Previously Spotlighted Donors
Tech's stewardship program recognizes donors through giving societies and individualized communications with the hope that showing donors genuine appreciation for their contributions to Tennessee Tech will continue to foster their love of the university community and ensure they realize the value of their gifts.
- Marc Burnett
Marc Burnett; B.S. '82, M.A. '86, Ed.S. '93
Marc Burnett, Tennessee Tech’s Vice President for Student Affairs, describes giving back to the University as both an honor and an obligation.
“Tennessee Tech has given me far more than I’ll ever give back,” he said.
Burnett received three degrees from the University and is 30 years True To Tech, meaning he has given to Tech, without fail, for 30 years consecutively.
Most recently, he has been a tremendous proponent of the Ethnic Diversity Scholarship Initiative which seeks to extend a Tennessee Tech education to a diverse student population, especially those facing financial barriers. The impact of a fully-funded initiative will help prepare all Tennessee Tech students for successful careers and culturally-enriched lives. Through the Ethnic Diversity Scholarship Initiative, Tennessee Tech intends to raise at least $2 million for scholarships and programs for underrepresented students.
“As an African American alumnus, I feel it’s imperative that this institution be as inclusive and diverse as possible for the student body we serve,” said Burnett. “Dr. Robert Owens [Assistant Vice President of Multicultural Affairs] and I were discussing ways to get our African American alumni more engaged while also discussing ways to enhance the recruitment of African Americans to Tennessee Tech and voila! The initial thought was to ask our African American alumni to give to a scholarship that would provide funding for African American freshmen here at Tennessee Tech. Therefore, our alumni become engaged, and high school students benefit from their generosity.”
The Office of Multicultural Affairs will host a Legacy Gala during Wings Up Weekend to raise funds for the Diversity Scholarship. The Gala is scheduled for April 13 and will include dinner and a silent action.
Burnett added, “I really just hope to give another student an opportunity to experience everything Tennessee Tech has to offer.”
- Lori and J.W. Bruce
Lori and J.W. Bruce
Provost Lori Bruce and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering J.W. Bruce made their first gift to Tennessee Tech not long after joining the President’s Cabinet and College of Engineering faculty, respectively. In addition to making their first gift to Tech, the Bruces also joined the President’s Club, a giving society created nearly 40 years ago to recognize the many friends who loyally support the University. Now, they hope to inspire others to give back through the “I Heart Tech Students” faculty and staff giving campaign.
“We wish every Tennessee Tech employee would give through our faculty and staff giving campaign,” they said. “The amount of the gift is not nearly as important as the act of giving. There is a saying, ‘It isn’t the size of the gift that matters, but the size of the heart that gives it.’ When we give to Tennessee Tech, especially when we support student activities on campus, we are communicating to the students that what they are doing is important to us.”
The Bruces say they enjoy working at Tennessee Tech because of the great team atmosphere and because of the students who keep them energized, push them to have fresh perspectives on all aspects of life, and inspire them to make the University the very best.
“Neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college when they graduated high school,” said Dr. Lori Bruce. “So when I was young, they stressed the importance of education and the belief that a university education could help you become whatever you wanted to be in life. When I was a teenager, my mother earned her bachelor’s degree, and I saw firsthand how her education broadened her perspectives of the world and allowed her to have a much more personally-fulfilling and higher-paying job. Education just opens so many doors of opportunity.”
Dr. J.W. Bruce added, “Our undergraduate and graduate educations have enabled us to have careers that we love—careers that have provided us with life experiences that we could never have imagined possible. We want everyone, especially Tennessee Tech students, to have those same kinds of opportunities and experiences.”
The Bruces designated their first gift to support the Tennessee Tech Baja team. Dr. J.W. Bruce has been the faculty advisor to several student projects and similar competition teams throughout the years and has witnessed firsthand that no matter how well you plan, there are always issues (and the associated expenses) that crop up unexpectedly.
“I vividly remember the times when my teams struggled with where to find the resources to address the unexpected,” said Dr. J. W. Bruce. “It seems that every time, someone stepped up and helped us out, and everything worked out in the end. We felt this was our opportunity to be that someone to step up and help Tennessee Tech students.”
The Tennessee Tech Baja team has a special sentiment for the Bruces. They met as undergraduates when they were both studying engineering, and they worked on a student design team while dating. The two spent many hours working side by side designing and building small autonomous vehicles and taking them to competitions.
