Tennessee’s community and technical colleges honor veterans, including 37 recipients of the Chancellor’s Commendation for Military Veterans for 2023

Jackson State Community College honors its veterans

Tennessee’s community and technical colleges are honoring veterans of military service – including students, faculty, staff and alumni – in Veterans Day activities this week. As part of those ceremonies, one veteran at each college is awarded the Chancellor’s Commendation for Military Veterans, a special recognition launched four years ago by Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings.

The Chancellor’s Commendation is conferred in the form of a specially commissioned Challenge Coin featuring symbols of the military branches on one side and the Chancellor’s Commendation designation on the other. Challenge coins have a long tradition in all military branches, awarded by commanders and signifying special achievement, excellence, hard work, unit pride, respect and esprit de corps.

The 37 Chancellor’s Commendation honorees for 2023, listed below by college, include 17 students, 11 faculty members, 8 college staff members, and 1 alumnus. Eleven served in the Navy, 10 in the Army, 8 in the Marine Corps, 5 in the Air Force, and 3 in the National Guard.

Honorees are nominated by their college president. Presidents may nominate a student,  member of the faculty or staff, or an alumnus of the college who are veterans or active-service members and who exemplify characteristics of honor, courage, commitment, integrity, duty, respect, discipline and sacrifice.

“Our college communities are strengthened by the presence on campus of veterans and active-duty personnel – as students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Tydings said. “They and the experiences and perspectives they bring are an important part of the broad diversity of people and backgrounds on our campuses that benefits everyone.

“We are committed to serving veterans as they served our country. It’s a privilege to honor them, not only on Veterans Day but all year,” the chancellor said. “I thank our presidents, our faculty and our entire campus communities for their work in ensuring that veterans are welcomed and served.” 

That commitment is underscored by the College System’s proud participation in the state’s VETS Campus program. All 13 TBR community colleges are certified VETS Campuses, which means they prioritize outreach to veterans, allocate resources for successful transition from military service to college, and successfully deliver services that create a supportive environment where student veterans can prosper while pursuing their education.

Six of the system’s technical colleges have earned VETS Campus certification – the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) Chattanooga, Crossville, Dickson, Jackson, McMinnville and Nashville. The 18 other TCATs are working toward earning certification.

The VETS Campus program was established by the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act, enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2014. The statute details a rigorous set of requirements colleges and universities must meet to earn certification. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission administers the program, awards the certifications and monitors for ongoing compliance with the requirements.

Primary requirements also include providing special orientation, mentoring and support programs for student veterans; creating and maintaining a process for assessing prior learning that grants academic credit to veterans for transferable training and experience attained through their military service, and conducting annual surveys of student veterans’ views, needs, issues and suggestions.

Major General Jeffrey Holmes, retired adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard, was keynote speaker at Northeast State Community College’s Veterans Day program. “Only six percent of our (U.S.) population are veterans who have served. That's a small segment of society. So for such a small group to have such tremendous responsibility to protect our freedom, it's an enormous sacrifice – so we should honor them,” said Holmes, who began his military career as a tank crewman and retired as a major general with two tours in Iraq. Also an architect, he is now director of planning and programming in the TBR Office of Facilities Development.

The 2023 Chancellor’s Commendation for Military Veterans honorees, their affiliation with the college, and their military branches are:


  • Chattanooga State: Mark Terrell, Network Analyst, U.S. Navy
  • Cleveland State: Rick Monroe, Associate Professor of Advanced Technologies , U.S. Air Force
  • Columbia State: Sarah Frazier, Student, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Dyersburg State: Wayne Corlis, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Business, U.S. Navy
  • Jackson State: Paul Morgan, Dean of Students, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Motlow State: Adam Creason, Student, U.S. Army
  • Nashville State: Carri Duncan, Student, U.S. Navy
  • Northeast State: Susan Graybeal, Vice President for Institutional Excellence and Student Success, U.S. Navy
  • Pellissippi State: Norman Naylor, Alumnus, U.S. Air Force
  • Roane State: Steve Ward, Associate Professor of Chemistry, National Guard
  • Southwest Tennessee: Lennon Pearson, Manager of Client Services, U.S. Army
  • Volunteer State: Edward Tacke, Adjunct Professor of Mechatronics, U.S. Air Force
  • Walters State: Wesley Pierce, Associate Professor of Nursing, U.S. Army



  • TCAT Athens: Harry Gordon, Student, U.S. Marine Corps
  • TCAT Chattanooga: Atlas Rising, Student, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army
  • TCAT Crossville: Bill Bruce, Special Programs Coordinator, U.S. Navy
  • TCAT Crump: Kerry Warren, Student, U.S. Navy
  • TCAT Dickson: Gabriel Nunez, Special Industry Apprenticeships Instructor, U.S. Army
  • TCAT Elizabethton: Jonathan Rounds, Student, U.S. Army
  • TCAT Harriman: Cameron Cofer, Student, National Guard
  • TCAT Hartsville: Robert Blankenship, Student, U.S. Army
  • TCAT Henry/Carroll: Jeremy Thompson, Student, U.S. Navy
  • TCAT Hohenwald: Jorge Jimenez, Student, U.S. Marine Corps
  • TCAT Jacksboro: Daniel Durham, Student, U.S. Air Force
  • TCAT Jackson: James Finch, Student, U.S. Army
  • TCAT Knoxville: Mike Gallimore, Inventory Management Specialist, U.S. Marine Corps
  • TCAT Livingston: James Johnson, Student, National Guard
  • TCAT McKenzie: Ben Branham, Student, U.S. Marine Corps
  • TCAT McMinnville: Donnie Fults, Maintenance/Utility Staff, U.S. Army
  • TCAT Memphis: Carlton Carter, Electronics Technology Instructor, U.S. Marine Corps
  • TCAT Morristown: Audrey Lavender, Student Records/Registrar, U.S. Army
  • TCAT Murfreesboro: Les Smith, Industrial Electrical Maintenance Instructor, U.S. Navy
  • TCAT Nashville: Joseph Redemske, Computer Information Technology Instructor, U.S. Navy
  • TCAT Northwest: Donald Hudson, Industrial Maintenance Instructor, U.S. Navy
  • TCAT Oneida/Huntsville: Johnnie Long, Student, U.S. Air Force
  • TCAT Pulaski: Amber DeGrave, Student, U.S. Army
  • TCAT Shelbyville: Kenneth Bottoms, Truck Driving Instructor, U.S. Navy and National Guard
Northeast State's Dr. Susan Graybeal speaks with with World War II veteran Virgil Peters after the college's Veterans Day service

Information on resources for veterans interested in pursuing their education is available at https://www.tn.gov/thec/veteran.html

Additional information on financial assistance, academic credit for military training and experience and other resources for veterans is available at https://www.tbr.edu/student-success/veterans-and-military-families-suppor

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 24 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.