Fall 2021 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

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toward a better chattanooga: how mocs impact the community

CHANCELLOR Steven R. Angle INTERIM VICE CHANCELLOR, COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING Gina Stafford CREATIVE DIRECTOR Stephen Rumbaugh GRAPHIC DESIGN Jill Knight WRITERS Sarah Joyner Shawn Ryan Chuck Wasserstrom PHOTOGRAPHER Angela Foster VIDEOGRAPHY Mike Andrews Jacob Cagle Marielle Echavez Chase O’Hara We welcome your feedback magazine@utc.edu

2 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is a comprehensive, community-engaged campus of the University of Tennessee System. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is an equal employment opportunity/affirmative action/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine volume four, issue two | Fall 2021


4 Message from the Chancellor 5 Taking the Title “Best Place to Work” 6 Kudos for UTC student-led I-O Psych group 7 ‘EngAGING’ to create dementia-friendly communities 8 Honors College students go on ‘walkabout’ in Chattanooga 10 UTC grad heads city’s new Department of Community Health 12 Community Service in Student Athletics 13 McClendon Curtis: Mountain-Sized Mentor 14 Johnny Martin’s life-changing decision 16 Engineering a solution for powerline maintenance 18 In Remembrance, Reconciliation and Healing 22 New Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Applied Leadership 23 Samaria Grandberry is Feeding the Root 24 Knee-deep in urban ecology 26 Entrepreneurship as a possible path out of poverty 28 Life and death and food and love 29 Alum Notes 30 And Finally... 31 (423) VIDEO PHOTOS


BONUS CONTENT Look for these icons to access bonus videos, photos and links to stories to learn more.

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elcome to the fall 2021 issue of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine. There have been several digital editions of the magazine since the pandemic began, and it is a pleasure to be printing a physical issue for the first time since fall 2019. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the return of a publication in your hands that brings you stories and images of the people of UTC. Of course, it will still be available online as well. The fall semester is off to a great start, and you can feel the energy and excitement of our students as you walk across campus. I am grateful to our students, faculty and staff for working so hard to help us manage and deal with COVID-19. This team effort requires us to be creative and purposeful in planning activities and events on campus. The theme of this issue, “UTC in the Community,” reflects how our campus and community partner together to offer an engaging educational experience for our students. Classroom knowledge is applied to real-world problems in our community. Students learn first-hand how they can make things happen by working together to address initiatives and issues facing regional businesses and local government entities. We pride ourselves on being a connected partner with the greater Chattanooga region. We fulfill a major role in workforce development as we work to improve the quality of life for the community. Internships and other opportunities to work with businesses afford our students the required skill sets to collaborate in a team to develop creative solutions to problems, preparing them to enter the workforce job-ready. As our regional partners work with our students, they feel more welcome and stay in the area after graduation. UTC seeks to be a meaningful community partner, creating engagement opportunities for our students while we challenge the community to look at new ways to do business. We strive to inspire a creative culture in our community by engaging our art, theater and music programs. The impact of our community on student educational experiences can

be found all over this campus—from the work done in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; to the Master of Public Health program; to the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s outreach and engagement initiatives; to our ThinkAchieve program; and so much more. Student participation in community service is an integral part of the total University experience. Mocs student-athletes are encouraged to perform 10 hours of community service each semester per student. With more than 300 student-athletes, that translates to 3,000-plus hours of volunteer opportunities. Meanwhile, a recent study of Greek Life on campus showed that UTC fraternities and sororities complete more than 33,000 hours of community service in an academic year. Community engagement is more than a phrase; it is a focal point of our Strategic Plan. This summer, we welcomed Stacy Lightfoot as the University’s first vice chancellor for diversity and engagement. Stacy is a career-long advocate for students within the educational pipeline and brings a wealth of experience, insight and relational resources to our campus. The start of the fall semester also saw the launch of Cohort 2025, a new approach to building community through student groups and connections. The name is derived from the anticipated graduation year of the new freshman class, and nearly every incoming first-year Moc was assigned to a small group— or cohort—of fellow students with comparable academic majors, extracurricular interests or other common pursuits. This sharedexperience learning community is expected to improve student retention, graduation rates and overall academic performance. I am honored to be a part of this wonderful campus community, and I continue to marvel at everything you do for UTC. Together, we define what it means to be a Moc.

Steven R. Angle Chancellor




yler Forrest remembers the conversation as if it took place yesterday. Before the pandemic started, Forrest—vice chancellor for finance and administration at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga—was in Nashville for a meeting. As he was walking across the street, a police officer noticed the “Power C” lapel pin on Forrest’s blazer and asked him, “Do you work at UTC?” “I said, ‘I sure do,’” Forrest recalls, “and we ended up talking for probably 10 to 15 minutes about how great of an experience his daughter had here on campus. He took the time to recognize what a tremendous impact UTC had on his daughter’s educational career. “That was one of those moments where I had the takeaway that UTC is way bigger than the context we often put it in. We are impacting the entire state, and we often don’t recognize that to the extent we should. “Our impact is far and wide, and any opportunity we have to celebrate this campus—whether it be a local distinction, a regional distinction or a national distinction—we need to do so because our impact is significant on the individuals we serve.” To that end, a major initiative of the University’s finance and administration

division, which includes human resources, is to gain a “Best Places to Work” distinction for UTC, helping achieve a goal of the UT System for all campuses across the state to achieve. The best known of the local “Best Places to Work” surveys is conducted annually by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. UTC has about 1,400 regular employees, including 500 full-time faculty, making the University one of the larger employers within Hamilton County. About 84% of UTC employees live in Hamilton County, the fourth-largest county in Tennessee. “Anytime we can be recognized by the broader community and celebrated as an employer of choice, it is a celebration of our existing employees, as it recognizes them for what a good job they are doing in promoting our culture. “We want to be seen as an excellent major employer,” Forrest says, “and we want to attract top talent, not just from this community but from afar, to ensure that we are teaching students with a diverse faculty and staff. We want to attract the best and the brightest talent that we can.” Thanks to a benefit available to the University’s entire workforce, employees can take UTC classes (or from any UT system

institution) without paying tuition. Their children pay only half price to take UTC classes. The value of these benefits equals thousands of dollars saved for employees or their children who take advantage of them. Not to mention the value of opportunities made available as a result of completing a college degree. “A lot of companies offer tuition reimbursement, but our fee waiver covers our employees, dependents, retirees and those in other categories such as public school teachers,” Forrest notes.“That is a huge added benefit for UTC employees.” Counting his days as an undergraduate, Forrest is in his 15th year on campus this fall. “I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it is one of the absolute best places to be,” he says. “There’s never been a day that I haven’t enjoyed coming to work. “I truly believe UTC is a place to be celebrated. The values and the culture that this institution represents and the role it plays in our community and region is significant, which is all the more reason I want to get a ‘Best Places to Work’ distinction for the campus. “I’m a firm believer that UTC is more than just the best place to work. It’s a fantastic place to work.”

We want to attract top talent, not just from this community but from afar, to ensure that we are teaching students with a diverse faculty and staff. We want to attract the best and the brightest talent that we can.” — Tyler Forrest, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration

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PARTICIPATION IN THE PROFESSION Kudos for UTC student-led I-O Psych group By Shawn Ryan


shton Adams started swimming when she was 4 years old. That first splash led to a love of competitive swimming that lasted until she graduated from college. Through those decades in the water, she also came to appreciate being part of a bigger whole. “I was a competitive athlete all my life, so I’ve always loved the ‘team’ aspect of groups,” Adams says. After graduating with a bachelor’s in psychology, she enrolled in the master’s program for industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Immediately upon starting, she joined the Chattanooga Area I-O Psychology Professionals (CHAIOP). “My hope was that it would let me dive into I-O psychology a little bit more while providing me with a sense of camaraderie,” says Adams, now a second-year student in the program. CHAIOP was created in 2014 by graduate students and Chris Cunningham, director of the I-O psychology graduate program and a UC Foundation professor. Its members are all students in the two-year master’s program. While advised by graduate school professors, it’s 100% student-driven and student-led. “We view CHAIOP as an extra-curricular and experiential component to what our program offers for our students to develop professional competencies essential for success as I-O psychology professionals,” Cunningham says. “We believe involvement in CHAIOP—especially for members of its leadership team—is a very effective way of building mastery in these core competency areas.” CHAIOP recently was recognized by the Society of Industrial and Organization Psychology as an unusual organization in higher education. The group is not just a batch of students getting together to talk about their day or share stories over beers, the magazine noted. CHAIOP gives an inside look at I-O psychology from a working perspective, a chance to explore the day-to-day realities of students’ chosen fields. It’s an ingredient rarely seen in higher education groups around the country, the society said in a story on its website. Similar groups usually don’t include reaching out into the community to meet and collaborate with professionals. “What sets CHAIOP apart from many student organizations is its mission to reach beyond student participation and welcome professional practitioner and academic members with similar educational and professional interests,” the society wrote. “In addition to providing opportunities for meeting, learning, and networking, the group emphasizes community involvement by partnering with other professionals and organizing activities that support the greater Chattanooga area.”

