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Winter 2018 Vol. 22 No. 2

The Story Within a Story MTSU alum Joel Alsup’s incredible personal journey fuels his work as a professional storyteller at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

photo: J. Intintoli

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Hands Across MTSU Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni joined hands and formed a human chain across the campus of MTSU on Nov. 6 in a strong show of unity and as a demonstration of solidarity across a diverse campus. Participants linked hands for about 15 minutes in between classes. The event

was one of several programs and activities on campus recently as an outgrowth of a meeting between President Sidney A. McPhee and the MTSU Intercultural and Diversity Affairs Advisory Board. The event mirrored the 1986 Hands Across America event where Americans embraced each other in a human chain

to show their support in the fight against hunger and homelessness. Hands Across MTSU celebrated the University’s strength through its diversity. True Blue!

Table of Contents Feature Stories 9

True Black and Blue


A Digital First


So, You Think You Can Dance?


Cover Story: The Story Within a Story


True Blue Give


Raider Relief


Taking Root


Eclipsing Expectations

Departments 5 Editor’s Letter 7 Five Minutes with the President 18 MidPoints 39 40 Ask MTSU 47 Class Notes

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Middle Tennessee State University Winter 2018 / Vol. 22, No. 2 University Editor Drew Ruble Art Director Kara Hooper Students need to be comfortable operating in a globalized, multicultural society and can gain the skills to do so in a variety of majors.

Contributing Editors Darby Campbell, Carol Stuart Contributing Writers Lynn Adams, John Glennon, Allison Gorman, Gina K. Logue, Katie Porterfield, Randy Weiler Designers Karin Albrecht, Darrell Callis Burks, Brian Evans, Micah Loyed, Brittany Stokes University Photographers Andy Heidt, J. Intintoli, Eric Sutton

Students need to be critical thinkers capable of solving complex problems in an unstructured environment.

Special thanks to The Alumni Relations staff, Sarah Calise, Tara Hollins, Kimi Conro, Megan Jones, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the staff of MTSU News and Media Relations, the staff of the MTSU Office of Development, Jack Ross, Cindy Speer, Yvonne Torres, Kelsey Wells University President Sidney A. McPhee University Provost Mark Byrnes

Creativity is the hallmark of successful entrepreneurs. Enhance your creativity through participation in a variety of programs in the fine and performing arts.

Vice President for University Advancement Joe Bales Vice President for Marketing and Communications Andrew Oppmann Address changes should be sent to Advancement Services, MTSU Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37132; Other correspondence goes to MTSU Magazine, Drew Ruble, 1301 E. Main St., MTSU Box 49, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. For online content, visit 124,400 copies printed at Lithographics, Nashville, Tennessee. Designed by MTSU Creative and Visual Services.

Liberal Arts graduates gain the knowledge, skills, and attitude to flourish in a changing economy and out-earn their peers from professional programs over time as a result. (

1017-4997 / Middle Tennessee State University does not discriminate against students, employees, or applicants for admission or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age, status as a protected veteran, genetic information, or any other legally protected class with respect to all employment, programs, and activities sponsored by MTSU. The Assistant to the President for Institutional Equity and Compliance has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and can be reached at Cope Administration Building 116, 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN 37132;; or 615-898-2185. The MTSU policy on non-discrimination can be found at


by Drew Ruble


hese days, unlike in the 1960s, the race to space is as much a venture of private enterprise as it is government funding. Witness SpaceX, a company led by innovative entrepreneur Elon Musk that has attracted worldwide attention and captured the public’s imagination for becoming the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010. As of October, SpaceX had successfully launched 15 rockets in 2017 alone and successfully achieved the first re-flight of an orbital class rocket—a historic milestone on the road to full and rapid rocket reusability. SpaceX has revolutionized space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Investment and innovation geared toward human travel to and from Mars is obviously accelerating, with human landing and eventual settlement potentially in the cards. And if, in fact, humankind is ever able to successfully colonize planets like Mars, one leader at MTSU wants the University poised to capitalize. As was first reported by student news outlet Sidelines, dozens of professors and MTSU faculty gathered last October to discuss an Office of Research-led research initiative titled Blue Mars that centers around Martian studies. David Butler, MTSU’s vice provost of research and dean of Graduate Studies, is spearheading the effort to spur interdisciplinary research on the red planet. The Blue Mars project is intended to explore the human experience of inhabiting Mars—meaning all things biological, social, cultural, philosophical, psychological, and technological. Stated topics of interest that Butler has outlined range from education on Mars to forms of transportation, health care, politics, law enforcement, tourism, and even fermentation on Mars.

The first meeting on campus last fall represented an open call for participation. The Office of Research’s stated goal is to build a critical mass of scholarship and grant funding that investigates how humans will travel to and settle on Mars. According to the Sidelines report, Butler said he hopes to see MTSU achieve national recognition through a Martian research project. “This rocket lands on Mars, the doors open up and then the question is, ‘Then what?’ ” Butler said. “What do you do when you land there? It’s a one-way trip. How do you build a society?” Attendees at the inaugural meeting described their interests in Mars, which ranged from fascination as a child to collaborative experiences with NASA on previous Martian studies. This “think tank” approach calls for participants to engage in multiple brainstorming sessions over the next academic year to pose research questions and strategies, develop research projects and programs, and plan the eventual dissemination of the Blue Mars initiative findings (including websites, symposia, conferences, peer-reviewed journal articles, and books).

“What do you do when you land there? It’s a one-way trip. How do you build a society?”

Such deep-thinking academic concentration on Mars is clear evidence of Mars' potential cultural impact on humanity. The effort no doubt encourages laypeople like me to break free of an Earth-centric mindset, encouraging us to think outside the box, even to the point of being pioneers of a future Martian culture. Not unlike the Vikings or Christopher Columbus in their days, could it really be possible that one day humanity will leave its birthplace and move across the solar system? I, for one, certainly don’t know that answer. But if it ever does, it appears MTSU will be poised to take a True Blue lead on colonizing the red planet. MTSU

University Editor Drew Ruble

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A brief conversation on recent events with MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee Last September, you joined Civil Rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis for a panel discussion in the nation’s capital sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. The topic at hand was intentional leadership and calling youth to community service. The discussion, held during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference, also involved business, media, and fraternity leaders. Tell me a little bit about that experience. McPhee: Other panelists included Micheal Cristal, the fraternity’s international president; R. Donahue Peebles, chair and CEO of the Peebles Corp.; Chris V. Rey, the fraternity’s international director for social action; Joseph Madison, Sirius XM radio host; and Rod Carter, an anchor on WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida. Rep. Lewis was honored by Phi Beta Sigma with its highest award, induction into its Distinguished Service Chapter. As panel moderator Carter said on that day, the Georgia congressman has dedicated his life to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties.

photo: Andrew Oppmann

Both John and I talked about the importance of higher education and how such institutions can be a source for mentors who can both connect with and inspire youth. Lewis reflected upon his days as a student at Fisk University in nearby Nashville, when he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters, and how a professor-mentor gave him inspiration and the confidence he needed. Lewis became known as an advocate of nonviolence, despite numerous arrests and serious injuries, and at age 23, was an architect of the August 1963 March on Washington. What did you learn from listening to him that day? McPhee: That you have to be persistent and consistent if you wish to achieve change and/or equality. I specifically remember that he said young people today are much better educated, with significant information and resources readily and digitally available to them, and that we as leaders need to inspire them to in his words “get out there” and push for change. If not, he warned, people will try to take us backward as a society. You’ve spent decades in higher education, including 17 years as MTSU’s chief executive. How do you inspire youth to take a lead on tough issues? McPhee: In order to inspire change in today’s youth, it is important for mentors to be intentional and that we show up every time as it relates to young people. To be an effective change agent, you really have to know yourself.

You also need to be transparent. The one thing that young people can pick up on is when you are faking it, when you are not really into what you said. In fact, at one point in the discussion, Cristal said his overall goal for the fraternity was to lead the organization to be intentional in providing members the tools and insights they will need to become better servants in the global community. Any final thoughts? It was an honor to participate not only on a panel with the distinguished Rep. Lewis, but with an organization that values such goals. Thank you, Mr. President.

[Editor’s note: A video recap of the panel discussion can be found on]

Winter 2018 7

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True Black and Blue

MTSU’s fledgling hockey club gets a boost from the success of its nearby fanged friends, the Nashville Predators by John Glennon

Photos: Darby Campbell

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MacKenzie, Mitchell, and Range did plenty of recruiting for the 2014–15 squad, the first to return to the ice. The Blue Raiders club played in a local men’s league that year, meaning the roster wasn’t limited to MTSU students. “If you were hanging out at Centennial Sportsplex, A-Game, or Ford Ice Center,” Range said, “chances are you were going to hear from us about MTSU hockey.”

The Blue Raider hockey club celebrates the winning goal during an Oct. 29 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers.


ith an overtime game at LSU hanging in the balance, MTSU’s Jackson Graham delivered.

He carried the puck across the top of the faceoff circle, then whipped the game-winning shot high into the left corner of the net, giving the Blue Raiders a 4-3 victory last season. MTSU’s players swarmed the ice surface in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in celebration, marking another step forward for the club (non-varsity) team. The Blue Raiders would go on to finish the 2016–17 season with a record of 12 wins, eight losses, and one tie. Few people even realize that MTSU boasts a hockey club, much less that it travels to compete against Southeastern Conference universities like LSU. Perhaps greater success on the ice in the coming years will change all that. There is certainly optimism that the Blue Raiders will improve again this season, which began in September and continues through early February. This is MTSU’s third season playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division III. “I’m excited, by all means,” Blue Raiders captain Zach Range said. “Seeing the steps we’ve been taking from year to year— just comparing the first games—has been phenomenal, to say the least.” The current version of MTSU hockey actually represents the rebirth of a club sport that existed in the 2000s, but faded away due to a lack of participation around 2009. Two former MTSU players from more traditional hockey regions—Riley MacKenzie of Massachusetts and Jaylen Mitchell of Vancouver, British Columbia—are credited with pumping life back into the program. “There’s a whole lot that goes into getting a club sport together, not to mention going the extra lengths of scheduling ice time and finding people in Murfreesboro that wanted to play hockey,” Range said. “Without those guys, there wouldn’t have been a team at all.”

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MTSU’s club became a member of the ACHA in 2015–16 and was placed in Division III, along with a number of other nontraditional hockey schools. ACHA rules restrict player participation to undergraduate students taking at least 12 credit hours or graduate students enrolled in 6 hours or more. Also new in 2015–16 was the arrival of Jason Riherd as head coach. A middle Tennessee resident since 1993, Riherd helped restart Vanderbilt’s hockey club years ago and recently coached hockey at Blackman High School, where Range and a handful of other students played for him. The program’s restart experienced expected growing pains. MTSU won just one game in its inaugural ACHA season. “A lot of times we were traveling for away games with just eight guys,” Riherd said. “It was a learning experience. I didn’t really get to do too much coaching. Guys would come off the ice and say, ‘Coach, what do you want me to do?’ And I’d say, ‘Catch your breath and go back out there.’ ” But plenty of new players arrived for 2016–17 to help carry the Blue Raiders to a winning record. Highlights included Swedish native Niclas Lindstrom leading team scoring, MTSU playing a game in Bridgestone Arena against Lipscomb University, and the team winning in OT at LSU. Another batch of new recruits—coupled with the experience and leadership of returning players like Range, Wilson, and alternate captain Pete Ridley—should only continue the Blue Raiders’ climb this season.

“People are definitely asking about the team more now because a lot more people are hockey fans now.” —Nathanael Wilson Also boosting prospects for the MTSU hockey club going forward are some nearby fanged friends—the Nashville Predators pro hockey team. Everyone involved in the MTSU program agrees the club sport is clearly benefiting from the Preds reaching their first National Hockey League Stanley Cup Finals last spring. The exciting playoff run featured monstrous home crowds outside of Bridgestone Arena and drummed up all kinds of hockey interest in middle Tennessee and beyond.


“There’s definitely more interest,” said Nathanael Wilson, an MTSU defenseman and alternate captain. “I had to tell people we had a team last year, but this year they already know. People are definitely asking about the team more now because a lot more people are hockey fans now.” Added Riherd: “When you fill an arena and have 100,000 more people outside watching on big screens, that tends to trickle down. The hockey interest is there. That’s why it’s so important for me this year to try to capitalize on it.” Perhaps in its own small ways, MTSU’s program is exerting its own influence in the greater Nashville area as well. Former MTSU player Chris Weber now works at Ford Ice Center in Antioch, where he just happens to coach Riherd’s 5-year-old son. “That’s a good example of why I do this,” Riherd said. “I know none of these guys is going to the NHL . . . so my job is for us to have a blast while we’re playing. It should be competitive, and it should be fun, and I want these guys to continue their love for the game and their education in the game.” MTSU

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A Digital First MTSU, home to two internationally recognized First Amendment experts, by Gina K. Logue makes major move to enhance knowledge about our freedoms

ames Madison, hailed as “The Father of the Constitution,” said that “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”

In that spirit, MTSU’s John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies has launched a website to spread knowledge about the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to everyone from high school history students to the world’s most learned and inquisitive scholars. Under the guidance of director Deborah Fisher, students transcribed the more than 1,400 entries of The Encyclopedia of the First Amendment, a two-volume reference work published in 2009, and uploaded them to the internet with easy online access free of charge. “This is a great project that will honor the legacy of John Seigenthaler, who founded the First Amendment Center and had a lifelong commitment to raise awareness of the First Amendment,” said Fisher, a former Tennessean senior editor with 25 years of experience in journalism. In fact, the encyclopedia’s foreword was written by Seigenthaler, who was publisher of The Tennessean in Nashville from 1973 to 1991. He also served as Washington, D.C.-based USA Today’s first editorial director from 1982 to 1991. “The single most valuable books in my library are the two volumes of The Encyclopedia of the First Amendment,” said Ken Paulson, dean of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, president of the First Amendment Center in Nashville, and expert who is often cited internationally on issues related to First-Amendment freedoms.

