The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga celebrated Veterans Day with numerous events on Friday, Nov. 11, including the Chancellor’s Annual Veterans Day Luncheon for students, faculty and staff who are veterans or active military.
U.S. Army Capt. Stuart Allgood, who oversees the UTC Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program as head of the Department of Military Science, provided the opening remarks.
“Veterans, we know that we are constantly asked to do things—whether that’s missed family events; sleeping out in the field, in the cold, rain; eating terrible food; or deploying to a foreign country in combat,” Allgood said. “So thank you for all your service and everything you do. It does not go unnoticed.”
Allgood recognized the Chattanooga community overall—and the UTC campus in particular—for the reception he has received since arriving at the University in July.
“Not all universities across the country are as veteran-friendly and welcoming as Chattanooga has been and the University has been,” he said. “I thank you for welcoming me and my family with open arms—and all the other veterans in the community. I know that at every event we go to we are welcomed and warmly received, and that means a lot to us.”
UTC Director of Veteran and Military Affairs Sylvana Matthews introduced the luncheon’s keynote speaker, UC Foundation Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Don Reising, who served in the U.S. Army from 1995-1999 and the Ohio Army National Guard from 1999-2005.
“Not only has Dr. Reising earned admiration within his college, across the University and within his field internationally for his significant research and excellent teaching,” Matthews said, “but the very qualities of diligence, excellence and servant leadership that are evident as you read his military bio have been clearly present throughout his tenure here in Chattanooga.”
Reising, who enlisted in the U.S. Army out of high school and rose to sergeant first class, wove the story of how military service impacted his life throughout this talk.
Being in the Army “exposed me to communications for the first time,” said Reising, who received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering. “I thought it was really cool that I could be sitting in the middle of the woods, get on a satellite phone and talk to somebody else across the satellite and have a conversation.
“It was my introduction to communications, which is what I studied as a graduate student and what I teach and research here at UTC. So you can see that something I did in the mid-to-late nineties is something I’m still doing.”
The Army, he said, gave him the opportunity to become a leader.
“What the Army does really well is that they’re good at identifying leadership potential in soldiers and then mentoring that potential and growing it,” he said. “The last year or so of my enlistment, I was given command of four soldiers. That is a huge privilege. You’re responsible for them; you’re responsible for their training; you’re responsible for their wellbeing and their care.
“How many companies and organizations would take a 22-year-old kid with a high school education and put them in command for the divisions?”
He said a lot of what he learned from developing and seeing how training was put together and executed in the military is used today in his work as a professor.
“As an educator, I have to plan my lessons and then I have to execute those lessons much the same way. So something that I did in Kuwait in 2003 still impacts me today,” Reising said.
“The Army taught me discipline, it taught me perseverance, it taught me to be a leader—all skills that I’m grateful for. Every veteran, every service member in this room has their own story that’s unique to them, and it’s shaped who they are and given them opportunities and chances.”
Other highlights of the luncheon included the performance of the national anthem by Dr. Gretchen Potts, UC Foundation Professor of Chemistry and the department head for Biology, Geology and Environmental Science, and a special Quilts of Valor Foundation presentation by Fran Randolph.
Randolph said Quilts of Valor’s mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts. Nearly 327,000 quilts have been presented since the foundation’s creation in 2003.
Randolph, group leader of the QOV Belles, awarded quilts to Reising, Allgood, UTC Veteran and Military Affairs Associate Director Robert Dorsett and Ryan Baker—a 2018 graduate of UTC. Baker was in the ROTC as an undergraduate and spent four years in the Army.
In addition, UTC student Kyefer Cavins, a former member of the Air Force, was recognized as the recipient of the UC Foundation Sgt. David Alex Stephens Scholarship—awarded to an undergraduate student on active duty with one of the U.S. military branches or who has previously received an honorable discharge.
Nearly 400 active-duty military members, reserves, veterans, spouses and dependents are enrolled at UTC.