category: Alumni

Carson-Newman honors alumni and friends during awards ceremony

Pictured left to right are: Ondes Webster, Allan Blume, John McGraw, Kristi Paczkowski, James Zirkle, Lauren Wilson, David Skinner, Roy Flora, Mary McDonald, Diana Carroll, Marion Cook. Not pictured are Scott Powers and Katie Slingerland.

During its Nov. 1 Alumni Awards, Carson-Newman honored those who represent the University with excellence and distinction.

Those 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.


Mary McDonald – Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Mary McDonald, Carson-Newman class of 1978, is well-known in the field of sacred music. With a career that spans over 40 years, her songs appear in the catalogs of every major publisher of church music. More than 1,000 compositions through anthems, seasonal musicals and keyboard collections testify to her significant contribution to church music. No stranger to glass ceilings, her energy and charisma served her well when Mary became the first woman president of the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference. She recently retired from serving 36 years as accompanist for the Tennessee Men’s Chorale, touring internationally to Brazil, England, Wales and Italy.

In 2010, after serving as senior music editor for The Lorenz Corporation in Dayton, Ohio, for more than twenty years, Mary resigned her position with a desire to serve the church in a different way. Now, she takes her tremendous passion and love for music making directly to churches as an independent artist. She is in constant demand in churches across the nation for composer weekends and has served as host for many of the top choral music dealer conferences in the U.S. and Canada.

Mary has performed twice on the grand stage of Carnegie Hall, both as pianist and conductor in 2019 and will return there later this month to conduct Festival of Christmas. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, among them the prestigious John Ness Beck award, the Paul B. Clark Award for Excellence in Church Music, and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Sacred Music.

David Ray Skinner Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

A 1974 graduate, David Ray Skinner wrote and drew cartoons for the former campus newspaper The Orange and Blue, including a regular comic strip called “Owen Bee.” While serving as editor-in-chief the paper won two Southeastern College Newspaper Competition awards.

After a short stint as writer, reporter and illustrator for The Sevier County Times, David relocated to New York City in 1977 where he eventually became the Art Director, for the music trade magazine, Record World. He created custom illustrations and caricatures for such notables as Elton John, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Led Zeppelin, Kenny Rogers and Billy Joel. After five years at Record World, Skinner went to work for Doubleday as art director of the Literary Guild Magazine. There he created marketing treatments for books by writers such as James Michener, Peter Maas and Stephen King.

Moving to Atlanta in 1984, Skinner co-founded Indelible Inc., a print, design and advertising agency; and in the early 90s, also became involved in various music projects. This included Johnny Cash’s gospel video and CD, “Return to the Promised Land” for which he designed the logo and co-wrote the title track with Cash and his manager, Hugh Waddell.

Since 2001, Skinner has produced an online literary magazine called, and in 2019, he released his first novel, Rubine River. He continued to do advertising, marketing, illustration and design for a number of clients, including Home Depot, Target, Glock, HanesBrands and Citibank. Other projects include a three-dimensional sculpture at the University of West Georgia and an ad jingle, Shoo Fly Pie that ran for several months on the Grand Ole Opry.                          

Roy Flora – Business

A veteran of more than 42 years in the hotel industry, 1966 graduate Roy E. Flora served as president and COO of Atlanta-based U.S. Franchise Systems, Inc. and its various subsidiaries relative to the Microtel Inns and Suites and Hawthorn Suites hotel brands. Prior to his retirement in 2011, he served as group president, Microtel Inns and Suites, Hawthorn Suites, and Baymont Inn and Suites hotel brands as part of the Wyndham Hotel Group.

Under his leadership, the Microtel Inns & Suites brand was recognized by J.D. Power & Associates as highest in overall guest satisfaction for the economy/limited-service segment for an unprecedented ten (10) consecutive years (2002-2011), something no other company in any industry segment had ever achieved previously.

He led the initiative to redesign and launch the new Microtel guest room concepts which in 2008 was the recipient of the HotelWorld Global Hospitality & Design Award for Best Guestroom Design in their category.

