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2018 CCI Commencement Highlights

Commencement 2018Interim Provost John Zomchick conferred degrees on 338 CCI spring and summer graduates at the CCI Commencement held May 12, 2018 in Thompson Boling Arena. Six students received their doctorate degrees and 53 received Master’s degrees.

Larry Patrick (MS/C&I ’73 and CCI Board of Visitors member) delivered the commencement speech challenging the graduates to keep learning. “The knowledge of how to prepare content, to be objective, to write and edit well and to both speak and listen well are the keys to tomorrow for you,” said Patrick. He went on to urge the graduates to always conduct themselves with integrity and to help pave the way for future generations through service.

Chancellor’s Honors recipients and top graduates from each school major were recognized during the ceremony including Torchbearer Justin Crawford (JEM) and Kiah Albritton (PR) and Kianna Townsel (CS) for Extraordinary Campus Leadership and Service.

After the ceremony, graduates and their families attended a graduation reception on the CCI Patio where they were greeted by Larry Patrick and several CCI administrators and faculty members. The summer-like weather and great views from the patio provided the perfect setting for taking photos and for celebrating the accomplishments of the Class of 2018!

JEM Senior Andrew Capps Is 2018 Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellow

Andrew CappsAndrew Capps (JEM and PLSC ’18)is one of 26 students selected from journalism programs across the U.S., Canada, and Ireland to participate in the 2018 Carnegie-Knight News21 program. The News21 program was established by the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate the potential of journalism students to conduct national investigations on major topics. This year’s topic is hate crimes in America.

The News21 fellows began their work with a seminar taught via video conferencing by former executive editor of The Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr. and Pulizter Prize-winning journalist and News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel. With the completion of the spring semester, the fellows will be heading to Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, News21’s headquarters, to work out of the school’s newsroom and travel across the country to pursue their stories throughout the summer.

Capps focus is on the issues involving hate crimes in Tennessee and Kentucky. “It’s been really interesting to see how different counties report hate crimes, and how different the laws are regarding who is protected when hate crimes occur,” Capps said.

This year marks the fifth year in a row that the School of Journalism and Electronic Media has sent a competitively selected student to News21. While the Knight Foundation provides core support for the program, participating universities must provide additional financial support if one of their students is selected.

John and Patty WilliamsA generous donation, from John Williams (BS/JEM ’71 and chair of the CCI Board of Visitors) and his wife Patty (UT SIS Library Endorsement ’86), has made it possible for JEM to send one of its top journalism students to News21. John is the current CEO of the Regional Eye Center in Kingsport, Tennessee, and Patty, now retired, spent her career as a dedicated librarian at Abraham Lincoln Elementary and George Washington Elementary in Kingsport and at public elementary schools in Sevierville and Knoxville.

“Patty and I are both alumni of the college,” Williams said. “She is now retired as a public school librarian, and I have not been a working journalist for many, many years. But I still use my journalism skills every single day in my work.”

Looking for a way to give back to the college, they found the Carnegie-Knight News21 program through the college’s development office.

“We were looking at ways to get involved as a donor with the college, and we were given some ideas that were based on our interest area,” he said. “One of them was very much broadcast related, which dealt with my past. One was more academic, which dealt with my wife’s past. And then we were presented with this one, which had the journalism element as well as the academic support.”

School of Journalism and Electronic Media Director Catherine Luther expressed heartfelt gratitude for John and Patty’s support and emphasized the invaluable experience News21 has given to students. “The investigative projects that past recipients have worked on have been recognized by several leading journalism organizations in their award contests. All past recipients have secured excellent positions as journalists upon graduation and I’m quite sure News21 played a role in their success in doing so.”

Another Fulbright; UT Student Pushes Record-Setting Recipient Tally to 19

Tiana CastilloA 19th UT student—Tiana Castillo—has just been offered a Fulbright US Student Program award for the 2018–19 academic year, making this record-setting year even more impressive for the university.

In its history, UT has had 77 student Fulbright recipients, with its first in 1959. This year, UT had 52 Fulbright candidates and 27 semifinalists, with 19 students offered awards—all single-year records for the university. UT also has one alternate who could still receive an award. 

Castillo, of Nolensville, Tennessee, is a senior majoring in communication studies with a minor in religious studies. She will travel to Vietnam for an English teaching assistantship.

Larry Patrick to Deliver 2018 CCI Commencement Speech

Larry PatrickLarry Patrick (MS/C&I ’73) will deliver the 2018 College of Communication and Information commencement speech at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 12 in Thompson Boling Arena.

He is managing partner of Patrick Communications, a media investment banking and brokerage firm based in Maryland with over $7.5 billion worth of deals to its credit. The firm has sold over 600 radio stations and 160 television stations. Patrick also owns Legend Communications, a group of 22 small-market radio stations in Wyoming, and an interest in 14 major market television stations.

