TBR honors Richard B. Ray, Blount Memorial Hospital for support of higher education 

Richard Ray at lectern, accepting Regents' Award on Aug. 17, 2021
Richard B. Ray of Knoxville, a co-founder of tnAchieves, accepts the Regents’ Award for Excellence in Philanthropy at Pellissippi State on Aug. 17.

Richard B. Ray of Knoxville, a co-founder of tnAchieves, and Blount Memorial Hospital were honored this month by the Tennessee Board of Regents for their longstanding support of education. Both were nominated by Pellissippi State Community College President L. Anthony Wise Jr. 

Ray received the 2021 Regents’ Award for Excellence in Philanthropy at a Ribbon Cutting Celebration for Pellissippi State’s Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on Aug. 17, while Blount Memorial’s chief executive officer Don Heinemann and board vice chair David Pesterfield accepted the 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy at a Blount Partnership event Aug. 25. 

Established in 2001, these awards honor individuals, companies and organizations who go “above and beyond” to donate their resources, finances, and personal time to TBR’s 40 community and technical colleges. 

Wise nominated Ray, co-founder and chief financial officer of 21st Mortgage Corporation, for his commitment to tnAchieves, the college scholarship and mentorship program that pairs volunteer mentors with incoming college students who receive the Tennessee Promise scholarship.  

Not only did Ray found KnoxAchieves, the precursor to tnAchieves, with fellow Knoxville businessmen Randy Boyd, Bill Haslam, Mike Ragsdale and Tim Williams in 2009, but Ray is one of only four tnAchieves volunteers across the state who has served as a mentor every single year. Over the past 12 years, Ray has mentored over 60 students. He drives from his home in west Knoxville to the Carter community in east Knox County to meet with his mentees, and he volunteers every year to teach budgeting at tnAchieves’ Summer Bridge Program at Pellissippi State, which helps incoming students start on a more college-ready level, both academically and socially. 

“Rich Ray was the first in his family to graduate from college,” Wise writes in nominating Ray for the award. “Growing up in east Knoxville, Rich worked his way through the University of Tennessee. He remembers the challenges of working to pay tuition and navigating higher education without a mentor to guide him. Rich says, ‘If you are the first in family to ever go beyond high school, you need someone to tell you it is possible, that you can do it.’” 

Ray and his wife, Jane, also have supported Pellissippi State since 2017, with gifts to the Student Opportunity Fund, which helps the Pellissippi State Foundation assist students in crisis, and to support the expansion of the Strawberry Plains Campus library. The couple also has committed a planned gift to Pellissippi State to continue their support of community college students into the future. 

“Jane and I have been fortunate to contribute to wonderful organizations, but we do focus on education,” Ray said when accepting the award from Regent Danni B. Varlan on Aug. 17. “We firmly believe that to have a better quality of life for our kids in Tennessee, they must be better educated. That begins with K-3 and continues all the way through getting their degrees either at a university or a community college or developing a trade at TCAT, so thank you for this recognition. I appreciate it.” 

Blount Memorial Hospital chief executive officer Don Heinemann, second from left, and hospital board vice chair David Pesterfield, third from left, accept the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Philanthropy on Aug. 25, 2021
Blount Memorial Hospital chief executive officer Don Heinemann, second from left, and hospital board vice chair David Pesterfield, third from left, accept the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy on Aug. 25, from Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., left, and Regent Danni B. Varlan.

Wise nominated Blount Memorial Hospital for the Chancellor’s Award for its longstanding support of Pellissippi State students. In 2001 the hospital established the Blount Memorial Nursing Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a Nursing student from Blount County. The hospital later funded the Nursing simulation lab at the college’s Blount County Campus, helping establish the college’s Nursing program in 2010. More recently Blount Memorial pledged $100,000 to help build the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the Blount County Campus, which is now underway and is scheduled for completion in 2022. 

