Eight recognized at 2016 Outstanding Alumni Awards
Every year, a select group of alumni are recognized for their lifetime achievements and outstanding support of Tennessee Tech University.
This year, eight will be recognized on Feb. 5 at a reception at the Leslie Town Centre. Award recipients are former students from the Colleges of Agriculture and Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, and Interdisciplinary Studies, the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing and Athletics.
View a video of the awards ceremony.
College of Agriculture and Human Ecology
Davis Watts, '69 animal husbandry
Davis Watts is a true man of Middle Tennessee.
Born in Lebanon, Watts grew up on his family farm in Nameless, Tennessee. When not helping to raise beef cattle, feed hogs and harvest tobacco, he worked in his family’s general merchandise store.
After graduating from Jackson County High School in 1964, Watts enrolled at Tennessee Tech University as a first generation college student.
Watts worked hard to make ends meet during his undergraduate career, living on the upper floor of and driving an ambulance for the Hooper, Huddleston and Horner Funeral Home in Cookeville. As a result of this extra work, Watts attended TTU for two extra quarters to graduate.
In May 1969, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture with a concentration in animal science and a minor in economics.
He worked as a food inspector for the USDA in Columbus, Ohio, then took a job in public relations with Chilian Nitrate traveling across Tennessee to work with county extension agents.
Watts began his banking career, however, working for First National Bank in 1973. In four years, the bank had changed its name to First Tennessee and moved their offices from Cookeville’s square to the current building on Jefferson Avenue. Watts graduated from Vanderbilt’s School of Banking in 1974 and received a diploma from the School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University in 1982.
For several years, Watts has been ranked statewide as a top producer in consumer loans and overall revenue production, an accomplishment he attributes to his education and community relationships. He serves as senior vice president at First Tennessee in Cookeville.
Watts remains active in various community organizations. He is currently a board member for the Tennessee Tech University Agricultural Foundation, the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, the TTU College of Business and the Putnam County Farm Bureau, and is a former president of the Cookeville Jaycees, the Cookeville Breakfast Rotary and the Cookeville Noonday Lions Club.
Watts’s wife, Lou Ann, graduated from TTU with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education. The couple have two children, James Watts, a TTU fine arts graduate who teaches visual arts at Prescott South Middle School, and Ann Boyd Davis, an accounting and finance graduate who is now an assistant professor of accounting at TTU. Her husband, Wilson, is also a TTU graduate in mechanical engineering and their son, Andrew, is now entering the CDL at Tech.
College of Arts and Sciences
Marc Norman, '76 chemistry
Marc Norman remembers being fascinated as a young boy by fossils and crystals in rocks around his home. Now, that same captivation drives his career.
For more than 30 years, Norman’s occupation as a geochemist has taken him around the world to conduct research and teach about comet and meteor impacts on the moon and throughout the solar system.
Norman’s family has lived in middle Tennessee for generations – his mother and father met as students at Tennessee Tech University. After a few years of living in Nashville and Decatur, Alabama, the family returned to Cookeville when Norman’s father took a job as director of Public Information at Tech.
In 1975, Norman received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Tech. For graduate study, he chose to attend the University of Tennessee’s geology program when he learned of a professor there studying the geology of Earth’s moon. During high school, Norman recalls following the Apollo space missions closely, and figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study his childhood dream.
After receiving his master’s degree, Norman got a job at NASA’s Lunar Curatorial Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center, where he worked on a program that researched and catalogued over 700 pounds of moon rock samples returned from Apollo missions.
At the same time, Norman began part-time Ph.D. work at Rice University. In 1987, he earned this terminal degree for fieldwork on volcanic rock in Idaho.
He currently serves as emeritus fellow for the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences in Canberra, Australia.
Norman is married to geochemist Vickie Bennett, who also works at the ANU. They met in Canberra and have been together about 26 years. His mother, Mildred, passed away two days shy of her 90th birthday in November. His father, Douglas, still lives at their home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
In his spare time, Norman enjoys club volleyball, the Canberra Cactus and Succulent Society and running with his two dogs.
Department of Athletics
Gail Fields, '73 chemistry
An injury that put a halt to his potential career in professional baseball led Dr. Gail Fields to his chosen profession as an orthopedic surgeon, and a seat on the basketball team bench brought him into the Tennessee Tech Athletics family where he has developed into one of the Golden Eagles’ biggest boosters.
A native of Chattanooga, Gail entered Tennessee Tech in 1965 after graduating from Bledsoe County High School.
Two years into his collegiate studies, he began a four-year stint with the U.S. Navy, including a tour in South Vietnam. He returned to Cookeville following his military time, and received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1973.
A serious arm injury in the summer following his high school days charted his course. Signed in 1965 as a pitcher by the St. Louis Cardinals, the injury put his baseball career on the shelf. The time he spent in rehab from the injury opened his eyes to a career in medicine.