During this time, both Microtel and Hawthorn Suites received the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers Fair Franchising Seal, the first hotel brands to receive the Seal. He was a three-time recipient of the AAFD’s Franchisor of the Year Award.

Flora championed total product and attitude accessibility for persons with disabilities and was recognized with the Eagle Award from Disability Rights Advocates, the 2008 Disability Matters Award, and was awarded the Access to Freedom Award from the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality.

A proud veteran of the U.S. Army, the former Eagles quarterback and his late wife Diana Birkhead, also a C-N alum, were married 55 years.

Dr. Diana Carroll – Family & Consumer Sciences 

Eight years after graduating from Carson-Newman in 1969, Diana Carroll returned home. And she never left.

In fact, despite “retiring” in 2014, and earning professor emeritus status, Carroll still fills in, teaching classes when the need arises. She has diligently given more than 40 years of instruction back to the University. Through this service she has impacted hundreds of graduates in the Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum.

Her wisdom and willingness always in demand, in addition to her duties in the classroom, Carroll served on Faculty Council at Carson-Newman for 10-plus years, serving as secretary and twice as chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee. She has served the Student Success Committee, Committees for Faculty Performance and Advancement, for students with disabilities, search committees for important hires and planning groups for events such as the University’s Sesquicentennial and Founders’ Day. From general studies to student activities, athletics to chapel, when it was discussed, Carroll was usually asked to be at the table.

In her field she has served in roles for at least 10 national conventions for the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, including multiple times as a voting delegate, senator and committee co-chair. She has received the National Kappa Omicron Nu Adviser Award of Excellence, twice earned the Tennessee Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Leader Award, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry three times and Who’s who among America’s Teachers four times and induction into six different national honor societies.

Dr. Lauren H. Wilson – Education and Counseling

Accomplished educator, leader, and advocate for high-quality education with demonstrated ability to teach, motivate, and direct students and teachers, Dr. Lauren Wilson is a recipient of two degrees from Carson-Newman.

After earning her bachelor of science in elementary education from Tennessee State University and a masters in special education from Vanderbilt, Wilson received both her EdS and her Doctorate of Education from Carson-Newman.

Currently an assistant principal at Jack Anderson Elementary School in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Wilson’s specialties include: Strategic Planning & Implementation, Coaching Teachers, Student Support; Student Relationships and Restorative Practices.

She has served children at their most creative and impressionable stages as a kindergarten teacher and worked with students with unique needs as a special education teacher and literacy coach during which time she was named teacher of the year.

She is currently or has served as adjunct professor at three institutions, including Carson-Newman. Her teaching ranges through more than a dozen specific topics of study, including: Introduction to Diagnostic Reading Instruction; Child, Family, Cultural, Community Relationships, and Advocacy; Multicultural Education; Survey of Moderate to Severe Special Education and Learning and Behavior Disabilities.

Wilson holds 22 different certificates of training and has done extensive research on Professional Learning Communities — research in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and ensuring meetings are data driven, meaningful, and serve to benefit the instructors and the students.

Dr. Scott K. Powers – Natural, Applied, and Health Sciences

A 1972 graduate of Carson-Newman, Dr. Scott K. Powers has spent his career in higher education instruction.

After rising to associate professor and director of the Applied Physiology Laboratory at Louisiana State University, he accepted a position at the University of Florida in Gainesville where he spent the next 30-plus years.

At various times or simultaneously, he served as director for the Center of Exercise Science, professor and chair for the University of Florida’s Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences and was named UAA Endowed Professor and Distinguished Professor of the University’s Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology.

Three times he served as a visiting professor at other institutions including the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of California-Berkeley.

At Florida, Powers twice received the Teacher Improvement Award; teacher of the year in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences and received the David R. Lamb Excellence in Education Award, conferred by Gatorade Sports Science Institute.

He has mentored 14 post-doctoral fellows that have matriculated to faculty positions at major research universities in three countries and served as major professor for 20 PhD students. Powers received the University of Florida Doctoral Dissertation Advisor/Mentoring Award and was elected to the University of Florida Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars (2017).

