category: Alumni

C-N celebrates outstanding alumni during Annual Awards Ceremony

Carson-Newman recognized outstanding members of its alumni family during the University’s Alumni Awards Ceremony. Award recipients included (pictured left to right) Dr. Roc Collins, Dr. David Dale, Mattie Mullins, Dr. Donna Brown, Chris Marion, Jean-Ann Washam, Dr. David Crutchley. Not pictured are: Thomas Brand, Steve Cishek, Matt Craine, Dr. Donna Cothran, Dr. Kelle Hill, Ron and Marillyn Nations.

During homecoming week, Carson-Newman University celebrated alumni who represent their alma mater with distinction during its annual Alumni Awards Ceremony on Oct. 24.

Alumni recognized demonstrate the traits of those in Scripture who, often with no fanfare, serve, lead, support and love in a manner indicative of the calling of Christian educators to help C-N students reach their full potential as educated citizens and worldwide servant-leaders.


Thomas E. Brand ’93 – Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Celebrating his 30th anniversary as a member of the Class of 1993, Tom Brand graduated with a degree in Fine Arts and Studio Arts. Just three years later he founded AVID Design. AVID later joined with Dodge Communications to form the MERGE Network where Tom serves as President.

A full-service marketing agency that merges storytelling and technology to promote health and happiness in the world, MERGE has offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York and Montreal.

An experienced business executive with a demonstrated history of leading solutions in the healthcare industry, Tom has a successful track record of more than 25 years of leading projects from digital marketing strategy to technology initiatives for well over 150 health systems.

A member of the Advisory Board to the Carson-Newman Art Department, Tom’s interest in healthcare goes beyond his job. An instrument-rated pilot, from time to time Tom flies volunteer missions for Angel Flight of Georgia to aid in the transportation of those in medical need.

Chris J. Marion ’84 – Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Born in Texas and reared in Chilhowie, Virginia, Chris Marion started taking piano lessons at the age of four. After graduating high school with honors, he entered Carson-Newman to pursue studies in music. After a cool change, he eventually graduated with a degree in Psychology. His time at Carson-Newman, however, provided inroads and relationships that led Chris to Nashville to pursue music professionally.

Since that time, Chris has toured with the likes of Steven Curtis Chapman, the band Shenandoah and Grand Ole Opry member Jeannie Seely. In 1994, Chris, along with Danny Myrick, founded the country rock band Western Flyer which placed four singles on the Billboard country charts.

A writer and producer of various children’s musical projects, Chris has received four Gospel Music Association Dove Award nominations. He has been involved in projects involving Lifeway Christian Resources VBS and more. As a producer, Chris was part of team that worked with, among others: Garth Brooks, Doug Stone and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Since 2004, Chris has been a member of the classic rock group, the Little River Band, in which he plays keyboard and provides vocals. Beyond just dancing in the dark, walking through the park and reminiscing, Chris has been a member of the writing team of Harmony Central, an e-magazine with a weekly subscription of 65,000 providing musical gear reviews, music industry insight, and interviews. He also owns a company called XOXO Merchandising that develops, designs and fulfills concert apparel and novelties.

Matt J. Craine ’12 – Business                                                                        

A 2012 graduate of Carson-Newman, Matt Craine earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and finance and also served as captain of the Eagles men’s soccer team.

Following his time on Mossy Creek, Matt earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2016.

Matt spent some time as a CPA in Morristown, Tennessee for Craine, Thompson and Jones before joining the law firm of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP as a corporate attorney in its New York office. There he focused on corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions.

Matt currently is a vice president with MSouth Equity Partners, a private equity firm focused on leveraged buyouts in the Southeastern US. Since 2007, the firm has deployed approximately $2 billion of equity capital across four funds.

Since joining MSouth in 2018, Matt has worked closely with investors and management teams to build high-growth service, distribution, manufacturing, and healthcare businesses for a diverse group of limited partners.

Now living in Nashville with his wife, Kristin, and two sons, Jackson and Parker, Matt is a member of the Phoenix Club of Nashville, helping under-served youth of Middle Tennessee and developing the leaders of tomorrow; Leadership Healthcare and the Association for Corporate Growth. He also serves on the Board for the Exit Planning Exchange and Carson-Newman Alumni.