Fresh out of Tech, Fields began medical school at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri from 1973 to 1977, followed by his residency in orthopedics at Southeastern Medical Center in North Miami Beach, Florida, from 1977 to 1982.
While practicing in the middle Tennessee region from 1982 to 1986, he was invited to sit on the team bench by men’s basketball coach Frank Harrell. That experience helped turn Fields into one of Tech’s top fans in terms of spirit and financial support of Golden Eagle athletics.
He moved to Idaho in 1986 and established the Blackfoot Orthopedic Clinic, a one-man operation that has since grown into the largest orthopedic group in Idaho. The Orthopedic Institute in Blackfoot, serving all of southeast Idaho, now includes eight orthopedic surgeons.
Fields has remained close to Tech athletic programs as a fan and supporter, and he is also a major sponsor of the annual Bobby Nichols Scramble, sponsoring the Doc Fields Golf Party on Friday night during the three-day event. He continues to be a friend of TTU basketball with financial support for coaches Jeff Lebo, Mike Sutton and Steve Payne.
College of Business
Charlotte Malone Swafford, '70 business education
Charlotte Swafford grew up in Harrison, Tennessee, a town so close to Chattanooga that she often tells new acquaintances she spent her youth there.
When she began her college search, her high school principal encouraged her to check out MTSU – but she remembers preferring the location of TTU and the strength of its College of Business.
Swafford didn’t have a lot of free time for extracurricular activities during her time as a Tennessee Tech University student. She worked four years as an assistant to the secretary for the College of Business and Dean Louis Johnson. In 1970, she received her bachelor’s degree in business education from TTU.
After graduation, Swafford and her husband moved to Falmouth, Massachusetts – at the mouth of Cape Cod. She took a job 60 minutes away in Boston while he worked at a nearby Air Force base. In the three years they lived up north, she filled a number of jobs – bookkeeper, secretary and payroll manager. This included working for the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Fisheries’ research vessel Port Captain in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
This active career gave Swafford a valuable insight she used when the couple returned to Tennessee in 1973. That year, she took a job as a staff accountant with the National HealthCare Corporation in Murfreesboro.
She continues to work at NHC, now as treasurer and senior vice president. For her, being a part of a company that is committed to providing quality and continuum of care for the elderly is very rewarding. She’s proud to have recruited several TTU College of Business graduates in her time there.
Swafford stays active in her Murfreesboro community, investing time and money into several charitable organizations. She appreciates the efforts to rejuvenate and maintain the town square and adjacent historical areas including Main Street. She is proud of supporting efforts to continue education at both TTU and MTSU.
She and her husband, Rick, a real estate broker, reside in Murfreesboro.
College of Education
Grant Swallows, '03 journalism, '06 M.A., '07 Ed.S.
It may seem like Grant Swallows’ undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tennessee Tech University are divergent, but he says everything he learned at Tech has made him the person he is today.
After graduating from Livingston Academy in 1998, Swallows enrolled in classes at TTU. His love of writing motivated him to choose journalism classes, while he also played football for four years and baseball for two years. During his sophomore year, Swallows met his wife, Beth Ann, while attending a meeting for TTU’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In 2003, Swallows earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from TTU. Instead of pursuing a career in news, however, he returned to his old high school as an assistant principal and technology coordinator.
Both his parents are retired educators – Pat, his father, and Louise, his mother are both alumni of TTU. As he got older, Swallows felt the need to explore a career in education – while retaining the skills he learned as a journalism major.
A year later, Swallows enrolled in graduate studies at TTU, earning his master’s degree in instructional leadership and a specialist in education degree.
In 2008, he returned to TTU as associate athletic director for development. He secured funds for and assisted in planning the construction of a multimillion-dollar strength and conditioning facility, while serving as an adjunct professor in the College of Education, a position he still holds.
Today, Swallows serves as principal of White County High School. Under his watch, the school was awarded a $100,000 Celebrate My Drive grant and reaccredited under AdvancED/SACS guidelines. In his second year at the school it was named a Tennessee Reward School, ranking in the top five percent of schools statewide for academic progress.
Swallows serves on the TTU Education Committee, as chairman of the Upper Cumberland Principals’ Study Council and is a leadership course facilitator for the Tennessee Department of Education.
He lives in Sparta with his wife and three children – Brady, Anniston and Judah.
College of Engineering
Trudy Harper, '83 electrical engineering, '84 M.A.
Trudy Harper earned her bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Tech University in electrical engineering with an emphasis in electric power in 1983, a master’s in electrical engineering in 1984, and in 1989 earned her master of business administration in finance from Southern Methodist University.
Harper was recruited at an on-campus career fair in 1984 to work for Texas Utilities Electric Company in Dallas. While there she held various transmission planning, generation planning and state and federal regulatory affairs positions with the company.
In 1992, Harper joined Tenaska, a startup company which grew into one of the top 25 privately owned companies in the nation. Harper served as a general manager of business development for Tenaska and its independent power plant development efforts. She later founded and served as the president of Tenaska Power Services Company, the power marketing affiliate of Tenaska.
