MTSU Magazine Summer 2021

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Summer 2021

A Famous Friend Chris Young Café celebrates entertainer’s gifts to his alma mater and provides a practice lab for students Page 18

Table of Contents Departments 05 Editor's Letter 06 Five Minutes 08 Scene On Campus 10 Events Calendar 11 #MyMTStory 13 Required Reading 14 Faculty Spotlight 16 Campus Culture 18 Old School 20 New School 40 By the Numbers 42 Midpoints 46 47 Class Notes 54 In Memoriam 58 Baby Raiders 59 Last Word

Features 22 A Famous Friend 28 A Unique Blend 34 True Blue Mars

Banner Year MTSU won the Conference USA women’s basketball title and earned its 19th NCAA tournament bid by defeating Rice. The Lady Raiders battled No. 3 seed Tennessee to a 39-39 halftime tie before falling in the first round. Photo courtesy of Conference USA

Middle Tennessee State University Summer 2021, Vol. 26 No. 1 University President Sidney A. McPhee University Provost Mark Byrnes Vice President for University Advancement Joe Bales Vice President for Marketing and Communications Andrew Oppmann Senior Editor Drew Ruble Associate Editor Carol Stuart Contributing Editor Nancy Broden Senior Director of Creative Marketing Solutions Kara Hooper Designer Micah Loyed Contributing Writers Skip Anderson, Stephanie Barrette, Gina E. Fann, Allison Gorman, Jimmy Hart, Gina K. Logue, Randy Weiler University Photographers James Cessna, Andy Heidt, J. Intintoli, Cat Curtis Murphy Special thanks to Donna J. Baker, Jamie Burriss, Michelle Stepp 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 133,000 copies printed at Courier Printing, Smyrna, Tennessee. Designed by MTSU Creative Marketing Solutions.

Cover photo by Andy Heidt

0221-9417 / 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


WELCOME BACK Homecoming Weekend

October 29–30, 2021

Save the date to enjoy these events and more during MTSU Homecoming Weekend 2021! Golden Raiders Reunion for the Classes of 1970 and 1971 Alumni Awards Ceremony Black Alumni Society Homecoming Party Homecoming Parade Mixer on Middle MT Football vs. Southern Miss, 2:30 p.m. Alumni Homecoming Queens and Kings Reunion As activities are finalized, you can find event listings, RSVPs, and updated info at, 1-800-533-6878, or

Follow us on social media for updates and announcements





Wheels in Motion

MTSU’s future Concrete and Construction Management building

As University editor, it seems everywhere I turn, I see the impact of MTSU on middle Tennessee and beyond. Even to the stars.

conscious mixes that were developed in partnership with MTSU’s first-of-its-kind Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program—its students, faculty, and alumni.

This edition of MTSU magazine is filled with yet more examples, including profiles of MTSU’s reach into two of the state’s signature commodities—music and whiskey—as well as one of the most-talked-about landscapes of 2021, the planet Mars.

In the months prior to the event, MTSU concrete experts—including alumni Travis Jarrett (’05) and Frank Bowen (’14) with Jarrett Concrete Products, a precast concrete facility in Ashland City—filled thousands of debris fence panel and concrete barrier molds for the 2.17-mile downtown course layout.

Another example will soon take shape. MTSU’s involvement in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix IndyCar race, set to take place in downtown Nashville Aug. 6–8, will be the latest and greatest example of MTSU’s continued impact on the region. A global lineup of drivers—including Hendersonville native Josef Newgarden, who won the circuit in 2019, and former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson—will race through city streets in single-seat cars with 2.2-liter, twinturbocharged, direct-injected, V-6 engines optimized to run at 12,000 RPM, with an estimated 500-700 horsepower. Undergoing a truly visceral experience, over 100,000 fans lining the course will feel the power and energy of race cars rush over them along familiar Music City streets more associated with honky-tonks and pedal taverns than Indy cars. The temporary track, or street circuit, weaves past Nissan Stadium (home of the NFL Tennessee Titans), over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge (a memorable new look for the international sport), and into downtown. What does all this have to do with MTSU? Well, there is sure to be an occasional crash at the new IndyCar race in Nashville. And when that happens, racers will strike cushioned concrete barriers made of environmentally

Hands-on learning experiences for MTSU students were created through internships and manufacturing relationships for the material science program. The race, and MTSU’s partnership with it, will place Nashville and the University on a truly international stage (related news, p. 45). Exposure from IndyCar’s 30 broadcast partners in 160 countries is sure to shine a bright light on both. But, even aside from the IndyCar partnership, the CIM program’s profile is clearly rising. Gov. Bill Lee provided funding in the state’s 2020­–21 budget for a new $40.1 million building to house MTSU’s School of Concrete and Construction Management, and a groundbreaking was held in April. Targeted for completion in August 2022, the new lab and classroom building will feature examples of the many ways concrete can be used in construction. You might say the program’s partnership with the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is just the latest True Blue example of MTSU’s relevance—and where the rubber meets the road. —Drew Ruble Summer 2021 5


Back Together

MTSU campus life returns to normal in the fall.

A brief conversation on recent events with MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee Update the MTSU community on your plans for campus operations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the future you envision for the fall.

All around I see signs of hope and renewal. I am awed by the amazing and enormous efforts by students, faculty, and staff to protect our community during this pandemic and stay on course with progress in our academics, research, and service. This hard work and commitment have made possible the full return of in-person campus classes and activities for the Fall 2021 semester. We intend to fully reopen the campus for classes and events we enjoyed before the onset of the pandemic. We are encouraged by the tremendous progress made in vaccination efforts 6 MTSU Magazine

in the state and the nation—including those on our campus by our School of Nursing students and faculty and Student Health Services staff. Our course offerings will be back to normal —primarily in person but with selected online options. We will use the lessons we learned from teaching during the pandemic and the technology we installed to help us enhance our academic offerings. Our residence halls will reopen as before, with both single- and double-occupancy options. The faculty, administrators, and coaches in academics, athletics, and student affairs are all planning a robust return to the activities, events,

Student Stijn Slump receives his COVID-19 vaccine from nurse practitioner Destiny Locke at an on-campus clinic.

and games that enrich the student experience on our campus.

Challenge to help raise the vaccination rate in the U.S. to 70% by July 4.

We will be back together this fall with more resilience and vigor than ever!

During the summer, we welcomed more than 4,000 combined freshmen and transfer students to campus for in-person CUSTOMS orientation sessions.

In a way, MTSU came "back together" for the May 2021 Commencement ceremonies. Talk about that event.

In consultation with local and state health officials, we took the proper steps to return to Murphy Center for this spring’s Commencement ceremonies. I authorized the University to schedule 10 small in-person Commencement ceremonies at Murphy Center. Each participant was allotted a limited number of guest tickets. Masks and social distancing were required and strictly enforced. Throughout the spring, our campus mandates for the wearing of masks, social distancing, and observing posted safety capacities in our facilities remained in place. We felt this was necessary until we could fully understand potential impacts that variants of the virus might pose. However, we felt confident enough in our containment efforts to hold the ceremonies, as well as allow groups to reserve spaces in campus buildings for activities, including end-of-the-year events, late in the Spring 2021 semester. In late May, we removed campus mandates for masks, social distancing, and modified COVID-19 room capacities. Exceptions include a mask requirement on public transportation, such as Raider Xpress, and for symptomatic patients in our Student Health Services facility.

MTSU’s undergraduate admissions team also is resuming our annual True Blue Tour events for prospective students in fall 2021. In addition to our array of on-campus True Blue Preview days as well as special opportunities for Rutherford County students, the tour will include eight stops in Tennessee (Nashville, Williamson County, Clarksville, Knoxville, Johnson City, Chattanooga, Jackson, and Memphis); two in Alabama (Huntsville and Birmingham); two in Kentucky (Louisville and Lexington); and one in Georgia (Atlanta). So, yes, we did get a glimpse of a return to normal this spring and summer. But not like what we will see this fall. Final thoughts?

Of course, it is important to note that the University’s actions for the Fall 2021 semester will ultimately be guided by the advice and recommendations of federal and state health officials, just as they have been since the beginning of this pandemic. While there’s light at the end of the tunnel, we must maintain our efforts to contain and control COVID-19. I also want to thank the entire MTSU community for continued diligence in our fight against this coronavirus. I’m looking forward to being back together again!

MTSU also became the first Tennessee university to sign on to the White House COVID-19 College Vaccine Summer 2021 7


March 17

Meg Brooker’s re-created suffragist dance and lecture

April 8

American Idol semifinalist Briston Maroney concert

March 22

Author Jason Reynolds’ virtual distinguished lecture

March 16

Mary Frances Berry on women’s history webinar

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Feb. 8

Ribbon-cutting for softball stadium expansion

Feb. 18 Sledding party behind Greek Row

Feb. 8­–12 Winter Wonderland on the Commons

April 28 Stole ceremony for graduating veterans

March 4 Bag toss at SGA’s True Blue Thursday event

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Events Calendar

Aug. 22, 5 p.m. Murphy Center Convocation: Speaker Wes Moore, author and social entrepreneur

Mark your calendar for upcoming events around campus Sept. 16–Oct. 28 Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m.

Baldwin Photo Gallery James Singewald exhibit

Hinton Music Hall MTSU Concert Band

Oct. 2, 6 p.m. Floyd Stadium MTSU football vs. Marshall, Family Weekend/Blackout

Oct. 29–30 Various Locations Homecoming Weekend: MTSU football vs. Southern Miss Saturday kickoff: 2:30 p.m.

Sept. 30–Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 3, 2 p.m. Tucker Theatre The Busie Body

Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m. Hinton Music Hall Women’s and Men’s Chorale

Nov. 4–6, 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 7, 2 p.m. Nov. 6 Student Union True Blue Preview

Nov. 18–20

Tucker Theatre Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Nov. 13, 2:30 p.m. Floyd Stadium MTSU football vs. Florida International University, Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces weekend

Tucker Theatre Fall Dance Concert

Nov. 28 Tucker Theatre Joys of the Season

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More events and details at

#MyMTStor y

What was dorm life like in your day? MTSU demolished former Ezell and Abernathy dorms (aka J and K apartments) to make way for the new Concrete and Construction Management building. Alumni share memories of living on campus. Kelly J. ’86

Riki D. ’01

I was in the J apartments during the ’83–‘84 school year, a junior studying Mass Communications. My 3 roommates were seniors. We'd come over across campus from MonSchaRey halls. It was the

I lived in McHenry as a freshman, was an RA at Miss Mary for sophomore and junior years, and an RD in Deere Hall. I loved residence hall life and loved working for housing!!! It was the best job to get to know people at school. I loved being able to wake up and have no commute!!

experience of a lifetime. Zack B. ’03

I lived in Nicks Hall . . . Because it's more like a motel than a dorm (you enter your room from the outside), anybody could just walk up to your room door. Now they have a perimeter fence and you have to buzz in.

