Pellissippi State names Curt Maxey its distinguished alumnus of the year

Portrait of Curt Maxey
Curt Maxey, Class of 1979, is Pellissippi State’s distinguished alumnus of the year.

Pellissippi State Community College has recognized Curt Maxey of Curt Maxey Technologies as its Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2020. 

The award, sponsored this year by FirstBank, is given to an individual in recognition of significant professional achievement, service to the community and support of the college and the Pellissippi State Foundation. 

FirstBank also is the presenting sponsor for the college’s 2020 Alumni Program. 

“We’re happy to be partnering with Pellissippi State to support the great work this school is doing in our community,” said FirstBank Knoxville Market President Brent Ball, who announced the award in a video. “As a longtime resident of East Tennessee, I know how important Pellissippi State is to residents of this area, and we’re proud to contribute to their alumni and students’ success.” 

Maxey, who retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2015, was the first in his family to go to college. Maxey worked his way through school, first as a janitor for restaurants and later as an electronics technician, graduating with his Associate of Engineering Technology in 1979. 

“When I stepped onto Pellissippi State’s ‘State Tech’ campus on Liberty Street in 1976, I was a fun-loving young man fresh out of high school with a life-long passion for science, but little sense of academic direction,” Maxey said. “I could not have foreseen what that education would enable me to achieve as I worked with industry, joined a National Laboratory, completed my engineering degree and worked on programs of international significance. 

“At this stage of my life and career, I am pleased to be a very ordinary man who has been privileged to make some extraordinary contributions,” he added. “There is no question that I am where I am in 2020 because Pellissippi State was where it was in 1976.” 

Maxey started his career at Philips Consumer Electronics, where he met his wife, Helene, before moving on to ORNL while finishing his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. As a longtime research and development staff engineer, Maxey was awarded 15 patents and earned multiple awards of national and international significance, including three R&D100 awards, DOE’s Outstanding Mentor Award, ORNL’s Inventor of The Year and multiple technology transfer awards. Maxey also served as the lead technical consultant for the West Tennessee Solar Farm near Memphis. 

Since his retirement, Maxey has started a consulting business, where he works with clients in the chemical processing, nuclear power, automotive, advanced materials and textiles industries.  

Curt and Helene Maxey with scholarship recipient Tabitha Wyrick
2020 Distinguished Alumni Award winner Curt Maxey, right, and his wife, Helene, left, visit with Curt and Helene Maxey Scholarship recipient Tabitha Wyrick at the 2019 Donor and Scholars reception at Pellissippi State.

Despite his lengthy list of professional accolades, Maxey insists that his greatest achievement of his career was the opportunity to mentor students. 

I have 15 patents, but would be hard pressed to name three; by contrast, I can tell you the name of every student I trained and, for most, I can to this day tell you where they are geographically and within their careers,” Maxey said. 

Recognizing the important role Pellissippi State has played in their lives, Mr. and Mrs. Maxey set up a scholarship at Pellissippi State in 2018 to help others realize their dreams as well. The Curt and Helene Maxey Scholarship recognizes that, regardless of grade point average, there are many students who will go on to accomplish great things if they are given encouragement and assistance. 

“The Foundation is pleased to support the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor presented to an alumnus of the college,” said Britney Sink, director of Alumni and Donor Engagement. “Curt Maxey is a perfect example of a Pellissippi State graduate making significant contributions to his profession, community and the lives of others. 

For more information about Pellissippi State Alumni, visit or call 865.539.7275. 


Pellissippi State honors outstanding faculty and staff

At the end of what may have been the strangest semester in the college’s 45-year history, Pellissippi State Community College honored outstanding members of its faculty and staff with a virtual awards ceremony. 

“We made it through because we had essential employees on campus and essential employees off campus doing whatever needed to be done to support the college, support the community and, most importantly, to support our students,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., in a segment of the ceremony recorded from his home. “We are Pellissippi Strong.” 

Professor Kathleen Affholter
Professor Kathleen Affholter

This year’s Roger Crowe Excellence in Teaching Award went to Kathleen Affholter, a full-time professor for physical and environmental sciences. Affholter, whose students call her “Special K,” has a passion for geology that she passes along to her students through hands-on learning such as conducting experiments at nearby Cherokee Caverns and exploring the great outdoor classrooms found throughout East Tennessee. Affholter has been using experiential learning her entire teaching career, as her main goal is to teach students how to solve real-world problems using scientific data. 

