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In 2004, Roane State began recognizing outstanding alumni for their contributions to their professions and to their communities. Whether they are doctors, lawyers or artists, the award-winners share a common characteristic — leadership.
The following record of Outstanding Alumni winners includes brief excerpts from articles about the recipients. The articles were published in the college’s alumni magazine, Roane State Today.
As the excerpts show, Roane State played an instrumental role in the lives of the recipients. Perhaps it was an encouraging faculty member, a kind advisor or a challenging course that changed a life. Regardless, the value of Roane State as a builder of leaders is the common tie.
Jeff Burchfield is a captain and training supervisor for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. Burchfield graduated from Roane State in 1993 with an associate’s degree in police technology. He spent eight years with the Maryville Police Department before joining the Blount County Sheriff’s Office in 1996.
In 2001, he became the first director of the Blount Special Operations Response Team, a multiagency task force for rescue and recovery operations. The team is a model of cross-agency cooperation and collaboration. He has studied at the FBI National Academy and worked undercover for numerous federal agencies.
Burchfield is also a community-minded leader who has participated in youth projects and fundraisers for those in need. As a member of Lodge No. 9 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), he was head counselor for the lodge’s youth camp for underprivileged children and an organizer for the lodge’s “Shop with a Cop” program. He has served in many officer positions with the FOP, is a board member for the Blount County Rescue Squad and is a public safety scuba instructor.
During his career, Burchfield has received more than 20 awards and commendations. In January 2012, he received the Albert Pierce Medal for Heroism in recognition of his achievements.
Dr. Vann is director of the Ed.D. program at the University of the Cumberlands. He graduated from Roane State in 1985 and received his bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Tech in 1988. He has a master’s degree in geosciences from Western Kentucky University, a doctorate in adult education from the University of Arkansas, and a Ph.D. dually awarded by the Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences and the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Dr. Vann taught at the University of Dundee in Scotland, served in leadership positions at Delta State University in Mississippi and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, and was founding director of Lincoln Memorial University’s Appalachian Development Studies program and geography program. He is most noted for his work in religious and historical geography and human-environmental relationships. Dr. Vann has appeared as an expert on Fox News, Science Fantastic, Ecotopia and BBC Scotland.
Dr. Vann is a distinguished writer and educator who has written more than 20 articles and seven books. His writings have appeared in the Huffington Post, the Journal of Historical Sociology, the Journal of American History and in many other academic publications.
Brown began his academic studies at Roane State in the fall of 1985 and later transferred to the University of Tennessee to study theatrical costume design. After graduation, he moved to New York City to pursue his career in the field of entertainment design. While in New York, his work spanned across a variety of entertainment venues including Broadway, network sitcoms and dramas, and major motion pictures. In 2003 Stephen purchased a home in Rockwood (his hometown) and began to split his time between Tennessee and New York City. He developed the company Glitterville, a multimillion-dollar giftware and lifestyles company that became a worldwide brand by 2004 and remains a thriving success.
Kelly graduated from Roane State in 1987 with an A.S. in nursing. She is board certified in gerontology and has numerous certifications in her field through the National Association of Director of Nursing Administration LTC, American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Nurses Association. Kelly has served as director of nursing at Colonial Hills Nursing Center, director of nursing at Rockwood Care and Rehab, director of nursing at Farragut Health Care Center and Alzheimer’s unit director at the Knoxville Health Care Center. Kelly is currently director of nursing at Summit View of Farragut.
Lay graduated magna cum laude from Roane State in 1975. Besides mathematics and speech, Lay excelled in basketball. He played at Roane State and continued his college career at Stetson University in Florida. Lay recently retired from Scott County Schools in 2009 after serving over 30 years in education and having pioneered many firsts in technology for Scott County schools. But true to his nature and not content to sit still after retirement, Lay accepted an offer from PCS, Inc. where he serves as an education sales consultant. Lay remains a sought-after speaker, having presented and facilitated multiple technology-related presentations at conferences and meetings over the years.
