Winter 2023 MTSU magazine

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New $40.1 million integrated learning facility builds on program’s success Page 36 Winter 2023
Table of Contents 05 Editor’s Letter 06 5 Minutes with the President 08 Scene on Campus 10 Events Calendar 11 #MyMTStory 13 Required Reading 14 Faculty Spotlight 16 Campus Culture 18 Old School 20 New School 42 Midpoints 46 By the Numbers 47 Class Notes 55 56 In Memoriam 58 Baby Raiders 59 Last Word Features 22 Alumni Awards 30 Beauty for Ashes, Strength for Tears 36 Set in Concrete 40 Building a Bridge

Hulu ’Roo Crew

Video and Film Production students will livestream concerts from the Bonnaroo music festival again this summer for Hulu after the platform was so impressed with work on two shows that executives stretched it to 11, for a total of 21 MTSU-produced telecasts last June. “Their composure in being part of a national broadcast with A-list artists is a testament to their skills,” executive producer

Devin DeHaven said.

Middle Tennessee State University

Winter 2023, Vol. 27 No. 2

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 and Visual Services Kara Hooper


Darrell Callis Burks, Brian Evans, Aaron Grayum, Micah Loyed, Brittany Blair Stokes

Contributing Writers

Skip Anderson, Rachel Booher, Gina E. Fann, Jimmy Hart, Gina K. Logue, Katie Porterfield, Stephanie Wagner, Patsy Weiler, Randy Weiler

University Photographers

James Cessna, Andy Heidt, J. Intintoli, Cat Curtis Murphy

Special thanks to Lynn Adams, Ginger Freeman, DeAnn Hays, Rachel Helms, Marsha Powers

Cover photo by Andy Heidt

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 and Visual Services.

0123-1051 / 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; Christy.; or 615-898-2185. The MTSU policy on non-discrimination can be found at

Photo by James Cessna

MTSU Connect is a new online community where MTSU students, alumni, faculty, and staff can connect for mentorship opportunities.

Volunteer to be a mentor. Help community members unlock their potential by signing up as a mentor or posting job openings. Students will be able to search for mentors by industry, geographic area, major, and even shared student organizations.

Visit to join our new community. Open to all alumni. Brought to you by the MTSU Alumni Association

Join MTSU Connect and support the next generation of Blue Raiders in their career journeys!

Above and Beyond

MTSU supporters surpass giving record to sustain success

Because of stagnation in state funding over the years, perhaps even more so for universities like MTSU that have a higher percentage of firstgeneration college students who rely more on scholarships to complete their educations, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee has consistently emphasized that gifts from our alumni and friends have become essential to our success.

Supporters of the University have clearly heard that message. MTSU boasted a record fundraising year for 2021–22, bringing in more than $17.2 million in private donations to support the University’s educational mission.

This represents a 50% increase over 2021. And it is easily the biggest fundraising year the University has ever had, according to Joe Bales, vice president for university advancement—more than $3 million above our previous record year.

Some highlights:

• 20% increase in donor participation

• 7,600 donors (almost 1,000 more than the previous year)

• increase in giving for almost every academic college

• more than double the donations for the College of Liberal Arts in the past year

• record $8.9 million in cash gifts and 300% year-over-year growth for MT Athletics during the 2022 fiscal year as it launched its Build Blue campaign to upgrade athletics facilities

Considering the impacts of COVID, inflation, and a volatile stock market, the fact that MTSU was able to reach such a remarkable milestone is a testament to the dedication of our supporters, as well as the excellent work of MTSU’s University Advancement staff.

To say the least, we are incredibly grateful for the support and for the ever-growing sense of shared purpose and the palpable momentum that moves this great University forward.

What moved the needle? Bales credited alumni for realizing how challenging it is for young people today to pay for college and persist to degree attainment. He also stated his belief that the alumni population believes MTSU is headed in a positive direction, “and they want to be a part of it.”

Bales added that MTSU’s development staff does an excellent job of encouraging people (if they wish) to designate specifically where their donations will go. Helping shepherd all those fundraising dollars is the MTSU Foundation, managed by a volunteer Board of Trustees to oversee all private gifts to the University.

The board elected a new president, Ronald Roberts (’84, ’91), and appointed four new alumni trustees.

As such, “we’ve got eyes and ears out in the community advocating for us . . . talking about things that are going on at the University,” Bales said of the Foundation trustees along with the MTSU Alumni Association Board of Directors.

The bottom line is that our ongoing fundraising is having a transformative effect on programs and students across campus.

For more information about the Development Office and the MTSU Foundation, or to make a gift yourself, visit

True Blue!

Winter 2023 5

Something for Everyone

A brief conversation on recent events with MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee

In 2022, Newsweek named MTSU to its “Top Online Colleges” list. MTSU was the only institution in Tennessee recognized. Tell us more about the University’s adult learner programming?

We’ve built one of the largest adult degree programs in Tennessee. At MTSU, we provide access to undergraduate and graduate programs for students who might not be able to pursue traditional attendance paths.

This includes online instruction. With a distinguished 20-year history of high-quality distance education, MTSU Online continues to support our faculty and to serve students through the creation, design, and delivery of effective and engaging online and blended learning environments.

This past year has been a time of significant growth for MTSU Online. Online enrollment is at an all-time

high, with more than 2,700 completely online students, and more than 7,400 partially online students.

Two years ago, in response to student demand, MTSU Online began an initiative to increase the number of completely online degrees. Thanks to the hard work of our faculty, staff, and administrators, we have increased from 16 to 31 completely online degrees. Our goal is to ensure MTSU is ready and available to provide an education for every student who is seeking to learn, regardless of their geographic location.

In 2022 alone, MTSU Online funded 29 full-time temporary instructors for 18 departments across campus. These instructors are trained in online

Prospective students can learn ways to attend tuition free at

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teaching and give significant help to departments that are serving online students.

We support faculty through a range of services such as course design help, faculty training workshops, individual consultations, and extensive web-based resources. Our three instructional designers (IDs) are key resources for faculty as they develop and deliver engaging learning environments. In 2022, our IDs helped design 102 new online courses and redesign an additional 70 courses. MTSU now has a portfolio of more than 700 well-designed online courses to contribute to student access and success.

In terms of student support, MTSU Online provides personal assistance to hundreds of students via phone, email, and videoconference meetings. Live and online tutoring is a popular service we offer, as well as advising help, counseling services, and assistance navigating the online course environment.

What about opportunities for MTSU employees?

I want to stress here that as part of our adult learner emphasis, we offer all full-time faculty and staff—as well as eligible state employees—the opportunity to take one class per semester with no tuition cost. This can be applied toward a degree or simply to learn more about a program that interests them.

All courses and programs are available, including bachelor’s and graduate programs and the highly popular and online Assessment, Learning, and Student Success Ed.D. program in the College of Education, which does not require a master’s degree.

I encourage all state employees who qualify to take advantage of this opportunity to upskill or broaden their interests. Do not leave this money on the table!

Regarding more traditional students, MTSU recently began advertising that many students can attend the University tuition free. Tell me more about that.

MTSU launched an effort last July to help students navigate several scenarios and options that could eliminate, or greatly reduce, the cost of tuition.

MTSU’s tuition was already the lowest of the state’s three major universities. Our decision to hold it flat for this academic year, plus recent increases in the state’s HOPE Lottery Scholarship, meant many could attend our University at no tuition cost.

Admissions recruiters and academic advisors encourage students to go to a new website,, and

engage with an enrollment coordinator via a Zoom virtual portal. Coordinators will review various scenarios with students to determine eligibility.

This sounds incredible. How exactly does this work? And how did all of this come about?

MTSU’s Board of Trustees voted last June to keep tuition and program services fees flat for the 2022–23 academic year. A full-time, in-state undergraduate student taking 15 credit hours in both the fall and spring semesters will pay $7,704 in tuition and $1,888 in program service fees, for a total of $9,592 this academic year.

Also, the state recently increased the amount of its Tennessee Education Lottery (HOPE) Scholarship, raising what it pays eligible freshmen and sophomores to $4,500 a year from $3,500, while juniors and seniors will receive $5,700 a year instead of $4,500. To qualify for these awards, students need a 21 on the ACT or must graduate high school with a 3.0 GPA.

For HOPE-eligible students, the difference (less than $5,100) between MTSU’s tuition cost and the scholarship payout could be mitigated by a variety and combination of means—including federal Pell Grant monies, academic scholarships from MTSU, and tuition discounts afforded to teachers and state employees. The scenarios outlined on the MTFree website apply only to first-time freshmen who are Tennessee residents and would be attending as full-time students. Although MTSU’s highest-value guaranteed scholarships have a deadline of Dec. 1, the MTFree website shows a range of scenarios for new freshmen.

Thank you, Mr. President

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We have increased from 16 to 31 completely online degrees.

Nov. 12

Oct. 15

Sept. 29 A celebration of Hispanic culture

Aug. 24


Nunley Award winner I.V. Hillis Jr. at salute to service game Band of Blue marching in Homecoming parade Block party to empower the Power of One
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Blue Zoo Bash on eve of football opener

Sept. 30 Titans star

Oct. 13 Baby Tate concert in


Sept. 29 Building frames for Habitat for Humanity

Sept. 11 Remembrance of lives lost on 9/11

Kevin Byard’s No. 20 jersey retired Student
Winter 2023 9

Events Calendar

Mark your calendar for upcoming events around campus

Feb. 20

Martin Honors Building Honors College open house for prospective students

Feb. 25, 3 p.m. Murphy Center Men’s basketball vs. Louisiana Tech

March 13–31

Todd Art Gallery Ceramics exhibit by regional and nationally known clay artists Reception: March 18, 1–3 p.m.

April 4, 7:30 p.m.