Pellissippi State’s Innovations Award, established by former Pellissippi State President Allen Edwards, recognizes the demonstrated success of creative and original instructional and learning support activities at the college. This year’s award went to the team of Professor Minoo AskariProfessor Susan McMahonLaboratory Technician Kristen KoverInstructional Media Technician Leslie Owle and Instructional Media Technician Gary Hinshaw, who created an online accessible microbiology lab manual. More than 789 hours were devoted to the creation of these resources – written exercises, videos and assessments – and grades improved significantly after students began using these tools. This unique resource is free to all microbiology students, who previously had to purchase the manual. 

Instructor Cristina Carbajo
Instructor Cristina Carbajo

The Gene Joyce Visionary Award recognizes Pellissippi State employees who make positive differences in the community through leadership, technologically oriented projects and/or other community involvement. This year’s recipient, Instructor Cristina Carbajo, serves as the program coordinator for Pellissippi State’s Water Quality Technology program, the first of its kind in Tennessee. This program, which was funded by a National Science Foundation grant, addresses a major employment crisis, with 50of the workforce set to retire within the next five years and more than 75of certified operators older than 45. Carbajo collaborated with local utility districts to get their advice before creating, on her own, course materials and hands-on laboratory experiences designed to prepare students for the workforce. 

Career Specialist Jennifer Cozart
Career Specialist Jennifer Cozart

Jennifer Cozart, a career specialist for the Universal Pathways to Employment Program, took home the Staff Excellence Award. Funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, UPEP assists students with disabilities to obtain education credentials and employment after graduation.  Cozart’s hard work has brought Pellissippi State recognition at the national and international level by The Zero Project, which recognized UPEP with its 2020 Innovative Policy Award for UPEP’s promising outcomes in integrating academics and career services to increase college graduation rates and job placement for students with disabilities.  

The winners of these four awards, sponsored by the Pellissippi State Foundation, receive $1,000, a plaque and a medallion. They are chosen by the Employee Awards Committee and a committee comprised of three members of the Foundation Board of Trustees. 

Meanwhile, winners of the Outstanding Employee Awards receive $100 and a plaque. The Outstanding Employee Award winners for 2020 include:  

  • Adjunct Appreciation Award:  Tevin Turner 
  • Nina McPherson Award:  Judy Sichler 
  • Outstanding Adjunct Faculty:  Raul Rivero 
  • Outstanding Administrator:  Royce Jacomen 
  • Outstanding Contract Worker: Stefanie Decker 
  • Outstanding Full-Time Faculty:  Sue Yamin 
  • Outstanding Support Professional: Holly King 
  • Outstanding Technical/Service/Maintenance /S/M Worker:  Gail Maples 

The Adjunct Appreciation Award and Nina McPherson Award are chosen by the college’s Faculty Senate, while the Outstanding Employee Awards are chosen by popular vote of Pellissippi State faculty and staff. 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865.694.6400. 



Pellissippi State wins international award for marketing lifelong learning classes

Two Business and Community Services staff holding award for marketing lifelong learning classes
Marketing Specialist Danielle Dreeszen, left, and Economic and Workforce Development Director Teri Brahams show the International Award for Excellence in Marketing that Pellissippi State Business and Community Services recently received for their e-newsletter about lifelong learning classes.

Pellissippi State Community College has won an International Award for Excellence in Marketing from the Learning Resources Network, the largest association in lifelong learning in the world.

“The workforce training and lifelong learning opportunities that we provide support both individuals and local employers,” said Teri Brahams, director of Economic and Workforce Development for Pellissippi State. “Being able to effectively communicate and market what we offer is integral to the success of our programs. We are honored to be the recipient of the Excellence in Marketing award at the international level.”

The award was one of only 20 given at LERN’s annual conference in San Diego attended by 800 professionals in lifelong learning from five countries. Marketing Specialist Danielle Dreeszen of Pellissippi State Business and Community Services accepted the award, the first Pellissippi State has received from LERN.

“This award is for innovation in the field of lifelong learning and serving communities,” said LERN President William A. Draves. “With more than 100 award nominations every year, gaining an International Award is an outstanding achievement.”

