President’s Awards are the highest honor a UT employee can receive from the University and are intended to spotlight success and inspire excellence. Honorees are selected each year from a Systemwide pool of candidates nominated by campus and institute leaders. Winners receive commemorative plaques and monetary awards of $3,000.

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Bold and Impactful Honoree:
Frank Butler

Frank Butler

Frank Butler is known as a professor with a passion for teaching. He provides a welcoming environment by using real-world applications and current events in his classes. Butler is the faculty director of the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, which is known as the most effective program of its kind in the nation. In addition to his efforts on campus, Butler is also active in professional service. He serves as a reviewer and associate editor for journals in his field and co-hosts a podcast and blog called, “The Busyness Paradox.” He volunteers on numerous boards in various capacities, including serving on board of directors for EIRSystems and the advisory board for Solas Bioventures, UTC SMILE Fund and the UTC Walker Center for Teaching and Learning. He has recently been added to the advisory board for the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center. Butler’s optimism and enthusiasm for his work shine through in everything he does.


Bold and Impactful Nominees

  • William Fox, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Michael Gibson, University of Tennessee at Martin
  • Damon Davis, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Matthew Devereaux, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
  • Daniel Norman , University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
  • Bruce LaMattina , University of Tennessee Space Institute at UT Knoxville


Embrace Diversity Honoree:
Cindy West

Cindy West

Cindy West, the dean of the College of Education, Health and Behavioral Sciences, has incorporated components of equity and inclusion in all of her classes. In 1998, she received a certificate of appreciation from UT Martin’s Black Student Association for her commitment to justice. Since coming to UT Martin to direct and teach the social work program, she has created a positive and inclusive environment for all. When West took over as dean in 2017, she actively took steps to diversify faculty. In 2015, West acknowledged the shortage of male teachers of color and established the “Call Me MiSTER” program. This program draws to campus a large number of diverse men who are pursuing a career in teaching upon graduation. In fall 2022, the program will have 17 MiSTERs with the first group of graduates in 2023. West also supports the campus’ Civil Rights Conference. With her encouragement, the program has grown from a week-long initiative to a month-long series during Black History Month. West embraces all parts of diversity through her values, leadership, initiatives and support.


Embrace Diversity Nominees

  • Dorian McCoy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Michelle Rigler, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Elisha Hodge, University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
  • Patricia Burks-Jelks, University of Tennessee Space Institute at UT Knoxville


Optimistic and Visionary Honoree:
Orpheus Triplett

Orpheus Triplett

Orpheus Triplett is working to increase the College of Dentistry’s footprint throughout Tennessee in his role at the UT Health Science Center. He developed a course to reach beyond clinical findings and conditions to touch on social and structural determinants. Triplett’s professional work extends beyond his role as an associate professor and assistant dean. He holds active memberships with the American Association of Public Health, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Oral Health Progress and Equity Network. He also serves on community committees in leading roles like treasurer and finance committee chair of Christ Community Health Services, the Tennessee Alliance of Oral Health Advocates as a steering committee member and co-chair of West Tennessee Oral Health Initiative. Triplett has also created relationships between the College of Dentistry and local schools in the Memphis area, as well as with organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. In everything he does, Triplett focuses on new ways of relationship building.


Optimistic and Visionary Nominees

  • Beauvais Lyons, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Hunter Holzhauer, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Gina McClure, University of Tennessee at Martin
  • David Shibata, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Charlotte Henley, University of Tennessee Space Institute at UT Knoxville


Nimble and Innovative Honoree:
Blake Reagan

Blake Reagan

Blake Reagan is dedicated to the continuous improvement of UT’s contracting and procurement practices. Since becoming the director of procurement services in 2015, Reagan’s commitment to innovation shines in everything he does. In 2010, he started working on the UT Contract Management Manual. This manual is the first-of-its-kind university contract guidebook. Currently on its fourth version with more than 300 pages, it is used regularly by hundreds of UT employees at different levels of the organization. Reagan’s job even extended to the UT System’s newest campus. He was responsible for reviewing every contract at UT Southern, as these contracts had to be renegotiated from Martin Methodist College to the UT Southern. He was instrumental in leading requests for proposals that positively impact UT Southern’s bookstore and facilities operations. Thus, he made the process seamless and efficient during a time of transition. For years, Reagan has been heavily invested in disseminating crucial information and making it available to all at UT. For instance, he organizes statewide procurement and contracts annual meetings. Reagan’s love for his job and innovative spirit leads him to continue developing new checklists, reports, training videos, allowing him to reach broader audiences. Reagan is also a 2020 graduate of UT’s Executive Leadership Institute.