Patrick served as chairman of the board of ION Media Networks, a public company and operator of 60 full-power television stations across the country. He is also a former senior vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

He is on the board of numerous companies and charitable institutions including: a long time member and past chair of the UT College of Communication and Information’s Board of Visitors, treasurer of the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation, chair of the National Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation, chair of the Bayliss Foundation, and past president of the Broadcast Education Association and of the National Association of Media Brokers.

Patrick is the recipient of many awards including: the University of Tennessee’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, the UT College of Communication and Information’s Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award, the Broadcast Education Association’s Distinguished Education Service Award, Ohio University’s Outstanding Alumnus Award and the Broadcasters Foundation of America’s Ward L. Quaal Leadership Award. In 2017, he was named to Tennessee Alumnus Magazine’s list of the Top 100 University of Tennessee Alums. He is also a member of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media’s Hall of Fame and of the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

In addition to his master’s degree in communication from UT, Patrick holds a doctorate in communications and management from Ohio University and a law degree from Georgetown University.

“Larry Patrick is one of the finest individuals I have ever known,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “He is incredibly generous with his time, talent and treasure and is dedicated to making the world a better place. His generosity serves as an inspiration to current and future generations of the Volunteer Family, and he has had a profound effect on the College of Communication and Information and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.” 


CCI Students Recognized with Chancellor's Honors

A number of CCI students were recognized for their outstanding work at the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet held April 17, 2018. Included in the list are three CCI students in the top two campus award categories: Justin Crawford as Torchbearer; Kiah Albritton and Kiana Townsel as recipients of the Extraordinary Campus Leadership and Service Award. The list of all CCI students and the Chancellor’s Awards they received are listed below along with links to the associated 2018 Chancellor’s Honors Banquet Awards web pages. Please join us in congratulating these great students!

Justin CrawfordKiah AlbrittonKiana Townsel

Torchbearer (see

  • Justin Crawford, Journalism and Electronic Media

Extraordinary Campus Leadership and Service (see

  • Kiah Albritton, Public Relations
  • Kiana Townsel, Communication Studies

Top Collegiate Scholar  (see

  • Madison Mayfield, Public Relations

Extraordinary Academic Achievement (see

  • Mary Ann Baker, Advertising
  • Beverly Banks, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Matt Batson, Advertising
  • Bailey Brown, Communication Studies
  • Austin Byerly, Public Relations
  • Ayla Eubanks, Public Relations
  • Joan Hargett, Advertising
  • Kelsie Jones, Communication Studies
  • Kelsey Krieger, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Christopher Manning, Communication Studies
  • Madison Mayfield, Public Relations
  • Jarrod Nelson, Public Relations
  • Whitney Padgett, Public Relations
  • Quinn Pilkey, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Hannah Price, Public Relations

Extraordinary Professional Promise (see

  • Beverly Banks, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Caroline Beach, Advertising
  • Austin Byerly, Public Relations
  • Andrew Capps, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Danielle Clark, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Justin Crawford, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Baker Donahue, Communication Studies
  • Ayla Eubanks, Public Relations
  • Mike Folks, Advertising
  • Laura Gamo, M.S. in Communication & Information
  • Shelby Greaves, Communication Studies
  • Johnesha Harris, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Savanna Jacoby, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Kelsey Krieger, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Madison Mayfield, Public Relations
  • Katie Mitchell, Communication Studies
  • Jarrod Nelson, Public Relations
  • Josh Oliver, Advertising
  • Lauren Parrish, Advertising
  • Rachel Ricker, Communication Studies
  • Ashley Sharp, Journalism and Electronic Media
  • Kathryn Truppo, Advertising
  • Xiaojia Zeng, M.S. in Communication & Information

Advertising and Public Relations Students Travel to Nashville for Networking Trip

Earlier this month, 25 UT advertising and public relations students traveled to Nashville to network with alumni and learn about various types of advertising and public relations opportunities.

Students at DVL SeigenthalerStudents at DVL Seigenthaler (left)

Students were accompanied by Maureen Taylor, director of the School of Advertising and Public Relations, and Lauren Ziegler, school coordinator.

“UT’s School of Advertising and Public Relations has so many great alumni who are passionate about helping current students,” Taylor said. “These types of trips help build relationships among students and alumni.”

Students were introduced to the strong alumni network in Nashville. The students met with a panel at the Country Music Association to learn about the work that goes into CMA Fest. The panel featured members of CMA’s marketing team, including UT alumna Mary Overend, the senior marketing manager.

Junior Abigail Cox, of Indianapolis, said the trip provided “the chance to make contacts in the agencies that I would like to work for after graduation, as well as a look into what working in an agency really looks like.”