Marty M. ’12

I remember fondly being in Sims during the Fall & Spring ’07–’08. We spent much of our time out front or in the common area with all the folks from Area 2. Constant Cyber Cafe!

Stephanie L. ’06

I stayed in Cummings Hall for freshmen, then moved to Miss Mary Hall my second semester. I loved Miss Mary Hall— it was in a great location, it was a private room, and so quiet! I sometimes felt like I was the only one who lived there it was so quiet.

Jamie D. ’82

I lived in J Apartments from the beginning of the fall semester 1980 until December 1981 (4 semesters. . . . I went during summer too). It was dark and away from everybody but I loved it!! I'm sad it's gone.

Milbrey C. ’74, ’77 Vicki H. ’82

Wood Hall 1978–1982.

“Man in the hall”!! Loved the dorm life. Tim L. ’77

I stayed in the men's dorm back in the ’70s. It was a big deal, being J and K apartments were the newest at the time.

I lived on the third floor of Schardt Hall my freshman year—no elevator and a curfew. Moved to High Rise West my sophomore year and High Rise East my junior year. My senior year I lived in the new J dorm. Loved dorm life and the lifelong friends I made. MTSU was somewhat a suitcase college at this time (1970–74) and as I was from Pennsylvania, living in the dorm always provided me with someone to hang out with on the weekends.

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Required Reading


The Kinks: Songs of the Semi-Detached Mark Doyle, Professor, Department of History MUSIC HISTORY

Of all the great British rock bands to emerge from the 1960s, none had a stronger sense of place than The Kinks, a London group often described as the archetypal English band. In this illuminating study, Doyle examines the relationship between The Kinks and their city, from their early songs of teenage rebellion to their later album-length works of social criticism, providing a unique perspective on the way in which the band responded to the shifting nature of working-class life. The book examines brothers Ray Davies, the bandleader, and Dave Davies, lead guitarist, through the lens of their transition from their working-class roots to a middle-class neighborhood following the Nazis’ attack on Great Britain. A working-class sensibility remained consistent in Ray’s lyrics, while Dave pursued the more hedonistic rock lifestyle. Doyle also studies The Kinks though the philosophical prisms of various British intellectuals, including Charles Dickens, Edmund Burke, and George Orwell.

Basic Athletic Training (7th edition)

Decompressed: How to Find Joy as a Producer in a Flattened World

Dangerous Dames: Representing Female-Bodied Empowerment in Postfeminist Media

D.A., Physical Education (’84), and Randall Deere (’92), D.A., Physical Education

Misty Jones Simpson,

Roberta Chevrette,

Assistant Professor, Department of Recording Industry

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies

Larry Markus,





Wright served as a doping control officer from 1990 to 2012, which included working three Olympic Games (London, Vancouver, and Salt Lake City). He is a professor at the University of Alabama and director of the Sports Business Management graduate program. Deere, another alumnus of MTSU’s doctorate program, is professor emeritus at Western Kentucky University. Published with two other coauthors in fall 2020, this college textbook is a comprehensive introduction to current philosophies, procedures, and practices related to the care and prevention of athletic injuries.

Even before COVID-19 redefined how people function around the world, Simpson was very aware of how people in the audio production profession are vulnerable to becoming isolated . . . depressed even. So much so that she wrote this practical book about ways to stay upbeat in a career that often entails deep concentration at a mixing board or other similarly solitary work. Forced to teach the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester online like colleagues across campus and the globe, she adapted an Audio Production lesson plan that relies almost exclusively upon hands-on experiences.

This book illuminates the rhetorical work performed by contemporary representations of a specific type of postfeminist hero who has garnered a lot of cultural capital: women who are smart, capable, physically agile and fit, and proficient with weaponry and technology. Employing critical/ cultural and feminist approaches, Chevrette and co-authors Heather Hundley and Hillary Jones engage with a range of theories including intersectionality, critical race theory, postmodernism, and posthumanism to examine a range of contemporary works, including Kill Bill, Volumes I and II; The Hunger Games films; Wonder Woman; Atomic Blonde; Proud Mary; The Bionic Woman; Deus Ex; Dark Matter; and Caprica.

Markus, whose original musical based on American history has been performed multiple times over the past decade, transformed its narrative into his debut picture book, United States History in Rhyme—A Child’s First History Book: A Must Read for All Americans. Detailing important moments in the American story, Markus uses rhyme and illustrations to educate young readers concerning the events that contributed to the establishment of this country. Markus, of Lawrenceburg, was a teacher for over 40 years.

Ken Wright,

United States History in Rhyme ­­— A Child’s First History Book: A Must Read for All Americans B.S., Agriculture (’70)

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Selling Points Entrepreneur Thom Coats prepares business students using the state’s only professional sales simulation lab by Carol Stuart “The fact that we have a sales lab puts us head and shoulders above everybody else,” Coats said. “There’s no comparison to what we’re able to do here that no other university in the state of Tennessee can do.”

“Shhh,” Thom Coats says, please don’t tell anyone that he now gets paid to coach future sales professionals at MTSU after nearly 25 years of working in new business development. First invited to speak during Ethical Leadership Week several years ago, Coats not only continued participating in other University events but also earned his M.B.A. in order to teach at the college level. He now imparts wisdom from his career experiences as a new professor of practice and director of the Insurance Group of America (IGA) Professional Sales Program at MTSU. “This is the greatest thing for a storyteller in the world,” Coats said. “I get to tell the same stories to new victims every semester.” A third-generation entrepreneur, Coats brings a world of contacts and expertise to the program and his students. He also has co-written an Amazon bestseller with a group he convened to hold Unstuck, a TEDx-style business conference, at Bridgestone Arena. “The advantage I have is that I have lived it,” he said. “You could talk about things from a textbook all day long, but when you actually can relay the story into a real-life scenario, the students will lean into it.” Each student watches “game film” with Coats to review sales practice events recorded in the Mel Adams State Farm Agent Professional Sales Lab, which simulates a client’s office.

In addition to MTSU’s proximity to the international commerce center of Nashville, the program gives students hands-on experiences by teaching a basic sales process through roleplaying and implementing customer relationship management software. For the Professional Selling class, different partners rotate through a series of scenarios in which they attempt to sell Enterprise fleet management services to the University in the lab space. Top students ultimately compete for a prize to pitch to an Enterprise representative. In the advanced course, Coats had students pitching Lee Co. and other firms to the companies' own representatives. He also has linked students with leaders in their chosen industries. One who wanted to move to New York City and work with music publications chatted with Peter Cronin, former Billboard editor who relocated to Nashville from the Big Apple. An inspiring clothier was introduced to Dean Wegner, founder and CEO of the Authentically American national brand, and now has a summer job there. Coats believes MTSU’s having many firstgeneration college students makes the sales program a game-changer. “You should make a higher-than-average income just because you have the discipline that you need to earn your degree,” Coats said. “But if I could teach these students the process of working a sale, then I could take that earning potential and possibly double or triple it and change family trees.” MTSU

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Collage: A Journal of Creative Expression is a biannual publication of MTSU’s Honors College. Each semester a student-led committee receives entries of creative work, such as art, photography, short stories, essays, short plays, song lyrics, poetry, audio, and video from students and recent alumni.

Man of the People Photography

Timothy White

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Hair Like Mine Painting

Jordyn Hall

Red Skies at Night Traveler’s Delight Digital art

Leo Bedsole

Things + Feelings by Emma Bradley There is a lone crow sitting on the wire outside my house, And I’m sure he has not noticed me the way I have noticed him. There is a leaky faucet crying out into silence, And I’m sure there is no one to turn it off. Do you ever think of it all? The sound of someone you love, Walking down the stairs in slippers. You know it is them before you see them. Think of it all, The crow, the faucet, the floor, the slippers, the sound on the stairs. Some things are alone, and some things are broken, And some things are warm, warm, warm like hot chocolate, And as sweet, too. The crow is only ever a crow, but I still think it is lonely. The faucet is only ever a faucet, but I still think its heart aches. The stairs are only ever stairs, but sometimes they are excited by The sound of you coming home. When I think of it all, I feel it all.


Drawing (Prismacolor pencils on black paper)

Jillian DeGrie

The Earth is a Woman

Acrylic, oils, pastel, handwoven canvas, gesso

Keisha Lambert Summer 2021 17


Old School A look back at MTSU’s past from our photo archives— The University opened Sept. 11, 1911, with Kirksey Old Main, Rutledge Hall, and a dining hall (Tom Jackson Building now), pictured here c. 1933 with Wiser-Patten, Jones Hall, Lyon Hall, and the first library.


New School

photo by J. Intintoli

Over 30 academic buildings and counting— Taylor Cathey studies in MTSU’s new Academic Classroom Building, which houses Psychology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice Administration.

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story by Gina Fann and Carol Stuart with photos by Andy Heidt and J. Intintoli

Chris Young Café celebrates entertainer’s gifts to his alma mater and provides a practice lab for students Multiplatinum recording artist Chris Young hasn’t forgotten his roots as a former student at MTSU or as someone who grew up in Murfreesboro. While Young’s latest hit pays homage to his “Famous Friends” back in Rutherford County—the football hero, the “life of every party,” a sheriff, a preacher, the teacher of the year— the singer-songwriter continues to invest in students following in his footsteps at his hometown university. Young even performed the song live for the first time when he christened the stage at the new Chris Young Café on campus in January. Continuing to serve as a benefactor to MTSU, Young donated $50,000 to turn the former dining facility into a College of Media and Entertainment learning lab by day and a live entertainment venue by night. An eye-catching “Famous Friends” mural and a Tennessee Music Pathways tourism marker also were unveiled outside the café at the livestreamed grand opening. “I studied jazz, I studied . . . how to sing in multiple languages,” Young said, “and . . . I wouldn’t have the breadth of musical knowledge that I do, sing the way I do, and know some of the people that I know, if not for this University.” Inside the facility, students will learn skills from nearly every facet of entertainment: music business, audio production, songwriting, venue management, sound reinforcement, and lighting and rigging. The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project, a major donor to MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, also gave $10,000 for a Daniels/Young scholarship for veterans. Young has maintained his True Blue ties since his time at MTSU in 2005. He donated touring audio equipment in 2012 and funded a Recording Industry scholarship in 2016. A famous friend, indeed. MTSU

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From dining hall to performance hall • $50,000 donation by Chris Young • 4,096 airy square feet of expanded space • custom LED video wall for Media Arts • state-of-the-art audio and lighting control boards • 2 club-style seating areas and a VIP-type zone • performance venue and teaching/rehearsal space • mics, soundboards, amps, and more from Young’s tours • 240 capacity • opened as Woodmore cafeteria in 1963 • reopened as the Cyber Café in 1999

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Young accomplishments • 3 billion+ on-demand streams • 13 million singles sold • 11 career No. 1 singles • 28 gold and platinum records • RCA Nashville country artist • Grand Ole Opry member • 2 Grammy nominations

“ The Chris Young Café will encourage our students to dream bigger.”

— MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee

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Tennessee Music Pathways now has two heritage markers on campus—with the other at MTSU’s Center for Popular Music.

Generations Before Young’s mother, Becky Harris (’84), an MTSU alumna and MTSU Foundation board member, is involved in the music business as founding partner at HuskinsHarris Business and was awarded an honorary Recording Industry professorship at the grand opening. Young’s grandfather, Richard Yates, performed on the Louisiana Hayride.

“ Whether they are musicians, comedians, entertainers, people who

want to . . . engineer and produce, videographers, photographers, anything, I hope everyone finds a use for this space.” —Chris Young

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Young and his mother, MTSU alumna and music business entrepreneur Becky Harris (’84), join University and state officials at the ribbon-cutting in front of the “Famous Friends” mural. Professor Leslie Haines (Visual Communication) designed the artwork in collaboration with colleague Jonathan Coulter Trundle (Photography).

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With an uncanny taste for Tennessee whiskey, Victoria Eady Butler (’85) finally follows in the footsteps of her underheralded great-great-grandfather story by Skip Anderson and photography by Andy Heidt

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Victoria Eady Butler’s mother is a lifelong teetotaler. And Butler didn’t drink alcohol herself all that often until late in her college years.

1979. She has the distinction of being the first and only African American to wear the school’s homecoming queen crown.

When she did, it was likely to be a cold beer or maybe a vodka-based cocktail—that is until about 20 years ago when she started to enjoy a good dram of whiskey.

While at MTSU, Butler was busy inside the classroom and out. She played intramural sports and was active in the Black Student Union. She enjoyed church life, as she still does. And she recalls fondly working with Lance Selva, who recently stepped down as chair of MTSU’s Department of Criminal Justice Administration (CJA).

This makes it all the more surprising that Butler, a 1985 Criminal Justice Administration graduate, has a remarkable palate for noting exceptional whiskey blends from those with the slightest wisp of imbalance. But that skill wouldn’t be discovered until she was in her 50s, which led her to leave behind a successful career in criminal intelligence to become the master blender at the Nearest Green Distillery, maker of the fastest-growing whiskey brand in the history of independent distilleries in America. Butler’s story—or better said, her family’s story— runs deeper than that, though.

Badges and Barrels The fact that Butler was born in Shelbyville is a product of geographic circumstance more than anything. That’s where the hospital closest to her hometown of Lynchburg was located. Even today, the tiny Tennessee town made famous around the world by Jack Daniel Distillery has only one traffic light and no hospital. Butler was a cheerleader and homecoming queen at Moore County High School, where she graduated in

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“I was in touch with Lance quite a bit during my career in criminal intelligence, and I still have a friendship with him today,” Butler said. “He and the late Dennis Powell [former CJA professor] were influential to the path to my career.”

After graduating from MTSU, Butler has held several positions as a member of a Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. alumnae chapter. Additionally, she chaired the 2019 MTSU Black Alumni Society’s Homecoming event and was involved in 2020 planning before the coronavirus pandemic. Professionally, she quickly ascended to multiple leadership roles at the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (ROCIC) in Nashville. While there, Butler earned broad respect throughout the Southeast’s law enforcement community and served as chapter vice president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Diminutive in stature, Butler laughs easily and flashes her bright smile often—endearing qualities that might tempt some to underestimate her. Ask those who know her today and they’re apt to tell you that she is an energetic leader unintimidated by career barriers such as the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” and other archaic gender- or race-based constructs. Becoming the master blender at a distillery in the heart of middle Tennessee’s storied whiskey country is a career that she neither sought nor previously considered. In short, her new career sought her out. While at ROCIC, the potential of joining a distillery intended to carry the legacy of her great-great-grandfather, Nathan “Nearest” Green, had not crossed her mind. But Fawn Weaver, the entrepreneur who along with husband Keith would launch Nearest Green Distillery, was adamant about having a descendent of Green involved in her new company. Before Weaver blended the first bottle of Uncle Nearest, she had an intense interest in

learning everything she could about Green, whom The New York Times describes as foundational to whiskey distilling yet nearly forgotten by history. Weaver sought to learn about Green’s direct descendants, which led her to Butler and her eight brothers and sisters.

A Not-Forgotten History “I’ve always known about Nearest,” Butler said. “My grandmother shared his story with me when I was a young girl growing up in Lynchburg. I always knew what his contribution was and who he was, but I never considered working in the spirits industry.” Green was born into slavery in 1820 in Maryland and at some point— the details aren’t documented —was relocated to Lincoln County in an area later rezoned as Lynchburg. Even as a young enslaved worker, Green was highly regarded for his skills as a distiller. As a boy, Jack Daniel—yes, the same Jack Daniel whose name would become synonymous with premium whiskey—trained under Green, who was rented out by Dan Call, a preacher who was also a distiller.

The same Jack Daniel whose name would become synonymous with premium whiskey trained under Nearest Green. Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Green was by Daniel’s side when he launched his famous Lynchburg distillery. Green would later perfect the Lincoln County Process, a unique charcoal filtering method required by law to be labeled "a Tennessee whiskey." “When Jack Daniel Distillery opened in 1866, Green was its first ‘master distiller’ on record,” Butler said. “He was also the first African American [in the country] to be a master distiller.” Garden & Gun magazine once wrote that “while Green’s contributions were well known by his ancestors and among the local community, his story largely disappeared from the wider world, and Green never got his full due.”

Blending In Butler is also a woman of firsts. Recruited by Weaver to play a central role in her entrepreneurial dream of elevating Uncle Nearest whiskey to prominence, she has evolved to become the first-known African American woman to serve as master blender in the modern spirits industry. Summer 2021 31

The distinction between the two (distiller and blender) is largely science vs. art. A master distiller oversees all of the processes involved in turning corn and water into a spirit. A master blender ensures the mix of the final product, which is typically a blend from multiple barrels each with distinct attributes, is rigidly consistent to a particular flavor profile. Butler’s responsibility is to oversee all the blends at Uncle Nearest. In particular, she is the curator of the 1884 expression, named in homage of the year that Green last put whiskey in a barrel. Her blend sold out almost immediately after the first batch was released and won numerous awards at international competitions.

Becoming the master blender at a distillery in . . . storied whiskey country is a career that she neither sought nor previously considered. “Nearest’s blood runs through my veins,” Butler said. “I am damn good at blending whiskey, which was inherited from a man I never met. “We started winning awards right out of the gate with the 1884 expression. After the second batch I curated, I was elevated to be the master blender. I am honored for the privilege of doing it. I’ve always enjoyed making cocktails.” Under Butler’s administration, Uncle Nearest whiskeys have already won 125 total awards in the distillery’s three-year history. NBC’s Al Roker even showed up last year to share Butler’s and the Nearest Green story on the Today show.

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“I’m proud of my part in making a product that’s available in every state of the country and that my name is on the back of it,” Butler said.

Purpose and Passion Housed on the grounds of a repurposed and renovated horse farm in Shelbyville, Nearest Green produces three varieties of Tennessee whiskey named after significant years in Green’s life: • 1820, the distillery’s single-barrel product, is the year Nearest was likely born. • 1856, the distillery’s premier aged whiskey, references the year Green perfected the Lincoln County Process. • 1884, Butler’s aforementioned special blend, represents the final year he put whiskey in a barrel. After setting aside barrels she tasted and thought were superior over the past few years, Butler recently released a new Master Blend, which has already won several international awards. “I have to give thanks to Fawn Weaver for opening a passion I didn’t realize was there,” she said. Butler’s gratitude also is well expressed in the form of helping others in her family succeed. In addition to her responsibilities as master blender, Butler serves as the director of administration for the Nearest Green Foundation, which supports a collegiate scholarship program for Green’s direct descendants. The scholarship includes a full ride all the way through a doctorate if that’s what the student desires. Meanwhile, Butler continues her second career in carrying on her ancestor’s whiskey-making tradition— and spreading his name far and wide. “The Lord opened a door that I had no idea would come about,” Butler summed up. “I’m grateful for where I am and the journey that got me here.” MTSU

Summer 2021 33

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MTSU undergraduates spearhead adventurous interdisciplinary research venture to colonize the red planet by Allison Gorman and photography by Andy Heidt


Considering how COVID-19 turned higher education upside down, you’d think 2020 would have been a bad year for the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to launch a multidisciplinary undergraduate research project like no one at MTSU had tried before. Then again, maybe a pandemic that forced us to reengineer our most basic routines (how we teach our kids, get our food, do our jobs, travel safely) was the perfect context for the Blue Mars Initiative. It made the project’s overarching question—How can humans make Mars habitable?— seem less theoretical, more necessary. Perhaps even urgent. The fact that David Butler came up with the idea in 2017, back when our Earthly ways of doing things appeared to be working pretty well, makes him seem prescient now. But thinking ahead is part of his job as vice provost of research. “My goal is to take MTSU from where it is now as a research institution and into the future in a very aggressive way in terms of grant funding,” he said. “People who fund grants fund solid, innovative, creative, forward-looking ideas that have social relevance.” Butler chose the topic, based loosely on author Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy about terraforming and colonizing Mars, because it touches every academic discipline—not only science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but also language, art, communication, business, and government. “The more you explore Mars and humanity, the more you understand Earth and humanity. It’s an interesting byproduct,” he said. “Every time we think about a human being on Mars, whether they’re eating, sleeping, partying, reproducing, creating art, sitting in jail, whatever it is, you think about how that’s different on Earth, and it makes you look at Earth and our social systems—our engineered systems, our type of humanity or our lack thereof—in a new way. Because you have to question everything.”

Terraforming (literally, “Earth-shaping”) of a planet, moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography, or ecology to be similar to those of Earth to make it habitable by humans. Source: Webster’s New World College Dictionary

photo illustration by Brian Evans Summer 2021 35

Luke Gormsen

Commencing Takeoff Butler originally geared the Blue Mars Initiative for faculty members and doctoral students, but most of them were already committed to multiyear research. So in late 2019, he opened the project to undergraduates as part of MTSU’s Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity (URECA) program, which offers grants for extracurricular scholarship. “What I realized is that those who are the most enthusiastic and would bring probably the most innovative ideas to bear in a more creative, forward-thinking way were undergraduates,” he said. The first adventurer was then-freshman Luke Gormsen, an Aerospace Technology major from Brentwood. Gormsen says he knew coming into college that he needed to do research, “but I had no idea what that was going to look like or where I needed to start.” He contacted Jamie Burriss, who facilitates the URECA program, saying he wanted to do research and needed a faculty mentor. Burriss contacted Butler. “Jamie said, ‘There's this guy . . . ‘ and my answer was ‘yes,‘ ” Butler said.