Dr. Donna Cothran ’80 – Family and Consumer Sciences

A member of the Carson-Newman class of 1980, Dr. Donna Cothran was one of the first two graduates of the school’s then newly-approved American Dietetics Association Dietetics Program (now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics-the world’s largest organization of nutritional professionals.)

With a keen interest in nutrition, dietetics, and medicine, Donna applied to and was accepted by the ADA/AND Dietetic Internship at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Following her internship, she further pursued her interests in medical nutrition by earning a Master of Science degree in nutrition from Emory University.

After four years of serving as a clinical dietician at two different hospitals in South Carolina, Donna returned to school, this time the Medical University of South Carolina, where she earned her MD.

According to Dr. Kitty Coffey, former chair of the FCS Department:

“Donna recognized that to realize the ultimate impact she desired in her passion for service in infant nutrition, she should become a pediatrician. For further impact she was inspired to pursue a pediatric neurology residency.”

An internship and residency at the Children’s Hospital at the University of Alabama Birmingham followed as well as a fellowship at the University of Virginia. Board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and sub-board certified by the same board in Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine, Dr. Cothran carries medical licenses in four states. A magna cum laude graduate of Carson-Newman, she is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society.

Dr. Kellee N. Hill ’17 – Education and Counseling

A veteran educator, Dr. Kellee Hill is a native of Nashville. A holder of two degrees from Carson-Newman, her passion is building a legacy of success within her community and increasing the inclusion of marginalized groups in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)

Kellee has served in various positions, filled many roles within Metro Nashville Public Schools and has taught at the post-secondary level as an adjunct S.T.E.M. professor. She has earned the distinction of being a Level 5 instructor from the state of Tennessee as a biology educator and is the current coordinator for her school’s enriching Scholar Program.

In her community, Dr. Hill is engaged with the Junior League of Nashville, working to meet the various needs of Nashville’s youth. She has served as a part of the Board of Directors for the F.I.N.D. non-profit which provides academic, family, and social developmental support to young ladies at risk for suspension and other disciplinary actions in schools.

An Advisory Board member for the Belmont University Teacher Education Advisory Council, she also has worked with Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems to create virtual learning modules that adapt to student needs.

Dr. Hill has won the Nashville Public Education Foundations Teacherpreneur Community Favorite Award for creating EL Certifications for teachers to engage emerging language learners in S.T.E.M. She is a recent recipient of the 2023 Blue Ribbon Teacher Award for Leadership, and The Susan Short Jones Emerging Leader Award in Education.

Dr. Donna D. Brown ’80 – Natural, Applied and Health Sciences

A 1980 graduate of Carson-Newman with a degree in biology, Dr. Donna Brown states she got her start in science education on the banks of Mossy Creek. From there, she attended medical school at East Tennessee State University where she met and married her husband Rob.

They both attended University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. There she received her training in Ophthalmology. Donna did two fellowships – one in Cornea and External Disease and the other in Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus.

While in Texas, Donna and Rob had two daughters, then in 1990, moved to Richmond, Virginia, where they practiced medicine for the next 33 years. Dr. Brown retired from practice at the Virginia Eye Institute in August of this year.

Through the years, Donna also has served as medical director for the Old Dominion Eye Foundation. In simple terms, this is the “eye bank” that procures corneal and other eye tissue for transplantation. She plans to continue serving in this role.

She has been honored multiple times by her fellow physician peers as “Top Doctor” in Ophthalmology in Richmond. For the last 23 years she also provided volunteer surgical work in the Eastern Caribbean along with an organization called World Pediatric Project where she serves on the board of directors as vice-chair. She plans to continue that work as well to help organize a comprehensive and sustainable program for eye care in that region.

With all of that, Donna said her most important role in life was caring for and helping rear two wonderful daughters who followed their parents into the medical field.

Dr. Roc Collins ’89 – Biblical and Theological Studies

A member of the Carson-Newman class of 1989, Dr. Roc Collins serves as the strategic objectives director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

In that role, he oversees the TBMB’s work related to evangelism, discipleship, church planting, church revitalization, Cooperative Program, and Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions giving initiatives.