Students at Tennessee Titans practice facilityStudents at the Tennessee Titans practice facility (left)

At MP&F Public Relations, students met senior partner Mark McNeely and partner Alice Chapman, both UT alumni.

Alumnus David Bohan gave students a tour of Bohan Advertising, his full-service advertising agency with clients such as Pigeon Forge and O’Charley’s. Some of UT’s Nashville alumni gathered for a networking social at the Bohan agency.

On Friday, students toured DVL Seigenthaler, a communications agency in Nashville.

“It was really cool to learn about their work with the Nashville Zoo, and we also got to hear from their current interns about their postgrad internship program. You could tell that they have a great company culture,” said Lauren Turner, a senior from Clarksville, Tennessee.

To end the trip, students met with Tennessee Titans social media manager Nate Bain. Bain is a graduate of UT’s sports management master’s program and led the students on a tour of the Titans’ practice facility.

“It was such a great experience getting to network with fellow UT alums and having the chance to see how successful graduates of CCI are and can be,” said Lauren Hood, a senior from Chattanooga.

The School of Advertising and Public Relations in the College of Communication and Information also offered experiential networking trips this year to New York, Atlanta, and Disney World.

Students’ Documentary to Be Featured in Nashville Film Festival

Welcome Home BrotherThe Nashville Film Festival has announced Welcome Home Brother, directed by School of Journalism and Electronic Media seniors Isaac Fowler and Tim Morris, as an official selection in its short documentary category.

The festival is an Academy Award–qualifying competition and received more than 6,000 entries for 2018.

Fowler and Morris’s eight-minute film documents the experiences of three Vietnam veterans as they find their voice in East Tennessee through the help of the Bill Robinson Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association.

Welcome Home Brother is part of the Land Grant Films’ Defender of the Dream documentary. The project was produced in collaboration with East Tennessee PBS.

For this project, Morris, originally from San Diego, California, and Fowler, a native of Roane County, Tennessee, were paired with mentor Rich Middlemas. Middlemas, a 1997 JEM alumnus, is the Academy Award–winning producer of the feature documentary Undefeated.

Along with its selection for the Nashville Film Festival, Welcome Home Brother received first place in the short documentary category at the College Media Association’s film festival and is a finalist for the 2017 Tennessee AP College Contest Awards in TV specialized/topic reporting.

Welcome Home Brother became a family affair for the two students. Morris’s father did the voice-over and the film was dedicated to Fowler’s father, a Vietnam War veteran. 

“To be able to honor the documentary for my dad means more to me than any of these awards,” said Fowler. “It’s been a very special project.”

The full program for the Nashville Film Festival is scheduled for release later in April.

Land Grant Films was launched by Nick Geidner, a professor in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, several years ago as a way to give students hands-on experience in documentary storytelling while providing no-cost video services for local nonprofit organizations.

Documentary about Burundian Family to Air on PBS Sunday

UT JEM alumni, Ashley Sharp interviewing executive director of Bridge Refugee Services, Drocella Mugorewera. The documentary 7 Days in America, produced by UT’s Land Grant Films, will air on East Tennessee PBS at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 8.

Students in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media produced the documentary, which follows a case worker from Bridge Refugee Services as she helps a Burundian family settling into life in East Tennessee.

“Learning about refugees and the resettlement process was a humbling experience,” said Nick Geidner, journalism professor and director of 7 Days in America. “It was amazing to hear the stories about struggles these families have overcome to get to America and to be able to resettle in our city.”

Geidner launched Land Grant Films in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media several years ago as a way to give students hands-on experience in documentary storytelling while providing no-cost video services for local nonprofit organizations.

A total of 10 students were credited on the film working in various roles such as producers and camera operators.

This weekend, Geidner will receive an Award of Excellence in the Festival of Media Arts Faculty Competition at the Broadcast Education Association Conference in Las Vegas.


UT Grad Student Helps Community While Working on PBS’s Black in Appalachia

Juniper StarrJuniper Starr, a master’s student in information sciences, is helping to preserve the history of African-Americans in Appalachia.

Her work will be part of the East Tennessee PBS digital series Black in Appalachia. The project’s goal is to highlight the history of African-Americans in the development of the mountain South and its culture by collecting materials and narratives, engaging with the public and holding exhibitions.

After researching her own family history, Starr realized how much information is lost because people often don’t believe their stories are worth telling. So when the opportunity arose to work on this project, she was thrilled.

“My role in the Black in Appalachia project began as my School of Information Sciences practicum focused on collecting and digitizing historical material in the Greene County African-American community,” Starr said.

As a digital archivist, Starr scans in contributed materials and then categorizes the artifacts, images, and stories shared by people from the region.

While researchers have gathered materials from Tusculum College, the Greene County History Museum, and the Elmer T. Cox Memorial Library, many of the best items have come from community members themselves.

