True Blue Tour touts overwhelming success in East ...

True Blue Tour touts overwhelming success in East Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University’s True Blue Tour events held in Knoxville and Johnson City this week and in Chattanooga on Sept. 17 have proven to be a huge success.

With a scenic view of the nearby mountains, the 27th-floor Club LeConte in Knoxville, Tenn., was overflowing with 136 students — more than doubling last year’s student attendees — and nearly 300 people attending the special Sept. 24 event. Earlier that day, 80 high school and community college counselors were guests for a luncheon reception.

Forty-seven high school and transfer students were a part of a crowd of about 150 people attending the True Blue Tour event Sept. 23 in the Mountain States Ballroom at The Millennium Centre in Johnson City.

Bearden High School senior Dakota Eddy, left, tells Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney A. McPhee that he has won an iPad during a prize drawing Sept. 23 during the MTSU True Blue Tour visit to Knoxville. This was the third of a six-city visit to recruit high school and community college students. (Photos by MTSU News and Media Relations)

Bearden High School senior Dakota Eddy, left, joins MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee to announce the winner of an iPad during a prize drawing Sept. 24 during the MTSU True Blue Tour visit to Knoxville. (MTSU photos by News and Media Relations)

The Knoxville, Johnson City and Chattanooga visits were three of six recruiting events held this fall across Tennessee, where prospective students hear all that MTSU to offer.

Dr. Debra Sells

University President Sidney A. McPhee, Provost Brad Bartel, Student Affairs Vice President Deb Sells and college deans have been leading MTSU’s contingent of admissions, financial aid, housing, advising and other personnel who share information and answer questions from students and their parents or guardians.

“We are thrilled with the success of all three tour stops so far — in Chattanooga, Johnson City and Knoxville,” Sells said.

“We have broken attendance records at each of these events, and there is no doubt that excitement among prospective students is growing.”

Sells said the excitement is due to a number of factors, including:

  • the continuing growth in campus facilities, including the College of Education Building and new Student Union;
  • anticipation of the new Science Building, opening January 2015;
  • the addition of new deans and other members of the senior leadership team and faculty, including “a great deal of enthusiasm … regarding our new dean in the College of Mass Communication, Ken Paulson, former USA Today editor”;
  • continued recognition in national publications of the high quality and excellent value of an MTSU education; and
  • a growing appreciation for the kind of individual, one-to-one support for success that is available to every MTSU student from the moment of their acceptance as a new student through their graduation.
Austin-East Magnet High School senior Dontae Johnson, left, and his mother, Shanita Freeman, listen as MTSU assistant director in financial aid and scholarships Bonnie McCarty explains his options and the need to file for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, starting Jan. 1, 2014.

Austin-East Magnet High School senior Dontae Johnson, left, and his mother, Shanita Freeman, listen Sept. 24 at the Knoxville True Blue Tour event as Bonnie McCarty, right, MTSU assistant director for financial aid and scholarships, explains his options and the need to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid starting Jan. 1, 2014.

Paulson told the Knoxville audience “how excited I am to be a part of this remarkable university.”

“MTSU is a great choice. Come and check out MTSU,” he added.

MTSU senior Liz Whittle of Oak Ridge, Tenn., said she fell in love with MTSU “the moment I walked on the campus.” She told the students about the “great amount of opportunities” such as study abroad and student organizations.

“With small class sizes, it’s easy to get personal relationships and business relationships after college,” said Whittle, a political science major who plans to attend law school and eventually become an ambassador.

As part of the True Blue Tour, McPhee is inviting alumni from each area to hear an update on campus happenings and to visit and share their MTSU experiences.True Blue Tour graphic cropped

At the Knoxville stop, Terri Roberts of Maryville, Tenn., joined the fun. She entered MTSU as a freshman art education major in 1965, met her husband, Herb, and left school, eventually completing her degree in general studies in 2010 at age 62.

Herb Roberts retired after 40 years with the Tennessee State Parks, and they tailgate at every MTSU home football game.

The Roberts’ children, Cassie Sweeny of Maryville and Dan Roberts, an Air Force lieutenant colonel stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, also are MTSU alumni.

Other MTSU alumni attending the East Tennessee tour stops included Larry Cox, Scott Griswold, Paul Martin Jr., Elaine Pearce, Jeff Bateman and Jeremy Poynter of Knoxville; Mindy Corum and Jessica Fine of Powell, Tenn.; and Patrick Morrison of Whitwell, Tenn.

Poynter is a second-year law student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and Morrison is in his first year of law school.

Martin and his brother, H. Lee Martin of Knoxville, donated $2 million to help build the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building in the early 2000s. Lee Martin is head of the UT School of Engineering.

— Randy Weiler (

WCYB-TV News5 general assignment reporter Jonathan Radford, left, and his mother, Dr. Angela Radford Lewis, enjoy the Sept. 23 True Blue Tour event at The Millennium Center in Johnson City. Both are MTSU alumni. Radford graduated from the College of Mass Communication earlier this year and worked as an intern at both NBC News in New York and WSMV Channel 4 in Nashville. Lewis, associate dean of and a professor in East Tennessee State University’s College of Education, received two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s from MTSU.

Science Hill High School senior Taylor Vanders, left, and her father, Geoffrey Vanders, listen as Stephen White, MTSU financial aid director, explains tuition costs and various scholarship options. The Vanders attended the MTSU True Blue Tour Sept. 23 at The Millennium Centre in Johnson City.