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College Philanthropist Award

The purpose of this award is to recognize 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 alumni by choice —whose philanthropy has made a significant difference to the College of Arts and Sciences over an extended period of time.


Karen Sisk

Sisk earned her UT degree in mathematics education in 1974, and is boosting education in multiple areas with generous gifts to three departments within the College of Arts and Sciences. She is endowing professorships in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, scholarships in math, and support for programs in music, in addition to supporting the College Fund for Arts and Sciences. Having previously served as a member of the UT Chancellor’s Associates and UT Foundation’s Alliance of Women Philanthropists, Sisk is the epitome of the extraordinary impact that volunteer service and philanthropic giving can have on our college.

She has endowed the Gerald D. Sisk Professorships for named chairs in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The chairs recognize excellence in teaching and research in the fields of mineralogy and petrology, and with these funds, the department has been able to attract two outstanding scientists to its faculty. The professorships were established in memory of her late husband Gerald Sisk, a 1975 graduate of UT, a graduate gemologist, and a recognized authority on gemstones, who co-founded Jewelry Television. Sisk’s generous donation is the largest single gift ever received by this department.

Additionally, she has committed to funding the Karen L. Sisk Scholarship Endowment in the Department of Mathematics, which will provide scholarships to undergraduate students. The scholarship will support the mission of the mathematics department to expand access to a mathematics degree to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Finally, Sisk has supported the School of Music, including the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, of which her late husband was a member. She has given to scholarship and enrichment funds at the School of Music, as classical music remains an interest of hers, as well as to the College Fund for Arts and Sciences at the Dean’s Circle level.

Dong-Hwa (Dawn) Shin Taylor, Ph.D.

Taylor is a generous supporter of the students and faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences. She established the Lawrence A. Taylor Professorship in Planetary Geosciences Endowment and the Lawrence A. Taylor Graduate Student Fellowships Endowment for two graduate students, one in the department of Earth & Planetary Sciences and one in Planetary Science.

At the college and campus level, Dawn established four graduate student dissertation awards, three in the College of Arts & Sciences’ Division of the Natural Sciences and one in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical engineering. The awards are designed to help students defray any costs related to the writing of their dissertations.

Dawn Taylor worked as a research associate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her late husband, Lawrence Taylor, retired after 46 years of service in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he was the founder and director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute.

Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, there were no awards in 2020.

Natalie Leach Haslam, a Knoxville native, graduated with a B.A. in French from UT. Natalie and her husband Jim 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 do not have to walk far around our campus to see the impact that Jim and Natalie have on this university. Natalie 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 the boards of the Tennessee Arts Commission, Child and Family Services, Zoo Knoxville, Maryville College, Webb School of Knoxville, Wellness Community and Junior League. A graduate of the Leadership Knoxville Class of ’86, she also has been president of The Knoxville Garden Club and the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville.

From charitable giving to investments of time and energy, she has worked hard to ensure a brighter future for Knoxville residents and UT students and 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.

Judi Herbert graduated from UT in 1963 with a degree in English. She has been an advocate ever since. As a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, she is helping UT take transformational strides towards creating a comprehensive Writing Center that offers an extensive array of writing support to students and faculty. Herbert and her husband Jim played a major role in the 2017 Big Orange Give campaign, successfully challenging the UT community to raise more than $1.5 million by offering a challenge gift for the Writing Center. Her gift was key to establishing a new undergraduate peer-tutoring program, providing more one-to-one tutoring help for students writing in upper-division courses, and to launching a new Writing Center service – help for students preparing application materials, such as cover letters for jobs, resumes, and personal statements. The gift also helps provide more support for faculty teaching courses with writing across disciplines by establishing a new summer workshop. With her help, we are enhancing our ability to ensure all students graduate the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with excellent writing skills.

Sandra White is the widow of David C. White, former professor of microbiology. Since 2008, the American Society for Microbiology has awarded a David C. White Research and Mentoring Award to recognize distinguished accomplishments in interdisciplinary research and training in microbiology. In 2015, Sandy established the David C. White Memorial Travel Award Endowment at UT. The fund covers the cost of registration, travel, lodging and food for select undergraduate or graduate students that want to attend the national meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. The fund is designed to help our students further their educations and careers as microbiologists. In 2014, The David and Sandra White Faculty Endowed Professorship in Microbiology was established through a generous philanthropic commitment from Sandy. The head of microbiology will always hold the David and Sandra White professorship and will be required to maintain standards of distinguished performance in relation to their duties as a department head and microbiologist.

Edward J. Boling, awarded posthumously.

Edward J. Boling (’48), (’ received both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business. His freshman year was interrupted in April 1943 when he was called to active duty in the Army. Following World War II, he returned to UT and finished his degree thanks to the G.I. Bill. He held several jobs, including teaching statistics at UT, before working in state government. He was recruited back to UT by then-President Andy Holt in 1961 to be vice president for development and administration, and eventually serving as president of the University of Tennessee from 1970-1988. After his retirement, Dr. Boling continued to serve the University as president emeritus and was tasked with maintaining and building relationships among UT supporters. At his side throughout their sixty-five–year marriage, Carolyn Pierce Boling (’52) earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics from UT.

Bill Ross (’60) earned a bachelor’s degree in geology. A native of Maryville, Tennessee, Ross attended college with support from the GI Bill. His first exposure to geology was working as a cartographic draftsman in the Army. After college, he joined the U.S. Geological Survey working on the research staff for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He had an additional career as an inspector and consultant for the Virginia Department of Transportation, from which he retired.

Stuart and Kate Riggsby.  The Riggsbys are both UT retirees. Stuart Riggsby served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and associate department head and professor in the Department of Microbiology. Katherine Riggsby was a system programmer. The Riggsbys made the first substantive contribution to the institutional challenge matching grant for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant that led to the creation of UT’s Marco Institute. Besides their ongoing support of Marco, they have also contributed to the Tennessee Humanities Center, the School of Music, and the Clarence Brown Theatre, as well as many other academic departments in the college.

Mannie and Fern Steinfeld. The Steinfelds have been generous donors to UT for more than twenty-five years. They were among the first major donors to the Judaic Studies program—now known as the Fern and Manny Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies—by establishing an endowed chair in 1993 and continuing to provide annual gifts that support student travel to the Middle East, campus programming, and faculty development. They have also supported the College of Architecture and Design, the College of Engineering, and the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, as well as UT Athletics.