For instance, during a recent meeting of the Negro Women’s Civic Club in Greenville, Tennessee, area residents were filmed as they shared stories about themselves and their ancestors. They also brought in family photographs, newspaper clippings, home movies, and other historical documents.

Starr scanned these personal items into a computer, then saved the images on jump drives—keeping a copy for the Black in Appalachia project and giving another copy to the participants after returning their artifacts.

Starr will graduate in May and hopes to begin her career in an academic library working in archives and special collections.

She said her UT professors and mentors have been her biggest cheerleaders.

“They inspire me to reach for those far off dreams and give me the tools to make those dreams possible in both my personal life and career. I have found lifelong friends, not just colleagues.”


Donna Silvey (865-974-6727,

Allard Named Third CCI Board of Visitors Professor

CCI BOV Professor Suzie AllardSuzie Allard, CCI associate dean for research and SIS professor, has been selected as the third recipient of the CCI Board of Visitors Professorship.

Allard also serves the college as director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies.

“I am delighted that my work as a researcher, scholar, and teacher has been recognized with this wonderful honor, and I thank the Board of Visitors, whose generosity established the professorship. This award provides me with opportunities to serve CCI, UT, and the discipline through new venues,” Allard said.

Allard has taught students at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels while chairing dozens of PhD dissertations, master’s theses, and ePortfolio committees. Her excellence as a teacher was recognized nationally with the Library Journal Teaching Award in 2014. Allard also supports the next generation of faculty scholars through mentoring.

Allard’s research focuses on how scientists and engineers use and communicate information and data. She has presented her work across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

During her 14 years at UT, Allard has been first author or coauthor on 41 refereed journal articles, five book chapters, and 37 conference proceedings. She has been the principal or co-principal investigator for more than $10 million in successful grants from agencies including the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Sloan Foundation, IEEE, and the US Geological Survey. She notably serves as co-PI on DataONE, a cyberinfrastructure project funded by the National Science Foundation, which has created technologies for finding and using ecological and environmental data produced by scientists around the world.

All tenured faculty in the college are eligible for the three-year rotating endowed professorship, created to recognize and reward outstanding CCI faculty members whose research, creative activity, teaching, and academic and professional service have uniquely contributed to the mission of their school, the college, and the university. Made possible by the generous gifts of a number of current and past members of the college’s Board of Visitors, the professorship provides a salary supplement that recipients can use to pursue their research interests and professional activities.

The previous two faculty members to hold the BOV Professorship were Mark Littmann, professor and Hill Chair of Excellence in Science Writing in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, and Carol Tenopir, Chancellor’s Professor in the School of Information Sciences.

Over the Moon(Pie)

Moon Pies

An advertising alum’s tweet sent MoonPie sales soaring.

Patrick Wells (‘14) was working at Knoxville-based advertising agency Tombras Group and managing social media for MoonPie—a coated graham cracker pie with a marshmallow center—when one of his tweets hit the sweet spot in summer 2017.

After Hostess Cakes tweeted that its Golden Cupcake was the official snack of the solar eclipse, MoonPie’s reply, “lol ok,” went viral, racking up more than 196,000 retweets. Find out more at


SIS Professors Wang and Mehra Receive National Awards

Wang MehraAt the 2018 annual conference of the Association for Library and Information Science Educators (ALISE) held in February in Denver, Colorado, two of this year’s national awards went to UT School of Information Sciences professors: Peiling Wang and Bharat Mehra.

Wang was selected as this year’s winner of the ALISE Pratt-Severn Faculty Innovation Award for her work on developing SIS’s ePortfolio capstone.  This national recognition is a tribute to her persistent work on creating and structuring the capstone to provide students with the opportunity to integrate and apply what they’ve learned in their SIS classes.

The e-Portfolio is one of three exit requirement options. It consists of two essential parts: 1) the process, during which the learner collects and organizes evidence of learning outcomes, and reflects on learning and professional growth; and 2) the product, a Web-based ePortfolio, by which the candidate reflects on learning achievements and showcases professional competences in connection with the candidate’s career goals.

“I want to acknowledge that this award truly belongs to my SIS colleagues who believed in the ePortfolio initiative that our former director Ed Cortez assigned me to lead,” said Wang. “Their contributions and encouragement have contributed to the ePortfolio capstone as a popular graduation choice by many SIS graduate students.”

Wang joined the SIS faculty in 1995. She earned her PhD in Information Science from the University of Maryland and holds a master’s degree from the Institute of Scientific & Technical Information of China. Her undergraduate degree is in chemical engineering from East China University of Science and Technology.

Mehra received the ALISE Connie Van Fleet Award for Research Excellence in Public Library Services to Adults. The Awards Committee selected Mehra because, "[He] has extremely impressive credentials over a long period of time. He has [impacted] and continues to impact public libraries at multiple levels - as professor, as researcher with funded research that impacts public libraries, and certainly as author whose productivity is remarkable.

