, I was a nontraditional learner, getting all of my degrees as a working adult. I also have had multiple vocations within the arc of my career, so I share her commitment to nurturing and mentoring students in such a manner as they feel free to find themselves while at Tech, no matter how long it takes and no matter at what station in life they find themselves."

Andrew and Jeannie are avid fans of Tennessee Tech Athletics and attend numerous football, baseball, soccer, and basketball games. They also support Tech's theater, art, and music programs.

Their giving spirit extends beyond the University as well. Andrew is a supply pastor at two churches in Sparta, Tennessee, while Jeannie is known for her baking abilities and often provides food for evening Sunday services at Come ToGather (C2G).


 

-Ottis Phillips

ME '74, MBA '78

Ottis PhillipsFrom entrepreneur to community activist, Ottis Phillips has been a part of the Tennessee Tech family since he was a walk-on player for Coach Don Wade. Married and the father of a new baby, Phillips knew it was going to take hard work and determination to get his college degree. Going from walk-on to a scholarship-assisted student-athlete, the demands of being a mechanical engineering major ensured he stayed busy.

"I think when I was a student-athlete, approximately 70 percent of the university's budget was state-funded, but state funding for higher education in Tennessee has steadily declined over the years," said Phillips. "Today, it's less than 30 percent. I'm not sure most alumni realize that. Alumni support and giving are critical to the success of Tennessee Tech and are more important now than ever."

Phillips has been a loyal supporter of Tennessee Tech Athletics and specifically the football program for 30 years. His company was one of the original sponsors of the Golden Eagle Scramble and later a founding sponsor of the Football Alumni Golf Classic, which is hosted each July to bring back former football players and engage them in the program. Director of the inaugural TSSAA Blue Cross/Blue Shield Bowl Steering Committee, Ottis was excited to see fans from across Tennessee experience the state championships in Tucker Stadium.

"I have been fortunate to be able to support Tennessee Tech for many years, and I specifically support Athletics because of my positive experience as a student-athlete here in the early 1970s," said Phillips. "The discipline I learned on the football field combined with the great education I received have made all the difference in my career success. I think Athletics can play an important role in providing positive exposure for a university as well as attract quality students."

As Cookeville and the Upper Cumberland continue to grow, Phillips credits Tennessee Tech with playing a major role.

"In my opinion, the success of higher education has and will continue to be key to growing our economy and providing jobs. I am excited about Tennessee Tech's leadership under Dr. Oldham, and I believe he is positioning the university for a great future. I am blessed to live in this community where Tech brings so much to the quality of life here and contributes to the entire region."

Phillips and his wife Cindy have five children and five grandchildren. From a young age, he impressed upon them the importance of a college degree. Phillips received not only his undergraduate degree in engineering, but also his MBA from Tech.

"I am proud to say that come December, all five of my children will have earned a college degree, and three of them from Tennessee Tech," he said.


 

-Tawnya Robinson-Moss

Administrative Associate, School of Agriculture

Tawnya Robinson-Moss in front of Oakley HallTawnya Robinson-Moss's passion for students inspires her to give so those who wish to earn a college degree can afford to attend Tennessee Tech.

"I have been extremely blessed to work in a program that focuses on students and allows me to interact with them," she said. "Through my job, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing students, staff, faculty, and alumni. Each and every one of them have touched my life in a way I never would have imagined. The School of Agriculture and Tech have surrounded me with people who are passionate about Agriculture."

Robinson-Moss adds that one of the benefits of working in an academic department is that she is in a learning environment on a daily basis.

"A day rarely goes by that I have not learned something new," she said. "I may not be sitting in the classroom, but I am still learning. My position has allowed me to grow as a person, be a mentor and a friend, and be involved in a program that is educating the future of agriculture. Tennessee Tech's commitment to education has transpired to me as I have learned amazing things since I have been a member of the Tennessee Tech family."

Robinson-Moss's experience with the School of Agriculture Scholarship Committee has allowed her to witness firsthand how additional scholarships are needed, and this is what motivates her to give. Robinson-Moss has supported a number of different scholarship programs in her 26-year history of giving. For the last 10 years, she has made a gift every month to the Agriculture Faculty/Staff Scholarship.