Katelin MacVey

Gormsen liked the idea too. “I didn’t really know what that was going to look like either, but I thought, ‘Hey, the more people the better.’ ” He started thinking of a second project, and he picked up a second major, Physics, for good measure.

Virtual Travelers The Blue Mars URECA team had to hold its first meeting via Zoom. But that was no problem given the casual nature of their collaboration. “We created our own assignments, and we’re working on them; but we’re more than happy to talk to each other about them and offer assistance if it’s needed, or if someone needs an extra hand in research, things like that,” said team member Katelin MacVey (’21), an Honors student from Nashville and recent graduate. She’s been writing a novella about a three-year, sixmember mission to Mars. Her primary research involves reading a dozen books, including the Robinson trilogy, geographical manuals of Mars, and an official manual for astronauts on the mental health effects of space travel.

During the Spring 2020 semester, Gormsen researched the logistics related to moving terrain on Mars—specifically, how to modify the hydraulics of a Caterpillar excavator to survive space flight and Martian conditions.

“I’m exploring what it would be like to psychologically and psychiatrically experience that pervasive, deep blackness of space away from Earth,” she said. “We are an Earthspecific species. We’ve sent people off the planet, but they’ve always been able to see it. I’m interested in what happens when they no longer can.”

The project was “excellent,” Butler said. When Burriss proposed a team URECA project focused on Blue Mars, Butler loved the idea.

Writing fiction, particularly fantasy, was just a longtime passion for MacVey when she transferred to MTSU from community college in 2018. She’d always been a STEM kid,

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Jared Frazier

Winton Cooper

and she enrolled as an Animal Science major. But she switched to English halfway through her junior year.

the data analysis technique he’ll use for this URECA project to chemistry, finance, just about anything.

“I promised myself that if I’m going to go to college and I’m going to pay for it, I might as well do something that I enjoy,” she said. “I’m also a German and Photography minor—because where else am I going to learn these skills?”

“It’s a transferrable skill, which is really what I was interested in, especially considering the instability of the world as it pertains to the pandemic,” he said.

Of the team’s recent four projects, MacVey’s is the only creative one. Her left brain’s a little rusty, she says; she plans to run the highly technical details past her teammates. “I love space and astronomy and all that stuff,” she said, “but physics and astrophysics are way above my head.”

Question Everything Quantum dots fall into the highly technical category, so we’re grateful that Jared Frazier moved along from that topic—the focus of his last URECA project, for which he won a prestigious two-year Goldwater Scholarship— to a new topic for Blue Mars. Frazier, from Spring Hill, is a rising senior majoring in both Chemistry and Computer Science. This is his fourth URECA grant (“I’m going for the record,” he said). His goal is to use machine learning and six Martian years of atmospheric data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover to predict the weather on the Gale crater. Weather is a critical consideration when it comes to infrastructure that requires a certain climate and temperature. Machine learning isn’t the best way to predict the weather, Frazier says, but in the future he can apply

It touches every academic discipline—not only science, technology, engineering, and math. Unlike quantum dots, that line of thinking is easy to understand. Frazier already saw two plum research opportunities vaporize in 2020—a fully funded summer at the Helmholtz Institute in Germany, and his backup plan, materials research at New York University in Manhattan, funded by the National Science Foundation. He needed any further opportunities to be sustainable, something he could do remotely if necessary. Blue Mars filled the bill. “I’d heard about the Blue Mars Initiative, and I’m really into mathematics and statistics and quantitation, so I thought, ‘Okay, what can I do with that?’ ” Frazier is also into poetry and music and theater—as in he writes poetry, plays guitar and piano, and performs, most recently in Ride the Cyclone at MTSU. In choosing a major, he made a calculation similar to MacVey’s but landed on the other side. For the purposes of Blue Mars, he could do a lot with those subjects, too. (What is language like in isolation? How does sound transmit through Martian air?)

Summer 2021 37

“Suggesting that we would only do engineering and science stuff, and not write or sing or listen to music or paint or build aesthetic structures, that’s just not who we are as human beings,” Butler said.

Cashing In . . . or Checking Out Human beings also are interested in making money wherever they can, including outer space. Privatization is rapidly changing the model of space travel. “SpaceX wants to get us to Mars by some kind of vehicle by 2024, and NASA wants to get to the moon again by 2024,” Gormsen said. “Whether either of those expectations is realistic doesn’t really matter. It shows you who’s leading at this point, which is private commercial companies.” His Blue Mars project involves identifying Martian landing spots that would be commercially attractive. He says his

list will almost certainly look different than the list of ideal landing spots NASA put together 10 years ago. “NASA doesn’t have the threat of going bankrupt if things don’t pan out. They tend to do things a lot more slowly and tediously, with a lot of testing,” Gormsen said. “And then what they want when they get to Mars can look different from what a commercial company wants. NASA might choose an area with a lot of geology spots that they want to look at. Well, a space company that’s worried about turning a profit, somehow someway, is not going to be intrigued by that.” For rising senior Winton Cooper, nothing about Blue Mars is purely academic. Climate change is already ravaging his native Bahamas with increasingly intense hurricanes. The commonwealth is projected to be 80% underwater within 100 years. For Bahamians, the concept of having to abandon home for an alien landscape is not theoretical. Neither is the Sisyphean challenge of pushing back against a hostile environment. When Cooper describes his URECA project, it feels personal:

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“My specific focus is whether it would be feasible for scientists and future colonists to go to Mars and attempt to terraform, or make Mars lifelike, when space weather events continue to beat Mars and basically dial back the clock on any progress made.” It’s a STEM project, although it sounds rhetorical. To gauge the feasibility of terraforming, he’s analyzing seven years of spacecraft data and professional research on specific space weather events. And Cooper’s a STEM guy, or at least that’s how he envisioned himself when he came to MTSU to study Aerospace Technology. But during orientation, he switched to Environmental Science. That’s where he found his passion—and a lot of unanswered questions.

Definitely Not Rhetorical Questions “We need real change—yesterday,” Cooper said. “And the only things that drive actionable change are grassroots campaigning, nonprofit organizations, and policymaking.” Cooper got his first taste of policymaking in high school, as a member of the Bahamas Youth Parliament. He has continued down that path in college, serving on five University committees and as incoming president and former executive vice president of MTSU’s Student Government Association. He wants to experience as much as he can at MTSU and then travel abroad, always cognizant of his mission to take what he learns back to the Bahamas. No matter how far they go, travelers carry their home base with them. MTSU

“What does the world do when a country disappears? What happens to a sovereign people when their land is made uninhabitable because of the environment? What does environmental refugeeism look like 50 years from now?”

The concept of having to abandon home for an alien landscape is not theoretical.

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Tech Talent MTSU is the No. 1 supplier to the high-in-demand tech sector in the middle Tennessee market, where Oracle’s $1.2 billion hub joins new Amazon and Facebook centers. MTSU’s annual number of graduates in the computer science, data science, and information systems and technology fields even exceeds the eight area institutions combined that rank third through 10th.

High-tech grads 229 MTSU 38.9% 147 Vanderbilt 25.0% Others combined 37.1%

Annual tuition/fees





All jobs


median salary Nashville MSA

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Software developers*


median salary *includes software quality assurance analysts and testers

Tech grads from other area schools Market %



Volunteer State CC




Tennessee State




Austin Peay State




Nashville State CC




Columbia State CC

















Annual openings


Jobs in the area


Job growth

Area degree % Associate Bachelor's Master's Doctorate

18.2% 63.5% 17.0% 1.4%

Sources: Amy Harris, graduate program director,

MTSU high-tech majors

Department of Information Systems and Analytics,



Computer Science



Information Systems



Information Technology



Data Science



MTSU (based on 2018–19 data); MTSU 2020 Fact Book

Summer 2021 41


A look at recent awards, events, and accomplishments at MTSU compiled by Stephanie Barrette, Gina E. Fann, Jimmy Hart, Gina K. Logue, Drew Ruble, and Randy Weiler

Steady Leadership Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU’s 10th president, recently marked his 20th year of leading the University. McPhee has presided over one of the most remarkable periods of growth and progress in the institution’s century-plus years of service. During his tenure, the University has grown in both student numbers and physical facilities, with today’s campus hosting more than 22,000 students, covering almost 1,000 acres, and benefiting from over $1 billion in construction and renovation. Among those projects is MTSU’s state-of-the-art Science Building, a 250,000-square-foot teaching and research facility that opened in fall 2014 with a cost of $147 million, including renovation of Davis and Wiser-Patten science facilities. It represented the largest single investment by the state for an academic building. Since McPhee’s arrival, MTSU has successfully raised admission standards and significantly increased enrollment of high-ability students. McPhee also has overseen the addition of almost 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, two colleges (Behavioral and Health Sciences and University College), and more than a dozen institutes and centers.

More Than a Mere Slogan 2021 marks the 10-year anniversary of the slogan “I am True Blue.” MTSU is a community committed to learning, growth, and service— values the University holds dear—and the simple phrase “I am True Blue” has become the mantra that conveys those values. New students at Convocation take the True Blue Pledge. It underscores MTSU’s core values of honesty and integrity; respect for diversity; engagement in the community; and committing to reason, not violence. These words express not only the ideals the University wishes to share with its students but also its devotion to student success. The True Blue Pledge was written by a task force appointed by MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee in 2011. Coming after the tragic death of Lady Raider basketball player Tina Stewart, the pledge encouraged nonviolent conflict resolution within the student body.

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Bringing Home the Gold Two MTSU graduates won Grammy gold for helping create 2021 best country album Wildcard by Miranda Lambert. In fact, Department of Recording Industry alumnus Jason A. Hall (’00) and Audio Production grad Jimmy Mansfield (’14) almost could’ve bet the house on this year’s country album category, thanks to their teamwork on three of the five nominees. Along with Lambert’s winning effort, announced from Los Angeles’ Staples Center, engineer Hall and assistant engineer Mansfield also were part of the crews nominated for Brandy Clark’s Your Life is a Record and Ashley McBryde’s Never Will. A third MTSU-trained pro, Audio Production graduate Jeff Braun (’12), was Hall and Mansfield’s friendly countryalbum competition. His mixing work on the project The Secret Sisters by Ingrid Andress, Lady Like, earned him a Grammy nomination. After the March 14 ceremony, the number of MTSU-connected Grammy winners since 2001 has risen to 13 with a total of 33 Grammys, including eight repeat recipients, in categories from classical to pop to country to gospel. Whether they created the words or captured the music, MTSU alumni’s work stood out throughout the 63rd annual Grammy Awards. School of Music alumnus and producer/songwriter Wayne Haun (’00) competed against himself again with recognition for three of the five best roots gospel album nominees in a repeat of the 2018 Grammys ceremony. Former student and multi-Grammy winner Lecrae Moore, known professionally as Lecrae, was back in the golden circle for two new efforts: nominations for best contemporary Christian music performance, “Sunday Morning,” with gospel icon Kirk Franklin, and a best gospel performance/song co-writing nod for “Come Together” for Rodney Jerkins Presents: The Good News. Music Business alumna Laura Rogers (’09) and her sibling, Lydia Slagle, who perform as The Secret Sisters, were nominated for two Grammys: best folk album for their fourth release, Saturn Return, and for writing a best American roots song on it, “Cabin.” And former student Hillary Scott and her bandmates in Lady A were nominees for best country duo/group performance for their song “Ocean.”