While Blount Memorial sponsors clinical rotations for Pellissippi State’s Nursing students, last year Pellissippi State helped the hospital train 61 of its medical-surgical nurses in COVID-19 patient care, allowing the hospital to use the Nursing simulation lab on the Blount County Campus to practice scenarios based on actual COVID-19 cases. These COVID-19 trainings were just the beginning of what Pellissippi State and Blount Memorial envision being a year-round partnership, including the possibility of launching a nurse residency program. 

Blount Memorial’s support of Blount County and its people, however, dates to its founding in 1947, when local physicians and philanthropists partnered with ALCOA Inc. to realize the dream of a community hospital. 

“Blount Memorial Hospital is committed to care for the health and well-being of any individual who needs assistance, regardless of their ability to pay,” Wise writes in nominating Blount Memorial for the award. “This ethos permeates the organizational culture, from the greeter at the welcome desk to the most skilled surgeon. As healthcare challenges increase, so does Blount Memorial’s commitment to care for all who need assistance: every child, every senior, every hurting or sick individual, regardless of circumstance.” 

 “It’s truly an honor for Blount Memorial to receive the Chancellor’s Award,” said Heinemann, the hospital’s CEO. “Our work with Pellissippi State is something we’ve cherished over the years, and we’re committed to continuing our efforts to support Pellissippi State students who are planning careers in health care. As we saw just in the last year, our collaboration with Pellissippi State helped us ensure our team was prepared to handle the influx of COVID-19 cases in our community. In a pandemic – or any other time – that’s a win-win for us.” 

Fall classes are now underway at Pellissippi State. For more information about the college or the Foundation, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. 

To apply to be a tnAchieves mentor for the Class of 2022, a commitment of about one hour per month, visit www.tnachieves.org/mentors 

### 

Pellissippi State’s new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science opens ahead of fall semester

Ribbon cutting for Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science, outside the lobby doors
Pellissippi State Community College Student Government Association President Caitlandt Southall, center with ceremonial scissors, cuts the ribbon for the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus on Tuesday, Aug. 17. Joining her on the front row, from left, are Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Emily House, Regent Danni B. Varlan, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Crissy Haslam and Meg Counts of Pilot Company.

Pellissippi State Community College students in math, science and teacher education courses will return to classes next week in a state-of-the-art new building. 

Denark Construction completed the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus this summer, and a Ribbon Cutting Celebration was held Tuesday, Aug. 17, to celebrate.  

“We made a strategic decision that if we’re going to teach science, mathematics and teacher education, as well as have the ability to offer new programs like Water Quality Technology, we had to make this investment,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “We are really grateful for our partnership with BarberMcMurry Architects in thinking about what this space might look like, not only for teaching and learning inside the classroom, but for the kind of collaboration that is necessary outside the classroom for our students to be successful in working with each other and with their faculty and staff.” 

The new 82,000-square-foot building has been under construction since May 2019. It includes 18 classrooms, six computer labs, nine science labs and a teacher education center for the college’s Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education programs. 

“As I walked around inside the Haslam Center, I was impressed with the meaningful use of space and the attention to detail to better serve our students,” said Pellissippi State alumnus Carlos Gonzalez, who is finishing his bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a certificate in teaching at Maryville College. “For example, the Teacher Education Center and the state-of-the-art equipment in the labs — having these resources will keep students competitive in today’s society.” 

Opening the new building allows Pellissippi State to transform its Hardin Valley Campus, Wise added, by thinking about the spaces those programs have vacated and other ways to use them to support other college programs and initiatives. 

Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, for whom the building is named, was on hand Tuesday to tour the new building. As governor of Tennessee from 2011 to 2019, Haslam was key to establishing Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, last-dollar scholarships that provide two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee, and the Haslam Family Foundation and Pilot Company were “Campaign Leaders” for Pellissippi State’s new math and science center, donating between $500,000 and $1 million toward the $27 million project. 