He has conducted research focused on the role of rural public libraries and librarians in the Appalachian Region through several grant funded projects. His research has led to a large body of published work and conference posters. His grants have provided funding for the graduate education of more than 25 rural public librarians equipping them to better serve their communities.” 

Mehra joined the faculty at the University of Tennessee in 2005 after earning his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Library and Information Science. He also holds Master’s degrees in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Students in DC for Imagination Library’s 100 Millionth Book Celebration

JEM Land Grant Film students with Nick Geidner and DollySix students and a faculty member from the School of Journalism and Electronic Media were in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 as the Dollywood Foundation and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library celebrated the presentation of their 100 millionth book at the Library of Congress.

The College of Communication and Information contingent was there as part of Land Grant Films, which was chronicling the event for its newest documentary, tentatively titled 100 Million Stories. Though pegged to the milestone book presentation, the documentary will tell the story of the program which delivers free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school without regards to income. It will also detail the history of the program, its impact, and feature some recipients of the free books.

“This event is one of the primary parts of the documentary because we want to celebrate this amazing milestone,” said Nick Geidner, JEM professor and director of 100 Million Stories. “The Library of Congress event will be seen throughout the film, so it’s an important shoot.”

Geidner’s student crew in Washington includes junior Abby Bower, freshman Kayli Martin, graduate student Lindsey Owen, and seniors Ben Proffitt, Story Sims, and Brock Zych.

“For the documentary, I will be acting as the director of photography,” said Zych of Kingsport, Tennessee. “I will be in charge of the video shoot during the event, the establishing shots, as well as the interviews.”JEM students Imagination Library

While in Washington, the crew had the opportunity to interview the 14th Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen, and Parton.

Geidner—who launched Land Grant Films several years ago as a way to give students hands-on experience in documentary storytelling while providing no-cost video services for local nonprofit organizations—has said he hopes PBS or Netflix will be interested in airing 100 Million Stories once it’s done.

Tuesday’s celebration, which featured a question-and-answer session between Parton and Hayden, as well as a reading of Parton’s book Coat of Many Colors, was streamed live online.

See other coverage of this story at:

Tennessee Today -


Knoxville News-Sentinel -


Social Media Week to Host Experts from Sports, Entertainment, Media, and More

Social Media Week 2018 logoUT’s seventh annual Social Media Week will kick off Tuesday, February 20, and continue through Thursday, February 22.

All Social Media Week events are free and open to the public. All sessions will be held in the Communications Building on Circle Park Drive.

The week will begin Tuesday, February 20, with a live remote broadcast by WUTK 90.3 FM in front of the Communications Building from 9 to 9:40 a.m.

Panel discussions and guest speakers will feature social media professionals representing a wide range of industries, including media, sports, entertainment, advertising, public relations, and security. Session topics are as follows:

Tuesday, February 20

  • Local Media and Social Media
  • Scripps Networks Interactive and Audience Engagement
  • The Dark Side of Social Media
  • The Post-Weinstein “New Normal” of Whistle-Blowers and Resulting PR Impact


Wednesday, February 21

  • Embracing Facebook Ads: Your New Social Media Superpower
  • Lunch and Learn Networking Event with the CCI Graduate Student Association
  • Sports Talk with John and Jimmy WNML Live Radio Remote

Thursday, February 22

  • Anti-Social: How I Turned a Social Media Job into the Role I Really Wanted
  • Social Media in the Age of Sports
  • The Revolution and Evolution of Marketing

Students will have the opportunity to participate in interactive and engaging dialogue with the guest speakers and social experts. Several UT alumni are among the panelists and speakers: Bryce Caldwell (’02), Marianne Canada (’10), Annie Carr (’16), Ashley Kerns (’05), Victoria Kline (’10), Karli Sanders (’10), Chance Vineyard (’11), Mary Beth West (’94), and Stephanie Wierwille (’11).

Those interested in supporting UT Social Media Week 2018 can do so with a gift to UT’s Public Relations Enrichment Fund. All events will be live streamed, archived, or both. A full schedule can be found on the UT Social Media Website.


JEM Emeritus Professor Herb Howard Dies at Eighty-nine

Herb HowardJournalism & Electronic Media Emeritus Professor Herb Howard passed away on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at the age of 89. He is remembered as a legendary broadcaster and educator.

Howard, a native of Johnson City, Tennessee, was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 47 years, Alpha Day Howard, and one brother, Robert C. Howard.

He served 44 years as professor of Broadcasting and Journalism, 18 years as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, and one year as acting dean of the College.

