Beth Ross wins Jack Kent Cooke scholarship

Northeast State Community College graduate Elizabeth “Beth” Ross, ’13, has won the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship for 2013.

“It is a huge honor to receive this scholarship,” says Ross, of Blountville.  “I am truly grateful to be recognized by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.”

Ross was chosen as one of only 73 scholarship recipients from more than 750 applications submitted to the Foundation from two-year colleges around the country.  She is only the second Northeast State student to win this coveted scholarship.

The scholarship’s value is for up to $30,000 annually.  The award covers a significant share of a student’s educational expenses including tuition, living expenses, books, and required fees for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree.

Beth Ross and Dr. Janice Gilliam
Beth Ross and Dr. Janice Gilliam

Ross distinguished herself by earning a 4.0 grade point average while pursuing her associate’s degree in Speech Communication.  She is the Vice President of Scholarship for the Alpha Iota Chi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, a member of the President’s All-Academic Team, and Chief of Staff to the Governor for the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature.  Even more impressive is how Ross balanced college life while being a full-time mother to her son and daughter.

While at Northeast State, Ross seized the opportunities to grow personally and professionally.  She enrolled in the Honors Program, joined Toastmasters, and served as student advisor to the 2012-2013 Northeast State Debate Team.

More impressive is how much Ross accomplished while battling a severe health problem – now in remission – that sapped not only her health but her self-confidence, too.   She said returning to school seemed overwhelming when she first enrolled.

Ross credited professors Dr. Rick Merritt, Dr. Ruth Livingston, and Jane Honeycutt with helping develop her academic potential.  Honeycutt, who also serves as Alpha Iota Chi chapter advisor, first met Ross two years ago after she enrolled in her Women’s Studies class.

“I had been out of college a long time when I came to Northeast State,” said Ross.  “Jane really believed in my long enough for me to believe in myself.”

Honeycutt said Ross possessed all the academic and leadership tools to succeed. The only thing she needed was a boost of confidence.

“I just wanted to give her some confidence back,” said Honeycutt.  “She has the determination to do well at so many things; it has been a pleasure to see her find herself.”

Honeycutt said Ross raised the chapter’s profile with her leadership at the regional and national level.  The chapter won several awards and Ross won 1st place as top officer in the state at Phi Theta Kappa’s Regional Convention held in April.  Regional Phi Theta Kappa officials were so impressed with Ross that they named her a regional vice president at-large purely on her leadership abilities for her chapter.

“Honestly, she’s taught me a lot,” said Honeycutt of Ross. “A great deal of the regional and national success the chapter had this year resulted from her leadership.”

Ross was also named the College's Outstanding Student for 2013.
Ross was also named the College’s Outstanding Student for 2013.

Ross also served as president of the student organizations A Toast to Education and the Argumentation and Debate Society.  She graduated summa cum laude this spring.

Ross has applied to several four-year institutions including Columbia University.  She plans on pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Human Rights.  Ross also works part-time with the Northeast State Foundation where she serves as the Coordinator of Alumni Affairs and helps with fundraising.

“I love Foundation work so much,” Ross said. “I especially like working with our Executive Director, Dr. Heather Cook, who has been a mentor to me. She has a heart for service and has been a great example for me to follow.”

Ross cited the Honors Program courses as an example of the constructive learning environment Northeast State created between faculty and students.  The collaborative learning between professor and fellow students benefited students who wanted a dynamic learning experience from college.

“As a first generation college student, it is important for me that my children have a good example to pattern themselves after so that they can find success in their lives as well,” said Ross. “Ultimately, I want to keep growing as a person so that I can put myself into a position to help others.”

Northeast State Foundation celebrates successful year

The Northeast State Community College Foundation recognized a year of patron generosity and student excellence Thursday afternoon at the Foundation Board of Directors’ annual luncheon held at the 620 State building on State Street in Bristol, home of the new Northeast State at Bristol teaching site.

The College welcomed Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan to the event where he praised Northeast State and the Foundation for their commitment to students.

(from left) TBR Chancellor John Morgan, Newton Raff, & Dr. Janice Gilliam.
(from left) TBR Chancellor John Morgan, Newton Raff, & Dr. Janice Gilliam.

“Northeast State has taken the initiative to deliver educational opportunities to its service area,” said Morgan. “To educate students and provide highly skilled workers for the future, we want to provide the access so we can provide the education.”

Morgan also presented the Chancellor’s Award to Foundation member K. Newton Raff for his long dedication to Northeast State.  The award is based on criteria of generous giving of time and resources to TBR institutions and ethical leadership, philanthropy, civic responsibility, and integrity.