“I was thinking, driving out here, if you were going to pick a perfect location for a community college, you might pick this one,” Haslam said. “You’re strategically located between Oak Ridge and everything that is happening there, Blount County and Knox County. And if you’re going to find a really critical discipline that you want to make certain you have the room to grow and expand, it would be math and science.” 

Exterior of the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science
The Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Class will welcome its first students to class when the college’s fall semester starts Monday, Aug. 23.

Haslam told the audience that he had talked last night with Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thomas Zacharia, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and others about how to leverage the area’s assets of ORNL, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee, among others. 

“Among the key tactics to make that happen is the success of Pellissippi State,” Haslam said. “You all feel like I do: that the key to success is giving more folks a chance for education. We’re struggling with a lot of things in this country – a whole lot of things that are dividing us – and to me, the best answer for all of those problems comes back to more opportunity out of great public education. So thank you to all of you who serve, work out here and have been a part of making this happen. I truly am honored by it and always will be.” 

Following the ribbon cutting, Pellissippi State held an open house so that guests could tour the new building. Pellissippi State’s fall 2021 classes start Monday, Aug. 23, as many students return to campus for the first time since March 2020. 

### 

Pellissippi State’s new math and science building opens this fall, more classes planned for on campus

Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science under construction in December 2020
Pellissippi State’s new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science is underway on its Hardin Valley Campus and will open for classes this fall.

Pellissippi State Community College will welcome more students back to campus this fall, with the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science opening in August. 

The new 82,000-square-foot building on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus has been under construction since May 2019 and is on track to open for fall 2021 classes, as was planned before the pandemic. It will include 18 classrooms, six computer labs, nine science labs and a teacher education center for the college’s Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education programs. 

“The Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science will help us meet demands for classrooms and lab spaces that have increased due to the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect scholarships,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise JrAnd with more classes meeting on campus and more student services open in person, we are hopeful that fall 2021 will feel more like fall 2019 than fall 2020.” 

Pellissippi State plans to offer more in-person classes in fall 2021, although the college will continue to offer classes in other formats as well. 

“Our No. 1 priority since the pandemic began has been providing a safe environment for our students and employees,” Wise said.  “We feel like we’ve been able to do that thanks to technology and the flexibility and dedication of our faculty and staff, but we look forward to seeing more faces on campus this fall.” 

Pellissippi State’s emergency management team, which has been handling decisions during the pandemic, will continue to meet and determine what protocols to put in place before fall semester begins Aug. 23. The college will continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and as well as local health department guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19 on campus. 

“By limiting the number of classes taught in person during the pandemic, we were able to ensure that our students who opted for on-campus classes had the space necessary to practice social distancing,” Wise said. “Even as we offer more in-person options this fall, our faculty and staff are working together to ensure that classes are staggered in a way that still allows for social distancing not only inside our classrooms, but also in our buildings’ common spaces in between classes.” 

Students who prefer online courses still will have a variety of classes to choose from. Pellissippi State’s online enrollment had been growing even before the pandemic began as students chose options that allowed them to learn from home on their own time instead of meeting with their instructors and classmates at a set time. 

Pellissippi State offers 62 pathways that will transfer to four-year universities in addition to its 27 programs that prepare graduates to enter the workforce in two years, all for about $2,100 in tuition per semester for a full-time student.  

Registration for summer and fall 2021 begins April 5. To learn more about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. 

### 

Study shows Tennessee Promise increases retention, graduation rates

Tennessee Promise, a last-dollar scholarship for high school seniors, has increased retention and graduation rates for full-time, first-time freshmen at Pellissippi State, according to a new study produced by the Postsecondary Education Research Center at the University of Tennessee in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Assessment and Planning at Pellissippi State.

“A Snapshot of Tennessee Promise: Pellissippi State Community College, 2015-2018,” the first in a series addressing Tennessee Promise at specific institutions of higher education, was published in February and unveiled in a press conference Tuesday at UT.

