Classifying the MTSU Distinguished Alumni Award received from his alma mater as both “overwhelming and humbling,” one of the motorsports world’s leading executives said he felt somewhat at a loss for words.
Nashville native Eddie Gossage, who is in his 21st year as the only president and general manager of Texas Motor Speedway, said he “was kind of surprised” when informed he is the 2017-18 MTSU Distinguished Alumnus recipient.
From 1960 to present, the MTSU Alumni Association has recognized accomplished alumni with the association’s highest honor — the Distinguished Alumni Award.
“It is overwhelming to think of it constantly,” Gossage (Class of 1982) said after arriving in Murfreesboro with his wife, Melinda, following their flight Friday morning from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, not far from their home.
“It is humbling to think the university you graduated from remembers you all these years later,” he added. “I have kept up with a few folks through the years. I follow the university a lot and talk with President (Sidney A.) McPhee.”
Gossage graduated with a communications degree from the former College of Mass Communications. He remarked about “how the university has changed so much.” One of the changes occurred when mass comm became the College of Media and Entertainment two years ago.
Considered a legendary racing promoter with colorful and memorable promotions and an innovator on the business side of the sport, Gossage gives full credit to his university for his career success.
“My four years at Middle were the best years of my life,” said Gossage. “They challenged me along the way. It was perfect. (My education) gave me everything I needed to succeed in life and achieve my dreams.”
Gossage and the race track have hosted MTSU alumni at the prestigious speedway club level. He has served on the board of professional advisers for the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment and Speedway Children’s Charities Board of Trustees.
Among many honors, he is on various halls of fame and the College of Media and Entertainment’s Wall of Fame.
This year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award, given to a graduate 35 years old or younger who is making a positive impact in the world, went to Tierra McMahon, who has an expansive background in foreign policy and environmental and economic issues. Now living in France, McMahon was unable to attend the awards ceremony. Her mother, Louise Lanham, accepted the award on her behalf.
For the fourth consecutive year, the True Blue Citations of Distinction are being awarded. Categories and this year’s honorees include:
- Achievement in Education (presented to current or retired MTSU faculty) — Dr. Paula Thomas, who has deep roots at the university, both as a former student earning two degrees and by sharing her expertise with accounting students as a professor since 1983.
- Achievement in Education (presented to non-MTSU faculty) — Dr. Chris Whaley, a former attorney who is now a college president in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.
- Service to the University — Whitney Dix, who has shown great loyalty to her alma mater’s Department of Aerospace through her work with a major airline.
- Service to the Community — presented posthumously to Doug Young, a Murfreesboro native whose leadership and service to his city, church and university are immeasurable.
The awards were presented at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception Friday, Oct. 6, in the Sam H. Ingram Building, 2269 Middle Tennessee Blvd.
In addition to the awards ceremony, all of the honorees will be recognized during various MTSU homecoming activities.
Here are more details about the 2017-18 honorees.
Distinguished Alumnus: Eddie Gossage (Class of 1982)
A Nashville native and graduate of MTSU’s then-College of Mass Communication, Gossage is in the midst of his 21st year as the only president and general manager in the history of Texas Motor Speedway, a sprawling 1,500-acre, 135,000-seat complex and one of the world’s largest sports venues. He is a top racing promoter with colorful and memorable promotions and an innovator on the business side of the sport. Gossage also has promoted major music festivals and concerts.
Gossage also has generously hosted MTSU alumni at the prestigious speedway club level and has served on the board of professional advisers for the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment and Speedway Children’s Charities Board of Trustees. He is one of only 22 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee members and one of only 58 members on the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s selection committee. Among many honors, he is a member of the College of Media and Entertainment’s Wall of Fame.
Young Alumni Achievement Award: Tierra McMahon (Class of 2003)
Currently living in France, McMahon, a philosophy alumna of MTSU, is a policy analyst for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. As part of this role, she worked with the state secretary of Kazakhstan to discuss a gender project proposal and contributed to the architecture and flagship publication of a high-profile project signed at the 2015 World Economic Forum by the Kazakhstan prime minister and the OECD secretary-general. The project, known as the OECD Kazakhstan Country Programme, involves extensive OECD policy reform support ranging from education and government integrity, to innovation and investment.
Earlier, McMahon worked at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, where she was involved in the publication of BRICS: Building Education for the Future, which was launched at the 2014 United Nations General Assembly and translated into Chinese, Russian and Portuguese. She was responsible for seeing this flagship publication through from start to finish with input from diverse government and intergovernmental stakeholders
True Blue Citations of Distinction
Achievement in Education, MTSU faculty: Paula Thomas (Classes of 1978, ’83)
Thomas earned both her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and master’s degrees in accounting from MTSU and has been an accounting faculty member for 30-plus years. She holds the Deloitte Foundation Professorship in Accounting in the Jones College of Business, an honor bestowed upon her by Deloitte for her successful efforts in instilling knowledge and professionalism in her students and preparing them for accounting careers.
Thomas has served MTSU in numerous capacities and has been actively involved in teaching, research and service. She chaired the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Core Competency Framework Committee and has also chaired and served on numerous educational task forces for both the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association.
Achievement in Education, non-MTSU faculty: Chris Whaley (Class of 1991)
Whaley is president of Roane State Community College. After finishing a degree in political science at MTSU and later becoming an attorney, he returned to Roane State as program director of the paralegal studies program, where he developed the original curriculum. From there, he assumed successively greater administrative responsibilities as a dean and a vice president before becoming Roane State’s fifth president.
In his time as president, Whaley has developed several new initiatives including legal studies courses through distance education, New Faculty Academy, Student Learning and Diversity committee, promoted growth of dual studies program and provided leadership on various committees across the state. He also developed articulation agreements in legal studies with MTSU and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Service to the University: Whitney Dix (Class of 1999)
Dix, an aerospace graduate, provides significant support to the university all the way from Houston, Texas. She has continually given time and effort by mentoring MTSU aerospace students, establishing the Shanda Carney Memorial Scholarship in 2013, which has already awarded four scholarships, and frequently returning to campus to speak to aerospace classes on professional and practical experiences.
Dix facilitated a partnership with Southwest Airlines and The Weather Company to donate valuable software to the NASA Focus Lab and arranged a visit by the National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt. She also represents Southwest Airlines at career fairs on the MTSU campus. She also takes time to welcome and mentor MTSU alumni moving to the Houston area.
Service to the Community: Doug Young (Class of 1971)
The results of Young’s community involvement will affect others for years to come. The MTSU sociology graduate started serving with the Murfreesboro Planning Commission in 1989 and rose to its vice chairman, then was elected to City Council in 2002 and held the office of vice mayor when he died Dec. 16, 2016, at age 68.
He served on many other boards and commissions, including the Board of Zoning Appeals, Main Street Murfreesboro, City Schools Foundation, Regional Transportation Association, Urban and Environmental Board, St. Clair Senior Center Citizen Board, MTSU Foundation and alumni boards and chairman of the MTSU Liberal Arts Advisory Board. As an elected official, Young was not previously eligible for this award.
— Randy Weiler (firstname.lastname@example.org)