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UTM foundation of alums’ successes

UTM foundation of alums’ successes

Posted: Friday, October 17, 2008 11:00 am

It seems no matter how long it has been since an alum left the University of Tennessee at Martin, when something piques his or her memory it’s evident that professors, classmates and the overall experience made an indelible mark. J. Houston Gordon, Dr. Jane Kao and Charlie Neese, who returned for homecoming weekend, had no trouble recounting their UT Martin experiences at the annual alumni awards banquet, Oct. 3. For Gordon, a Covington attorney who received the Chancellor’s Award for University Service, his association with the institution began when his grandmother, Ava Darnell Gordon, traveled on horseback from Yuma to Hall-Moody College (which became UT Martin) to earn a teacher’s certificate. That legacy now includes four generations of Gordons as alumni. “Obviously, UT Martin has impacted our family for good,” said Gordon. He added, “I spent four years as an Army JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer, but my military training began here. My interest in history and politics and my love of writing poetry and the English language were nurtured here. My passionate belief in equal rights was fostered here. I met and befriended some of the brightest, most interesting people on earth here who continue to be, throughout this country, influences for good.” Citing a need for an educated, informed and committed citizenry, Gordon said that is why he and his wife, Deb, are passionate about sponsoring UT Martin’s participation in the American Democracy Project, in supporting efforts to teach service, in supporting young scholars and “in giving of our time to assist this great university to fulfill its mission. I am honored and humbled. Thank you for the award and the opportunity to serve,” he said. Kao, Dallas pediatric cardiologist who received the Outstanding Alumni Award, said, “I have so many fond and vivid memories of being here. I am so very grateful and honored to be able to come here tonight … to accept this award.” She said that following a previous visit to UT Martin to serve as a banquet speaker, she reflected, “What a talented group of faculty we have here at UTM . . . and how lucky I was to study under them.” She added that in noting the successes of alumni featured in a recent UT Martin annual report, “It just made me so proud that I was once a part of this campus. I truly believe that UT Martin laid the foundation for the success of all of these alumni.” Kao said she is sometimes asked what it is like taking care of critically ill children. “Watching them suffer is a very heart-rending experience … However, just as I have seen suffering, … in my 13 years of practice, I have seen so many tremendous advances” in the medical treatment of children with heart disease. “I feel that I am so lucky and fortunate to be able to enter the lives of these patients and their families.” Kao thanked her parents, who “have provided me with unconditional support … and instilled in me an impeccable work ethic” and several faculty members for their guidance, counsel and opportunities. Looking around the room and seeing a number of faculty members, who continue to teach and serve as mentors, she added, “It takes a very special kind of person with a very special kind of talent to be able to do this.” Neese, on-air meteorologist at WTVF-News Channel 5, Nashville, who was named the Outstanding Young Alumni, also noted the success of UT Martin graduates. “The quality of alumni from UT Martin is truly astounding. People go from this school to change the world and to change peoples’ lives.” Developing a love of the weather at an early age, he kept hearing about UT Martin as he prepared for college. “From the moment I stepped on campus and in the department (of communications), I knew UT Martin was going to be my college home.” Neese also thanked numerous professors for their passion for teaching.wcp 10-14-08

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