The staff of Pellissippi State Business and Community Services won the international award for their e-newsletter that launched fall class registration in August.

“Our e-newsletter featured each person on our team and focused on WHY we’re interested in classes vs. WHAT the classes are,” Dreeszen explained. “We also integrated each person’s feature on our social media accounts.”

For example, Solutions Management Director Todd Evans noted he was looking forward to taking Bucket Drumming: Introduction to Rhythm.

“I played the drums as a kid,” he said in the e-newsletter. “I would love to get into drumming, but in a different way.”

And Project Coordinator Angela Branson said she couldn’t wait to check out The Art of Glass Fusion.

“Years ago I took some classes in stained glass and mosaics, and I really enjoyed the classes at the time and getting to be creative,” she explained in the e-newsletter. “This sounds like a fun opportunity to get back into the art of working with glass.”

Other Business and Community Services staff shared the reasons they were looking forward to taking classes in Hobbyist Welding, Zentangle Noir, Working with Yarn: Knit and Crochet, Say Goodbye to Diets and Quick Pickin’ Mandolin.

The approach worked, as the e-mail newsletter achieved a 42% open rate and a 30% click-through rate, 10% higher than regular monthly email results.

The e-newsletter also generated 25 enrollments before the print class catalog even hit mailboxes.

“Email is the workhorse of marketing your program, second only to the print brochure in importance,” Draves said. “Pellissippi State introduced Staff Picks in their regular email newsletter. The technique introduced staff and made the program more approachable to potential participants. It was also effective in that people tend to pay more attention to what the professionals are interested in. LERN’s going to steal this idea, too.”

Registration for spring lifelong learning classes at Pellissippi State is open now. View a full list of spring classes or register for a class at

For more information about Pellissippi State’s lifelong learning classes, contact Business and Community Services at 865.539.7167.


Pellissippi State business students awarded first place in national entrepreneurship competition

Three Pellissippi State students and one professor holding ceremonial check for $1,000
Pellissippi State Associate Professor Mark Fuentes, third from left, congratulates students Catherine Taylor, Joe Bedford and Vanya Malmstead, who earned first prize in a national entrepreneurship competition in California, along with with classmate Jameisha Robinson (not pictured).

A team of four business students from Pellissippi State Community College took home first place in a national entrepreneurship competition last month for a new app that would make tutoring accessible to struggling high school students regardless of their ability to pay.

Catherine Taylor, Joe Bedford, Jameisha Robinson and Vanya Malmstead from Pellissippi State were awarded $1,000 by the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship for their business idea, the East Tennessee Tutor Network.

Meanwhile, a second Pellissippi State team – comprised of Jeannette Green, Angela Heaverlo, David Scott and Tabitha Uremovich – finished in the top 3 of the online competition for their business idea, Kids Tech, which would provide tablets with educational apps free of charge for students in first through third grades.

The teams, all students in Associate Professor Mark Fuentes’ Special Topics in Accounting class, were challenged to solve a problem in local education, but with a solution that could be expanded beyond their geographic area.

“Both teams completed business plans and created a brief presentation to pitch their business ideas,” Fuentes explained. “One team finished in the top 5 and competed at the conference by setting up an exhibition booth and giving a presentation on stage in front of a panel of judges who were once contestants on the ‘Shark Tank’ television program.

Taylor and Bedford pitched the East Tennessee Tutor Network at the competition in Newport Beach, California, on Oct. 15.

Bedford explained that the team first researched how many incoming college freshmen in Tennessee have to take remedial math and English courses. They learned that almost half of incoming college freshmen lack sufficient math skills to succeed in college while almost one-third lack sufficient English skills.

“Tutoring seemed like an obvious solution, yet there are many existing tutoring options already that have failed to solve the problem; why?” Bedford said. “We think it’s because existing options are too expensive, too difficult to access but, most importantly, fail to meet struggling high school students where they are and where they live, which we know all too well is on their phones and on their devices.”

The team decided, “What if we could combine Uber with FaceTime?”

“Shouldn’t getting a tutor be as easy as getting a ride with a ride share app?” Taylor asked. “Our app is that easy: tap the app, tap the subject and the learning begins.”