“It is truly humbling to receive this award,” said Raff.  “Now when someone comes to see me and they see this award, I can say, ‘Let me tell you about Northeast State.’”

TBR Chancellor John Morgan tours Northeast State at Bristol.
Chancellor Morgan tours Northeast State at Bristol.

Executive Director of the Foundation, Heather Cook, welcomed attendees to recognize the newest member of the Foundation’s President Trust and recognized one of the Foundation’s biggest supporters.  She also praised Northeast State alumnus and owner of Vision, LLC, Allen Hurley with his help establishing Northeast State at Bristol.

“Whenever you meet with Allen you are going to come out energized and ready because you know things are going to get done,” said Cook.  “We thank Allen and Chancellor Morgan for their support in establishing Northeast State at Bristol.”

Cook also recognized President’s Trust members Mountain States Health Alliance, the Northeast State Scholars Foundation, the Northeast State Honors Program, and the Johnson City Development Authority.  A President’s Trust member is recognized for making a significant monetary contribution to the College.

Northeast State at Bristol is offering classes during the summer semester beginning June 4.  The Bristol teaching site operates on the third floor of 620 State.  The facility features an ITV classroom that links to classrooms at the College’s main campus and other teaching sites.

Scholars honor Tait White, reach $10K goal

The Northeast State Scholars Foundation student club formally established a scholarship in the name of a late Northeast State alumnus and met their goal to raise $10,000 for student scholarships.

The Scholars Foundation announced the creation of the Tait Obadiah White Memorial Book Scholarship available for the upcoming fall semester during the Student Leadership Luncheon held earlier this month. White graduated magna cum laude from Northeast State in summer 2011.  He passed away during the fall of 2012 while enrolled at East Tennessee State University.

Tait Obadiah White
Tait Obadiah White

“Tait embodied the leadership we expect in our student leaders,” said Greg Walters, dean of Student Development who worked closely with White.  “We could not do what we do without our student leaders.”

The Scholars Foundation sought to create a scholarship in White’s name in November of 2012.  Fundraising projects earned more than $2,400 with faculty and staff donations adding more than $300.  The Scholars were able to fund the scholarship for at least nine semesters thus far.

The book scholarship will benefit a second-year Foreign Language, Political Science, or Psychology major with a grade point average of 2.75. The first award will be made during the 2013 fall semester.  The monetary value of the scholarship to the recipient will be $300 per semester for two semesters.  A plaque commemorating White and recognizing each scholarship recipient will be displayed in the office of Scholarship Programs on the main campus.

White was an Honors Program student and served as the first president of the Scholars Foundation and president of Psi Beta, the psychology honors society.  He also helped develop the Scholars’ constitution and create a logo.  A teenage missionary who traveled to Panama and Peru, he served as a counselor as well as a laborer at Doe River Gorge Christian camp.

Greg Walters and Mark White
Greg Walters and Mark White

Tait’s father, Mark White, attended the luncheon and praised his son’s friends and classmates for their efforts to establish a scholarship to honor his legacy.  He also presented the college with a plaque that includes a photo of Tait and one of his original poems for display.

“He wasn’t the kind of person who bragged about what he did,” White said.  “He gave whatever he did his all, and I believe that made him so successful.”

The Scholars Foundation supports the efforts of the Northeast State Community College Foundation through student-driven initiatives to promote private giving and service learning. Membership is composed of students receiving Northeast State scholarships, Honors Program students, or members of other campus honor societies.

The Scholars club also celebrated surpassing the $10,000 mark this year in funds raised for Foundation Scholarships. The Scholars Foundation becomes eligible for membership the College’s President’s Trust which recognizes donors exceeding $10,000 of giving.

“It was very exhilarating considering all the work we put in,” said Rachel Lawson, student president of the Scholars Foundation.  “Seeing it grow from zero to $10,000 made it very satisfying.”

Northeast State graduates largest class ever

Northeast State Community College celebrated the Class of 2013 on May 14, awarding 1,247 degrees and certificates at commencement exercises. This is the largest class ever graduated by the College.

The event was held at the Mountain States Health Alliance Athletics Center on the East Tennessee State University campus.

Northeast State awarded 6 academic certificates, 389 technical certificates, 334 associate of applied science degrees, 24 associate of arts degrees, 25 associate of science in teaching degrees, and 469 associate of science degrees. A total of 129 students graduated cum laude (3.6 – 3.74 GPA), 66 received magna cum laude distinction (3.75 – 3.89 GPA), and 74 students were summa cum laude (3.9 – 4.0 GPA) graduates.

