14 UTC Grads Chosen Among Best Of The Past 100 Years

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - by Shawn Ryan, UTC

Professors, professional athletes, business leaders, actors, surgeons, even a state Supreme Court justice, are among the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduates selected as the most highly accomplished UT System graduates over the past 100 years. 

Tennessee Alumnus magazine, which is celebrating its 100th birthday, has combed through thousands of graduates to come up with the names. The 14 UTC graduates stand among such nationally known figures as UTK quarterback Peyton Manning, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, political commentator Van Jones, UT women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt and financial advisor Dave Ramsey. 

Here are the UTC graduates included in the Tennessee Alumnus list: 

William “Muecke” Barker
Tennessee Supreme Court Justice
William “Muecke” Barker began more than 25 years of service to the Tennessee Judicial System in 1983, when he was appointed circuit court judge for Tennessee’s 11th judicial district. He quickly became recognized as one of the highest-rated judges. 

In 1998, Barker was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. He was then elected to a full eight-year term and again in 2006. In 2005, he was unanimously chosen by his colleagues to become chief justice. Upon his retirement from the Supreme Court in September 2008, former chief justice Barker was named Appellate Judge of the Year by the Tennessee Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. 

Throughout his career, Barker has maintained a close relationship with the Chattanooga campus, being named the UT Chattanooga Distinguished Alumnus in 2007. He has served as an adjunct professor of political science and in 2000, he was named the Student Government Association Outstanding Adjunct Professor. In addition, he has lectured on legal ethics across the U.S. and Europe. Barker has also served as a trustee of the University of Chattanooga Foundation. 

Following his retirement from the Supreme Court in September 2008, Barker became “of counsel” at Chambliss, Bahner and Stophel, a Chattanooga-based legal firm. “The reason our legal system works is because of men like Muecke Barker, who since his early days as a practitioner was a person in whom people could have confidence,” says Maxfield Bahner. “To do what Muecke Barker has done with his life requires a wife like Cathy, self-discipline, hard work and dedication to the noblest and highest ideals. We’re fortunate this son of Hamilton County gave himself so selflessly as a lawyer and a judge.” 

Burwell Baxter “B.B.” Bell
U.S. Army General
When Gen. (ret.) B.B. Bell graduated from the then-University of Chattanooga and the ROTC Mocs Battalion in 1969, he planned a short stint in the military. But plans change. During his 39-year active-duty career, Bell traveled the world, commanded thousands of American and allied troops, and met U.S. presidents and world leaders. 

Rising to the rank of four-star general, Bell commanded the U.S. Army in Europe, as well as NATO’s land component headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. Later, he served as the commander of U.S. Forces in Korea and commander of all allied forces in Korea. He retired from active duty in 2008, but he continues to serve as a consultant to the Department of Defense. 

Bell is a lifetime member of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, has a master’s degree from the University of Southern California and holds several honorary doctorates. 

Through 32 moves in 39 years, his wife, Katie, has been by his side, a reminder that it is the entire family who serves. 

From Germany and the Balkans to Iraq and Afghanistan and Korea, Bell has seen the threats change from the Cold War and communism to radical terrorism at home and abroad and, most recently, an internal change in American culture. 

“We need to re-establish the patriotic values that were established by our Founding Fathers and in our Declaration of Independence. These are not trite statements on some old piece of paper. They are a manifesto for human beings to live their lives in peace and freedom,” says Bell. “And, yes, when it is necessary and appropriate, we must be prepared to use force to address threats.” 

George Connor
Students of UT Chattanooga English professor George Connor can describe him as a friend and mentor who believed in them. 

UTC students dedicated the 1969 yearbook in his honor and wrote of him, “…a friend to those who need a friend…even to those who do not need a friend…an achiever…a perfectionist who demands much…and rewards just as much.” 

But, before the esteemed career at UTC, Connor served three years during World War II with the 9th Armored Division, acknowledged in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., for extraordinary heroism. On May 8, 1945, the troops liberated Zwodau and Falkenau-an-der-Eger, both subcamps of the Flossenbürg concentration camp in what now is the Czech Republic. Connor earned a Bronze Star the same year. 

In 1947, he received a bachelor’s degree in American literature from UTC. He also studied at the School of Theology in Kentucky, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont, where he earned a master’s degree. 

Connor taught four years in the Chattanooga public school system and was founding executive director of the Adult Education Council before joining UTC as a professor in 1959. From 1963 to 1969, he was head of the English department, and from 1967 to 1970 was executive assistant to the chancellor. 

When Connor retired in 1985, UTC established the George Connor Professorship in American Literature. Then-UTC Provost John Trimpey said, “(New teachers) will not have the impact on our students that you have had. They won’t bring the integrity to their work that you have done. They won’t replace your wit, style and high seriousness. We will miss you for all of the English students who didn’t have the opportunity to study with George Connor.” Connor died in 2003. 

Max Fuller
Business Leader
Max Fuller might just have diesel in his blood. His father sold used cars in the 1950s and traded two Volkswagen Beetles for a tractor and trailer. He couldn’t sell them, so he put them to work. One truck grew to a fleet, and Fuller found himself learning the trucking industry from the ground up. 