Hinton Music Hall Keyboard Artist Series, celebrating 20 years as Tennessee’s first All Steinway School

April 19–22

Hinton Music Hall MTSU Opera Theater: The Old Maid and the Thief and Trial by Jury

More events and details at

Feb. 9, 6 p.m. Murphy Center Women’s basketball vs. Western Kentucky

Feb. 9, 6 p.m. Student Union Ballroom

“Ending Racism” panel with business leaders and scholars, Dr. Ming Wang Lecture Series

March 10–April 13

Baldwin Photo Gallery

“Southern Fiction” exhibit by Tema Stauffer

March 27, 7 p.m. Hinton Music Hall Stones River Chamber Players, with Paul Osterfield world premiere

April 6–8

Tucker Theatre Cabaret, classic musical

April 20–22

Tucker Theatre Spring Dance Concert

April 30, 3 p.m. Hinton Music Hall MT Choral Society Spring Concert

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What MTSU activity made the biggest impact?

We asked alumni what organization or activity you were involved in during your college days affected your life the most. MTSU now boasts over 250+ student groups.

Rickey Smith (’78)

Rifle Team 1975-1978 . . . travel for matches as well as hosting on campus. Led to competing in two National Rifle Championships.

Sara Nicole Crofford (’16)

Band of Blue 2012–2016!! Amazing people, shows were always fun, Raider Walk, and hosting Contest of Champions was always a hype!

Nancy Bolen (’80)

Women’s basketball, education honor society, physical education club. My entire college experience at Middle was great!

Candice Haynes (’05)

Here are a few of the organizations that had and continue to impact my life, personally and professionally, in many different ways. The common factor was that they were all with MTSU and brought an allegiance and appreciation of our University. Alpha Omega, Alpha Omicron Pi, Fraternity and Sorority Life, SGA, Order of Omega, Campus Rec., Society for International Affairs, etc., and now as an alumna of Blue Raider Athletic Association (BRAA) and MTSU Alumni Association!

Lori LaVoy (’94)

Loved being in the Band of Blue! Met my best friends there! And, loved going rafting down the Ocoee River several times per year with campus rec with those same besties . . . Recreated the experience with Shelly Youngstead, Theresa Gibson, Ken Youngstead, Bill Gibson, and our teen kiddos for my 50th birthday! Although these high tech selfbailing rafts have nothing on the old-school ones we rode with the good ole bailing bucket attached.


April Carroll (’18, ’19)

Omega Phi Alpha! We’re a National Service Sorority! I loved my time as active. Our national organization has 27 active chapters that did over 20,000 service hours last year. It continues to impact me.

Karen Martin-Stanton (’97)

The Honors Program had the most impact on me because while it was both challenging and rewarding, it really helped prepare me for my career. . . . I didn't have the benefit of the beautiful building that now houses the Honors College. However, Dr. J. P. Montgomery was able to make the experience very special . . . I look back on my college education experience with a deep fondness and gratitude for the wonderful and exciting classes, and especially for the professional, encouraging, and inspirational professors.

# MyMTStory
Ashlyn Lee (’16) MTSU Dance Team!!
It brought me many opportunities, experiences, lifelong friends, and the best of memories! Truly an unforgettable experience.
Tony Abati
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I worked in Blue Raider Athletics from 2008–13 and it led to me choosing the profession I’m currently in. LOVED my time as a Blue Raider and miss it almost every day!

Required Reading

Rubies in the Rubble: An Educator’s Transformation from Pain to Prominence, from Abuse to Absolution

Jill Speering (’72), B.S. in Elementary Education MEMOIR

Speering taught for 35 years in elementary education. After retiring from Metro Nashville Public Schools, and after eight years of service on the Metro Nashville Board of Education, she wrote this memoir of her life in education. The first part of the book details Speering’s difficult childhood, which led her to decide to become an educator in order to help students like herself. The second part is about her teaching career, working with inner-city students, teaching them to read through the reciprocal process of writing. Part three focuses on her experience serving on the school board in a directorial role. The important thread that runs through the book is finding rubies in each occurrence in her life and transforming the “rubble” of trauma into “rubies.”

Artist Management for the Music Business

Paul Allen (’95), M.B.A., Professor, Department of Recording Industry BUSINESS

Allen recently completed the fifth edition of his best-selling book, Artist Management for the Music Business , detailing the mechanics of the music business in 2022 and beyond. The MTSU alum is a Recording Industry professor, music industry executive, concert showcase producer, radio personality, TV news anchor, manager of political candidates, music industry association executive director, artist manager/ consultant, and decorated U.S. Air Force veteran.

Stars Over Tennessee

Lynn McKee Erwin (’68), B.S. in Elementary Education HISTORY

Erwin, an MTSU alumna who died recently, co-authored a book called Stars Over Tennessee, a compilation of the county sheriffs of Tennessee’s 95 counties beginning in 1776 all the way up to the current individuals dedicated to preserving law and order in the Volunteer State. Carefully researched for more than a decade, the book was co-authored with Erwin’s husband, Tennessee Century Farm owner Ronnie Erwin, and published after her death. All proceeds go to the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association.

Flight Times: Instruction and Inspiration from the 2nd Best Flight Instructor

Paul A. Craig, (’79, '80, '95), B.S., M.Ed., Ed.S., Professor, Department of Aerospace


Craig, an MTSU Aerospace professor and program coordinator for the M.S. in Aeronautical Science, published his 14th book, Flight Times: Instruction and Inspiration from the 2nd Best Flight Instructor, in February 2022. Craig said he wrote the book “both as a way to pass on safety information to current pilots, but also to inspire pilots—never forgetting why we want to fly in the first place.”

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Eric Klumpe makes his students the center of the universe

Eric Klumpe (pronounced KLOOM-PA), an MTSU Physics and Astronomy professor and astronautical engineer, describes himself as your “basic geek,” which, in typical Klumpe laid-back style, is an understatement.

Before arriving at MTSU in 1999, he worked for a dozen years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where his efforts contributed to the Voyager spacecraft and Galileo Project—launched to explore Jupiter and its moons.

Most early mornings, Klumpe straps on a helmet and leisurely travels to campus on his Harley-Davidson—a motorcycle he has ridden over the Tail of the Dragon, a corkscrew stretch of mountain road near the Great Smoky Mountains featuring a dizzying 318 curves in 11 miles. He likes all kinds of music but has a weakness for “face-melting guitar solos."

“You know, the ones that you listen to while driving your car that tempt you to run a red light,” he said.

Klumpe’s passion, the activity that makes his face shine brighter than a full moon on a dark night, is being an educator—one who challenges his students to work hard and believe they can reach far beyond what they thought was possible in life.

“I want to change students’ lives for the better,” Klumpe said. “I want to help them to identify what their strengths, gifts, and talents are and to utilize and develop those skills to reach their educational goals.”

His encouragement stems from personal experience. After graduating high school, Klumpe’s GPA was so low that no four-year college would accept him. His life changed, though, when he accompanied a friend who was picking up admission information for Pasadena (California) City College. While waiting in an outer office area, Klumpe was approached by an admission counselor who engaged him in a conversation.

Their time together struck a chord in Klumpe, who eventually asked the counselor to name the hardest degree to obtain. The answer: physics. Klumpe decided that was what he wanted to study.

“I had to take extra classes and summer school because I didn’t have the higher-level math classes in high school,” said Klumpe, who earned his associate degree and eventually went on to be accepted at the prestigious California Institute of Technology, popularly known as Caltech, where he completed a bachelor’s in Engineering and Applied Science. Over time, he would earn a total of six academic degrees—four of which are advanced (three master’s degrees and his doctorate).

Klumpe also serves as director of MTSU Observatories. He oversaw the design and construction in the early 2000s of MTSU’s Uranidrome, a hands-on, self-guided nakedeye observatory used to teach astronomy and geometry. It sits on a plaza near the campus telescope.

“The complex provides hands-on learning in both a modern context (the telescope) and an ancient context (the Uranidrome),” he said. “The Uranidrome puts my students in the shoes of people who did astronomy 2,000 years ago. It can elevate our respect for other cultures that existed a long time ago.”

An advocate of community outreach, Klumpe and Chuck Higgins, his fellow Physics and Astronomy professor, organize the free First Friday Star Parties at MTSU annually. The public is invited to attend a short talk in Wiser-Patten Science Hall and, weather permitting, visit the observatory afterward.

Klumpe says he has learned a great deal traveling through different galaxies of life and likes nothing better than sharing his knowledge, inspiring his students to grasp the infinite possibilities of their own next frontiers.

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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.

Repeat After Me Celluclay, Receipt tape
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Chelsea Gardiner

Beauty Peaks Before Decay

Old Friends (Poetry) by

There's a certain grace that comes with old friendships

A love that has sprung from the ground, grown buds, bloomed, shriveled, died, and now holds steadfast to its quiet beauty: that of a dried flower.

There is age in the beauty. Dark spots, wrinkles, and crinkled edges.

An old friend is not one you get dressed up to see, jittery with the buzz of anticipation.

An old friend is someone you are relieved to see— like coming home to yourself after a long day, resting in the familiar companionship, loving how you lean into it.

An old friend isn’t someone you’re excited to see, but someone who relaxes you and says, “Welcome back. It’s been a while. Come sit a spell?”

Mimzy Video Morgan Ruth Black-Eyed Susan Audio Maya Ronick
Winter 2023 17
Jazz Combo Digital Kenneth Bean
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Old School

A look back at MTSU’s past from our photo archives—Enjoying a rare snowfall on campus c. 1960, students roll up snowballs off a car parked in front of Kirksey Old Main, the original classroom building.

Winter 2023 19

New School

A beautiful sight—Snow glistens at the Blue Horseshoe, a lucky spot near Peck Hall and Walnut Grove for students, fans, or alumni to touch before an event like a big game, performance, or test. A penny from 1911, the year of the University’s founding, is buried underneath.