Ashton Adams

6 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

Professional development is one of the cornerstones of the I-O Psychology program, Cunningham note, and CHAIOP fits neatly into that structure. First-year graduate students in the group are mentored by second-year students who, in turn, are mentored by I-O alumni from UTC who have spent at least five years working in their careers. Hannah Wike was a member of CHAIOP while earning a master’s in I-O psychology between 2013 and 2015. Now working in the human resources at Earnin, a financial services company in San Francisco, she is a mentor to students now in the master’s program. “I let them come to the table and ask me what they’re really interested in or how this would work in the workplace, and then I share my experiences and what I’ve learned,” she says. “Sometimes it’s really tangible advice. Sometimes these students are in their job search and want support in the interviewing process or the career-search process. “And sometimes it’s more theoretical, ‘Oh, what if I come across this in my role? How would you approach it?’ Or ‘What does chain management look like in an organization and real life? What mistakes have you made and how you learned from them?’” Along with mentoring from full-time professionals, another tool in CHAIOP’s toolbox are Spotlights, face-to-face meetings with local business executives who work in the various areas of I-O psychology such as human resources, workforce training and recruitment. The events, which range from Q&A panels to guest speakers and onsite visits to local companies, are “great at giving current students a sense of what working in particular organizations could be like,” Cunningham says. During the actual visits, students get a close-up look at a business’ goals and strategies to reach those goals. At the virtual Spotlight with TVA in fall semester 2020, Adams and other students conducted a Q&A session with UTC alumni who now work at the utility. “It was beyond helpful to hear from graduates of the program who have professional experience. They offered advice and tips we could all walk away with,” Adams says. She eventually walked away with an internship at TVA this summer. While they weren’t called Spotlights when she was at UTC, Wike said the ability to network with local companies and their leaders is one of the most valuable tools she took away from being in CHAIOP and complemented nicely with classroom work. “In the program, we were learning a lot of theoretical idea. How to implement certain things into a business,” she explaines. “With CHAIOP, because we had access to folks that were already in their industry and doing day-to-day work, I really learned more of applied experiences. What a selection process really looks like in the workplace or what kind of motivators and incentives and recognition programs actually really work in the workplace.”

UNDER ONE UMBRELLA ‘EngAGING’ to create dementia-friendly communities The Master of IndustrialOrganizational Psychology program is the sponsor of the annual River Cities I-O Psychology Conference, now in its 17th year, that took place Oct. 15–16.


Learning and development/training Diversity and Inclusion strategy development and initiatives Job/work analysis and job description updating; identifying essential job functions Design/ implementation/ evaluation of workforce training programs; program delivery; policy development Survey design and administration; exit/stay interviews; customer satisfaction reviews Development and administration of performance evaluation and management systems/ programs Assessment validation and evaluation Recruitment and retention planning Organizational development/change management People analytics (involving data from and about people)

By Shawn Ryan


essica Freeman’s grandfather was attending college and working a full-time job in the 1940s, but it all became too much. “He told me he had to drop out of college because he was working another job and fell asleep in the bathtub. It was like, ‘Well, I can do one or the other,’” says Freeman, assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Despite having no degree, he was one of the smartest men she knew. A world traveler, he gathered knowledge everywhere he went. Before he died in 2011, though, some of that man was disappearing. “He was exhibiting the signs of dementia when he passed away,” she recalls. “It was something that deeply touched my family. We could see over the course of time his struggles with that illness.” Her personal experience makes Freeman’s involvement in the UTC School of Nursing’s engAGING Communities Southeast Tennessee especially important to her. The program, created in 2020 with a grant of about $28,000 from the Tennessee Department of Health, is part of an effort to create a series of support systems to make the state “dementia-friendly.” To that end, the Department of Health has created a “toolkit,” says Kristi Wick, assistant professor and Vicky B. Gregg Chair of gerontology in the School of Nursing at UTC. “It’s basically like a recipe book for individual communities to become dementia-friendly,” she explains. The “recipes” are: Building Community Capacity; First Responders; Building Volunteer Capacity; Engaging Healthcare Capacity; Supporting Faith Organizations; Early Detection and Accurate Diagnosis. Using the Department’s starting points, engAGING Communities Southeast Tennessee and other regional organizations reach out to an array of local groups, building local coalitions to develop a support system for those suffering with dementia. In Chattanooga, engAGING Communities, among other outreach, has held local workshops—both in-person and virtually. It has

Kristi Wick Prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease and other related dementia per county in Southeast Tennessee: Hamilton: 11.8% Bledsoe: 10.8% Bradley: 11.8% Grundy: 11.7%

McMinn: 11.1% Polk: 10.5% Sequatchie: 11.5% Marion: 11.5%

Source: engAGING Communities Southeast Tennessee

developed radio public service announcements to get the word out about the engAGING program. “Using the resources that we all have as a community, then trying to look at things that help support people. A lot of times it doesn’t take money.” One important result of information and resources is for coalition members to learn the difference between the various diseases that constitute dementia, Wick says. “Dementia is an umbrella term. Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia fall under that,” she says. “There’s a lot of different names out there, but the bottom line is dementia. And there’s an importance to getting it diagnosed correctly, which type you have, because they look completely different.” With her background in communication, Freeman says providing useful information is critical. Her family desperately needed information when dealing with her grandfather but didn’t always have it, she says. “We really struggled to find resources in our community that could help us,” Freeman says. “I can see the benefit of something like this to try and put together the pieces to make an overwhelming situation a little less overwhelming for families who are suffering.”

utc.edu/engaging-communities utc.edu/dementia-alzheimers Fall 2021 | 7

READING THE CITY Honors College students go on ‘walkabout’ in Chattanooga By Sarah Joyner


t’s the Thursday before fall semester begins. Dorms are unpacked. Freshman Honors students are still getting to know campus and one another. Today, they’ll get a crash course in Chattanooga. As they head out to explore the city, they are asked to read it like a poem. Look at it through a different lens, then another. Talk to the people they see. Seek answers to questions like, “What is the community here? What is it like to live here? Who lives here and why?” “If you get a little lost, that’s OK,” Associate Dean of the Honors College Gregory O’Dea explains to the large group of freshmen. This Honors College traditional walkabout has deeper ties to the National Collegiate Honors Council. The idea of exploring or mapping a city in this way is coined by the Council as “City as Text™.” UTC Honors College adopted “City as Text” for freshman orientation about five years ago. In fall semester 2021, O’Dea leads the freshmen to their first stop of the day—Miller Plaza in downtown Chattanooga, strategically chosen because of its location at the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Market Street at the heart of the city.

That’s exactly what Blythe Bailey, Chattanooga Department of Transportation administrator, emphasizes when he greets the group at their first stop. Everyone gathers on the stage at Miller Plaza, a place that frequently comes alive with evening music, weddings and folks stopping for a quick weekday lunch. “This represents a really important place for Chattanooga,” Bailey says. Knowing the where, why and what was in Chattanooga is a meaningful part of living here, he says. “This is going to be your home for the next four years. It’s important to know where you are and what the history is.” Bailey leads the group across Market Street and to the top of the eight-story EPB Building, where they take in vast views of the Scenic City. From Lookout Mountain to Missionary Ridge, the students get a bird’s-eye view of Chattanooga and a brief history lesson before they break off to explore the city’s neighborhoods. Students are divvied up into groups of four and handed a sheet of paper, assigning them a specific neighborhood to explore for the next four hours or so, before all meeting back at the Honors College headquarters in the Guerry Center on campus that afternoon.

Honors College freshmen take a unique reading assignment every August before the start of a new academic year. Instead of reading books or articles, they’re reading Chattanooga. 8 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine


Assigned to explore the Fort Wood district and its neighboring Later in the afternoon, lounging in the air conditioning of the community, Lincoln Park, freshmen Maggie Leslie, Aaron NiedGuerry Center Reading Room, the Honors freshmen reconvene. zielski, Nancy Penrod and Mitaire Arhagba make their way back Groups had explored neighborhoods like North Shore, Southside, through campus and pose for a photo by the “Fortwood Historic Highland Park, Orchard Knob, Saint Elmo and Ridgedale. District” sign at Palmetto and Vine streets. (How to spell the Some took the bus, the electric shuttle or contemplated the neighborhood’s name depends on who’s spelling it.) city’s bike-sharing program to get from their starting location at Hailing respectively from Murfreesboro, Memphis, Dunlap and the EPB building to reach their assigned neighborhood. Smyrna, Tennessee, all four are new to living in Chattanooga. Three of They share the day’s adventures. Who they met. Who talked to the four—Leslie, Niedzielski and Arhagba—had visited the city only them. What they noticed. What they learned. a handful of times each before moving into their campus dorms a few Their discussion is met with commentary and historical context days prior. Living in Dunlap, Penrod has often visited Chattanooga. from O’Dea and his daughter, Meghan, an Honors College The group immediately heads to the Mayor’s Mansion Inn at student who earned a bachelor’s in English in 2010 and a master’s the intersection, where they walk past a man sitting leisurely in creative writing in 2016, both from UTC. on the porch and through the front door. The visit is completely After the walkabout, students say their impressions of unplanned, but the group is still greeted warmly by an inn employee Chattanooga are reshaped. who happens to be a fellow UTC student. That’s one of the many goals of this exercise, explains Linda By the time the tour ends, they have seen every bathroom in the Frost, dean of the place and been invited to join their tour guide on the club sports Honors College. ultimate Frisbee team at UTC. “We hope they The group continues through Fort Wood, reading the sidewalk [students] gain several pavers that denote the year each house they pass was built and by things: a burgeoning whom. They stop to meet a friendly calico cat who meows a greeting sense of community from a perch beneath a bird bath. They wave down a woman jogging with their fellow up the sidewalk toward them. explorers, an She pauses to take AirPods from her ears and catch her breath understanding of before responding to, “So what’s the community like in this how close downtown neighborhood?” Chattanooga is to The group of students strike gold with the question. campus and a little The runner introduces herself as Jenny and says she lives one better sense of street over. She spends a solid 30 minutes giving the group a crash Chattanooga overall. course in all things Fort Wood and offering some advice for getting through the next four years of college. She has two college-age sons, she adds. From Fort Wood’s role in the Civil War to housing the city’s first hospital—and explaining the nearby location of today’s Erlanger Baroness This is going to be your campus—Jenny regales the group with the home for the next four neighborhood’s history. She points to a large years. It’s important to brick building behind the students, explaining know where you are and how it was a school later converted to apartwhat the history is.” ments. She invites the group to join the Friday — Blythe Bailey, Chattanooga night neighborhood parties. Department of Transportation administrator “UTC students are always welcome,” she says. Then she points to another house in the neighborhood. “That’s the mayor’s house. Go knock on his door and ask him about recycling.” “We hope they learn Maybe she was kidding, but the four waste no time marching to ride the bus and/ to the front door and knocking. They are greeted by five dogs, or take out a bike and barking with tails wagging, but no answer from Mayor Tim Kelly. certainly to better It is mid-morning on a Thursday, after all, and chances are he’s appreciate the wonders taking care of city business, not hanging around the house. of seeing as a walker. The group later explores Lincoln Park and notices some major “We hope they get a differences between it and Fort Wood, although the two neighbetter feel for this place they are going to call home for the next borhoods are separated only by McCallie Avenue. Smaller house four or five years, and we hope to nurture and further spark their sizes and lots. Fewer large, shady trees to escape the sun beating curiosity about life and world around them, no matter what that down in the August heat. might be.” Fall 2021 | 9


