ETSU National Alumni Association presents 2013 Alumni Awards


JOHNSON CITY (May 10, 2013) – The East Tennessee State University National Alumni Association presented its 2013 Alumni Awards Friday, May 10, during the association’s Awards Banquet and Annual Meeting, which is held as part of the university’s spring commencement weekend.


Outstanding Alumni

Dr. Nancy Lewis Dishner, executive vice president of the Niswonger Foundation, was named Outstanding Alumna.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at ETSU in 1977 and began her career as an elementary school teacher in Unicoi County.  She later earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in education at ETSU in 1980 and 1984, respectively.  Dishner became a longtime member of both the faculty and staff of ETSU, holding the positions of coordinator in the Office of Finance and Administration, assistant to the president, director of the Office of Admissions, and associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis before retiring as vice provost for enrollment services and director of the Roan Scholars Leadership Program.  She received many honors during her tenure at ETSU, including a Distinguished Staff Award and induction into the Claudius G. Clemmer College of Education Alumni Hall of Fame.  A street on the ETSU campus was recently named in Dishner’s honor.  She attained her position at the Niswonger Foundation in 2007 and continues to support education through service as a member and officer of various organizations, including the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, the ETSU Foundation and ETSU’s Roan Scholars Steering Committee.  She and her mother, Edna Lewis, hold the distinction of being the only mother and daughter to both be selected as recipients of the ETSU Outstanding Alumna Award. 

Mike Smith was named Outstanding Alumnus.  The Atlanta Falcons head coach became the first coach in team history to produce back-to-back winning seasons in 2008-09, and he has had winning seasons ever since and led his team to consecutive playoff appearances in 2010-12.  Smith’s 56-24 regular season record with the Falcons since 2008 is the second-best mark among all NFL coaches.  Those 56 wins are the most in the NFC, the most by any Falcons head coach in his first five seasons, and the second most among any first-time head coach in NFL history.  He has received numerous Coach of the Year honors from the Associated Press, the Sporting News and the KC 101 Club.  Smith’s coaching career includes 12 NFL seasons and 29 total years in football.  Before joining the Falcons, he helped guide the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl championship in 2000 as a defensive assistant coach and led the Jacksonville Jaguars defense to Top 10 rankings in several categories during his time as the club’s defensive coordinator.  Smith played college football at ETSU from 1977-81 and was named defensive MVP twice at his position.  The 1982 ETSU graduate led the team with a school record 186 tackles as a senior.  He is a 2013 inductee into the ETSU Athletics Hall of Fame.


Awards of Honor

The 2013 Awards of Honor were presented to Raymond P. Flynn, Jimmy Rhein and Deb Williams.

Flynn, a native of Longford, Ireland, was a member of ETSU track and field coach Dave Walker’s famed “Irish Brigade.”  While at ETSU, he became a champion runner and All-American for the Bucs, setting school records that still stand today in the 1,500-meter and the mile.  After graduating from ETSU in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in business management, he competed as a professional athlete around the world for 10 years.  The two-time Olympian for Ireland (1980, 1984) ran under 4 minutes for the mile no less than 89 times and is among a select group of men who have run the mile in under 3 minutes, 50 seconds.  His Irish record of 3 minutes and 49.77 seconds, set in 1982, still stands.  Flynn went into business in 1989, setting up a professional sports agency and becoming one of the world’s top sports agents.  Flynn Sports Management manages the endorsements and competitions of many of the world’s greatest track and marathon athletes, several of whom have become Olympic gold medalists and world record holders.  Flynn was inducted into the ETSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996.

Rhein earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from ETSU in 1965 and became a chemist at Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport.  Through 33 years at Eastman in technical service and development, he worked closely with the company’s sales, marketing, manufacturing and research divisions.  He was also the recipient of several patents.  Rhein is noted for his civic work, particularly in the town of Jonesborough, where he has lived since age 3.  The former alderman for the town is now chairman of the Jonesborough Regional Planning Commission and a member of the Park and Recreation Board and the Traffic Committee in Jonesborough.  He is a member and past president of the Jonesborough Civitan Club and a director of the Miss Historic Jonesborough/Miss Johnson City Scholarship Pageant.  Rhein is a board member of the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and is also an active supporter of ETSU.