Herb Howard earned his bachelor's and master’s degrees from East Tennessee State University. He did additional graduate study at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and he completed a PhD in Mass Communication from Ohio University in 1974. More information about his career can be found in the original alumni news release found at Those wishing to honor Herb Howard’s legacy with a gift to the college can do so by giving to the Herb Howard Endowment fund (HOWARD_H07)

George Devault (’71), Herb’s former student, president of Holston Valley Broadcasting in Johnson City and an emeritus CCI BOV members, gave the eulogy at Herb’s funeral. Here’s an excerpt from what George shared.

“Herb Howard was one of the kindest, gentlest persons I have ever known, and I knew him for 65 years. We both shared an intense love for radio and television broadcasting.

At an early age Herb was stricken with a rare crippling disease similar to polio.  It was while he was in various hospitals and bed-ridden at home that he listened to the radio ---- a lot of radio.  Even to the week of his passing he could tell you the history of just about every radio and TV station in the state and many, many outside Tennessee.  He knew what practically all of the call letters stood for.

By age 16 he had gotten his first part-time job at WJHL, his hometown station in Johnson City.  Due to his handicap, his father carried Herb into the station in his arms. That was in 1945 when almost all radio was AM or international short wave, but FM stations were beginning to appear in the Tri-City area.  Herb loved to tell a story about the beginnings of WJHL-FM.

By the fall of 1953 WJHL-TV was on the air shortly after an accident caused the station’s first tower to collapse.  Both the replacement temporary tower and the transmitter and studios were on Tannery knob near downtown Johnson City.  Herb spoke the first words heard on the station and became its first weatherman.  He also did general announcing and hosted a children’s program, which he had originally hosted on WJHL radio.”  

Larry Patrick (MS ’73), managing partner, Patrick Communications and CCI Board of Visitors member, who created the Herb Howard Distinguished Professorship in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, shared his thoughts about Herb’s passing.

“The thing that I remember the most about Herb Howard was that he always treated me with an interest in topics that I wanted to study.  He always took the time to ask the penetrating questions and to listen to my answers.  He helped me submit my first journal article for publication while still a graduate student.  It grew out of a research project that I did for one of his classes.

Many years after my time at UT, when I had purchased my first radio station group, I invited Herb to come to one of the stations and spend a week during the summer seeing what our team was doing and to make suggestions.  He chose to come to WJDX/WMSI in Jackson, Mississippi, our big news-talk AM and country FM.  He was like a kid in a candy store once again.  In early every morning, he helped improve our news product.  He asked questions of our 14-person sales team and is even today fondly remembered there.

He also was able to do some ground-breaking research on broadcast station ownership with me when I worked at the NAB.  We used that research with the FCC and on the Hill.   Herb helped the industry look carefully at ownership and its impact on the viewing and listening public.  He framed the industry’s policy initiatives in this area for years.

I miss him terribly and cried for several hours when I learned of his passing.  He was a giant in the world of broadcast teaching and research.  I was lucky to study under him, and then stay in contact with him for decades.  I will miss Herb the most as a friend.  He is why I have endowed a professorship in his name.”

Several other former students and colleagues shared their remembrances and thoughts in the document linked here.

Herb Howard TAB Herb Howard Professorship

Herb Howard presented Tennessee Association of Broadcasters Distinguished Service Award presented to him by George DeVault in 2008.

Herb Howard with CCI Dean Mike Wirth at the ceremony announcing the establishment of the Herb Howard Professorship in 2013.

Herb Howard at Podium Leiter, Julian, Teeter, Howard

Herb Howard speaking at the 2013 ceremony.

Four CCI Legends – circa 2005. (L-R) Kelly Leiter, Faye Julian, Dwight Teeter and Herb Howard.

Students Making Film to Mark Parton’s 100 Millionth Book Giveaway

UT’s Land Grant Films has announceImagination Library documentaryd its most ambitious documentary yet: telling the story of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Journalism and Electronic Media Associate Professor Nick Geidner, who leads Land Grant Films, came up with the idea for the project—dubbed 100 Million Stories—after learning the program was on target to give away its 100 millionth book early next year.

Parton started Imagination Library in 1996 in honor of her father, who was unable to read or write. It began as a free book program for children from birth to age five in Sevier County, and has since expanded across 50 states and four countries. The organization now donates roughly 1.1 million books each month.

100 Million Stories, Land Grant Films’ new documentary on Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, is its most ambitious documentary to date.

 “We hope to get national broadcast/cable exposure so people across the country can see this documentary,” said Geidner. “We also plan to screen the film in partnership with Imagination Library affiliate programs nationwide.”

Geidner said his interest in the project is personal.

“My son, Henry, has received the Imagination Library books from when he was born. He’s four and a half now, so, right when Imagination Library is giving out its 100 millionth book, he will be graduating from the program. It’s sad he’s growing up, but then it’s really cool to do this documentary and sort of give back to this amazing thing they’ve given us.”

