Middle Tennessee State University honored five officers of the Metro Nashville Police Department on Friday, May, 5, for their “precision, duty and selflessness” in response to the recent deadly Covenant School shootings.
Detective Ryan Cagle, detective Michael Collazo, officer Rex Engelbert, Sgt. Jeffrey Mathes and detective Zachary Plese were named honorary professors of public safety during the second of the university’s four spring commencement ceremonies.
“It is my great honor as president to confer upon these five officers, the first-ever such honor extended by our university,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “We do so not only to recognize their individual heroism and duty, but through them, the high standards and actions of the Metro Nashville Police Department.”
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake joined McPhee in awarding special certificates to the four of the officers at the 6 p.m. Friday ceremony at MTSU’s Murphy Center. Engelbert was unable to attend the ceremony.
“We continue to mourn the losses of Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, Will Kinney, Cynthia Peak, Katherine Koonce and Mike Hill,” said Drake. “Many of us had hoped and prayed that the evil we saw on March 27 would never occur in Nashville, although members of our police department had trained for years on how we would respond. I am grateful to MTSU for recognizing the heroism, dedication and skill of our officers.”
The five were among the hundreds of law enforcement personnel who responded to the shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School on March 27 that killed six, three of them children. The officers were credited for their decisive and immediate reactions upon arriving at the scene to neutralize the shooter.
“What made these five so remarkable, and such a testament to their training and sense of duty, was that some had never before worked together as a team. And, as a team, they acted with precision, bravery and selflessness, at great risk to their lives,”McPhee said.
University Provost Mark Byrnes, who with University College Dean Richard Sluder recommended the honors to McPhee, cited the officers’ “qualities and actions that reflect the very best traditions and practices of the profession of law enforcement and community service.”
“They will serve as a positive example to our students engaged in the study of public safety,” Byrnes said.
The five were also recently named Officers of the Month by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
In fall 2022, University College launched the public safety concentration of its popular integrated studies major, offered by MTSU Online, as an option for those already working in the profession to earn a bachelor’s degree. Metro Nashville Police Department is a partner in the program and several of its officers have enrolled as students.
The program features courses in management, sociology, communications and health. The public safety concentration is designed for those in law enforcement, public safety, first responders and other service professionals at the local, state and federal levels. Learn more about the program at www.mtsu.edu/programs/public-safety/
The 2,650-plus members of MTSU’s first Class of 2023 received degrees at four spring 2023 commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday, May 5 and 6.
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