But Roc’s path leads further back. In fact, Dr. Collins was licensed into the ministry and was ordained into the ministry, both, before graduating from Carson-Newman. His passion for evangelism is coupled with his love for seeing people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Originally from North Carolina, Roc followed his time on Mossy Creek by completing his Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to joining the TBMB’s staff in January 2017, Dr. Collins served 11 years as lead pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee.

As pastor, Roc has led churches in Tennessee, Virginia, Louisiana and Mississippi and served as staff evangelist for congregations in Louisiana and Mississippi as well. But during that span of time, Dr. Collins also has served as director of Student Enlistment New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where for the last four years he also has served on the Board of Trustees. He is a past-president of the Pastor’s Conference for the Tennessee Baptist Convention and vice-president and president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.


Steve Cishek ’08

Whether academics, medicine, business or athletics, making it to the highest level of one’s profession is a challenge. It takes hard work, dedication, determination, skill and even a bit of good fortune.

Steve Cishek, a 2008 Carson-Newman graduate had all of those. That, and God’s grace, is what led him from Falmouth, Massachusetts, to Mossy Creek to a 13-year baseball career in the Major Leagues. Even having the opportunity to pursue a Major League career is something to celebrate, as only one of every 200 high school baseball players gets drafted by a Major League team. Only 17% of those drafted make it to the Majors.

Upon his retirement from professional baseball last year, Steve had amassed some impressive statistics in a career that saw him don the uniform for eight different teams.

Nine years pitching in the National League and four in the American League, Steve ended with a career earned run average below 3.00, 133 career saves and more strikeouts than games or innings pitched. Spending the longest time with the Marlins organization, as of last year, Steve remained third all-time in Marlins’ history in saves, fifth in games pitched and has held the franchise record for consecutive saves at 33.

Despite the transitions that can come with the movement of playing in the Major Leagues, Steve settled in delivering four more consecutive seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA while pitching for three different teams – the Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs.


Dr. David C. Dale ’62

Dr. David Dale was an academic All-American in football and valedictorian of the Carson-Newman Class of 1962. He later graduated cum laude from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Dale went through medical and research training at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and the University of Washington in Seattle, where he joined the faculty in 1974. He continues to live in Seattle with his Rose Marie. In 1982 he was appointed dean of the UW Medical School. That brought oversight for medical education across a four-state region as well as clinical care at the University of Washington Medical Center and the other hospitals in the UW system. He also was responsible for leading the UW medical research, one of the largest programs in the nation. In 1986, he returned to his position as a professor of Medicine, devoting full-time to research, teaching, clinical medicine and national leadership positions.

Dr. Dale’s research has focused on understanding the causes, consequences and treatment of disorders creating susceptibility to infections, more specifically disorders affecting neutrophils, cells that protect us from bacterial and fungal infections. He is founder and director of the Severe Chronic Neutropenia International Registry providing doctors and patients with specific advice about diagnosis and treatment of rare blood disorders. He has published more than 600 papers, abstracts and books on medical education, medical history and medical research.

Dr. Dale earned the Shipley Award for outstanding research and the American College of Physicians Award for Outstanding Work in Science as Related to Medicine. This year he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Life-saving Cancer Research from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), UNESCO.

He has served as president of the American College of Physicians, the Society for General Internal Medicine and the national medical honor society-Alpha Omega Alpha. He was the long-term editor of the Scientific American Medicine, the first medical textbook using the internet to provide current medical information throughout the world. He has promoted worldwide improvements in health care through his work with the People to People International Goodwill program started by President Dwight Eisenhower, the China Medical Board begun by John D. Rockefeller and UW’s international affiliations.


Mattie Mullins ’53 and Family                                                                               

To qualify for the Legacy Award, a family must have had at least three generations attend Carson-Newman.

Mattie Mullins is the matriarch of a family that stretches across nine decades and has seen more than 50 members walk the grounds of Mossy Creek.

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of her own graduation from Carson-Newman, Mattie graduated a year after her late husband the Reverand Kelver Mullins.

But they did not just come to Carson-Newman and leave with their degrees. Other members of this family made their way here as well.

Brothers and Sisters. Brothers and Sisters-In-Law. Daughters. Sons. Granddaughters. Grandsons. Nieces. Nephews. Both great and grand nieces and nephews.

