MTSU Announces Largest Capital Campaign

Middle Tennessee State University’s yearlong Centennial celebration took a bold step forward April 13 when University officials announced the largest fundraising campaign in MTSU’s history. Nearly $54 million already has been committed toward the campaign’s $80 million goal. Highlighting the campaign’s public launch was the announcement of a $10 million gift—the largest outright gift in the school’s history—from alumnus and entrepreneur Andrew Woodfin “Woody” Miller of Nashville. To learn more about the campaign and Miller’s gift, visit mtsunews.com/centennial-campaign.

MTSU announces largest capital campaign in school history

Middle Tennessee State University’s yearlong Centennial celebration took a bold step forward April 13 when University officials announced the largest fundraising campaign in MTSU’s history.

Nearly $54 million already has been committed toward the campaign’s $80 million goal. Raised over the past three years during the “quiet phase,” the $54 million alone would constitute a successful effort at many comprehensive universities.

Highlighting the campaign’s public launch was the announcement of a $10 million gift—the largest outright gift in the school’s history—from alumnus and entrepreneur Andrew Woodfin “Woody” Miller of Nashville.

Miller, who provided the six-figure final boost for a fundraising challenge for the University Honors College a decade ago, made a point of telling MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee then that he planned to make an even larger donation to MTSU.

MTSU alumnus Don Witherspoon (B.S. '64) of the University's Centennial Campaign Committee, left, joins MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee to celebrate reaching two-thirds of the $80 million fundraising goal April 13. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“This gift is going to go a long way in helping this University continue to do the incredible job it has done for 100 years, and now, for the new century, it positions us in a very significant way to continue to make the kind of progress that we have mapped out for the University’s second century,” McPhee said.

According to McPhee, the $80 million capital campaign will ensure the University’s place among the nation’s top comprehensive universities, further raise its visibility nationally and internationally, and maintain MTSU’s legacy as a center of higher-education excellence for the future.

Pamela Wright, founder and CEO of Nashville-based Wright Travel and an MTSU alumna, is serving as chair of the Centennial Campaign.

“This is an exciting time for MTSU, and I am so proud to be an alumna,” Wright said. “As we near the end of our Centennial celebration, I’m even more excited about the opportunity to look ahead and to begin to think and do something about the future of Middle Tennessee State University. That’s what this campaign is all about.”

Other executive committee members include Nashville-based Zycron Inc. founder and chair Darrell Freeman, Nashville-based Haury & Smith Contractors, Inc. chair Stephen B. Smith, Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess, Franklin-based Acadia Healthcare chair and CEO Joey Jacobs and MTSU Foundation member Don Witherspoon.

Campaign steering committee members include:

  • Dr. Liz Rhea, community volunteer and long-time MTSU supporter;
  • Dr. Walter Chitwood, representing the Blue Raider Athletic Association;
  • Carol Hudler, president and publisher of The Tennessean;
  • Chris Karbowiak, chief administrative officer and executive vice president of Bridgestone Americas Inc.;
  • Rick Mansfield, partner at Bragg Mansfield & Stegall;
  • Don Midgett, philanthropist who with his wife, Carolyn, established the first MTSU Centennial Scholarship earmarked specifically for the University Honors College program;
  • Judy Powell, senior vice president for clinical affairs, National Healthcare Corporation;
  • former state Sen. Andy Womack, being represented by his wife, Cherry;
  • Kay Woodfin, owner of Woodfin Funeral Chapel;
  • Brent Campbell, president of the MTSU National Alumni Association;
  • Professor Kim Neal Nofsinger, president of the MTSU Faculty Senate;
  • Dr. Michael Arndt, incoming president of the Faculty Senate;
  • Jeremy Poynter, 2011-12 Student Government Association president; and
  • Coby Sherlock, 2012-13 SGA president.

Though it has its own organizational structure, the Centennial Campaign is supported by the MTSU Foundation, which has been working hard behind the scenes for more than three years to raise the $54 million in hand privately.

Joe Bales, vice president for development and university relations and executive director of the Foundation, described today’s public announcement as the “capstone of the Centennial celebration” and said it would provide the University with a “roadmap for the next 100 years.”

