2023 Honorees and Nominees
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.
Read the announcement on news.tennessee.edu →
Bold and Impactful Honorees:
Dr. James Bailey
Professor and Robert S. Pearce Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine, Director for the Center for Health Systems Improvement, and Executive Director, Tennessee Population Health Consortium
UT Health Science Center
A distinguished faculty member at the UT College of Medicine, Dr. James Bailey’s tireless and innovative efforts inspire others. As the esteemed Robert S. Pearce Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine, Bailey has addressed the grand challenges of persistent health inequities with unwavering commitment. Bailey’s visionary approach has led to the establishment and development of groundbreaking initiatives such as the Tennessee Population Health Consortium, the Tennessee Heart Health Network and the Tennessee Population Health Data Network (TN-POPnet). Bailey’s work in health care workforce development has reshaped the landscape of healthcare delivery in the state. He has spearheaded the training, certification, deployment and standardization of payment for health care workers, revolutionizing the industry. Under his leadership, TN-POPnet now includes ambulatory and hospital data for 19 major health systems and practices representing all the major cities and regions of Tennessee. Bailey’s collaboration with Tennessee’s Medicaid agency has resulted in a groundbreaking interagency data-sharing agreement. This agreement empowers UT System researchers to conduct population health and translational research, leading to profound impacts on the well-being of Tennesseans.
Coordinator of Student Services, College of Pharmacy
UT Health Science Center
More than 15 years ago, when the UT Health Science Center College of Pharmacy’s Knoxville campus was just a vision, Melissa Smith was entrusted with the crucial task of designing and implementing student support services for the campus. At a time when distance learning technology was in its infancy and Zoom did not exist, she bridged the 400-mile gap between Knoxville and Memphis to provide students with an equivalent campus experience. Smith’s creative genius came to the forefront as her efforts encompassed a wide array of initiatives, from facilitating access to on-campus healthcare and arranging tutoring and counseling services, to coordinating student-led publications showcasing housing and dining options for newcomers. The College of Pharmacy’s synchronous learning model via distance technology was a first for the UTHSC and has become a template embraced by other UTHSC colleges. She has organized emergency care for students in crisis and has tirelessly worked to find solutions for those facing financial hardship. She engages with prospective students, coordinating tours and initiated a job shadowing program.
Bold and Impactful Nominees
- Debra Miller – Professor and Director, UTIA Center for Wildlife Health and Director, UT One Health Initiative, UT Knoxville
- Jimmy Delaney – Associate Athletics Director of Marketing and Fan Experience, UT Knoxville
- Shewanee Howard-Baptiste – Vice Provost and Professor of Academic Affairs/Health and Human Performance, UT Chattanooga
- Virginia Grimes – Assistant Director of WestStar, UT Martin
- John Lacey – System Strategist, UT System Division of Communications and Marketing
- Terri Clark – Senior Director of Prospect Development, Advancement Services, UT Foundation, Inc
- Paul Middlebrooks – APEX Director, Center for Industrial Services, Institute for Public Service
- Bruce LaMattina – Senior Director for Aerospace and Defense, UT Space Institute at UT Knoxville
Embrace Diversity Honorees:
Lecturer, Department of Mass Media and Strategic Communications
Henrietta Giles, a highly esteemed lecturer in the Department of Mass Media and Strategic Communications at UT Martin, served as co-creator and producer of the CMT/MTV Networks film, “Waiting in the Wings: African Americans in Country Music,” which brought attention to underrepresented voices. In 2015, Giles received an Emmy Award for Best Documentary for her work on “Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice: Preserving the Gift of Black Sacred Music.” Giles’s collaborative work with civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery on his biographical project, “Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land,” amplifies marginalized narratives. Since 2015, she has been involved in coordinating the annual UT Martin Civil Rights Conference and chaired the 2023 event. In her classes, Giles creates assignments that prompt students to analyze and document pressing issues and dilemmas facing the world. Through interviews with experts, peers and family members, students develop compelling features that explore perceptions and opinions. Completing Giles’s class requires a thoughtful inspection of the world and a deep exploration of the differences that shape interactions with others.
Executive Director, Disability Resource Center
UT Chattanooga’s Disability Resource Center Executive Director Michelle Rigler’s dedication extends beyond overseeing the day-to-day delivery of services for students with diverse disabilities; she is also a respected expert in the field of autism. Rigler developed Mosaic, a multifaceted and comprehensive program to meet the specific needs of degree-seeking students on the autism spectrum. It has earned widespread acclaim and has become one of the most highly regarded and emulated university-based programs in the country. The program’s retention and graduation rates have consistently surpassed those of the general student population, highlighting its tremendous success. In response to the pandemic, Rigler swiftly adapted and created alternative virtual engagement events to ensure her students remained connected and supported. She initiated a support group for parents, recognizing the unique challenges they faced as their students suddenly found themselves at home, deprived of the vital structure that UTC had provided in their lives. Rigler’s work and professional passion has put UTC on the map as an institution that fosters diversity and embraces it.