Pictured on the right: This collection of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library books belongs to Henry Geidner, son of Professor Nick Geidner.Imagination Library collection

The documentary will feature a diverse group of individuals, including recipients of books, authors of books selected for the program, organizers, and volunteers—and the legend herself, Dolly Parton.

Two journalism and electronic media students, senior Brock Zych, from Kingsport, Tennessee, and junior Abby Bower from Knoxville who have worked with Land Grant Films for years, will serve as director of photography and producer, respectively.

The project is still in the planning stages with students researching subjects like children’s literacy, public policy, and authors.

“We’ve broken down the different angles and subjects that we want to cover in the documentary,” said Bower. “As producer for the project, I’ll be writing questions, setting up and conducting interviews, and writing the script for the documentary.”

The documentary team will be traveling all over the country conducting interviews and shooting footage. Land Grant Films hopes to fund the project through grants, corporate sponsorships, crowdfunding campaigns, and private donors.

CCI Honors School/Program Alumni and Faculty

CCI honored a notable graduate from each of its schools and programs at its annual awards and scholarship donor appreciation banquet on Friday, October 13. CCI’s 2017 faculty award winners were also recognized at the event.

“CCI alumni provide significant contributions to their organizations and communities,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “It is an honor and privilege to annually recognize the accomplishments of some of our best graduates.”

2017 CCI Alumni AwardsThis year's honorees are:

  • Advertising Alumna of the Year: Erin Hauck, a 2007 graduate and senior director of digital investment for Hearts & Science in New York City.
  • Communication Studies Alumna of the Year: Amy Harp Donahue, a 2009 graduate with a 2011 Master’s. She is director of marketing and communications for River City Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
  • Information Sciences Alumna of the Year: Kendra Albright, earned her Master’s in 1985 and her PhD in 2002. She is director of the School of Information Science at Kent State University in Ohio.
  • Journalism and Electronic Media Alumna of the Year: Steve Dean, a 1974 graduate, is owner of FamFive Productions and creator of WBIR-TV’s Heartland Series.
  • Public Relations Alumna of the Year: Kellie Davie, a 2011 graduate, is founder of KeyCom PR in Nashville.

Also during the banquet, the college's highest alumni honor—the Donald G. Hileman Alumni Award—was presented to Dr. Martha Rogers, best-selling author and founder of Trustability Metrix (learn more here).

2017 CCI Faculty AwardsEach year CCI also recognizes faculty members for outstanding performance during the prior year. This year’s award recipients are:

“Congratulations to Rachel, Beth, Candace, Stephen, Mark and Courtney on their excellent work, which earned them this special recognition,” said Dean Wirth. “Their contributions to the college and university are notable and greatly appreciated!”

College of Communication and Information to Honor Martha Rogers with Hileman Award

Martha RogersMartha Rogers, one of the world’s leading authorities on customer-focused business strategies, will receive the 2017 Donald G. Hileman Alumni Award from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Communication and Information at the college’s awards and scholarship donor appreciation banquet on Friday, October 13.

Rogers received her doctorate from the college in 1983. She is a bestselling author and co-founder of Peppers and Rogers Group. Her latest endeavor is the formation of CX Speakers, which delivers workshops, keynote presentations, and thought leadership consulting focused on customer experience topics. In 2015, Rogers founded Trustability Metrix, designed to help companies understand how they are trusted by customers, employees, and business peers.

Rogers’ counsel and insight are regularly sought by Fortune 500 and Blue Chip executives who are trying to crack the code on customer measurement and value, business strategy, trust, corporate culture, innovation, and the effect of emerging technologies. In 2015, Rogers and her business partner, Don Peppers, topped Satmetrix’s top 25 list of the most influential customer experience leaders. Business 2.0 magazine named her as one of the 19 “most important business gurus” of the past century, and the World Technology Network cited her as “an innovator most likely to create visionary ripple effects.”

Rogers and Peppers have co-produced a legacy of international best-sellers that have collectively sold more than a million copies in 18 languages.

Inc. Magazine’s editor-in-chief called their first book, The One to One Future, “one of the two or three most important business books ever written,” while Business Week said it was the “bible of the customer strategy revolution.” Their ninth book, Extreme Trust: Turning Proactive Honesty and Flawless Execution into Long-Term Profits, was named to LinkedIn’s 2017 summer reading list. And the third edition of their graduate school textbook, Managing Customer Experience and Relationships: A Strategic Perspective, is the definitive textbook in the field. It has been cited over 10,000 times and serves as a reference book for practitioners.

Rogers began her career as a copywriter and advertising executive. In academia, she has most recently served as an adjunct professor at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where she co-directed the Teradata Center for Customer Strategy.

Rogers has been widely published in academic and trade journals, including Harvard Business Review, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, and Journal of Applied Psychology. She has been named International Sales and Marketing Executives’ Educator of the Year. She has blogged for Huffington Post and elsewhere. She lives in New York City with her husband, Emmy-award winning talk show host Dick Cavett.