Dr. Lori Bruce finds it remarkable that Tech’s Baja team started in 1977 in the basement of Brown Hall. In the 40 years since, Tech’s student team has finished in the top ten in more than 80% of the competitions they have entered and have placed 1st 12 times, making them the leading National Champion overall.
Dr. Lori Bruce added, “I have personally visited with the Baja student team and their faculty advisor, and they greatly impressed me with their technical skills, teamwork, tenacity, and competitiveness. It is no surprise that they build high quality vehicles that win races and bring national prestige to Tennessee Tech.”
“Giving is contagious,” said the Bruces. “When we give to Tennessee Tech, it can have a ripple effect of generosity through our community. We hope that our gift inspires others to give back to our students! Together, we can help Tennessee Tech move to even greater successes and heights.”
- Randy Wilmore
Randy Wilmore, Business Management '82
Tennessee Tech alumnus Randy Wilmore has given loyally and consistently to Tech for 36 years, and it all started with a $10 gift.
Not long after he graduated from Tech with a degree in business management, Wilmore was asked to help with a phone-a-thon to call alumni in the Nashville area.
"I have always believed if you are asking someone to do something, you should be willing to do it yourself, so I made my first contribution to Tech," he explained. "It may not sound like much, but for a new graduate with a new job and student loans, $10 felt like a commitment. I wanted to show my appreciation and support to Tech and 36 years later, I still feel the commitment to my alma mater."
Wilmore gives to Tennessee Tech Athletics because he understands the demands of the student-athlete and believes athletics to be the front door of the University.
"While I want Tech to succeed on the field of competition, I know the biggest impact occurs when these students leave Tech and make a difference in their communities and beyond," he said. "While my college athletic career was very short and I was not a very good athlete, I was determined to be a great teammate. You do not have to be the best player to be an important part of the team. We all have a skillset we bring to every situation, and learning how to work together as a team and respect different abilities and talents only makes the group stronger and better."
Wilmore's career began in banking, but he eventually transitioned into medical practice management where he worked primarily with medical groups, hospitals, and HCA executives. His healthcare career spanned more than 20 years and ultimately brought him to Columbia as the Chief Executive Officer of Mid-Tennessee Bone and Joint Clinic and later at Family Health Group. Columbia introduced him to Farm Bureau, and he made his latest career move to Farm Bureau Health Plans as Chief Marketing Officer.
"I feel very fortunate to be at the Farm Bureau and part of an organization dedicated to the family and the unique culture that comes with working for a company whose board of directors is comprised of fulltime farmers. I only wish it had not taken me 30 years to get here."
In reflecting on how Tech helped him in his career, Wilmore explained, "Tech allowed me to grow and do things I would never have dreamed possible as a student. Those experiences, whether they were successes or failures, made me a better person and prepared me for life in the real world."
Wilmore gives back, not only to his alma mater through financial support, but through his time to civic organizations as well.
"When I was chairing the Clinic Bowl in 1992, I remember my grandfather asking me, 'How much are you getting paid to do that?' It made me stop and think about why I spent so much time volunteering, and the answer was simple: It brings me much joy. Community service has always been something I've done. It was true in high school, it was true at Tech, and it has continued to be a big part of my life today. I really feel we all have a responsibility to give back and try to leave things better than we found them."
Wilmore said he tries to get back to campus as often as he can, whether it be for a football game, basketball game, alumni board meeting, or fraternity graduate dinner.
He added, "It is impressive to see the great changes taking place on campus and inspiring to see the next generation attending Tech. Wings Up!"
DENSO, World's Second Largest Mobility Supplier
As the world's second largest mobility supplier and a leading supplier of advanced automotive technology, systems, and components for the world's major automakers, DENSO believes they have a responsibility and distinct honor to advance skills and education in engineering and technology in the automotive industry.
DENSO has given to Tennessee Tech for more than 15 years and has supported many Capstone Design projects during that time. DENSO feels passionate about supporting student groups such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), as well as the Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and Formula teams. Students involved in these groups gain valuable real-world experiences and learn tangible skills to enhance their careers.
"We share the same goals and mission as Tennessee Tech," said Chuntao Ye, DENSO Senior Vice President and Tennessee Tech graduate. "We have hired many talented individuals from Tennessee Tech who came to us with a skill set and passion for the automotive manufacturing environment."