Embrace Diversity Nominees
- Michelle Deardorff – Adolph S. Ochs Professor of Government and Department Head of Political Science and Public Service, UT Chattanooga
- Nury Magana – Associate Professor and Executive Director of Clinical Trials Unit, Bilingual Community Health Navigator for Office of Community Health Engagement, UT Health Science Center
- David Shibata – Professor and Harwell Wilson Alumni Endowed Chair in Surgery, Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, UT Health Science Center
- Elisha Hodge – Legal Consultant, Municipal Technical Advisory Service, UT Institute for Public Service
Optimistic and Visionary Honorees:
Associate Dean of Practice and Global Affairs, Professor, College of Nursing
Nan Gaylord has impacted UT Knoxville, and the wider East Tennessee region through her commitment to scholarship, teaching and service. Her journey at UT Knoxville began 36 years ago as a clinical instructor in the College of Nursing. Her role expanded by becoming a professor and the associate dean for practice and global affairs. She helped found the Vine Student Health Center, a comprehensive pediatric clinic established in 1995 through a partnership between UT Knoxville’s College of Nursing and Knox County Schools. Initially a clinic catering to the health needs of students in a single school has blossomed into a resource for children and youth across the region through telehealth services and periodic on-site care in an additional 11 schools. In pursuit of the center’s mission, Gaylord secured a grant to support families facing challenges related to food resources, housing and clothing. Her guidance within the center provides unique and valuable experiences for students, allowing them to actively serve the community. Her mentorship empowers students to embark on successful nursing journeys.
Director, Undergraduate Admissions
Destin Tucker has demonstrated great dedication and commitment to her role for the past seven years as director of undergraduate admissions at UT Martin. With nearly 17 years of experience in the field of admissions, Tucker’s expertise shines through in every aspect of her work. Tucker also serves as the strategic enrollment management chair at UT Martin, where she plays a pivotal role in shaping the institution’s strategic plan. She turned around a struggling admissions office through bold leadership, intuitive intelligence, willingness to ask questions and integrity. The outbreak of COVID-19 presented recruitment obstacles, including school closures and restricted visits by admissions counselors. The ambiguity of campus operations made it difficult to relieve worries of families. Orientation shifted to an online format, which made it demanding to maintain a personal touch. Tucker rallied and supported her staff as they navigated circumstances none had experienced before. She possesses a keen ability to anticipate obstacles and establishes meaningful relationships with a grateful heart.
Optimistic and Visionary Nominees
- Valerie Parks – Associate Director of Facility Branding and Design, Athletics/Media Relations, UT Knoxville
- Hunter Holzhauer – Associate Professor, Robert L. Maclellan & UC Foundation Associate Professor of Finance, Rollins College of Business, UT Chattanooga
- Bradley Boucher – Professor and Interim Dean, Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Science, College of Pharmacy, UT Health Science Center
- Charles Hicks, Jr. – Operations Manager, Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, UT Health Science Center
- Trent Clagg – Training Specialist, Naifeh Center for Effective Leadership, UT Institute for Public Service
- Charlotte Henley – Administrative Associate, Office of the Executive Director, UT Space Institute at UT Knoxville
Nimble and Innovative Honorees:
Associate Dean, College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies
Program Director, Professor, Learning and Leadership Program
David Rausch has established himself as a prominent and highly accomplished member of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies at UT Chattanooga. Within the graduate school, Rausch actively participates in the faculty senate and graduate council. He has tirelessly represented UTC with exceptional skill, significantly enhancing university awareness and support for UTC’s graduate programs and undergraduate degree completion initiatives. Rausch’s contributions can be seen in the significant refinement of the LEAD program. Particularly noteworthy is the establishment of a comprehensive digital presence, ensuring a seamless alignment of procedural aspects within the program. Rausch was instrumental in designing and implementing the creation of a bachelor of applied science in applied leadership degree. This innovative program caters to adults seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Offering a flexible online format with seven-week courses, this degree program has proven to be a manageable and accessible option, exceeding initial enrollment projections and continuing to grow in popularity.