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Winter 2023 21
Photo by Andrew Oppmann
Introducing the 2022–23 honorees 22 MTSU Magazine

Distinguished Alumni Award honoree Katie Vance, one of the top interior designers for Nashville’s booming restaurant and hospitality scene, earned the MTSU Alumni Association’s highest honor. Producer-songwriter Tay Keith received the Young Alumni Achievement Award for graduates 35 or younger making a positive impact on the world. True Blue Citations of Distinction were also awarded for the ninth consecutive year.

Honored at Homecoming, the annual award recipients were recognized for career excellence, their loyal support, and service to the broader community. True Blue to the core.

Winter 2023 23
MTSU’s outstanding alumni for 2022–23 represent distinction in professional fields ranging from architectural design, business, and education to music, marketing, and the military.

Katie Vance, celebrated with MTSU’s Distinguished Alumni Award, is a tastemaker whose work gives flavor to Nashville’s enviable and ever-evolving dining scene. No, she’s not a chef—no toques for this alumna. She’s a decorated interior designer, partner, and chief creative officer at Powell Architecture + Building Studios, where she runs the Interior Design Department. Vance and her impressive work have been featured in publications that could be viewed as the pantheon for her field: Architectural Digest, Dwell, Garden & Gun, and Southern Living. Her work blends light, colors, textures, and an elevated lushness to create distinct, umami-like sensory experiences for diners across Music City as well as in boutique hotels looking to offer guests unique spaces.

Vance gave Butcher & Bee its industrial-meets-mod vibe with hexagonal splashes of green to bring warmth to the openness of the East Nashville eatery. She used glazed white bricks and dark stone to give lightness and texture to Butchertown Hall, a Germantown restaurant that is notably long and narrow. Her vision for the Russell Hotel marries bold colors, rich textures, and natural light throughout the converted landmark church on historic Russell Street in East Nashville. And in the Cordelle, an event space on Lindsley Avenue, brick/plaster walls painted neutral feature dramatic up-lighting to establish space that exudes contemporary elegance without a trace of stuffiness— the fun, acrylic-backed chairs and greenery-adorned galvanized chandeliers see to that.

Arguably, the interiors she designed for James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock’s restaurants, Audrey

Lushness & Light

and June, are her best-known work to date. Audrey offers muted colors, distinctive folk art, bare rafters, unclothed wooden tables, and surprisingly comfortable spindle chairs. The inviting open kitchen feeds the upscale Appalachian concept of the restaurant. And June simultaneously exudes pools of light and romantic pockets of shade.

It’s no wonder that in 2020 Nashville Business Journal named Vance to its “40 Under 40” list, which honors young-ish luminaries whose talents and efforts help Nashville shine. After all, she also founded Porter Flea, the wildly popular, twice-annual pop-up market where 275 juried makers and artisans offer their handmade wares at various times and locations around middle Tennessee.

It’s also no wonder that, earlier this year, MTSU bestowed upon Vance its Distinguished Alumni honor. Vance graduated MTSU in 2005 summa cum laude with a B.S. in Interior Design.

“I am very honored and thrilled to be able to share with my family of MTSU graduates!” said Vance, whose parents and brother are also alumni. “And I was also excited to represent my beloved Interior Design department that has grown so much and worked very hard to become a force for MTSU.”

The Human Sciences program has, in fact, evolved into a force, thanks in no small part to the faculty who guided her in the early 2000s.

“I was greatly inspired by my Interior Design professors— Sharon Coleman, Deborah Belcher, and Dana Miller,” Vance said. “They all collaboratively inspired me and taught me that I could excel in the interior design field.

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Distinguished alumna Katie Vance designs interiors that make Nashville sing

They also encouraged me to get a high-profile internship my last semester, which landed me an excellent interior design job right after graduation.”

Interestingly, Vance, who at an early age began to understand and appreciate that different spaces felt distinct from one another, didn’t enter MTSU as an Interior Design major. She initially chose to use the scholarship offered by the University to pursue photography.

“I have been involved with the arts community since a young age as well as having a love of travel,” she said. “I feel both of these interests led me to really understanding what spaces—restaurants, hotels, retail, homes—felt like when they had been designed well and had true character and concept to them. [As for photography] I knew that I had to make a change to Interior Design after my first semester.”

In an interview with Nashville writer Kim Baldwin of, Vance commented on the most common misconception about what she does.

“I am not a decorator— repeat, not a decorator,” Vance said in that interview. “Interior designers deal not only with furnishing and decor, but also

with the building plans and location, the social context of the project, codes and regulatory requirements, and environmental sustainability. Interior designers have a degree in Interior Design or Interior Architecture and must pass the NCIDQ [certification exam] to receive their license. Interior designers can work directly with architects, obtain building permits, supervise construction or installation, and give advice on matters including electricity, plumbing, structural changes, ADA requirements, etc. Decorators focus on furniture, paint, fabric, and accessories and do not need to be formally trained.”

Naturally, Vance suggests hiring a talented interior designer for those looking to level up their home decor game. But she does offer one pro tip for do-it-yourselfers.

“I would say for residential a common mistake would be following the trends too closely. Instead, you should surround yourself with art, colors, furniture pieces, and mementos you love and that hold special meaning to you,” she said. “Thoughtfully incorporating these elements into your home’s decor will have longevity and satisfaction that will last much longer than the latest trend.”

Military Service

Brig. Gen. Robert Powell (’91)

A cybersecurity expert in the U.S. Army, Powell is the first Army Reserve cyber general and the 17th general officer in the 50-plus-year history of the MTSU ROTC program. After commissioning through ROTC, Powell served as an armor officer with the 1st Calvary Division, then joined the Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer. He commanded the U.S. Army Reserve Cyber Protection Brigade during 2016–19 and recently mobilized to support the Cyber National Mission Force at Fort Meade. At his promotion ceremony, Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Hager said Powell’s experience as an intelligence officer and commander of Cyber Protection Brigade helped develop some of the national force’s unique capabilities.

Young Alumni Achievement

Tay Keith (’18)

The Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter from Memphis already boasts an impressive roster of music collaborations that includes Beyoncé, Drake, DJ Khaled, and Travis Scott. Known professionally as Tay Keith, Brytavious Lakeith Chambers balanced his career with finishing his bachelor’s in Integrated Studies and Media Management, graduating from MTSU just before enjoying a 2019 Grammy nomination for Best Rap Song for his work on “Sicko Mode.” He returns to his alma mater often, was named an honorary MTSU professor in 2021, and has initiated a music industry internship program with MTSU through his label, Drumatized Records.

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Achievement in Education (non-MTSU Faculty)

Jackie Morgan


Morgan, outreach senior adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta–Nashville branch, is recognized as an established communicator and proven leader in economic and financial education strategy, policy, development, and training. She serves on the National Business Education Association’s Economics and Personal Finance Education Committee, Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission, Tennessee Girls Collaborative Project, and two MTSU Jones College of Business advisory boards. Morgan has received the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President’s Award for Excellence and is a board member and past president for the Tennessee Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, which was honored as state coalition of the year under her leadership.

Achievement in Education (MTSU Faculty)

Alanna Vaught (’03)

Vaught was instrumental in starting the Agricultural Education Leadership concentration in the Master of Education Administration and Supervision program and launching a local dual-credit program at MTSU that received national recognition. Her teaching evaluations are among the best in the School of Agriculture, and her Agritourism class hosts two annual grant-assisted events for elementary schools that draw well over 1,500 people combined. Vaught also has received numerous national and local agriculture awards, as well as MTSU’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2012.

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Service to Community

Elveta Cooper (’96, ’00)

Cooper, a UPS area human resources manager, has been involved in numerous community organizations, including roles as Diversity and Inclusion Champion, President’s Advisory Council member, and mentor for Rutherford CABLE. A co-founder of Taylor & Taylor Family Resource Center, she has volunteered as a United Way Champion, Pencil Foundation board member, and Junior Achievement team captain. Cooper received a volunteer service award from President Barack Obama in 2009. She served on the Women’s Development Committee and Incident Response Team while hiring more than 300 permanent positions during implementation of the UPS facility in LaVergne.

Service to University Ed Arning (’78)

A former MTSU sports information director, Arning went into private industry before returning to the University as director of two major project areas within the Division of Marketing and Communications. Arriving as a freshman from Nashville 49 years ago, he earned a bachelor’s in Mass Communications and has filled a wide range of roles and duties that mostly focused on promoting the University to anyone and everyone. Arning also taught media writing, remained involved in Blue Raider athletics during 31 years in both sporting goods and printing businesses, helped launch MTSU’s move into the elite digital printing world as printing services director, and now serves as market development director for the University.

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2023 2023 16 14, 15, 14, 15, 16 Give to anything you love on campus, including: A Department or Program Band of Blue A Student Organization Athletics or give to support students in need: Scholarships Student Safety Net Fund Student Mental Health COunseling
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Photo courtesy of Madison Inman

Beauty for

ASHES, TEARS Strength for

Alumna Jasmine Gray draws on the power of storytelling to overcome and inspire

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Jasmine “Jaz” Gray is a talented speaker, a creative writer, and a producer of motivational and advocating stories. She is a woman of color who daily overcomes personal challenges and a serious medical condition that has been part of her life since birth. Her unbending faith, her strength, and her resilience are inspirational, and her mission centers on seeking transformational change for those who are disempowered and dispirited.

A 2010 summa cum laude graduate with a degree in Mass Communication, Gray received both the Community Service Award and the President’s Award among many other accolades during her tenure at MTSU. She holds an M.A. from Syracuse University, where she was a Turner Diversity Fellow, and a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of North Carolina after defending her research in storytelling. But that is only the surface matter. Gray also has persevered and surmounted incredible difficulties throughout her journey to where she is now.

Born with a cranial facial condition that gave her some unique physical attributes, she has progressively undergone at least 47 surgeries starting at age 9.

“I knew early on that there was some kind of purpose for my life,” Gray said, and she found that purpose within the world of storytelling.