From Parchment to Paper to the Web Paulson sees the website as a major part of a plan to make MTSU the country’s definitive repository of scholarship about the amendment and the five freedoms enshrined within— freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble peacefully, and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances. “We are on that path, and it’s going to take some time,” Paulson said. “But we are confident we can establish this campus as a go-to site for that content.” Paulson said he knew that would be impossible without academic credibility. Fortunately, that credibility was only steps away from his college in the office of John R. Vile, political scientist, constitutional law expert, and dean of MTSU’s University Honors College. The encyclopedia was edited by Vile; David L. Hudson Jr., an attorney and former scholar at the First Amendment Center; and David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University. Vile, a prolific writer on the the country's founders (and a man who can create a 500-word essay with cyber speed), wrote many of the encyclopedia’s entries. He views the project as an opportunity to combat the tendency of some citizens to view the amendment through a somewhat myopic lens. “If you ask them, ‘What do you think about freedom of speech?’, most Americans are going to say they’re for it,” Vile said. “If you ask ‘What do you think about allowing a Communist to speak on a campus?’, many people would probably oppose it.” Winter 2018 13

“It’s a tremendous resource as it is in a print edition, but what we’re doing is putting it online in a searchable database,” Fisher said. One of the students under her supervision, Olivia Anchondo, feels that the online encyclopedia will reach an entirely new audience. “We are carrying information from a format that would not appeal to the majority of today’s society to a more relatable format that can be shared and retained,” said Anchondo, a junior Advertising and Public Relations major from nearby Smyrna.

Ken Paulson

Paulson shares Vile’s concern about the public’s understanding of the first 45 words in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. “There is extraordinary constitutional illiteracy across the board, and people are particularly unaware of the First Amendment,” Paulson said. “It often gets filtered through people’s personal politics.”

“I think you’ll find that these entries are about as nonpartisan as you can get,” Vile said.

An Electronic Evolution With the advent of the digital era, the argument is often made that the dissemination of knowledge has become more egalitarian—that communication has become easier for all. The flip side of that coin, Vile said, is that a lot of misinformation is more readily available. The thorough editing and vetting of the encyclopedia entries will stand out as a firm rebuttal to that misinformation. “I think you’ll find that these (entries) are about as nonpartisan as you can get,” Vile said. In fact, Vile and Hudson added entries on court cases that have been decided since the encyclopedia was published. They also updated existing entries and looked for new cases, issues, people, and ideas to investigate.

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The students under Fisher’s supervision must be concerned with more than formatting issues as they transfer the content. They can't just cut and paste text. They have to be interested in the subject matter to ensure a smooth technical transition. That means they must read and digest material about Supreme Court cases, governmental agencies, notable historical figures, and subjects ranging from animal sacrifices to zoning laws. “I feel knowing these cases and knowing this information will enhance my ability to decide about what is legal and what is not,” Anchondo said. “Different bits of this information have given insight to what has happened and what might happen.” James Madison could not have anticipated that “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge” could become so multidimensional. MTSU [Editor’s Note: The author of this article, Gina K. Logue, previously contributed several chapters to The Encyclopedia of the First Amendment.]

John Vile

• WMOT Roots Radio is a 100,000watt, listener-supported radio station broadcast from the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU. • Listen at 89.5 FM, WMOT Roots Radio app, or • WMOT has become a training ground for students in the College of Media and Entertainment. • WMOT has more than two dozen paid student workers. Students work as longform show producers and editors, live sound mix, on-air talent, longform show hosts, live video production crew, promotions interns, news interns, and social media interns. • WMOT also plays jazz 24 hours a day on the MTSU Jazz Network at 92.3 FM in Murfreesboro, 104.9 FM in Nashville, and streaming at Listen and become a member at 89.5 FM, WMOT Roots Radio app, or

So,you think you can


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he first class of majors pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Dance at a public university in Tennessee began studying at MTSU last fall.

The new degree in the College of Liberal Arts’ Department of Theatre and Dance was one of the final actions by the Tennessee Board of Regents before relinquishing governance of MTSU to its own Board of Trustees in 2017. Dance has been offered as a minor at MTSU since the program was established in 2000 within the then-Department of Speech and Theatre. Students must audition to be admitted to the new bachelor’s degree program. One degree track focuses on performance and choreography, the other on pedagogy and practice. Dance majors also benefit from working in MTSU Dance Theatre, a preprofessional undergraduate dance company that performs each semester in Tucker Theatre on campus. MTSU

Photos: Darby Campbell Winter 2018 17


A look at recent awards, events, and accomplishments at MTSU

compiled by Gina E. Fann, Jimmy Hart, Gina K. Logue, Paula Morton, Drew Ruble, and Randy Weiler

MTSU Performing Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research MTSU is at the forefront of breakthrough research aimed at helping treat metastatic breast cancer. Lead researcher Iris Gao, with MTSU’s Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research, announced in October that her team has isolated and identified a new, patented compound, DMDD, from the root of the tropical star fruit tree, that is helping treat this form of cancer. This new hope for a low-toxicity treatment for metastatic breast cancer has been reported in the prestigious research journals Scientific Reports and Oncotarget. Metastatic tumors (those that have spread to other organs) resulting from late-stage breast cancers are usually inaccessible by surgery or radiotherapy. That means there are no effective treatments, and 90 percent of cases at stage IV are fatal.

collaboration between Gao and Guangxi Medical University professor Renbin Huang. Huang’s lab has previously studied DMDD as a robust anti-diabetic agent. Inspired by recent studies linking diabetes and breast cancer and fascinated by the fact one of the world’s top anti-diabetic drugs, metformin, can effectively treat breast cancer, Gao decided to investigate whether DMDD also could be used to fight breast cancer. Researchers from both universities demonstrated that DMDD significantly extended the life span of mice with breast tumors, shrinking not only the primary tumor but most importantly inhibiting the spread of the breast tumor to the lung and liver, according to last summer’s Scientific Reports journal article. The researchers also reported the lack of toxicity of DMDD in mice and normal human cells. Before this publication, the Gao-led team—which includes MTSU grad students Nadin Almosnid and Hyo

Sim Park—showed that DMDD suppressed a variety of human cancer cells, including breast, lung, and bone cancer cells. This earlier work was published in the 2015 Oncotarget journal article. Working with Guangxi, the joint studies “indicate that DMDD has significant potential as a safe and efficient therapeutic agent to treat metastatic breast cancer,” Gao said. “In contrast to toxic synthetic chemicals, medicinal plants have provided us an interesting alternative to develop efficacious and affordable anti-cancer drugs.” MTSU graduate student Gheda Alsaif and visiting Chinese scholar Li Chen recently joined the team. Deborah Knott, another master’s degree student, and Amy Ridings, a University Honors College undergraduate, also have been involved in the cancer research. A grant provided by Tennesseebased Greenway Herbal Products has assisted the center’s overall research efforts since 2016.

The MTSU research center and Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants in Nanning, China, which have an exclusive collaborative agreement, forged a novel approach to accelerate development of Western medicines from botanical extracts based on their respective strengths and expertise. The Guangxi garden holds the largest depository of plants used in traditional medicine, including the tropical star fruit tree. The root of the star fruit tree has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat debilitating headaches for thousands of years. The discovery of this plant-derived anti-cancer agent have resulted from the 18 MTSU Magazine

Biology faculty member Iris Gao (r.) and her doctoral candidate students research the medicinal properties of plants and their potential use in the treatment of cancer.

History from the Ground Up One of the nation’s most prestigious and respected groups of historians will be housed at MTSU for at least the next five years. Now in its 52nd year, the Oral History Association has chosen MTSU for its headquarters. Co-chairs will be Louis Kyriakoudes, director of the University’s Albert Gore Research Center, and MTSU History professor Kris McCusker. The organization boasts a diverse membership

of scholars, activists, journalists, psychologists, folklorists, and others interested in bringing the historical experiences of both everyday people and elites to light. “This will . . . advance MTSU’s research, public engagement, and public outreach—both to scholarly and professional environments, but also to the general public,” Kyriakoudes said.

Louis Kyriakoudes

Kris McCusker

Setting an Example As dean of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business at MTSU, David Urban feels a deep responsibility to ensure that graduates are equipped with the skills necessary to forge business and personal relationships that go much deeper than an email, text, or phone call. That’s why he worked to bring Dale Carnegie Training to Jones College in 2015, entering an exclusive partnership in Tennessee with the internationally recognized professional development training organization. The move made Jones College the first collegiate business school in the nation to require the course as part of its curriculum to graduate. Thus far, over 1,250 MTSU business students have taken the semester-long course, and more than a dozen faculty and staff members have become certified instructors. With the course offered to undergraduate business majors starting their junior year, students are taught the invaluable human relations principles and “soft skills” that many employers are seeking in today’s job candidates. Urban’s commitment earned him Dale Carnegie’s top honor, its Global Leadership Award, in 2017. The award is given to people and organizations who have made “very significant investment into the talent development of their people.” International companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Verizon, FedEx, Charles Schwab, and Apple are among those honored since the Global Leadership Award began in 1985. Fewer than 10 leaders each year receive the award. David Urban

A Good Constitution Five eminent jurists illuminated the foundation of our nation’s laws and the role of judges in interpreting those laws as part of MTSU’s 2017 Constitution Day festivities last September. The senior and retired federal and state appellate judges and justices gathered for a panel discussion on the MTSU campus, where they examined a wide range of topics both in the abstract and in the context of current events. The gathering included U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals senior judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, U.S. District Court senior judge Curtis Collier, former Tennessee Supreme Court justices Penny White and Gary Wade, and Belmont College School of Law Dean Alberto Gonzales (pictured here), who was U.S. attorney general during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Alberto Gonzales

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MTSU’s Board of Trustees in September 2017 confirmed the appointment of Mark Byrnes as the institution’s provost and chief academic officer. Interim provost since May 2016, Byrnes graduated from Riverdale High School in

Murfreesboro before completing a B.S. in Political Science at MTSU in 1983. He earned a diploma in International and Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics, as well as a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Political Science from Vanderbilt University. A specialist in American government and politics, he joined the MTSU Department of Political Science in 1991. He is a nationally recognized expert on the presidency and has published books on NASA, President James K. Polk, and Tennessee politics. Byrnes previously served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 2010 until his appointment as interim provost. Byrnes was elected to the Rutherford County Board of Education from 2004 to 2012, chosen chair for four years, and selected vice chair for three years.

A Lasting International Exchange

Got Milk?

Mark Byrnes

A Proven Academic Leader

MTSU played host last summer to a delegation of schoolchildren, teachers, and administrators from China’s Dongcheng Educational Group for the sixth in a series of reciprocal visits between the institutions. Dongcheng is an affiliate of Hangzhou Normal University, MTSU’s partner in the creation and operation of the Confucius Institute on the Murfreesboro campus. Dongcheng oversees a network of magnet-style schools in Hangzhou, China. The visit was the third time MTSU has hosted the Dongcheng delegation, who also visited in 2013 and 2015. Students, parents, and teachers from Rutherford-area schools were hosted by Dongcheng in China in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Guests pay their own way here. Private donations, including title sponsorship by campus food vendor Aramark, pay most of the local expenses, with additional support coming from the Confucius Institute.

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MTSU’s School of Agribusiness and Agriscience proudly unveiled its latest endeavor—the MTSU Creamery—in summer 2017, along with its new bottling process. It marked the first time in nearly 50 years MTSU had bottled milk products, which are now for sale to the students and public at campus locations and some retail spots locally. Tom Womack, deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said the MTSU dairy improvements further solidify the University’s footprint as a state and regional leader. “MTSU’s dairy program also has been responsible for working with many dairy producers and processors in the region to advance the industry through education and economic opportunities,” Womack said.

Real-World Learning Last summer marked the fourth year that MTSU deployed a team of multimedia students to cover the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, but the experience never gets old. That’s because each year of the unique partnership between Bonnaroo and MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment is a fresh experience to the students who gain valuable on-the-job experience in one of the world’s top live music venues. In 2017, a contingent of about 50 students, faculty, and staff worked on the 700-acre farm in nearby Manchester, Tennessee, that serves as grounds for Michael Bevers, a Recording Arts and Technologies graduate student from Littleton, Colorado, helps set up audio equipment at Bonnaroo’s Who Stage.

the four-day festival. MTSU’s Journalism students covered major music acts such as U2; a broadcast-style student production team captured audio and video of performances on the Who Stage using MTSU’s state-of-the-art, $1.7 million Mobile Production Lab; and a student multimedia reporting team generated story, photographic, and video coverage of Bonnaroo for area media outlets, including The Tennessean and USA Today Network sites throughout Tennessee. For the first time in the partnership, MTSU’s recently reformatted public radio station, WMOT Roots Radio, was on the grounds to highlight some of the Americana acts playing at Bonnaroo. Most of the participating students were enrolled in credit-bearing courses based upon their Bonnaroo experiences.

Teenager Preston Davis had always dreamed of flying an aircraft. During his week at MTSU's 2017 Introduction to Aviation Summer Camp, Davis did more than that. “I got the total experience that I needed,” said Davis, then a rising sophomore at Mt. Juliet High School. “My parents thought it'd be a good opportunity for me to learn more about airplanes, mechanics, and everything to gain more knowledge about flying.” In all, nearly 40 students gained hands-on experience at the University's weeklong aviation camp. Flying activities included traveling from the Murfreesboro airport to Shelbyville, Tennessee, accompanied by an instructor; using Microsoft flight simulators in the classroom; and flying a Diamond simulator that gave participants the big-screen experience. This was the seventh year MTSU has held the aviation camp.