Senior Program Manager, Electronic Research Administration
UT Health Science Center
Patricia Page, UT Health Science Center senior program manager in Electronic Research Administration (eRA), is an invaluable asset with the eRA group, which plays a crucial role in supporting electronic systems that facilitate the creation and routing of research proposals and protocols for sponsored projects. This essential work encompasses all UT campuses for proposals, as well as UTHSC, UT Knoxville and UT Institute of Agriculture for protocols. Page strives to minimize the administrative burden faced by faculty, staff and students while ensuring compliance with research standards. She is honest, dependable and incredibly hard working. Her expertise in iMedRIS, the University’s electronic system for research compliance, benefits UTHSC and extends its impact to researchers at affiliated institutions. She collaborates with research compliance committees, notably the Institutional Review Board (IRB), to simplify the submission process and establish streamlined procedures for researchers and officials at affiliate institutions. She actively seeks feedback from researchers, institutional officials and the IRB to continually improve the system. She also developed comprehensive user guides and videos to aid researchers.
Nimble and Innovative Nominees
- Natalie Crippen – Academic Process Specialist, College of Social Work, UT Knoxville
- Melissa Laseter – Director of Student Support Services, UT Chattanooga
- Joseph Ostenson – Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, UT Martin
- Dr. Gabor Tigyi – Harriet Van Vleet – Endowed Professor in Basic Oncology, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research-Industry Relations and Global Cooperation, Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, UT Health Science Center
- Angie Carrier – Program Manager, Municipal Technical Advisory Service, UT Institute for Public Service
Excel In All We Do Honorees:
Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs
Director of Accreditation, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Liaison
Stephanie Kolitsch, UT Martin Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) liaison and director of accreditation, also currently serves as the interim provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. She has been a valued member of the UT Martin community for almost 30 years, beginning her tenure in 1994 as a professor of mathematics. Kolitsch has gone above and beyond in serving the university and is the perfect example of how to excel in all we do. She has been leading UT Martin’s reaffirmation of the accreditation process and has successfully developed the quality enhancement plan, which is part of the SACS review process and the foundations of excellence self-study. She pioneered a monthly assessment campus-wide newsletter. It highlights outstanding work from departments, keeps deadlines at the forefront of individuals’ minds and challenges them to continue to think about how good assessment provides data-driven decisions. Kolitsch’s pursuit of excellence, exceptional leadership and outstanding performance, as well as her commitment to the university’s mission and vision, has cemented her status as a visionary leader.
Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
Housing arrangements are key for attracting and retaining students. UT Chattanooga’s Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Abeer Mustafa plays a crucial role in ensuring its success. Mustafa has cultivated a thriving on-campus environment, leading to high enrollment and student retention rates through Residential Learning Communities (RLCs). Each RLC, dedicated to one of UTC’s four academic colleges, has connected freshmen and prospective students who share common academic programs or interests. The RLCs foster a sense of belonging, creating inclusive and welcoming environments that enrich students’ experiences. In 2021, Mustafa recognized the need to support the development of aspiring female leaders, as well as those in leadership on campus. Mustafa brought together partners from the office of human resources, information technology and academic affairs to create LeadHERship, an initiative that engages women on campus through critical learning opportunities, networking and mentorship. The inaugural event in spring 2022, through a partnership with the UT System Office of Employee and Organizational Development, resulted in a virtual workshop attended by over 85 UTC participants.
Excell In All We Do Nominees:
- Jason McVeigh – Senior Associate Athletics Director of Sports Medicine and Sports Performance, Athletics, UT Knoxville
- Gretchen Potts – Professor and Department Head, Biology, Geology and Environmental Science, UT Chattanooga
- Dr. Neil Hayes – Professor, Division Chief, Scientific Director, UT-West Institute of Cancer Research, College of Medicine, UT Health Science Center
- Sherry Warford – Supervisor of Laboratory Animal Care Unit, UT Health Science Center
- Ron Loewen – Associate Vice President, Budget, Analysis and Planning, Finance and Administration, UT System
- Leslie Wereszcak – Director, Small Animal Clinical Sciences, UT Institute of Agriculture
- Kenny Smith – Solutions Consultant, Center for Industrial Services, UT Institute for Public Service
United and Connected Honorees:
Professor, Chair, Department of Educational Studies
Whether it’s in the classroom, coaching young athletes or raising funds for those in need, Clinton Smith embodies a commitment to service that elevates UT Martin. Joining its faculty in 2012, Smith has risen to special education professor and chair in the department of educational studies. He engages in service to the university, his profession and the community, while also making significant contributions to research and scholarship. Smith has authored 17 publications, three book chapters, delivered 57 international presentations and 26 state presentations. What sets Smith apart is his selfless focus on others. In his pursuit of excellence, he never sacrifices the well-being of those around him. Every endeavor he undertakes is driven by a genuine desire to give back. The leadership roles he has assumed are a testament to others recognizing his exceptional qualities and inviting him to serve. Those who have had the privilege of working with Smith quickly learn to admire his commitment to excellence, his embodiment of dedication, focus and integrity in all interactions.