"This scholarship was originally set up by the faculty to assist students who were facing financial difficulties," she explained. "I have personally seen the impact and difference this scholarship has made for our students."

"Only one in three students who applies for scholarships is awarded a scholarship," she added. "The scholarship funds awarded by the School of Agriculture are depleted before we run out of students. I would love to see every student who applies receive a scholarship."

Tennessee Tech has been a part of Robinson-Moss's life for 40 years. She moved to Tennessee when her father accepted a position with Safety and Security at Tennessee Tech.

"This campus has been my 'home away from home' since 1976," she said. "I believe in Tennessee Tech and the quality education students are receiving here. Tennessee Tech has been a part of my life for years and I can only hope to repay a portion of the blessings I have received."


 

-Jim and Barbara Greeson

Barbara Greeson, B.S. '77, M.A. '80, Ed.S. '97
Jim Greeson, B.S. '68, M.A. '71, Ed.S. '76 

 Jim and Barbara GreesonWith six Tennessee Tech degrees and more than 80 years of experience in teaching, coaching, and education administration combined, Jim and Barbara Greeson's love for the University and the education profession is undeniable. It is also what inspired them to establish the Jim and Barbara Greeson Scholarship, which assists students majoring in Elementary Education and Exercise Science, Physical Education, and Wellness. Through this scholarship, the Greesons desire to recognize and assist future educators in achieving their professional goals.

"The solid academic foundation and the relationships made during our college years proved to be invaluable throughout careers," the Greesons explained.

"Having attended 'Tech Campus School,' an elementary school that was under the Tennessee Tech umbrella for many years, the University campus has felt like 'home' to me since I was six years old," Barbara added. "As a college student, from day one, I felt supported and challenged by caring and committed instructors in the College of Education."

Jim received a Bachelor of Science Degree in health and physical education in 1968, a Master of Arts Degree in health and physical education/administration and supervision in 1971, and a Specialist in Education Degree in administration and supervision in 1976. He has enjoyed a 43-year career as a professional educator including assignments as a teacher, basketball coach, principal, and education consultant with the Tennessee Department of Education.

Barbara received a Bachelor of Science Degree in elementary education in 1977, a Master of Arts Degree in reading in 1980, and a Specialist in Education Degree in administration and supervision in 1997. She also obtained a library certification through Tennessee Tech. Her career in the Putnam County School System began in 1977, as a classroom teacher at Capshaw Elementary School. In 1995, she was named the first librarian at the new Cane Creek Elementary School.

"In teaching elementary grades, I was given the gift of being able to spend a year in the life of each child in my charge," Barbara said. "In the younger grades, we were together all day, every day. I could not conceive at the time of how rewarding it would be to cross paths with my students as they grew up and created their own lives, including careers, families, and interests."

"Life has been very good to us," said Jim. "We treasure our career experiences and our long relationship with Tennessee Tech. I was a student there when Tennessee Tech changed from TPI to Tennessee Tech and when it celebrated its 50-year anniversary. It was rewarding to participate in some of the 100-year anniversary activities."


-Leslie Crickenberger

Associate Vice President of Human Resources

Leslie CrickenbergerAs the most recent Tennessee Tech employee to join the President’s Club, Associate Vice President of Human Resources Leslie Crickenberger hopes to give back to the University and community she now calls home.

“I love the community Tennessee Tech has built,” said Crickenberger. “When I started just over a year ago, it felt like home immediately. In Human Resources, I enjoy the impact I have on our employees and the institution. I am constantly looking for ways to improve our processes and help employees achieve the same feeling I do at Tennessee Tech.”

Crickenberger says she gives to the Tennessee Tech Foundation because she believes in Tennessee Tech’s mission and President Oldham’s Flight Plan.

“The President’s Club offered me a way to make a difference in our students’ education and experiences at Tennessee Tech,” said Crickenberger.

Crickenberger’s philanthropy extends beyond Tennessee Tech. She serves as the Events Trustee for the Tennessee Chapter of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources so she can meet other human resources professionals like herself. She also serves as the Events Trustee for Basset Hound Rescue of Georgia.

