There was a point in time in which the last thing Scott LeRoy thought he would be doing was receiving an Outstanding Service Award from UTC. That point was seconds before finding out he was the school’s latest honoree.
LeRoy, an attorney with LeRoy Law Firm PLLC in Chattanooga, grew up in the “other” Chattanooga – not the growing thriving metropolis that exists today. As he described it, back then, “Chattanooga was a predominately industrial, blue collar polluted town. My dad drove a forklift loading trucks at a very large DuPont production facility that no longer exists. My mom was the traditional stay-at-home mom who raised three boys. I am that first generation college student we all know so well.”
Thanks to his maternal grandmother, Berniece – “Yes, it’s misspelled,” he said – there was a big push for him to become the first member of his family to go to college.
“She was hell-bent that one of her grandchildren was going to go to college. I was the youngest, so that kind of left it to me,” said LeRoy, who graduated with an accounting degree from UTC in December 1979 and a law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1982. “Everybody in my family was a farmer or factory worker. Having a college education was a really, really, really big deal – especially in small towns and rural communities.”
LeRoy recalled that back in the day, UTC was primarily a commuter school. It was rare for a Chattanooga-born student to live on campus, so he played lawyer and pleaded his case.
“Seeing that this was going to be my one shot at having a college experience, I joined a fraternity (Lambda Chi Alpha) – and I was allowed to move into the fraternity house the spring semester of my freshman year,” said LeRoy, who can see the back of his old frat house from his law office. “I had to get a waiver from the dean of students to do it. Dean (Richard) McDougall just shook his head when he signed the waiver and said, ‘This pretty much guarantees you’ll never finish college.’ Which might have been accurate.”
Accurate? Hardly. Thankfully for him, he had met Mary, his future wife, shortly before graduating high school. They dated through college – “That was a saving grace, having a steady girlfriend” – and married shortly after graduation. Mary obtained her degree in special education from UTC in 1980. They have two children, Christina (who received two degrees while attending UTC) and Elizabeth (who obtained degrees from Vanderbilt and the University of Chicago), and two grandchildren.
After getting his law degree, LeRoy returned home – and watched UTC blossom. After his children became young adults, he reconnected with the university. Several friends of his urged him to get involved with his alma mater. One in particular, Joe Dan White, repeatedly told him, “You ought to talk to Kim about doing something.” While Joe Dan didn’t attend UTC, his wife did. Kim White is the president and CEO of River City Company – the economic development engine for downtown Chattanooga – and an active UTC alum.
“I talked with Kim, and the very first thing I did was work for the Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Business,” he said. “And then I jumped onto the Alumni Board. What I thought I could help with was to make a better connection between the university and the community. Unlike a lot of other universities, most of our alumni are within 50-to-100 miles of the university. We are in an alumni-rich environment. So we’re helping make connections while creating opportunities to keep our students here.
“Chattanooga had come back to being a thriving city with a lot going on. Businesses were getting attracted here. The university was growing; it was doing very well. To me, it was important for the alums – most who were right around Chattanooga – to reconnect to that growth and have the two of them start working together. To me, that was pretty simple.”
Since getting back involved with UTC, LeRoy has devoted countless hours to serving others. He is a trustee of the UC Foundation Board, immediate past chair of the Chancellor’s Roundtable, former president of the UTC Alumni Board (2011–2012, 2012–2013) and former member of the UT Board of Governors. In addition, he has served on the boards of READ Chattanooga, St. Barnabus Nursing Home, Siskin Children’s Institute and MidSouth Commercial Law Institute.
“When I find someone that I know is dedicated and active in the community, I think the biggest thing we can do as alumni is ask – and he jumped right in,” said White about her recruitment of LeRoy. “I knew he would be responsible and committed.
“Scott is very dedicated, he’s very steady, and if he says he’s going to do something, he does it. He is great on following through. So I think having that track record and knowing what’s he done for other organizations in the city was a great indicator for what he would do for UTC.”
In 1985, the UTC Alumni Council initiated the Outstanding Service Award to honor an individual who has given outstanding service to the University and community. By going above and beyond in his advocacy for the university, LeRoy is the newest recipient of UTC’s Outstanding Service Award.
Winning the award was “the last thing on my mind” when Dr. Steve Angle, the UTC Chancellor, recently reached out to LeRoy. “Steve said, ‘Hey, let’s have lunch. There’s something I want to talk to you about.’ I figured he had some program, some committee he wanted me on. I never put two-and-two together.
“When Steve told me, I’m like, ‘You’re kidding.’ I had no earthly idea. I never really thought of it in terms of providing service to the university. People would ask me to work on things or serve on things, and I said OK. I knew I spent a lot of time down there; everybody knew me by my first name. I didn’t see (the award) coming, but I’m very thankful.”