Storytelling was originally a way to cope with the traumatic experiences of multiple surgeries. But eventually, storytelling became a gateway that opened a wider field of opportunities, says Gray, who is now an assistant professor of Communication Studies at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

Throughout her high school years, she had to take classes from home because of her numerous medical procedures. Stories were a form of therapy, and, despite her isolation, she found peace and purpose within storytelling. As she listened to songs and stories from the people around her, Gray began to see the relationship between her challenges and her future. She was able to relate to the experiences of others, and this allowed her to begin to visualize her path.

“There is a connection between storytelling and a potential skill set for a career path,” she thought. This discovery motivated her to pursue an education focused on storytelling and communication. And that pursuit led her to MTSU.

No one person's approval or disapproval will determine your future.
Jasmine “Jaz” Gray earned a master’s and doctorate after MTSU. Photo courtesy of Antoine Lever
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I knew early on that there was some kind of purpose for my life.
Gray presented her dissertation research in Paris.
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Photo courtesy of Albert Nguy

Breaking Barriers

Gray found that the media program at MTSU had an excellent reputation, along with being affordable, giving her opportunities to grow and “carve out my own path.”

During her time at MTSU, she explored and discovered different facets of storytelling, including journalism, videography, and public speaking. However, her craniofacial disability was a barrier that she had to break through. Asked if her disability was a hindrance or a form of motivation, Gray responds that it was both.

She recalls a time when she was late for class and, while rushing, did not notice the red spots on her shirt until she had entered her building. When she looked down, she realized her face was bleeding from a recent surgery, and she had left a trail of blood in her wake. Gray had social anxiety from her previous isolation and was fearful of being seen bleeding in the middle of the hallway. In fact, the incident was one of many, Gray says, but she was surrounded by people and faculty who supported her and “looked out for her.”

During her first year at MTSU, Gray encountered Jackie Victory, director of Student Organizations and Service. “She helped me navigate and balance the challenges I was facing with service opportunities,” Gray said.

Specifically, Gray has a nonprofit outreach program called Jaz’s Jammies, which she began in high school. The program is still active today and seeks to bring pajamas to children in hospitals and homeless shelters. When Gray met Victory, she decided to focus on how she could continue to help others through service rather than focus on the difficulties and challenges she faced. She credits Victory for helping her bring Jaz’s Jammies to MTSU.

Gray also was active in the Honors College, serving as the editor-in-chief of Collage for two semesters and completing a thesis, “Contrasting Color: Juxtaposing Black Identity and Media Portrayal in America, Ghana, and England.” She says Dean John R. Vile, Laura Clippard, and Marsha Powers from the Honors team were influential and encouraged her throughout her journey. Whether it was applying to

Anytime we overcome a challenge, we have a responsibility to use that to advocate for others . . . to create opportunities for others.
Her film More than Skin Deep documents Gray's struggle with arteriovenous malformation.
34 MTSU Magazine
Photo by J. Intintoli

graduate school, exploring new service opportunities, or searching for scholarships, the people within the Honors College provided constant support.

Some of Gray’s other accomplishments during her college years included completing the Chips Quinn Scholars Program for Diversity in Journalism and freelancing for The Tennessean and the Louisville Courier Journa l.

After graduation, Gray interned for media agencies, such as Cartoon Network and BET, and worked full time at Paramount Pictures. Her stories have been featured on news affiliates of NBC, ABC, and Fox, and Jaz’s Jammies Inc. has donated more than 6,000 pairs of pajamas to children’s hospitals and shelters across the nation.

Transformational Change

Gray is an advocate for people with disabilities and for removing barriers for others who are struggling. She moderates panels and leads workshops about topics including the power of stories, disability representation, bullying, and divine purpose.

For those who are struggling with racial identity, body image, a disability, or a unique physical attribute, she

advises, “No one person’s approval or disapproval will determine your future,” so do not put too much reliance on one person or one pathway.

“Anytime we overcome a challenge, we have a responsibility to use that to advocate for others . . . to create opportunities for others,” because not everyone has the same opportunities as we have been afforded, Gray adds.

She agrees that she was given the opportunity while at MTSU to channel and transform her insecurities into strengths and navigate through her “very real barriers” —obstacles that will be present continually throughout the rest of her life.

Because of the resources, accessibility, and networking during her time at the University, Gray was able to reach the community in ways that would not have been possible elsewhere. MTSU was not only her foundation, but also her runway that would allow her life and career to take flight in directions she could not have dreamed.

Gray says that MTSU was “a blessing” and that her stories will continue to break barriers for those who are disempowered and dispirited. They have certainly inspired me.

Gray with Eugene Robinson after his lecture for the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in Journalism Now a faculty member at Pepperdine University Photo courtesy of Madison Inman
Winter 2023 35

It’s an innovative building for an important industry, but also a “living lab” and a legacy to those who laid the ground floor of MTSU’s unique Concrete Industry Management (CIM) degree program.

Students began using MTSU’s new $40.1 million School of Concrete and Construction Management (CCM) Building on the west side of campus in October, as they prepare for professional careers in a high-demand sector throughout the booming Nashville area and beyond.

SET IN CONCRETE New $40.1 million integrated learning facility builds on program’s success
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Among the many features of the integrated and experiential learning laboratory:

• four basic materials and building labs

• a dedicated mechanical, electrical, and plumbing classroom

• a 200-seat lecture hall and a covered amphitheater

• a virtual design and construction lab capable of advanced building models and construction simulations

• an augmented virtual reality lab

Photos by Andy Heidt
Winter 2023 37

Construction is a $1 trillion-plus industry that impacts every aspect of life—where we live, work, learn, shop, dine, and more. Students graduating from the program average $60,000-plus in starting salary and have an almost 100% placement rate.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said he was “amazed at the many ways concrete was utilized in the design and construction. Students will see firsthand how the many forms of concrete can add value and creativity to a structure. The building is a true living laboratory, with examples of various construction techniques and operating systems operating in full view of students.”

The 54,000-square-foot building is a major change for the 135 current CIM majors and 200 Construction Management students from their previous 9,000-square-foot Voorhies Engineering Technology space.

Along with a neighboring Applied Engineering Building, set for groundbreaking this year, the new facility marks an expansion of MTSU’s Science Corridor of Innovation. School of Concrete and Construction Management Director Kelly Strong called the 1,800 combined alumni—1,100 from the CIM program—“leaders in our industry” whose continuing commitment is “the cornerstone of our success.”

Referencing program graduates at the dedication, he asked if they “could have imagined that this new building would be your legacy? Our celebration today is a tribute to your success and the imprint you have had on the concrete and construction industries.”

MTSU officials also saluted industy partners who raised $5 million in matching funding to go with the state’s majority investment.

Alumni on hand for the grand opening included Southern Concrete Machinery owner Chris Davenport (’00), the first CIM graduate, and Road Worx business development director Jessie Boone (’08), who said she made a lifechanging decision to return to school and join CIM. “To me, it’s more than a building. It’s the people,” added former program director Heather Brown, whose tireless efforts helped make the building a reality.

“It’s what I [say] all the time, ‘I don’t build buildings. I build people.’ . . . It’s absolutely the student success, the alumni success. . . . Universities can create special microcosms of relationships.”

And the new building will continue to help the programs develop relationships, build careers, and shape lives and communities.

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Winter 2023 39
Photos by Andy Heidt
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MTSU students help Wynonna and friends’ concert come alive

“The Judds: Love Is Alive–The Final Concert,” filmed last fall at MTSU’s Murphy Center for a TV special this March, was filled with True Blue full-circle moments. Headliner Wynonna Judd made a historic homecoming to the venue that re-created the 1991 farewell concert with her late mother, Naomi, as Blue Raider community members past and present worked shoulder-to-shoulder to make the star-studded event come together.

Over 50 student workers and more than 20 alumni behind the scenes were involved in the production. A team of 21 Media Arts students worked from MTSU’s Mobile Production Lab, a 40-foot rolling studio with a high-definition control room and seven cameras, to livestream student-fronted red carpet coverage aired across multiple True Blue TV platforms, including Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire; on NewsChannel 5+; and Facebook.

Sixteen more students worked as paid production assistants for CMT, one of the producers of the event along with Sandbox Productions. In addition to Wynonna Judd, the concert featured her musical friends and current tourmates Ashley McBryde, Brandi Carlile, Kelsea Ballerini, Little Big Town, and Martina McBride, in a tribute to Naomi Judd. In front of the camera, MTSU’s Middle Tennessee News student-produced multimedia news outlet supplied the talent who interviewed country music icons like seasoned pros. More Journalism and Strategic Media students were on hand to cover the event for student-run Sidelines and WMTS radio outlets.

Students even represented the University on stage—45 choral students accompanied Judd on “Love Can Build a Bridge” to close out the show. Angela Tipps ('85), MTSU chorale conductor, created a four-part choral arrangement for the song within 24 hours, and two students directed the performance. The concert helped MTSU kick off the yearlong 50th anniversary celebration of Murphy Center, once the go-to venue for concerts in the Midstate and poised to be an attractive venue again after $6 million in renovations.

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Photos by Cat Curtis Murphy and James Cessna

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

Eight Straight

MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry—and the College of Media and Entertainment that houses it—are marking an eighth straight year on Billboard magazine’s latest international list of top music business schools, once again earning acclaim for the program’s diversity, depth, and longevity. According to the industry publication, “opportunities abound” for students’ professional development at MTSU, thanks to participation in events such as Bonnaroo and the CMA Music Festival; the presence of an active on-campus music venue, the Chris Young Café; and the studentrun record label, Match Records. MTSU has been on Billboard’s best music business schools lists since 2013, receiving recognition that first year for the Recording Industry program’s entrepreneurial turn. The magazine skipped a 2015 compilation as well as one in 2021 due to the pandemic. MTSU appears on the 2022 list alongside long-recognized programs at Berklee College of Music, New York University, and the University of California–Los Angeles.