Photo: Jayla Jackson

Preparing for Takeoff

MTSU flight instructor Jonathan Benefield (l) poses with MTSU aviation summer camp participants Eddie Isbll, Preston Davis, and Jacob Solan after flying back from Shelbyville to Murfreesboro.

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Students’ Choice Kent Syler, an assistant professor of Political Science, received the 2017 John T. Bragg Distinguished Service Award. The honor is presented by the Student Government Association to a full-time MTSU faculty or staff member who has made a significant contribution to the state, the community, the University, and student life. Syler, who has taught at MTSU since 2002, is a former MTSU student government president. He began his political career as a campaign sound truck driver in 1978. Although he has been actively involved with dozens of campaigns, he is best known for his association with another MTSU alumnus, retired U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Murfreesboro). Syler managed Gordon’s first campaign for Congress in 1984 and Gordon’s 1994 and 1996 re-election campaigns. He

served as Gordon’s Tennessee chief of staff from 1985 to 2011. Syler also works as special projects coordinator at MTSU’s Albert Gore Research Center and as a political analyst for Nashville television station WSMV. The SGA donated $1,000 in books to the James E. Walker Library in Syler’s name as the recipient of the Bragg award.

MTSU Debate Team with coach Patrick Richey (far right)

Great Debate The MTSU Debate team was honored last year with a Tennessee Senate Joint Resolution in recognition of its second International Public Debate Association national championship and a “phenomenal” season in which the group of 20 or so debaters also won a number of regional titles and individual awards. The resolution was sponsored by state senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and former senator Jim Tracy of Shelbyville and state representatives Dawn White of Murfreesboro and Brenda Gilmore of Nashville.

Kent Syler

A Legacy of Preservation At MTSU’s Fall 2017 Faculty Meeting, the MTSU Foundation awarded its Career Achievement Award—considered the pinnacle of recognition for stellar MTSU professors—to Kevin E. Smith, a nationally recognized professor of Anthropology at MTSU since 1988 and the founder and director of MTSU’s Kevin E. Smith (r.) receiving his award Anthropology program. Smith’s research interests lie in the archaeology of the southeastern United States, with a particular focus on the late prehistoric Native American cultures of Middle Tennessee pre-1500 C.E., Tennessee’s late 18th- and early 19th-century frontier period, and African-American life from slavery through Reconstruction. An esteemed scholar on middle Tennessee’s archaeology, Smith said he felt MTSU’s Anthropology program has been vital over the years in preserving archaeological sites throughout the region as the areas around Nashville experienced tremendous growth and development. 22 MTSU Magazine

Success Leader MTSU continues to get national recognition for its leadership in using data analytics to boost the University’s retention rates to record levels. Rick Sluder, vice provost for student success and dean of University College, was recently among 25 education leaders being profiled as an EdTech Hero by Since coming to MTSU in 2014, Sluder has emphasized the use of predictive analytics in student advising to identify at-risk students and formulate strategies to keep them in school and Rick Sluder on track to graduate. Four years ago, MTSU’s first-year retention rate was at 68 percent. In fall 2016, it was up to 76 percent—the highest rate of retention in the institution’s history. MTSU’s student success work has been reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post, and the New York Times.

Getting SMART Smile SMART

MTSU’s Center for Health and Everyone Tobacco and Smoke-free Human Services received $30,000 from the March of Dimes Tennessee Chapter Community Grants Program to provide training to area dental providers on best practices for smoking cessation. Smile SMART is a patient-centered smoking-cessation training program for dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants to encourage their patients to quit smoking or decrease tobacco use and to reduce women’s and infants’ exposure to secondhand smoke, ultimately reducing tobacco-related adverse birth outcomes. Cynthia Chafin, interim director of CHHS, is the Smile SMART project director. Joining her is Andrew Owusu, associate professor in the MTSU Department of Health and Human Performance, who is serving as project evaluator. Founded by MTSU’s Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services in 1993, the center collaborates with public agencies, private not-for-profit organizations, and University faculty and students to improve the health and well-being of Tennesseans.

Online Leader MTSU celebrated 20 years of its online educational offerings at a Sept. 25, 2017, event in the atrium of the Miller Education Center on Bell Street, where University College is based. The University announced a record enrollment for its online courses and accepted an international award for online course quality. Offered through University College, MTSU Online courses began in fall 1997 with seven classes and 53 student enrollments. It now offers more than 400 courses while achieving a record 10,000-plus enrollments for this fall and more than 21,000 enrollments annually. The not-for-profit Online Learning Consortium, which assesses the quality of online educational programs around the world, formally presented the University with its Exemplary Endorsement award. MTSU is the only Tennessee university to have received this designation. Nationwide, nearly one-third of all college students take at least one online course, and two-thirds of those online learners are at public institutions like MTSU. Online course delivery allowed MTSU to develop its Adult Degree Completion Program over 10 years into the largest such program in the state today, offering the needed flexibility for working adults seeking their degrees. The age of MTSU Online Learners ranges from 17 to 82 years old. One of those students enrolled during the past two decades was MTSU Board of Trustees Chair Steve Smith, who spoke at the celebration. The Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame member studied finance during his baseball playing days of the 1970s, but he left before getting his degree. He earned his bachelor’s

Going Bowling The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders football team went to its seventh bowl game in the Coach Rick Stockstill era and fourth in the last five years in 2017. Middle Tennessee represented Conference USA in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on Dec. 16, 2017. It marked the 11th bowl game in school history. The game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves took place in the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, and aired nationally on ESPN. The Blue Raiders went 6-6 in the regular season, which included an upset of ACC foe Syracuse on the road out of conference. The Blue Raiders beat Arkansas State in the bowl game by a score of 35–30.

degree in Liberal Studies in 2011 through MTSU Online, recalling how he “earned credits at night, on weekends, on business trips, in between meetings, and whenever I could find time to get the job done.” For more information about MTSU Online and University College offerings, visit

Winter 2018 23

MTSU alum Joel Alsup’s incredible personal journey fuels his work as a professional storyteller at St. Jude children’s hospital by Darby Campbell and Drew Ruble

The Story Within a Story W

alking the halls of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis with employee Joel Alsup (’02) is like being in the company of a celebrity. It’s almost impossible to take more than a few steps without Alsup being stopped by a patient, a family, or a fellow staff member for a hug or conversation. Everyone seems to know and love Alsup, whose passion for his work and kind heart is evident in his every interaction. On an October 2017 visit to the hospital to photograph Alsup, he happened to be stopped in a hallway (one of many times) by a father whose child was a resident at the hospital. The man had seen Alsup’s portrait hanging prominently on a wall of the hospital and had identified him because of it. The portrait depicts the adult Alsup, a one-armed man, holding a picture of himself when he was a 7-year-old patient at the hospital in the 1980s, sitting in his mother’s lap.

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As the father began to tell Alsup his family’s tale, Alsup’s full focus came to rest on this father, his story, and his family. Such a genuine interest and compassion for this father revealed everything you need to know about Alsup. In this unexpectedly cheerful environment that is the No. 1 hospital in the world for children fighting cancer, Alsup represents to those living there a litany of positive attributes: he’s a survivor, a beacon of hope, a kindred soul, an invested participant, a caring presence. One part hero to kids, one part a living vestige of hope for parents, Alsup represents the best of this worldrenowned hospital—even though he has absolutely nothing to do with health care delivery. And he will be the first to tell you that his experience and education at Middle Tennessee State University helped pave the way to his relevant presence at cancer-curing St. Jude’s.

Growing Up Fast

Alsup was 7 years old around Christmastime in 1987 when his parents noticed that he had stopped using his dominant right hand to do normal activities like eating or getting ready for school. “Frankly, I tried to hide it from them. I thought I’d done something stupid to hurt myself like, you know, falling off the back of the couch where I wasn’t supposed to be climbing or something,” Alsup said. “Luckily, they’re great parents and noticed this right away.” The family visited their Chattanooga pediatrician where an X-ray revealed enough to warrant a trip to the local children’s hospital for a better image. There, an MRI clearly showed a tumor growing in a bone near Alsup’s right shoulder. It had actually broken a bone in his arm, which is why he was in pain and had stopped using his right arm. From the size of the tumor, and the placement of it, the family’s pediatrician predicted it was probably going to be an osteosarcoma, which is a bone cancer. That likely meant a year’s worth of treatment and probably a major surgery. Since the family pediatrician had previously worked at St. Jude’s in Memphis—a place with worldclass protocols for dealing with children with cancer— the Alsup family took the doctor’s advice and loaded up for a trip across the state. As Alsup said, “That’s kind of where my story began.” Just a few days after Christmas, the Alsups arrived at St. Jude in the family van. Alongside Alsup were his 4-year-old brother and 1-year-old sister. “My parents were totally panicked. They both had good jobs and we had good health insurance, but not the kind of insurance they thought would pay for what we were hearing from our doctor in Chattanooga would be a year's worth of treatment and in a hospital 350 miles away,” Alsup said. “But my parents wanted to have the best care for me, and that’s where they heard the best care was. “So we got there and found out everything "We had good was different there, that St. Jude was health insurance but going to pay for all our treatment, our not the kind of insurance housing, our food, our travel. That was just a huge burden lifted off they thought would pay for

. . . a year's worth of treatment and in a hospital 350 miles away.”

Winter 2018 25

my parents’ shoulders. So, during that year of treatment, they could focus on me and focus on my little brother and sister and not have to worry about selling our house.” About four months into Alsup’s treatment, though, came bad news. The decision was made to amputate his right arm. The placement of the tumor simply would not allow (at the time at least) the St. Jude doctors to do limb-sparing surgery. “So I had the amputation April of 1988 and just focused on learning how to use my left hand after that. Because, I’ll be honest with you, I was right-handed but I was terrible at everything I did with my right hand. I was not a good athlete. I wasn’t going to be a classical pianist or a great guitarist or anything like that, so it wasn’t essentially changing anything about me,” Alsup said. For the last seven months of his treatment at St. Jude, Alsup endured not just chemotherapy but also physical therapy to learn how to use only his left hand. St. Jude also provided Alsup with a homebound teacher so he could keep up with his elementary school assignments. As such, when he arrived back home in November 1988, he hopped right into third grade. “I didn’t have to worry about repeating second grade. So I just really had everything done for me in my life at St. Jude. I was able to come back to school, and come back to my life as a happy, healthy, confident 8-year-old,” he said.

A True Blue Education

So what does Alsup’s story have to do with MTSU? Fast-forward to high school in Chattanooga: Alsup got involved in with the school’s television station, which did a newscast every day.

“When I was at MTSU, I started to realize the power of a story and the power that we can have . . . to share life experiences with others.”

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“Really, since I was probably 11 or 12, I loved the idea of making movies or making television. So when I got into high school and worked with this TV station, I decided that was what I wanted to do with my career,” Alsup said. That desire attracted him to the campus of MTSU in Murfreesboro, a university highly regarded nationally for its Media Arts studies.

Alsup with Jessica Turri ('10), senior specialist, ALSAC /St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, who was also a St. Jude's patient as a child

“So I went to MTSU because of their career path in electronic media production. I knew they had a great program up there, and that’s really what drew me to MTSU,” Alsup said. “I loved the program, and it really gave me a good grounding.” Alsup knew from personal experience as a patient that ALSAC, St. Jude’s fundraising and awareness-raising organization, produced videos showcasing stories about patients at St. Jude. He began to think it would be “awesome” if he could do that for a career. “I was in my senior year at MTSU, and with my media background, I was able to get an entrylevel position at ALSAC and really start my career there,” he said. That self-described “dream job” parlaying his life and academic experience into a professional position imbued with tremendous personal meaning has lasted 15 years as of January 2018. “I don’t think I honestly ever thought about going back to St. Jude until I was at MTSU,” Alsup said. “When I was at MTSU, I started to realize the power of a story and the power that we can have in that sort of medium to share life experiences with others. “And that the things that I like to do I could apply to the world and become not only a better student at college but a better citizen of the world, as well.” Alsup said classes with then-professor Michael Johnson entailing multi-camera directing and making a short film cemented his confidence in “shaping the story.” “So that’s really what honed my medium,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I love doing this. I love being able to tell the story.”

Sharing His Gift

Now as supervisor of Creative Media Services for ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Alsup works closely with the national direct marketing department to create direct response TV, whether that's an hour-long program or a two-minute spot where he is getting to meet the patients and their families, interviewing them, and then sharing their story.