Bedford and Taylor then outlined their business plan for the East Tennessee Tutor Network, including how they would fund it and roll it out to East Tennessee high schools, starting with those identified by the Tennessee Board of Education as being in the bottom 5 percent in student success rates.

“We are passionate and excited about our solution, which uses the technology of today to provide an innovative, scalable and, yes, a disruptive solution to this serious problem,” Bedford said. “I chuckled when one of our morning presenters asked, ‘Are you ready for the Uber of education?’ Challenge accepted! It’s time to get ready. The future is here.”

The team is not sure yet how they will use the $1,000 prize money.

“To actually put the business ideas into action, they would need a significant amount of funding and time; there are also only so many weeks left in the semester,” Fuentes said. “We have been building in class on the ideas and business plans they created.”

The competition was sponsored by NAACE and the HP Foundation, and students said they learned a lot by participating in it – “leadership, teamwork and nobody can do anything by themselves,” Taylor said.

“If we didn’t divide up the project like we did, we wouldn’t have gotten this far,” she noted.

“We started here in the classroom with an idea, and it was incredible to turn it into something feasible and real,” Bedford added.

NACCE is a member organization of over 300 community colleges representing nearly 2,000 staff. Presidents, educators, administrators and center directors are focused on igniting entrepreneurship in their community and on their campus. For more information, visit

The HP Foundation invests in programs and provides technology solutions that meet learners where they are and take them where they want to go. For more information, visit

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865.694.6400.


TBR honors Blount County Economic Development Board for philanthropy

Fred Lawson accepts matted and framed TBR Chancellor's Award
Blount County Economic Development Board Chairman Fred Lawson, center, accepts the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy from Pellissippi State Community College President L. Anthony Wise Jr. and Regent Danni Varlan on Thursday.

The Blount County Economic Development Board was honored Thursday with the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy.

The board was nominated by Pellissippi State Community College for its early pledge of $1 million on behalf of Blount County and the cities of Alcoa and Maryville to support the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center that will be built on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus.

“The Economic Development Board was founded as the Blount County Industrial Development Board more than 50 years ago with the vision to attract good jobs so that young people wouldn’t have to leave Blount County,” said Regent Danni Varlan before presenting the award to Economic Development Board Chairman Fred Lawson at Blount Partnership. “With shared space for high school dual enrollment, Tennessee College of Applied Technology, Pellissippi State and incumbent worker training, the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center will ensure that students are ready to enter the workforce with great local employers such as Arconic, Blount Memorial Hospital, DENSO and Clayton Homes.”

The $16.5 million Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center is being funded by a public-private partnership: $5.5 million raised by the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation, $5.7 million from TCAT Knoxville capacity expansion funds and $5.3 million from the state.

“This is a different path than most of our projects take,” noted Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “State building projects usually wait on a list for about 18 years. The conversations we’ve had with business and industry leaders and (Blount Partnership CEO and President) Bryan Daniels indicated that, with the job growth in Blount County, we were pretty sure we didn’t have 18 years to wait.”

Varlan agreed.

“Blount County is just rocking it,” she said. “Since 2012, Blount County has added 6,000 new jobs and $2.9 billion in capital investment.”

In addition to receiving the Chancellor’s Award, the Economic Development Board got a sneak peek at plans for the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on Thursday. The plans by BarberMcMurry Architects have not been shared publicly because they will not go to the state building commission for approval until October, Wise explained.

“The principal layout is large open teaching spaces, similar to our MegaLab at the Strawberry Plains Campus, because we wanted to build in flexibility,” Wise said. “When students walk out to train, they get the feeling they are walking out onto the floor at one of our industry partners. That flexibility is important because my guess is that advanced manufacturing won’t be done the same way 10 years from now.”

Varlan praised the flexibility reflected in the plans and connected that flexibility with how higher education has changed over the years.

“It’s very important to us at TBR to make sure our workforce is competitive,” she said. “The whole idea of our community and technical colleges is to be open and nimble. We don’t know what’s coming down the road, but we have to be ready to teach it. Now we ask communities, ‘What do you need?’ The whole point is that our students can get out of school and get a job.”

