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News: East Tennessee Economic Council honors RSCC president with Muddy Boot Award

Chris Whaley standing in a room holding the Muddy Boot Award

Roane State President Chris Whaley with the Muddy Boot Award

January 19, 2023

The East Tennessee Economic Council (ETEC) recently named Roane State President Chris Whaley as a recipient of the Muddy Boot Award, a tribute to individuals who make East Tennessee a stronger region through their work and community activities.

The Council’s annual celebratory event was keynoted by Governor Bill Lee at the Hilton Knoxville Airport on December 15. Jim Henry, a respected and distinguished Tennessee Statesman, presented the award to Dr. Whaley.

“We are incredibly pleased to honor all these deserving individuals who have contributed to the successes of their organizations and this community in unique ways,” ETEC President Tracy Boatner said. “They inspire us in our work and in our service to keep building the community of Oak Ridge and the region of East Tennessee to be ready for innovative opportunities.”

“I couldn’t be more humbled to receive this award and be placed in the company of such instrumental and inspirational members of our community,” Whaley said. “I accept this honor with pride and thank every college employee, community partner, and supporter of Roane State for helping us achieve our mission to transform lives through higher education.”

Dr. Whaley has been the president of Roane State for the last 10 years. “His life has been a commitment to public service as an educator and community leader,” according to a statement from ETEC. “He has a personal understanding of the college’s value to its communities.”

Whaley’s father, Lowell, worked at Roane State from the college’s early days, and Whaley began his college education at Roane State. He earned Roane State’s highest student award, continued his education at Middle Tennessee State University, and earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee.

After three years in private practice as an attorney, Whaley returned to the college in 1997 as program director of the A.A.S. Paralegal Studies program. Since then, he has served in positions of successively greater administrative responsibility at the college. He was named dean of social science, business and education in 2002, and in 2010 was promoted to vice president of student learning/chief academic officer. Whaley became Roane State’s fifth president on November 1, 2012.

“Whaley’s experience as a Roane State student, program director, faculty member, dean, and administrator gives him a unique perspective on the college’s role,” ETEC’s statement continued. “He understands that the community college is a place where students — many of them first-generation college students — gain access to world-class higher education and the outstanding opportunities it provides. Whaley also understands that Roane State is a place that drives economic development by working closely with employers to offer relevant programs that meet employers’ workforce needs.”

Ken Rueter, president and CEO of UCOR, stated that “Whaley exemplifies several criteria for this award, as an engaged and visible leader in our community who has also enabled new career opportunities at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Reservation.”

Under Whaley’s leadership, Roane State has put increased emphasis and visibility on a variety of apprenticeship programs to meet regional workforce needs. Whaley and his team are consistently reaching out to regional employers to identify workforce needs and seek input for curriculum development.

“Through his leadership, RSCC has successfully brought the opportunity for post-secondary training to hundreds of students throughout the college’s diverse eight-county service area,” Barry Stephenson, President & CEO of Materials and Chemistry Laboratory, Inc. said. “By focusing the institutions’ mission on transforming lives, strengthening the community, and inspiring excellence, Whaley understands that Roane State is the place that drives economic development by working closely with employers to offer relevant programs that meet employers’ workforce needs.”

Whaley’s participation in the community extends beyond the classroom and the workplace. He has served as chair of the East Tennessee Economic Council, Roane Alliance, TVC Community College Consortium, and as District Chair Catoosa District for the Boy Scouts of America. He participates as a member of the Boards of many civic organizations, including the Chambers of Commerce in Roane County and Oak Ridge.

The Muddy Boot Award was established nearly 50 years ago to honor individuals who have gone above the call of duty. From 1973-2021, 100 people received the award, according to ETEC. A full list of recipients and detailed award information can be found online at eteconline.org/awards.

About ETEC: The East Tennessee Economic Council (ETEC) is an independent, regional, non-profit membership organization, dedicated to supporting the federal government’s missions by working in strong partnership with federal contractors, Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration representatives, state and federal elected officials, small businesses, and other local economic development organizations. ETEC seeks new ways to use federal investments in science and security to create prosperity, promote regional development, and explore opportunities for growth. For more information visit, www.eteconline.org.

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