“I have spent the last 10-plus years rescuing basset hounds and dachshunds, and I especially like assisting the older and weak hounds,” she said. “I believe that I see flowers in the weeds.”


 

-Mary Patterson

Math '68

Mary Patterson and StudentsAfter a successful career at IBM, Mary Patterson, ’68 math, now focuses on giving back to her alma mater. Her belief in the importance of recruiting and retention for students in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the need for faculty professional development opportunities, led Patterson to establish four endowments to support these areas. When asked why she gives back, Patterson said it is fun to see how far Tennessee Tech has come and rewarding to see what Tennessee Tech students are doing.

“I want to do everything I can to encourage young people, because they are our future,” she said. “I tell everyone that the one thing they can’t take away from you is your education.”

Named for the former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Jack Armistead Arts and Sciences Faculty Development Endowment supports professional development for faculty within the College.

The College of Arts and Sciences Student Ambassador Endowment supports a college-wide student organization that represents the College to alumni and other external groups, recruits new students for the College, and mentors new students during their first year.

Both the Mary Patterson Computer Science Scholarship Endowment and the Bernice Brooks Kasbaum Scholarship Endowment aim to recruit and retain students in computer science. Patterson named the second scholarship endowment for her grandmother, Bernice Brooks Kasbum.

“She was always encouraging us to stimulate our intellect. She was definitely an influence on me,” said Patterson.

Patterson says the reason she was successful in her career is because she had the ambition to go to college. At a time when most females majored in education or nursing, Patterson majored in mathematics with a minor in physics. She wants to get more female students involved in computer science because, she says, it’s a great field to get into.

Because of her career in computer science, and because of her membership on several engineering advisory boards, Patterson is aware of the challenges facing Tennessee Tech and its students. She knows that the engineering field lacks females, and she knows additional computer science scholarships are needed. The students who enroll at Tennessee Tech can go anywhere, and to keep Tennessee Tech’s level of accomplishment high, the University needs scholarships and student success centers to recruit and retain these quality students, she says.

“The University is only as good as its graduates,” said Patterson. “If we put out good graduates, the University will thrive.”


 

-Brian O'Connor

Associate Professor of Mathematics

Brian O'ConnorAs a 35-year True to Tech member, associate professor of mathematics Brian O'Connor's giving record is as diverse as it is consistent. Through gifts to more than 25 different areas, O'Connor's support has touched nearly every Department on the Tennessee Tech campus.

The numerous tribute gifts O'Connor has made are in honor and memory of the colleagues he has been fortunate to know during his years at Tennessee Tech.

"The first was for my best friend, history professor Stuart Stumpf, who passed away in 1984 at the age of 40," he said. "Other gifts have been to acknowledge the valuable service performed by members of the Tech community in various areas of the University."

Ever since he arrived in Cookeville in 1977, O'Connor has sung in various Tennessee Tech choral groups. "I spent four years in the Cornell University Glee Club and six years in the University of Illinois Varsity Men's Glee Club on the way to earning my doctorate in mathematics and, wanting to continue, I found a 'home away from home' in the Tennessee Tech Music Department," he said.

In 1997, O'Connor and his wife, Susan, endowed the Dahl O'Connor Percussion Chair in the Bryan Symphony Orchestra in memory of his aunt, Mary Dahl, and his mother, Clare O'Connor. They also donated funds to the Music Department to purchase chairs that are still in use today by the Department and the BSO.

O'Connor says that while not large monetarily, his most memorable gift occurred in December 2013. He was President of the Faculty Senate at the time and was invited to attend the Legislative Forum held at Tennessee Tech. This meeting brought together representatives from Tennessee Tech and the Tennessee Board of Regents as well as state and federal legislators to discuss priorities for Tennessee Tech, one of which was the proposed $85 million science building. While most of the funding would come from the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Tech would need to raise a percentage on its own.

O'Connor recalled, "At that point, I thought for a moment, reached for my wallet, pulled out a dollar bill, and threw it into the middle of the table proclaiming, 'I'm in.' Several others did the same, and we were on our way."

The new science building will be just one of the many areas on campus that O'Connor's support has helped make possible, whether it be from a gift of $1 to jump-start a new building project or through a 35-year history of giving to the people and places he holds in high regard.

 

 

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