Fuller took that experience and, in 1986, co-founded US Xpress. Since then, US Xpress Enterprises has become one of the largest truckload carriers with affiliates covering North America. 

US Xpress distinguished itself as a leader in technology and innovation, becoming early adopters of such industry-revolutionizing technologies as in-truck satellite communications, auto-shift transmissions and right-side blind spot cameras. In recognition of its commitment to innovation, US Xpress received the 2000 Smithsonian Award from Computer World Magazine. 

"We believe conservation is good business,” Fuller says. “Any time there are new technologies that we think will be game changers, we try to participate with those manufacturers and come into the market with them.” 

Fuller’s spirit of innovation led to a research partnership with the UTC SimCenter. There, researchers developed prototypes to reduce wind resistance and increase fuel efficiency on trucks. By closing the gap between truck cabs and trailers, fuel efficiency was improved by 9 percent. US Xpress estimated a first-year savings of more than 63 million gallons of fuel as well as preventing 700,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. 

In December 2016, US Express announced plans to become the first major carrier to employ the Nikola One hydrogen fuel cell electric truck.

Tom Griscom
Communications Strategist
Tom Griscom’s career has taken him from the heart of a metropolitan newspaper to the corridors of the White House to the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies. The common thread in his successful career has been recognizing the importance of telling good stories and how audiences react to them. He began his career as a reporter for The Chattanooga Times Free Press before his talent earned him a job on Capitol Hill. His role as press secretary for U.S. Sen. Howard Baker opened the door for Griscom to become part of President Ronald Reagan’s administration, serving as communication director. 

In this position, Griscom helped establish one of the defining political statements of the 20th century and changed the path of the political world. He was part of the team that wrote President Reagan’s 1987 Berlin speech when he challenged the Soviet Union with “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Griscom parlayed his White House success into careers in public affairs and media relations—even serving as the first West Chair of Excellence at UTC. But ink was in his veins, and he returned to serve as executive editor and publisher of The Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 until he left the post in 2010. 

In his final editorial upon his retirement as publisher, Griscom wrote, “Freedom comes through an informed public. An informed public is willing to grapple with the multiple sides of an issue in the search for truth. Keep the light of a free press burning and shining.”

Today, Griscom is a communication consultant and continues to serve the public as a member of the board of directors of the Tennessee Board of Regents system. 

Irvine Grote
How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S.
Today’s heartburn relief may never have been available without Irvine Grote’s invention of dihydroxy aluminum sodium carbonate. And because of his efforts, many of us can now pass the acid test. 

At the time, Grote was head of the chemistry department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His work may have contributed a more calming impact on people, but according to former student Chester Martin in an article for the Chattanoogan newspaper, Grote was always hurrying around. He also was “the sort of person that could readily break into a laugh.” 

Aside from his reputation for running around campus in a suit and tie, Grote also was known for holding 75 patents in his field of chemistry. He graduated from what was still the University of Chattanooga (now UT Chattanooga) in 1922, and he earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York in 1923 and a doctoral degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1925. 

Grote began his career at pharmaceutical manufacturer William S. Merrell but left to begin working for Michigan-based Parke, Davis and Co. A few years later, in 1931, he returned to Chattanooga to take a job as an associate professor of chemistry at UTC. Within 10 years, Grote became head of the chemistry department and a scientific advisor for Chattanooga Medicine Company, which later became Chattem. It was in 1955 at Chattem that his key chemical compound became the active ingredient in Rolaids. 

Grote died in 1972, rumored, according to the Tennessee Encyclopedia, to have left behind a collection of 3,000 bottles of wine and liqueurs from around the world. His passions for chemistry and education are celebrated at his alma mater, where the science building, Grote Hall, bears his name. 

Dennis Haskins
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. What’s going on here?” 

Chattanooga native Dennis Haskins may be America’s best-loved high school principal. Or, more specifically, Haskins’s portrayal of Mr. Richard Belding at Bayside High School may be. 

Haskins played the character for more than a decade on Saved By The Bell and its spin-offs. The only adult regular cast member in an otherwise cast of teenagers, the actor had lots of opportunities to use his catchphrase every episode. 

So when the initial groundbreaking show ended its four-year run, it was most fitting that the final episode saw Belding leaving Bayside High to become dean of students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

Leaving UTC just short of graduation requirements in the 1970s, Haskins worked as a manager, agent and promoter in the music business before beginning his acting with a role on the first episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. He has performed in television, film, and stage, but it is the role of Mr. Belding that brought him into millions of homes around the world. 

"So many people recognize me as Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell, a show that started out on Saturday mornings and eventually went to over 87 countries,” says Haskins. “It’s a phenomenon that has not been matched by any other Saturday morning TV show. For many years it’s been the show of a generation, and I am proud to have been there from the very first episode to the last.” 

Haskins has never forgotten his hometown or alma mater. In December 2015, he fulfilled a life-long dream of completing his bachelor’s degree from UT Chattanooga. He had been named the campus’s Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient in 2000. He donated his personal working script collection from every episode of the beloved sitcom to the UTC library. Highlights from the scripts, along with memorabilia from Haskins’ personal collection, were on exhibit in spring 2016. 