Treating Our Teachers

About 70 local teachers arrived on the MTSU campus Sept. 27 to enjoy the MTSU College of Education’s inaugural Teacher Appreciation event. “Teachers really need our support right now,” said Pam Ertel, MTSU associate professor of Education. Ertel added that MTSU would not be able to effectively prepare teacher candidate students without professional teachers serving as mentors or without local district support. “To be appreciated at an event like this just really shows that they know and trust us, and they know that we are preparing the student candidates for the future,” said MTSU alumna Kelsey Rone ('16), a fourth-grade teacher at Hobgood Elementary in Murfreesboro who has mentored student teachers for six years. “Being honored by my former professors . . . seeing that we are doing the work, that I’m continuing the legacy as an MTSU alum from the College of Education has been very special.”


One for the Ages

MTSU’s football team achieved its biggest win in program history by stunning the then-No. 25 ranked University of Miami Hurricanes (the “U”) on Sept. 24. Chase Cunningham passed for 408 yards and three touchdowns, including a 98-yarder to DJ England-Chisolm, for the 45-31 road victory. It marked the Blue Raiders’ first win in 21 tries against opponents ranked in the AP Top 25 poll. MTSU joined the Football Bowl Subdivision, the top level of college football, in 1999. The Blue Raiders finished the 2022 season with a 7-5 record, meriting an invite to the Hawai’i Bowl, where the team defeated San Diego State University 25-23 on Christmas Eve.

Writing History

Every branch of the armed forces has an official song, from "The Army Goes Rolling Along" to "The Marines’ Hymn." Each song is part of the service’s foundation and represents its values, traditions, and culture. And now the U.S. Space Force, the newest military branch, established in 2019 as a part of the U.S. Air Force, has its own anthem, thanks to an adjunct professor of songwriting at MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment. The Space Force officially adopted "Semper Supra," written by Jamie Teachenor, during the 2022 Air and Space Forces Association Air, Space, and Cyber Conference in Maryland. "Semper Supra" was named after the Space Force motto, which is Latin for “Always Above.” Teachenor, a veteran himself and prior member of the U.S. Air Force band at the Air Force Academy (and currently a Sumner County commissioner), has previously written songs and recorded with many country artists including Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, and Trisha Yearwood.

True Blue Value

MTSU has substantially increased the value and broadened eligibility of its True Blue Scholarship, almost doubling the amount of the award offered to qualified incoming freshmen. As the first tier of MTSU’s array of guaranteed academic scholarships, the True Blue Scholarship is now available to first-time freshmen scoring 22–24 on the ACT with at least a 3.5 high school GPA. MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee also raised the scholarship payout from $8,000 to $14,000 total, paid out at $3,500 a year for four years. As a guaranteed scholarship, it is awarded automatically to all who meet the criteria— which includes applying to the University by Dec. 1. The True Blue Scholarship is now the largest guaranteed academic award given by any public university in Tennessee to students with these criteria.

McPhee also announced a new top-tier offering to its guaranteed scholarships: the designation of Centennial Scholar, which provides $32,000 over four years ($8,000 per year) to students scoring 34–36 on the ACT and a 3.5 high school GPA. MTSU continues its guaranteed Trustees Scholarship to students with ACT scores of 30–33 and 3.5 GPA, paying $20,000 over four years ($5,000 per year). Students scoring 30 and above on the ACT and with a minimum 3.5 high school GPA can apply for MTSU’s highest academic award, the Buchanan Fellowship, a competitive and selective full-tuition scholarship offered through the University Honors College.

Winter 2023 43
Photo by Dennis Hoffman, Air Force Public Affairs photographer

Holding Serve

MTSU broke ground last fall for its new $7.1 million outdoor tennis complex at the corner of Middle Tennessee Boulevard and Greenland Drive. The new state-of-the-art facility will serve as the on-campus home of the men’s and women’s tennis programs, featuring new locker rooms, spectator facilities for 250 Blue Raider fans, eight upgraded tennis courts, and new coaches’ offices, among many other amenities. The complex is the latest development to get underway through MTSU Athletics’ Build Blue capital campaign, with the goal to provide all 17 Division I programs with the resources and infrastructure to compete at a championship level.

The University of Opportunities

MTSU again made U.S. News & World Report’s Top 100 national list for Top Performers in Social Mobility for its efforts to help disadvantaged students reach their educational goals.

In its 2022–23 evaluations of 1,500 colleges and universities, the publication ranked MTSU at No. 82 nationally for social mobility; No. 156 for Top Public Schools; No. 130 for Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (at schools where doctorate not offered); and No. 206 in Nursing. The University also was ranked No. 299 among the top National Universities.

MTSU, which first made U.S. News ’ Top 100 in Social Mobility in 2020, devotes considerable effort to serve first-generation and underrepresented college students. It recently launched a new push, called MT Tuition Free, to help qualified students determine pathways that could eliminate or greatly reduce their tuition costs.

“Economically disadvantaged students are less likely than others to finish college, even when controlling for other characteristics,” U.S. News said in its announcement for its social mobility rankings. “But some colleges are more successful than others at advancing social mobility by enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students awarded with Pell Grants. The vast majority of these federal grants are awarded to students whose adjusted gross family incomes are under $50,000.”

Looking Inward

The “self-talk” going through MTSU Psychology Professor Tom Brinthaupt’s mind was clear on his face as he walked among his applauding colleagues to accept the University’s highest teaching honor. “This is great, but whew, it’s embarrassing,” said Brinthaupt, who has spent 32 years in the Department of Psychology. Brinthaupt specializes in “self-talk”—the internal conversations we have with ourselves. Now an internationally recognized expert on the phenomenon, he was the 2022 recipient of the MTSU Foundation’s Career Achievement Award. “Those of you that I’ve worked closely with over the years know that I maintain that being a professor is a helping profession,” Brinthaupt said. “Whether that’s our teaching, our research, our service—all of those involve us helping others.”

Experts Abroad

MTSU’s Mary Ellen Sloane and Gregory Reish recently headed to Rwanda and Mexico, respectively, as prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program faculty awardees. Sloane, Walker Library’s user services librarian for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, was based at the new Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda. Reish, director of MTSU’s Center for Popular Music, is teaching classes at the University of Veracruz in the North American Studies Program, which focuses on the U.S.–Mexico relationship.

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Driving Down Costs

The rising costs of textbooks have been a topic of conversation for years, but several members of MTSU's faculty and staff are making it their mission to make course materials more affordable—and in turn keep students on track to earn their degrees. Since 2019, the group has used $100,000 of grant money through the Tennessee Board of Regents on open educational resources (OER) to save 2,500-plus students more than $150,000. OER is defined as materials in the public domain or licensed to provide “everyone with free and perpetual permission to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.”

Erica Stone, an associate professor of English and OER steering committee member, found that 42% of MTSU students surveyed in her study either had delayed access to their traditional materials or were unable to afford them at all. Surveyed students also said they had to prioritize which textbooks they bought, sometimes forgoing the book for an elective or General Education course and spending the money on a textbook for a class in their major instead. In total, more than 70 MTSU faculty members in 25 different courses used OER in the most recent academic year.

Iconic Educator

The Greater Nashville Alliance of Black School Educators (GNABSE) named longtime MTSU Management faculty

member Millicent Nelson as its top higher education professional for 2022. The alliance of professional educators “is dedicated to promoting excellence in the education of all students, particularly students of African descent.” Nelson, an 18-year associate professor in the Jones College of Business, worked for years as a corporate executive for what was then telecommunications giant BellSouth in Atlanta. As part of that work, she conducted training sessions, laying the foundation for eventually earning her doctorate at Oklahoma State University and entering academia. After joining MTSU in 2004, Nelson revived a dormant student NAACP chapter.

Representation Matters

MTSU’s College of Education staff are dedicated to making the best teacher preparation program and housing the most effective faculty and staff in the nation. So when the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and the MTSU Education Trust jointly recommended that the college create a center for diversity, staff worked hard to make it a reality. Two years later, the Center for Fairness, Justice, and Equity at MTSU opened in 2022, led by Director Michelle Stevens. The center aims “to cultivate an inclusive and diverse College of Education by intentionally recruiting diverse faculty, teacher candidates, and educational personnel from a multitude of backgrounds.” SCORE’s State of Education in Tennessee publication, which uses annual data from the state Department of Education, reported that Tennessee’s teacher workforce is not representative of the students being served. For example, about 38% of Tennessee students are people of color, but only 14% of Tennessee teachers are, according to the 2021 report. Data shows a particularly concerning demographic mismatch between Black male students and teachers: only 2% of teachers are Black men. The center also equips current College of Education students, faculty, and staff with cultural competency training opportunities.

Good Oversight

With an extensive background in international accounting and licensed as both a lawyer and CPA, Jarett “Jerry” Decker hopes to bring his global and legal experience to bear as the new Joey A. Jacobs Chair of Excellence in Accounting and professor of practice within MTSU’s Jones College of Business. A former head of the World Bank’s Centre for Financial Reporting Reform in Vienna, Decker has advised governments on reforms to improve corporate accounting, auditing, and governance in more than 30 developing and transitional countries. Decker also served as the first deputy director and chief trial counsel for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), created by Congress in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals. Prior to that, Decker was senior trial counsel for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Chicago.

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BY THE NUMBERS Back to (Grad) School MTSU’s graduate programs are growing by leaps and bounds, expanding on-campus, online, and hybrid opportunities to meet the demands of the Nashville-area workforce. Students may complete a course, certificate, or degree to maximize their futures. 100+ PROGRAMS CERTIFICATE, MASTER’S, SPECIALIST, AND DOCTORATE LEVELS $4.7M TOWARD ASSISTANTSHIPS 575 ASSISTANTSHIPS AWARDED EACH SEMESTER 17 TYPES OF DEGREES 14 FULLY ONLINE DEGREES 2,648 GRAD STUDENTS 27% FIRSTGENERATION 25% UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITIES NEW DEGREES DATA SCIENCE (M.S.) PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT STUDIES (M.S.) SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT (M.S.) 46 MTSU Magazine


James H. “Jim” Hughes (’67), Monterey, Virginia, was inducted into the National Association of State and Territorial Apprenticeship Directors (NASTAD) Hall of Fame on Sept. 13. He was selected by the commonwealth of Virginia as a 2022 Hall of Fame recipient. His professional career included: manager, training, the Apprentice School of Newport News Shipbuilding; president, American Apprenticeship Round Table; and gubernatorial appointment to chair, Virginia Apprenticeship Council, 1994–98.