St. Jude Stories

Asked to relate a story or two from St. Jude that really stick out in his mind as powerful examples of the miracle that is the hospital, creative media supervisor Joel Alsup cites two. “I think the ones that get to me most are the osteosarcoma patients, so the kid’s got the same disease I did. With osteosarcoma, it’s one of those diseases that if you catch it like we did with mine, where it hasn’t spread, it’s very, very treatable and survival rates are very good. If you don’t catch it in time, and it’s spread, it’s not good. It’s not very survivable. So, I’ve had both the pleasure and the heartache of meeting a lot of kids who have the exact same disease as me, but they didn’t catch it in the same time and they’ve passed away. “The most recent example I can think of is, I met a kid from Honduras who came here and was treated for osteosarcoma in his leg, and he met a girl here who was a patient as well. And they fell in love. They were teenagers and fell in love at St. Jude and just had this beautiful, amazing relationship until he passed away. And I got to tell their story and share that with the world and, as tough as it was to tell—because it doesn’t end the way we want it to—it was one of the most beautiful, sorrowful experiences I’ve had in my entire life. Because I asked both of them, you know, would you guys trade this experience—if you knew you could not have cancer and be totally normal, would you go back and trade this, but it would mean you wouldn’t be here and know each other? Both of them said: ‘I wouldn’t trade it for the world. St. Jude has put me where I wanted to be and I’m so glad I met him/her because of what this journey meant to us.’ ” [Editor’s Note: See the story of Luis and McKendree that Alsup highlighted here at: meet-luis-and-mckendree.html]

Winter 2018 27

“I want the rest of the world to see the inside of St. Jude and what goes on here and the lives that we can actually impact. So I guess, really, I’m a short-form documentarian of the patients and the families who come through St. Jude,” he said. “It’s a blessing for me to get to know these families. And I think every time I think I’ve heard the most amazing and compelling story ever, I’ll hear another one. So it really is just an amazing job.” No doubt when Alsup walks in the door to meet a St. Jude family for the first time, he provides hope of positive outcomes for their child’s health.

Even after decades of serving children with cancer and their families, St. Jude hasn’t changed a bit. “My biggest hope—and why I would never want to work anywhere else—is that they can look at me and go, you know, this can be my child 30 years from now. They could be doing the job they want to do, making an impact on the world the way they want to, whether video production or any career they want to do,” Alsup said. “I can hopefully be that example for the families and the patients going through that now.”

Living by Example

is my simple way to push myself and to be active, and a lot of times I’m able to get the word out about St. Jude by doing these things, too.” The message he likes to express most is the fact that even after decades of serving children with cancer and their families, St. Jude hasn’t changed a bit. “It’s always been the same mission, that no family pays for anything, not for treatment, travel, housing, or food,” he said. “The best thing that’s happened since I’ve been a patient there, since the doors opened in 1962, is to see the survival rates go up . . . from 20 percent to 80 percent today. And with my particular disease, osteosarcoma, now in 95 percent of cases like mine where the tumor is localized to the bone, they can do limb-sparing, and the child gets to keep the limb, whether it's an arm or a leg. That’s fantastic news.” What’s the most rewarding aspect of his job? Describing it as “the ideal job” and one he “would never want to leave,” Alsup said there’s nothing quite like seeing kids grow up. “I’ve been there nearly 15 years, so I’ve seen kids go from 10 years old to 25 years old, literally growing up before my eyes,” he said. “And that makes me so happy to see these kids going from very, very ill to now making their own difference in the world.” Alsup is one of those kids. And his storytelling—a craft he honed at MTSU—is making a big difference. MTSU

Alsup has done more than survive cancer and pursue the education needed to give back in a professional capacity to the hospital that gave him so much. His personal pursuits, including his status as a triathlete, also serve as an inspiration to current St. Jude patients. “I grew up with a swimming pool, and as soon as I had my amputation, I was back in the pool. So, later, I started learning how to do backstroke for my triathlons,” Alsup said. “I’ve got a retrofitted bike where all the gears and things are on the left side so I don’t have to worry about shifting. And then, usually, I just try to survive the run. Once you make it to the run, you can limp home if you need to. I’m far from being the world’s best triathlete but . . . a lot of times I’m able to do them as a fundraising athlete for St. Jude. It’s just my way to give back, too.” Clearly there’s no room for feeling sorry for yourself in Alsup’s mind. “I realize somebody could point to me and go, ‘Oh, gosh, you lost an arm—you must have had a traumatic experience as a child,’ ” he said. “But I’m so fortunate. Other than the fact I lost my arm, I’ve had no side effects from my treatment in any way whatsoever. So this

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Alsup in the St. Jude plaza in front of the iconic statue of Danny Thomas and children.

If you’ve ever said

“I Love MTSU” now is the time to show your love during MTSU’s INAUGURAL giving days

Every student, grad, faculty, and staff member has left a mark on our University. Through the True Blue Give, we can all impact MTSU and support our 22,000 students even better. You can once again leave your mark with a gift of service or financial support. Goal: Raise $250,000 with 500 friends of the University leaving their mark on any program, scholarship, college, or team that you choose.

feeling the love right now? and make your impact today!

The first $50,000 in gifts will be matched by TRUE BLUE supporters like you who Love MTSU! 30 MTSU Magazine

Winter 2018 31


MTSU leaders deliver needed supplies to a former basketball player’s family in Puerto Rico

by Andrew Oppmann


n just one moment on Nov. 16, 2017, when Luz Cortes hugged her son, former MTSU basketball star Raymond Cintron, the reason for Raider Relief was clear. “That moment was when we realized what we did—all the fundraising, the donations, the flight here—was helping Raymond’s family survive,” said Darrell Freeman, vice chair of Middle Tennessee State University’s Board of Trustees and an MTSU alumnus. “And they were so very happy, so very grateful, for our True Blue family." Raider Relief, launched by Freeman, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, and men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis, raised money and supplies for Cintron’s extended family last November. Cintron, a star guard for the Blue Raiders in 2011–13, has been displaced to the Orlando area by the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017. His family remains on the island, and they were in dire need of medicine, food and generators, all of which were stuffed into Freeman’s aircraft. With the help of the Puerto Rico Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, MTSU’s partner with its Department of Aerospace, Cintron’s family got the aid they desperately needed. Freeman flew Cintron, McPhee, and University pilot Terry Dorris, who served as co-pilot, on the seven-hour journey. “It means everything to me,” Cintron said. “This is something very, very special. This will remain in our hearts for the rest of our lives.” McPhee credited the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) volunteers for making the final stages of Raider Relief possible. CAP is the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. “Our CAP partners overcame an island-wide power outage to assemble here, with volunteers and trucks, and get this aid to Raymond’s family,” McPhee said. “Without Trustee Freeman’s plane and the Civil Air Patrol, none of this would have happened.” Col. Carlos Fernandez, commander of CAP’s Puerto Rico Wing, said his volunteers were happy to assist with Raider Relief.

Former MTSU basketball player Raymond Cintron and his mother, Luz Cortes, share a hug Nov. 15 in Puerto Rico after the arrival of the MTSU Raider Relief team that brought needed supplies for Cintron’s extended family.

“We’re in the business of helping people,” he said. “This is what we do.” MTSU

Photos: Andrew Oppmann

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At right: MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee (c.) and MTSU Board of Trustees Vice Chair Darrell Freeman (r.) meet with Civil Air Patrol officials at the San Juan airport. In the background are cadets with the Puerto Rico Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, who helped distribute the supplies.

Winter 2018 33

Taking Root From nurturing heritage tourism to catalyzing Tennessee’s top economic initiatives, MTSU’s expanding culture of research and inquiry drives innovation and progress statewide

by Allison Gorman, Katie Porterfield, and Drew Ruble


cholarly research not only provides the foundation for MTSU’s strong academic programs, but it also drives innovation and economic progress across the region, state, nation, and globe. Creating a culture of research and inquiry is at the heart of the University’s mission among faculty and students and in vital industry partnerships. MTSU Research magazine’s most recent edition in Winter 2018 showcased numerous important MTSU research initiatives. Four of those featured articles are presented in abbreviated form here. Importantly, each spotlighted program fosters a student-centered learning environment that emphasizes student research experiences. In addition, the partnerships forged between MTSU researchers and industry reap important dividends for not just the betterment of lives, but also for Tennessee’s economy. MTSU’s commitment to scholarly research is unwavering. We hope you enjoy these stories celebrating the progress, inspiration, and excellence of research at MTSU.

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The Catalyst Civic and government agencies across Tennessee turn to MTSU’s Business and Economic Research Center (BERC) to unearth the kind of hard data that can help attract investment

In Lake County, he said, “30 jobs is a big deal.”

Lake County, in the northwest corner of Tennessee, has 125,000 acres of land (about a third of it wetlands), a 15,000-acre lake, 28 miles of riverfront, 8,100 people, and no industrial jobs. “None,” said Jimmy Williamson, chairman of the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority. “It’s the 12th-poorest county in the nation— including Indian reservations.” That’s a bleak statement from one of the county’s most tireless advocates, and it’s certainly incongruous with Williamson’s usually upbeat tone. In fact, Williamson is pretty encouraged these days, because that jobs number is about to go from zero to 33, with another 30 coming after that. In Lake County, he said, “30 jobs is a big deal.” About 200 miles to the east, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto is watching a political gamble pay off. In politics, everybody wants low taxes, and it’s left his county chronically scrambling to fund schools. After decades of handwringing on all sides, the county commission finally agreed to build an expo center as a way to raise revenue without increasing taxes. Hutto likes what he sees so far. The new Wilson County Expo Center in Lebanon stayed solvent through a slow cold-weather start, then geared up for a busy spring and summer in 2017.

Meanwhile, Wilson County’s noisy neighbor, Nashville, has long enjoyed a strong revenue stream thanks to a certain industry (music)—but for years a more lucrative industry was hiding in plain sight. Ten years ago, acting on the principle “success breeds success,” Music City also began marketing itself as the nation’s health care capital. Since then, the economic impact of the health care industry on Nashville has grown from $18.3 billion to $38.8 billion. (Who says a city can’t have two brands?) These success stories have at least one thing in common: MTSU’s Business and Economic Research Center (BERC). Civic and government agencies across Tennessee turn to BERC to unearth the kind of hard data that can help them attract investment and make financially sound decisions. Most universities provide economic research, but BERC’s projects aren’t funded by government grants, said Murat Arik, the center’s director. “We deal with communities. We deal with businesses. Our work is contract work,” he said. While BERC’s job is to analyze, not advocate, its reports can fuel a successful marketing campaign or explain why “if you build it, they will come.”

“After it was built, we had eight months of expenditures and only five months of revenue, and we were already in the black,” he said recently.

Winter 2018 35

Preventative Measures MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services works to improve not only public health outcomes but also the economic outlook of Tennessee

More than 27,000 emergency and municipal workers across the state have received training through CHHS.

Danny Cupples, a Maury County paramedic and death scene investigator, regularly travels across the state, talking to first responders like himself. There’s one story he always shares. It’s about the day in August 2007 when his sister called him, crying hysterically, to say that her 5-month-old son, Adam, was dead. The telling never gets any easier, but Cupples considers it critical to his mission. He’s part of a three-person team that teaches Tennessee’s first responders how to investigate the death of an infant who passes away with no obvious explanation. The training was standardized in 2004, after Tennessee’s legislature mandated it for every law enforcement officer, firefighter, and EMT in the state. Given that tall task, several divisions within the Tennessee Department of Health (DOH) turned to well-known experts—MTSU’s Center of Health and Human Services (CHHS)—to help fulfill it. Originally founded in 1993 through a gift from the Adams family of Murfreesboro that created the Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services, CHHS collaborates with public agencies and nonprofits to improve the well-being of Tennesseans through training, research, communication, and education. “Because of our history of doing professional training for health providers, the state came to

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us and said: ‘We need some help developing and implementing a training program. We need to have well-trained professionals, and we don’t have the capacity to do this,’ ” said Cindy Chafin, interim director for CHHS. The best practices program CHHS created for the DOH uses a “train-the-trainer” model, as well as online training now, to reach all 95 counties in Tennessee. To date, more than 27,000 emergency and municipal workers across the state have received this training, directly or indirectly, through CHHS. The benefits of this 13-year-old program are multifold. Local health departments have better information about which neighborhoods are at high risk for sudden infant death. First responders are better equipped to assess a death scene and help families grieving the loss of a baby. And medical examiners get better information so they can find the true cause of deaths. “Adam was a SUID [sudden and unexplained infant death] case,” Cupples said. “That’s one reason I decided to work hard to find out how we can prevent more children from dying. Because most infant deaths are preventable—that’s the sad thing. Infant deaths are decreasing, primarily because we’re finding out the causes. And by finding out the causes, we can actually prevent more deaths from happening.”

A Concrete Advantage MTSU’s internationally recognized School of Concrete and Construction Management makes an impact where rubber meets the road in Tennessee

The MTSU research-oriented perspective encourages TDOT to “evolve into something better.” The April 2017 passage of the IMPROVE Act was big news for Tennessee’s roads and bridges. The bill sets aside $350 million for the dedicated highway fund and will kick-start almost a thousand infrastructure projects across the state. While all 95 counties will be under construction as a result of the IMPROVE Act, one road that gains special significance under the plan is already built: That’s the short stretch of I-24 connecting the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) in Nashville and the School of Concrete and Construction Management at MTSU. As the first Concrete Industry Management (CIM) degree program in the country, and still one of a select few, CIM has a long history of using research to help TDOT keep our state’s roads and bridges among the best in the nation. For decades before the IMPROVE Act, funding for new construction projects was hard to come by, so a big part of TDOT’s success has been the longevity and quality of its construction, as well as its repairs. The state regularly relies on CIM faculty to comparison-test patching materials and other ready-made products, along with various concrete formulations, to determine which will perform best under Tennessee’s traffic, geological, and weather conditions. Having the nation’s flagship concrete industry academic program less than an hour away

allows for easy collaboration, and the MTSU research-oriented perspective encourages TDOT to “evolve into something better” rather than simply sticking to what it knows, said Jamie Waller, who oversees concrete operations for Materials and Tests. For example, TDOT engineers turned to MTSU’s Zhifu Yang for answers when they learned that some of their pre-stressed concrete beams had been fabricated using contaminated well water. The worrisome contaminant was chloride, an ion in salt, which can corrode the steel used to reinforce bridge decks and similar concrete structures. The engineers’ concern was well-placed. According to Yang, the rusting of steel in concrete is the No. 1 infrastructure problem in the world. Yet surprisingly little research had been done on the subject. The project dovetails with Yang’s interest in using industrial byproducts in concrete—a common practice among transportation departments, he said. It turns out that slag from ironor steel-making or fly ash from coal-burning power plants can make concrete less permeable and, therefore, more resistant to the corrosive effects of chloride. By exploring the interplay between aggregate blends, chloride levels, and permeability, Yang can help refine this clever form of recycling.

