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Congratulations to College of Arts & Sciences 2019 alumni award winners! Pictured (top row, left to right): Scott Pierce, Steven Mauk, Hugh Berryman, Morgan Steffen; (bottom row, left to right) Jeff Belser, Natalie Haslam, Lillian Mashburn, and Crystal Wagner.

Celebrating Alumni Achievements

Members of the College of Arts and Sciences honored alumni for their extraordinary professional achievements, volunteer service, and philanthropy during the 2019 Arts and Sciences Alumni Awards dinner Friday, October 11 in the Student Union Ballroom.

This year marks the 225th anniversary of the University of Tennessee. What began in 1794 as a small liberal arts college in the Southwest Territory is now Tennessee’s flagship university and premier public research institution. The College of Arts and Sciences still stands as the foundation of education at UT and the gateway to knowledge for all UT students.

“Tonight is an evening when we celebrate the depth and breadth of careers that College of Arts & Sciences’ degrees can provide,” said Theresa Lee, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It is both and a privilege and a pleasure to preside over this ceremony and I would like to extend a special welcome to our honorees and their guests. Thank you for joining us on this special occasion. We are extremely proud of your individual and collective achievements.”

The Divisional Achievement Award recognizes alumni who have achieved significant levels of accomplishment in the early to middle stages of their careers. It is designed to acknowledge publicly these “rising stars” who have exhibited exceptional talent and promise in any of the disciplines in the college – humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and visual and performing arts.

Morgan M. Steffen

Morgan M. Steffen received the Natural Sciences Achievement Award. Steffen received her PhD in microbiology from UT in 2014. She is an assistant professor at James Madison University. Her area of focus is microbiology, particularly as it pertains to the toxic cyanobacterial blooms that are becoming a problem across the US and around the world. Most recently, Steffen led a team of university and government scientists that examined the potential causes of the Toledo Event in 2014, which resulted in shutting down the water supply to the City of Toledo, Ohio, during the August 2014 holiday weekend leaving approximately 500,000 residents without water. Her efforts combined molecular biology, limnology, and satellite data with mathematical models to find the environmental drivers of the problem. Those data now inform utilities managers how to avoid the same circumstances in the future.

Read more about her achievements.

Crystal Wagner

Crystal Wagner received the Visual/Performing Arts Achievement Award. Wagner graduated summa cum laude in 2008 with her Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art with a concentration in printmaking and has established herself as a significant artist with recognition of her work through major exhibitions and commissions both in the United States and abroad. Wagner’s art is represented by galleries in San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and Paris. She was a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Grant. The pace of her professional activities is astonishing. She has a number of exhibitions and projects scheduled into 2020, with a one-person exhibition at the prestigious international art festival Art Basel in Miami, Florida.

“Crystal’s professional record of exhibitions and commissions is notable, and anyone who sees her work can appreciate its sheer beauty and ingenuity,” Lee said. “The ability of the arts to enrich our lives is clearly evident in her labors.”

Read more about her achievements.

Lillian Mashburn

The Volunteer Service recognizes exceptional service or long-term, continuing service of leadership to the College of Arts and Sciences or to a department or program within the college. The recipient of the 2019 Volunteer Service Award is Lillian Mashburn, who graduated with a BS in education from UT with a major in history and minor in political science and economics. Mashburn’s volunteer service to the college includes chair of the Department of Religious Studies Board of Visitors. Her generosity and enthusiasm for the religious studies department includes expanding its lecture series, navigating a successful 50th anniversary celebration, and developing an active and supportive board of visitors. Her leadership has helped the department thrive. Mashburn is also a staunch advocate for the humanities at UT. She describes herself as a long-time amateur student of religious studies. She has been a trailblazer in many areas of her life by serving as the first woman president of the Knoxville Technical Society, the first woman to be a Life Member of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, and the first woman elected to the Board of the East Tennessee Economic Council. She has also been very engaged with the Baker Center, UT’s College of Engineering and other UT entities.

“Because of her volunteerism, leadership, wise counsel, and generous financial support, it gives me great pleasure to recognize Lillian Mashburn for her Volunteer leadership,” Lee said.

Read more about her achievements.

The Scholarly and Creative Achievement Awards recognizes alumni who have achieved a high degree of success in their chosen field in either a scholarly or creative endeavor. The trademark of this recipient is a record of notable accomplishments and a history of outstanding contributions to their discipline and/or creative pursuits.

Hugh E. Berryman

Hugh E. Berryman received the Scholarly Achievement Award. Berryman received his BS, MA, and PhD in anthropology from UT. He is a research professor with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and director of the Forensic Institute for Research and Education at Middle Tennessee State University. He served on the faculty of the Department of Pathology at UT Memphis, and as director of the Regional Forensic Center in Memphis from 1980 to 2000. Berryman provides forensic anthropology consultation to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii to help identify those who died during US military actions and consults with the Office of the Metropolitan and Davidson County Medical Examiner. He has served four terms on the Board of Directors for the American Board of Forensic Anthropologists.

Read more about his achievements.