She was the 2010 recipient of the Gulf Coast Power Association’s Pat Wood Power Star Award for her contributions to the deregulation of the Texas power market.
After retiring in 2012, she and her husband, Roger Knipp, moved back to her hometown of Soddy Daisy and now enjoy living by the lake.
She currently serves as an adjunct professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at TTU.
Harper said she was encouraged to become an engineer by a science teacher in 1979 who knew she was good at math and science. At the time, she didn't know what an engineer was or did, but said she found she liked solving problems.
Harper said some of her fondest memories as a student at Tech consisted of the wonderful friends she made. She served as the vice president of Phi Mu and as chairman of the university’s Student Affairs Committee. She was a member of IEEE and the honor societies: Order of Omega, Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu.
"As time goes on, I realize what a big contribution TTU had on my life, not only career-wise, but personally," said Harper. "I’m grateful and proud to be an alumna of Tennessee Tech."
College of Interdisciplinary Studies
Cynthia Moore Humble, '05 interdisciplinary studies
In 1974, just 21 quarter hours shy of a bachelor’s degree in education, Cynthia Moore Humble left Tennessee Tech University on the arm of Howard Humble, a newly commissioned U.S. Army lieutenant.
During the next 24 years, Humble moved 18 times, raised two children, began her own business, worked in non-profits and taught adults at a local community college.
She investigated completing her degree often. During the couple’s first long-term assignment in Hawaii, Humble learned her husband’s bachelor’s degree in agriculture would allow him to teach kindergarten before her. However, the life of a busy mom and the costs and time associated with the transfer and loss of credits to a non-Tennessee school made such a transition difficult.
In 1998, her husband retired from the military, and the couple relocated to northern Virginia. Humble learned the experience she gained working with non-profits was highly regarded, and on Sept. 11, 2001, Humble began working for the American Red Cross in their Washington, D.C. headquarters.
During her career with the Red Cross, Humble was instrumental in helping develop a nationwide strategic volunteerism plan. She has led work teams in developing volunteerism best practices, and trained hundreds of employees and volunteers across the United States. During this time, Humble began to explore online education programs and eventually enrolled in TTU to complete her degree.
In June 2005, Humble received a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus in education and communication. She was certified by the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration in 2007.
To fulfill a longtime dream of theirs, the Humbles found and purchased about 130 acres of south central Kentucky farmland in 2008.
Today, Humble and her husband own The Farm at Three Hickories. They raise beef cattle, grow commercial soybeans and offer custom beef purchases. In 2015, the Taylor County Soil Conservation District named them the recipient of the 2015 Master Conservationist Award.
In addition to working on their farm, Cynthia volunteers in several community projects, is active with her church, serves on the Taylor County Extension Council and is county president of the Taylor County Extension Homemakers Council.
Humble and her husband have two grandchildren, Henry and Owen, and three dogs, Luke, Jake and Miller. She is the daughter of the late Tom and Laura Moore, of Cookeville.
Whitson-Hester School of Nursing
Karen Ford Joyce, '82 nursing
This is not Karen Ford Joyce’s first alumni award from Tennessee Tech University. In 1993, she was selected as an Outstanding Young Alumnus by the TTU Alumni Association, but she continues to display the same dedication to her career that she did as a young alum.
Karen is a native of the Upper Cumberland, born at Cookeville Regional Medical Center and able to trace her family’s roots in the area back to 1802. She attended Putnam County Senior High School, now Cookeville High School, where she was senior class president and co-editor of the school newspaper.
Her love of reading and writing influenced her to begin her studies at TTU as a journalism major. She says that after learning how much journalists made, she switched to her second passion – healthcare. Karen graduated in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and is part of the first class of nursing graduates in the school’s history.
After commencement, she spent time in hospital nursing – fulfilling both management and bedside duties. In 1993, she was recognized by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses as Nurse Manager of the Year. That same year, she completed her master’s degree in nursing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Joyce hasn’t always been a student. In the mid-90s, she taught medical-surgical nursing and nursing management at TTU.
In 2000, Karen was the first nurse practitioner to serve a rural health program began by Kenna Williams and Sue Neal for low-income and uninsured patients in Baxter, Tennessee. The Baxter Rural Health Clinic continues today and has been instrumental in improving the health of underserved populations in the Upper Cumberland.
Nine years later, Karen opened her own private Cookeville practice, Joyce Healthcare, with her twin sister Kim Murphy. Their medical facility cares for over 2,500 regular patients, and Karen regularly points out to her young, college-bound patients that TTU is a great place to get an education.
Karen is a member of several prestigious nursing associations, including the Tennessee Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association and the American College of Nurse Practitioners.
Karen is the wife of John W. Joyce and the daughter of Nettie Ford and the late Chuck Ford. She has two dogs, a 17-year-old Shetland sheepdog named Shirley and a five-year-old Labrador named Sunny. She and John have one son, John Daniel and two grandchildren, Bekki and John Paul.