Winter 2018 37

The Value of History One of MTSU’s most respected Centers of Excellence preserves our state’s most vital assets

A preserved historic building need not be a museum. It can continue to be part of the functioning economy.

The Center for Historic Preservation (CHP), MTSU’s first Center of Excellence, exists in large part to help Tennessee communities identify and use their heritage assets, such as historical sites, artifacts, and narratives that tell stories of the past. Carroll Van West, History professor and CHP director, who assumed an additional role in 2013 when appointed state historian, said the CHP has taken the general wish that a Center of Excellence contribute to the state’s economic development and focused it in a couple of different ways. “One would be really promoting a philosophy and approach of adaptive reuse, instead of historic preservation, per se,” he said. “Adaptive reuse recognizes that a preserved historic building need not be a museum. It can continue to be part of the functioning economy.” A recent example involved West presenting a Heritage Development Plan for the Rhea County Courthouse, which was home to the 1925 Scopes Trial. In this famous case, teacher John T. Scopes was tried for teaching students that humans evolved from a lower order of animals. The case, which ultimately made it to the Tennessee Supreme Court, garnered national attention and sparked debate about the relationship between science and religion. It drew big-name lawyers on opposing sides: three-time presidential candidate

38 MTSU Magazine

Williams Jennings Bryan and renowned defense attorney Clarence Darrow. Today, the courthouse needs some repairs, and though it contains exhibits related to the trial, West said the town believes outsiders have forgotten about the “jewel of the county.” “They said, ‘We know it’s here, we know it’s important, but no one else does,’ ” West said, paraphrasing his conversations with folks in Dayton, Tennessee. “‘Can you help us get the story out there?’” With CHP’s help, the building now serves not only as a functioning courthouse but also a historical attraction in a county where such so-called “heritage tourism” can make a big difference. In that same vein, CHP has worked closely with the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development on numerous major heritage tourism efforts. The largest project with perhaps the greatest impact on the state was the Tennessee Civil War Trails program. A seven-year commitment for CHP, the Tennessee Civil War Trails program launched in 2008 and represents 425 interpretive markers in all 95 Tennessee counties. CHP’s role was to create a product that the state tourism officials could sell. As West sees it, Tennessee’s history is really among the state’s best sustainable resources.


MTSUNEWS.COM TRUE BLUE NEWS ANY TIME Stay up to date all year round

Darrin Lucas, who works at Nissan, gives a presentation as part of the master's in Management program in the Jones College of Business.

Top Management Degree

A Recording Recognition

MTSU’s Master of Science in Management was ranked No. 21 among the Top 50 such programs in the nation, according to the online business education and career guide “Top Management Degrees,” based upon data collected on over 140 master's degree programs focused on management and leadership. The Jones College of Business graduate degree, now in its fifth year, is the only ranked program in Tennessee and second-highest-rated program in the eight contiguous states, behind No. 8 Duke in North Carolina. Students in the MTSU program, which offers courses online, in evenings, and on weekends, may choose from concentrations in Organizational Leadership, Social Innovation and Not-for-Profit Management, and Supply Chain Management.

MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry again earned national acclaim for its music business education program, ranking among the Top 15 such programs in the country in 2017, according to Billboard. Among other highlights, the article mentions that MTSU co-sponsored the first international conference focusing on the music of Prince with the University of Salford in Manchester, England, and worked with the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Nashville Public Television to create a new show called The Songwriters.

The Human Touch

A Savvy Scholarship

The online master’s degree in human resources at MTSU was cited by OnlineU among the Top 25 university programs ranked nationally for offering great value. The Master of Professional Studies’ Human Resources Leadership concentration was rated No. 20. The degree is administered through MTSU’s University College, which provides online and flexible course offerings for working adults and is home to the largest adult degree completion program in the state. MTSU and Austin Peay State University, at No. 25, were the only Tennessee public universities on the list.

Two MTSU scholars were named the inaugural recipients of a new scholarship for women who aspire to enter the computer field. Stephanie Henry and Itasca Liddell, who both have now graduated, were each awarded $3,500 in 2017 by Tractor Supply Co. and Women in Technology Tennessee, in addition to mentorship by professional women in technology. The stipend is earmarked for female Information Systems majors in MTSU’s Jones College of Business. Brentwood-based Tractor Supply Co. is the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States. Its partner, Women in Technology Tennessee, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women advance and succeed in technology careers.

M k s a I’m about to graduate. What is available to me after graduation?

Do you have questions? MTSU has answers.

What would you like to ask an expert? MTSU has almost 1,000 faculty members who are all experts in their fields. Have questions about MTSU? Our helpful staff and administrators have your answers.

Ask MTSU a question at, and we will find the right person to answer your questions in the next edition of MTSU Magazine.

40 MTSU Magazine

When you’re about to graduate, your first stop should be at Senior Day held about a month before the end of each semester. It’s more than just snacks and a free T-shirt! Learn about Graduate Studies. Make an appointment to have Career Services look at your resume. Find out about the benefits of being a part of the Alumni Association. Some representatives from these and other University offices and departments will be there to answer your questions:

Alumni Relations MT Young Alumni Group Career Development Center

College of Graduate Studies Financial Aid Registrar’s Office

U S T M Beyond graduation there are still many resources at your disposal.

To stay up on the latest information, offers, and activities, make sure you have your email address (the one you actually check!) and your current address (not your parents’ house!) on file with the Alumni office. You can update these at any time at Your mtmail email address is yours for perpetuity. MTSU also offers forwarding once you don’t actively use the account.

The James E. Walker Library is open to the general public. MTSU Alumni and community borrowers are eligible to borrow library materials by presenting an MTSU ID, a valid Tennessee driver license, or a valid photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. MTSU Alumni may borrow up to 10 items at a time.

Alumni do have eligibility to purchase individual or family memberships to the Rec Center—paid memberships get full access to the facility. For Rec Center purposes, alumni are defined as anyone who has attended (and paid for) for tuitioned classes, not only graduates of MTSU.

The Middle Tennessee Alumni Association partners with Abenity, a national perks program that offers terrific discounts all over the country on restaurants, movies, theme parks, hotels, travel, and more! This program is FREE for ALL alumni and easy to sign up and use. Simply go to and use registration code: Alumni. Looking to get a jumpstart in your career? MTSU’s Career Development Center will help you write resumes and cover letters, practice interviewing skills, and introduce you to potential employers at career fairs, plus provide access to Lightning CareerLink, a searchable database of job openings. MTSU

Alumni may obtain a guest login for computer use at the Service Desk on the first floor of the library. You’ll have unrestricted in-house use of all library databases and free off-campus access to the Tennessee Electronic Library.

Winter 2018 41

42 MTSU Magazine

The faculty of MTSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, led by Ron Henderson, works to ensure bright futures for its graduates by Drew Ruble

Winter 2018 43


hough we seldom pause to acknowledge them, the miracles of physics and astronomy are everpresent in our lives. Consider the August 2017 total solar eclipse, which delighted onlookers across a broad swath of America— including thousands gathered on the MTSU campus (see page 46 sidebar on MTSU's Great Tennessee Eclipse). Or witness the the newest iPhones, which charge not using a cord but rather on a charging pad powered by the flow of electrons courtesy of the physics of induction.

Ron Henderson, professor and department chair of Physics and Astronomy at MTSU, acknowledged that most people understand physics is important when choosing how to build a bridge or building. “But not everyone realizes that the physicists were responsible for the technologies on which cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and hospital MRIs rely,” he said. The situation with astronomers is no different. “The public seeks their advice during interesting astronomical events that can be seen with the naked eye,” Henderson added, “but may not appreciate that astronomers are often experts in radio frequency communication, or the effect of greenhouse gases on global climate change.” As our world grows more complex and technologically dependent, however, perhaps that’s all changing.

An Astronomical Sign The recent eclipse, for a day at least, brought physics and astronomy studies front and center for the nation, as its path of totality stretched from Newport, Oregon, to McClellanville, South Carolina, putting 12 states into darkness lasting up to nearly three minutes. The event transformed Henderson and his faculty team at MTSU into stars for a day as well.

“Not everyone realizes that the physicists were responsible for the technologies on which cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and hospital MRIs rely.”

“It is a rare occasion to have astronomers in the public eye to this degree,” Henderson said. “I think more of the population was simultaneously actively involved in a science experiment during the total solar eclipse than has occurred in many decades. “On MTSU’s campus alone, it was fascinating to see thousands of people all wanting to learn more about the sun and moon.” What’s the potential impact of all that interest in science from an academic standpoint on the psyche of the American youth? “My suspicion is that a long-term interest in science will result for many of the K–12 students who participated,” Henderson said. In reality, Henderson and his faculty are already ahead of the curve when it comes to inspiring students to join the study of physics and astronomy—and they didn’t need a total eclipse to do it. In recent years, the program has been nationally recognized as one of the top producers of Physics graduates ready to teach in public schools, filling a desperate need across the state of Tennessee.

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It had not been uncommon in Tennessee for the Volunteer State’s higher education system to produce three or fewer (sometimes zero) high school physics teachers per year. Henderson’s department responded to such a jarring trend a few years back by developing a concentration in Physics Teaching. As a result, MTSU has graduated about 10 physics teachers in the past five years and is committed to informing its majors about this career pathway. Some local examples of MTSU Physics graduates now teaching include Robert Haddard, Jessica Cox, Jason Veal, and Nick Montgomery. That increased yield earned MTSU recognition from the Physics Teacher Education Coalition as one of only nine institutions in America that graduated five or more high school physics teachers in a single year. (Brigham Young University topped the list with 17.) The organization described MTSU as “a national leader in physics teacher education.” The program’s overall graduation rate has also climbed steadily to a level that puts MTSU among the top 10 percent of bachelor’s degreegranting institutions in the U.S. It all adds up to positive numbers for K–12 education improvement across Tennessee. Importantly, though, Henderson stresses that Physics grads can do more than teach. In fact, many see physics and astronomy (see Mars-related editor’s letter on page 5) as key frontiers for human progress and evolution in the coming decades—much in the same way that technology and supercomputing transformed the world we now live in. Recent MTSU Physics majors have become video game programmers, engineers, medical physicists, Department of Defense scientists, physicians, pilots, and architects, just to name a few fields. Jeremy Munday, for instance, completed a Ph.D. in Physics at Harvard, continued at Caltech, and is now a professor at the University of Maryland. Leo Sieben earned a master’s degree in Computer Science and works for video game developer Rockstar Games in San Diego. Evan Wise finished his bachelor’s degree and uses his physics skills at Nation Recovery Technologies in Nashville. Charlie Manger and Justin Cousineau graduated in 2016, and both work in the space industry at Signature Solutions in Huntsville, Alabama. Shane Fox is a control engineer in the automotive industry in Michigan. Clearly, Henderson’s department is producing savvy science graduates with the skills required to excel in the 21st-century workforce.

From a classroom perspective, MTSU’s program has spent considerable effort in improving the way it teaches physics, evidenced by yet another recent accolade—its selection by the American Physical Society physics and science education advocacy organization as one of four Programs of Distinction for improving undergraduate education in recent years. Other winners have included North Carolina State, Cal–Davis, MIT, and Cal–Berkeley. MTSU received the national honor, in part, for “consciously adopting a mission to provide exceptional classroom experiences, career-focused courses, and pathways and intensive research opportunities to prepare students for targeted careers,” said Deanna Ratnikova, women and education programs administrator with the American Physical Society. (Every physics department in the country was eligible for the award.) Such a willingness to go the extra mile to ensure that MTSU students actually stay in school, earn a degree, and leave armed with skills that employers seek—all of which, incidentally, are top priorities of the current governor—hasn’t been lost on the University’s boss, either. In 2013, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee awarded his first-ever president’s award specifically for programs working to improve student success to Physics and Astronomy. With an announcement at the annual fall faculty meeting, McPhee described the department then as a model, highlighting how Physics and Astronomy had implemented more student-friendly teaching practices for introductory courses and smartly deployed high-achieving undergrads to serve as “learning assistants” for classmates in those courses. The department’s reward—in addition to fewer failing grades, additional Physics and Astronomy majors, and more graduates—was a $20,000 check as inaugural recipient of the President’s Award for Exceptional Departmental Initiatives for Student Academic Success.

Scanning the Horizon Humankind has been looking to the skies and interpreting universal laws since the beginning of time. The modern Physics/Astronomy student at MTSU remains in pursuit of answers. Given the external validation of the program, rising interest in the fields, and their relevance to the world we now live in, those students face a bright future as a result of the decision to study these disciplines at MTSU. MTSU

Aligning the Stars The department’s push to both improve K–12 education statewide and to prepare a 21st-century workforce dovetails perfectly with MTSU’s overriding mantra as a university these days—which is to produce student success both in terms of learning and graduation, as well as (eventually) in the workplace.

Winter 2018 45

by Randy Weiler


housands of people descended upon MTSU’s campus for the Great Tennessee Eclipse event Aug. 21, 2017, knowing they won’t be around for the next total eclipse over the area more than 500 years into the future. They cheered wildly as the epic, coastto-coast solar eclipse reached totality over Murfreesboro—with the sky literally darkening and exposing the planets Venus and Jupiter to the naked eye—around 1:29 p.m. in the central campus area called the Science Corridor of Innovation.