Williams, a 1976 graduate of ETSU with a degree in journalism, worked for six years for United Press International and went on to become an award-winning motorsports journalist.  After leaving UPI in 1984, she spent a year as a reporter/writer for the TV show “Inside NASCAR,” then joined Griggs Publishing, where she was managing editor of GT Motorsports before being assigned to cover NASCAR’s Cup series full-time.  She spent 18 years with NASCAR Winston Cup Scene, serving as its editor for 10 of those years.  Williams later worked from 2004-07 as director of public/media relations for Penske Racing South before becoming a freelance writer.  Her book Evolution of NASCAR: A Historical Collection was published in 2010, and her new book on the history of Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled for release this month.  Her work has also appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR, The Earnhardt Collection, NASCAR Trials and Triumphs and American Racing Classics.  Williams was the first woman to receive the Henry T. McLemore Award for dedication to motorsports journalism.  Among her other honors are two National Motorsports Press Association George Cunningham Writer of the Year awards and two consecutive Miller Motorsports awards of excellence in honor of Russ Catlin.


Honorary Alumni

Two individuals – Paul W. Montgomery and Larry Waters – were named Honorary Alumni.

Montgomery is vice president of Community Relations and Corporate Services for Eastman Chemical Co.  He is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents and the boards of the ETSU Foundation and the Northeast State Community College Foundation.  He is president of the Kingsport Rotary Club and has also served as a member and officer of numerous organizations, including the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission, Kingsport Board of Education, the Kingsport Branch of the NAACP, the South Kingsport Optimist Club, the Kingsport Rotary Club, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and the Tri-Cities All-America City Partnership.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master of business administration degree from King University, Bristol, from which he received a Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award in 2008.

Waters, a 1974 graduate of the University of Tennessee with a degree in business administration, became a principal within the Sevier County School System and was elected Sevier County executive in 1978, a position in which he served until 2003, when the title was changed to county mayor.  In this position, he aims to preserve and advance the collective interests of those who reside in or visit Sevier County.  He has received numerous awards over the past 30 years, including honors from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Boy Scouts Sequoyah District Great Smoky Mountain Council.  Waters played a significant role in moving ETSU’s academic programs forward in his area as an adviser and founding member of the ETSU-Sevier County Health Sciences Partnership.  This facility, which opened its doors to students earlier this year, is known as ETSU at The Sevier Center.


Distinguished Alumnus in Public Service

Tennessee Sen. Rusty Crowe was named Distinguished Alumnus in Public Service.  Crowe entered ETSU after graduating from University School on the university’s campus, and two years later went into the U.S. Army.  He served in Southeast Asia from 1968-71, intercepting coded messages from the enemy during the Vietnam War, and earned the Vietnam Service Medal with two stars and the Army Commendation Medal.  Crowe returned to ETSU, graduating in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and earned his law degree at the Atlanta Law School.  He worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and eventually returned to ETSU, where he worked for over 20 years as an administrator and served as president of the Staff Senate.  In 1987, Crowe was asked by then-newly elected Gov. Ned McWherter to become a commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, and in 1990, he became the first Democrat elected from the 3rd Senate District in over 130 years.  He changed to the Republican Party in 1995 and, now in his 23rd year in the Tennessee legislature, is the longest-serving senator in the history of the district, which covers the Northeast Tennessee counties of Hawkins, Washington, Carter, Johnson and Unicoi.


George L. Carter Award

James C. Martin received the George L. Carter Award, which is the highest honor bestowed upon graduates or friends of ETSU who have made the university a more dynamic and viable force in the world of higher education.  The award is named for the industrialist, railroad magnate and philanthropist who provided land, enlisted support and organized local government agreements in the successful campaign to locate the normal school – now known as East Tennessee State University – in Johnson City. It is presented only on occasion when an individual has “gone above and beyond the call” to support ETSU, and exhibited the commitment exemplified by George L. Carter.

Martin began his career as a junior research chemist with Eastman Kodak, a division of Eastman Chemical, after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in chemistry in 1947.  After becoming a research fellow in 1982, he found new ways to use chemistry and improve Eastman’s processes for raw materials, and he authored or co-authored 101 U.S. patents and several foreign patents.  From 1986-92, Martin worked in management and ended his career as director of the Eastman Chemical Co. Chemistry Research Division. 

In 1966, Martin married Mary Beard, a 1962 ETSU chemistry graduate who also worked as a chemist at Eastman and was an avid supporter of the arts.  Following Mary’s death in 2008, James Martin dedicated his philanthropic efforts to begin a legacy for the arts at Mary’s alma mater.  His financial support enabled ETSU to establish the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts in 2009, and he has continued to give to fund the school, so that the endowment now exceeds $5 million.  Earlier this year, Martin pledged the lead gift of $3 million to start the fundraising efforts for the new ETSU Arts Initiative, a major component of which will be the construction of a new arts center. 

In addition, the Martins have given to the Department of Chemistry, public radio station WETS-FM (89.5) and the Reece Museum at ETSU through the years, and James Martin has supported the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Milligan College and the Symphony of the Mountains in Kingsport with naming gifts in Mary’s memory.  

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