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ETSU National Alumni Association presents 2016 Alumni Awards
ETSU Foundation Carillon and Alumni Plaza

JOHNSON CITY (May 6, 2016) – The East Tennessee State University National Alumni Association presented its 2016 Alumni Awards on Friday, May 6, during the association’s Awards Banquet and Annual Meeting, which is held as part of the university’s spring commencement weekend. 

Outstanding Alumni

Louise Luchetti Skalko of the ETSU Class of 1984 was named Outstanding Alumna.  Skalko worked as an educator for nearly 30 years in various states before entering the corporate world, in which she designed, developed and administered safety, environmental and management training programs.  Following her graduation from ETSU, she moved to Augusta, Georgia, where she began a career as a corporate trainer, writing training manuals and conducting classes in both crafts and management topics for manufacturing, engineering, construction and nuclear facilities.

Skalko suffered a mild hearing loss in early childhood that proved to be a lifelong challenge.  By 1995, her hearing had deteriorated to the point that she reluctantly retired.  After cochlear implant surgery and a six-month process of relearning how to hear and translate sounds, she moved back to Johnson City, and went on to fund the development of the Cochlear Implant Clinic in ETSU’s College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences.

Gordon Ball, the 2016 Outstanding Alumnus, grew up along the banks of the Pigeon River in Hartford, Tennessee, and was the first in his family to graduate from college.  He earned his degree in history at ETSU in 1970 and went on to graduate from law school at then-Memphis State University and enter private practice in Memphis.  After serving as an assistant U.S. district attorney, he began a career as a defense attorney. 

In the late 1980s, Ball began focusing on consumer class-action cases and helped landowners receive millions of dollars from the corporate owners of the upstream paper mill that had polluted the Pigeon River.  His groundbreaking cases have resulted in numerous landmark decisions and settlements.  He is recognized as a pioneer in antitrust law for his advocacy of consumer rights against powerful corporations.

In January 2013, Ball gave a substantial gift toward the completion of a new indoor basketball practice facility at ETSU, and the court is named in his honor. 

Awards of Honor

William F. “Bill” Hamilton Jr. graduated from ETSU in 1982 with a degree in finance and began a 13-year career with IBM Corp.  After five years with A.G. Edwards & Sons Investments, the Kingsport native joined Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and earned the certified financial planner designation. 

Hamilton has played an integral role in the National Alumni Association’s long-standing ETSU PRIDE program, serving as co-chair for Kingsport’s ETSU PRIDE celebrations for several years.  He has served in numerous executive roles, including president, with ETSU’s Buccaneer Athletic Scholarship Association.  He has also been a coach for Upward Basketball and assistant coach for both the Colonial Heights Athletic Baseball and Kingsport City Recreation Basketball programs.

Kathy B. Mullins received an associate degree in management from Walters State Community College before graduating from ETSU with a bachelor’s degree in business office administration in 1973.  She completed a degree in accounting in 1985 and became a certified public accountant.

Her husband, Larry D. Mullins, received his bachelor’s degree in education at ETSU in 1972, and later earned a master’s degree in educational administration.  He taught math at the high school level before being named administrator of the Northeast State Community College Technical Training Center in Johnson City.

In 1989, Mullins started his own company, which has grown into Industrial Electronics Services Inc. (IES) and is located in Gray.  This company, of which Kathy Mullins has served as president for the past six years, assembles computer circuit boards for many industries.  IES circuit boards are used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and position emission tomography (PET) scanning equipment in the medical field, in some of the most powerful telescopes used in space exploration, and in national defense, communication and energy equipment.

Larry Mullins is a longtime commissioner and former chair of the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission.  He regularly supports the ETSU Buccaneer football and basketball teams and is a major contributor toward the construction of the new Buccaneer football stadium. 

Larry and Kathy Mullins reside in Jonesborough and are active in numerous community and civic organizations in Morristown and Hamblen County. 

Distinguished Alumna in Higher Education

Dr. Mary Lou Apple, appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to represent the 6th congressional district, serves as a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents after 37 years of service in Tennessee higher education.  She began her career as a nurse at Morristown-Hamblen Hospital, and later accepted a position as a nursing instructor for Walters State Community College (WSCC).  In 1982-83, she taught nursing at ETSU before returning to WSCC, where she was promoted from associate professor of nursing to professor, to dean, and eventually to vice president for Academic Affairs.  From 2006-15, Apple served as the fifth president of Motlow State Community College.

The Jefferson County native holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, an educational specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University and a doctorate in education from ETSU.  Also a veteran, Apple served in the Tennessee Air National Guard from 1992-2000, earning the rank of lieutenant colonel and serving as chief nurse and flight nurse for the 118th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.  She received the Air Force Commendation Award and Achievement Award.

Distinguished Alumnus in Education

Dr. Jack Rhoton, professor emeritus of science education and former director of the Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education at ETSU, has transformed the way science is taught in schools in Northeast Tennessee and throughout the state.

Before joining the ETSU faculty in 1987, he served as science coordinator for the Kingsport City School System from 1974-87.

Rhoton has left an imprint on science education, both locally and nationally.  In addition to six edited books, he has had more than 60 articles published.  He is the founder of the nationally refereed Science Educator Journal, of which he was editor from 1992-2010.  He was also editor of the Handbook and Proceedings of the Tennessee Junior Academy of Science from 1992-2014.

Though he retired from ETSU in 2014, Rhoton continues to serve on several professional education boards and committees at both the state and national levels.

Rhoton, a native of Southwest Virginia, holds an associate degree in biology from Hiwassee College, a B.S. in biology from ETSU, two master’s degrees – one in science education from the University of Virginia and another in biology from Old Dominion University – and a doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. 

Honorary Alumni

Jackie P. Mabrey received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Valdosta (Georgia) State University and came to Johnson City in 1992, where she first worked in retail accounting with Fleming Foods.  After serving as an administrative assistant at the Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, she entered the insurance business.  She was employed for 16 years with Farm Bureau Insurance in Jonesborough and is now an insurance broker with Ingram Financial Services in Johnson City.

Mabrey is a member of the ETSU Foundation and Distinguished President’s Trust Bronze Society.  She was a participant in the ETSU President’s Classroom and contributed to the ETSU Foundation Carillon.  In addition, she has served the Buccaneer Athletic Scholarship Association in numerous capacities, including as an executive committee member and secretary, vice president and president.

Joe Grandy, a graduate of Randolph Macon College, moved in 1985 to Johnson City, where he was named president and general manager of the newly opened Ferguson Enterprises.  Since that time, the company has expanded to four locations in the Tri-Cities and now employs over 80 people.

Grandy is a member of the ETSU Foundation and a former president of the Buccaneer Athletic Scholarship Association.  In addition, he is in his second term as a Washington County Commissioner serving the 6th district, is a member of the Bank of Tennessee Advisory Board, chairs the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Radiothon Fundraiser and serves as associate vice president of the Johnson City Area Homebuilders Association.  In addition, he is vice chair of the board of trustees at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church and recently oversaw its Special Project Building Committee. 


Established in 1915, the ETSU National Alumni Association is the university’s first and longest-operating organization.

The gathering of alumni on the evening before spring Commencement dates to a candlelight ceremony to welcome the Class of 1929 “diplomats,” as graduates were then known.

The Alumni Awards are part of an annual program that began in 1970. A complete view of previous award recipients can be found at On the campus, the Alumni Gallery in the lower level of the D. P. Culp University Center displays permanent recognition for many award recipients.

For more details or to submit nominations for future awards, contact the ETSU National Alumni Association at 423-439-4218 or .

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