From the 2010 Roane State Today
McKenrick lives in Oak Ridge with her husband, Don. She graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1974 but was uncertain whether she could succeed in college. “I wasn’t sure I had what it took to be a college student,” she said. “During my high school years, my focus was my mother’s health. She had terminal cancer. We dealt with surgeries and remissions and recurrences, so I was marginal academically. I waited for a year to enroll at Roane State, and I fell in love with the campus. The faculty had more confidence in me than I did. It was during that first year that I changed my major to education, because of the influence the faculty had on me.” …
… She joined Harriman High School’s faculty in 1990 as a special education teacher and has stayed in that role. McKenrick is the Special Education Department Chair, serves as a mentor for special education faculty, has presented at local and state conferences, and has received numerous honors for her work. She was also instrumental in developing the Prom Closet Boutique, a program that provides special education students with formalwear for the school prom. “After thirty years in the classroom, I am still inspired to reach out and encourage students because I personally know that it does make a lasting difference in their quality of life,” McKenrick said.
From the 2009 Roane State Today
During her professional career, she was a manager with Ernst & Young LLP and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young U.S. LLC in Atlanta; a manager at Humana Inc’s corporate offices in Louisville, KY; vice president for Channel Publishing Co. in Reno, Nev.; and a manager for Cascade Information Systems in Beaverton, Ore. Laing’s profession also led her to consult on a Department of Defense contract, reviewing military medical records throughout Europe, Iceland, and the Azores. In 2003, she founded Laing and Associates, Inc., a healthcare consulting company, and is its president.
“My educational preparation at RSCC was challenging and joyous,” Laing said. “This award is to honor my instructors, all of them, and is a reflection of their commitment to education. They should never think the precious gift of their time and energy is for naught. They will always be our teachers, and that debt is never forgotten.”
From the 2009 Roane State Today
Dr. Perkins is recognized not just for his contributions to the medical profession and to the community, but because he has always had a heart for people in need. … “As I now look back through my education, I appreciate my start at Roane State Community College,” Dr. Perkins said. “The important part was not only the academics, but the staff that had a caring attitude and willingness to help students. As I finish my education, this attitude of the Roane State Community College staff has helped me understand the importance of caring for people.”
Dr. Perkins has spent countless hours helping those in need. After Hurricane Katrina, he served on two disaster management and recovery teams in New Orleans. Later, during Hurricane Gustav, he volunteered to remain in New Orleans to treat patients. He volunteers at the Rebuild Clinic in New Orleans, which offers free medical service to the homeless. While in medical school in Nashville, Dr. Perkins worked with Habitat for Humanity, volunteered at homeless shelters in Knoxville, and organized angel trees to supply gifts to the homeless through Water Angels Ministries.
From the 2008 Roane State Today
Moses, formerly Allison Taylor, is vice president and general manager of Volvo Construction Equipment in Skyland, N.C. She is the first woman in VCE history to reach such a position. …
Moses credits Roane State and her family with helping her become an engineer. Her father worked in manufacturing for years, so Allison knew early on that she wanted to be an engineer. But Moses struggled with the advanced math a career in engineering demands. Her Roane State math professor, Becky Howard, encouraged Moses and mentored her and other students after hours. The perseverance worked. Eventually, the concepts started making sense, and Moses never had problems with math again.
“Had it not been for Roane State, I would not be an engineer today,” Moses said. “I’m not sure I would have gotten here without the personal attention I received at Roane State.”
From the 2008 Roane State Today
“Barger, 31, is president of precast operations at C.R. Barger & Sons Inc., a Roane County company founded in 1967 by Eric’s grandparents, C.R. and Mary Barger. The 1994 Harriman High School graduate completed his A.S. degree at Roane State in 1997. He then earned a degree in civil engineering from Tennessee Technological University.
“There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not come to Roane State Community College, I would never have made it through civil engineering,” Barger said. “I think Roane State is a great school made up of great people. All of my best college memories stem from this school.”
From the 2007 Roane State Today
Bernadette Mattox is a former star college basketball player who is an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. A native of Philadelphia, Tenn., Mattox graduated from Loudon High School in 1977.
She began her college basketball career at Roane State, graduated in 1979, and followed her coach, Andy Landers, to the University of Georgia. “Roane State was the beginning of me understanding what education would do for me,” Mattox said. “The faculty, staff and administration were a family that really emphasized the importance of education. Everyone there was very helpful and inspirational to me.
“Anytime I make a step in my life or career, I reflect back on Roane State. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate Roane State for giving me support and encouragement. All of my success started there.” …
… She made NCAA history when she became the first female to serve as a Division I assistant for a men’s team, beginning a four-year stint under coach Rick Pitino at Kentucky in 1990. Mattox was named an assistant athletics director at Kentucky in 1994. In 1995, Mattox became the first African-American to coach Kentucky women’s basketball.