A large number of Tennessee Tech alumni work for DENSO, both at the Athens, Tennessee, and Maryville, Tennessee, locations, as well as in DENSO offices across the globe.
"Tennessee Tech students receive a diverse education taught in a hands-on environment," Ye added. "Their well-rounded education, proven ability to succeed, and passion for the industry enable Tennessee Tech graduates to fit well within DENSO's culture and working environment. Our relationship with Tennessee Tech has been instrumental in providing quality associates in diverse areas across the workforce."
- Ron and Marietta Tiller
Marietta Tiller and Ron Tiller, Interdisciplinary Studies '10
On May 8, 2010, Ron Tiller walked across the Hooper Eblen stage to accept his bachelor's degree. But there was something different about the presentation of this degree. Tiller was 76 years old.
"I waited 50 years to do this," he said.
The road to obtaining a college degree isn't always easy, and Tiller sympathizes with the challenges many first generation college students face.
"At one time in my life, education was not a priority within my household because I had uneducated parents," said Tiller. "I truly believe that my father's outlook in life for his five sons was none other than blue collar, assembly line, clock punching, or farmhand type of livelihood. Having the opportunity to attend college was, in and of itself, an exciting experience."
Tiller arrived on Tech's campus in 1957, 10 days after his honorable discharge from the Army's 11th Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Tiller attended Tech for more than four years, majoring in agriculture, and was just 16 hours shy of graduation when he was recruited to work for John Deere. At John Deere, his teams helped launch the marketing activities for the Memphis and Kansas City operations and grew the Memphis division to $40 million in sales and the Kansas City division to $66 million in sales. While on an assignment in Farmington, Missouri, Tiller met and married his wife, Marietta McCarty, and the couple had three children. But Tiller's children were unaware that their father had never finished his degree.
"I was carrying this burden for 50 years," he said. "I always, always wanted to go finish my degree. I saw an article in the Visions alumni magazine about the finish-your-degree program, and I knew this was the way."
Tiller added, "The absence of a college degree was always a burden for me, and for many reasons. In the employment arena, a degree will usually prevail in the area of promotion. The term 'graduate' is insurmountable and should be. Although I departed college with 16 hours left to graduate, I was fortunate to still rise through the ranks. But it is very difficult to get on a fast track without a degree."
Tiller credits Tammy Boles, then coordinator of programs for the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Steve Frye, Director of Interdisciplinary Studies, with helping him finish his degree.
"I had no idea what a nontraditional student meant at the time," said Tiller. "The term 'interdisciplinary studies' was very foreign to me. As the process of graduating from the College of Interdisciplinary Studies became a reality, I was in awe. Graduating at 76 years old really did not bother me, because I had decided that there was no stopping once I reentered college."
Ron and Marietta Tiller have chosen to give back to Tennessee Tech through a planned gift to support the area that made it possible for Ron to finally obtain his college degree: the College of Interdisciplinary Studies.
"Marietta and I enjoy the thought of giving back to Tennessee Tech because of what Tennessee Tech did for me," Tiller explained. "We specifically give to the College of Interdisciplinary Studies because of its outstanding cast of people who express the gratitude and fortitude to promote and excel in what they do to succeed. My degree is symbolic of that special group and Tennessee Tech proper."
Tiller added, "My advice to today's students is to prepare for the future with a degree of your choice and do the best to make it work. To the students who dropped out of school for whatever reason and wish to return, please do so for your own sake and pride of accomplishment. Graduating at 76 was not a difficult thing to do. The real challenge was just to do it. Time and age should not be a deterrent. It was a priority for me to graduate from college, and I did! I was determined to not go to my grave without a college degree. My epitaph will not have the words 'studied' or 'attended,' but instead 'TTU graduate'."
- Norm and Carol Adams
Norm and Carol Adams
Norm and Carol Adams did not graduate from Tennessee Tech. They do not have family members who graduated from Tech. They are not even originally from Tennessee! But they chose to establish the Norman and Carol Adams Engineering Scholarship Endowment because they believe in Tech, believe in the College of Engineering, and want to help students from Cumberland County.
The scholarship endowment will be primarily funded through an estate gift; however, Norm and Carol opted to also make a gift now so that they may have the opportunity to meet the scholarship recipients each year and see the impact their generosity has on the University.