SEEING THE LARGER PICTURE UTC grad heads city’s new Department of Community Health By Shawn Ryan


n Sept. 11, 2001, Mary Lambert was in her office in the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington D.C. A little less than four miles away sat the Pentagon. She watched as smoke rose from the building minutes after a 757 slammed into it—125 dead inside, 64 in the jet. “It’s the biggest, blackest column of smoke I have ever seen, that I ever want to see,” she says. In the hours after, she helped set up emergency operations for the Pentagon and at the site where two commercial airliners had been crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. “About 12 hours in, we realized this was not going to be a rescue in any way, shape, form or fashion at Ground Zero. This would be a recovery, yeah. So it was pulling back the resources that you put forward to rescue people and putting forward the resources you need when it’s certain recovery. Forensic specialists, body bags.” While she says she hopes 9/11 is a once-in-a-lifetime nightmare for her and everyone else, Lambert is familiar with injured people, people in pain, people desperately needing help. A 1978 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing—and a member of the school’s second graduating class—Lambert spent 34 years in health care, working for, among others, Erlanger Hospital, the Hamilton County Health Department, the U.S. Veterans Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration. After 9/11, Lambert worked in the George W. Bush White House to create the national Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps, which organizes units of volunteers to help emergency workers prepare for emergencies and when needed, pitch in during actual emergencies. She can’t help herself from helping, she insists. “My mom and my siblings tell me I’m—quote— ‘tenderhearted.’ OK, I mean, if there’s something going on with somebody, I want to help fix it or whatever,” she says. That desire to lend a hand has landed Lambert in a brand-new position, one that came about recently and unexpectedly, she says. Though with her background, it’s hard to believe she didn’t have at least an inkling the position might be floating somewhere in the ether. Lambert officially retired in 2012, but that didn’t stop Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly in April from naming her director of Community Health, a newly created position within his senior staff. Initially, there was a moment of silence on her end of the phone when the call came asking her to take the position. “I had to pause, but I couldn’t say, ‘No.’ I retired from active-duty service, but I did not retire from service,” she says.


A native of Chattanooga, Lambert has a memory stuffed full from a stuffed-full life. An easy, expansive conversationalist, she has 10 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

little trouble reaching recollections that sit in full view, as well as those tucked away in dusty corners. She grew up in East Chattanooga, the fourth of five children. “They call that ‘next to the baby,’” she explains. She attended Orchard Knob Elementary and Junior High and Brainerd High, where she loved chemistry, took Latin and was pretty good at math. Graduating in 1970, she enrolled in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and, halfway through nursing school, she got married and moved to Virginia. “I was following the husband,” she says. She returned to Chattanooga with her young son in 1975, enrolled in UTC and earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The lessons she learned at the University—inside and outside the classroom—have been invaluable, she says. “The value of knowing the community. The value of public health and increased awareness. The value of knowledge,” she says. “Of being a lifelong learner. That was the UTC faculty in my head. You can’t think that you’ve arrived and you know it all and you don’t need to learn anything else.” Lambert went on to earn a master’s degree in nursing from Emory University in Atlanta and a doctorate in nursing practice from Vanderbilt University. Patti Childers, project coordinator for the Hamilton County Family Justice Center, has worked with Lambert on several public health projects, both governmental and volunteer. “She is like a sponge, her wealth of knowledge is amazing, her level of care and concern,” Childers says. “Dr. Lambert has the ability to see the larger picture, to see how things can affect the community at large.”


In the years after UTC, she spent several years as a nurse with Erlanger and the Hamilton County Health Department. She set up a nursing program in a hospital in Grenada, Mississippi, then worked at the VA Medical Center and International Paper in Memphis. A member of the U.S. Army Reserve corps, during the first Gulf War she left Memphis for Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where she vaccinated soldiers before they went to the Middle East. “Some of my team were vaccinating people on the tarmac as they were loading them on planes,” she says. She had a stint as an advanced practice nurse in Maryland, taking care of migrant and seasonal farm workers in primary care clinics for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. From there, she joined the review team for new drug applications at the FDA. At the CDC, she was a branch chief for the national immunization program. Then she headed to Washington, D.C. to work in the

Department of Health and Human Services as the director for its Office of Military Liaison and Veterans Affairs. In that role, she was the emissary between the federal departments of Health and Human Services, Defense and Veterans Affairs. “You’d be surprised at the connections that have to be sorted out or set up between those,” she says. “They’re all in. They’re all huge, ridiculously loud.” In the Chattanooga Community Health office, her schedule is swelled to bursting with presentations to municipal and community groups, attending conferences and, obviously, dealing with COVID-19. Once the pandemic is under control, though, Community Health can turn its attention to the issues it was created to address, she says. “The focus will be health disparities in populations, to issues and concerns around the social determinants of health. How much people know about their health. What they need to do to remain healthy or regain their health. “There are so many places we can make a dent in this and improve the health. Because if we improve the health of the least healthy in our population, we improve the health and the economic welfare of the entire community, the entire city, the entire county.”


My mom and my siblings tell me I’m—quote— ‘tenderhearted.’ OK, I mean, if there’s something going on with somebody, I want to help fix it.” — Mary Lambert, Nursing, 1978

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GOOD SPORTS Community Service in Student Athletics By Chuck Wasserstrom


here is more to being a student-athlete at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga than donning a Mocs uniform and going to class. Community service plays an integral part in the student-athlete experience, says Laura Herron, UTC executive associate athletics director for compliance and administration and senior woman administrator. “When they’re out in the community with their teams giving back, eating lunch with kids, reading to them, putting on the clinics and stuff, it really touches our athletes because they realize how fortunate they are,” Herron says. “They may not think that they’re mentors or special, but, you know, every little boy and girl is looking at them.” UTC student-athletes generally do more community service projects as a team than as individuals, Herron says. While there are no specific mandates, she encourages teams and coaches to perform 10 hours of community service each semester per student. “Of course, we do have individuals that go beyond that, and a lot of student-athletes do it for the sake of doing good, not for the publicity.” Herron cited a host of organizations Mocs athletic teams have assisted in recent years, including Girls Inc., Clean and Green, the Chambliss Children’s Home, Read Across America and Special Olympics. Some of the teams have done lunch buddy programs with area elementary schools, too. A member of the Mocs athletics department since 1994, Herron says she constantly reminds student-athletes that eyes are always on them. “We always encourage our student-athletes to wear their athletic attire around campus so people know who you are, and when they see kids, encourage them to stay in school,” she says. Herron pointed to the off-the-court accomplishments of Liz Wood, a former Mocs women’s basketball player who received an undergraduate degree in psychology with a

concentration in education in May. Now pursuing a master’s in education in school counseling at UTC while serving as a graduate assistant with the basketball team, Wood is the Southern Conference representative to the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). “Every school has a SAAC, and then our conference has a SAAC, and she is the president of our conference SAAC. So she represents the Southern Conference to the NCAA, and one of her big pushes is with community service and doing more,” Herron explains. Serving on the board with 31 other conference representatives, Wood is part of numerous initiatives involving studentathletes. “I think SAAC is a great way for our student-athletes to realize how much power is within their voice,” Wood says. “Once we get it out into the community, kids start to see how much student-athletes can do just outside of their sport.” Wood recently saw first-hand the effect student-athletes can have in the community. “This summer, we were able to get our basketball team out there to just hang out with kids,” she explains. “We were able to teach some of the young girls some skills, working on their form and dribbling, passing, just the little things. Just being able to begin those relationships that we’re hopefully going to be able to keep up with. “I absolutely loved it, especially knowing that some of those kids were less fortunate. We were able to be there and love on them and just show them that there’s so much more to being a student-athlete. “We are truly, genuinely there for them and for our community. It’s such a great feeling.”