Filling the Gap The General’s Fund, administered by MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, helped MTSU graduate student Keyann Reaves, a Jackson native and military dependent, continue her education as she works to become a pediatrician. Reaves, who sought her degree at MTSU through her father’s GI Bill benefits, was the first student to receive support from the fund. Created in partnership with the Nashville Predators professional hockey club, the fund helps student veterans and military dependents at MTSU whose educational benefits have either expired or been exhausted. MTSU proudly serves more than 1,100 militaryconnected students, yet about 20% of them no longer have the educational benefits that were earned through service to our country.

Summer 2021 43


Happy Returns

Industry Titans Several MTSU graduates were nominated for awards at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Michael Hardy (’13), a graduate from the Commercial Songwriting program who uses only his last name professionally, was nominated as the ACM songwriter of the year for the second time. Jason A. Hall (’00), a Recording Industry alumnus, was nominated in the audio engineer of the year category. The ACM 2019 audio engineer of the year, Recording Industry alum F. Reid Shippen (’94), was nominated for the top engineer award again this year for engineering Miranda Lambert’s single of the year entry, “Bluebird.” Audio Production grad Jimmy Mansfield (’14) served as assistant engineer for two ACM-nominated albums: the Brothers Osborne’s new Skeletons and Ashley McBryde’s acclaimed Never Will. Hillary Scott, a former MTSU student and new scholarship creator, was on the ACM’s 2021 list twice: for group of the year with her longtime partners in the band Lady A, and in the event of the year category as part of an ensemble featured on Thomas Rhett’s “Be a Light.”

When Kathleen Schmand was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, her father invited her to spend Thanksgiving with him in Murfreesboro, telling her she had to see MTSU during her visit. Schmand’s father, a Navy veteran, had moved to Murfreesboro in 1995 because of his interest in the area’s Civil War history and access to the Alvin C. York Veterans Administration Medical Center. As of January, Schmand is the new dean of MTSU’s James E. Walker Library following a nationwide search. She comes to MTSU from Northern Arizona University, where she had been director of development and communications for that institution’s library since 2006.

Distilling It Down In 2020, MTSU turned to a Nashville distillery to provide personal-size bottles of hand sanitizer for students returning to its on-campus residence halls. Big Machine Distillery produces premium, handcrafted spirits led by a signature vodka and now makes hand sanitizer that is sold nationwide. It provided MTSU with 6,000 50-milliliter bottles at a reduced rate, each branded with a special label featuring the Lightning mascot. The spirits maker is associated with Nashville-based Big Machine Label Group, which Billboard magazine called the No. 1 independent record label in the world. Discussions are ongoing regarding ways the music label could provide future opportunities for students in the University’s College of Media and Entertainment. “Partnering with MTSU is a natural fit for our brand and our label’s relationship with the college,” said Scott Borchetta, president and CEO of Big Machine Label Group.

On the Wing MTSU and the 118th Wing of the Tennessee Army National Guard signed an agreement in November 2020 to collaborate in research of unmanned aircraft systems operations and computer science. The mission of the 118th Wing, based in Nashville, is to provide the U.S. Air Force with persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat capability, as well as support in Tennessee during times of emergency.

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Show of Support

Matt Crews (l), retired Lt. Gen. Keith Huber and Provost Mark Byrnes

The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix’s “Freedom Friday” concert Aug. 6 will include a roster of artists performing to raise money for MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center and other veterans causes. Grand Prix CEO Matt Crews, an MTSU alumnus, and retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives, announced the partnership from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry during the sold-out Opry Salute the Troops show. Singer Chris Young, a former MTSU student, headlined the Opry that night and included a tribute to country music legend Charlie Daniels, who died in 2020. MTSU’s Concrete Industry Management program also has partnered with the Aug. 8 IndyCar race.

Highly Decorated MTSU Board of Trustees member Christine Karbowiak Vanek was awarded The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for her contribution to promoting friendly relations and mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S. The government of Japan announced the conferment of decoration in April 2020. Karbowiak Vanek (pictured second from right) recently retired as chief administrative officer, chief risk officer, executive vice president, and board vice chair of Bridgestone Americas and as executive officer and executive vice president with Bridgestone Corp. She was a founding member of the Japan America Society of Tennessee (JAST) and later served as the organization’s board chair (2010–14). Key milestones during her long tenure with JAST include hosting the 2010 Southeast U.S./Japan and Japan-U.S. Southeast associations annual joint meeting in Nashville; helping establish the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival; and raising nearly $200,000 for victims of the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011.

True Blue Cameo As first reported by MTSU student news outlet Sidelines, early in Coming 2 America—the sequel to the 1988 hit that made Eddie Murphy a star— MTSU is mentioned twice, and its name is seen on a digital billboard outside of Madison Square Garden before a fictional game between MTSU and St. John’s University. A character in the movie states, “Come on, Middle Tennessee State! Come on y’all—they got a 7-foot-5 center. Catch him before his knees pop.” MTSU is also mentioned a second time, and a clip of the digital billboard appears for a few seconds. Director Craig Brewer, a native of Memphis, is credited with writing MTSU into the script.

Summer 2021 45



Stunning Returns A team of business majors proved their market analysis skills are comparable to those of Wall Street veterans with stellar results in the latest TVA Investment Challenge. After starting the year with a half-million-dollar stock portfolio to manage, MTSU’s student team finished with a 24.6% return, bringing the portfolio balance to more than $623,000. The S&P 500 returned 18.4% in 2020, and over 90% of mutual funds in the U.S. fail to beat the S&P return consistently.

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

Managing Risk

Clinical Trial

MTSU business students also won the 2021 Selective Insurance College Competition, a national contest allowing future generations of insurance professionals to run virtual insurance agencies. The five-member MTSU team comprised juniors and seniors with majors in Risk Management and Insurance, Actuarial Science, and other business-related areas. Michael Stansbury, managing partner of Elite Insurance Solutions in Franklin, served as the team’s mentor.

MTSU Exercise Science researchers concluded a preliminary study of PENDL, a device that could help ease lower back pain. Users are tethered to the apparatus, which is suspended from a ceiling or other elevated point, and use muscles to spin and swing. The clinical trial showed a 76% reduction in lower back pain, a 28% improvement in back power, a 14% increase in back strength, and a 21% improvement in back flexibility.

Modern Politics

Equine Excellence

Showcase on Campus

An MTSU media graduate’s research into how social media can affect politics and voting was chosen as 2021’s best thesis by the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools. Ben Burnley earned his master’s degree from MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media almost a year ago. Now at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy in Washington, he’s working toward a master’s in Public Policy and a doctorate in American Government.

MTSU stock horse team members finished fourth overall but brought home a combined 10 championship and runner-up awards at this year’s American Stock Horse Association National Show Division 2 championship in Texas. MTSU, the 2019 champion, also earned the 2016 title. Team members are Lindsay Gilleland (pictured), Taylor Meek, JoBeth Scarlett, Jordan Dillenbeck, Rachel Petree, and Louann Braunwalder. Meek also received the Sumrall Sportsmanship Award.

MTSU’s Alumni Spring Showcase 2021 included a mix of in-person and virtual activities in April, allowing University alumni and friends to sample what’s taking place on campus. Offerings included the “I Am True Black: A History of Black Student Life and Activism” exhibit (pictured above) in James E. Walker Library; Godspell, livestreaming from Tucker Theatre; and an alumni and sculpture medallions metal pour led by associate professor Michael Baggarly.

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1970s Fay Brown (’71), Lebanon, retired after 23 years in nonprofit management and 10 years as a higher education development director. In 2010, she was named South Carolina’s Executive Director of the Year. Rick Wallace (’74), Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was named chief executive officer of Western Plains Medical Complex. A 30-year health care veteran, Wallace most recently served as assistant professor and director of health care administration programs at Northeastern State University. Ken Webb (’76), Nashville, was appointed by CapStar Bank as chair for middle Tennessee with responsibility over the bank’s middle Tennessee, southeast, and south-central regions. A founding member of CapStar, Webb has more than 44 years of banking experience, including the past 35 years in the Nashville market.

1980s Mark Floyd (’80), Nashville, joined labor and employment firm FordHarrison as a partner in the Nashville office. Floyd previously was Labor Relations Global lead for Uber, where his work took him to more than 70 countries.

Ed Stegall Stegall (’21), a two-time Ohio Valley Conference track champion, attended MTSU in the late 1970s. Now in his 60s and living in Fayetteville, Georgia, Stegall is finishing the biggest race of his life by graduating from MTSU in summer 2021. After several months of sitting at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stegall decided it felt like the right time to finish his degree. He talked to his wife, Barbara, and his daughter, Michelle, about it after being contacted by a coordinator from MTSU’s University College, and they encouraged him to go for it. “You know it’s a funny thing,” Stegall said, “you are never really sure if your kids are listening when you’re talking to them when they are growing up, but I found my daughter telling me a lot of the same things I told her when she was considering her options.” Over the last 40 years, Stegall was a track coach and worked with children who had special needs. Stegall and his wife lost their daughter LaToya, who had cerebral palsy, about seven years ago. They started a nonprofit, the TOYATUFF Foundation, to support and educate those who provide for family members or friends with special needs. Summer 2021 47

Robert S. Powell Jr. U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Powell Jr. (’91) was honored by his alma mater in April as the 17th graduate of MTSU’s Army ROTC in its 71-year history to reach the rank of general officer. Out of over 200,000 people in the Army Reserve, there are fewer than 130 general officers. Powell, who earned a degree in Political Science/International Relations, is the deputy commanding general of the 335th Signal Command in East Point, Georgia, and the Army Reserve’s first cyber officer promoted to brigadier general. Powell was recognized with the unveiling of a commemorative brick in a special ceremony at the Veterans Memorial site outside the Tom H. Jackson Building. While on campus, he talked about his cybersecurity career with MTSU Computer Science and Data Science students in the McWherter Learning Resources Center. He also toured the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center. Powell was promoted from colonel to the one-star rank of brigadier general during a ceremony on Dec. 15, 2020, at Fort Gordon, Georgia. With the promotion, Powell now serves as the deputy commanding general, cyber, of the 335th Signal Command (Theater). Powell, who came to MTSU from Shelbyville Central High School, started his Army career as an armor officer with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and joined the Army Reserve in 2004 as a military intelligence officer.

