Tennessee’s community and technical colleges honor veterans, including 39 recipients of the Chancellor’s Commendation for Military Veterans for 2022

Chancellor's Commendation for Military Veterans

Tennessee’s community and technical colleges are honoring veterans on their campuses – students, faculty, staff and alumni – in Veterans Day activities this week. One veteran at each college will be awarded the Chancellor’s Commendation for Military Veterans, a special recognition launched three years ago by Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings.

The 39 Chancellor’s Commendation honorees for 2022 include 14 students, 14 faculty members and 11 college staff members who served in the military. Eighteen recipients served in the Army, eight in the Marine Corps, eight in the Navy, three in the Air Force, one in the Coast Guard and one in the National Guard.

The Chancellor’s Commendation is conferred in the form of a specially commissioned challenge coin featuring 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 in recognition of special achievement, excellence, hard work, unit pride, respect and esprit de corps.

The honorees are nominated by their college president. Presidents may nominate a student,  member of the faculty or staff, or an alumnus who are veterans or active-service members and who exemplify characteristics of honor, courage, commitment, integrity, duty, respect, discipline and sacrifice. Presidents describe how their nominees demonstrate those traits and how they embody values of the College System of Tennessee, such as commitment to student success, service to campus and community, courage in adversity, and academic excellence.

“Our college communities are strengthened by the presence of veterans and active-duty personnel – as students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Dr. Tydings said. “They – and the experience and perspective 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 them as they served our country. It’s a privilege to honor them, not only on Veterans Day but all year. I thank our presidents, our faculty and our entire campus communities for their work in ensuring that veterans are served and welcomed,” the chancellor said. 

At Motlow State Community College, President Michael Torrence presented the Commendation to Jamie Roper, a Motlow student and U.S. Marine Corps corporal. “I always knew I wanted to be a part of something larger than myself,” said Roper, who served four years as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Specialist. “Being able to attend a college close to home was one reason I chose Motlow. The College provided me the opportunity to pursue a higher level of education without having to go into debt with tuition being affordable.”

Motlow student Jamie Roper and President Michael Torrence

Roper began her education at Motlow in Fall 2021 and plans to graduate next spring. After college, she wants to become a Veterans Affairs counselor.

The College System's commitment to veterans is underscored by the system’s active participation in the state’s VETS Campus program. All 13 community colleges in the system are now certified VETS Campuses, which means they prioritize outreach to veterans, allocate resources for their 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.

Two of the system’s technical colleges – the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology at Chattanooga and Dickson – have also earned VETS Campus certification, and the others are working toward earning certification, said Dr. Robert M. Denn, TBR associate vice chancellor and veterans services officer. 

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 seven requirements that colleges and universities must meet to earn VETS Campus certification. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission administers the program, awards the certifications and annually reviews compliance with the requirements.

Requirements for VETS Campus certification include 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; conducting annual surveys of student veterans’ views, needs, issues and suggestions, providing special orientation programs for student veterans, and more.

The 2022 Chancellor’s Commendation for Military Veterans honorees, their association with the college, and their military branches are:

COMMUNITY COLLEGES:

  • Chattanooga State: William Visher, faculty, Navy
  • Cleveland State: Nathan Westfield, staff, Marine Corps
  • Columbia State: Joaquin Ortiz, staff, National Guard
  • Dyersburg State: Michael Peeler, staff, Army
  • Jackson State: Tom Pigg, faculty, Air Force
  • Motlow State: Jamie Roper, student, Marine Corps
  • Nashville State: Dawne Moore, staff, Army
  • Northeast State: Richard Blevins, faculty, Air Force
  • Pellissippi State: Erin Russell, student, Army
  • Roane State: Joseph Wescom, student, Army
  • Southwest Tennessee: Velvet McCallum, staff, Army
  • Volunteer State: Curtis Malone, staff, Army
  • Walters State: Jared Smith, staff, Navy

TENNESSEE COLLEGES OF APPLIED TECHNOLOGY:

  • TCAT Athens: Russ Troutt, faculty, Navy
  • TCAT Chattanooga: Duane Pendergraph, staff, Marine Corps
  • TCAT Covington: Connie Hitzel, student, Coast Guard
  • TCAT Crossville: Michael McCarthy, student, Army
  • TCAT Crump: Gabriel Alvarado, faculty, Army
  • TCAT Dickson: Tom Aplin, student, Army
  • TCAT Elizabethton: Noah Cody, student, Marine Corps
  • TCAT Harriman: Victor Martin, faculty, Navy
  • TCAT Hartsville: Justin Oliver, student, Army
  • TCAT Hohenwald: Clinton Natschke, faculty, Marine Corps
  • TCAT Jacksboro: Don McNamara, student, Marine Corps
  • TCAT Jackson: Odell Dupree, staff, Army
  • TCAT Knoxville: Jose Miranda, faculty, Army
  • TCAT Livingston: Cody Schebel, student, Army
  • TCAT McKenzie: Denton Jordan, student, Air Force
  • TCAT McMinnville: Raymond Rigsby, faculty, Army
  • TCAT Memphis: Ricky Batts, staff, Navy
  • TCAT Morristown: Jared Lester, student, Marine Corps
  • TCAT Murfreesboro: Joshua Brown, faculty, Army
  • TCAT Nashville: Pat Dillard, faculty, Army
  • TCAT Northwest: James Daniels, faculty, Navy
  • TCAT Oneida/Huntsville: Lewis Wohlman, staff, Navy
  • TCAT Paris: Howard Pomerantz, student, Army
  • TCAT Pulaski: Colby Bosheers, faculty, Army
  • TCAT Ripley: Kenneth Nevill, faculty, Navy
  • TCAT Shelbyville: Daniel Perkins, student, Marine Corps

Information on resources for veterans interested in pursuing their education, including the complete list of approved VETS Campuses, 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-support

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.