12 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

“SAAC is a great way for our studentathletes to realize how much power is within their voice” — Liz Wood, former Mocs women's basketball player

Liz Wood

MOUNTAIN-SIZED MENTOR 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, but Curtis is fun, not frightening, to kids By Chuck Wasserstrom


Shannon Efiom, McClendon Curtis

cClendon Curtis enjoys mentoring kids, both on and off the football field. Curtis, an offensive lineman on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team, laughs as he tells the story about one of his experiences from the summer. “I was working at the YMCA, just sitting on the ground and talking to one of the kids,” says Curtis, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs nearly 330 pounds. “All of a sudden, all the kids started coming over and jumping on me. That is one of the best parts of being a big guy, and I loved it. “The most fun thing for me is playing with the kids. They expect you to act a certain way and, once they see you acting accordingly, they’ll act how you act. They’re like sponges at that age. I love being around children, seeing them smile and looking up to you and making their day.” During his time with the Mocs, Curtis, a graduate of Central High School in Chattanooga, has participated in numerous community-related initiatives aimed at children. One involved reconnecting with a former teacher at Adonai Academy, Shannon Efiom, when he visited her students as part of an annual reading day. “She now teaches at Hardy Elementary School, and it was so amazing to talk to and read to the kids,” Curtis says. “Just having somebody read to you may seem like a minimum thing to most people, but that can make a kid’s day. ‘Hey, somebody besides our teacher wants to read to us. Somebody besides our teacher wants to spend time with us.’ “You could be the highlight of their day today, and you might be their motivation to get there one day where they can help someone else.” Curtis understands the importance of giving back and making an impact on others. He has been on the other side; he recalls moving from place to place as a youngster, including staying in a woman’s shelter, until his mother (Angelina Curtis) could make ends meet. “My mom is great, and she worked all the time making sure I had everything I needed. She just needed some help,” he says. “Everybody

needs help raising kids. It takes a village. “Not forgetting where I came from is important to me, and I’m not afraid to talk about it. Everything that I’ve experienced in my life has made me who I am today. And the opportunities you’re given, you have to be able to capitalize on them.” Curtis, an all-Southern Conference offensive lineman last season, has brought a mentoring aspect to his role as a student-athlete. This summer, he joined Mocs soccer studentathlete A.K. Anderson in creating a bridge program for incoming freshmen student-athletes that helped UTC newcomers transition to college life. “It meant so much helping incoming freshmen understand how to prepare for college,” Curtis says. “A.K. talked about ‘the red zone’ with the girls, while I talked with the boys about how to treat women and how to be appropriate on campus—just teaching them life skills. “And we taught all of them about being a student-athlete and the balance of being a regular college student. You have to learn how to prioritize. Be the one sitting up front in class and look attentive; your professor enjoys that. Get your work done early in the week; you’ve got to do the work first to be able to play.” In September, he was appointed to the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee Student-Athlete Connection Group, one of 12 college athletes nationwide to be chosen. Curtis aspires to become an academic advisor, having gained experience interning in that role with the Mocs. He began pursuing a master’s degree in school leadership this fall after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sport management in May 2021 and has two years of athletic eligibility remaining. “Mentorship is so important. Everyone needs someone to look up to, someone who can help lead you down the right path,” Curtis says. “Football only lasts so long, so having a degree and being able to communicate with the real world is important. That’s why I want to be an academic advisor. That’s how I can give back.” Fall 2021 | 13


TRAINS TO TRAINING Johnny Martin’s life-changing decision By Shawn Ryan


ohnny Martin stood in front of the group of high school basketball players. He was trying to teach them yoga, and he was getting pushback. A lot of it. “Some of them were saying, ‘I’m not doing this, man. I’m not doing yoga. That’s for girls. I ain’t doing it,’” Martin recalls. Before he even talked to them, he knew what the players would say, and he already had a response in hand. A challenge. “I said, ‘Listen, why don’t we do this? Who’s the strongest?’ They all want to raise their hand. ‘Me. Me. Me.’ I said, ‘OK, why don’t we go down to the gym?’” Once there, everyone would bench press, he says. Everyone would do squats. Everyone would do the Crow, a yoga pose with hands flat on the ground, elbows bent and knees resting on the elbows. “I said, ‘If you can beat me in benching, squatting and a Crow pose, nobody in here has to do yoga.’” The players had to do yoga. Martin, a sophomore majoring in Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, teaches yoga to students at six schools in the Hamilton County system, including Barger Academy of Fine Arts—where his wife, Tammy,

14 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

teaches third grade—Dalewood Middle and Brainerd High. “That’s the reason why I’m going to UTC,” he says. He wants to blend his schoolroom education with his yoga “because I deal with a lot of kids that have behavior issues,” says Martin, who opened his own combination yoga studio and workout gym—Cage Fitness and Yoga Lounge— on Lee Highway in the next few weeks. When he started teaching yoga in 2016, he began with daycare centers, teaching three-, four- and five-year-olds, but parents soon approached him with questions about expanding his reach. “Parents would reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, are you doing yoga other than the daycare?’” Now with his own business, Young Yogaletts, he holds several certificates for teaching yoga to kids. He continues to teach in daycares but has added individual children as well as schools to his repertoire. Although billed as yoga, his classes go beyond stretching and flexibility and muscle tone. Through games and other activities, he gives lessons on how to deal with anger and anxiety. He shows participants how to increase their ability to concentrate when stress and excess energy get in the way. It all leads up to building the kids’ self-confidence and ability to respect and deal with others, he says. “I’m going to want to make you strong because we’re working to find muscle. I’m going to help you gain better mentally because, when you run into adversity, you can identify the stress,” he says. He uses basketball as a reference point. “It’s two seconds left in the game, and you’ve just been fouled. Y’all are down by one, and you get two free throws. How stressful is that? You can identify that stress. Your stomach starts bubbling. You start sweating, but now you also start breathing. Now you start sending more oxygen throughout the brain.” Denita Strickland has worked with Martin—they call him “Mr. J,” she said— for the last three years at Serenity Learning Center, which she opened 20 years ago. The school has students from 2½

to 6 years old, she says, and he has worked wonders with them. “I’ve had several kids that were a little hot-headed. He taught the kids how to calm down, how to breathe and use their words to explain what’s going on when they’re angry. He’s shown them what they need to do. Just take deep breaths and think about what he’s taught them in yoga.” Martin began his yoga journey in 2015, when he saw a Facebook post of his great-niece doing yoga. His first reaction was, “Why in the heck is she doing yoga?” “She was only like a year and a half old, so I went online and I started looking up all the benefits for yoga with kids. I found out it helps with ADHD. It helps with autism. It helps with behavior. It helps with concentration and focus.” But the path to his own business was a long, zigzagging route. Growing up in Chattanooga, he enlisted the Navy in 1993 for a tour of duty that lasted until 1997. After his service ended, he moved to Texas to study mechanical engineering for a year, then came back to Chattanooga and landed a job in customer service at

BlueCross BlueShield. “I kind of liked that. I’ve always loved to help any way I possibly can,” he says. Leaving the insurance company, he joined the Chattanooga Police Department in 1999 and stayed until 2003, assigned to East Chattanooga. “I started getting burned out,” he said. He left the police department and joined Norfolk Southern Railroad, rising to the level of conductor engineer in the Chattanooga railyard, where he was responsible for moving locomotives between multiple tracks to keep trains organized and on schedule. He stayed until 2019, teaching yoga on the side, mostly for free to build the business, but he left the railroad paycheck behind to start Young Yogaletts and teaching yoga full-time “Even then I was crying, ‘Lord, I don’t know if I can do this,’” Martin recalls. He took solace in the Bible’s Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” “The Lord said, ‘Trust me.’ I said, ‘But I have a job at the railroad,’ and he said, ‘Whose job? My job. I gave you that job,’” Martin said. “So on Labor Day 2019, I walked in and handed in my resignation.” One of his original customers in the Hamilton County School System was Barger Elementary, a kindergarten through fifth-grade school. He started with 13 of the school’s male students, asking for a wide mixture of boys. “I didn’t just want kids with behavior problems. I didn’t want just low academic kids. I have kids that make straight As. I wanted all of them, because that deals

with inclusiveness.” By the end of the yoga program, 11 of the students had earned awards for academic improvement, he said. At Serenity Learning Center, the kids not only learned from Martin, Strickland says, they’ve taken their lessons home. “When they go home and their parents are upset, the kids say, ‘Mom, calm down and breathe. If you breathe, it’ll make you better.’ That’s coming from four- and five-yearolds, you know what I’m saying?”