Manager, Human Resources and Operations
UT Institute for Public Service
Tomi Rogers’s journey at UT began as an intern in 2001. Since then, she has garnered a great reputation due to her extensive knowledge of human resources, familiarity with UT policies and willingness to assist others. In her current role at the UT Institute for Public Service, Rogers has fostered strong relationships across the UT System, often representing the institute in collaboration with counterparts from other institutions across the state. Through her statewide engagement and valuable contributions, Rogers has fostered unity and connectivity among the various entities in the UT System. Rogers has been instrumental in the professional development of countless UT employees and residents of Tennessee. Notably, she has been an integral member of the UT Leadership Institute for more than six years, actively participating in the planning, development and delivery of the institute’s comprehensive curricula and enriching learning activities during its weeklong intensive program. Her wealth of experience, coupled with her passion for supporting others, continues to inspire and uplift individuals as they navigate their professional journeys.
United and Connected Nominees:
- Denise Jilka – Director of Academic Services, Thornton Athletics Student Life Center, UT Knoxville
- Karen Lasater – Clinical Professor, College of Nursing, UT Knoxville
- Laurie Allen – Executive Director, Professor of Practice, Lyndhurst Chair of Excellence in Arts Education, Arts-Based Collaborative, Southeast Center for Education in the Arts, UT Chattanooga
- Theresa Liedtdka – Dean, UTC Library, UT Chattanooga
- Cindy Williamson –Director of Assessment and SAC/SCOC Liaison, Planning, Evaluation, and Institutional Research, UT Chattanooga
- Bonnie Ownley – Professor, Entomology and Plant Pathology, UT Institute of Agriculture
- Kaycee Edwards – Financial Professional I/Business Manager, Finance Department, UT Space Institute at UT Knoxville
Transparent and Trusted Honorees:
Associate Professor of Human Development, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences
UT Knoxville, UT Extension
Heather Sedges is an accomplished associate professor in the department of family and consumer sciences at UT Knoxville and a dedicated UT Extension specialist focusing on human development. Her role involves creating, implementing and evaluating human development programs to support outreach through the UT’s extensive network of family and consumer sciences agents in all 95 counties across the state. She collaborates with national colleagues to stay responsive to trends and opportunities, advancing Extension’s ability to address parenting, mental health and family issues. She trains Extension professionals in program-related implementation and equips professionals statewide to be effective in their after-school teaching roles. This multi-level approach to training has provided a strong infrastructure to implement strong parenting and mental health programs. She has been nationally recognized as a recipient of the Early Career Achievement Award from the National Awards Committee for Family Life and Human Development State Specialists for her visionary leadership. With her great networking skills, she has forged productive connections across the state and the nation, resulting in leading-edge collaborative work.
Public Records Coordinator, Division of Communications and Marketing
As the systemwide public information officer, Charles Primm has proven to be an invaluable asset by overseeing public information requests for all entities within the UT System. Primm helps ensure a seamless and efficient process that upholds UT’s reputation for transparency and trust across the state. With more than two decades of experience at UT Knoxville, Primm’s outstanding reputation and exceptional work ethic caught the attention of the UT System Division of Communications and Marketing, leading to his recruitment in November 2020. Since joining the UT System staff, Primm has managed public information requests for five UT campuses, two statewide institutes, the UT Foundation and UT System Administration. His outstanding success is evident in the meaningful relationships he has established with key stakeholders. In 2021, Primm adeptly managed over 400 public information requests from the residents of Tennessee. His remarkable success and numerous accomplishments are a testament to his commitment to excellence and the invaluable contributions he has made to the UT System.
Transparent and Trusted Nominees:
- Tara Brooks – Associate Athletics Director of Administration, Athletics, UT Knoxville
- Missy Miller – Administrative Associate, College of Nursing, UT Knoxville
- Tom Ellis – Assistant Vice Chancellor for Operations, Facilities, Planning & Management, UT Chattanooga
- Ashley Bynum – Assistant Athletic Director, Compliance, Athletics, UT Martin
- Ronald Davis – Manager of Teaching and Learning Center, UT Health Science Center
- Dr. Natascha Thompson – Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, College of Medicine, UT Health Science Center
- Melisa Kelton – County Government Consultant, County Technical Assistance Service, UT Institute for Public Service