McPhee said financial support from alumni, friends and the community has become a vital component of MTSU’s rich heritage, especially during a period of declining state support.

“Today is special for us, for it is safe to say that MTSU would not be what it is today without the leadership and generosity of our donors and friends,” McPhee said. “Demands on state resources and resulting reductions in funding for higher education make philanthropy a top priority for the University. As we enter our second century as an institution of higher learning, it is imperative that we boldly look at the opportunities that lie ahead.

“As we look with anticipation to our future, we will outline today how we hope to inspire our philanthropic partners to join us in building an even stronger university.  These investments are necessary to secure our role as a leader in public higher education, not only in Tennessee but across the nation.”

Watch a special message, screened at the campaign kickoff, immediately below, followed by a brief video from the event.

– Drew Ruble (Drew.Ruble@mtsu.edu)

21st Accounting Alumni Appreciation Day at MTSU set for April 26

The 21st annual Accounting Alumni Appreciation Day at Middle Tennessee State University will be held Thursday, April 26, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., in the State Farm Lecture Hall of the Business and Aerospace Building.

The event is targeted to those interested in accounting, taxation, and computer training. The fee will be $100 for MTSU alumni and $150 for all others interested. Net proceeds will be earmarked for accounting scholarships. Lunch will be provided.

Participants will earn eight hours of continuing professional education credit and have the opportunity to visit with alumni and former professors to see how the campus configuration is changing.

Dr. E. James Burton, dean of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, will open the conference with a session on “Ethical Issues in Accounting.”  Jim Wilson, owner and president of Wilson & Wilson PC in Nashville , then will discuss ”Expert Witnessing by the Book.”

During the afternoon general session, Dr. David Penn, director, MTSU Business and Economics Resources Center, will discuss “Regional Economic Update and Forecast.” Steve Brugman, president and CEO of The Nexus Group in Nashville, will end the conference with a session on “Data Storage and Retrieval.”

Breakout sessions’ leaders and their topics will include:

• Dr. Tammy Bahmanziari, MTSU assistant professor — “Advanced Excel and Microsoft Access”;

• Dr. Stan Clark, MTSU associate professor — “Update on Private Company Financial Reporting”;

• Dr. Lara Daniel, MTSU professor — “Update on the Health Care Law”;

• Dr. Tim Koski, MTSU professor — “Issues in Taxation”;

• Bill Mooningham, MTSU instructor — “Audit Update”;

• Dr. G. Robert Smith, interim chair of MTSU Department of Accounting — “Governmental Accounting Standards Board Update”;

• Dr. Paula Thomas, MTSU professor — “Financial Accounting Standards Board Update”;

• Dr. Pat Wall, MTSU associate professor — “Employment Law Update”;

• Dr. Anne Wilkins, MTSU assistant professor — “Communicating Negative Information”; and

• Wilson, CPA and CFE with Wilson & Wilson PC — “The Expert Witness on the Witness Stand-Cross Examination.”

Seating is limited, so participants should register early. To do so, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/accounting. For more information, call the MTSU Department of Accounting at 615-898-5306.


Alumni Spring Weekend

Producer/Host: Gina Logue
Guests: Ginger Corley Freeman and Stephan Foust

Synopsis: The director of alumni relations and the director of the Center for Innovation in Media talk about various aspects of MTSU’s first-ever Alumni Spring Weekend.

Listen to: Alumni Spring Weekend

Grammy wins, nominations ‘show depth, breadth’ of MTSU expertise

Lady Antebellum’s second Best Country Album Grammy in as many years means more accolades for MTSU after the 54th Grammy Awards ceremony Feb. 12.

Clarke Schleicher

“Own the Night,” the trio’s third album, garnered the win for Hillary Scott, a 2004-06 MTSU recording-industry major and member of the group, as well as for engineer Clarke Schleicher (B.S. ’80). Both were Grammy winners in 2011 for “Need You Now.”

Scott and Schleicher were two of nine MTSU alumni and/or former students nominated for their work on musical releases ranging from country to contemporary Christian to bluegrass.