"We are grateful for the investment Mr. and Mrs. Adams have made to support our engineering program at Tech," said Darrell Hoy, interim dean of the College of Engineering. "In addition to a quality education, we want to provide ample opportunities for scholarships so students can focus their time and energy on their studies, lab work, and developing the skills they will need to join the workforce. Assistance from our alumni and friends, like the Adams, is why almost 50 percent of our students are able to graduate debt-free."
Norm grew up on a farm in southwestern Ohio. Although his family was not in a position financially to provide beyond very basic necessities, Norm worked very hard to earn his associates degree at Ohio Mechanics Institute. He then worked and co-oped full time for five years, taking between 21 and 23 credit hours and working at Sears 16 to 20 hours each week during two of those years, to receive his Mechanical Engineering Degree from the University of Cincinnati. Norm recalls coming home at 10:00 pm some evenings, exhausted after being in the classroom for several hours, followed by his job at Sears. But he couldn't go to sleep; he had to stay awake to study.
"That's why he wants to help these students--so they don't have to go through what he did," said Carol. " I don't know if I could have kept going, based on some of the stories he's told me."
Norm then enlisted in the United States Air Force, where he met Carol. Carol is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and studied education and taught middle school English. The couple retired to the Fairfield Glade community in Crossville, Tennessee, 24 years ago.
"We've been here for 24 years and consider ourselves Tennesseans," said Norm. "We've heard really good things about Tennessee Tech, and we want to help the people living in Cumberland County."
When asked what advice they would give the students of today, Norm and Carol said, "Pick something that really, really interests you. You'll be happy if you love what you do."
Carol added, "I'm going to tell you something Pat Summitt said: Sit in the front of the class." The legendary University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach was famous for requiring her players to sit in the front three rows of lectures. "Class," said Summitt," is more important than a game."
Carol said she had mentors every step of her teaching career, and she became confident because they guided her way.
Norm, on the other hand, said his mother had only an 8th grade education and his father only made it through his freshman year of high school.
"I decided my freshman year of high school that I wanted to go to college because no one in my family had," he said. "So I really had no mentor, but I had the determination on my own."
The Norman and Carol Adams Engineering Scholarship will be awarded to engineering majors who graduate from Cumberland County High School and Stone Memorial High School.
"The Adams are thoughtfully and selflessly supporting Tennessee Tech students through this scholarship," said Amanda Fabrizio-Grzesik, Director of Development. "Thanks to them, engineering students will be able to focus on their classes, labs, and projects without worrying, 'How am I going to pay for this semester?' We are so lucky and excited to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Adams to the Tech family."
Executive Director of Planned Giving Tiff Rector added, "Tennessee Tech is extremely fortunate to have friends like Mr. and Mrs. Adams. Although they didn't attend college here, they understand the important role that the University plays in their community. The generosity they have shown by combining an estate gift with an outright gift will ensure generations of our students achieve their educational dreams."
- Mike Winchester
Mike Winchester, History '75
Mike Winchester gives to Tennessee Tech's Department of History and Baseball Program because, simply, Tech gave so much to him. He credits the athletic scholarship he received with allowing him to attend college in the first place and with being able to concentrate on success on the athletic field as well as in the classroom. Winchester also says he received constant encouragement and support from Tech coaches, faculty, and staff to achieve his goals and obtain the education required to pursue a career path that has turned out to be very successful.
"Quite frankly, I support and remember these programs and departments because they supported and remembered me at critical times in my career and life, in both my college education and beyond," he said.
Winchester attended Tech on an Ohio Valley Conference baseball scholarship from 1971 to 1975, graduating first in his class with a degree in history from the College of Arts and Sciences. Winchester also received the Derryberry Award, Tech's most prestigious honor presented annually to a graduating senior.
After graduating from Tech, Winchester attended the University of Tennessee College of Law and received a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree in 1978. He is the founding member and President of Winchester, Sellers, Foster & Steele, P.C. a law firm concentrating on creditor's rights, banking, commercial, and business litigation in Knoxville and the surrounding areas.
"I believe I received an outstanding education at Tennessee Tech that would have prepared me for a career in many different professions or career paths," said Winchester. "One of my faculty advisors convinced me that a law career would likely prove successful for me since I enjoyed reading and could both speak and write reasonably well. I believe the recommendations and encouragement I received from both the staff of the History Department as well as the Tennessee Tech administration was instrumental in helping me gain acceptance at the UT College of Law and in preparing for a legal career."