Alan Clark (’75), Estill Springs, was selected as the 109th district governor for Rotary District 6780. Clark will serve a one-year term until June 30. Rotary International is a service organization dating back to 1905.

Ashley Smith Jr. (’72), Cleveland, was presented the Distinguished Service Award at the Tennessee Association of Middle Schools annual conference. Smith served as a principal

at Cleveland Middle School for 17 years. Upon his retirement from Cleveland City Schools, he became director of teacher education at Lee University and initiated the middle grades preparation program.


Kevin Arnold (’82), Smyrna, retired as chief of the Smyrna Police Department after 15 years in the position. Arnold joined the Smyrna police force in 1989, starting off as a patrol officer. He was promoted to the rank of major five years later after working numerous assignments and investigations. In 1997, Arnold graduated from the FBI National Academy; he was appointed to the role of assistant chief that same year.

Susan West (’81), Mount Juliet, was appointed executive vice president of administration and chief of staff for Belmont University. West has been with Belmont for more than 33 years.

Joseph Whelan (’87), Nashville, was appointed senior vice president and general manager of Round Hill Music Nashville.

Jim Free

The Kappa Sigma Fraternity awarded Free (’69, ’72) the U.S. Sen. John G. Tower Distinguished Alumni Award, considered one of the highest honors alumni can receive within the national fraternity. Established in 1995, this award honors Kappa Sigma brothers who have shown a commitment to their business, family, church, philanthropy, and community activities. It is named for the late John G. Tower, a Kappa Sigma member and U.S. senator from Texas, who served on the Kappa Sigma Supreme Executive Committee for six years and was Worthy Grand Master in 1971–73. Free is a 1969 initiate and Founding Father of the Kappa-Iota Chapter of Kappa Sigma at MTSU, the first college fraternity on campus. He served as staff to the speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives and, in 1977, began serving in the Carter White House as special assistant to the president for congressional affairs. For decades since, Free has represented major global companies in such areas as energy, entertainment, communications, health care, financial services, and transportation. A lifelong country music fan and collector, Free recently donated his vast collection of unique music industry artifacts collected over the years to MTSU.

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Ronald Roberts

A managing partner of global marketing agency Finn Partners, Roberts (’84, ’91) was elected new president of the MTSU Foundation. He will serve a two-year term that ends in June 2024. Roberts is a former assistant director of public relations at MTSU, later moving to the Mass Communications faculty. Prior to his MTSU tenure, he worked as assistant producer at The Nashville Network (TNN). The MTSU Foundation was established in 1961 as a 501(c)(3) taxexempt organization and is managed by a volunteer board of trustees and staffed by MTSU employees. The foundation’s primary function is to receive and acknowledge private gifts to the University.


Vanessa Alderson (’94), Columbia, was nominated for the 2021 NAACP Women’s History Month Phenomenal Woman award and the 2022 Women of Influence Award from the Nashville Business Journal. An educational assistant at Randolph Howell Elementary STEM School, she received the 2020 COVID-19 Essential Workers Badge of Honor from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority SER. She also received the 2016 Humanitarian Award from the E. Trice Scholarship Program and is celebrating 40 years since her crowning as Miss Black MTSU.

Make a New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep (Forever)!

Have questions? Contact Paul Wydra, Director of Development Initiatives, at 615-898-5329 or MTSU has partnered with FreeWill to offer alumni and friends the ability to write your legally binding will online, free of charge. Scan the QR code or visit

Did you know you can make a legacy gift to MTSU or endow a scholarship through your estate plans?
Create an estate plan or legal will, not only for yourself and your loved ones, but also for the causes and communities you value.
By enshrining your wishes, you ensure your legacy is a meaningful one.

Ben Wilkinson

An MTSU History alumnus, Wilkinson (’01) recently channeled his passion for history into action by successfully proposing a new Nashville historical marker for pinup icon and Nashville native Bettie Page. “Her importance in our pop culture history is immeasurable,” Wilkinson said. “Everyone from artists, actors, photographers, models, and even musicians have sung the praises of the impact that Bettie has had on pop culture . . . and she deserves the recognition!” It was an MTSU Topics in Southern Studies course focused on the history of women in the South that first led to Wilkinson’s discovery about Page’s being a local. He credited his True Blue education for preparing him to complete the rigorous proposal process. Wilkinson told Rutherford Source that he is already at work on a second historical marker, this one recognizing a “legendary magician from Nashville” from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Jeff Ballard (’93), Brentwood, was appointed president of Delta Dental of Tennessee. Ballard joined Delta as chief financial officer in 2015. He was named a 2020 CFO of the Year by the Nashville Business Journal and was recognized again in 2021 with CFO of the Year in the Health Care Innovation Awards.

Roy Gifford (’92), Villa Hills, Kentucky, was named vice president and chief marketing and communica -

tions officer at Cleveland State University in Ohio. Formerly he was associate vice president and chief marketing officer at Northern Kentucky University. During his time at MTSU, Gifford was a four-year starter on the football team.

Greg Lunsford (’97), Harrisburg, Virginia, was hired as Greene County’s director of water and sewer. Before moving to Virginia, Lunsford worked in the Ocean Reef Public Safety

Department in Key Largo, Florida, and then as an assistant community manager for Ocean Reef.


Nic Dugger (’00), Nashville, was appointed chief marketing officer for Live Media Group Holdings (LMGH), where he will oversee marketing and communications for the company’s five divisions, including Live Mobile Group, Lyon Video, and

TNDV. Dugger founded TNDV in October 2004, and over 15 years grew the company from a single-truck operation to a 10-truck fleet. He developed a full crew of production professionals over that same period, gaining strong brand recognition as a mobile production leader for live television, entertainment, worship, and corporate event services throughout the U.S. He has continued to lead the TNDV division following LMGH’s

Winter 2023 49

acquisition of his company in 2019. Dugger, who first gained real-world experience as the student television station manager at MTSU, has since received 14 Emmy Awards for live production, technical achievements, and directing at TNDV.

Patience Long (’01), Murfreesboro, was named executive director of the Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians. She formerly was executive director of the Murfreesboro Center for the Arts.

Anna Maddox (’01), Rockvale, has joined LBMC Employment Partners as chief human resources officer.

Zack Bennett (’03), Smyrna, was elevated to assistant

program director at WSM-AM Nashville. Bennett’s resume includes stints as assistant program director at Talk WVNN-AM/ Huntsville, Alabama, and Sports/Talk WGFX-FM (104.5 The Zone) in Nashville, where he was a midday producer. He joined the air staff of WSM-FM in 2012.

Scott Griswold (’03, ’06), Knoxville, was appointed clerk and master of the Knox County Chancery Court, managing the administrative functions of the court and overseeing the administration of probate matters. Griswold is a shareholder with Long, Ragsdale & Waters P.C. and has been in private practice since 2008. Prior to starting private practice, he served

as a judicial law clerk to then-Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William M. Barker. Griswold also is an assistant examiner for the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners and a fellow of the Knoxville Bar Foundation.

Carlandria Hayes (’03), Rex, Georgia, was named membership director at the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.

Robert Russell (’04), San Francisco, joined Rutan & Tucker LLP as a senior counsel in the corporate group. Russell, who is also a CPA, represents businesses and individuals for tax planning, tax controversy, and transactional tax services. He is the current chair of the American

Institute of CPAs International Tax Technical Resource Panel.

Jon Blankenship (’05), Franklin, became partner at Market Retrievers, a boutique marketing and consulting firm in Nashville offering marketing strategies and implementation solutions to clients in the insurance and risk management space and to local nonprofits.

Jennifer Tipton (’05), Maryville, is the new principal at Walland Elementary. She was previously assistant principal of Mary Blount Elementary School.

Audrey Chamberlain (’06), Burns, was promoted to coordinator for special education with Dickson

Dustin Stoltzfus Stoltzfus (’14) is a professional mixed martial artist who is signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He lives in Germersheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. At MTSU, Stoltzfus majored in Foreign Languages with a concentration in German and minored in Economics. From 2014–18, he attended Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, where he earned his master’s degree in translation. He made his professional MMA debut at “We Love MMA 10” in Germany in November 2014, where he defeated Kyril Kolomcec via split decision. In 2017, even as his career was continuing, he began working for Wordflow Translation and Software Localization in Heidelberg, Germany, as a translation intern. In the same year, he started working as a freelance translator providing Germanto-English translation, proofreading, and transcription services for both national and global organizations in Mannheim, Germany. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, he opened his own small training facility in Germersheim. In November 2020, six days after his 29th birthday, he made his UFC debut at “UFC 255” in the U.S. He lost via unanimous decision to Kyle Daukaus. His professional record, as of September 2022, is 14 wins and 5 losses.


County Schools, where she has worked for the past 14 years.

Jacob Pratt (’06, ’14), Spring, Texas, joined Vision RNG as senior director, strategic accounts and virtual pipeline solutions. With more than a decade of experience in developing projects across the U.S., Pratt was previously vice president of sales and business development for Morrow Energy in the landfill gas sector and vice president of renewable natural gas for Certarus Ltd.

Elliott Brown (’07), Nashville, was promoted to treasurer and vice president of finance and investor relations for LifePoint Health. Brown joined the company in 2010, most recently serving as vice president of finance since 2018. During his nearly 12 years with LifePoint, Brown has been responsible for its consolidated financial reporting functions and has served as a key member of the financial leadership team. He previously worked for Ernst & Young LLP as senior associate, assurance services.