Music by 14 current and former MTSU School of Music professors was included in the catalog that earned a classical Producer of the Year nomination for Blanton Alspaugh. Three-time winner Judith Sherman took home that category’s Grammy.

“What makes this most satisfying is that we’re showing a level of consistency and expanding in these categories,” said Dr. Loren Mulraine, chair of MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry. “When you start expanding into other areas of the industry, it shows a depth and breadth in your program, and that’s most exciting for us.

Former MTSU student HIllary Scott, center, joins Lady Antebellum bandmates Dave Heywood, left, and Charles Kelley in this publicity photo. (photo courtesy Miranda Penn Turin)

“Success breeds success, and we expect to see success on an ongoing basis.”

The Lady Antebellum album win bumped several MTSU nominees who had been recognized for their work on three of the other competing albums.

Those MTSU-trained nominees for their work in the Best Country Album category included:

  • Brandon Epps (recording-industry major, 1996-2001), engineer for “My Kinda Party” by Jason Aldean;
  • Jason Hall (B.S. ‘00), engineer for “Chief” by Eric Church;
  • Michael Knox (B.S. ’91), producer for Aldean’s “My Kinda Party”; and
  • Brandon Schexnayder (B.S. ’05), engineer for “Here for a Good Time” by George Strait.

Knox, a College of Mass Communication alumnus, had three other Grammy-nominated projects:

  • Best Country Duo/Group Performance: Aldean with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay” (won by The Civil Wars for “Barton Hollow);
  • Best Country Solo Performance: Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” (won by Taylor Swift’s “Mean”); and
  • Best Country Song: “Just Fishin’” by Trace Adkins (also won by Swift’s “Mean”).

Recording-industry alumnus Dave Barnes (B.S. ’00), writer of “God Gave Me You,” performed by Blake Shelton, also was nominated in the Best Country Song category.

Fellow alumnus Brandon Heath (B.U.S. ’03) earned three nominations for his contemporary Christian project “Leaving Eden,” including:

  • Best Contemporary Christian Music Album;
  • Best Contemporary Christian Music Song as co-writer for “Your Love,” the album’s second cut; and
  • Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance for “Your Love.”

Brandon Bell (B.S. ’04) was nominated in the Best Engineered Non-Classical Album category as co-engineer on “Follow Me Down” by Sarah Jarosz. Alison Krauss and Union Station’s “Paper Airplane” producer, Mike Shipley, won that Grammy.

Among his other credentials, classical nominee Alspaugh produced “Osterfield: Rocky Streams” by MTSU School of Music faculty members Paul Osterfield and Todd Waldecker.

The CD also features performances by current music professors Don Aliquo, Michael Arndt, Sandra Arndt, Deanna R. Little, David Loucky, Tim Pearson, Dewayne Pigg, Stephen Smith and William Yelverton and former School of Music faculty members James Douglass, Caleb Harris and Maya Stone.

“We’re very pleased to see that a recording by School of Music professor Paul Osterfield was included in producer Blanton Alspaugh’s Grammy nomination and that another 12 of our music faculty members helped the music come to life as performers,” said Dr. George Riordan, director of MTSU’s School of Music.

“This international recognition of the artistry of our MTSU professors as composer and performers is another milestone in the development of the School of Music as a national player, and we congratulate all of those involved, our faculty members and producer Alspaugh.”

The Grammy Awards ceremony was broadcast live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on CBS. Except for Best Country Album, the categories affecting MTSU nominees were announced in the pretelecast award ceremony.

– Gina E. Fann (Gina.Fann@mtsu.edu)

MTSU alumna Gray’s documentary focuses on rare birth defect

Jasmine “Jaz” Gray is shown with children’s pajamas collected through her Jaz’s Jammies project. (photo submitted)

Alumna Jasmine “Jaz” Gray, whose distinguished career as an MTSU undergrad also was marked by her wildly successful charitable project, “Jaz’s Jammies,” has become a filmmaker since graduating with honors from the College of Mass Communication in 2010.

One of Gray’s first ventures is a film titled “More Than Skin Deep,” a documentary about herself and others who survive a rare birth defect called arteriovenous malformations.

