Best and Brightest

Congratulations to the 2009 Alumni Award Recipients

In 2008, the first ever Distinguished Alumnus Award for the Knoxville campus was presented to Chad Holliday, then CEO and president of DuPont. This award is the single highest alumni award given, and it is reserved for alumni who have excelled at the national or international level. The purpose of this award is to recognize an alumnus or alumna of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who has attained extraordinary distinction and success in his or her field, whose achievements have brought credit to the University of Tennessee, and who has benefited his or her fellow citizens.

Two other Alumni Awards also are being presented this year. The Alumni Service Award recognizes exceptional service or long-term continuing service or leadership to the University of Tennessee. The Alumni Promise Award recognizes alumni no older than 40 years of age who have demonstrated distinctive achievement in career, civic involvement, or both. This award is presented to acknowledge alumni who are making a mark early on in their career.

The Awards Committee of the Alumni Board of Directors has received nominations, reviewed all applications, and selected a stellar group of award recipients for 2009.

2009 Alumni Award Winners

Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award

Howard H. Baker Jr.Howard H. Baker Jr. (JD, 1949)
Now a world recognized statesman, Howard Baker became the first Republican elected from Tennessee since Reconstruction. He served as a Tennessee senator from 1967 until 1985. During that time, he was twice Senate Minority Leader and twice Senate Majority Leader. Baker was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984, served as Chief of Staff under President Ronald Reagan in 1987-88, and was a former U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

The rotunda at the College of Law now is named in Baker’s honor. Additionally, the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy was established in 2001. The center develops programs and promotes research to further the public’s knowledge of our system of governance, and to highlight the critical importance of public service, a hallmark of Sen. Baker’s career. In 2005, the University of Tennessee broke ground on a new facility to house the program. Completed in late 2008, the 53,000-square-foot building provides space for educational programs, exhibits, public lectures, collections, research, and administrative uses.

Clarence BrownClarence L. Brown (1919)
Critically acclaimed, Clarence Brown was nominated for the Academy Award for best director six times during the 1930s. He made the transition from silent films to talkies with classics such as National Velvet and The Yearling and was the favorite director of screen legend Greta Garbo. Over the course of his career, Brown directed 52 feature-length films that were nominated for 38 Academy Awards and received eight. His film Intruder in the Dust, adapted from William Faulkner’s novel, won the prestigious United Nations Award from the British Academy Film Awards in 1950. Clarence and Marian Brown gave $11.2 million from their estate to establish an endowment that supports the Clarence Brown Theatre. Brown also made the initial gift that made the building of the theatre a reality. This year, the university celebrates the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the highly regarded Clarence Brown Company at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Jim and Natalie HaslamJames A. Haslam II (BS, 1952)
In 1958, Jim Haslam opened a single gas station in Gate City, Va. He proceeded to build that one station it into Pilot Corporation, the largest travel center company in the nation. Pilot owns and operates more than 300 travel centers in 40 states coast-to-coast and recently opened a location in Canada. Pilot Travel Centers is also one of the largest restaurant operators in the U.S. Haslam co-chaired UT Knoxville’s first major capital campaign, The Tennessee Tomorrow Campaign, in 1977-80, and again led UT Knoxville’s efforts during The 21st Century Campaign in 1994-98, raising $432 million for the University of Tennessee system. He currently serves as the co-chair, along with his wife, Natalie, of the university’s $1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, The Campaign for Tennessee.

Natalie Haslam (BA, 1952)
A leader in the arts and a benefactor to the School of Music, Natalie Haslam and her husband, Jim, have committed undetermined amounts of time and talent to the betterment of the university. Haslam currently serves as the co-chair of the College of Arts and Sciences Campaign Leadership Committee; co-chair, along with her husband, of the university’s $1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, The Campaign for Tennessee; and is a former member of the UT Knoxville College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors, the UT Knoxville Chancellor’s Associates, and the executive board of the UT Alliance of Women Philanthropists.

Alumni Service Award

Jenny Banner (BS, 1981; MS, 1983)
Member of the Tennessee Accounting Advisory Roundtable; member of the Department of Finance Advisory Council; through her company, Schaad Companies, serves as the lead sponsor of the Clarence Brown Theatre main stage productions; through her role as a member of the BB&T Board of Directors, was instrumental in helping to direct a $1.5 million grant to the College of Business Administration; serves as a guest speaker for finance classes.

Mike Fitts (Bachelor of Architecture, 1971)
Architect for the state of Tennessee; has been on the College of Architecture and Design Board of Visitors; serves as a mentor to UT architecture interns; participates in juries to judge student work; received the Thomas Jefferson AIA Award for public service on behalf of his profession.

Jack Mills (BS, 1968; MBA, 1971)
College of Business Advisory Council; adjunct lecturer in marketing and entrepreneurship; mentors students on resume writing and interview techniques; has lead MBA international trips; a major donor to the College of Business Administration.

Will Pugh (BS, 1961)
Served on the UT Accounting Roundtable for many years; has helped students receive state-supported accounting scholarships; actively works with accounting faculty to improve accounting education.

Alumni Promise Award

Brannon Costello (Ph.D., 2004)
Assistant professor at LSU in English with a focus on Southern literature; authored the groundbreaking book Plantation Airs: Racial Paternalism and the Transformation of Class in Southern Fiction; published in major journals in his field; has co-curated an exhibition on the history of superhero comics and sponsored a visiting lecture by James Sturm, award-winning cartoonist and graphic novelist.

Stephen Kennedy (BS, 1997)
Named a Torchbearer while a student at UT; marketing manager with Rohm & Haas, just recently purchased by Dow Chemical; has received two vice president’s awards at Rohm & Haas for revitalizing a unit that was about to be shutdown; was selected to participate in the Rohm & Haas Essential2Grow leadership program, recognizing his leadership potential.

Ali Safavi (JD, 2002; MBA, 2002)
Global director of account management at the Walt Disney Company, responsible for over $1 billion worth of business; has worked in brand management for Haagen-Dazs, Levi’s, Sara Lee, P&G, and Hewlett-Packard; launched the consumer air freshener Febreeze while at Procter & Gamble, reaching over $150 million in sales the first year; currently oversees feature animation for three continents.

Michael Thigpen (BS, 1991)
Serves as the associate director of the Botswana/U.S. Prevention Research Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Gaborone, Botswana; oversees 90+ medical and clerical professionals who are charged with conducting joint HIV prevention research funded by the government of Botswana; commander in the U.S. Public Health Service Commission Corps.

One comment on “Best and Brightest

  1. A marketing consultant for us showed us some of Stephen Kennedy’s work from Rohm & Hass, was very impressive. Had no idea he was also a UT alum.