Braving 90-plus degree heat and bringing pop-up tents, folding chairs, picnic blankets, or even a hammock, several thousand attendees gathered for the event. Visitors from as far away as China and other foreign countries joined Americans from across the country at MTSU to observe the awe-inspiring celestial phenomenon. Murfreesboro City Schools brought 600 children to the MTSU campus, which was an official NASA viewing site.

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MTSU Biochemistry alumnus Peter Ghattas, a native of Alexandria, Egypt, who now lives in Nashville, was first in line to obtain a pair of the 9,000-plus free safety glasses provided by sponsor Turner Construction. The University also distributed the eclipse glasses to schools in both Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City districts. MTSU’s event featured a main stage that showcased student musical performances in the hours leading up to the total eclipse, as well as on-stage interviews with faculty about eclipse viewing safety, the science behind it, the fascinating visuals, and responses from it. Football head coach Rick Stockstill, men’s basketball head coach Kermit Davis, and baseball coach Jim McGuire also were part of the event.

University and members of the new MTSU Board of Trustees. A group of 140 attended from the University of Alabama–Huntsville. High school groups came from Florence, Alabama, and The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Artists from MTSU’s student-run Match Records label in the College of Media and Entertainment performed for nearly two hours. The MTSU broadcast also was livestreamed and broadcast via satellite uplink and through public access channels across Tennessee and the nation. The event was designated by NASA as one of its six official viewing sites in the greater Nashville area.

Via coverage in USA Today, MTSU’s event University President Sidney A. McPhee spoke was mentioned in newspapers from the Carolinas to Arizona. to the crowd and entertained his special guests, which included the president and True Blue! MTSU first lady from China’s Hunan Normal

True Blue Alumni


From 1960 to the present, the MTSU Alumni Association has recognized accomplished alumni through the association’s awards program. Awards were presented in October 2017 during Homecoming Week at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception. Here are the 2017–18 honorees.

Distinguished Alumnus: Eddie Gossage (’82) A Nashville native and graduate of MTSU’s then-College of Mass Communication, Gossage is in the midst of his 21st year as the only president and general manager in the history of Texas Motor Speedway, a sprawling 1,500-acre, 135,000-seat complex and one of the world’s largest sports venues. A legendary racing promoter and noted innovator on the business side of the sport, Gossage is one of only 22 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee members and 58 members on the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s selection committee. “My four years at Middle were the best years of my life,” Gossage said. “They challenged me along the way. It was perfect. [My education] gave me everything I needed to succeed in life and achieve my dreams.”

Young Alumni Achievement Award: Tierra McMahon (’03) Currently living in France, McMahon, a Philosophy alumna of MTSU, is a policy analyst for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. She worked with the state secretary of Kazakhstan to discuss a gender project proposal and contributed to the architecture and flagship publication of a highprofile project signed at the 2015 World Economic Forum by the Kazakhstan prime minister and the OECD secretary-general. The project involves extensive policy reform ranging from education and government integrity to innovation and investment. McMahon previously worked at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Achievement in Education, MTSU faculty: Paula Thomas (’78, ’83) Thomas, an MTSU faculty member for 30-plus years, holds the Deloitte Foundation Professorship in Accounting in the Jones College of Business, an honor bestowed upon her by Deloitte for her successful efforts in instilling knowledge and professionalism in her students and preparing them for accounting careers. Thomas chaired the American Institute of Certified Public

Pictured (l-r): Whitney Dix; Louise Lanham, on behalf of her daughter Tierra McMahon; Eddie Gossage; Susan Young, on behalf of her late husband Doug Young; and Paula Thomas.

Accountants Core Competency Framework Committee and has also chaired and served on numerous educational task forces for both the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association.

Achievement in Education, non-MTSU faculty: Chris Whaley (’91) Whaley is president of Roane State Community College, where he began his studies. After finishing a degree in Political Science at MTSU and later becoming an attorney, he returned to Roane State as program director of the Paralegal Studies program, where he developed the original curriculum. From there, he assumed successively greater administrative responsibilities as a dean and a vice president before becoming Roane State’s fifth president.

Service to the University: Whitney Dix (’99) Dix, an Aerospace graduate living in Houston, established the Shanda Carney Memorial Scholarship in 2013 (which has already awarded four scholarships) and frequently returns to campus to speak to Aerospace classes on professional and practical experiences. Dix also facilitated a partnership with Southwest Airlines and The Weather Co. to donate valuable software to the NASA FOCUS Lab at MTSU and arranged a visit to campus by National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt.

Service to the Community: Doug Young (’71) Young, an MTSU Sociology graduate, started serving with the Murfreesboro Planning Commission in 1989. He rose to become its vice chair, then was elected to City Council in 2002 and held the office of vice mayor when he died Dec. 16, 2016, at age 68. He served on many other boards and commissions, including the Board of Zoning Appeals, Main Street Murfreesboro, City Schools Foundation, Regional Transportation Association, Urban and Environmental Board, St. Clair Senior Center Citizen Board, and MTSU Foundation and MTSU Alumni boards, and was chair of the MTSU Liberal Arts Advisory Board.

Winter 2018 47

Liz Rhea Rhea (’55) was the recipient of the 2017 Rutherford ATHENA Award recognizing an individual who has achieved the highest level of professional excellence, contributes time and energy to improve the quality of life for those in the community, and actively assists others, especially women, in realizing their full leadership potential. Rhea has campaigned for numerous good causes over the last several decades in Murfreesboro, raising an amount of money that has changed lives and elevated the quality of life in Rutherford County. A $5 million commitment from Rhea to her alma mater provided the bulk of the matching funds needed to build the University’s Science Building featured in the $146.5 million Science Corridor of Innovation.

1960s Lois Patton (’61, ’62), Evansville, Indiana, was honored by the University of Evansville with the naming of the Lois D. Patton Court inside the Meeks Family Fieldhouse. The Purple Aces volleyball and women’s basketball teams play on this surface. Patton started her career at the University of Evansville in 1966, serving as the first women’s basketball and volleyball coach. Joseph Bell (’63), Charlotte, North Carolina, has retired with five years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, 20 years in the U.S. Navy, and 16 years

as a civilian in the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was also formerly lab manager at Beaunit Fibers, public relations chief at Environmental Health in Charlotte, lab chief/ research chemist at Vanderbilt University Environmental Graduate School, and R&D manager at Celanese Fibers and Chemicals. He is now a substitute teacher. Charles “Ray” Steelman (’68, ’73), Huntsville, Alabama, retired as an entrepreneur and spends his time as a book author, a general aviation pilot, and a harmonica and banjo musician who writes his own music and performs at special events.

1970s Edward Beavers (’78), Shelbyville, retired after serving nearly 36 years at his dental practice in Tullahoma. Julie Hill Gilbreath (’79), Culleoka, retired from Maury Regional Hospital after 37 years of service. She worked in surgery and achieved certification as a Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant. Cathy Boone Leigh (’79), Joelton, retired from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee following 25 years of service as an official court reporter

to Judge Robert Echols and Judge Todd Campbell. She attained her Certified Realtime Reporter and Registered Diplomate Reporter certifications in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

1980s Rusty Hix (’80), Tampa, Florida, published his first book titled No Adventure Too Ridiculous: Mad Tales from a Life Time of Travel, published by Archway Publishing. John Wilson (’81), Decatur, Georgia, retired after 33 years as associate vice president of international programs at the University of North Georgia.

To submit class notes and pictures, go, or email 48 MTSU Magazine


Hal Hardin Hardin (’66) was elected president of the National Association of Former United States Attorneys, an association established in 1979 to promote, defend, and further the integrity and the preservation of the litigating authority and independence of the office of the U.S. attorney. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Hardin to serve as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. During his tenure, Hardin learned that Gov. Ray Blanton was preparing to grant pardons to persons suspected of buying their way out of prison. His efforts to oust the governor were the subject of the book Coup. Hardin returned to private practice after his stint as U.S. attorney, representing a broad range of clients.

Greg Smith (’85), Clarksville, was named 2017 Municipal Judge of the Year for the Tennessee Municipal Judges Conference. While practicing law in Clarksville, Smith also serves on four Native American tribal supreme courts (in Michigan, California, Arizona, and Oklahoma). He is chief justice of the Michigan Tribal Supreme Court. Smith’s dog, whose name is Attack, is known to MTSU fans as a result of radio voice Chip Walters saying hello to “Attack

Dawg, the Jaws of Justice” during every Blue Raiders football radio broadcast. John Neal (’86), Hermitage, joined Northcentral University, a global, online, graduatefocused university, as new dean of the School of Education. He previously led in the development of educational content for adult learners through campus-based programs, online delivery, and satellite campuses throughout the U.S., Europe, and the Pacific Rim.

Mike Hagar (’88), Nashville, was appointed deputy chief of the Executive Services Bureau of the Metro Nashville Police Department, which is comprised of the strategic development, accreditation, and crime analysis components. He has been with the MNPD for 27 years. Patty Kelley St. Clair (’88), Nashville, owner of St. Clair Communications, was a 2017 Women of Influence winner in the Community Supporter category by the Nashville Business Journal, for her volunteer efforts with Metro Nashville Public Schools and six local nonprofit boards. Amy Downey (’89), Hendersonville, received recognition as a 2017 National Distinguished Principal for her work as principal at Charlotte Park Elementary School in Metro Nashville Public Schools since 2015.

T. Keith Harrison (’89), Watertown, was named assistant commissioner for the consumer and industry services division at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The division’s former marketing director, Harrison was instrumental in development of the Pick Tennessee Products and Ag Tag campaigns, which remain hallmarks of the department’s public outreach. Calvin Wright (’89), Mason, Ohio, joined Intalere as senior vice president of solutions management.

1990s William Newberry (’90), Chattanooga, joined the staff at Baylor School as director of auxiliary programs.

G. Christine Taylor Taylor (’79) joined the University of Alabama last August as the university’s inaugural vice president and associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Most recently, Taylor served as vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer for nearly six years at Purdue University, where she led and provided strategic direction for the Division of Diversity and Inclusion. During that time, she implemented more than 35 programs to support increasing enrollment, retention, and recruitment of students, faculty, and staff from underrepresented minorities. Winter 2018 49

1990s, cont. Angie Baker-Templeton (’90, ’94, ’96), Murfreesboro, was named principal of Christiana Elementary School. Mary Helen Comer (’91), Murfreesboro, earned four first-place awards for photography at the annual Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors Awards. Tracey Moore Rogers (’91), Germantown, was appointed vice president and general manager of Nexstar Media Group’s ABC affiliate WKRN and associated digital services in Nashville. Rogers most recently was GM of WMC-TV Memphis. Mark Wickam (’92), Cleveland, a professor of Health and Exercise Science at Lee University since 1987, won the university’s 2017 Excellence in Advising Award, the highest honor presented to Lee faculty members. David Roddy (’93), Signal Mountain, was appointed chief of police for the Chattanooga Police Department. Darin Gordon (’95), Nashville, formerly state director of the Medicaid and CHIP programs in Tennessee for 10 years, is now president and CEO of Gordon and Associates in Nashville,

where he provides health carerelated consulting services to public- and private-sector clients. Holly Miller (’96), Franklin, joined PlayMaker as vice president of sales. Robert Million (’96), Nashville, received the Governor’s Excellence in Service Award for his devotion to those who visit the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. Million was hired in 1998 as a groundskeeper and became cemetery foreman in 2013. Alison Muncey (’96), Hendersonville, is the new development officer for Volunteer State Community College Foundation. Robin Newell (’96), Murfreesboro, was named the Tennessee Department of Education Principal of the Year for the Middle Grand Division for 2016–17. Newell is in her 10th year as principal of the Mitchell-Neilson Schools. Ashlie Perry (’97), Clarksville, was named assistant principal for Minglewood and Ringgold elementary schools. Connie Bushey (’98), Brentwood, retired after 32 years on the staff of the Baptist and Reflector and the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Dorie Williams (’98), Brentwood, joined the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee as a legal assistant in the Murfreesboro office.

Anne Brzezicki Brzezicki (’79), MTSU’s longtime equestrian program director and equestrian team coach (she co-launched the team in 1977) announced her retirement in 2017. During her retirement dinner, it was announced that the arena at the MTSU Horse Science campus at the Miller Coliseum complex will now have her name on it. Brzezicki, nothing short of a superstar in collegiate equestrian ranks, is credited with taking a leadership role to expand the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association west of Virginia and to add Western seat to the competition. It led to participation by more than 400 colleges and universities with 10,000 student riders at all levels in the lower 48 states, according to a recent Murfreesboro Daily News Journal article. During her tenure, MTSU hosted the IHSA national collegiate finals (an equine version of the NCAA Final Four) a record four times. Brzezicki has also been on the IHSA national board of directors since its inception. Ashley Witt (’98, ’04, ’05), Murfreesboro, was named the principal of Buchanan Elementary School. Felecia Brown (’99), Leoma, was promoted to chief marketing officer for First Farmers and Merchants Bank. Jeff Jorge (’99), Huntington, Michigan, was named principal

leading the international services practice for professional services firm Baker Tilley Virchow Krause LLP. Kathryn Martin (’99, ’05), Murfreesboro, formerly assistant principal at Central Magnet School, was named secondary coordinator for Rutherford County Schools.

