Student speakers representing each of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga colleges highlighted the 2021 Virtual Scholarship Recognition Event.
Taking place on Tuesday, March 23, the fifth annual event, hosted by the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs, brought together students, donors, faculty and staff via Zoom to honor the generosity of donors and celebrate students’ academic achievement as scholarship recipients. The lunch-hour event gave students an opportunity to say “thank you” to their supporters.
“This is one of the premier events for us because it truly is one of those occasions where the students get the opportunity to meet the individuals who are providing essential financial aid for them,” said Marty Smith, UTC senior associate vice chancellor of development and alumni affairs. “The donors, in turn, get to meet the students who are impacted by the dollars that they are providing.
“When students and donors meet, it’s important for the donors to understand that these dollars are meaningful to the students and that they’re impacting their lives in a significant way. And for the students, they get to see that these are living, breathing individuals who are providing dollars for their academic success. Hopefully, when these students become alumni, they understand the importance of giving back in that same way.”
Smith said UC Foundation endowment funds provide 1,550 scholarships through 253 endowments and 10 annual scholarship programs.
Chancellor Steven Angle thanked the students participating in the event and talked to the donors about the importance of holding this event during a year jolted by a global pandemic.
“All of our scholarship recipients have been impacted by COVID. They have lost part- and full-time jobs that help pay for their tuition and help them stay in school. So in a time of COVID, scholarships for our students are even higher priority than normal,” Angle said. “Please know, your gift will have a positive impact on our students.
“Your gift has helped our students focus on graduating and being the very best person they can be. Scholarships change lives.”
Gary W. Rollins College of Business Dean Robert Dooley and his wife, Kim, spoke on behalf of the donors. In 2019, the Dooleys—who met at UTC as undergraduates—created an endowed scholarship for international study.
“We established a scholarship because we both would have welcomed the opportunity to study abroad when we were here. Financially, neither one of us could afford to do that,” Robert Dooley said. “We have had the opportunity to take students overseas together on faculty-led groups, and whenever I travel overseas, Kim always goes with as an advisor and mentor to the students. We have seen the impact it has made on them and how it has transformed their lives.”
“If you’re giving $500, that can make the difference on whether students can go on a trip,” Kim Dooley said. “I think people sometimes think it has to be $1 million and it doesn’t. Any little bit that you can do helps.”
The group of student speakers was led by senior Akbar Rahmani, who represented the Honors College. After thanking the donor families for two of the scholarships he has earned—the Dr. Robert H. Swansbrough Endowed Scholarship and the Suzanne and Charles Forlidas Endowed Scholarship—he was effusive in praising numerous faculty and staff within the Honors College and the Department of Political Science and Public Service.
“When I transferred here my sophomore year, I was working a full-time job while taking 19 hours’ worth of classes. This made it extremely challenging to unlock my full academic potential. The donors of these scholarships graciously covered the remainder of my tuition, which has allowed me to focus more on my academics and career,” said Rahmani, who is majoring in political science with a concentration in international comparative studies and a minor in criminal justice.
“To all faculty and donors who have invested so heavily in my success, I promise your efforts will not be wasted. I will strive every day to mirror the kindness and gratitude that you have shown me from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.”
Senior Clarissa Miller, an interior architecture and design student in the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies, gave thanks for being the recipient of both the River Street Architecture Portfolio Scholarship and the James Avery Scholarship.
“The River Street Scholarship has substantially lifted a weight off my tuition and boosted my confidence in portfolio submissions for internships, which I’m currently applying for. I’m extremely grateful for the continuing support that River Street has given our department, whether it be for project critiques or professional advice and insight,” Miller said. “The James Avery Scholarship has been a huge incentive to continue my goal of becoming an NCIDQ-certified (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) designer.”
Sophomore vocal music education major Delali Gadzekpo represented the College of Arts and Sciences and said she was blessed to be a recipient of the Roland Carter Music Scholarship.
“I am beyond grateful for it because it allows me to really focus on my studies and my extracurriculars without the concern of having to worry about financials,” she said. “Truly, it has been a blessing. It has allowed me the opportunity to look forward into the future as I plan to be a choral conductor on the collegiate level and conduct music wherever I go to instill cultural competency within music.”
Jerrell Lawson, the Woodrow Wolford Sr. Scholarship recipient, will receive a master’s degree in business administration from the Gary W. Rollins College of Business in May. The four-year starter at defensive back on the Mocs football team represented both athletics and graduate school students.
“Being able to attend UTC has brought me a countless number of valuable relationships and profitable knowledge and impacted my life, as well as my future, more than I would have ever imagined,” he said. “Being from a small, country town in South Alabama, being raised by a single mother of three, battling stereotypes and tons of adversity, one would think that this journey has been just a dream. However, I can personally assure you that with the right support system and superiors that care so deeply for not only themselves but the entire culture, almost any obstacle in this world can be conquered.”
Erin Watson, a College of Engineering and Computer Science senior majoring in mechatronics engineering technology, has been a CECS student ambassador for three of her four full-time semesters at UTC. She has been the recipient of several scholarships, including the John Germ Engineering Scholarship.
“Without the scholarships, I wouldn’t have the ability to participate in outreach events that encourage young students to pursue their STEM interests, nor would I have developed the relationships I have with the CECS staff, faculty and fellow ambassadors,” Watson said.
Tim Stone, a junior in entrepreneurship, shared a story that one might say is atypical for a college student. A recipient of the Gary W. Rollins College of Business’ Rollins Scholars four-year scholarship, Stone admitted that, as an entrepreneur, he didn’t want to go to college, “but the decision was so much easier after being accepted for the scholarship program.”
“UTC and its faculty have played an important role in the advancement of my career,” Stone said. “As a freshman, my internship coordinator recommended one person for me to network with. (Thanks to) that one connection, I bought an apartment complex just a year later.”