Dan Weisse (’07), Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was named head boys basketball coach of Oshkosh West High School. Weisse is a 1999 Oshkosh West graduate and is in the school’s athletic hall of fame. Most recently, he was head men’s basketball coach at the University of Minnesota–Crookston.

Tonja Williams (’07), Antioch, was appointed new head of school of New Hope Academy. With more than 25 years of experience in education,

Scott Cook

The Tennessee Board of Regents appointed Cook (’01) president of Dyersburg State Community College. Previously provost of Madisonville Community College in Kentucky, Cook also served a stint as senior administrator and professor at Motlow State Community College.

Patrick Nowlin

Nowlin (’09, ’10) was named the University of Notre Dame’s senior associate athletics director for business innovation and revenue generation. He joined the Fighting Irish after spending the last six years at the University of Oklahoma, most recently as senior associate athletics director for fan engagement.

Monique Richard

Richard (’10) was named spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In her new role, Richard represents a group of more than 112,000 members that touts itself as the world’s largest association of food and nutrition professionals. Richard, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2005, balances her responsibilities to the academy with her own nutrition counseling and consulting service.

Winter 2023 51

Williams joins New Hope from the esteemed Head Middle Magnet School of Mathematics and Science in Metro Nashville Public Schools, where she served as executive principal for nine years. Prior to her appointment to Head Magnet, she served as the academic and curriculum principal at Glencliff High School and worked for seven years as assistant principal for Nashville School of the Arts. In 2019, Williams launched Peace, Love & Pearls, a mentoring program designed to equip middle school girls with tools and coping strategies to help them succeed in work and life. In 2020, she launched Power, Strength, and Purpose, a mentoring program designed to help young men recognize their inner power, strength, and purpose.

Daniel Clements (’08, ’12), Smyrna, joined the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Captive Insurance Section as assistant director. A certified public accountant since 2016, Clements has extensive risk-focused examination experience in both the private and public sectors.

Alex Favazza, (’09), Bartlett, is an assistant professor of music and head of the Division of the Arts at Southwest Baptist University in Boliver, Missouri.

Allie Knight and Emily Miller

Two former MTSU golfers secured spots in the 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey. The event will feature the best players in women’s golf playing at the historic A.W. Tillinghastdesigned Lower Course. Knight (’15), shown in top photo, has been playing professionally on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour since 2016. She previously qualified for the 2021 and 2022 LPGA KPMG Women’s Championships. While at MTSU, she had one individual win and helped lead the golf team to its first women’s conference championship. Miller (’16), who was voted first team All-Conference USA her senior year, also recently qualified for the event.

52 MTSU Magazine

Billy Pittard

In 1994, MTSU alum Billy Pittard (’78) was in Los Angles running his television branding and marketing firm, Pittard Sullivan. An industry giant through the ’90s, the company was fulfilling its contract to create on-air graphics for CBS when Pittard recognized an opportunity.

“The FCC required networks to identify themselves every hour,” Pittard said. “At the time, they would have a guy in New York put a 35-millimeter slide up on something called a film chain, and a live announcer would say, ‘This is CBS.’ I thought, ‘This is crazy; you could do so much more.’ ”

So he talked a CBS exec into letting him set up a stage at a summer shoot where on-air talent gathered for photos to promote shows for the fall. “We shot film and had the talent interact with the CBS brand,” he said. “So they were the personification of the brand.”

Think Candice Bergen of Murphy Brown saying, “This is CBS,” with the CBS eye logo in the background; Jane Seymour of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman doing so and throwing a lasso at the camera; and Fran Drescher of The Nanny dancing before announcing, “You’re on CBS.”

“The next year, every network did that, and they’ve been doing it every year since,” Pittard said.

That’s just one of his countless behind-the-scenes, yet familiar, accomplishments in his former life as an industry branding guru. Pittard’s vision was to provide on-screen

design and communications for entertainment and media industries, and no other company in the world offered such services to the industry at large at the time. Plus, Pittard felt cable TV wasn’t just a fad.

“I could go to any magazine stand and point to every genre on a magazine, and say, ‘That’s a network waiting to happen,’ ” he said. “And that’s exactly what happened.” Pittard and his team had the opportunity to launch many of those networks, as well as take existing network brands to the next level. Continuing to create animated graphics for the likes of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy, he also became the go-to guy for designing main titles for TV and film. With Pittard Sullivan responsible for about 1,000 title sequences, Pittard earned two of his five Emmys from ER and Ricki Lake

In 2011, he left Hollywood behind to head up what is now MTSU’s Department of Media Arts. While he stepped down recently as chair, Pittard’s career is a testament to the fact that technology constantly changes, and as elucidated by the department’s recent installation of an extended reality (XR) facility, those changes are accelerating.

“Wayne Gretzky famously said he played so well because he skates to where the puck is going to be,” Pittard said. “I try to tell students to look where things are going, not where they’ve been.”

—Katie Porterfield and Drew Ruble
Winter 2023 53
Billy Pittard (l) with MTSU’s extended reality (XR) technology

Peyton DePriest

Former MTSU soccer star DePriest (’22) signed a contract to play professional soccer with AS Saint-Etienne of D1 Feminine, the top-flight women’s soccer league in France. The Conference USA Player of the Year in 2018 and the three-time C-USA Offensive Player of the Year (and two-time Academic All-American) is the Blue Raiders’ all-time goals leader with 58.

Lance McAllister (’09), Woodbury, was named the exceptional education coordinator for secondary instruction in Wilson County Schools.

Richard Miller III (’09), LaVergne, joined the law office of Charles R. Frazier as the tax matters lead. He is a CPA with extensive experience in tax planning and compliance.


Megan Bynum (’10, ’12), Murfreesboro, a financial advisor for Harvest Wealth Group, was recognized as one of InvestmentNews’ 40 Under 40.

Martrell Harris (’13, ’21), Nashville, was named by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee to oversee the strategy and implementation of all marketing and communications efforts. Harris previously served as the director of digital marketing and promotion for Mount Zion Nashville.

Ranesa Stafford Shipman (’15), Lebanon, was appointed principal for Scales Elementary School in Murfreesboro. Shipman has more than 10 years of experience as a teacher and assistant principal with Wilson County Schools, serving as an administrator

at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Lindsay Will (’18), Nashville, was promoted to director of A&R (artists and repertoire) at Round Hill Music Nashville. She joined Round Hill in January 2021 after starting her career at Liv Write Play.

Zach McCrary (’19), Readyville, was named assistant coach of the Cumberland University women’s basketball team. McCrary spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Lindsey Wilson College. Ansley Pearson (’19), Chattanooga, joined Science Applications

International Corp. as a multimedia design analyst.


Presley Hosford (’22), Murfreesboro, joined the Cannon County Child Advocacy Center as community education coordinator. Hosford is a certified family life educator, and her experience and dedication to protecting children and families made her the perfect fit for the center’s small team. In her new role, Hosford’s job is to train adults how to recognize the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse.

54 MTSU Magazine



Stay up to date all year round

Gone Fishin’

MTSU’s outdoor pursuits program landed a $70,000 grant from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency to pilot a fishing program, the first university outdoor recreation program to do so. “We now offer complimentary fishing pole and tackle rentals, additional gear rentals at a discount, free fishing excursions, and free fishing clinics,” said Blake Osborn, MTSU’s outdoor recreation coordinator.

High Tech Ag

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided Ying Jin, MTSU associate professor of Psychology, a $450,000 grant to develop an institute to bring high school agriculture teachers together for professional development. Jin is the director of C-MEASURE at MTSU, which promotes and facilitates research activities for MTSU faculty, staff, and graduate students.

Know Your Rights

MTSU’s Free Speech Center and the First Amendment Watch at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute partnered to produce a series of videos educating the public on citizens’ First Amendment rights. The first video focuses on the rights of those who wish to photograph or shoot video of police officers in public places.

Follow the

Fungi MTSU Biology Professor Sarah Bergemann, along with University of California–Berkeley researchers, sequenced the DNA of fungi specimens collected in Tahiti and concluded that there probably are new species of fungi on the island that had never been recorded in any scientific data bank. The study was published in March 2022 in the Journal of Biogeography

Stellar Student Success

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities selected MTSU among 19 member institutions to execute a comprehensive multiyear initiative designed to help institutions close equity gaps for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low-income students. The AASCU is among six organizations selected by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to participate in the effort.

Righting a Wrong

Sponsored in part by the Political Economy Research Institute at MTSU, the first Dr. Harold A. Black Academic Conference took place in Chattanooga in September 2022. A paper that Black co-authored in 1978 was one of the first to quantify racial bias in lending decisions.