Neil Price In 2017, Price (’03) was named the lead play-by-play radio voice of Mississippi State football and men’s basketball. His appointment followed 13 years at the University of Kentucky as play-by-play voice of UK baseball and women’s basketball. Prior to joining Kentucky, Price served two years at MTSU as play-by play announcer for the Lady Raiders basketball, men’s baseball, and as a host for pre- and post-game shows for Blue Raider football. 50 MTSU Magazine


Monty Burks Burks (’06, ’08) is director of Faith-Based Initiatives/ Division of Substance Abuse at the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. In that role, he works with churches and social systems statewide on more effective treatment and recovery options for people battling substance abuse issues. He also has achieved significant employment gains aimed at curbing the stigma associated with people with criminal records applying for jobs. A former Mixed Martial Arts fighter, Burks previously won one of the state of Tennessee’s first-ever sanctioned MMA titles at MTSU’s Murphy Center.

Winter 2018 51

Gretchen Jenkins Mohr and Katie Bogle Jenkins Mohr (’08) and Bogle (’12) both graduated from MTSU with degrees in Political Science, both were Honors students, both went on to attend law school, and both now work as assistant district attorneys in the Manhattan DA’s office (the two are photographed here in front of New York County Courts at 60 Centre St. in New York City, which is the building from Law & Order.) Jenkins Mohr is in her fourth year with the office. Bogle has lived in NYC for less than a year. She’s one of seven other rookies in her class of about 60 assistant DAs that started the job together in fall 2016. She currently works right down the hall from Jenkins Mohr, whom she had never met until working in NYC (the two were years apart in classes). Their alma maters, job descriptions, and Honors College experiences aren’t the only things the two have in common, incredibly. Bogle and Jenkins Mohr also happen to share the same anniversary date for their weddings.

2000s April Hardison (’00, ’11), Spring Hill, is now assistant principal of Marvin Wright Elementary School. Brian J. Wright (’00), Pensacola, Florida, has a new book published, Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices. Angie Boyd-Chambers (’01), Brentwood, was promoted to chief marketing and communications officer for Saint Thomas Health. She is a member of the Nashville Cable Board of Directors and is vice president of public relations and marketing for the organization. Stacey Herbert (’01), Glen Burnie, Maryland, was named

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assistant principal for Magothy River Middle School. Cassell Galligan-Davis (’02), McMinnville, was hired as the new Cannon County coordinator of the Child Advocacy Center, working to assist child abuse victims, child sexual abuse victims, drug-endangered children, and their non-offending parents and grandparents. Nicki Festervand (’02, ’03), Murfreesboro, joined the Brandon Burks team as a mortgage banker for FirstBank Mortgage in Murfreesboro.

Adam Bryson (’04, ’06), Murfreesboro, was selected as principal of John Pittard Elementary School. Tracie Dycus (’05), Franklin, was named director of education for the Williamson County Association of Realtors. Nathan Nichols (’05), Woodbury, is assistant attorney for Smyrna. Formerly, he was the Cannon County clerk and master.

Michelle Willard (’02, ’07), Nashville, is the new editor-inchief of Renderosity Magazine.

Kaleigh Black (’06, ’15), Dallas, is regional office manager for Aramark in Dallas. Black previously served in Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's administration from 2011 to 2015.

Judith Tackett (’03), Charlotte, was appointed director of Nashville’s Metropolitan Homelessness Commission.

Michael Fulton (’06), Savannah, joined the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority as its new

government affairs director. Carnell Elliott (’07), Mt. Juliet, was named co-site director for Dell Nashville, helping oversee the company’s local campus and spearheading Dell’s community engagement and philanthropic efforts. Tim Gray (’07), Mt. Juliet, was the recipient of the Nashville Emerging Leader Award in the Arts, Entertainment, and Music Business category. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and YP Nashville, recognizing young professionals for career accomplishments, leadership and community impact, sponsor the award. Gray is CEO of Grayscale Entertainment Marketing and president of management firm Grayscale Entertainment.

CLASS NOTES Kim Cassetty (’09), Gallatin, was named principal of Greenbrier Elementary School. Ann Clark (’09), Murfreesboro, was promoted to executive director of assisted living for AdamsPlace. Tricia Craig (’09), Hendersonville, was named the new Response to Intervention coordinator for Robertson County Schools.

Tim Nicely Nicely (’86) is owner and inventor of the V-Flex Hitting System and V-Flex Technologies Inc. in Kingsport. For 25 years, the baseball and softball enthusiast researched the neuropaths of light in the brain, which led to his being issued a U.S. patent for baseball’s first intellectual property for training pitch recognition. As Nicely says, swinging at strikes is the fastest way to become a great hitter. And the way to do that, he explains, is to use his equipment, which applies neuroscience to baseball. His business is in overdrive these days, with clients ranging from dozens of college baseball and softball programs nationwide (including MTSU) to baseball's World Series champion Houston Astros organization (a team which strikes out less than any other team in baseball in an era marked by more striking out than ever before!).

Kimberly Faye (’08), Nashville, Jonathan Parsons (’07), Murfreesboro, was promoted to joined the firm of Bone McAllester Norton PLLC. A engineer at Station 2 with the member of the firm’s alcohol Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue beverage law team, she Department. also practices entertainment Carolyn Crawford (’08), law. Faye previously served Elizabethton, is teaching English in Italy after completing as the senior judicial law clerk to the Honorable Frank a recent term at a language G. Clement Jr. of the Tennessee school in Krakow, Poland. Court of Appeals.

Chelsea Culbreath (’09), Winchester, an assistant principal at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro, was among about 20 school administrators statewide selected to participate in the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership. Carol Jent (’09), Summertown, was selected as assistant principal of Woodard Elementary.

Steven McMillan (’09), LaVergne, was named director of tracking at Round Hill Music. He previously was manager of royalty services for the company. Prior to joining Alicja K. Lanfear (’08), Round Hill, he was manager Murfreesboro, was named of financial operations for Big the 2017 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award Loud Bucks Administration and Information. recipient. She is an academic Eliezer Ponce (’09), Los forensic anthropologist Angeles, is an associate and lecturer in the Biology director for SESAC Latina in Department at Middle charge of the urban, tropical, Tennessee State University. and pop genres.

Tommy Doerfler Doerfler (’09) left his career as a professional drummer to pursue a career in the financial industry, studying Finance at MTSU, and then landing a job at financial planning firm Southwestern Investment Group. His Lighthouse Wealth Group at Southwestern has been placed in the prestigious Leader’s Council since 2015 (financial advisors ranked 86th through 310th based on personal production) within Raymond James. In 2016 Southwestern Investment Group awarded Doerfler the Above and Beyond award for his display of leadership and initiative. Winter 2018 53

2010s Roderick “Zane” Martin (’10), Franklin, joined First Farmers Bank as a business banking/ private relationship manager. Marie Carter (’11), Shelbyville, joined the office of Dr. Frank Jayakody as a family nurse practitioner. Brigitte Eubank Flynn (’11), College Park, Maryland, is working as an archives technician for the National Archives. Corie Gouge (’11, ’13), Kingston, was named Loudon County Schools’ Coordinated School Health coordinator.

Adam Emerson (’12), Pullman, Washington, is a Political Science teaching assistant at Washington State University. Hunter Fowler (’12), Murfreesboro, joined the law office of W. Scott Kimberly PLLC as an associate attorney, focusing his practice on criminal defense, family law, and civil litigation. Formerly, he worked as a law clerk at Bone McAllester Norton PLLC in Nashville and interned with the Rutherford County district attorney’s office. Matthew Hibdon (’12, ’14), McMinnville, has been named director of leadership

programs at the national headquarters for Omicron Delta Kappa. He has been on the ODK Membership and Circle Standards Committee since 2012 and served on the National Advisory Council from 2012 to 2014. Elisha Horn Lackey (’12), Watertown, was promoted to assistant director of home and community-based services, quality, and compliance with the Long-Term Services and Supports, a unit in the Division of TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program. Patrick Morrison (’12), Chattanooga, joined the law

firm of Grant, Konvalinka, and Harrison. His practice areas are business and corporate law, financial services and transactions, immigration law, and litigation and dispute resolution. He formerly worked in the Tennessee General Assembly in the state Senate. Morrison has been an active member of the MTSU Young Alumni Group, including serving on its board of directors. Christopher Merchant (’13), Oakland, California, is working as social media coordinator at the University of California– Berkeley. Brent Bornhoft, (’14), Murfreesboro, currently works as a research scientist for Taitech Inc. of Columbus, Ohio.

Ayana Ife A Salt Lake City native, Ife (’15) unveiled her fashion creations to a nationwide audience as one of the 2017 season’s participants on Project Runway. The 16th season of the popular television program debuted last August on the Lifetime television network, and Ife finished as runner-up among the 16 contestants. Her shimmering silver gown was a talked-about highlight of the season premiere, and during the Aug. 24 episode, when contestants created fashions from recycled materials, Ife won top honors for her newspaperfabric dress with vinyl fringe and bottle cap buttons. It was later featured in an issue of Marie Claire magazine.

54 MTSU Magazine

Chris Young


The hits just keep coming for Young, the former MTSU student turned country music megastar. His new album, Losing Sleep, released in October 2017, is his seventh record with RCA. The new album showcases Young as artist, co-producer, and songwriter. But the best was yet to come for Young in 2017. In August, country music icon Vince Gill surprised Young onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, inviting him to become the newest Opry member. It was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Young, who grew up listening to the shows on the radio with his grandfather (who was in attendance at the Grand Ole Opry that night). The invitation—which made Young the Opry’s youngest member—also solidified Young’s position as one of the genre's leading current classic country torchbearers. Career accolades include nine No. 1 singles, 16 Gold/Platinum certifications, and a 2016–17 Grammy nomination.

Emily Frye (’14), Washburn, joined the Round Hill Music royalty services team as coordinator. She was formerly at SESAC, where she held positions in the Licensing Department as well as Royalty Distribution and Research Services. Lucas Armstrong (’15), Church Hill, is the new manager of Bays Mountain Golf Course, formerly known as Silver Lake Golf Course. He was recently appointed coach of the Volunteer High School golf team. Brad Miller (’15), South Bend, Indiana, is the new director of the Indiana Landmarks Northwest Field Office responsible for preservation and revitalization assistance in Lake, Porter, Newton, and Jasper counties. Philip Sugg (’15), Wartrace, was commissioned as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army (Infantry) and along with three other soldiers was recently awarded the Army Achievement Award for saving the life of a comrade. David “Pax” Wiemers (’15), Nashville, was selected as assistant principal at Freedom Intermediate School in Franklin.

Winter 2018 55

2010s, cont.

April Romero

Leland “Devin” Douglas (’16), Jacksboro, was named crew leader for Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, a conservation nonprofit.

Romero (’16) is the Project Management Office (PMO) manager and disaster recovery coordinator with the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration. In that role, Romero originally developed and quarterly updates the business continuity and disaster recovery plans for Edison, the statewide enterprise resource planning application. She also heads up the PMO, which manages the IT projects for Edison, Finance and Administration, General Services, Human Resources, and Veterans Services, among other responsibilities. In 2015, Romero was one of the first to receive the distinguished level of Black Belt from the state’s Black Belt Leadership Program, a self-directed, structured development opportunity for the Tennessee Government Leadership (TGL) alumni community. To date, only five employees have earned this honor since the program’s creation in 2014. Romero, who also created the statewide TGL Book Club and launched the TGL Toastmasters club, recently earned her Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) degree—a 33-hour program designed for working professionals (which is completely online and available 24/7)—from MTSU. Because of the flexibility of the program, she was capable of serving her role as wife and mom and working full time while also continuing her education.

Amanda Leachman Uhls (’16), Cane Ridge, is a microbiologist with the Tennessee Department of Health Division of Laboratory Services. Chris Willis (’16), Nashville, was named director of marketing and operations at Lighthouse Counsel, which collaborates with nonprofits to develop and implement strategies that increase mission awareness, organizational effectiveness, and philanthropic support. Brittany Belcher (’17), Murfreesboro, is the new band director for Macon County High School.

Jackson Wells Wright


Triplett Watson (’05) of South Haven, Mississippi.

Zora Macie Overcast born June 13, 2017, to Mark (’11,’16) and Amber Russell Overcast (’12,’16) of Murfreesboro. Corbin Duncan-Place born Feb. 4, 2017, to Adrienne Duncan-Place (’07) and Charmian Place of Knoxville. Charleston Judah Watson born July 25, 2017, to Carmen

Alexander Charles Goedecke born July 13, 2016, to David (’11) and Jayna Goedecke (’11) of Mountain Brook, Alabama. Abigale Mae Jackson born Aug. 17, 2017, to Russell (’08) and Kristen McKnight Jackson (’07, ’10) of Murfreesboro. Jackson Wells Wright born April 26, 2017, to Richard (’06) and Debbi Hope Wright (’02) of Murfreesboro.

Alexander Charles Goedecke

Corbin Duncan-Place

Zora Macie Overcast

Abigale Mae Jackson


Aleshia Brevard Brevard (’67), an MTSU Theatre graduate, died at age 79 in her home in Scotts Valley, California, on July 1, 2017. Brevard, whose autobiography The Woman I Was Born to Be: A Transsexual Journey was a sequel to her earlier book, The Woman I Was NOT Born to Be, described her time at MTSU as a “wonderful respite” where she felt “normal, secure, and accepted,” although she also explained that the administration was not always pleased with her image. She was asked by the Dean of Women to discuss her miniskirts, mesh stockings, and spiked heels, Brevard recalled. According to her book, the dean told her, “We’re a conservative campus here, and . . . well, you’re just not.” Brevard scoffed at the dean’s remarks and refused to let such attitudes faze her. Brevard was nothing less than a star at the University. Quite the popular student, her peers nominated her to run for the Miss MTSU title and Associated Student Body president, but she declined both offers. She tried to avoid too much attention. As a senior, she was named Best Actress by the Theatre program after playing the lead in several productions. In her memoirs, she discussed how Dorethe “Dot” Tucker, director of MTSU’s Theatre program, became her first real role model. Tucker was the kind of woman Brevard wanted to emulate—“articulate, talented, and with a zest for life,” Brevard wrote. It was at MTSU that Brevard decided she could seriously pursue acting. Born Alfred Brevard (“Buddy”) Crenshaw in rural Tennessee, Brevard underwent transitional surgery in Los Angeles in 1962, one of the first such operations in the U.S. She went on to become a famous female entertainer in Hollywood. Under the stage name Lee Shaw, Brevard worked as a drag queen at Finocchio’s in San Francisco, doing Marilyn Monroe impersonations. Later, she worked as a stripper in Reno and as a Playboy Bunny on the Sunset Strip. After playing opposite Don Knotts in the movie The Love God, Brevard appeared in other films and became a TV regular on the Red Skelton Show. She created the role of Tex on One Life to Live. [Editor’s Note: Sarah Calise, archivist at the Albert Gore Research Center at MTSU, contributed mightily to this report.]

