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Smokies superintendent headlines Pellissippi Strong Luncheon

Cassius Cash
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash will deliver the keynote address at this year’s Pellissippi Strong Luncheon, set for Wednesday, April 19.

Celebrate Pellissippi State Community College’s outstanding alumni and support current students at the college’s Pellissippi Strong Luncheon this April.  

The event, presented by FirstBank and hosted by Tearsa Smith of WATE-TV, will be held 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, at the Hilton Knoxville Airport, 2001 Alcoa Highway, Alcoa. Individual tickets are $50 and include lunch. You can purchase tickets or select levels of sponsorship here. All proceeds benefit the college’s Greatest Need Fund.  

“The Pellissippi Strong Luncheon provides the Foundation an opportunity to shine a light on the Pellissippi State experience, share the impact of giving and deepen our relationship with community members,” said Aneisa Rolen, executive director of the Pellissippi State Foundation, the fundraising arm of the college. “Success stories from our students and alumni inspire me every day. I always leave this event motivated to help our students start strong, stay strong and finish strong.” 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash will give the keynote address this year. Born and raised in Memphis, the son of a police officer and a cosmetologist, Cash earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the historically Black university the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and later studied wildlife management at Oregon State University. He started his federal career with the U.S. Forest Service, where he spent 18 years in various leadership positions, and later transferred to the National Park Service. In 2015 he was selected as the first African American superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the United States. 

 “During Superintendent Cash’s award-winning tenure, he has led Great Smoky Mountains National Park through several notable events including the Chimney Tops 2 Fire in November 2016, the 2016 National Park Service Centennial and the 2018 completion of the ‘Missing Link’ of the Foothills Parkway,” said Britney Sink, director of Alumni and Donor Engagement for the Pellissippi State Foundation. “Superintendent Cash will share his journey with us, including how he embraced the adventure of bouncing around the country for career growth, using his connection to nature as his constant.” 

Pellissippi State also will present the college’s annual alumni awards at the Pellissippi Strong Luncheon. The Distinguished Alumni Award, announced by FirstBank, highlights an outstanding graduate in recognition of significant professional achievement and service to the community, while the Peggy Wilson Volunteer Alumni Award, sponsored by Clayton, highlights an outstanding graduate in recognition of extraordinary service to the Pellissippi State community.   

“We are delighted to help honor Pellissippi State’s distinguished alumni,” said Brent Ball, Knoxville president of FirstBank. “It shows both the amazing work they are accomplishing in the community and the real value of education. The time you spend in school will pay dividends your entire life.” 

For more information about the event, including sponsorship opportunities, visit