Steven Mauk

Steven Mauk received the Creative Achievement Award. Mauk received his BA in music at UT and his master’s and doctorate degrees in music at the University of Michigan. He served as professor of saxophone in the School of Music at Ithaca College from 1975 until his retirement in May 2019. During his illustrious career, Mauk has presented numerous solo, chamber music, and concerto performances in the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, Russia, and Europe. His performances in the US have included those in New York City, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, Cleveland, and Chicago. Mauk has given three recitals at Weill Hall (formerly Carnegie Recital Hall), a concerto presentation at Alice Tully Hall (NYC), four concerto performances with the United States Navy in Washington, DC, and concerto presentations in Russia and China. One of the foremost authorities on the soprano saxophone, Mauk is often invited to present lectures, recitals, and articles dealing with this member of the saxophone family. Mauk has recorded 22 albums, written more than 100 articles, and authored four books.

Read more about his achievements.

Scott Pierce

The Professional Achievement Award recognizes alumni who have achieved a high degree of success in their chosen field of endeavor. The trademark of this recipient is a record of notable career accomplishments and a history of outstanding contributions to their profession. Scott Pierce received the 2019 award. Pierce graduated from UT with a BA in economics and a master’s in public policy and administration. He serves as the executive vice president and chief operating officer for Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, a company of 5,000 employees serving more than 3.3 million members in the state and across the country. Pierce has an active role in the development and implementation of long-range plans, goals, and objectives for the organization and is an outstanding role model for those who aspire to be consummate professional managers who make a positive difference in the peoples’ lives in multiple ways. In his service as assistant commissioner of TennCare and chief financial officer for the program, Pierce was instrumental in shaping and executing strategies to restore the financial viability of the TennCare program and played an instrumental role that enabled the program to provide health care coverage for the largest possible number of eligible Tennesseans. He helped the TennCare agency post six consecutive budget surpluses and built reserves to a record level.

“Mr. Pierce has been a vocal leader of the MPPA Development Program and he is the primary donor responsible for funding the Baker MPPA Scholarships,” Lee said. “He regularly hosts students from our MPPA program or visits with them on campus to mentor them in how their degree can work for them.”

 Read more about his achievements.

Natalie Leach Haslam

Although many of the individuals we have recognized in previous categories give generously to the college, the College Philanthropist Award recognizes the exceptional generosity and impact of a philanthropist on the College of Arts and Sciences. It is designed to publicly acknowledge those individuals—alumni or friends—whose philanthropy has made a significant difference to the College of Arts and Sciences over an extended period of time. Natalie Leach Haslam received the 2019 award. A Knoxville native, Haslam graduated with a BA in French from UT. Along with her husband, Jim Haslam, they have given transformative support to our School of Music, the UT Humanities Center, the Haslam Scholars Program, and the College’s Enrichment Fund, just to name a few.

“You don’t have to walk far around our campus to see the impact that Jim and Natalie have on this university,” Lee said.

Haslam is a former UT Miss Tennessee and her lifelong commitments to the community and the university are born of her appreciation for what the university has meant to her and thousands of other students. She is the first woman to be president of the Knoxville Symphony Society and has been president of the East Tennessee Foundation and the East Tennessee Historical Society. She is a founding board member of the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has served on several boards in East Tennessee. From charitable giving to investments of time and energy, she has worked hard to ensure a brighter future for Knoxville residents and UT students.

“I am regularly asked, ‘What does one do with a liberal arts degree?’” said Lee. “My response is, ‘whatever you like!’ I firmly believe that Natalie is the epitome of that spirit as she has spent her life serving the causes she was passionate about — history, literature, music, and helping build a vibrant east Tennessee community that excels in all these areas.”

Read more about her achievements.

Jeffery K. Belser

The Dean’s Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award was the final award for the evening. The purpose of this award is to recognize an outstanding alumnus/alumna of the College of Arts and Sciences who has attained extraordinary distinction through a lifetime record of achievement and service. Jeffery K. Belser received the 2019 award. Belser received a BA in psychology and an MBA from UT. He is vice president and treasurer of Ingram Industries in Nashville, which is included among Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies with a revenue of $2.2 billion and 5,000 employees. Belser also serves on the board of directors of the Nashville Downtown Partnership.

“Jeff is one of those graduates who has used his training from the University of Tennessee to propel him on an extremely successful career,” Lee said. “He is an outstanding example of how psychology majors can use their degrees and the knowledge from them to become very successful in numerous diverse career paths. He appreciates the education he received and believes it was helpful in preparing him for graduate school, and for later in his career and life.”

Belser and his wife, Lori, have been involved philanthropically with UT’s psychology department and programs in Nashville and Kenya. Support of access to education is one of their passions. Belser also serves on UT Association of Psychology Alumni (APA) Advisory Board and is a member of the College’s Dean’s Advisory Board.

Read more about his achievements.

“The University of Tennessee serves the state, the nation, and the world by educating people, enhancing culture, and making a difference in lives through research and services,” Lee said. “Volunteers embody excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, creative activity, outreach, and engagement. Thank you for being a proud part of our legacy.”