The study, which is available as a PDF at https://perc.utk.edu/reports, has several key takeaways for Pellissippi State, says Data Analytics Technician Marisol Benitez Ramirez, who co-authored the study with Lisa G. Driscoll, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at UT.

  • Pellissippi State’s total enrollment steadily increased during the past four years in part due to participants in Tennessee Promise, which was signed into law by former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014.
  • Underrepresented minority student enrollment has increased among Tennessee Promise students, narrowing the gap of previous years’ enrollment to reflect the ethnicity and race of the region’s high school population.
  • In general, the implementation of Tennessee Promise has increased access to education in population subgroups.
  • Students receiving the Tennessee Promise scholarship increased attainment compared with non-Tennessee Promise students.

“That means that Tennessee Promise students attempted more credit hours, had a higher retention rate and had a higher graduation rate when compared with non-Tennessee Promise students,” Benitez explained.

Full-time, first-time freshmen who started Pellissippi State in fall 2014, before Tennessee Promise was enacted, had a three-year graduation rate of 23.5 percent, while those who started in fall 2015 had a three-year graduation rate of 30.1 percent.

“The study shows that Tennessee Promise both increases accessibility to college and provides incentive for more students to stay the course. At Pellissippi State we are happy to play a role in helping a larger group of Tennesseans earn a post-secondary credential,” said Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathryn Byrd.

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

Mike Krause is keynote speaker at Pellissippi State Commencement

Mike Krause
Mike Krause

Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, will be the keynote speaker at Pellissippi State Community College’s Commencement ceremony Friday, May 5.

Commencement will begin at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena. About 800 students will earn their associate degree that night. Many of those students will be among the first class of Tennessee Promise students to graduate.

Krause will speak about the future of higher education in Tennessee and will share stories of student success at Pellissippi State.

Krause was appointed as the executive director of THEC and TSAC by Governor Bill Haslam in August 2016. Prior to assuming this role, he served as the founding executive director of Tennessee Promise and Drive to 55.

Previously, Krause served as the assistant executive director at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, leading a variety of initiatives within the Academic Affairs Division. He also served for eight years in the United States Army, where he completed three combat tours with the 101st Airborne Division. An eighth-generation Tennessean, Krause earned his bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University and master’s degree in Public Policy from Vanderbilt University.

For more information, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability at Commencement, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or accommodations@pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State receives Tennessee Promise Forward grant

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has granted Pellissippi State Community College $144,460 as part of its Tennessee Promise Forward program.

This is the second year Pellissippi State has received a Tennessee Promise Forward grant.

Tennessee Promise Forward began in 2015 with the goal of increasing retention rates among community college students, or the number of students who complete their college education once they’re enrolled. The grants are tied to retention-based services for Tennessee Promise students.

Pellissippi State will use its Tennessee Promise Forward funding to continue an “intrusive advising” model that was piloted last year at the college’s Blount County, Division Street and Hardin Valley campuses.

In an “intrusive advising” model, advisors are in continual communication with students and respond proactively when students are considered at-risk — for example, if their midterm grades are low, or if they miss a certain number of classes. As part of the constant contact model, the Advising Center uses a two-way text messaging platform to reach students in their preferred mode of communication.

“While this text advising portion of this program can be used to provide information and set up appointment times, its greatest advantage is giving students access to someone at their fingertips who can answer college-related questions whenever they arise,” said Rachael Cragle, Pellissippi State’s director of Advising.

“What’s most important is that we’re emphasizing ongoing communication with students throughout the semester, when they need it,” she added.

This year, the text advising program will be expanded to include all of Pellissippi State’s campuses.

During the pilot program last year, Pellissippi State saw more than 50 percent engagement among students through the text messaging program. More than 90 percent of the students who had three or more contacts from their advisor were retained from the fall to spring semester.

For more information about Tennessee Promise at Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu/promise or call 865-694-6400.

 

Download this press release: TN Promise Forward Grant