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Volunteer Service Award

The purpose of this award is to recognize exceptional service or long-term leadership to the College of Arts and Sciences or to an academic department or program within the College. It is designed to publicly acknowledge those individuals—alumni or friends—who have given significant amounts of time and talent over an extended period of time.


Jack E. Williams is an outstanding alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences, where he earned a degree in history in 1964. With the exception of six years early on, Williams spent his entire career (36 years) bettering the university and the college in his work as VP of Development, Senior Advisor to the President for Philanthropy, Director of Special Gifts, and Vice Chancellor of Development and Alumni Affairs.

Williams has exhibited an incredible passion for the College of Arts and Sciences and the university as a whole. Before the UT Foundation existed, Williams was recruiting major donors to give to groundbreaking capital and operating projects on campus. He was extremely involved with development of the Carousel and Clarence Brown Theaters.

After Williams retired from UT in 2006, he continued to nurture donors, particularly retired and current faculty. Notable among his lifelong friends are the late Charlie Brakebill and our distinguished President Emeritus Joe Johnson, whom he visits on a regular basis.

Williams is known for his innate ability to educate and inspire fellow board members in a quiet manner, always ensuring that others receive credit for a job well done and shying away from being in front of the camera. In fact, he was usually taking the pictures, and his wonderful photographs documented many UT alumni events.

Thomas P. Cronin

Cronin received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Geology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1980 and 1983, respectively. He worked for 34 years in the oil and gas industry, mainly in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Tom and his wife, Helen Sestak, are strong supporters of the UT Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. They contribute to several departmental endowments, and they established the Thomas Cronin and Helen Sestak Faculty Achievement Award in 2011 to help support and retain key faculty.

Cronin is currently the President of the Houston UT Knoxville Alumni Chapter, with an alumni base of 2,000 in the Houston area. The chapter awards a scholarship every year to a Houston area high school student who is going to attend UT.  They are also involved in local volunteer projects in the community and gather for UT football watch parties.

Until recently, Cronin was the Chair of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Alumni Advisory Board. Under his leadership the Board wrote its first charter, presented an articulate vision of their role in supporting UT, doubled in size, and established board member dues to fund department activities and scholarships. He is a stalwart advocate for policies and practices that promote excellence in student mentoring and outreach. In recognition of his achievements, Cronin received the UT Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences “Accomplished Alumnus Award”.

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

Lillian Mashburn 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 include first a board member and, since 2011, chair of the Department of Religious Studies Board of Visitors. Her generosity and enthusiasm for the Religious Studies Department has helped them thrive. She attends and helps to advertise departmental events, and her work has helped the department expand its lecture series, navigate a successful 50th anniversary, and develop an active and supportive Board of Visitors. She is a staunch advocate for the Humanities at UT. She describes herself as a long-time amateur student of Religious Studies. She has served as the executive director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. During her tenure, she organized new programs to encourage the Knoxville religious community to share their faiths and celebrate religious diversity with events at churches and synagogues.

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 held local and national positions with multiple organizations in the higher education and scientific research arenas. She was the founding president of the Executive Women’s Association. She has also been very engaged with the Baker Center, UT’s College of Engineering and other UT entities.

Charlie Penley graduated from UT with a degree in microbiology in 1978. He received his medical degree from Wake Forest and achieved a high level of professional success through his career as an oncologist. He served his profession by volunteering for American Society of Clinical Oncology including, the chair of the Clinical Practice committee, Government Relations committee, and Conquer Cancer Foundation. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Association of Community Cancer Centers. Penley’s contributions to the College of Arts and Sciences include being a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board since 2007, chair from 2014-16, and serving on the search committee for the executive director of development in 2015. His nonprofit experience helped guide the advisory board’s response to issues facing the university, such as legislative advocacy and achieving Top 25 benchmarks. Finally, He and his wife Connally established the Penley Fund for Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences in 2008, which provides graduate student awards in any discipline within the college in order to attract top quality graduate students to our programs.

Betty Beaumonte (’74) graduated with a BA in Latin from the Department of Classics and has served in various roles, including marketing, communications, and HR at Proctor and Gamble for 24 years. Her final role was as associate director of human resources. Since retiring, Bettye has devoted herself to volunteering for a variety of organizations both at UT and in the Cincinnati area. Bettye has served as a Board Member for the Archaeological Institute of America at the University of Cincinnati, the World Figure Skating Championship, and Cincinnati Bicentennial Committee (as P&G rep). In addition, Bettye has served as an officer for the Cincinnati Art Museum Docent Corps, Hyde Park Center for Older Adults, Greek Alumni Advisors Council at the University of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Alumnae Panhellenic Association. Bettye serves as Council President, Trustees Chair, Staff-Parish Relations, and e-newsletter editor for Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. At UT, Bettye has served on the Classics Advisory Committee since 2013, designed and helped implement a system for recruiting more majors and minors for the department, and participated in a video project. Bettye set up the Athena Travel Fund Endowment in the classics department to help students with travel costs.

The Arab American Club of Knoxville (AACK) and its individual board members (Susan Dakak, Lina Shatara, Maysoon Nadrous, Suzanne Mubarak, Samia Hanna, Rula Habibi, Helen Harb, Robert Darraj, Suhair Burbar, Randa Halloun, and Susie Saah) have worked with UT for years and include many long-term donors. Collectively, the club has supported and enhanced the Medical Center, the McClung Museum, the Baker Center, the School of Music, the Departments of Religious Studies, History, Political Science, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, and the newly formed program in Middle East Studies. They have financially sponsored museum displays and outreach events, musical programming, and the ongoing Arab Fest, now in its fourth year. Most recently, they have worked to raise thousands of dollars toward the university’s first endowment related to Middle East Studies programming and student travel. AACK devotes considerable resources to planning and executing our annual Arab cultural festival. Although AACK partners with various departments in the College, the board members themselves purchase many of the items that make Arab Fest a success and spend hundreds and hundreds of hours from February until October planning programming and coordinating an army of community and student volunteers. The Arab American Club truly embodies the Volunteer spirit, modeling civic engagement to our students and helping the college fulfill UT’s mandate as a land-grant institution. They give of their time, money, and talents for one purpose – to enhance the cultural experiences of the UT student body and the greater Knoxville community.

John Turley (’74) completed a bachelor’s degree in history and went on to build a successful career as a real estate developer. He has served on the board of the McClung Museum of Natural History for several years. He currently serves as Chair of the Advisory Committee for UT’s Department of History.

W. Michael Dennis (’76), who received a doctorate in botany, has been a very active member of the Dean’s Advisory Board as well as a volunteer in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Botany for nearly forty years. He has personally led forty consecutive annual Wildflower Pilgrimages.

Wade Guyton (’95), Meredyth Sparks (’94) and Joshua Smith (’98).  This team of internationally recognized artists created the Artist-in-Residence Limited Box Series of prints, a fundraising project to endow the artist-in-residence position in painting and drawing in the School of Art. Wade Guyton earned a bachelor’s degree in with a major in the College Scholars Program. Meredyth Sparks and Joshua Smith completed bachelor’s degrees in art.