He taught the kids how to calm down, how to breathe and use their words to explain what’s going on when they’re angry” ­— Denita Strickland, colleague and teacher

Fall 2021 | 15


POWERLINE PERFORMANCE UTC students help to engineer a solution for powerline maintenance By Shawn Ryan


Associate Professor Zach Ruble (left) and student Corbin Cawood adjust the drone.

he drone hovers about 50 feet up, buzzing like a fat batch of hornets. Slowly it glides above powerlines and power poles, its cameras looking down, recording. All around it, powerlines weave in and out of metal structures that look like multi-legged robots from a Transformers movie. On the ground at EPB’s six-acre Falling Water substation in Middle Valley, Zach Ruble holds a controller. The associate professor in electrical engineering at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is not flying the drone; it’s flying itself according to a pre-loaded program. Ruble’s making sure that if the program has a glitch, the drone doesn’t fry itself by flying into a powerline, smash itself into the ground or make some other life-ending maneuver. It’s important that the drone fly on its own. Eventually, it will soar piece by piece over the 600 square miles of EPB’s coverage area, looking for wear and tear to insulators on top of poles, worn lines attached to those insulators, even rot in wooden poles holding everything. “You can imagine a human going through 600 miles of powerlines to see whether there was any problem or not and how costly that could be and how effective that might be,” says Daniel Pack, dean of the UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science. “There are some areas where it is very difficult for humans to approach to check the health of those lines.”


For about a year, six UTC students and Ruble have conducted a research project with the drones— also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs. The research, done in collaboration with EPB, has taken place not only in the air but on the ground. 16 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

The airborne work gathers visual information that’s fed into computer servers on the ground. The computers digest the vast amount of data they receive and learn to recognize what they’re seeing, whether it’s insulators or lines or poles or even vegetation, roads and structures. Step by step—or more precisely, byte by byte—the computers understand what looks the way it should, so they can tell what looks the way it shouldn’t. “The primary issue we are addressing is how to conduct field inspections more efficiently and more effectively,” says Jim Glass, manager of Smart Grid Development at EPB. “This is a challenge not only for EPB, but for electric utilities across the country. Efficiency improvements are always a goal of every organization. “UTC’s research team is developing machine learning algorithms to process all this data and identify the potential issues. That means that we get twice the productivity improvement—one for the field inspection and one for the time to review images captured by the UAV.”


For non-computer-savvy folks, some of what the UTC students are doing may seem to border on science fiction. Science it is; fiction it’s not. One piece of software—Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NVDI)—uses infrared light to highlight power poles so they stand out clearly amid vegetation, a serious issue for EPB workers trying to find them while fighting their way through kudzu, briars and other thick greenery. Once NVDI removes the vegetation, feature detection software pinpoints the exact location of the power pole. “If you were to take just the images from the drone, there’s going to be a lot of noise in the image. There’s going to be trees; there’s going to be cars; there’s going to be all kinds of things,” says Kirklin Norman, a senior in electrical engineering. “This will help eliminate that, so it makes it a lot more clear for the drone to process that information.”


After all data details are combined, the end result is so specific, it tells, among other things, the exact location of the pole, down to its latitude and longitude. GPS software can be used to find it. The data tracks whether the pole is steel or wood. If there is a problem, it can determine what the problem is; for example, whether there’s a bad insulator or decaying wood in the pole. “Many facilities are difficult to reach, which sometimes means difficult to complete all the typical visual inspection steps,” Glass says. “UAVs give us greater flexibility in viewing a piece of equipment and may identify issues that could be missed by traditional inspection methods.” Traditional methods include a person climbing the power pole to physically inspect the insulators, powerlines and the pole itself. Drones not only increase efficiency, they can reduce the chance of injury for those workers, Ruble says. Knowing the source of the problem will make it easier for EPB to make repairs, he says. “It will do a lot of good to know what the problem is before you send out a team,” Ruble says. “If we can resolve that issue, they can know exactly who they need to send out and then whatever problem they have, they can fix much quicker than normal.” Saving time can be crucial during emergency situations such as tornadoes or storms like Hurricane Ida, which devastated parts of the Gulf Coast while its remnants flooded New York, New Jersey and surrounding areas in September. “Last year, when the tornadoes came through the Brainerd area, I drove through there. It was pretty torn up,” says Corbin Cawood, a master’s student in computer science and part of the project team. “There were some roads and areas where power lines were running, and they were down and inaccessible. The earlier you can find these components that are missing or faulty and replace them, the better things are for people.”

“The primary issue we are addressing is how to conduct field inspections more efficiently and more effectively.” — Jim Glass, manager of Smart Grid Development, EPB

Fall 2021 | 17


THE ED JOHNSON MEMORIAL In remembrance, reconciliation and healing By Chuck Wasserstrom


aFrederick Thirkill is a lifelong storyteller, historian and educator, but even he didn’t know the story. Growing up in Chattanooga, Thirkill knew that the Walnut Street Bridge—a popular pedestrian path for locals and visitors—had a dark secret. A lynching happened on the bridge more than a century ago, but names and circumstances were seemingly forgotten. But dots became connected as a result of a newspaper article in 1999 about Pleasant Garden Cemetery, an abandoned graveyard in Chattanooga’s Shepherd community. “I was amazed to read that there was this Black cemetery that I had never heard of,” says Thirkill, a 1997 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “Being a lover of history, and Black history in particular, I wanted to go to this place.” Thirkill saw that Pleasant Garden, which had operated from 1891 to 1970, had fallen into a state of disrepair. There he observed that the cemetery is the final resting spot of—among others—Lula F. Kennedy, the first Black music teacher in Chattanooga; Dr. Thomas William Haigler, one of the area’s first Black surgeons; John Louis Brown, the great-grandfather of singer Lionel Richie; and Thirkill’s own great-grandfather, Willis Orr. After seeing the cemetery’s conditions, Thirkill set out to clean it up. “It was just a simple desire to reclaim the dignity of the lives buried in that abandoned cemetery because I felt that it was just so disrespectful to have such a historic cemetery lying in such disarray,” he says. “I never dreamed that in doing that, I would learn the story of Ed Johnson.”

utc.edu/thirkill utc.edu/johnson-memorial 18 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

Ed Johnson’s story is not easy to summarize. In 1906, Johnson—a 24-year-old Black man—was unjustly convicted of raping a white woman and sentenced to death. When the U.S. Supreme Court intervened with a stay of execution as a result of the first and only criminal trial in the Supreme Court’s history, a mob of white people stormed the jailhouse in Chattanooga, took Johnson and—despite his maintaining his innocence—hanged him from the Walnut Street Bridge. The case was largely unknown, especially among white residents, until the 1999 publication of Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips Jr.’s book “Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism.” Thirkill’s early trips to Pleasant Garden coincided with the release of the book. “We scheduled the first cleanup,” Thirkill says, “and while we were there, Leroy Phillips came over to me and introduced himself. He said, ‘Come on young man, I want to show you something.’ He walked me to the burial site of Ed Johnson and began to tell me the story.” Phillips, a longtime Chattanooga criminal defense attorney, brought Thirkill to the tombstone inscribed with Johnson’s final words: “God bless you all. I AM a innocent man.” “Even after their book came out, there didn’t seem like enough people knew this story,” Thirkill says. “The baton was passed to me. From that point, I felt that not only was it my responsibility to learn this story, but it was now my responsibility to share the story.” Thirkill wrote the play, Dead Innocent: The Ed Johnson Story. He established the Ed Johnson Memorial Scholarship Fund. He met

LaFrederick Thurkill

Fall 2021 | 19



1. Crowds gather for the Ed Johnson Memorial dedication. 2. LaFrederick Thirkill recounts Ed Johnson’s story and the work to preserve it. 3. Artist Jerome Meadows unveils his sculpture with the help of two students from Howard High School 4. Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly 5. Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the Center for African American Studies and of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, delivers the keynote address at the Ed Johnson Memorial dedication. Seated are LaFrederick Thurkill (left) and Donovan Brown.



5 20 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

6. Members of the Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song lead attendees on a walk across the Walnut Street Bridge.



with schools and organizations and even gave tours as a cemetery docent to help educate them about the life of Johnson and the historical value of the burial ground. He says he recognized right away that not everyone is pleased to be reminded about the past. “Some might say, ‘Well, that happened forever ago,’” he says, “but forever ago is still connected to someone’s family history.” “I remember being in a barbershop one day back when I first started cleaning up the cemetery,” Thirkill recalls, “and the guys in the barbershop started asking questions about it. One guy said to me, ‘Who gave you the right to go up in the cemetery starting trouble? Why don’t you just let sleeping dogs lie?’ “I asked him, ‘Who gave you the right to deny me the story? I don’t see them as dogs, and I think it’s a shame that we’ve let the cemetery become abandoned.’ It’s like they had forgotten about the significance and contributions of the people who were buried there.” In 2016, Thirkill became co-chair of a committee brought together to discuss paying tribute to Johnson’s memory. The interracial group, known as The Ed Johnson Project, has spent years working to erect a permanent memorial commemorating Johnson’s lynching. They wouldn’t let Johnson’s story fade from memory. “History doesn’t compete with itself; it is what it is,” Thirkill says. “We have to tell the honest stories and the truthful stories. We have to make sure that we acknowledge what happened.” On Sept. 19, the Ed Johnson Memorial dedication took place with the ceremonial unveiling of bronze sculptures honoring Johnson and his Black attorneys, Noah Parden and Styles Hutchins—who appealed his case to the Supreme Court after white lawyers refused. Despite persistent rain—which event chair Donivan Brown declared “tears of joy from heaven”—more than 200 people turned out for the event, at which Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly read a proclamation of apology from the city for the 1906 miscarriage of justice against Johnson. Keynote speaker Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, acknowledged the rarity of communities coming together to recognize “A profound wrong, a wrong that haunts.” “Over 100 years later though it may be,” Glaude said to those gathered at the south end of the bridge, “this act to remember Ed Johnson, what happened on that fateful day, helps clear the path for a different way of being together here in Chattanooga.” Artist Jerome Meadows created the statues of Johnson, Parden