From the 2007 Roane State Today
He attended Belmont College in Nashville before transferring to Roane State in 1976. After Roane State, McDaniel transferred to Carson-Newman and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.
“As with many young people trying to find their way, Roane State opened some windows of opportunity for me which really took me in a direction for the rest of my life,” McDaniel said. “Getting to know faculty and staff that were really concerned about me helped me find some direction based on my interests and abilities.” …
… In the 1990s, McDaniel found his true passion— writing and producing documentaries. His works include a two-installment, award-winning documentary about Oak Ridge. In 2006, McDaniel completed “The Clinton 12,” which tells the story of the first desegregation of a public high school in the South after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
From the 2006 Roane State Today
Darlene Branim started work as a receptionist at the Oneida-based log home company (ed: Barna Log Homes), which is known internationally for the quality of its products, in 1983. She was promoted often through the years, as she balanced work, family and school. “The challenges, demands and opportunities I experienced at Roane State and Tusculum prepared me and gave me the confidence to reach for the stars. I would not trade the experience or my education for anything.”
In 2001, Branim was named executive vice president at Barna. She became president and CEO in 2004 and bought the company in 2005.
From the 2006 Roane State today
As head of the police department in one of Tennessee’s fastest-growing cities (ed: Maryville), Tony Crisp faces a new challenge almost every day. The same spirit that helps Crisp meet those demands also led him to enroll at Roane State as an adult who had already started a career and family.
“Although I had several years of experience in law enforcement prior to my enrollment, I wanted to continue to broaden my knowledge and increase my opportunity for advancement,” Crisp said. “I am very proud to be a graduate of Roane State.”
From the 2005 Roane State Today
Rhonda Longmire remembers her bank co-workers wondering why she wanted a college degree. Today, as president and CEO of First National Bank of Oneida, she has a ready answer. “Roane State helped me change my thinking,” Longmire said, “I went from being someone who came in and did a job, to someone who was career-minded in a field that was dominated by males.”
Longmire went to Berea College right out of high school for a year before homesickness drove her home to her native Campbell County. She married and got a job at a bank. A while later, she enrolled in the first course Roane State ever offered in Campbell County. “That was the beginning for me,” Longmire recalled. “I took other classes, and the hours began to add up. With my previous year (at Berea), I realized I was getting close to an associate’s degree.” Then, she says, a class “changed my life. When I finished that accounting class, I knew what I wanted to do.”
From the 2005 Roane State Today
Chris Whaley — now dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Roane State —practically grew up at the college. His father, Lowell Whaley, was a Roane State accountant in the early 1970s. “I remember when the Dunbar Building was constructed,” Whaley said. “As a little boy, I walked through it and thought, ‘how are they ever going to use all this space?’” …
… In 1989, Whaley won the President’s Award, Roane State’s highest student citation.He went on to Middle Tennessee State University, then law school at the University ofTennessee. He practiced law full-time until 1997, when he was named Roane State’sdirector of legal studies. …
… In the end, Whaley said, he was always destined to be in education. Along with his stepfather, mother Sandy Underwood also taught school. And his wife is a teacher atHarriman High School. “I liked the practice of law, but there was always something in me drawn toward the classroom,” Whaley said.
From the 2004 Roane State Today
Growing up in Roane County, Sills and his parents, Larry and Linda Sills, lived only five miles away from Roane State Community College. Upon graduation from Harriman High School, he wasn’t sure he was ready to move away. He believes his two years spent at RSCC served him well after transferring to the much larger Vanderbilt University. “A big part of that was due to academic advisement at Roane State. The transfer process was seamless,” he said.
Beginning college in his home county was very significant to his collegiate career. “As a physician I am a bit embarrassed to say in the fall of 1983, I flunked my first biology test at Roane State,” Sills said. “That was a major shock to me. Not a favorite memory, but an important one. The professor was Dr. Mabel Gomez, and she showed me how to rescue myself. I don’t know what might have happened if I had been in a crowded class of 200 people, taught by a graduate student at some big university.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt, Sills earned his medical degree from the University of Tennessee at Memphis. During his residency, faculty members from Cornell and NYU encouraged him to apply for a post-doctoral fellowship in reproductive endocrinology. He was accepted and joined the medical school faculty at Cornell.