Winter 2023 55


Luther David “L.D.” Ralph Jr. (’49)


Joan Jernigan Ballard (’54, ’74)

James Clark (’56)

Leslie S. Dale (’50)

Helen Plemons Dickerson (’59, ’77)

William Foutch Jr. (’57, ’62)

Kenneth Fox Sr. (’54)

Peggy Ambrester Gouge (’54)

Harry Green (’57)

Alvin “Pal” Hawkins (’57)

Francis “Frank” Hill (’50)

James “Jim” Lofton (’53)

James Naïve (’56)

Carl Owen (’59)

Carl Grady Palmer (’56, ’66)

Bernice Suddarth Pellegrin (’51)

William A. Sadler Sr. (‘50, ’57)

Catherine Powell Salter (’53, ’61)

Fern Ingle Smith (’55)

George R. Stotser (’56, ’71)


Bobby Alexander (’60)

Richard Arnold (’69)

Gayle Whitworth Bradley (’69)

John Brittle Sr. (’69)

Howard “Ken” Caplenor Sr. (’68)

Sherry Chumbley Bush (’61)

Virginia Cook (’63)

James Cook (’69)

William “Billy” Cothern (’69)

Rebecca Reis Davis (’67)

Jack D. Dickson Jr. (’67)

Fred Dorminy (’65)

Jerry Dugan (’69)

Polly “Bettie” Calvert Dugger (’62, ’64)

Sarah Halliburton Estes (’63)

Mack Fannin (’61)

Ralph R. Foster (’69)

Donald Greever (’65)

Ralph Guthrie (’65)

Jim Hamilton (’63)

James “Don” Hoover (’66)

Jean Whitfield Jacobs (’68)

Walter “Bill” King Jr. (’65)

Charlotte Willard Martin (’64)

James “Jack” Martin (’69)

Carroll Moore (’68)

Donald W. McRady (’64)

Julia Nichols (’65)

Marie Patterson (’60)

Paul Pique (’64,’70)

Joseph Puryear (’64, ’70)

Harry Reasonover (’62, ’66)

Howard Tracy Rivers (’68)

Mary Lankford Thomas Ross (’63)

Carol LeCroy Scott (’62)

Yvonne Slatton (’60)

Lana “Shot” Tabb (’67)

Rayburn Tankersley (’67)

Howard Vaughn (’65)

Sarah Ware (’69)

Jean Eaton Wilson (’63)

Patricia Jean Wilson (’64)

John Woodall (’60)


Mary Semmes Ammerman (’74)

Walter Anderton Jr. (’70)

Patricia Dale Baker (’71, ’75)

Martha Hickman Barron (’78)

Allen H. Barry (’78)

Elizabeth Blakely (’71)

Edward Bowles (’72)

Nancy Pharris Brittle (’71)

Dallas Burns (’79)

Dena Stewart Christian (’78)

William “Bill” Davidson (’71)

James L. Dozier Jr. (’73)

Jon DeVore (’73)

Jeffery Farmer (’76)

John “Mark” Fly (’72, ’78)

Gloria J. Fogg (’76)

Clara Pinkston Smith Fourman (’70)

James F. Gilliam (’72)

Mary “Joyce” Godsey (’70)

Fradonna Phillips Griffin (’70)

Freddie Hackney (’79)

Laura Bledsoe Hall (’75)

Caroline Hoover Hawk (’72)

James Heath (’75)

Lawrence “Bob” Hoge III (’75)

Johnny Jaco (’73)

Alton Jolley (’70)

Susan Smith Keener (’74)

Dianne Dockery Lamb (’72, ’74, ’93)

Mike Liles (’73)

Frederick McLean (’71)

Fred McMillin (’79)

David H. Miller (’70)

Dan E. Moore (’78)

Mackie Owens (’71)

Clarence “Mike” Robison (’73, ’80, ’84)

Donna Spade Rose (’71)

Robert “Bobby” Russell (’76)

Laurel Parry Steele (’72)

Michael Stricklin (’78)

James “Wally” Sudduth (’72)

William Sugg Jr. (’78)

Paula Bevels Thomas (’78, ’83)

Emmett Toombs Jr. (’70, ’74)

Ronald Volpe (’74)

Jonathan Walker (’73)

Betty-Lou Waters (’76)

Paul Watson Jr. (’74)

Stephen Dell Wherley (’72, ’74, ’76)

Geraldine Knight White (’77, ’81)

Dennis E. Whittenberg (’73, ’77)

William Whitworth (’71)

Marie Holman Wiggins (’79)

Robert “Brad” Wilson (’70)

Charles Winton (’70)


Sandra Carter (’82)

Michael Clark (’86)

Penny Painter Cockmon (’81)

Michael J. Johnson (’89)

Rebecca Hodges Foster (’89)

Michael Griffin (’81)

Susan Russell Lassiter (’81)


Sue Anderson Male (’84)

James Samples (’83)

Mary “Sherry” Long Seal (’87)

Charles “Ricky” Stavely (’84)

Mark Stewman (’87, ’92)

Michael Vannatta (’87)

Larry D. Wallace Sr. (’85)


Melissa Barron (’98)

William “Mike” Carter (’92)

Tina Midgett Claridy (’94)

Jose “Joel” Escueta (’91)

Franklin Dee Frye II (’97)

Brady Gardner (’95)

Sarah Follis Barlow

Sarah Follis Barlow (’59, ’63, ’85), a lifelong resident of Murfreesboro, passed away Oct. 4, 2022. A former teacher and professor emerita at two of her alma maters, Central High and MTSU (Honors College), Barlow created an MTSU scholarship for Biology students, the Sarah F. Barlow Scholarship, which is awarded to a graduate teaching assistant who plans to teach at the secondary or college level. She is survived by her husband, Ed Barlow, who is also retired from MTSU. The married couple were students together at MTSU in the late 1950s.

Bryant Millsaps

Jarrett “Bryant” Millsaps Sr. (’69, ’75), Tennessee’s secretary of state in 1990–93 and one-time Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) director, died June 13, 2022, at age 75 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. A child of career educators in Chattanooga, Millsaps earned bachelor’s (Political Science) and master’s (Secondary School Administration) degrees at MTSU. Following stints at Balfour and in the classroom, he worked at MTSU while earning his Ed.D. at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. A 1978 phone call from House Speaker Ned Ray McWherter led to a 15-year career in state government including as chief clerk in the House (1983–90). Millsaps then served as a small business owner, educational consultant, and THEC director for two years before joining the ministry full time in 1998 and eventually becoming president/treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes until retiring to his Hendersonville home in 2016.

Donna Martin (’96, ’98)

Matthew Morehead (’99)

Sheila Parker (’97)

Natalie Barker Ramey (’96)

Barbara Gregorash Walker (’95)

Carla Clemans Warner (’93)


Alana Auslander-Price (’05)

Terri Ankrum Compton (’04)

Daniel Hermey (’07)

Kason Kelley (’06)

Steven Kines (’03)

Daniel Leverett (’03)

Brian Meehan (’09)


Ashley Brewer-Bailey (’16)

Cody Derrington (’10)

Denis Duka (’12)

Kolton Holmes (’15)

Vickie Hull (’15)

Winter 2023 57


Ivy Steel Lovett born Oct. 22, 2021 to Derek (’07) and Rachel Mowl Lovett (’07) of Mount Juliet 02

Zeno Alistair McDonald born Nov. 12, 2021 to Benjamen and Kelsey Talbott McDonald (’21) of Manchester 03

Payton Alyse Edgil born Nov. 14, 2021 to Clayton Edgil (’17) and Jessica Lamb (’16) of Shelbyville 04

Maddie Lyn Folger born Dec. 1, 2021 to Marcus (’12) and Miranda McClanahan Folger (’12) of Murfreesboro


Maggie Evamarie Lester born March 21, 2022 to Evan (’16, ’19) and Ashley Sanders Lester (’16, ’18) of Murfreesboro

Teddi Capri Cavazos born May 3, 2022 to Patrick and Danielle Forcier-Cavazos (’16) of Fishers, Indiana 07


Parker Elise Younce born July 13, 2022 to Markus “Kody” (’15) and Kaylee Parker Younce of Murfreesboro 08

Lucas Aaron Fletcher born July 1, 2022 to Bobby (’15, ’18) and Tabbitha Srnovrsnik Fletcher (’15) of Auburntown 09

Ryan Samuel Weber born July 22, 2022 to Chris (’17) and Emily Becker Weber (’18) of Murfreesboro

Beckham Carter Basler born July 27, 2022 to Tyler (’13, ’15), and Ashlynn Trotter Basler (’15) of Pigeon Forge 11

Mia Catherine Mysayphonh born Aug. 20, 2022 to Chance (’06) and Rachel Mysayphonh (’16, ’22) of Murfreesboro 12

Pennley Sue Goins born Sept. 15, 2022 to Destin (’13, ’15) and Briana Tapp Goins (’15, ’20) of Murfreesboro

10 12 08 06 04 02 09 11 07 05 03 01 58 MTSU Magazine

Murphy Memories

MTSU celebrates arena’s 50th anniversary with throwback game

Fifty years before, the 1972–73 Blue Raider basketball team entered from the underground tunnel from Alumni Memorial Gym for its game to christen Murphy Center, having never even practiced with goals in place in the sparkling new 11,500-seat arena.

“When we came to the tunnel, we really didn't know what to expect—actually like going into an opposing gym, until you got out there and saw the crowd,” said Chester Brown, the team’s senior center.

On this night, in December 2022, these alumni returned to celebrate the half-century of competitions, concerts, and ceremonies that made the “Glass House” a landmark location—not only for MTSU but the whole middle Tennessee region. Four of the five starters accompanied current Blue Raiders during introductions, and the team met at midcourt during halftime with some members of the opposing Vanderbilt team they played on Dec. 11, 1972. “That was a thrill coming back up that ramp and walking into the arena— almost like that night. It gave you chills,” Jim Drew recalled from his senior season in 1972. “As the fans saw us come to the gate to enter the arena, I thought the top was going to come off the place. . . . The windows almost broke from the roar that night. It was a thrill of a lifetime for all of us.”

At the 50th anniversary celebration, the current MTSU team donned throwback uniforms and warmups, while replica rally towels and commemorative buttons, tickets, and programs were given to fans. Music throughout the night focused on star acts that performed in Murphy Center, the go-to place for concerts in the Nashville area before Bridgestone Arena was built.

“I was just impressed with the vision that the college had of it,” said Mason Bonner, a junior guard 50 years ago. “When I was recruited, the first thing that they shared with me was that we have a vision of a coliseum, and it’s going to be a nice facility for you guys to end your career.”

With all new automatic tinting windows already installed last year, Murphy Center will undergo a transformation as Phase II of MTSU Athletics’ three-phase, $100 million facility upgrade plan and Build Blue fundraising campaign.

“I can’t put it into words,” said Jimmy Powell (pictured here), whose 19 points led the Blue Raiders’ Murphy Center debut. “It’s just an emotional rush to actually come back 50 years later and see the place standing just as strong as ever.”

Winter 2023 59
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