arlier this year, 12 students in the UTC Honors College recorded this critical chapter in Chattanooga’s history. A five-part serial podcast titled We Care Now: A Podcast for Ed Johnson was created as part of a semester-long course called Storytelling Through Podcasts, led by instructor Will Davis. “This was a hard story to hear and an even harder story to tell,” Davis says. “We approached it as storytellers telling a true-

and Hutchins, and he revealed them with the help of Howard High School students. Thirkill says some memorials are designed to evoke an emotion. The Ed Johnson Memorial is intended to educate. “Seeing Ed Johnson walking away from the noose and being set free—or being just beyond the reach of the justice system—is beautifully illustrated in this memorial,” Thirkill says. “I know there are going to be people who might be upset about it, be it Black people who are upset that it happened or white people who are upset that it’s acknowledged. “But those conversations are healthy because then you can examine why you have those feelings; and when conversations happen, it gives you the opportunity to see it from a different perspective.” Stacy Lightfoot, UTC vice chancellor for diversity and engagement and a native of Chattanooga, has long been part of the Johnson memorial conversations. She recognizes there are people who may not like hearing about history that isn’t pleasant to hear, “but it’s important to learn so we can have empathy for others.” “One of the missions of this memorial is to create this space of reconciliation and healing,” Lightfoot says. “This memorial provides an opportunity for me to teach my son how far we’ve come because that history isn’t taught anywhere else. It allows me to stop at the monument and talk to him about what life was like for his great-grandfather and my mother and her brothers and sisters who grew up in a segregated Chattanooga. “This will be a good prompt for conversations, an ‘a-ha’ moment, for those who don’t know the history—but could benefit from learning and understanding it so they know how to move on.” With the memorial in place and Johnson’s story now being told via multiple platforms, Thirkill says his life commitment to educating people about the life of Johnson will continue. He says it’s important that others learn the story to continue to fight against injustice. “I could be Ed Johnson or anybody who looks like me could be Ed Johnson. So for me, it’s personal as a Black man to help make sure that we know this story and understand how it happened to prevent it from happening again,” Thirkill says. “I’m blessed that God allowed me to be the vessel through which he sent this project. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to learn the story, go out and share it and get the chance to see this memorial come to life. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to be a part of this experience.”

crime podcast, and we divided the student group into producers, editors and writers.” The class worked together identifying the people who were going to be interviewed and the questions to be asked. Davis took those queries into the podcast lab and conducted extended interviews with LaFrederick Thirkill, studio artist/memorial creator Jerome Meadows, Ed Johnson committee chair Donivan Brown and performing artist

Nicole Coleman. “Those interviews were very impactful for me to listen to,” Davis says, “and I learned as much during the class as I taught. It was an emotional story, and we didn’t shy away from that. We went with our instincts; if it sounded right and authentic, we went with it. And I think it worked.” utc.edu/WeCareNowPodcast

Fall 2021 | 21


PRIME TIME TO RISE AND SHINE New Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Applied Leadership By Chuck Wasserstrom


or a traditional college student pursuing an undergraduate degree, life sometimes gets in the way. Perhaps the student earned an associate degree and didn’t continue along a higher-education path. Or maybe the person started at a four-year institution and only made it partway through before being forced to stop. Whatever the reason—family, economics, job status—it wasn’t feasible to complete a degree at the time. But what if that person—now an adult and in the working world—could get a credential that might be a life-changer, allowing career advancement not possible before? Nontraditional students are the inspiration for a new degree program started this fall at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Leadership, housed in the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies (CHEPS), is a fully online program that serves students also known as adult learners with previous college, military or work experience who want to complete their degrees. Efforts behind the conceptualization and design of the program were led by Beth Crawford, UC Foundation professor and program advisor, and David Rausch, associate dean of CHEPS and professor and director of learning and leadership programs at UTC. “Our target audience is working adults and adults between jobs,” Crawford says. “They have some college credits but have not been able to finish a degree, and there are still so many companies and organizations that require a bachelor’s degree for any type of advancement.” The online component is essential for the program’s success. Many David Rausch, Beth Crawford adult learners can’t get to a brick-and-mortar campus during standard business hours due to their jobs. They might live in the region, but getting to and from downtown Chattanooga after work can be a problem in rush-hour traffic. And don’t forget, UTC is fewer than 20 miles from the Central time zone. Crawford and Rausch have been working in the online student programming environment for years. “We were doing Skype advising 10 years ago and switched to

Zoom when Zoom came out. We like to joke that we were using Zoom before Zoom was cool,” Crawford says. Students in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Leadership program, no matter their specialty, have responsibilities that involve some type of leadership role or process in their workplace, Rausch says. The program’s coursework helps students develop the skills and knowledge they need to solve problems, communicate effectively and resolve conflict in diverse environments. “We try to take all of these courses a step further and say, ‘How would it apply in your workplace, in what you’re doing, in your life?’ and then let’s talk about how you weave this information we’re covering with your practice with what you’re doing. How will it make a difference?” Rausch says. “How will you be able to take something out of any course you take here and put it in place in the coming days? “A very diverse group of learners will take this course, and that’s why I get fired up when I talk about it,” he continues. “They are much more diverse than the students we traditionally attract because this is a group of people who are all over the map in terms of what they do, where they do it and what their backgrounds have been. “I think it’s great for the University because we’re servicing people who didn’t have access to a program like this before. It makes us a better community partner being able to offer something of this nature.” While Rausch uses the phrase “fired up” multiple times in talking about the introduction of the degree program, Crawford calls the debut of the Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Leadership “a lifetime dream for both of us in different ways.” “Dr. Rausch has been all over the country during his professional career doing online learning and all of those kinds of things,” she says. “I’ve been here at UTC my entire career in various roles, and one of those roles was in continuing education where we were constantly trying to develop an adult, feasible degree. “So I’ve watched it for years and years and years, and this is the first time that we’ve been able to work through the whole process with the state, the system, and THEC and build a degree that we believe will work for working adults.” Life might have gotten in the way before. Rausch cautions all student participants that life will remain the most significant issue. “Don’t allow yourself not to be successful. Don’t mess up an opportunity because you bit off too much too fast,” he says. “Our participants still have family and community commitments, so it takes management of time and discipline. It’s as important for us to help coach folks through that as it is to make sure they understand the subject matter.”

utc.edu/applied-leadership 22 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine


FEEDING THE ROOT Alumna prescribes produce as medicine By Sarah Joyner


amaria Grandberry was hosting a Juneteenth community wellness market on her great-grandfather’s land when it hit her. She had finally fulfilled a promise she made to him years ago. When she was a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Grandberry studied abroad in Africa. Before leaving, she promised her great-grandfather she would bring something back to him; but he passed away while she was studying overseas. “I was across the world. I never got a chance to say goodbye to him,” Grandberry says. “I never got a chance to bring something back to him.” More than 200 people attended Grandberry’s Juneteenth event. She sold produce grown on the family farm and offered a food demonstration using traditional African foods. Local vendors set up tents and booths selling coffee and food. Folks rolled out yoga mats and took morning classes. All on the same field where her great-grandfather spent so much time tending rows of green beans and corn. “Being there was my way of honoring him and bringing something back to him. Because I know that if he was there, he would have been so happy seeing our people and carrying on the legacy of what he did,” Grandberry says. “He loved growing food and loved sharing it with people, and I was able to do that, just in a different way.” DIETITIAN, ENTREPRENEUR, PHILANTHROPIST, GRADUATE STUDENT In the three years since she graduated from the UTC Health and Human Performance department’s dietetics program, Grandberry’s been busy. She’s blazing trails as a Black dietitian specializing in trichology (the study of diseases or problems related to hair and scalp). In 2020, she

and her sister started a buy-one, give-one produce program to address food insecurity heightened by the pandemic in her hometown of Memphis. Every time someone bought a box of produce from her family’s farm, they donated another box of produce to the local food bank. From there, she founded her own private practice, Feeding the Root. She says Feeding the Root grew out of necessity. Roughly 2.6 percent of dietitians in the U.S. identify as Black, “and in the city of Memphis, it’s even smaller. So I saw a huge need for a provider of color in my city,” Grandberry explains. Grandberry specializes in helping people get to the root of their hair loss and other hair and scalp conditions. Her prescription? Lots of listening and the right kinds of food. “I help them unpack what’s going on. Let’s look at the insides because your hair grows from the inside.” Grandberry admits many people ask why she’s a dietitian talking about hair. “Helping people understand the connection is a large part of what I’ve been working on, because a lot of people think of our hair as just this topical, outward thing. They don’t think of it as an outward manifestation of what’s going on inside.” She’s tapping into her background and family farm to produce prescription boxes. The boxes of produce are curated depending on the client, often with food grown on her family’s land, and include recipes and meal plans. It was on that farm where she grew up near Memphis that Grandberry spent early mornings helping her dad pick peas and corn before school. Back then, it was just another eye roll-inducing chore. Now, she’s putting those childhood experiences and the farm resources to use. “I come from a family of what used to be sharecroppers, then just farming for pleasure and farming for our family,” she says. “That’s always been a part of my family and our heritage.” Samaria Grandberry


LIVE STREAMING Knee-deep in urban ecology By Shawn Ryan


h, I missed it!” Jasmin Barton-Holt says, both annoyed and slightly dismayed. Fish net in hand, she is exasperated after missing minnows zipping around Mountain Creek at the base of Signal Mountain. Her irritation lasts less than a second, though, as she dips her net back into the water and successfully snags minnow after minnow as she walks slowly through the water. Wading knee deep in the creek, she and four other students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga aren’t fishing for food. They’re swishing their nets through the water to scoop up small fish—most about a finger long—living in the creek, tallying the number and different species they find. The health of the fish also is part of the job, but a small part. The tasks are linked to research that Mark Schorr, a professor in the UTC Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Science, has been conducting for the past two decades. Working with students and colleagues at UTC, he’s examining the ecology of urban streams and local watersheds. For the last 12 years, the research has focused on measuring and determining the effectiveness of stream restoration projects in the urban environments in and around Chattanooga. “Streams can heal themselves, but not if urbanization keeps affecting the surrounding area,” he says.