Blount County Economic Development Board with Chancellor's Award
Several members of the Blount County Economic Development Board were on hand at the Blount Partnership Thursday for the presentation of the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy. From left are Bob Booker of DENSO, Monica Gawet of Tennessee Marble, Joe Dawson, Regent Danni Varlan, Blount County Economic Development Board Chairman Fred Lawson, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Greg Wilson of First Tennessee Bank and Matthew Murray of the University of Tennessee.

The 51,000-square-foot Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center will include proposed Pellissippi State programming for Computer Information Technology, Culinary Arts and Engineering Technology concentrations such as Automated Industrial Systems and Industrial Maintenance.

The building also will house a Corporate Training Center that will be available to businesses who want to train their workers off site, for training Business and Community Services provides to local employers and to the community for events.

“It can be divided into three areas for smaller groups, or we can open it up with theatre seating for 234 or round tables for banquets accommodating around 210,” noted Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State’s executive director for Economic and Workforce Development.

TCAT’s portion of the building is slated to include programming for Industrial Electrical Maintenance, Machine Tool Technology, Pipe Fitting and Welding to start, Wise said, while dual enrollment opportunities with Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County schools will continue to grow.

“We’ve done a lot and had a lot of conversations about this, and one of the things that’s exciting is now it’s time to execute that planning and have something really special here in Blount County,” Wise said. “It’s going to be a great facility to teach in, to learn in and to work in.”

Pellissippi State plans to break ground on the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center this winter and fully occupy the building by fall 2021.

“We wouldn’t be here without the support of the people in this room,” Wise said.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865.694.6400.


Tennessee Board of Regents honors ORNL, ORAU for support of higher education

ORAU accepts Regents Award
Andy Page, president of Oak Ridge Associated Universities, accepts the Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy on Aug. 2. From left are Roane State President Chris Whaley, Page, Regent Danni Varlan and Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Oak Ridge Associated Universities were honored recently with Tennessee Board of Regents awards for their support of Pellissippi State and Roane State community colleges.

The Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy, which both ORNL and ORAU received, recognizes those organizations and individuals who have been “very generous” to one or more TBR institutions. TBR is the largest system of higher education in the state, governing 40 community and technical colleges – including Pellissippi State and Roane State.

“ORNL and ORAU understand the investments they are making in the futures of our students with the partnerships they support for Roane State and Pellissippi State community colleges,” said Regent Danni Varlan, who presented ORNL and ORAU with their Regents Awards at a recent East Tennessee Economic Council meeting in Oak Ridge. “We are grateful for their leadership and commitment to education and workforce training.”

Pellissippi State nominated ORAU for its longtime support of Pellissippi State and Roane State, both financially — $340,000 and counting – and through countless hours of volunteer time and expertise assistance. Roane State provided a letter in support of the nomination.

“Community colleges are so important in terms of advancing science and education in the workforce and in bringing in the talented workforce that East Tennessee is going to need in the next 10 to 15 years,” said ORAU President Andy Page. “ORAU is privileged to be a member of this community, and we have to be able to pay that back by investing in Pellissippi State, Roane State and their many students.”

Through the support of ORAU, Pellissippi State offers an annual middle school mathematics contest. During the past 18 years, more than 10,000 students from 32 East Tennessee schools have participated in the event, which is free for them to enter.

ORAU also partnered with Pellissippi State to offer an Advanced Manufacturing Internship, a six-week program designed to prepare students to enter this high-tech workforce, and provided scholarship support to Pellissippi State students, who worked as math tutors during their time at the college.

Most recently ORAU pledged $100,000 to support Pellissippi State’s Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on its Hardin Valley Campus.

“ORAU’s continued commitment to Pellissippi State and Roane State has strengthened both institutions and made a positive impact on students and the community,” wrote Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., in nominating ORAU for the award.

ORNL accepts Regents Award
Dr. Thomas Zacharia, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, accepts the Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy on Aug. 2. From left are Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Zacharia, Regent Danni Varlan and Roane State President Chris Whaley.

Roane State nominated ORNL for the lab’s nearly two decades of support of many of the college’s educational initiatives, ranging from an innovative program for high school students to scholarships and grants to a major building project. The Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Harriman and Pellissippi State supported the nomination.

“We partner with Roane State and Pellissippi State because they effectively prepare students to succeed in diverse fields, including some that are still rapidly evolving,” said Dr. Thomas Zacharia, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “Oak Ridge National Laboratory exists to tackle some of the most compelling challenges facing our nation in energy, science, technology, and national security, and we are fortunate to have both of these excellent colleges right in our backyard.”