His honors include Scholar of the Year, Southeastern Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, 1995 and Career Enhancement Award, American Physiological Society, 1996. He earned the American College of Sports Medicine Citation Award and Distinguished Professor, University of Florida in the same year.

K. Allan Blume – Religion

A native of North Carolina, Allan Blume has spent more than 50 years serving in the ministry.

A 1971 Carson-Newman graduate, Blume’s service to Christ’s Word started early. He filled the role as president of a youth-led evangelistic ministry he founded and spending six months in an interim role as youth director at First Baptist Church in Joshua, Texas.

Allan served two years as minister of Evangelism at Harvard Avenue Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma before answering the call as pastor of Statesville Avenue Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he served from 1977 until 1989.

After five years as executive pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, Blume made his final stop as a full-time pastor in Boone, North Carolina, serving 16 years as senior pastor at Mount Vernon Baptist Church.

After 35 years Allan moved away from the pulpit but not the ministry, serving the next eight years as the editor and president of the Biblical Recorder, a news organization owned by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

He has been an interim pastor for churches in transition and a contract representative for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He has served on more than a dozen groups and committees for the Southern Baptist and North Carolina State Conventions including three years as president of Board of Directors for his home state’s convention, where he currently assists in training transitional interim pastors.

Lt. Colonel Katie Slingerland                                                                               

Lt. Col. Katherine J. Slingerland received her commission in 2004 from Carson-Newman with a degree in English. She was assigned to the Aviation Branch and graduated from the U.S Army’s Flight School course for UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters in 2005.

Slingerland’s first post was in an assault helicopter battalion in Korea. She served 18 months as a platoon leader before she was assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, where she served as an assistant battalion S3, coordinating with Division and Brigade HQs.

Slingerland’s other assignments include: operations officer for a provincial reconstruction team, Ghazni, Afghanistan; brigade HHC commander, 110th Aviation Regiment; aide-de-camp for the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence commanding general; battalion operations officer and executive officer, Attack Reconnaissance Battalion and Cavalry Regiment in Savannah, GA; and presidential airlift operation officer for the White House, Washington D.C.

Her military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Aviation Badge, Combat Action Badge and the Air Assault Badge.

One of four female officers who lead the 1st Aviation Brigade at brigade and battalion levels. She has served as brigade operations officer in the 166 Aviation Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, and currently is battalion commander at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

James Zirkle                       

From 1985 until his retirement in 2009, Professor James Zirkle was an associate general counsel with the Office of General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency.

Throughout his career he worked, among other assignments, primarily in the areas of classified space systems, counterintelligence, and security. He served as senior counsel at the National Reconnaissance Office and senior counsel to the CIA’s Counterintelligence Center and Office of Security. His last CIA assignment was as the CIA’s Officer-in-Residence at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

He has served as an adjunct professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and the American University’s Washington College of Law since 1988. He teaches in the areas of national security law, intelligence law, international law and the law of armed conflict.

In 2009 Georgetown University awarded him their Vicennial Medal for his distinguished service to the university.

Prior to law school he served on active duty for five years as a Naval Officer. He then served in the Ready Reserves for nearly 22 years as a Judge Advocate General officer. He retired from the Naval Reserve in 1992, with the rank of commander.

Before joining the CIA, he was a member of the law faculties, first at the University of Mississippi, then College of William & Mary, where he also managed the First Amendment Bill of Rights Institute.

Marion Cook and Family                                                                                

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

The family of Marion Cook has seen members of four generations receive their education on the banks of Mossy Creek.

But they did not just come to Carson-Newman and leave with their degrees. Members of this family got involved while they were here and stayed involved after they left.

Edgar Cook, Marion’s father, was a 1923 graduate in English who later received his PhD from Vanderbilt. Mother Lillie graduated a year later with a degree in Home Economics.

Edgar was his class president and served on the faculty here at Carson-Newman. To this day the Dr. and Mrs. Edgar M. Cook Scholarship financially helps students work toward earning their degrees.

