Coming off the most challenging year Pellissippi State Community College has faced in its 47-year history, who better to recognize than an alumna who is helping educate and vaccinate at-risk populations during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Vivian Underwood Shipe, class of 1991, will be honored Friday by the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation at Pellissippi Strong: A Virtual Celebration. The free event, 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. online, is open to the public and includes door prizes, networking and an exclusive Q&A with Allison Page, president of Magnolia Network, the joint venture between Discovery Inc. and Chip and Joanna Gaines’ home and lifestyle brand.
Presenting sponsor FirstBank will present Shipe with Pellissippi State’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award, which highlights an outstanding graduate in recognition of significant professional achievement and service to the community.
“FirstBank is happy to partner with Pellissippi State to support the great work this school is doing in our community,” said Brent Ball, Knoxville market president for FirstBank. “As a longtime resident of East Tennessee, I know how important Pellissippi State is to the residents of this area, and we are proud to support their alumni and students’ success.”
Shipe, who earned her associate degree in Marketing from Pellissippi State at 41, has stayed active in the community since retiring from the U.S. Postal Service in 2018 after 35 years of service. She is founder and chief executive officer of I AM the Voice of the Voiceless, a nonprofit dedicated to providing education and resources for vulnerable populations, as well as a founding member of Faith Leaders Health Initiative and the state’s pre-arrest diversion task force.
Shipe also serves on the boards of the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee, Elder Abuse Task Force of Knoxville/Knox County, Knoxville Community Health Fair and many other community organizations.
“Vivian Shipe is a strong advocate and champion for people often marginalized,” writes Vrondelia (Ronni) Chandler, executive director of Project GRAD Knoxville, in nominating Shipe for the award. “Vivian firmly believes we are only as great as the least of us. She lives by two scriptures: Proverbs 19:17 and Matthew 25:40, ‘The King will say to them, I assure you that to the extent you did it for the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for Me.’”
Shipe is most proud of four recent projects:
- her collaborative work with other organizations in the development of a Safety Center as a jail alternative for the mentally ill,
- the successful passing of a $15 million state budget addition for pre–arrest diversion for the mentally ill,
- the shutdown of a nursing home charged with elder abuse and
- her ongoing work with the Faith Leaders initiative in the fight to educate and vaccinate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe in building relationships and communicating,” Shipe said. “I try to bring out the best in everyone I meet and help them to develop or use their talents to help others.”
Whether helping create warming centers in area businesses and churches to protect the homeless in frigid temperatures to working with A21 to fight human trafficking, Shipe is a champion for Knoxville.
“As an advocate I speak at the local and state level for the most vulnerable, voiceless and those who fear retaliation,” Shipe said. “I work to bring together those who need with those who have.”
Join Pellissippi State and presenting sponsor FirstBank on Friday in celebrating Shipe and her many contributions to the community. Register here for the virtual event, which will begin with networking at 11:45 a.m. and will wrap up by 12:45 p.m.
Nashville-based FirstBank, a wholly owned subsidiary of FB Financial Corporation (NYSE: FBK), is the third largest Tennessee-headquartered bank, with 81 full-service bank branches across Tennessee, South Central Kentucky, North Alabama and North Georgia, and a national mortgage business with offices across the Southeast. The bank serves five of the major metropolitan markets in Tennessee and, with approximately $11.2 billion in total assets, has the resources to provide a comprehensive variety of financial services and products.