The Definition of Success

The world would call them successful. These four University of Tennessee alumni are innovators and leaders in their respective fields, but how do they define success? What advice would they give their younger selves? How do they feel about their alma mater?

Mark Dean holds three of the original nine patents on the standard IBM personal desktop computer.

 Q: How do you define success?

A: “Success is achieving a preset goal or completing a task of importance to yourself and/or other party. Success does not equate to recognition or reward. Success is usually accompanied by a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. No matter how much someone else feels you have been successful, if you don’t have that feeling it doesn’t feed your soul.”

Q: What advice would you go back and give yourself as a college freshman?

A: “I would advise myself to never say ‘never.’ I would advise myself that anything you can imagine is possible, keep imagining and trying. Also, there are a lot of ‘right’ ways to accomplish a task or design something. The important thing is something has been completed with one of the ‘right’ ways. History will remember that the task was completed and you were a part of the effort. So make a decision and get on with it.”

John and Ann Tickle, Campaign for Tennessee vice chairs, exemplify the spirit of giving back through financial contributions and the giving of their time and enthusiasm to the university.

John AnnQ: What advice would you go back and give yourself as a college freshman?

A: “In looking back, the obvious answer is that a harder work ethic and a constant focus on the tasks at hand would always provide a better result.”

Q. How did UT impact your life?

A: “We both feel that we received excellent educations at the University of Tennessee. We both had immediate job offers following graduation, and our first jobs formed the basis of our entire professional careers. Our educations served us well, and we are grateful for our experiences at UT.”

Larry Patrick gives back to the university through endowed scholarships named for professors who made a difference in his life.

Larry Patrick-2Q: How do you define success?

A: “Success is doing something that you love that brings you real satisfaction and allows you to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Q: How did UT impact your life?

A: “UT showed me the importance of strong research and writing. It most importantly opened my eyes to college-level teaching and making a difference in the lives of students. I was really fortunate to have some great teachers while at UT. I owe them a great debt of gratitude and have honored some of them by endowing scholarships in their names. I always have seen Tennessee as the turning point in my life when I grew up, when I learned to appreciate learning.”

Pat Summitt is the all-time winningest basketball coach in NCAA history, who has given of her time and energy for thirty-eight years to ensure the success of her players.

Pat SummittQ: What advice would you go back and give yourself as a college freshman?

A: “Believe it or not, I was very shy as a college freshman, so I would advise myself to be more confident and assertive…to speak up more.”

Q: How did UT impact your life?

A: “UT gave me a platform to teach, cultivate, and inspire young women to reach their full potential in the classroom, on the court, and in their daily lives.”


Eighteen alumni, including the Distinguished Alumni, were recognized by UT Knoxville’s alumni board of directors for their service to the university and others.

Alumni Service
Charles W. Brinkley Jr.
Sharon Miller Pryse
Charles Wharton

Alumni Promise
Kara Lawson Barling
Stefan Duma
Darris James
Kristin Qualls
Chad Speck

Alumni Professional Achievement
Robin Klehr Avia
Tom Bell
Charles Hankins
Hashem Mehrdad “Hash” Hashemian
Shirley Raines

To find out more about the honored alumni, visit Tennessee Today.

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