Her cinematic journey will bring her face-to-face with other survivors like her, including patients who have lost eyes and other body parts and families who have lost loved ones.

Gray, 23, who now lives in Memphis after earning her master’s degree from Syracuse University, has initiated a 46-day drive to raise funds for the film. To watch a clip of the documentary and to donate, visit www.indiegogo.com/More-Than-Skin-Deep and click on the green “CONTRIBUTE NOW” button through March 17.

In a news release, Gray said her film “will also highlight internationally renowned surgeon Dr. James Suen … in his urgent fight to find a cure for the destructive tangles of arteries and veins before he retires.”

Gray, who has had 32 surgeries for AVM, said she will use funds gathered during the 46-day effort to pay for production costs, including cinematography, transportation, lodging and various editing needs.

While at MTSU, Gray served two semesters as editor of the University Honors College publication Collage: A Journal of Creative Expression and was both a McNair Scholars Program and Honors College graduate. She received the MTSU President’s Award and made the USA Today All-USA College Team.

She also was honored with the Harold Love Community Involvement Award for “Jaz’s Jammies,” a drive she led to help collect pajamas for hospitalized children—a project she said originated with her own frustration with uncomfortable, boring gowns during her multiple childhood hospital stays.

Gray, a Memphis native, received a Turner Fellowship to attend Syracuse. She graduated summa cum laude with her master’s in 2011.

Alumnus Darrell Freeman talks MTSU and Zycron Inc.

In MTSU’s latest “Alumni Spotlight,” Darrell Freeman, the 46-year-old owner and CEO of Zycron, a high-tech company headquartered in Nashville, talks about how he got his start at MTSU and about his company, which helps hospitals manage information technology.

Freeman got his first taste of MTSU in the spring of 1983 when he helped a friend pack up at the end of the semester. Now he owns and manages a multi-million dollar company that does business internationally.

MTSU notes passing of alumna/longtime educator Kennedy

MTSU alumna Dr. Linda Kennedy, one of the first five African-American students to attend the University in the 1960s, is being remembered as a lifelong K-12 educator and administrator who touched the lives of young people, colleagues and the community.

Kennedy (’92, ’94), who earned master’s and education specialist’s degrees from MTSU, died Jan. 26 after a second bout with cancer. The Smyrna Middle School principal and former La Vergne High School principal was 65.

“Linda Kennedy was a trailblazer at MTSU and an inspiration to those who followed in her footsteps at our University,” said President Sidney A. McPhee.

“Her legacy at our University, as well as her distinguished service to the state of Tennessee and Rutherford County as a teacher and principal, will not be forgotten. We recognize and honor her achievements and mourn her passing.”

In 1963, Kennedy and four other students were the first African-Americans to attend MTSU, then called Middle Tennessee State College, leading to the University’s desegregation. MTSU’s Black Alumni Society commemorated the effort in 1992.

Kennedy left MTSU and later earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Central Arkansas. She subsequently returned to MTSU to earn her advanced degrees.

The Murfreesboro resident was married to Alex Kennedy. One of their four daughters, Toni Kennedy-Forbes (’92), also is an MTSU alumna. Their other daughters include Tammy Kennedy Miller, Tonnya Kennedy Kohn and Taylor Kennedy. Survivors include five grandchildren.

Funeral services were conducted Jan. 29.

New funds fuel Ricketts’ next coast-to-coast adventures

Dr. Cliff Ricketts of MTSU plans two coast-to-coast expeditions in the next two years using different alternative-fuel sources in two different vehicles.

Funding for the trips grew with the announcement of a $15,000 grant from Farm Credit Services of Mid-America and additional financial support from the MTSU provost and the University’s Office of Research.

MTSU alumnus Jack Swanson, left, assistant vice president for Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, presents Dr. Cliff Ricketts with a $15,000 check to help the MTSU agriscience professor continue his alternative-fuel research. (photo submitted)

“I appreciate Farm Credit Services’ confidence in one of their own. We (the Ricketts family) have borrowed from them for 50 years,” the professor said of the grant.