UT-Battelle manages ORNL and since 2015 has supported Roane State’s unique Middle College with $119,000 in scholarships for high school students so they can graduate from both their high school and the college at the same time.

UT-Battelle in 2011 provided an initial $10,000 to buy supplies for the new “Lab-in-a-Box” program where middle school educators are given materials to use in teaching their students about biology, geology, chemistry and other sciences. Roane State faculty train the teachers. The program is still in place and provides assistance to schools in Roane State’s service area.

In 2008, UT-Battelle contributed $100,000 to help in the construction of the three-story Goff Health Sciences & Technology Building on Roane State’s Oak Ridge campus.

ORNL, through UT-Battelle, also has supported numerous other educational programs at Roane State through gifts of scientific equipment; support for the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Roane State; backing for federal grants, including more than $1 million for the development of the college’s Mechatronics program; support for career-readiness training for wounded veterans; and access to lab facilities and volunteer staff support.

“Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s tremendous engagement with both Roane State and Pellissippi State benefits students and contributes greatly to workforce development in the region,” said Roane State President Chris Whaley. “ORNL is a wonderful partner, and we are deeply thankful for their support of the region’s community colleges.”

Pellissippi State offers a high quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals. Founded in 1974, with five campuses in Knox and Blount counties, Pellissippi State offers associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees.

For more information on Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge and Wartburg.

For more information on Roane State, visit or call 865-882-4554.


Student success in the spotlight as Pellissippi State presents first Purchase Award Showcase

A graphite drawing
“Tempest,” a graphite drawing by former Pellissippi State art student Tavish E. White, is among 14 works that will be on display Aug. 26-Sept. 13 in the college’s first Purchase Award Showcase. “Tempest” won Best in Show in spring 2014.

Former and current art students whose work has been chosen as Best in Show at Pellissippi State Community College since spring 2011 will have their winning works displayed Aug. 26-Sept. 13 in the college’s Purchase Award Showcase.

This free exhibition in the college’s Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery kicks off The Arts at Pellissippi State for fall 2019 by offering the public an opportunity to view all the art works on display around the college as part of Pellissippi State’s permanent art collection.

For three weeks, all the works that have been purchased by Pellissippi State from the student artists between spring 2011 and spring 2019 will be moved into the Gallery for viewing.

“In 2007, the Bagwell Gallery was completed and, with that, came the opportunity to have an additional learning and exhibiting space for our students and the community,” explained Pellissippi State Art Program Coordinator Jeffrey Lockett. “Out of this, we established an annual student juried show, which offers students a chance to participate in the whole process of entering, being accepted to and showing in a public space. It has grown into an excellent showcase of student talent.”

In 2011, under the guidance of former Pellissippi State Vice President Rebecca Ashford, the college’s administration began offering a $500 purchase award to the student whose work was selected as Best in Show. Now those works – drawings, paintings and sculpture – are displayed on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley and Blount County campuses.

Fourteen works will be on display in the Purchase Award Showcase, as more than one winner was chosen during some shows.

“We certainly look forward to having them on all five campuses as more works are selected at subsequent student shows,” Lockett said.

The Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery is located on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, and is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Arts at Pellissippi State is an annual arts series that includes music and theatre performances and fine arts exhibits. For more information about The Arts at Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.

To request accommodations for a disability at this event, call 865-539-7401 or email


Pellissippi State names Kevin Fillers Alumnus of the Year

Kevin Fillers
Kevin Fillers

Pellissippi State Community College has recognized Kevin Fillers as its Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2019.

Fillers, Business Manager at Innovative Design Inc., graduated from Pellissippi State in 2011 with an Associate of Science degree in Management. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee in 2013.

College wasn’t always Fillers’ plan, however.

“I decided when I was 13 years old that it was going to be my dream to become a professional paintball player,” Fillers told Pellissippi State Alumni for a #WhereAreTheyNowWednesday post on social media. “When I graduated high school, I told my parents I wasn’t going to college and put all my energy into pursuing a paintball career, where I ended up going pro.”