“The impact Martha Rogers has had on how businesses interact with their customers has been profound,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “The strategic insights, creativity and academic rigor she brings to bear on her analysis of customer experience and relationship management puts her at the forefront of the world’s leading customer experience experts. We are proud to present her with CCI’s 2017 Hileman Award in acknowledgement of her remarkable accomplishments.”




Four Notable CCI Alumni Received UTK Alumni Board of Director Awards

2017 UT Alumni Awards - CCI WinnersFour notable CCI alumni* were among the 19 UTK alumni who received 2017 UTK Alumni Board of Directors’ awards. This year’s award recipients from CCI were: Peyton Manning (BA/CS ’97), Charlie Tombras (BS/AD ‘64), Martha “Missy” Wallen (BA/CS ‘74) and Sharrie Williams (BS/JEM ‘01). Tombras, Wallen and Williams received their awards on September 11 at the annual UT Knoxville Board of Directors Awards Dinner at the Knoxville Convention Center (KCC). Manning received his award on September 22 at a special ceremony at KCC just prior to UT’s Join the Journey Campaign Kickoff Gala.

“These award recipients have contributed greatly to their professions, their communities and the University of Tennessee,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “They inspire all of us, students, faculty, staff and alumni, to be the best we can be in everything we do.”

Peyton Manning, UT Distinguished Alumnus Award

Peyton Manning, founder of the PeyBack Foundation, is best known as a retired NFL quarterback. He was the first overall NFL Draft Pick in 1998. Among his many athletic awards, Manning has been a five time NFL MVP, a three time Best NFL Player ESPY Award recipient and, most recently, he's been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was selected as the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. He is a CCI Honorary Board of Visitors member, a recipient of CCI’s Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award (2009) and a member of CCI’s Circle Park Society. His philanthropy has earned him the Byron “Whizzer” White Humanitarian Award and the 2017 Lincoln Medal. He was selected as a Top 100 University of Tennessee Alumnus by Tennessee Alumnus magazine in honor of its 100th year of publication.

Charlie Tombras, UT Alumni Professional Achievement Award

Charlie Tombras is CEO and president of The Tombras Group, a 250+ employee, full service advertising agency. In 2016, The Tombras Group was selected as the Palma Group’s Independent Agency of the Year. Ad Age awarded the company a Silver Medal as the 2015 National Agency of the Year. Tombras received the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Bob McCabe Silver Medal Award and numerous Addy Awards, and he was selected for the Knoxville AAF Hall of Fame. He is an emeritus member of CCI’s Board of Visitors, a member of CCI’s Bickel Society and a recipient of CCI’s Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award (2013). During the Vietnam War, Tombras served as an Airborne Ranger in the United States Army and was award the Bronze Star for Valor, the Bronze Star for Meritorious Achievement and the Air Medal.

Martha “Missy” Wallen, UT Alumni Service Award

Martha “Missy” Wallen is Knoxville Chairman of Pinnacle Financial Partners. She is immediate past-chair of CCI’s Board of Visitors, co-chair of CCI’s Journey to the Top 25 Campaign and a member of CCI’s Circle Park Society. Wallen previously served served on the executive committee of the UTK Alumni Board of Directors and as a member of the UT Knoxville Chancellor’s Associates.  Wallen recently established the William H. Swain Endowed Professorship in the School of Communication Studies in honor of her father and Room 314 in the Communications Building has been named “The Martha S. Wallen Classroom” in her honor. 

Sharrie Williams, UT Alumni Promise Award

Sharrie Williams is an anchor and news reporter for Disney/ABC’s WPVI-TV in Philadelphia. She progressed to this top five market position after serving similar roles at KTVT-TV in Dallas, WFOR-TV in Miami and WVTM-TV in Birmingham. . During her time at UT, she was one of the co-founders of The Volunteer Channel (TVC). Williams was recognized with a UT Accomplished Alumni Award in 2014 and has inspired classrooms of students with her career talks about setting high standards and achieving success through hard work and determination. In 2009, Williams was selected for the “Top 40 Under 40 Award” by Success South Florida

*Pictured: UTK Chancellor Beverly Davenport, Peyton Manning, Robert Lewis, president of the UT Knoxville Alumni Board, Sharrie Williams, Charlie Tombras and Missy Wallen.






CCI Experts Weigh in on Recent Fake News

Fake NewsCCI doctoral student Brandon Boatwight and JEM Senior Lecturer Melanie Faizer were recently interviewed by WVLT-TV about the fake news circulating after the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The story captures the interrelation and connection between the communication and information disciplines within CCI and highlights CCI’s Adam Brown Social Media Command Center. To top it off, the multimedia journalist reporting the story, Sarah Jane Anderson, is a 2015 JEM graduate. See the full story at