Nimble and Innovative Nominees

  • David Cihak, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Brian Stevens, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Melissa Laseter, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Steve Elliot, University of Tennessee at Martin
  • Gabor Tigyi, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Lisa Shipley, University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
  • Terry Garner, University of Tennessee Space Institute at UT Knoxville


Excel in All We Do Honoree:
Carla Mason

Carla Mason

Carla Mason the senior custodian in UTC’s facilities, planning and management department, has a large impact on the university far beyond what she does in her role as a custodian. Since the beginning of her time at UTC in 2015, she has set high standards, pursued learning and growth, and celebrated quality. In 2017, Mason was recognized as a campus service worker excelling in demonstrating UTC’s values by fostering friendships with students. She demonstrates a “students first” philosophy and understands her impact on campus extends well beyond the facilities she maintains. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mason was one of the frontline heroes for her commitment to protecting others and providing leadership during uncertain times. She was a reassuring voice that highlighted the importance of personal protective equipment and adhering to protocols. Her efforts greatly contributed to the continued success of serving UTC students. Every day, Mason accurately embodies what it means to Be One UT.


Excel in All We Do Nominees

  • William Moles, University of Tennessee System
  • Christopher Craighead, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Hollie Raynor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Clinton Smith, University of Tennessee at Martin
  • Alejandro Dopico, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Brian Canfield, University of Tennessee Space Institute at UT Knoxville


United and Connected Honoree:
Tyler White

Tyler White

Tyler White shows his unified leadership skills, passion and the Volunteer spirit as the program manager for UT Knoxville’s Culinary Institute. Since taking on this role in 2010, he has created hands-on learning experiences for his students, including planning menus to producing high-quality events. White’s work with a myriad of constituencies on campus made him realize a problem that needed a solution. He found that a large amount of quality food was being discarded after events. As a result, he brought together partners within the UT Culinary Institute, Vol Dining and the Big Orange Pantry to create the Food4VOLS program that began operating in November 2021. The unused food is reclaimed from catered functions, campus dining locations and athletic events, then repurposed and distributed to individuals in need. Food4VOLS has quickly surpassed all goals from its inception. This program has become a leader and model for other universities, as it provides strategies and solutions for reducing food waste. White’s dedication to professionalism and service along with the ability to work successfully with individuals across the UTK campus fully embody what it means to be united and connected.


United and Connected Nominees

  • Scott Lenaghan, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Laurie Melnik Allen, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Phyllis Richey, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Ryan Martin, University of Tennessee at Martin
  • Debbie Barber, University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
  • Kaycee Edwards, University of Tennessee Space Institute at UT Knoxville


Transparent and Trusted Honoree:
Patricia Burks-Jelks

Patricia Burks-Jelks

Patricia Burks-Jelks , director of human resources at the UT Space Institute, practices stewardship and accountability, and models it for those whom she works with daily. For more than 30 years, Burks-Jelks has had a great impact in all she does. She serves as the director of human resources, equity and diversity and compliance as well as Title IX coordinator at the UT Space Institute. Burks-Jelks’ unwavering drive is also illustrated in her philanthropy work. She is the recipient of the June Anderson Award presented by Women in Higher Education (WHET), the Meritorious Service Award from the Southern Region of College and University Professional Association for Human Resources and the Exemplary Woman of the Year Award presented by Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Winchester. Every day, she continues to be the definition of transparent and trusted.


Transparent and Trusted Nominees

  • Charles Primm, University of Tennessee System
  • Betsy Adams, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Tom Ellis, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Ashley Bynum, University of Tennessee at Martin
  • Debbie Jackson, University of Tennessee Health Science Center