ARE YOU A VETERAN? MTSU wants to continue to honor and work for our veterans. Please make sure you are on our roll. Update your veteran status at

Karen Hughes Collins (’81), Dandridge, was elected to the board of directors of the Tennessee Aviation Association. She is an active general aviation advocate, an Airport Support Network volunteer for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and a member of Women in Aviation International, the Experimental Aircraft 48 MTSU Magazine

Association, and The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots. Gregory D. Smith, (’85), Clarksville, was sworn in as a justice for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Court of Appeals. Smith took the oath of office via the internet while flying on a jet between Dallas and

Nashville, which appears to be the first onboard swearing in of a public official on a Dallas jet since Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office as president of the United States on Air Force One in Dallas in 1963.

1990s Randy Hickerson (’90), Hermitage, a 32-year Metro

Nashville Police Department veteran, was appointed commander of the Hermitage Precinct. He most recently oversaw the department’s Warrants Division. J. Mitchell Miller (’90, ’91), Brentwood, was awarded the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) Founders Award, which is

presented for outstanding service to the organization and the profession. He is one of only six scholars to receive all three top awards from the ACJS. Angela Bailey (’91), Mount Juliet, was named principal of McGavock High School. She was principal of Stanford Montessori Elementary School in Donelson for the past three years. Sonya Reed Davis (’91), Kansas City, Missouri, was promoted to vice president over Landmark Health’s Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri Region. Harmon Hunsicker (’92), Goodlettsville, was appointed as a commander to oversee the Interpersonal Crimes Branch of the Metro Nashville Police Department. He most recently directed operations of the Forensic Services Division, based at the department’s crime lab, and is a former director of training. Erika L. Matthews McJimpsey (’92), Moore, South Carolina, was elected to the Spartanburg County Foundation’s board of trustees for a term of seven years. She currently serves as the chief municipal judge for the city of Spartanburg, where she started the first Homeless Court in upstate South Carolina. McJimpsey is the first African American to hold the position of municipal judge for the city of Spartanburg. In 1996, she was hired as

the first African American female prosecutor for the 7th Judicial Circuit and worked as the circuit’s first full-time domestic violence prosecutor. She also previously served as an attorney for the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. Dr. Robert “Glenn” Richey, (’92), Auburn, Alabama, was recently appointed chair of the newly created Department of Supply Chain Management in the Harbert College of Business at Auburn University. Richey, the Raymond J. Harbert Eminent Scholar in Supply Chain Management since May 2015, also recently was named as co-editor in chief of the Journal of Business Logistics. His five-year term as co-editor began in October 2020. Michelle Duke (’94), Manassas, Virginia, was named chief diversity officer of the National Association of Broadcasters. She continues in her current role as president of the NAB Leadership Foundation (NABLF). Mark Gonyea (’94, ’11), Murfreesboro, was appointed principal for the new Plainview Elementary School. Gonyea has more than 25 years of experience in the education field. Patricia Jean (’94, ’13), Fayetteville, was named principal of Fayetteville Middle School.

Mark A. Roberts Roberts (’92, ’95), who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from MTSU, recently was named the 21st president of Reinhardt University. After his MTSU studies, Roberts completed a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies in the humanities at the Union Institute and University. His scholarly publications and presentations focus on Appalachian cultural identity and American poetry. Previously, Roberts served as Reinhardt’s provost, executive vice president, and interim president. Founded in 1883, Reinhardt University, located in Waleska in the heart of Georgia’s high country, is a private, comprehensive institution grounded in the liberal arts and affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Summer 2021 49


You too can create a scholarship or legacy gift through your will MTSU has partnered with FreeWill to offer you the ability to write your legally binding will. Take 25 minutes and use the FreeWill online tool—free of charge— to write your will and plan for the future!

Get started at For questions about charitable giving to MTSU, contact Pat Branam, Director of Development, or 615-904-8409

Darryl Anderson (’97), Clarksville, was hired as the director of information technology for the city of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Chad Colwell (’97), Smithville, was promoted to DeKalb County market leader at Wilson Bank & Trust. Coldwell has been with Wilson Bank & Trust for 20 years, serving in various lending and managerial roles that have contributed to the continued growth of the bank’s Alexandria and Smithville offices. Most recently, he served as a vice president managing the office in Smithville. 50 MTSU Magazine

Margie Hughes (’97), Murfreesboro, was recently voted vice president of the board of North American Transportation Services Association, a nonprofit association of professionals providing services (tax filings, permits, driver screenings, licensing, etc.) to the transportation industry in the U.S. and Canada. Tina Hutchens (’97), Murfreesboro, has been named the school nutrition director for Wilson County Schools. Chuck Bibeau (’98), Franklin, transferred to

Bank OZK as senior vice president specializing in residential, commercial, and development lending. Bibeau has more than 23 years of commercial lending experience in the middle Tennessee market. Jenny Slayton (’98), Prospect, was promoted to senior vice president for quality, safety, and risk prevention for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

2000s Brooke Barrett (’01), Franklin, joined Barge Design Solutions Inc. as a

client service leader for the middle Tennessee area. Barrett has more than 20 years’ experience as a communications and client relations professional, mostly recently working with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, where she served as director of external affairs. Kristen Stirling (’01), Nashville, founded Tennessee Telederm PLLC in November 2020. Telederm is the first telehealth company of its kind in Tennessee, focusing on the diagnosis and

treatment of skin conditions by virtual appointment. Stirling previously spent 13 years working at a large multi-specialty dermatology practice in Nashville, as well as in the burn unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Scott Butler (’02), Franklin, was promoted to deputy chief for the Franklin Police Department. Butler has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience with the Franklin and Smithville police departments. Clark Christian (’02), Nashville, was named marketing director for the Thomas Nelson Bible group. He brings more than 16 years of publishing and marketing experience, most recently working in product marketing for health care education company PESI, where he managed the launch of over 20 educational products, which included tailored marketing campaigns for both print and digital. Kyle Gilliland (’02), Goodlettsville, was named assistant principal of White House High School. Gilliland has more than 18 years in the education field. Jonathon Doss (’03), Bowling Green, Kentucky, co-founded Sublime Media Group, specializing in video production, web, and digital advertising, in 2011. Heather B. Fach (’03), La Vergne, accepted a new position at HCA in Nashville within the Education and

Digital Initiatives department as a digital librarian. In her new role, Fach works to connect individuals and businesses with information and emerging technologies. Nikki Brown (’05), O’Fallon, Illinois, is director of Odessa College’s Law Enforcement Training Academy. Brown has served in law enforcement 12 years with the St. Louis County Police Department and the O’Fallon Police Department. Aaron Marcavitch (’05), Greenbelt, Maryland, was named executive director of Connecticut Landmarks. With more than 15 years of leadership and historic preservation experience, Marcavitch has led Maryland Milestones/Anacostia Trails Heritage Area since 2010. John “Matt” Perry (’05), Franklin, was promoted to colonel in the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security in December 2020. Prior to his promotion, Perry served as executive officer to the colonel, where he oversaw the Support Services Division, which includes Fleet and the Tennessee Advanced Communications Network (TACN). Charles “Wes’ Taylor (’05), Watertown, was promoted to an expanded role at Wilson Bank & Trust that includes oversight of the bank’s consumer and small business lending operations. He also will continue his role as regional president of the eastern portion of the bank’s service area.

Lexie Phillips In spring 2021, the Jack Daniel Distillery named Phillips (’11) assistant distiller, making her the first woman to serve in that official capacity for the iconic Tennessee whiskey brand. Phillips, who earned her degree in Agribusiness, now serves as a collaborator with Jack Daniel’s master distiller, Chris Fletcher. Phillips, who has worked in Lynchburg for more than seven years, previously was instrumental in Jack Daniel’s quality control and distillery operations, most recently serving as distillery lead operator. In her new role, she supports the overall quality and innovation of Jack Daniel’s from “grain to glass.” Phillips played a pivotal role in the distillation and launch of the recently released Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye.

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Heather Robertson Robertson (’01) is the Nashville Zoo’s director of veterinary services. The Madison native started her career at the Nashville Zoo as an avian keeper after receiving her Bachelor of Science from MTSU. From there, she earned her D.V.M. from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, then worked in private practice for four years while interning at the zoo. Her passion for protecting animals has taken her around the world by way of the zoo’s various conservation programs.

Rachel Carden (’06), Beechgrove, joined the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance as director of investor education for the securities division. Carden has 17 years of financial institution experience and most recently served as assistant vice president of marketing for Ascend Federal Credit Union.

is currently working to build support for funding robust multimodal transit in middle Tennessee. Dauphin previously helped fund social change organizations as the middle Tennessee director for Community Shares. Dauphin is also a TEDx speaker whose “What Matters Most” is available on the TEDx YouTube channel.

Jessica Dauphin (’06), Nashville, is president and CEO of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee. Dauphin has been working in middle Tennessee nonprofits since graduating from MTSU, where she helped start VOX, a nonprofit on campus. She

William “B.J.” Kerstiens Jr. (’06), Murfreesboro, was promoted to regional vice president of the Quadex Lining System division of Vortex Companies. Kerstiens has more than 17 years of experience in construction, including 12

52 MTSU Magazine

in trenchless infrastructure repair and maintenance. Elizabeth Rickman-Vaden (’06), Gallatin, is the new American Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator for Hendersonville. James A. “Jimmy” Turner (’06), Lascassas, was appointed circuit court judge for the 16th Judicial District. He is a criminal defense attorney and partner at Oliver & Turner PLLC on the downtown square in Murfreesboro. M’Lisa Miffleton (’07, ’09), Murfreesboro, was appointed assistant principal of Northfield

Elementary School. Miffleton has more than 20 years of experience in education. Kelley Cartwright (’08), Columbia, joined the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee as director of operations. Heather Jackson (’09), Franklin, was elected vice president of the Tennessee Nurses Association. She is the administrative director of advanced practice for VanderbiltIngram Cancer Center. Cary Smith (’09), Estill Springs, received his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Tennessee in

December 2020. He is now a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma. Dayton Wheeler (’09), Hermitage, an 11-year Metro Nashville Police Department veteran, was promoted to captain and now directs the operations at the Records Division. Wheeler most recently was a TITANS component supervisor in the Specialized Investigations Division. Devin Woodward (’09), Hendersonville, was named head coach of the Hendersonville High School girls soccer team.