In Memoriam 1930s Rebekah Coppedge (’32), Lynchburg, Virginia, June 20, 2017 Mary Eleanor Boyd Roth ('35), Campbell, California, July 10, 2017

1940s Margaret Reed Bruner (’43), Bowling Green, Kentucky, April 7, 2017 James Gist Sr. (’49, ’67), Murfreesboro, July 28, 2017 Marion Hankins Lensgraf (’46), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 19, 2017 Thelma Franks Gold Lockhart (’40), Franklin, April 2, 2017

Berry Nisbett Qualls (’49), Bloomington, Indiana, Sept. 16, 2017

1950s Charles Anderson (’52), Owensboro, Kentucky, Sept.11, 2017 Joyce McMillan Andrews (’54), Germantown, Aug. 30, 2017 Lloyd Bennett (‘53), Franklin, Aug. 16, 2017 Josephine Booth (’53), Franklin, May 19, 2017 Joe Bradshaw (’58), Flowery Branch, Georgia, July 4, 2017

James Brown Jr. (’57), Hampshire, May 15, 2017 John Brown (’50), Huntsville, Alabama, June 24, 2017 Robert Carrick (’55), Winter Springs, Florida, Aug.26, 2017 Roy Clark (’57), Murfreesboro, May 26, 2017 Charles H. Francis (’59), Murfreesboro, Oct. 6, 2017 Joe Freeman (’50), Martin, April 10, 2017 Carlton Galbreath (’58), Cookeville, July 28, 2017 Barnett Gamble Sr. (’50), Huntsville, Alabama, April 4, 2017

Shirley Heist (’58), Nashville, April 5, 2017 L. Mural Jackson (’59), Chattanooga, June 19, 2017 Albert Jones Jr. (’57), Livingston, June 24, 2017 Henry Moore (’57, ’58), Milton, Florida, May 5, 2017 Thomas Patton (’54), Murfreesboro, May 12, 2017 Annie Smith Murphree (’55, ’86), Unionville, May 22, 2017 James Ridley (’55, ’66), Murfreesboro, April 4, 2017 Anne Holloway Rideout (’59), Simsbury, Connecticut, May 22, 2017

Winter 2018 57

Jimmy “Jim” Holland Holland (’72), a former MTSU Foundation president, passed away Oct. 2, 2017. In 1991 in Murfreesboro, Holland founded what became the Holland Group of Tennessee. By 2007, when he sold it, the $120 million staffing, human resources, and process management firm had more than 50 locations in 10 states. Holland had recently semi-unretired to serve as president of his family’s new business, HG Staffing. A first-generation college graduate, Holland paid his tuition with money earned working on a Macon County farm. His commitment to MTSU and to future generations was significant. Also former chair of the MTSU Jones College of Business Advisory Board, Holland was a dedicated volunteer and strong advocate for the University for many years.

Donald Rieder (’59), Carrollton, Georgia, February 2, 2017

Charles Cobb (’69), Bridgeport, Alabama, May 28, 2017

Edward Holloway Jr. (’63), Columbia, Aug. 20, 2017

Rodney Beakley Jr. (’78), Madison, May 11, 2017

Pearl McBroom Scarbrough (’59), Murfreesboro, July 2, 2017

James “Mike” Compton (’69), The Colony, Texas, Aug. 18, 2017

Jerry Jackson Jr. (’63), Murfreesboro, May 13, 2017

Alice Betterman (’72), Sparta, May 31, 2017

Irving Johnson (’68, ’76), Hendersonville, April 16, 2017

Jimmy Brasfield (’75), Murfreesboro, Feb. 3, 2017

Susan Maynard (’69), Bon Aqua, July 13, 2017

John Collins (’74, ’84), Henderson, July 12, 2017

Carole Holladay Moorer (’60), Franklin, June 20, 2017

Kenneth Davidson (’72), Murfreesboro, March 20, 2017

Freeman “Ann” Holcomb Shacklett (’51), Thomaston, Georgia, May 16, 2017 Sam Smith (’55), Springfield, July 28, 2017 Jean Motlow Tyree (’52), Lebanon, May 15, 2017

1960s Joe Askew (’62), Fayetteville, January 1, 2017 Ronald Bender (’69), Youngsville, North Carolina, Oct. 14, 2016 Jimmy Blankenship (’60), McMinnville, Aug. 1, 2016 Grace Brown (’68), Nashville, March 29, 2017 David Bryant (’64), Whitwell, May 5, 2017 James “Jack” Campbell (’68), Shelbyville, July 15, 2017 Bertha Clark Chrietzberg (’68), Murfreesboro, Sept. 5, 2017

58 MTSU Magazine

Carl Corlew (’66), Arrington, Aug.17, 2017 Philip Debusk (’66), Nashville, Sept. 4, 2017 Joseph Dietzen III, (’69), Manchester, Aug. 10, 2017 Ralph Englert Jr. (’61), Nashville, May 17, 2017 John Finney (’68), Brooksville, Florida, May 7, 2017 Rita Gathmann (’68), Franklin, July 14, 2017 Brent Golden (’66), Lawrenceburg, Sept. 12, 2017 Barbara Stalin Halliburton (’66), Germantown, June 11, 2017

Bobby Newby (’62, ’67), McMinnville, April 28, 2017 Rena Reeves (’65), Nashville, June 14, 2017 John Swafford Jr. (’63), Dunlap, May 25, 2017 James Wauford (’68), Hollywood, South Carolina, May 18, 2017

1970s Randall Aaron (’76), Nashville, Sept. 23, 2017

Charles “Pepper” Hallum (’63), Huntsville, Alabama, Sept. 11, 2017

James “Ronnie” Allsbrooks (’73), Hermitage, June 17, 2017

Ward Harder (’67, ’71), Lynchburg, May 2, 2017

Tim Anderson (’72), LaVergne, March 21, 2017 Linda Smith Barr (’78), Mt. Juliet, April 2, 2017

Elvis Dobson (’73), LaFayette, Georgia, June 3, 2017 Mary Walker Dale (’76), Columbia, July 11, 2017 Charles Duckwall (’74), Marshall, Michigan, May 4, 2017 William Easton Jr. (’75), Antioch, June 24, 2017 David Esa (’72, ’75), Knoxville, June 17, 2017 Susan Groth Fentress (’71), Greenbrier, April 21, 2017 Clifton Frazier (’73), Murfreesboro, Aug. 9, 2017 Gary Harton (’79), Louise, Texas, June 29, 2017

CLASS NOTES Joe Sparkman (’74), Hartselle, Alabama, Aug. 2, 2017

William “Roby” Lanius Jr. (’86), May 8, 2017

Maynard Peden Jr. (’94), Madison, June 29, 2017

Daniel Speer (’73, ’78), Pulaski, April 20, 2017

Craig Mears (’82), Woodbury, July 22, 2017

Gwen Praeger (’92), Nashville, Aug. 22, 2017

Nancy Hastings Stowers (’75), Shelbyville, June 15, 2017

Nancy Nelson (’89, ’97), Rockvale, April 23, 2017

Alisa Tate (’97), Murfreesboro, May 9, 2017

Gerald Summar (’73), Mt. Juliet, Sept. 16, 2017

Steven Osborne (’83), Goodlettsville, June 5, 2017


Paul Thomas (’70, ’73), Mt. Juliet, April 11, 2017

Renee Lynch Parker (’87), Fishers, Indiana, Aug. 1, 2017

John Arnold (’04, ’13), Murfreesboro, April 17, 2017

David “Butch” Thompson (’75), Ooltewah, May 31, 2017

Cynthia Roberts (’83), Franklin, July 25, 2017

Jeanne Knight (’70), Nashville, Aug. 19, 2017

Judith Gibson Turner (’74), Lexington, Kentucky, April 18, 2017

Pamela Seals (’80), Murfreesboro, Sept. 2, 2017

Laure Smith DiDomenico (’00, ’05), Murfreesboro, July 14, 2017

Frances Laws (’78), Hohenwald, April 17, 2017


Karen Ledford (’74), Chattanooga, July 9, 2017

Marie Parsons Allen (’89), Nashville, April 13, 2017

Howell Lynch Jr. (’78), New Orleans, Louisiana, March 26, 2017

Donna Barber (’82), Ardmore, Feb. 23, 2017

Kenneth Hastings Jr. (’72), Miramar Beach, Florida, May 14, 2017 Richard Honig (’74), Murfreesboro, May 3, 2017 Bonnie Forehand Hyde (’70, ’75), Nashville, Aug.12, 2017 Frank Irlinger (’72), Nashville, June 24, 2017 Charles Jackson (’72), Spring Hill, July 1, 2017 Nancy “Libby” Jennings (’71), Lupton City, April 2, 2017

Joe Marshall (’74), Smyrna, April 9, 2017

Debra Adams Brewer (’80), Belmont, Mississippi, March 24, 2017

Sue Haynes Martel (’70, ’71), Cleveland, June 10, 2017

Joe Brooks III (’86), Unionville, July 10, 2017

Jackie Martin (’73), Carthage, Sept. 11, 2017

Bonnie Carr (’82), Punta Gorda, Florida, April 24, 2017

James Milan (’70, ’76), Hohenwald, May 2, 2017

Paula Yeary Collins (’85), Harriman, April 21, 2017

Nancy Morgan (’76), Bell Buckle, May 12, 2017

Hoyte “Milton” Crowell (’87), Franklin, July 24, 2017

Joseph Ormsby (’72, ’76), Hot Springs, Arkansas, April 13, 2017

Stanley Decoursey (’80), Knoxville, April 2, 2017

James Rader (’73), Waverly, May 25, 2017 Michael Rupley (’79), La Porte, Texas, Aug. 11, 2017 Danny Reed (’74), Nashville, June 9, 2017 Bula “Bea” Haines Grider Robins (’70, ’82), Franklin, Aug. 15, 2017 Gary Sharp (’79), Madisonville, July 3, 2017 Clyde “Buddy” Smith Jr. (’73), Old Hickory, March 25, 2017

Larry Dexter (’89), Franklin, July 1, 2017 Dale H. Flowers (’88), Jamestown, March 26, 2017 Henry “Cub” Forrest (’89), Franklin, May 19, 2017 Danny Greene (’81), Hermitage, March 26, 2017 Grady Jones (’80), Murfreesboro, May 3, 2017 John “Rick” Jones (’86), Murfreesboro, July 13, 2017 Walter King III (’88), Chattanooga, July 31, 2017

Christopher Smith (’86), Cookeville, Aug. 13, 2017 Patricia White Taylor (’83), Columbia, Sept. 16, 2017 Peter VandeVate (’83), Knoxville, April 25, 2017 Ronald Vaughn (’85, ’87), Decatur, Alabama, April 23, 2017 Deborah Walker (’83), Belvidere, June 16, 2017 Elmo Wilson (’81), Antioch, April 27, 2017 James Wilson (’83), Mt. Juliet, May 3, 2017 Teresa Walker Wilson (’84), Bowling Green, Kentucky, May 27, 2017

1990s Ashley Booth (’90), Birmingham, Alabama, Sept. 17, 2017 Alan Brown (’92), Hixson, June 15, 2017

Tiffany Gentry (’00), Smyrna, April 20, 2017 Lynne Gordon (’00), Nashville, Sept. 13, 2017 Ryan Helton (’07), Shelbyville, Sept. 24, 2017 Gregory Howell (’03), Muscle Shoals, Alabama, April 2, 2017 Kimberly Jones (’05), Brentwood, April 4, 2017 Amanda Guffey Mackert (’07), Hendersonville, April 10, 2017 Brian White (’09), Fremont, California, July 29, 2017

2010s Marilyn Broderick (’10), Ardmore, May 29, 2017 Todd Dicus (’12), Nashville, Sept. 7, 2017 Richard Jackson (’13), Murfreesboro, Aug. 29, 2017 MTSU

Rebecca Johnson (’91), Nashville, May 12, 2017 David Key (’97), Hendersonville, May 29, 2017 Verlon Matthews (’97, ’04, ’06), Manchester, June 16, 2017 Daniel “Scott” Neblett (’95), Pleasant View, May 26, 2017 John Orr (’97), Manchester, July 29, 2017

Winter 2018 59

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Every student, grad, faculty, and staff member has left a mark on our University. Through the True Blue Give, we can all impact MTSU and support our 22,000 students even better. You can once again leave your mark with a gift of service or financial support. Goal: Raise $250,000 with 500 friends of the University leaving their mark on any program, scholarship, college, or team that you choose.

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MTSU Magazine Winter 2018  

MTSU alum Joel Alsup’s incredible personal journey fuels his work as a professional storyteller at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

MTSU Magazine Winter 2018  

MTSU alum Joel Alsup’s incredible personal journey fuels his work as a professional storyteller at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital