Category Archives: Alumni

Pellissippi State: Alumni Relations hosts free presentation on using technology to boost a career

Pellissippi State Community College invites alumni and community members to attend a brown-bag lunch and presentation by Dan Thompson at noon Thursday, Aug. 13.

Thompson, a senior analyst for 451 Research who often serves as a technology expert for local and regional television stations, will speak on the topic “Technology and How It Can Advance Your Career.”

The free event is in the Goins Building Auditorium on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. Attendees should bring their own lunch.

Reservations are required since seating is limited. RSVP by Aug. 6 to Angela Pugh, development coordinator for Pellissippi State’s Alumni Relations Office, at or (865) 539-7275.

To learn more about Alumni Relations and the benefits it offers to alumni, visit For more about Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Trevis Gardner named Pellissippi State’s 2015 Distinguished Alumni

Trevis Gardner

For Trevis Gardner, Pellissippi State Community College’s 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award winner, success is all about building relationships.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is given to an individual in recognition of significant professional achievement, service to the community, and support of the college and the Pellissippi State Foundation. The 1991 graduate was presented the award at a recent Alumni Association luncheon at the college.

Gardner is vice president of operations for the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority. He oversees nearly every tangible aspect of the airport experience — from parking to buying a ticket to getting on a plane and leaving and coming back to Knoxville — not only at McGhee Tyson Airport but also at Downtown Island Airport.

The MKAA is responsible for creating the business environment that allows the hundreds of airport vendors to engage with customers. Every layer of service between the MKAA and the passengers falls under Gardner’s purview.

But the technical responsibilities aren’t what Gardner talks about — it’s the relationships.

“I manage people from entry-level positions to folks who are much smarter than I am,” he said. “I get to have a lot of different relationships with people. I feel like I’m in the Tower of London making sure the crown jewels are safe. The organization trusts me to make sure I take care of these people.”

Gardner earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Civil Engineering Technology from what was then Pellissippi State Technical Community College and later earned a surveying certificate. He served in the U.S. Air Force and Tennessee Air National Guard from 1987 to 2011, and he has worked for the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority since 1991.

According to Gardner, his grades weren’t exactly those of a model student when he initially enrolled at Pellissippi State.

“I should not have gone to community college, should not have gone to university, should not have graduated, by all statistical measures,” Gardner said.

But after he came to Pellissippi State on the GI Bill, his mindset changed.

“I loved learning at Pellissippi State,” he said. “I felt like I was home. My time at Pellissippi State was some of the most fun I ever had.”

Besides working for the airport authority, Gardner is also very active in the community, particularly in his native Blount County. He has served on the Blount County Board of Education and the board of the Adult Education Foundation of Blount County. He has worked as a tutor for the GED Preparation Program at the Blount County Justice Center, as well as with many other organizations and causes.

“This year, there were three candidates for this award,” said Peggy Wilson, vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the Pellissippi State Foundation. “A committee of Foundation board members reviewed the nominations and felt Trevis was the best candidate. We congratulate him!”

To learn about the benefits of being part of the Pellissippi State Alumni Association, visit or call (865) 539-7275.

Pellissippi State ‘2+2’ alumnus named ‘Teacher of the Year’

Charlie ArpCharles Arp, a Pellissippi State Community College alumnus, has been named “Teacher of the Year” for Sweetwater City Schools in Monroe County. He teaches fifth grade at Brown Intermediate School.

Arp graduated through a teacher education partnership between Pellissippi State and Tennessee Technological University in 2012. Graduates from what is called the “2+2” program earn an Associate of Science in Teaching degree from Pellissippi State, then a Bachelor of Science degree in Multidisciplinary Studies and K-6 Teacher Licensure from Tennessee Tech.

Students in 2+2 attend the first two years as Pellissippi State students and the last two years as Tennessee Tech students—but they take all of their classes at Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus. A.S.T. is a cohort program, meaning the students go through the entire sequence together.

“Charlie was one of those students that you don’t forget,” said Barbara Jenkins, program coordinator of the A.S.T. program. “He knew what he wanted to do—to teach and make a difference with children in the elementary classroom—and he pursued his goal without hesitation.”

Arp says he was surprised and pleased to receive the Teacher of the Year recognition after teaching only three years. The honor is awarded through Little Tennessee Valley Educational Cooperative.

In April, he also earned Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ 2015 Extreme Classroom Makeover. The award comes with a $25,000 grand prize that funds new technology in the classroom.

Arp credits his success to Pellissippi State and Tennessee Tech and the partnership 2+2 program.

“Pellissippi State prepared me for nearly every aspect of teaching,” he said. “My students have had some of the highest possible science TCAP [Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program] scores in the state. I would say 75 percent of my teaching toolkit is from things I learned at Pellissippi State.

“The 2+2 program even helped prepare me for the interview for this job [at Brown Intermediate]. The only mistake I made was that I didn’t start the 2+2 program straight out of high school.”

Arp employs a number of distinctive techniques to teach his students, including using the Minecraft video game as a way of teaching mathematics and keeping children moving during math lessons by making use of a class-sized coordinate plane. When teaching reading and English lessons, Arp uses movie trailers based on novels to get his students interested in literature.

For more information about the A.S.T., 2+2 and other programs offered by or in partnership with Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Alumna recalls support, inspiration as first-generation student at Pellissippi State

female standing in front of brickVirginia Hughes remembers entering class and realizing she could not leave as the person she had been before.

That is one of the many memories of the Pellissippi State Community College alumna, who graduated with a general associate’s degree in 2013. Hughes is working toward an anthropology degree at the University of Tennessee, with plans to graduate in 2015.
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“My experience entering Pellissippi was like most college students in many ways,” Hughes said. “I remember being excited, scared, and nervous all at the same time—college is scary and exciting, especially as a first-generation student.”

“I can still recall sitting in Dr. Kelly Rivers’ English class and Dr. Chris Milne’s biology classes and thinking that there was no way I would come out of those classes the same person, and I didn’t: I came out a better person who realized my potential. I felt like I could conquer anything that was thrown at me, because those professors prepared me. Pellissippi was and still is my open door to my future.”
As a first-generation college student, Hughes says she always felt that every one of her college achievements was celebrated, not just by her but by her whole family. While the pressure to succeed weighed on her, she was always aware that college could open the world to her.

Hughes, who attended Pellissippi State as a tnAchieves student, now volunteers as an ambassador for the program. TnAchieves increases higher education opportunities for Tennessee high school students by providing last-dollar scholarships with mentor guidance. Hughes also volunteers at the Forensic Anthropology Center on UT’s campus and holds down a part-time job.
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“TnAchieves gave me a unique college experience, because along with all the programs Pellissippi State has to help its students succeed, I also had a team of tnAchieves people that I could turn to.

“My mentor through tnAchieves gave me the opportunity to share everything about my experience with her, and she helped me celebrate the good things and work on the challenges that I faced.”
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Hughes plans to pursue a career in forensic anthropology, helping identify human remains after catastrophic events.

“I want to work on the teams that help bring peace and restore faces to those people who have become victims to circumstances beyond their control,” she said.

She credits Pellissippi State for starting her on the path to success.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience,” said Hughes. “Pellissippi State gave me the skills I needed to keep reaching for my goals. I truly believe that had I not gone to Pellissippi State and received my associate’s degree, then I never would have made it to the point I am at now.”

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.


Pellissippi State hosts alumni artists for 40th anniversary exhibit


In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Pellissippi State Community College is welcoming back its alumni artists for a special exhibit in August.

“A Look in Both Directions” opens Aug. 25 and extends to Sept. 12. The free exhibit will be displayed in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The opening reception is 3-5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25.

“Pellissippi State has had a great influence on many people’s lives, including those of local and regional artists who were once our students,” said Jeff Lockett, Art professor and program coordinator. “We thought it would be great to see how some of those artists are doing now, how they began as our students and what their work is now.”

paige_resizedThe exhibit is Pellissippi State’s first featuring only the work of alumni. The alumni artists include Sharon Bachleda, Paige Burchell, Jessica Burelson, Pete Hoffecker, Daniel Huxtable, Steven Kempster, Jamie Schneider, Pamela Simpson, Bill Warden, Elliott White and Dean Yasko.

The exhibit will feature two- and three-dimensional works: sculpture, ceramics, painting, and drawing. Bagwell Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

“A Look in Both Directions” is one of the events that make up Pellissippi State’s arts series, The Arts at Pellissippi State. The series brings to the community cultural activities ranging from music and theatre to international celebrations, lectures, and the fine arts.

For more information, visit or call (865) 694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources at (865) 694-6607 or

Pellissippi State recognizes distinguished alumna

portrait of female in red with blonde hairPerseverance and a passion for helping others are the defining traits of Pellissippi State Community College’s 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award winner. Rhonda Lee, who graduated in Paralegal Studies with the Class of 2004, is a mother, grandmother, cancer survivor and attorney.

Lee was 42 when she began classes at Pellissippi State after a career in real estate and home building.

“I decided to follow my passion in my 40s,” said Lee, now a practicing attorney in Knoxville, “and I faced criticism and hardship as an older, working woman with children. But that was my passion. It’s what I wanted to do.”

After graduating from Pellissippi State, Lee attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville and UT Chattanooga, completing her bachelor’s degree in legal studies in 2006. She capped off nearly a decade of studies when she earned her Juris Doctor from Nashville School of Law in 2012—and she put nearly 130,000 miles on her vehicle in the process.

Lee now owns her own law firm, where she specializes in criminal defense but also practices family and general law. Her particular interest is in serving marginalized and indigent clients.

“I have a passion to make a difference in people’s lives. Our constitutional rights are the greatest rights we have, and being in law is a way of making sure that people’s liberties are protected. I see that every day.

“There can be a lot of injustice in the justice system, because people don’t always have representation. I work to make sure that no one is overlooked, that they always have adequate representation.”

Lee understands falling through the cracks. While she was working full time in Knoxville and commuting to Nashville for law school, she was diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t have health insurance at the time, and she struggled to find treatment.

“So I figured I would just go to school until I died,” Lee said. “But I thought that if I was going to die, I would go out doing what I had always dreamed of.

“My goal was to get through one more set of classes, and that got me up every day. That got me across the stage at graduation and through the bar exam. Now I have my own law firm, and it’s a dream come true.”

Lee’s work as an attorney is not the only way she finds to help people. She also supports the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Cancer Support Community of East Tennessee, East Tennessee Legal Aid and the Tennessee Cancer Coalition.

She has drafted legislation in several states, not just Tennessee, that will change the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, making it easier for victims to pursue justice. Lee balances all of this with time supporting her children and grandchildren and serving as a caretaker for her aging parents.

And she continues to take on more. She plans to return to Pellissippi State as an adjunct faculty member teaching law classes in the fall.

“I love Pellissippi State, and I’m really excited to go back and teach there, because if it wasn’t for that foundation—for getting a hands-on, personal touch while I was a student there—I wouldn’t be where I am today. I want to be that person for other students.

“Pellissippi State makes it possible for anyone, at any stage of life, to get an education. If you want to succeed, they help you get there.”

Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni Award is given to an individual in recognition of significant professional achievement, service to the community, and support of the College and the Pellissippi State Foundation.

For more information about Pellissippi State, including its programs and giving opportunities, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

From professional paintballer to youngest assistant director, Pellissippi State graduate aims for success

Kevin-Fillers-jpgKevin Fillers thought he would spend his career aiming a paintball gun at opponents, but with the help of Pellissippi State Community College, he’s aiming instead for a career in business.

Fillers, who earned an Associate of Science degree from Pellissippi State in 2011, was the top graduate from the University of Tennessee’s college of business administration in December 2013.

“I had an unusual path into college,” Fillers said. “When I graduated high school, I wanted to become a professional paintball player, and I eventually was offered a contract and played professional paintball from 2005 to 2008. But I could see that it wasn’t going to remain a long-term career option, so in 2006, I started taking occasional classes at Pellissippi State.”

Fillers, who graduated from UT with a 4.0 grade point average, attributes his success to those early classes at Pellissippi State.

“If I’d had to deal with traditional class formats,” he said, “I probably never would have started going to school.

“Because of how much I worked and how much I traveled, the only class options open to me were the online, one-night-a-week or two-night-a-week classes. That nontraditional path gave me an entirely new perspective on my future, and allowed me a new start.”

Fillers began taking full-time classes at Pellissippi State in 2010, while also working full time at the Gamma Beta Phi Society’s national headquarters in Oak Ridge.

He worked his way up from a minor position in Gamma Beta Phi, a national honors and service organization for college students, to the finance director and, ultimately, the assistant director position. He is the youngest-ever assistant director of the society. He also owns his own paintball company and school, The Bizniss.

Fillers began his classes at Pellissippi State with the intention of earning a mechanical engineering degree, but he switched to business classes when he realized he wanted to work more closely with other people.

His next academic goal is to attend UT starting fall 2015 in pursuit of an M.B.A. or J.D.

“Kevin was a nontraditional student who was not quite ready to attend college right out of high school,” said Jonathan Lamb, associate professor of Mathematics, “but he entered Pellissippi State when he was ready, and he has thrived ever since.

“I am thrilled for him, and I think he is an excellent example of how well Pellissippi State prepares students for transfer to four-year colleges.”

Fillers says he credits his early academic success specifically to Pellissippi State’s offerings that are geared toward working adults.

“I’m so grateful to Pellissippi State, because I got the start on my new career path here. I have worked really hard for the past seven years, working full time and attending school, and I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished.”

He also recognizes his work ethic as an inheritance from his father, Fred Fillers. The elder Fillers earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree while serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, working for the U.S. Department of Energy, and raising a family.

“Now, I understand how hard my father worked to make the best life for himself and to give us every opportunity that he could,” the younger Fillers said.

For more information about how Pellissippi State can help you succeed, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State to honor Distinguished Alumni at May 10 Commencement

Portrait of Caucasian female in a white collared shirt with a black jacketAt its May 10 Commencement ceremony, Pellissippi State Community College will recognize more than a thousand new graduates—and one 1995 graduate.

Tracie Livesay, who completed an associate’s degree 18 years ago, will be honored with the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award. The award, which premiered at the 2012 Commencement, is in recognition of significant professional achievement, service to the community and support of Pellissippi State.

Livesay, who earned the Associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistant Technology (now Paralegal Studies), has gone on from Pellissippi State to a successful career in the legal field, working as a paralegal for more than 18 years. She continually updates her professional knowledge with special certifications and is now pursuing a master’s degree in business management.

Her many volunteer efforts include service in the Smoky Mountain Paralegal Association, where she has worked on projects in support of local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, Knox Area Rescue Ministries, and the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee’s Mobile Meals program.

During her 2006-07 tenure as SMPA president, the group grew to be the largest paralegal organization in the Southeast. In addition to SMPA, Livesay is also a member of the American Association for Justice, National Association of Legal Assistants and National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

Livesay has also given freely of her time and talents to Pellissippi State. Since 2007, she has volunteered as a member of Pellissippi State’s Advisory Committee for Paralegal Studies. She also assists the Pellissippi State Paralegal Association with event planning, serves as an adjunct faculty member for various classes in the Paralegal Studies program and volunteers for fundraisers hosted by the Pellissippi State Foundation.

At this year’s ceremony, the college will again confer a record number of associate’s degrees. A total of 1,393 students will receive degrees. In 2012, another graduation record was broken when 1,166 students were awarded degrees.

Pellissippi State’s Commencement begins at 7 p.m. It takes place at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, 500 Howard Baker Jr. Ave.

For additional information regarding Commencement or Pellissippi State, call (865) 694-6400 or visit

May 2013 graduates invited to celebration breakfast

All Pellissippi State students who are set to graduate next month are invited to celebrate their accomplishments by attending a Graduates’ Breakfast With the President.

Join other graduates and Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. for breakfast refreshments. All breakfasts are 9-10 a.m., and you can choose from the following dates and campus locations:

Wednesday, April 24, Magnolia Avenue Campus, Community Room

Tuesday, April 30, Hardin Valley Campus, Goins Building College Center

Wednesday, May 1, Blount County Campus, Dining Room

Friday, May 3, Division Street Campus, Dining Room

Graduates’ Breakfast With the President is sponsored by the Pellissippi State Alumni Association.

R.S.V.P. to Brooke Pannell, Alumni Relations coordinator, at (865) 539-7275 or

April 20 Dough Dash 5K Run/Fun Walk still accepting participants

It’s not too late to sign up for the April 20 Dough Dash 5K Run/Fun Walk to take place at Pellissippi State Community College’s Blount County Campus. Those who register by April 6 pay $20 per participant, and those who register after that date up until event day pay $25.

The Alumni Association-hosted 5K run/fun walk serves as a fundraiser for the Pellissippi State Foundation’s General Scholarship Fund.

Dough Dash provides the opportunity for participants to run a 5K course or walk up to one mile. Medallions will be awarded in the categories of Male/Female Top Three Overall, Male/Female Top Master and Grandmaster, and Three Deep Male/Female in various age groups.

The event is part of the Run and See Tennessee Grand Prix, which encourages runners to compete in races throughout Tennessee and bordering states.

The event begins at Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus. The 5K and fun walk courses consist of an on-campus asphalt trail, and the 5K continues on scenic off-campus back roads. The run and walk end on the campus, which is located at 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Pkwy. in Friendsville.

Dough Dash begins at 8 a.m., and on-site registration is 7-7:30 a.m. No refunds will be given.

Participants may register online or by mail. To register online, go to To register by mail, print out the entry form at and mail it with your payment to Pellissippi State Alumni Association, P.O. Box 22990, 10915 Hardin Valley Rd., Knoxville 37933-0990.

For additional information on the Dough Dash, contact the Alumni Relations Office at (865) 539-7275 or

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or Requests should be made at least two weeks in advance.