For more than 30 years, Winchester has supported the baseball program, scholarships for history majors, and professional development opportunities for history faculty and students. In 1999, he established the Winchester Lecture Series and Scholarship Endowment to support outstanding history majors and expand and enhance the educational experience at Tech. For nearly 20 years, the lecture series has brought guest speakers, chosen by the Department of History's faculty, to the University to present ideas, thoughts, and exposure to other disciplines and philosophies that are of interest to students, faculty , staff, and the community. The 2018 Winchester Lecture will be held on Tuesday, March 27, at 6 pm in Derryberry Hall Auditorium. Elizabeth Catte will present "What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia," and the event is free and open to the public.
"Whether you are majoring in pre-law or any other discipline, find something you both enjoy and intend to pursue as a career (not just as a job) if you truly want to be successful in any profession or endeavor," Winchester advised. "If you are not interested in continuing your education in that chosen discipline or profession, or if you do not want to be the best you can be every day in providing services to your clients, then pick something else to do."
Winchester added, "I want the Tennessee Tech campus community to know that Tennessee Tech is a wonderful place to obtain a great education, meet wonderful people, and establish friends and relationships that can last a lifetime."
- Ann Hellman and Lisa Russell
Ann Hellman, Associate Professor, Whitson-Hester School of Nursing; B.S. '93
Lisa Russell, Assistant Director, University Advancement; B.S. '04, M.B.A. '08
A Whitson-Hester School of Nursing graduate helped sisters Ann Hellman and Lisa Russell say goodbye to their father during one of the most difficult moments of their lives. As a thank you to this graduate, and to help future generations of nursing students, Hellman and Russell established the Bethel R. Norrod Memorial Scholarship in memory of their father.
Hellman, an associate professor in the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing, and Russell, assistant director of advancement services in University Advancement, both graduated from Tennessee Tech and say that as Cookeville natives, the University has always been a part of their lives.
"I get my greatest enjoyment from working closely with students," said Hellman. "Encouraging them to see nursing from a holistic viewpoint, seeing them explore patient population groups, and watching them grow in confidence from scared new nursing students to new nursing professionals is greatly rewarding for me."
"My current position in Advancement doesn't allow me the opportunity to deal directly with students," said Russell. "However, I feel my unit is very instrumental in making life better for Tennessee Tech students. We work diligently securing gifts, stewarding our donors, and promoting alumni relations. We see lives changed because of the work we do."
Hellman's and Russell's father, Bethel Norrod, spent the last week and a half of his life at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, and many great nurses cared for him. But one nurse, Tennessee Tech graduate J. C. Palfreyman, stood out above the rest.
"J. C. Palfreyman went beyond the normal assignment of his duties to provide excellent physical and emotional care for my dad," said Russell. "He saw him for the man he was: a husband, father, grandfather, brother, and uncle--not just a dying patient. He treated him with respect."
Hellman and Russell say they established the scholarship to honor their father and his love for learning. They hope to give students a helping hand and allow them to ultimately help others, just as their father did and just as Palfreyman did for him.
"My dad only had an eighth grade education, having to drop out of school to help support his large family," said Russell. "However, he was an avid reader and loved learning. I have so many memories of walking into his house, and he's sitting there with a book in his hand and a dictionary right beside him, in order to look up the words that he didn't know."
Hellman added, "Daddy was a man who believed in hard work. Although he came from a very poor upbringing, he also strongly believed that you always gave to others and helped others as the need presented. I can only imagine, had his circumstances been different and education been more accessible to him, how his life might have been different."
The Bethel R. Norrod Memorial Scholarship is awarded to nontraditional upper division nursing students from Overton County.
"We want all of the recipients of Dad's scholarship to know the work they do makes all the difference in their patients' lives," said Russell. "We want them to realize the importance of paying it forward and to realize that all gifts, regardless of size, make a difference."
- M. Dianne Murphy
M. Dianne Murphy, B.S. '72, M.A. '73
National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) Athletics Director of the Year in 2001 and 2008, Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Administrator of the Year in 2004, Tennessee Tech Distinguished Alumna Award in 2005, Collegiate Women Leaders Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, and National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Hall of Fame in 2017 are just a few of the accolades Dr. M. Dianne Murphy has received in her distinguished career, and she attributes much of her success to her Tennessee Tech University education.
"The education that I received as an undergraduate and as a graduate student was second to none," said Murphy. "It taught me that if you work really, really, really hard, you can accomplish a lot. It also taught me that you can ask for help. I certainly asked for a lot of help as an undergraduate. The thing that struck me about Tech is that the faculty were willing to help. The faculty really cared."
Murphy received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in health and physical education from Tennessee Tech and played basketball, volleyball, and tennis for the University as well. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in administration, supervision, and curriculum in physical education from The Florida State University.
Murphy served as Athletics Director for both the University of Denver and Columbia University. Under her leadership at Denver, eight sports programs made NCAA tournament appearances and, on four occasions, Denver teams won a national title. Murphy then presided over one of the most successful periods in Columbia University Athletics history. During her 11-year tenure, Columbia won 30 Ivy League titles and a national title in fencing, and in 2013-2014, saw its most successful year with five Ancient Eight titles. In 2016, Murphy joined The PICTOR Group as a senior partner and now assists intercollegiate athletics programs increase their effectiveness.
Murphy hopes to give other students the opportunity to receive a great education at Tennessee Tech through her support. She established the Dr. M. Dianne Murphy Leaders for Life Program to provide mentoring and networking opportunities for female student-athletes and build the skills needed to be successful in sports and leadership positions.
"I care deeply about Tennessee Tech and Tennessee Tech Athletics, and I felt it was important for young women in the athletics program to see women in leadership positions, whether they be in athletics, education, law, medicine, or something else," said Murphy. "As alumni, we have an obligation to give back to the institution that gave to us. I give back so others will have the opportunities that I have had."
Eastman, Global Specialty Chemical Company
Eastman’s 25-year partnership with Tennessee Tech continues to fund scholarships, professional development opportunities, career placement programs, equipment, and classroom upgrades.Representatives from the global specialty chemical company say they choose to support Tennessee Tech because of the high quality, industry-ready students that the University is known for.
“Graduates from Tennessee Tech are immediately ready for any challenge thrown their way when they come through the door at Eastman on day one,” said Spencer Tidwell, a 2011 Tennessee Tech chemical engineering graduate and chemical engineer at Eastman.“TTU does a great job training its students to be able to think critically in order to solve complex problems.Their technical background from their coursework provides a solid foundation and gives them the tools necessary to solve complex problems.TTU students are not afraid to go out and get their hands dirty or ask hard questions to solve everyday problems.This is a critical part of success in the real world and at Eastman.”
More than 150 Eastman employees are Tennessee Tech graduates.The majority of them are employed at the Kingsport, Tennessee, location, but the company has Tennessee Tech graduates at their other 50 sites across the globe as well.
Recently, the Eastman Foundation provided funds for furniture, equipment, and materials for the Engineering Learning Lab in the newly-renovated Maddux and McCord residence halls.This was a unique opportunity for Eastman to have a direct impact on Tennessee Tech students by providing a collaborative learning environment.
“We know that diversity of thought is critical to solving the world’s most complex problems,” said Tidwell.“Networking with students across disciplines is very beneficial—diversity across functional teams is a critical part to the working industry.”
Tidwell added that Eastman employees are bold, fearless, and confident, thus displaying all three attributes of the Tennessee Tech Tomorrow Campaign.
“The success of Eastman is completely dependent on the different backgrounds and ways of thinking that our employees have,” said Tidwell.“We need bold leaders that set the strategy for the company.We need fearless employees who are not afraid to try new things for risk of failure.We need employees who are confident that the vision set forth by our leaders is achievable.”
Tidwell added, “If you think about the world’s problems as an apple tree, all the low-hanging apples have been picked, and there are no more ‘easy’ problems to solve. The key is figuring out how to climb to the top of the tree and find the apples that are hidden away. We need bold leaders to set forth the vision for how we get to the apples at the top of the tree. We must have confident employees who truly believe that there are apples at the top of the tree that can be acquired. We need employees who are fearless enough to climb the tree and figure out where the apples are. All three of these characteristics are required to find the apples that no one has discovered yet and turn those opportunities into meaningful results.”