2010s John Coffelt (’10), Tullahoma, was named editor of the Manchester Times. Zachary Litwack (’10), Murfreesboro, joined America Songwriter magazine as chief marketing officer. Most recently, he was senior director of sales and marketing at GoCheck Kids, which markets a vision testing application. James “Wes” Caldwell (’11), Lexington, Kentucky, was named athletic director at Highlands High School. Lacy Fleming Gray (’11, ’12), Chattanooga, joined Siskin Hospital’s finance department as controller responsible for managing

the month- and yearend financial close and reporting processes in addition to assisting in the oversight of daily financial operations. Justin Hart (’11), North Hollywood, California, is an NAACP Image Award-winning TV producer currently supervising The Black Report, winner of the 2021 Rhonesha Byng Award from the New York Association of Black Journalists. As part of his work with Fox Soul, Hart also helped launch Cocktails with Queens. His 12 years of experience includes professional stints with Iyanla: Fix My Life, E! News Daily Pop, and The Real. Jonathan Habart (’12), Springfield, was promoted to captive insurance section assistant director by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. He has been employed by the state of Tennessee since 2014, when he worked as an accountant for the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration. Aaron Nicholson (’12), Pleasant View, was named head coach of the boys basketball team at Cheatham County Central High School. Robert Orton (’12), Spring Hill, joined CryeLeike Real Estate Services and is affiliated with its East Nashville branch office as a licensed Realtor.

Rachael Finch (’13), Spring Hill, joined the Heritage Foundation as senior director of preservation and education. Finch is the former executive director for the Historic Franklin Masonic Hall Foundation. Matt Henry (’13), Wartrace, was named firefighter of the year by the Exchange Club of Murfreesboro for exemplary service with the Rutherford County Fire Rescue Department. Scott McCoy (’13), Fairview, is vice president and co-owner of Associated Service Companies International LLC. ASCI launched in 1999 in Anchorage, Alaska, and celebrated a 22nd anniversary in the supply chain services industry earlier this year. Sarah Poss (’14), Watertown, was promoted to assistant vice president of First Freedom Bank. Poss joined the bank as a financial services representative in 2015 and most recently held the position of Providence office manager and marketing officer. Korey Benedict (’16), Manchester, joined Dowdle Construction Group as assistant project manager. For the past three years, Benedict served as a project engineer with Alston Construction in Nashville.

Katie Smith (’16), Murfreesboro, was named head coach of the Siegel High School girls soccer team. Dereck Stewart (’17), Antioch, retired in December 2020 after 33 years of service to the state in a law enforcement capacity, including becoming the first African American colonel in Tennessee Highway Patrol history. Stewart began his career as a state trooper in Montgomery County in 1987. Aidan Black (’19), Athens, Georgia, joined Carl Marks Advisors as an associate, focusing on both Chapter 11 restructurings, and mergers and acquisitions in the energy, food/grocery, health care, insurance, media, and retail sectors.

2020s Tayla Courage (’20), Lebanon, joined the staff of the Murfreesboro Post as a news reporter. Courage worked as a reporter for MTSU’s student news outlet, Sidelines, and was part of a group of student reporters who spent four days in Iowa in 2019 covering that state’s political caucus.

Summer 2021 53


1940s Mary Howse Bennett (’46) Marianna Lane (’48) Kathleen “Tina” Hill Montgomery (’43) Earl White Sissom (’49) Mark Womack Jr. (’49)

1950s Howard Alderson (’51) Charles Anderson (’58) Ruby Tipton Armstrong (’54) Mary Bass (’53) Paul Bratten (’56) Gene Brown (’56, ’58) Johnny “Joe” Collier (’55) Devereaux “Dev” Treanor Davis (’59) James Ellis (’58) Ben Golden (’58) Margaret Bell Tucker Griffith (’53, ’57) James Haithcoat (’55) Darrell Harmon (’56, ’67) Ina Hill (’57) Martha Dickens Kidwell (’55, ’80) Richard Krenson (’58) Norma Littleton McCarroll (’53) Harriet Melson (’58) Thomas Milligan (’56) Jack O’Brien (’53) William “Wally” Robertson (’57) Jacquelyn McMurtry Schleicher (’53) Bobby Sells (’59) David A. Singer Jr. (’55) Julia Stubblefield Skinner (’57) James “Jim” Talley (’56) Lacy Noel Wakid (’57) Patricia Wilson Wix (’56) Orion Womack (’56)

1960s John R Anderson, III (’61) Kitty Mathis Baldwin (’68, ’72) James Barrett (’69) Stephen Beech, III (’65) Linda Williamson Bramblett (’67) John Brandon (’65) Jane Hardin Bren (’67) Mitchell Brown (’66) Thomas P. Cannon (’63, ’67)

54 MTSU Magazine

David Carmack (’69) Judith Crossland (’66) Mac “Bill” Emerson (’67) David Evetts (’63) Vera Barron George (’63) John Gorham (’68) William W Hagelgan (’69) Alvin “Brad” Harp (’67) Robert Hazel (’69) Jeff Hermsdorfer (’69) Larry Huddleston (’67) Amelia Hinds Jernigan (’60) John Johnson (’66, ’71) Larry Kimsey (’65) A. Allen Lancaster (’67) Earl Lane (’61) Bobby Lee (’60,’80) Jack Lewis, Jr., (’64) Shirley George Luna (’69) Donnie Masters (’60) James “Jimmy” McKenzie (’68) Sharon Miller Moffett (’68, ’81) Mary Alice Penney Nelms (’64) Bobby Nichols (’64) Nathan Norman (’65) Bonnie Oakberg (’67) Linda Olive (’68) Lynda Lane Paschal (’63) Johnny Pitmon (’67) Forrester Rogers (’67) William “Bill” Russell (’64) Charles Scott (’65) Dorothy Tolliver Shelton (’65) Billy Smith, Jr., (’69) Don St. John (’62) Robert Walters (’65) Billy Warden (’60) Gene Watson (’63) Don Webb (’60, ’67, ’79) William Webb (’65, ’66) Betsy Clinard White (’61) Donald White, Sr., (’69) Dillard Zumbro (’60)

1970s Retha Ashby (‘72) Patricia Bailey (’76, ’81) Herschel Bailey III (’72)

Letha Bieber (’74) Paula Bledsoe (’76) Bruce B. Ball (’70) Anne Morrell Basler (’70, ’73) Dwight Brock (’73) Earl “Danny” Buck (’72) Catherine Carey (’78) Rodney Claybrook (’70, ’71) Jimmy Crownover (’72) Joseph Davis Jr. (’73) Thomas Davis (’70) Nancy Elliott Del Principe (’75) Jimmy Dickens (’72) Stephen Driver (’71, ’72) William “Bill” Durham (’72) James Folk (’70) Theresa Fournier (’71, ’75) Lorene Adkins Francen (’70) Ewing “Marsh” Goodson II (’75) Charles Gore Sr. (’76) Donnie Graham (’72) L. Raymond Grimes (’74) James “Jim” Hicks (’75) Connie Sue Bolin Hooper (’76) Jayne Russell Jackson (’70) Hans-Dieter “Pete” Jentzsch (’74) Ellen Jordan (’73) William “Bill” Lamb (’73) Martha Lindecker (’78) Sandra Smith Lowery (’70) Connie Lyon (’71) William Mansfield (’78) Gordan Mayfield (’71) James “Lonnie” Messick (’72) Douglass Morgan (’72) William “Jody” Norris (’74) Mary Belios Oshlag (’74) James Parrott (’77) James Mason Pearson (’71) Stella Deakins Raymer (’72) Olin “Red” Robinson (’75, ’77) Stephen Searcy (’75) Robert “Bob” Senters (’77) James “Phil” Smith (’74) Margaret “Peggy” Baker Soderbom (’72) Eloise Wrice Sorrell (’75) Pauline “Polly” Scott Stanton (’74) Cheryl Myers Starnes (’72)

Jack Ross

Joe Nunley Jr.

Jack Ross (’77), of Estill Springs, worked at his alma mater for over four decades and was promoted to assistant vice president in the Division of Marketing and Communications in 2019. He died April 5 at age 73 following an extended illness. Ross served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1974 before earning his B.S. in Mass Communication/Media Studies with minors in Photography and Business from MTSU in 1977.

Joe Nunley Jr. (’69, ’74, ’80), a lifelong educator, died April 23 at Alive Hospice Hospital of Murfreesboro at age 75. Nunley remained involved at his alma mater through the Golden Raiders, Alumni Summer College, Salute to Armed Forces Committee, and the Dr. Joe Nunley Distinguished Award, named for his father.

Always passionate about the Blue Raider community, Ross lived in student housing with his young family before serving as dorm director of Sims Hall. He developed his love of photography as an intern at Nashville's WTVF-TV Channel 5, worked part time as a University photographer, and was photo editor for Sidelines. Following a brief stint at The Merrick Corp., he joined MTSU as a photographer in 1979 and became director of Photographic Services in 1982.

The younger Nunley grew up in McMinnville and graduated from Murfreesboro's Central High School. At MTSU, he was an ROTC member, served as commander of Sigma Nu, and met his wife of 49 years, the former Anna McDaris. He later returned to MTSU to earn M.Ed. and Ed.S. degrees.

In 2011, Ross was named senior director for Resource and Operations Management in MTSU’s marketing division. He also served on the Murfreesboro City Council (1992–2000).

Charles Thigpen (’70, ’75) Robert “Bob” Turman (’74) Robert “Rip” Van Vickle (’70) Deborah Prince Wade (’75) Francis Dale Walton Jr. (’70) Therese Wetmore (’77) Martha Herndon Whitefield (’79) Michael Neal Williams (’77) Nancy Spinks Williams (’72)

1980s David Adams (’83) George Adcock (’86) Wade Brewer Jr. (’83) Loren “Rick” Brown (’89) Christine Dillon (’85) Jacqueline Fluty (’86) Alice Bradshaw Gaines (’84) Adlai “Jay” Gill (’84, ’90) Jerry Griffith (’80, ’90) Thomas Helton (’81) Ralph Louis Jarrell Jr. (’81) Susan Johnson-Miller (’84) Susan Keel (’84) James “Mike” Lillard (’84) John “Bubba” Lillard (’85) John Marley (’88) Stephanie Mason (’88) Allison “Lynsey” McDonald (’84)

Nunley served in the Signal Corps and the Army reserves, then taught at Kittrell High, Oakland High, Campus School, and Riverdale High. He was named Rutherford County Teacher of the Year for 1999–2000, was recognized as Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Academy of Science, and retired in 2004 as instructional specialist for Rutherford County Schools.

