Student excellence in academics and service were recognized during Tusculum College’s annual Honors Convocation Thursday, April 29.
The two top honors for students presented by the College are the President’s Award and the Bruce G. Batts Award. Jarrell NeSmith of Russellville, Ala., was presented the President’s Award and Estefania Chavez, a native of Honduras, was presented the Bruce G. Batts Award.
Nesmith, who graduated in December with a bachelor of arts degree in pre-medicine, had one of the most decorated athletic and academic careers in Tusculum history. He graduated with a 3.87 grade point average and was named to the Tusculum President’s List, Dean’s List and Charles Oliver Gray Scholars List, which recognize academic achievements per semester, throughout his Tusculum career.
The 2008-09 recipient of the South Atlantic President’s Award, NeSmith was only the second football player in the history of the award to earn the conference’s most prestigious honor. He was also named the South Atlantic Conference Scholar Athlete for Football for three straight years, the first three-time recipient in conference history.
This past December, NeSmith was named to the National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete Team and was one of the 16 national finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. He was the only Division II player among the honorees.
NeSmith earned ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American honors for two years and is only the second Pioneer to be a two-time Academic All-American. On the athletic side, he earned All-America honors in 2008 from three organizations for a year in which he posted 67 receptions for 635 yards and seven touchdowns.
He was a national semifinalist for the American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team. His service to others during his college career including mentoring students at a nearby elementary school and working with Habitat for Humanity.
Presented in memory of a beloved educator at Tusculum who helped define the college’s civic arts curricular focus, the Bruce G. Batts Award is presented to a student who clearly demonstrates the qualities that reflect the civic arts ideals. This year’s recipient, Estefania Chavez, is a senior political science major with minors in international business, economics and civic engagement. Her commitment to serve others is evident in her campus activities as well as her academic aspirations. Chavez’s aspiration is to become an attorney and work internationally, and she is currently serving as an intern in the state District Attorney General’s office in Greeneville.
Chavez is serving as co-president of the Bonner Leader student service organization this year. She is a dedicated member of the Bonner Leaders, a nationally recognized program that requires all participants to serve at least 100 hours of community service per semester. As a Bonner Leader, she has worked on a project to reduce truancy and drop-out rates in at-risk students and implemented the Bonner mentoring program to work with at-risk middle school students. She has also worked with the English as a Second Language program and tutored Spanish-speaking elementary students.
She has been active on campus in the Student Government Association, serving on several committees to enact change to better campus. She has served as secretary/treasurer of Tusculum’s chapter of the Alpha Chi national honor society and is a member of the women’s cross country team.
Also presented were faculty, staff and community awards whose recipients were selected by a student vote. Receiving the Outstanding Service to Students Award, a faculty honor, was Leslie Hanneken, an assistant professor of physical education.
In presenting the award, Randy Rumbley, chairman of the board of the Greene County Partnership, said that Hanneken has been described as a “gift to students. A nurturing and supportive educator, counselor and mentor, she has worked diligently to raise the quality of work from her students across all levels. She is admired and respected by her students for her genuine interest in their success, but is a firm believer in accountability in all students. In her three years with the College, she has worked for and with her students in numerous ways, including service projects with the local schools and other community activities that give back, while giving her students an opportunity to practice their classroom-learned skills. She is dedicated, caring, supportive and loved and admired by her students.”
The Staff Award was presented to Chris Lenker, who is head athletic trainer for the college. Lenker directs the overall operation and medical treatment of the student-athletes in the 14 intercollegiate sports offered by the college. “Chris is a role model to students as he demonstrates hard work, dedication and a strong desire to be great at his job,” said Tiffany Colbaugh, president of the Student Government Association, in presenting the award. “He is a mentor to students considering athletic training careers and a key adult influence for many of the student-athletes he works with as they train and deal with injury.”
The Community Award for exemplary service to students was presented to prominent Greeneville businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger. In presenting the award Brooke Haymaker, who is vice president of the Student Government Association, noted that Niswonger, a 1987 graduate of Tusculum College, is a leader in philanthropy across the region and the country and has faithfully supported Tusculum College both financially and with the investment of his time in providing leadership and guidance at the highest levels as a respected member of the Board of Trustees.
“His investment into education is unparalleled, and students at Tusculum College, past, present and future are impacted by his choice to support the College, its mission, and in particular its students,” Haymaker said. “With his support, students have access to some of the best academic, residential and athletic facilities in the nation. He led the efforts to revitalize both the student center and the library, to push forward the construction of the student apartments, and his generosity led to the construction of the finest sports facilities in the South Atlantic Conference and beyond.”
Senior Honor Key Awards were presented to students who have earned a 3.25 grade point average or higher in their major, shown achievement and aptitude in the major, and possess strong character. The following are the award recipients and their degree programs:
Accounting – Henrique Alves Rodrigues of Salvador, Brazil
Biology – Brittany Bible of Talbott, Tenn., and Glenn Vicary of Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Environmental Science – Rachel Burchnell of Greeneville, Tenn.
General Management – Tabatha Smith of Greeneville, Tenn.
History - Lynnsey Jett of Jefferson City, Tenn.
K-3 Education – Brittany Barnett of Johnson City, Tenn.
K-6 Education – Candace Babb of Greeneville, Tenn.
Mathematics – Kelsey Longwell of Johnson City, Tenn.
Physical Education K-12 – Whitney King of Sevierville, Tenn.
Political Science – Estefania Chavez of Honduras
Psychology – Lena Eidson-Kelly of Odenville, Ala.