Marion Cook followed, graduating in 1955. Through the years, Marion has served multiple roles and is currently on the Alumni Board of Directors. Marion’s late wife Kathryn was a 1956 home economics graduate. Marion’s brother Dr. Clarance Cook was a 1957 graduate in chemistry.

His daughter, Alison Lowrey, Individual Direction, & Son-in-law William Lowrey, Masters of Education, both earned degrees from Carson-Newman as did daughter Melanie Goff, FCS, a current member of the Women of Vision organization.

The legacy continued with granddaughter Lauren Bonner, Psychology, and grandson-in-law Mitchell Bonner, religion, also graduating from Carson-Newman.

Women of Vision                                                                                             

What began with a brief conversation between longtime Carson-Newman team member Vickie Butler ’76 and former University first lady Kay O’Brien, has become one of the most impactful organizations serving the institution.

Carson-Newman University’s Women of Vision was organized in 2010 for the purpose of providing support for and working in partnership with Carson-Newman through volunteer and philanthropic efforts. WOV seeks to glorify God and further His Kingdom by nurturing truth, enhancing beauty and enriching goodness, the Carson-Newman staples reflected on the University seal.

As a means of carrying out this purpose, each year Women of Vision accepts and considers proposals for campus projects which fall within these categories. Projects may be proposed by faculty, staff, students or interested alumni and C-N supporters.

Criteria for project Women of Vision choose to take on must: nurture the academic excellence or Christian commitment for Carson-Newman — Truth; Enhance the physical beauty of campus – Beauty or enrich the quality of student life through physical improvements, program enhancements or opportunities for student involvement in service – Goodness.

True to the roots of its mission, in its 12 years of existence, Women of Vision has raised more than $1.5 million for projects on campus that fit these criteria and continue to look to the future of the campus with a vision.

Dr. John McGraw

Receiving degrees from North Greenville, William Carey and the University of Mississippi School of Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery, this year’s recipient of the Servant Leadership Award has spent his life serving others.

A 34-year veteran of the US Air Force and US Army Medical Corps with 3 combat deployments, his final deployment being to Afghanistan in 2011-2012. He retired 2013.

He has served as president, Mississippi Orthopaedic Society; president, Southern Orthopaedic Association; president, Baptist Medical-Dental Fellowship and as a members of the Board of Councilors, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, chair of the Board 2014-2015 and Board of Directors, AAOS 2012-2015.

He is currently the chair, Board of Directors, Tennova Jefferson Memorial Hospital; the Advisory Board, Jefferson County Health Department; a member of the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners and a member of the TN Controlled Substance Monitoring Database Committee.

In his community, he was elected as a county commissioner in Jefferson County in 2014, serving four years and was chair of the Finance Committee and vice-chair of both the Budget and Compliance Committees.

In 2015 he retired from medical practice and began attending graduate school at Carson-Newman, pursuing a degree in theology. After two seminars, however, he was asked to return to medicine as chief medical officer of OrthoTennessee, the largest Musculoskeletal group in the state. He retired, again, in 2020. As associate team physician his support of and commitment to Carson-Newman athletics is difficult to measure.


Ondes Webster

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 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.

Ondes Webster reflects all of these traits and more. Like many others who find themselves serving Carson-Newman and its mission, the recipient did not start here, but learned of the area of Mossy Creek while working with a partner on a project at the University. And, like so many others, came to know how special this place is. It was work on that project that caught the eye of the administration at Carson-Newman and a position was offered. It made sense. The youngest of eight children, growing up just a few miles down the road and graduating from Carter High School, he followed his father, several uncles and cousins into the carpentry trade before becoming superintendent for Johnson and Galyon Construction. That was where paths crossed. One of his projects was the construction of App Commons on C-N’s campus.

Today, every project on campus has his fingerprints on the plans.

After that offer, he and his wife Jennifer went to dinner, discussed and prayed over the opportunity. On the way home, they saw a church sign that said “Doors of opportunity do not open by themselves.” Twenty years later, we are glad they walked through that door.

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