CATCH AND RELEASE Pulled from nets, the fish are transferred into five-gallon buckets and 10-gallon coolers. The students reach their hands into the containers to pull out fish after fish—some so slick they squirt out of the students’ hands and flop back into the creek. As the fish are examined, names pour out: BLG (bluegill). LSR (large-scale stone roller). REB (Red-eyed bass). NHS (northern hog sucker). Many more. A senior in geology, Barton-Holt records the names and numbers of the species as the other students loudly identify each fish, toss it into the stream and go for more. 24 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

“Y’all, this is getting insane,” she says after a couple of minutes of rapidly jotting down the flood of information. In a certain way, though, that insanity is what the students are seeking. “This is exactly what I’d love to do as a job,” says Hunter Lamb, who recently graduated with a master’s in environmental science and is working as a research assistant on the project. There are lessons to learn in the stream work, says Sierra Beatty, a senior in geology. “I’m learning how to take better field notes and I’m learning to work with a team to achieve an end goal,” she says. HEALTHY—OR NOT In his decades-long work, Schorr has been wading through many local streams, documenting the effects of urbanization. It’s not very positive, he says. New neighborhoods, apartment complexes, shopping centers and other developments are being built at a breakneck pace in the Chattanooga area, he explains. To make room, trees are being cut down; soil is being cleared of vegetation and, in many cases, asphalt is replacing them. In return, stormwater rushes across the nownaked soil or paved parking lots and sweeps across the now-naked landscape. Instead of being slowed and absorbed by plant-covered ground, the water drags sediment and debris with it, then plunges into nearby streams. “Sediment can reduce the amount of oxygen in the water and the fish actually suffocate,” Schorr says. Chemical pollution also can filter into the water, sometimes causing physical damage to the fish and other animals who live in it. KNEE-DEEP IN THE STREAM On a warm day in May, while working with the students in Mountain Creek—located at the base of Signal Mountain about six miles from downtown Chattanooga—Schorr finds a fish with a white lesion on it. It’s not naturally occurring.

Professor Mark Schorr leads students along Mountain Creek.

“We’re looking at each individual fish to see if there’s any sign of stress. External abnormalities. Ulcerated regions. Fin rot. Noticeable ectoparasites attached to them,” he says. To see whether the stream is improving, staying the same or deteriorating, new data from water samples will be sent to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for comparison. “When I learned about the stream restoration that was being done, I was really excited because we had baseline data on all of the streams where restoration was done, so we could look at before and after,” Schorr says. Previous studies of the Southeast Tennessee/ North Georgia region suggest that urban development has degraded streams from low to moderate levels depending on how much and how quickly urbanization is taking place, Schorr says. Data from a study that ran from 1998 until 2008 and examined 21 streams in the Chattanooga region revealed that most rated “poor” when it came to the effects of urbanization. The research taking place this year by Schorr and others will update the data from 2008. When he’s done collecting data, Schorr’s information will be sent to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. STEP BY STEP

Along Mountain Creek, in sections about 300 to 400 feet each, Schorr and his students sample about one-third of a mile overall each day. The research takes place over several weeks with daily plunges into the creek for Schorr and students.

Nets are strung from one edge of the creek to the other. One upstream keeps fish out; one downstream keeps fish in. Once nets are in place, Schorr hauls a device known as a fish shocker onto his back. A pole with a small circle of metal on the end is connected to the device and delivers a small zap of electricity that stuns the fish without killing them. Students wear waders with rubber boots and gloves to protect them from getting shocked as well as keep them dry. The poles with nets are fiberglass and don’t transmit electricity. Still, no sense in tempting fate. After the fish are counted, identified and released back into the creek, the nets are moved to the next section, and the process starts all over. As Schorr wades slowly through the stream with the shocker, the students walk alongside and behind him, swooping into the water with their nets. For the UTC students involved in the project this summer, it’s field work for a credited class in individual studies. It’s also pretty cool. Jacob Hart, a senior in environmental science, says he’s a catch-and-release fisherman in his spare time, so wading through the stream is just a different way to the same destination, “I’ve got to say, it’s pretty fun.” Beatty was more emphatic. “This is a blast,” she says. “I’ve been having so much fun out in the field that I wish all classes were taught like this.”

Professor Mark Schorr said he hopes students who are sampling and assessing streams in urbanized watersheds will acquire: • Technical skills and researchrelated experience collecting and recording field data for an ecological stream study • Applied knowledge and hands-on experience sampling and assessing water quality, hydrology, structural habitat features and fish assemblages in streams • Experience working and interacting postively/ productively with others on a research team • Technical skills and work experience that will benefit them professionally




ike Bradshaw is a life-long entrepreneur, connector and thinker. As the first Entrepreneur-in-Residence in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), Bradshaw—who began his role in July—will lead initiatives that spread entrepreneurship across campus and better connect the CIE to the Chattanooga entrepreneurial ecosystem. “One of the things that I see myself doing here is being a conduit at an operational level, providing people—usually in the form of interns, often in the form of mentors—to the community to be involved in entrepreneurial activities,” he says. By collaborating with Chattanooga’s robust entrepreneurial support organizations, Bradshaw says he is “bringing all the pieces onto the table” to create systematic engagement opportunities among UTC students, faculty and staff with the business community. Bradshaw has a long history with UTC, going back to graduate studies in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business. Bradshaw received an MBA in 2008, has been an adjunct faculty member since 2011 and made a plethora of connections on campus and in the community as director of The Company Lab from 2013 to 2017. Better known as CO.LAB, the latter is a business management consultancy dedicated to accelerating startups in the region. With community engagement at the forefront, his functions as Entrepreneur-in-Residence will include helping further develop the CIE living-learning community for students with interest in entrepreneurship to live and learn together. He’ll also oversee a mentor program for student and faculty entrepreneurs; develop a startup internship program; and act as a coach in CIE’s pilot program for measuring and developing entrepreneurship skills. Creating an entrepreneurship program to alleviate poverty and increase wealth-building among the economically and socially underrepresented within Chattanooga’s urban core is a work in progress. It’s based on the idea that anyone

26 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

can be an entrepreneur and that entrepreneurship can be a pathway out of poverty. “So many people have ideas in their minds, but they’re just chasing those thoughts around,” Bradshaw says. “You need somebody to help guide you, to take one of those thoughts and test them in reality. Otherwise, you’re just reflecting all the time and never really doing anything. Even if it’s helping someone sketch out an idea on the back of a napkin, it’s getting an action going, irrespective of your economic class.” The initiative is based on a model created by Michael H. Morris, a professor of entrepreneurship and social innovation at the University of Notre Dame. In 2020, Morris and Notre Dame’s McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business launched the Urban Poverty and Business Initiative (UPBI), a collaboration among South Bend, Indiana, community partners who work with the economically disadvantaged to help start and grow sustainable businesses. South Bend has a poverty rate around 25% (as a matter of reference, according to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the city of Chattanooga has a poverty rate of 17.6%). Morris also is the founder of the nationally acclaimed Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP), which provides free training, mentoring and management expertise for small businesses founded by military veterans. “While the state of Tennessee had had a relatively dynamic economy, the poverty rate is meaningful—especially in the bigger cities like Chattanooga,” Morris explains. “In a community like Chattanooga, there is a fair amount of poverty and meaningful needs in the African-American community, the Hispanic community and among refugees and the formerly incarcerated. “Entrepreneurship is one of those solutions. It’s not the be-all-end-all solution, but venture creation can be a pathway out of poverty. It is a very promising solution.” Bradshaw, a VEP volunteer since that program’s arrival at UTC in 2012, has exchanged ideas with Morris many times. VEP’s success in Chattanooga

Frankly, it takes years to develop trust, so by partnering with programs that are already on the ground doing the work there with proven techniques of their own, we’ll be able to add to what they’ve been doing so effectively.”