Northeast State awarded 1,247 degrees and certificates Tuesday's commencement exercises.
Northeast State awarded 1,247 degrees and certificates Tuesday’s commencement exercises.

Newt Raff, chair of the Board, First Tennessee Bank, Northeast Tennessee Region, delivered the commencement address. Raff was the founding chair of Northeast State’s Foundation.

“It’s a great day and great to celebrate your success. I have certainly enjoyed celebrating others’ success my whole career … so it’s great to be here” Raff said. “Northeast State has changed my life just like I know it’s changing your life and will continue to change your life for the better.”

Northeast State President Dr. Janice Gilliam noted that Raff was named recipient of the Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy for 2013. The award is based on criteria of generous giving of time and resources to TBR institutions and ethical leadership, philanthropy, civic responsibility, and integrity.

The 2013 graduating class was the largest ever at Northeast State.
The 2013 graduating class was the largest ever at Northeast State.

Raff started his career with First Tennessee Bank in 1976 as an operations officer. He quickly moved up the ranking, serving in various roles and capacities. In 1985, he accepted the role of regional president for First Tennessee Bank in Kingsport and Bristol, where he doubled the bank’s size from $85 million in 1986 to $177 million in 1989.

In 1992, Raff was promoted to chair and CEO of First Tennessee Bank Northeast Tennessee and initiated and closed the purchase of Home Federal, an $840 million savings in loan. In 1997, he was selected as one of the top 25 CEO’s in the region and he was awarded Executive of the Year at the Greater Tri-Cities Business Awards in 1998.

East Tennessee State University honored him as an Honorary Alumnus in 2005 and in 2009 Raff was inducted into the ETSU College and Business and Technology Hall of Fame and awarded the Excellence in Business Award.

More than 260 students graduated with honors.
More than 260 students graduated with honors.

During commencement ceremonies, Gilliam recognized the College’s Outstanding Student Award recipient and Distinguished Staff Award recipients.

Elizabeth Ross earned the Outstanding Student Award. She holds membership in the College’s Alpha Iota Chi chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the Northeast State Scholars Foundation, and the President’s All-Academic Team. She graduated summa cum laude with an associate of science degree in Speech Communication.

Ross recently earned the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship – an award that honors the best community college students in the nation. The program – the largest private scholarship for community college transfer students in the country – provides up to $30,000 per year for up to three years to students who are nominated by their schools based on a number of factors including academic excellence, and financial need.

Graduates shared the night with family and friends.
Graduates shared the night with family and friends.

In 2013, the Foundation received 769 nominations from 377 community colleges in 45 states and the District of Columbia. A highly selective scholarship, Ross was one of only 73 recipients receiving the award.

David Lewis earned the College’s Distinguished Support Staff Member Award. Lewis provides support services around campus and takes on the challenging job of lab assistant with the Sciences Department.

Sandra Gardner received the Distinguished Administrative/Professional Staff Member Award. She is an academic advisor with the Student Success Center providing guidance and learning resources for students.

Jim Kelly was honored with the Distinguished Faculty Member Award. He is an associate professor of history and humanities at Northeast State. Kelly also chairs the College’s Cultural Activities Committee that brings educational and entertaining speakers to campus each year.

Martin Taylor kicks off Summer Music Series May 15

Northeast State welcomes award-winning guitarist Martin Taylor to campus to kick off the Summer Concert Series with a free live performance on Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m.

Taylor will perform in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts Theater on the main campus, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

Completely self-taught, Taylor has enjoyed a remarkable musical career.  He has invented and developed a way of playing the guitar that is admired, and often imitated, by guitarists all over the world. As well as being a true guitar innovator, he is also a master concert performer, dazzling audiences with his solo shows, which combine virtuosity, emotion, humor, with a strong stage presence.

Martin Taylor
Martin Taylor

Taylor established a unique musical career as an internationally acclaimed musician, and his inimitable style has seen him recognized as the world’s foremost exponent of solo jazz guitar playing.  No less than Jeff Beck said of Taylor, “He out-shred’s all of us put together….I’ve never seen anything like it.”

As well as his solo concerts and recordings, he has also collaborated with musicians from many different musical genre including, Stephane Grappelli, Jeff Beck, Gary Burton, Chet Atkins, Bill Wyman, George Harrison, Dionne Warwick, Diane Schuur and Jamie Cullum. He spends much of the year travelling the world, playing in concert halls in Europe, North America, Japan, Asia, and Australasia as well as presiding over the uniquely innovative Martin Taylor Guitar Academy online.

The concert is free and open to the public.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m.  For more information, contact 423.279.7668 or