And they have given back. Mattie and her family have created endowed scholarships to assist other students who attend Carson-Newman. Members of this family have served in different organizations, helped organize and host events in their home areas.

In the last six months alone, Mattie has attended an alumni dinner and a football tailgate event hosted by our Alumni Office.

Dating back almost 100 years to 1927, more than 30 times a graduating class at Carson-Newman has included a member of this family.


Ron ’54 and Marillyn Nations

The Carson-Newman Vision Award is presented to an individual, group, or team that has seen a need to help advance Carson-Newman and its mission, assisted in developing a plan, and took on a leadership role in seeing it to fruition.

From Oklahoma and Arkansas respectively, Ron and Marillyn Nations found Carson-Newman in different ways. Ron as a student and graduate with a degree in chemistry … Class of 1954. Marillyn through Ron and the many friends they have made along the way and with whom they remain in touch.

As the award description states: visionaries see a need and find a way to fill the gap. They think, develop a plan, engage others to get on board and accomplish things many may have thought impossible.

For many years, the Nations have done just that. They not only helped support the construction of Blye-Poteat Hall, they actively told Carson-Newman’s story and recruited others to help as well. Marillyn served a three-year term as a member of the Carson-Newman Board of Trustees.

They have helped establish and support multiple endowed scholarships that benefit students at Carson-Newman.

Today, students, faculty and visitors have been awed by the technology in the Marillyn and Ron Nations Skills Lab of the new Drama and Ted Russell Center. The number of people who know about this place at Mossy Creek because of Ron and Marillyn Nations possibly is too many to track.


Jean-Ann Washam ’90

A broken-down car did not lead Jean-Ann Washam into service. That die was already cast many years before. The mechanical issues just helped direct her to where she would be serving. Growing up in a family with a strong work ethic and following a class at Carson-Newman on homelessness and poverty, Jean-Ann made plans to volunteer at a youth shelter in Knoxville. But her car would not cooperate, and she had to do her service at a facility within walking distance of campus. So she volunteered at Samaritan House.

After graduating Carson-Newman in 1990 and serving another year at Samaritan House, Jean-Ann left to attend Southern Seminary in Louisville and serve with the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children. In 1996 Jim Wilson called and asked her if she would come back home.

Many prayers and a few tears later, the Cosby, Tennessee, native and her husband Shannon returned to Jefferson City. Now, more than 25 years later, as executive director of the Carson-Newman mission, Appalachian Ministries of the Smokies, she and her team have developed a service program that is recognized across our area for the impact it is making in the lives of those in need.

Samaritan House provides emergency shelter to women and children who are experiencing a housing crisis our four-county area. The AMOS food and clothing pantry assists more than 400 families a month. The Home Repair program focuses on exterior needs of homes that are in need of handicap accessible ramps, decking, roofing, and painting. Church mission groups from East Tennessee to Texas and beyond show up every summer to serve this ministry.

Yet Jean-Ann is quick to say this is a team effort. “Although our roles may be different, every person is equally important in meeting the needs of those struggling in East Tennessee,” she says. “And God has to be at the center of it all.”


Dr. David Crutchley

Established by the Carson-Newman Alumni Association to honor current faculty and staff whose commitment and service personify the spirit of Carson-Newman University – who, like the late, beloved C-N English professor, Dr. R.R. Turner, exemplifies the highest ideals of service and leadership on campus and considered to be the pinnacle of excellence and performance in their roles at Carson-Newman.

It may seem redundant to say this year’s recipient reflects all these traits and more. But it needs to be reiterated. Like many others who find themselves serving Carson-Newman and its mission, Dr. David Crutchley did not start at C-N. But God’s path led to the University and the purpose is obvious.

With a distinguished career at Mossy Creek for nearly twenty years, David has followed a path that has passed through continents, countries, and several states while earning four degrees along the way.

Proud parents and grandparents, he and his wife Carol have spent their lives spreading the gospel and teaching others about Jesus. Professor and dean, beyond classes on campus, he teaches dual enrollment at a local high school and makes a weekly trip to Morgan County for the Carson-Newman prison ministry program there. He provided leadership in creating Carson-Newman’s new Master of Divinity program and the new minor in archeology as well as the previously mentioned prison ministry program. He leads student mission trips to Israel and South Africa. His dedication is cherished and impactful.

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