Secondary Education – English 7-12 – April Jones of Kingsport, Tenn.
Special Education – Chris Young of Ringgold, Ga.
Sport Management – Vanessa N. Fyffe of Bellbrook, Ohio
Sport Science – Katherine Shelton of Dandridge, Tenn.
Visual Art K-12 – Katie Bible of Newport, Tenn.
Recognized as Honor Students for having the highest grade point average of their class (all have a 4.0 grade point average) were:
seniors – Danielle Armstrong of Blountville, Tenn., and Simon Holzapfel of Nuremberg, Germany
junior – Storm Vance of Elizabethton, Tenn.
sophomores – Weston A. Gantte of Dandridge, Tenn., and Derek Murrell of Bulls Gap, Tenn.
freshmen – Jessica L. Britton of Greeneville, Tenn.; Courtney A. Conley of Bristol, Tenn., Kayla N. Durden of Taylor Mill, Ky.; Don D. Maples of Lenoir City, Tenn., and Luis C. Zamora of Santiago, Chile.
Senior members of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society were also recognized. Upperclassmen who are ranked in the top 10 academically of their classmates are invited to join the honor society. Recognized were:
Candace Babb of Greeneville, Tenn.
Eric Barclay of Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Brittany Bible of Talbott, Tenn.
Estefania Chavez of Honduras,
Lena Eidson-Kelly of Odenville, Ala.
Micah Haney of Union Grove, Ala.
Kelsey Longwell of Johnson City, Tenn.
Henrique Alves-Rodrigues of Salvador, Brazil
Ashley Shoults of Newark, Ohio
Glenn Vicary of Oak Ridge, Tenn.
The Alpha Chi Academic Excellence Award presented to the highest academically ranked member of the junior class was presented to Danielle Armstrong of Blountville, Tenn., and Simon Holzapfel of Nuremberg, Germany.
Students who were chosen for the Curtis and Billie Owens Literary Prizes were honored. Students submit original, creative works in the annual writing competition, which were judged this year by award-winning author Patrick Madden. The winners were poetry – Philip Dean of Whitesburg, Tenn.; fiction – Andy English of Greeneville, Tenn.; creative non-fiction – Danielle Armstrong of Blountville, Tenn.; and scriptwriting – David Ronsckevitz of Franklin, Tenn.
The Dr. Shirley Beck Award for an outstanding Master of Arts in Education major was presented to Aundrea Gunter of Afton, Tenn., a teacher at West Greene High School.
The Outstanding Education Student Award was presented to Jonathan Bewley of Morristown, Tenn.
The E.H. Sargent Award in Science was presented to Nate Binder of Maidstone, Ontario. In choosing the recipient, science faculty members consider overall grade point average, total hours in science and variety of areas covered in the sciences.
The Doug Ratledge Environmental Science Scholarship, which is presented to an outstanding Environmental Science or Field Guide/Naturalist major, was given to Jessica Shipley of Greeneville, Tenn.
The Warren Lynn Drain Award was presented to Will Loggins of Crossville, Tenn. A graduating senior determined most outstanding in Business and Economics is presented the award and GPA and achievement are the criteria for the choice of recipient. Loggins was also the president of the college’s Business Club this past year.
The Theatre Award was given to Brian Ricker of Greeneville, Tenn. for his participation and dedication to the theater program at Tusculum College. Ricker has performed as part of 16 Theatre-at-Tusculum productions since high school and is recognized for his abundance of acting talent.
The David Behan Award was presented to Nora Ramsey of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for her support in advancing theater at Tusculum. Ramsey has been involved in many aspects of the theater program. She has worked backstage helping with sets, manned the box office for numerous performances and assisted in office tasks.
Simon Holzapfel of Nuremberg, Germany, received the TAHPERD (Tennessee Association Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) Outstanding Major Award. The award winner is also recognized at the association’s annual convention.
Vanessa N. Fyffe of Bellbrook, Ohio, was presented the NASPE (National Association for Sport and Physical Education) Award. The award winner is also recognized at the national convention.
The Pinnacle Award for highest scores on annual comprehensive examinations taken by athletic training education majors was presented to Kimsie Hall of Cleveland, Tenn.
The Service-Learning Award was awarded to students in a Service-Learning Immersion class that traveled this spring to New Orleans to help in the rebuilding efforts in the Lower Ninth Ward. As part of the trip, the students had the opportunity to meet some of the homeowners they were helping and hear their stories. The students learned about patience, the importance of teamwork and carpentry skills such as how to hang dry wall. The award recipients were Ashley Bradford of London, Ky.; Jillian Cunha of London, Ontario; Kimsie Hall of Cleveland, Tenn.; Katrina Larkin of Kingsport, Tenn.; Kelsey Longwell of Johnson City, Tenn.; Elizabeth McDonnell of Memphis, Tenn.; Victoria Neal of Ellenwood, Ga., and David Roncskevitz of Franklin, Tenn.
The Bonner Leaders Program Award was presented to Jaime Sizemore of Greeneville, Tenn., for her high level of commitment to the Bonners program, for her personal integrity and character and for her dedication to serving others whether on the Tusculum campus or in the community.
Sizemore has been an enthusiastic member of the Bonner Leaders. She has worked with Rural Resources, helping to organize and archive the documents and files recovered from a fire that destroyed the organization’s offices as well as classroom and kitchen space. She organized the Service on Saturday program for this academic year and stepped in to help in other programs when needed such as the mentoring program with at-risk students at Greeneville Middle School.