“I’m appreciative of the ag industry supporting a professor doing a very creative thing that emphasizes the importance of agriscience.”

Ricketts, joined by a team of eight to 10 students traveling in a van, plans to drive a 1998 Toyota Prius converted hybrid from Savannah, Ga., to Long Beach, Calif., during spring break. The car will be powered by hydrogen, solar energy, ethanol and less than 10 gallons of gasoline, Ricketts said.

Ricketts said his 2013 plans include a cross-country trip using sunlight and water-derived hydrogen.

MTSU alumnus Jack Swanson (’96), one of Ricketts’ former students and a Farm Credit assistant vice president, presented the FCS check. Swanson has served as the lending officer for Ricketts, whose family has received a Heritage Farm Award as 50-year, third-generation Farm Credit customers.

In addition to his alternative-fuel work, Ricketts raises beef cattle.

“I couldn’t think of anything that would be a better use of our stewardship funds,” Swanson said in a Farm Credit Services news release. “The crux of Dr. Ricketts’ program is to help make the U.S. energy independent. It’s part of our mission to give back some of our earnings to those programs that fuel the future of agriculture.”

The School of Agribusiness and Agriscience professor has always been in the forefront of alternative fuels exploration. In November 2010, he drove a 1994 Toyota Tercel from Bristol to West Memphis, Ark., using sunlight and hydrogen from water.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

Alumnus Williams wins coveted journalism award

Phil Williams, an honors mass-communication graduate of MTSU, leads the investigative news team at Nashville’s WTVF-NewsChannel5 that has received a 2012 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for excellence in local reporting.

The local CBS affiliate was one of 14 duPont winners nationwide announced Dec. 21.

The award was for the team’s investigation of drug interdiction units operating along Tennessee’s interstates. The story exposed police agencies using questionable tactics to confiscate money along the interstate from out-of-state drivers suspected of drug involvement.

Phil Williams

This marks Williams’s and the station’s third duPont Award in nine years.

“It hit me that very few people can say that they are three-time duPont winners,” noted Williams, who graduated from MTSU in 1985 and joined WTVF in 1998, “so I’ve got a real sense that this is special, and I don’t want to take it for granted.”

MTSU’s Department of Mass Communication, founded in 1971, became a School of Mass Communication in 1988 and was elevated to full college status in 1989.

“The College of Mass Communication at MTSU is very proud of our alumnus Phil Williams and NewsChannel 5 in winning this highly prestigious national award,” said Dr. Roy Moore, dean of the college.

“Phil illustrates the high quality of our electronic media communication program and its graduates, and this award is the latest in the many accolades our alumni and faculty have received over the years. The duPont prize is, without doubt, one of the top awards in broadcast journalism.”

In addition to the duPont Awards, Williams has earned two George Foster Peabody Awards, the George Polk Award for TV Reporting, a National Headliner Award and three IRE Awards (including the IRE Medal) from the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization.

He is in his fourth year serving on the IRE board. In his days as a print reporter, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Williams’s alma mater has taken note of his successful career. In 2003, he was inducted into the MTSU College of Mass Communication’s Wall of Fame. The Columbia, Tenn., native returns to MTSU on occasion to speak to students and conduct master classes.

Nashville’s “NewsChannel5 Investigates” team includes Williams; Bryan Staples and Iain Montgomery, photojournalists; Kevin Wisniewski, producer; and Sandy Boonstra, news director.

Other stations receiving duPont Awards for reporting were Detroit Public TV, WFAA-TV in Dallas and WSB-TV in Atlanta. Several awards for international reporting went to Al Jazeera English, CBS News and NBC News. HBO received two awards, and The New York Times and MediaStorm received awards for digital reporting.

The DuPont Awards ceremony will be held Thursday, Jan. 19, at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library. Scott Pelley, CBS News anchor and managing editor, and Michelle Norris from National Public Radio will serve as hosts.

“For me, the secret has been dedication, dedication, dedication.” Williams said when asked what he would say to aspiring journalists. “It can’t be just a job. It’s got to be your passion, something you live after your shift is over.”

— Tom Tozer (Thomas.Tozer@mtsu.edu)