Charles “Jeff” Mullins (’85) Patty Petrie Ridley (’81)

1990s Susan Terry Calvert (’91) Marilyn Hauser Castelli (’92) Monica Collins (’98) Manuel “Mickey” Conley (’97) James Denton (’97) Jean Dotson (’96) Benjamin Ezell (’95) Elizabeth Hestle Gassaway (’95) Brent Green (’97) Carina “Corey” Heimburger (’92) Timothy Hurt (’90) Susan LaFrance (’93) David Loftis (’93) Mary McCullough (’90) Barbara McInturff (’96) Brian McNeece (’94) Benson Osatile (’95) Shannon Schmidt Pappalardo (’96) Nancy Low Raines (’94) Richard Smallwood (’99) T. Craig Smith (’95) Thomas “Rusty” Smith (’98) Barbara Teichman (’99) John Westbrooks (’91) Cynthia Silk Wich (’93)

2000s Tonya Agee (’09) Angela Brown (’02) Marc Curry (’07, ’08) Christa Garcia Dill (’04) Carolyn Dodson (’00) Robert “Bobby” Doney (’05) Morris Estes (’03) Brent Green (’00) Arlyn Horn (’05) Alton “Sonny” Jowers Jr. (’00) Louis Shone III (’03) Jeremy “Tiko” Simmons (’04) Matthew Srodka (’07) Nathaniel Treat (’02) Chadwick Walls (’04)

2010s Wesley Ellis (’16) Hunter Fann (’12) Blake Hallman (’12) Whitney McCord Hubble (’12) Zachary Johnson (’10) John Neuhoff (’10) Lorie Stever (’15)

2020s Don Enss (‘20)

Summer 2021 55




We appreciate all the alumni and friends of the University who started scholarships last year to help MTSU students reach their goals. Determination Scholarship Patrick Amans

Robert F. Carlton Endowed Research Excellence Award Dr. Robert Carlton

James F. (Jim) Shoemake Endowed Scholarship American Society of Professional Estimators

Mary Calkin Scholarship Mary Calkin

Judge Don and Rita Harrison Ash Pre-Law Endowed Scholarship Judge Don and Rita Harrison Ash

Marian Lisenbee Clark Scholarship in Sociology and Anthropology Dr. Marian Clark

Asurion LLC Scholarship Asurion Insurance Services Inc.

Lassie McDonald Crowder Endowed Scholarship Lassie McDonald Crowder

Archer-Johnstone Endowed Scholarship Dr. M. Jill Austin

Ferrell Family Memorial Scholarship Tim and Glenda Dodd

David and Kathi Baggott Scholarship David Baggott

Mid-TN Chapter CPCU Excellence in Insurance Scholarship Doris Dunn, Mid-TN Chapter CPCU Excellence in Insurance

Joe Sawyer Scholarship Drew Bedsole

May Dean Eberling Education Scholarship The Eberling Charitable Foundation

Belsky Annual Psychology Scholarship Dr. Janet Belsky

May Dean Eberling Public History Scholarship The Eberling Charitable Foundation

Brian Avery Burdette Social Work Scholarship Karen Williams Burdette and Ricky Burdette

Jack Justin Turner Endowed Scholarship Friends and Family of Dr. Jack Justin Turner

Rodney Scott Butts Scholarship Lisa Butts

Friends of Liberal Arts Board Endowed Scholarship Friends of Liberal Arts Board

Aim for Archer—Brandon Archer Memorial Scholarship Dr. Joey Gray

Scales Family Nursing Scholarship Dan and Ann Scales, Amanda Scales

Andra Helton Scholarship Andy Helton

D'Ann Bragg Schmitt Scholarship Steven and Sharon Schmitt

Secondary Education Scholarship Dr. Jan Hayes and Dr. Jim Huffman

James R. and Betty Y. Scott Scholarship Mrs. Anita Smith

MT Engage Endowed Scholarship Faye Johnson and Dr. Mary Hoffschwelle

SOMSAC Study Abroad Scholarship Stephen Smith

Fermentation Science Scholarship Professor Tony Johnston

Ross and Eva Mae Spielman Scholarship Ross and Eva Mae Spielman

AFCM (AW) John P. Kelly Fund for Aviation Maintenance Donna Kelly

Wilbert Bond Sr. Scholarship Cordia Starling and Shannon Chatmon

Sgt. Michael Wesley Flatt Sr. Annual Scholarship Janet Little

Terrapin Beer Co. Scholarship Terrapin Beer Co.

McCamish Family Endowed Scholarship Dr. DeWayne and Marilyn McCamish

Terrapin “Brewing for Change” Endowment Terrapin Beer Co. and Molson Coors

Cassie Jane McPhee Scholarship Dr. Sidney A. McPhee

DDC ThreeCore Scholarship ThreeCore LLC

Edith Ann Clark Moore Endowed Scholarship Edith Ann Clark Moore

Truist COVID-19 Support Fund Truist Bank

Joe and Linda Nave Music Scholarship Linda Nave

John and Linda Vile Scholarship Dean John and Linda Vile

Joseph and Teresa Santiago Olmstead Endowed Scholarship Joseph and Teresa Olmstead

Rosalyn Ward Scholarship Rosalyn Ward

Omega Psi Phi's Myles Ridley Scholarship Omega Psi Phi Fraternity

Joe and Lori Warise Education Scholarship Joe and Lori Warise

Elliot Ozment New American Scholarship Elizabeth Ozment

Richard and Elaine Warwick Endowed Scholarship Richard and Elaine Warwick

Julia W. Powell Endowed Scholarship Judy Powell

Leniel Edwards Scholarship in Library Science Richard and Elaine Warwick

Prince Nursing Scholarship LTC Gale and Jonelle Prince

Dr. Molly Whaley Scholarship Dr. Martha Whaley

Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea Centennial Scholarship Endowment in Health Care Studies Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea

Whiting-Turner Scholarship Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea Centennial Scholarship Endowment in Honors Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea Rutherford County Centennial Scholarship Endowment Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea Dr. Elizabeth H. Rhea Women's Basketball Endowed Scholarship Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea Dr. Elizabeth H. Rhea Men's Basketball Endowed Scholarship Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea Dr. Elizabeth H. Rhea Football Endowed Scholarship Creighton and Elizabeth Hay Rhea David Patrick Richardson Memorial Scholarship James Larry and Patsy Richardson, and Lorie Anne Richardson William and Martha Richmond Scholarship William and Martha Richmond Susan Boardman Ridley Scholarship Florence Ridley

Wilson Bank and Trust Scholarship Wilson Bank and Trust Southern Region Vincent and Stacy Windrow Book Fund Vincent and Stacy Windrow Hanna Romans Witherspoon Endowed Scholarship Don Witherspoon Woman’s Club Legacy Scholarship The Woman’s Club Olivia Woods Scholarship* George Woods *In honor of the first African American to graduate from MTSU

Want to make a difference? Contact: Pat Branam, Director of Development 615-904-8409


01 Bristol Cait Swanson born June 30, 2019



to Jareth (’11) and Caitlin Queen Swanson (’11) of Port St. Lucie, Florida

02 Linleigh Rey Huffman born July 2, 2020

to Blaine R. (’03, ’14) and Shannon L. Moore Huffman (’03, ’09) of Murfreesboro

03 Jordan Lee Choi born July 22, 2020



to Jay and Kelsey Vandiver Choi (’19) of Murfreesboro

04 Camille Scout Cottle born July 26, 2020

to Adam (’07) and Amanda Cottle of Saratoga Springs, New York

05 Gentry Elizabeth Weston born Aug. 2, 2020



to Michael (’14) and Corinne Weston (’14, ’16) of Nolensville

06 Timothy Allen “Tripp” Nichols III born Aug. 28, 2020

to T.J. (’15) and Jillian Davis Nichols (’08, ’19) of Christiana

07 Madeline Lynn Lester born Sept. 1, 2020 to Evan (’16, ’19) and Ashley Sanders Lester (’16, ’18) of Smyrna

08 Austin Noel Burks born Sept. 2, 2020 07


to Tony (’12) and Casey Burks (’11) of Murfreesboro

09 Glen Barrett Elrod born Nov. 26, 2020

to Adam (’13) and Samantha Coppinger Elrod (’11) of Murfreesboro

10 Alexander Neal Salas born Nov. 28, 2020 09


to Chase and Francela Salas (’17) of Murfreesboro

11 Cooper Craft Boehms born Dec. 3, 2020

to Sid (’13) and Charlotte Smith Boehms (’11) of Dickson

12 Florence Ruth Adams born Dec. 6, 2020


58 MTSU Magazine


to Jared (’13) and Sydney Hughes Adams (’13) of Chattanooga


The Shows Go On

Godspell cast on the musical’s crumbling cityscape set photo by Cat Curtis Murphy

MTSU Arts marks milestone while keeping students in the spotlight Fine arts students at MTSU never really stopped sharing their craft during the pandemic and are ready to return to a full calendar of shows and bigger audiences this fall. Celebrating its 10th anniversary of branding under one banner this year, MTSU Arts continued to put on dance concerts, musical performances, theater productions, and visual arts exhibits with an attitude and ad campaign of “The Show Must Go On.” Livestreaming video was utilized for most events during the 2020–21 season, along with some limited in-person attendance for select shows. “We’ve had a blast finding new ways to do theater in these very different times, and we’ve enjoyed the challenge— it has really breathed new life into the show for me,” said Kristi Shamburger, a Theatre associate professor who directed Godspell in April. A Tony Award nominee, Godspell joins 9 to 5: The Musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Peter Pan, West Side Story, Les Misérables, and Kiss Me Kate as bigticket musicals that Shamburger has directed at MTSU in recent years.

Advanced multicamera TV production students from the Department of Media Arts helped audiences enjoy MTSU’s fall 2020 theater season online. The Department of Theatre and Dance handled video and streaming this spring. MTSU’s cast and crew set Godspell in the “now,” with performers wearing masks, socially distanced on stage, and “coming together in a time of chaos,” Shamburger said. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down MTSU’s spring 2020 musical, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, just 18 days before its scheduled opening. A smaller-scale musical, Ride the Cyclone, and Romeo and Juliet were among offerings in fall 2020. Senior Theatre major Caleb Mitchell of Antioch made his final Tucker Theatre appearance as Jesus in Godspell. He had starred in the last Tucker production before the pandemic, Six Degrees of Separation, which Mitchell called ironic “considering how we’re unable to be less than 6 feet apart now.” “It made me realize how much I took that show—and the arts altogether—for granted,” he said. “. . . The arts will find a way to survive, and thrive, again.” MTSU

Summer 2021 59

Nonprofit Organization U. S. Postage PAID Murfreesboro, TN Permit No. 169

1301 E. Main St. Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Julien Baker, Lecrae, Luke Laird, Hillary Scott, and Torrence “Street Symphony” Esmond are among MTSU-trained musicians and industry stars, educators, and community leaders honored on the “Famous Friends” mural outside the Chris Young Café. Complete list at

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