- Robert Jager
Robert Jager, Professor Emeritus, School of Music
After a lifetime of devoting herself to art and education, it was only fitting that an art scholarship be established in Sally Crain-Jager's memory at Tennessee Tech.
When Sally passed away in November of 2014, friends, family, and Tennessee Tech colleagues made gifts in her memory to establish the Sally Crain-Jager Memorial Scholarship Endowment. Sally's husband, Robert Jager, said he chose to support painting students with this scholarship because that was Sally's principal talent area and because she worked diligently to establish the Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in painting at Tennessee Tech.
"My hope is that this scholarship will help make it possible for talented painting students, who won't have the opportunity to study with Sally, to benefit from her legacy and dedication," he said.
Nicole Groot, a junior fine arts major from Cumberland County, is the first recipient of the Sally Crain-Jager Memorial Scholarship.
"I feel so honored to receive this gift of financial help," said Groot. "It is truly special to me because it's a part of Sally's legacy. I never met Sally, but she still found a way to inspire me and impact my life goals--not only as an artist, but also as a person. She generously used her talents to help others, and I hope to follow her example."
In reflecting on the three core concepts (bold, fearless, and confident) of the Tennessee Tech Tomorrow Campaign, Jager said, "I think that to be confident means you are also bold and fearless, although I know that Sally wouldn't have thought of herself as either bold or fearless. And no creative person of any worth that I have ever met considered themselves confident. Nevertheless, I would say Sally was confident because her art and her personality came across as someone who knew what she was doing."
"What I believe is most important for everyone to know about Sally is her dedication to her art and, especially, her dedication to her students," Jager said. "To her, it was always more than just a job. It was a calling, and that calling came naturally and unadorned to her. The fact that so many of her family and friends have come together to fund this scholarship attests to the fact of the influence she has had on the University, her students, and this community."
(Photos: Left: Robert Jager presenting an encaustic painting of Sally's to scholarship recipient Nicole Groot. Right: Sally Crain-Jager)
- Shawn Ratner
Shawn Ratner, '00 Business Management
The strong guidance and support he received from Tennessee Tech faculty and staff inspired Shawn Ratner to give back to the alma mater that paved the way for his success in the business industry. Through his philanthropy, he hopes to provide the tools needed so that other students may achieve their educational endeavors.
"TTU provided a strong foundation in business, as well as tools for real-world scenarios, which have helped in my success at my banking career at JPMorgan Chase," he said. "I owe my success in my career to my Tennessee Tech education."
Ratner is a Supplier Enablement Client Campaign Manager with JP Morgan Chase. He has been with the company since November of 2013.
Ratner gives to the Tennessee Tech Foundation and the College of Business because he believes the College gave him a strong background in business that helps in his career today. Additionally, he is grateful to Tennessee Tech for giving him a well-rounded education. Ratner recently made a gift to each area in memory of his mother and grandparents.
"My grandparents, from the time I was old enough to remember, instilled the importance of education and were instrumental in me receiving my degree, as neither of them had a college education," said Ratner. "My mother was supportive of everything I have done in my life."
The Tennessee Tech Tomorrow Campaign encourages students, faculty, and staff to be bold, fearless, and confident, and Ratner was fortunate to have a professor who encouraged him to adopt these characteristics during his time at Tennessee Tech.
"Dr. Curtis Armstrong was my favorite professor at Tennessee Tech," said Ratner. "He encouraged me to be bold. He always had an open door policy and made everyone feel comfortable asking questions. Dr. Armstrong always shared his vast experience with our class with real-world applications. I had the opportunity to reconnect with Dr. Armstrong at last year's Homecoming, and he remembered me. I would say Dr. Armstrong had the most positive influence on me during my years at Tennessee Tech."
(Photo: Ratner, left, with decision sciences and management professor Curtis Armstrong)
- Gerald and Gina Padgett
Gerald Padgett and Gina Padgett, Assistant Director, Crawford Alumni Center; B.S. '03
As 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
DeWayne Allen, '99 IME
DeWayne 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 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
Ottis Phillips, ME '74, MBA '78
From 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
Tawnya Robinson-Moss, Administrative Associate, School of Agriculture
Tawnya 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
With 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
Leslie Crickenberger, Associate Vice President of Human Resources
As 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
Mary Patterson, '68 Math
After 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
Brian O' Connor, Associate Professor of Mathematics
As 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.