makes Bradshaw optimistic about launching the new entrepreneurship — Mike Bradshaw, initiative. Entrepreneur-in-Residence He has met with organizational heads and program directors within Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to pitch the poverty program. “Frankly, it takes years to develop trust,” Bradshaw says, “so by partnering with programs that are already on the ground doing the work there with proven techniques of their own, we’ll be able to add to what they’ve been doing so effectively.” The UPBI playbook includes boot camps that introduce tools, concepts and principles for launching a successful venture with little to no resources or background; mentoring; one-to-one student consulting; connections to community resources; and an introduction to microcredit. The latter involves small loans to help an individual become self-employed or grow a small business. Bradshaw says UTC campus involvement is a reason for optimism about the program, including the number of faculty and staff involved with VEP who are interested in the new initiative. Bringing students and entrepreneurs together to accomplish a social good while learning about entre-

preneurship from UTC faculty—that’s an essential component. “Through the utilization of University students as interns to help underrepresented business owners develop their products or services,” Bradshaw says, “we will be exposing these students to actual entrepreneurs facing obstacles and challenges that many entrepreneurs do not have. We’re adding the power of UTC’s intellectual capital and the energy and enthusiasm embodied in our students’ creativity and problem-solving abilities.” Morris concurs, citing the success of the student consulting component of Notre Dame’s UPBI program. There, approximately 30 students help low-income and disadvantaged entrepreneurs in numerous ways, including with business registration and creating social media campaigns, websites and bookkeeping systems. “The UTC student body is uniquely positioned to do this kind of work because many of the students are first-generation (college) students who themselves may come from difficult circumstances,” he says. “They’ve worked while they’re in school. They bring a practical perspective to things, and that suggests they will be good problem solvers. “If you stick a student in a student incubator for six months to work on his own venture, he will not learn as much as spending one semester consulting to these poverty entrepreneurs—on the ground with real problems and with no resources.” Fall 2021 | 27


KAREN BABINE Life and Death and Food and Love By Sarah Joyner


aren Babine found solace in the science of the kitchen when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. “I like science. I like knowing why things are the way they are,” Babine says. “In those days, I was really trying to work through how I was feeling about cancer and this really mirrored cancer and her treatment and things that should not exist. It was nice to know that A plus B equals C if I do this in a recipe. At least I had something tangible in my hands to work with.” Cooking comforting meals for her mother gave Babine purpose, a way to help. A vegetarian, she learned to perfect pot roast and the art of searing with her trusty cast-iron skillet named Agnes. She fed her mother mashed potatoes “spiked with as much butter and heavy cream” as she could manage, nourishing with a complete protein after a chemo treatment when her mother wanted to eat only the blandest of foods. Assistant professor of Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Babine also wrote throughout her mother’s illness. The culmination of that work, All the Wild Hungers: A Season of Cooking and Cancer, was published in 2019 by Milkweed Editions. The book is Babine’s narrative of food and illness and loss and won the 2020 Minnesota Book Award for memoir and creative nonfiction. “This book means something in a way that can’t be repeated,” Babine says. Her mom was there throughout the process with her first book, Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life, but did not get to see All the Wild Hungers through to publication. The first book also won the Minnesota Book Award, and her mother attended the first awards banquet. “We postponed her chemo a week so she could go. She was there. Dressed up and bald. Gorgeous. “She passed away two months before the publication of All the Wild Hungers. She

got to read it, but she didn’t get to see the full thing. It’s very bittersweet.” IN THE CLASSROOM Babine had an opportunity to pair food and writing again when she taught an English senior seminar course on food writing in fall 2020. She started the semester with a caveat, “Food does a neutral good.” She had the class approach their studies with these statements: “There is no such thing as bad food. There is no such thing as bad eating.” “We’re going to come at this from ‘food is good,’ and we’re going to explore the complications of food, Babine says. You know, media teaches us that eggs are bad this week. We might interrogate that, but that’s not going to be our response.” The readings began with David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster,” an essay about the annual Maine Lobster Festival published in Gourmet magazine in 2004. “That was the first intersection because, up until that point, food writing had been written by food people, not writers. So here we have a writer being published in a food magazine, which is an interesting sort of cross-pollination,” Babine says. From “Consider the Lobster” to a romance novel to M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf— published after World War II when food was scarce, but the writer’s humor was not—Babine and her class of English students studied how people write about and interact with food. Along the way, she gives soon-to-be graduates tools for success beyond UTC, whether food-centric poems or writings for portfolios or literary and rhetorical analyses to use as writing samples for graduate school applications. “We’re going to give you ways to think about something like food after you leave here,” she adds, “because food is the great common denominator. We all have to eat.”

28 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

BOOKSHELF Bookshelf features new books written or edited by or about alumni and other members of the UTC community. To be included, send publisher’s press release and a high-resolution book cover image to magazine@utc.edu.

Karen Babine Assistant Professor of Creative Writing

All the Wild Hungers: A Season of Cooking and Cancer (Milkweed Editions, 2019) All the Wild Hungers is a winner of the Minnesota Book Award, as is Babine’s 2015 Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life (University of Minnesota Press). She’s currently at work on her next book, an essay collection about camping to Nova Scotia to discover her family’s Acadian roots. Babine also is founder and editor of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, which she describes as publishing “the best critical scholarship of creative nonfiction texts, to facilitate all facets of nonfiction conversations in a variety of disciplines and to be a resource for writers, scholars, readers, and teachers of nonfiction.” utc.edu/bookshelf



Pamela A. Fleenor ’82 is president-elect of the Tennessee Judicial Conference, which is comprised of Tennessee’s state court judges.

Randy Cagle ’93 has been hired as dean of Ferris State University’s College of Arts, Sciences and Education.

Catelyn Millaway ’21 joins HHM CPAs as a staff accountant.

Chris Rutledge ’93 has been hired by Pinnacle Financial Partners as a commercial banker.

Timothy Drinkwine ’03 has been named the new principal at Grassland Middle School in Williamson County, Tennessee.

Andrea Johnson ’95 is the new principal at Barger Academy.

Roxanne Anthony ’05 has been named principal at Harrison Elementary School. Anthony previously served as the principal at Barger Academy.

Jasmine Farrow ’08 has been named the principal at East Lake Elementary School. She previously served as assistant principal at East Side Elementary School.

Rich Balthrop ’88 joined the team at RockPoint Bank in Chattanooga. Sarah Lane ’06 has been named the principal at Bess T. Shepherd Elementary School. Previously, she served as assistant principal at Loftis Middle School.

Teresa Dinger ’88, ’95 has been promoted to vice president of patient access and marketing at Siskin Hospital.

Frank Peele ’85 was hired by Pinnacle Financial Partners as a credit advisor.

Lisa Lay ’94 was promoted by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee to director of properties and facility management.

Michelle Rogers ’80 has released a nonfiction book, Trans Right, her story of being transgender and conservative.

Beverly Edge ’94 has been promoted to partner in the Chattanooga office of HHM CPAs.

Tucker McLendon ’18 was hired as director of events for the Millennial Debt Foundation.

Melissa Graham ’05, ’09 has been chosen by BlueSky Tennessee Institute as its student success manager in its bachelor’s degree program in computing.

Stephan Jaeger ’12 earned his third PGA Tour card by finishing atop the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour regular season points standings.

Brian Davis ’03 has been named the new principal at Buckley-Carpenter Elementary School in Somerville, Tennessee.

B.J. Grayson ’13 has been hired as director of rehabilitation services at Life Care Center of Crossville, Tennessee.

Carter Hansard ’05, ’13 was hired as financial planner and portfolio manager at Barnett & Co.

James F. Tanner ’96 was named chair of the Greater Chattanooga Public Television Corp. Board of Directors.

Fall 2021 | 29


LOFTON STUART By Chuck Wasserstrom


ometime this fall, perhaps before you have the opportunity to see this page, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will name its next vice chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs and executive director of the UC Foundation. A new person coming on board means the interim person is soon moving on. As the saying goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Lofton Stuart took the interim vice chancellor post in February 2020 expecting to stay for a few months. Nobody— including Stuart—expected the pandemic that began just a few weeks later and the short-term assignment that brought him to Chattanooga would extend well into fall 2021. Stuart has a habit of staying a little longer than intended. His first job out of college was with annual giving at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he expected to stay five or six years before returning to his family’s farm in rural Haywood County in West Tennessee. Instead, he spent 43 years in Knoxville in various capacities within the UT System before retiring in January 2016.

30 | The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine

When Stuart was approached about stepping into an interim role at UTC, he figured it was too good a possibility to pass up. He had previous temporary experience among the many higher-level responsibilities he had held, including interim president of the UT Foundation, Inc.; interim vice president for development and alumni affairs; and executive director of the UT national alumni association. He had worked under 10 UT presidents and served as executive assistant to former presidents Joe Johnson and John Petersen. In coming out of semi-retirement— “I wasn’t really retired; I was actively working in real estate,” he says—what could possibly go wrong with another limited-term temporary role? Thanks to the challenges of working in a higher education environment during COVID-19, Stuart’s time at UTC has been— shall we say—rather interesting. Working in a COVID-19 world has presented many obstacles, including the difficulty of doing business in a traditional face-to-face setting. Had he served six or fewer months at UTC, as he initially expected, Stuart might not have had a real opportunity to get to know staff, alumni volunteers and students. He says he wouldn’t have gotten to experience first-hand the quality of compassion and dedication of faculty and staff to putting UTC students first. He ranks his nearly two years working in Chattanooga among the capstone events of his professional career. While he has been associated with the University in some capacity for nearly 50 years, his involvement with the day-to-day UTC experience has given him a proper understanding of what the institution means to the community and its citizens— and vice versa. “And how much it gives me hope,” he says, “not only for the success of this campus but for the University of Tennessee system, in general, for the example that’s being set here.” Maybe this time, Stuart actually will stay retired. His successor has a tough act to follow.


Downtown Chattanooga, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021.

Fall 2021 | 31

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