It took Fillers only a couple of years on the paintball circuit, however, to realize professional paintball was not going to be a sustainable future, he said. Fillers started taking classes part time at Pellissippi State in 2006, when he was 21 years old.

Going to school part time didn’t deter Fillers from giving it his all. In fact, Fillers was the recipient of multiple academic awards at Pellissippi State, including the 2011 ACBSP Student Leadership Award, which is given to the top business graduate each year.

After graduating from Pellissippi State, Fillers continued to receive academic recognition at UT, where he was named the Haslam College of Business’ Top Graduate in 2013 after completing his degree with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Innovative Design Inc. CEO Cindy Hollander noted this in nominating Fillers for Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni Award this year.

“I think Kevin’s unconventional journey to get where he is today would be an excellent motivator for current students while clearly illustrating the transformative power of education, regardless of the path you took to get there or how long it takes you to finish,” Hollander wrote in her nomination of Fillers.

Fillers was recognized with the Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni Award at the college’s annual Alumni Luncheon. The award is given to an individual in recognition of significant professional achievement, service to the community and support of the college and the Pellissippi State Foundation.

On top of his job at Innovative Design Inc., Fillers has spent the last seven years helping local businesses through his firm, Fillers Consulting, which specializes in business process consulting and fractional chief financial officer services. Although he keeps a busy work schedule, Fillers still has found the time to serve as a tnAchieves mentor, a member of Pellissippi State’s Alumni Steering Committee, a guest speaker and judge for UT’s Vol Court Entrepreneurship Competition, and a Knoxville Chamber Ambassador.

Fillers also has spearheaded the development of Innovative Design Inc.’s outreach programs, including creating a partnership with Knox County Schools to develop a computer-aided design and 3D printing curriculum that will be rolled out across the county next year, as well as a STEM enrichment program specifically for Green Magnet Academy. Innovative Design Inc.’s other major outreach program focuses on Knoxville’s entrepreneurship community, with the firm donating engineering and design services for startup companies.

“Receiving this award has been an extremely humbling moment for me because I look back at Pellissippi State as the place that really changed the trajectory of my adult life,” Fillers said. “The education and support I received from the faculty gave me the foundation and confidence I needed to advance my academic and professional careers. Making the decision to take that first class at Pellissippi State is a decision I would make 100 out of 100 times again.”

For more information about Pellissippi State Alumni, visit or call 865-539-7275.


Pellissippi State pledges to expand entrepreneurship and economic growth

Group of males holding a signed entrepreneurship document
(L-R) Terrance Carter, Knoxville Area Urban League; Jim Biggs, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center; Anthony Wise, Pellissippi State; Cliff Claudill, Greater Score of Knoxville; Bruce Hayes, TSBDC; and Doug Minter, Knoxville Chamber, celebrate signing the entrepreneurship pledge.


Pellissippi State Community College has joined community colleges across the country this week in signing a formal pledge to increase its focus on entrepreneurship and its economic impact on the community.

The National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship spearheaded the nationwide pledge. NACCE is an organization of educators, entrepreneurs and business development professionals focused on promoting entrepreneurship through community colleges.

Among other things, Pellissippi State pledges to create internal and external teams dedicated to entrepreneurship and to increase entrepreneurs’ engagement with the college.

Pellissippi State supports entrepreneurship, in part, through the efforts of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, an affiliation of the college. They collaborate to offer training opportunities and workforce development in Blount, Claiborne, Cocke, Jefferson, Knox, Sevier and Union counties.

“Our college has always been entrepreneurial in spirit, in our support for the growth of the local economy and workforce, and also in our work with students,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State. “Our partnership with NACCE reaffirms that commitment to develop the people, the businesses and the resources of our region.”

In 2017, Pellissippi State’s TSBDC served 364 clients, helped 33 new businesses start up, created 111 new jobs and retained 233 jobs. The firms that TSBDC aided went on to create more than $47.8 million in new capital investment into the local economy.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.

Joy Bishop receives Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy

Pellissippi State Foundation Board Member Receiving TBR's Chancellor's Award
(L-R) Ginger Hausser, TBR associate vice president for Institutional Advancement, Joy Bishop, Regent Danni Varlan, PSCC President L. Anthony Wise


The Tennessee Board of Regents has presented the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy to Maryville’s Joy Bishop in recognition of her support of Pellissippi State Community College.

The award is part of TBR’s Excellence in Philanthropy Awards recognition program that began in 2003 to recognize individuals, companies and organizations who donate their resources, finances and personal time to TBR institutions. TBR is the governing body for Tennessee’s 13 community colleges and 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology.

“I am honored to receive this award. I believe in the community college concept, and I particularly support Pellissippi State and its Blount County Campus. Dr. Wise, the faculty and the staff at Pellissippi State have added a great deal to all five of their campuses. I’m just so proud to be a member of the Pellissippi State Foundation Board of Trustees,” Bishop said.

Bishop has been a long-time supporter of Pellissippi State. She provided leadership in two of Pellissippi State’s major gift campaigns, which have resulted in the establishment and the expansion of the college’s Blount County Campus.

“Joy’s financial commitment to the college is just the tip of the iceberg in measuring her impact. She is a natural-born fundraiser who is not shy about asking others to support our institution,” said L. Anthony Wise, president of Pellissippi State.”

Most notably, she also was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Leg-Up Child Care Assistance Program, a program that provides free child care to a number of qualified Pellissippi State students who are single parents. The program is a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Pellissippi State and state-licensed child care centers in East Tennessee.

Program participants must be enrolled in a minimum of six credit-hours, have a 2.0 or better grade-point-average and be working toward a certificate or associate degree program. Leg-Up pays the full cost of weekly child care, after-school costs, registration fees and various activity charges for children between six-weeks-old and age 13.

The financial burden on single parent-students to provide child care while they work, attend school, and take care of their children, is a major factor in determining whether a student will successfully complete college. The annual cost of providing one child with year-round care can exceed $10,000 a year, and many of Pellissippi State’s student-parents have more than one child. Students participating in Leg-Up have shown improved class attendance, better grades and a lower dropout rate.

Bishop says the inspiration for the Leg-Up Program began on a 12-hour plane flight to Southeast Asia with friend Carolyn Forster. The women were on a trip to Vietnam and had a lot of time to think and talk about ways to help the students at Pellissippi State.

“We realized that the cost of child care was a real problem, especially for single parents,” said Bishop. “So we said, ‘We can do something about that,’ and we came up with a plan. We would get the business community to support us, and we would select only highly-motivated students and provide them with mentors in addition to the child care.”

Bishop formed a committee, which included Holly Burkett, the dean of Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus, did some research on the cost of day care, and wrote out a plan to take to the state.

“Dr. Wise and I went to see the DHS commissioner. [Former] State Senator Doug Overbey [Maryville] met us at the commissioner’s office. Commissioner Hatter was aware of how much child care was a barrier to some students. She was impressed someone was working to do something to keep single parents in school and approved the plan,” Bishop said.

Bishop is quick to share the credit for the success of Leg-Up with her fellow committee members: Marty Black, Jim Proffitt, Carolyn Forster, Ellie Morrow, Gaynelle Lawson, Steve West, Mark Johnson, Greg McLean, Tammi Ford, Tom Bogart, Pam Wolf and Holly Burkett.

In September 2016, Pellissippi State hired Le’John Ellis to manage the program, which has grown steadily and, now, provides quality child care free of charge for 39 student-parents with 60 children in Knox and Blount counties.

“I think Le’John fell from heaven,” Bishop said. “Everyone needs someone to give them a leg up once in their lives. I’m so proud of Leg-Up. It’s perfect, just perfect.”

Bishop, a native of Texas, graduated from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Federal Executive Institute. She spent 30 years in the U.S. Air Force as a civilian and was the first woman to receive an appointment to the Senior Executive Service. Bishop retired in 1990 as one of the highest ranking civilians in the Air Force and put her roots down in Blount County. She then started her own consulting firm, the Emerald Group, which helped underdeveloped countries. Joy serves her community as a member of Maryville Church of Christ, Blount Partnership, Maryville Kiwanis Club, Blount County Library, Maryville College Advisory Board, Clayton-Bradley Academy and Clayton Center for the Arts.

“Joy’s work in the community and with Pellissippi State is transformative. When it comes to volunteering, Joy brings plenty of passion and positivity to the table. Her creativity, motivation and vision inspires all that engage with her. It is an honor to nominate Joy Bishop for the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy,” Wise said.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.