Bill Landry
Actor, Author, Storyteller
For more than 30 years, Bill Landry has given voice to a region—telling stories and capturing a history that otherwise might be lost. 

Landry is an award-winning TV host and producer, an author, a playwright, an actor and —at his very heart—a storyteller. In 1984, he became host and producer of The Heartland Series, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and aired on WBIR-TV in Knoxville. 

“The Heartland Series was always a celebration of people and their land. We found the wonder in everyday, human existence. There are so many unassuming people who have amazing things to offer, and I think, on a larger scale, that’s true of this region, too,” says Landry. 

Regular production on Heartland ended in 2009 after Landry and his team produced more than 1,900 short features and 150 specials, picking up two Emmy awards in the process. 

In addition to the Emmys, Landry has received the Education in Appalachia Award from Carson-Newman University and an honorary doctorate in humanities from Lincoln Memorial University. In 2015, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus from UT Chattanooga. In recognition of his deep roots in Appalachia, Landry was appointed to the Tennessee Historical Commission in 2011. 

But the mountains still had stories to tell, and Landry still needed to tell them. After the TV series, Landry authored three books about Appalachia, including Buddy: Dog of the Smoky Mountains, a children’s book. His first book, Appalachian Tales and Heartland Adventures, is in its third printing. 

“All great stories once told are told again,” says Landry. “We were putting faces with history… giving real living examples of history instead of people just reading about it in books.” 

Davan Maharaj
Davan Maharaj approached his time at UT Chattanooga as any future journalist would: with curiosity and a focus on finding a good story. That curiosity is why he attended a different church in Chattanooga every Sunday to give him a window into the city and into how people lived. 

A native of Trinidad, Maharaj moved to Chattanooga after an uncle relocated for a job. Although he had been a reporter in the Caribbean, it was during his time at UTC that Maharaj refined his journalism career. 

“Chattanooga was a godsend because it was a place that was welcoming and a place where we could remake ourselves by absorbing this really special education that we got there,” he says. 

After graduation, Maharaj headed to California for an internship at The Los Angeles Times. Now, he’s editor-in-chief and publisher of the Los Angeles Times Media Group, overseeing the largest daily newsgathering organization in the western United States. He added publisher to his title in March 2016 after having been named editor and executive vice president in 2011. 

He has led the newsroom to three Pulitzer Prizes—including the breaking news award for coverage of the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. 

“I always thought about doing the right thing in the moment and being righteous. That’s why I got into journalism. It’s about doing good and making a difference. It sounds trite, but it has the benefit of being both corny and true,” he says. “My experience at UTC truly prepared me for that.” 

Diane Schmidt
Scientist and Inventor
Chances are you’ve run your fingers through your hair with a product that came to fruition with the help of a 1967 graduate of UT Chattanooga. 

Diane Schmidt spent more than 30 years in research and development at Procter & Gamble working on such well-known products as Head and Shoulders, Prell, Ivory and Pert Plus—which in its time became the highest-selling haircare product in the world. 

“What a kick! You can’t beat working on a world-class technology that becomes a national and international success,” says Schmidt. “Lots of talent and skills were brought to bear in the development of Pert Plus. It was a total team effort because so much is involved.” 

She got her interest in science early on, winning at the 1963 Chattanooga Regional Science and Engineering Fair. 

With Madame Marie Curie as her hero, Schmidt’s fair-winning project on fluorescence in certain minerals and her subsequent success as a scientist come as no surprise. Yet, her intellect is only one facet of her success. During her time at UTC, she was captain of the volleyball team, president of her sorority and Miss UC her senior year. 

Upon her retirement from Procter & Gamble in 2014, Schmidt became president of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, in 2015. “I have always loved chemistry,” says Schmidt. “Chemistry is a very creative field. It’s one of the few areas in which you go into a laboratory and make a molecule that never before existed.” 

Dorothy Hackett Ward
Opera and Theater Pioneer
Despite racial tensions that crackled that hot Chattanooga summer, Dorothy Hackett Ward didn’t hesitate to go forward with a performance in the housing project. Midway through the play, Ward noticed some of the audience of 250 children had turned from the stage and had begun to run away. Two columns of young adults marched to the stage, attacked the actors and destroyed the set. 

For Ward, the show would always go on.

Ward graduated from the University of Chattanooga in 1928 with a degree in French. She then received a master’s of fine arts in drama from Yale University. She returned to Chattanooga as a theater professor in 1938. She led the University Players and established the Harlequin Players—an improvisational street theater troupe for children—during her tenure. For many years, she served as the head of the University of Chattanooga department of drama and speech. In 1964, she achieved high distinction in being named the Guerry Professor of Drama and Speech. She retired from the university in 1975. 

But her passion for drama knew no bounds. Ward helped found the Chattanooga Opera and served as its stage director for 32 years. She believed everybody should experience live theater and everyone should act in a play at least once. She created the Festival Players, a professional theater company that traveled around Chattanooga taking the stage to all people. 

After her death in 2001, UT Chattanooga named its theater in her memory. 

Randal Weber
Dr. Randal Weber, internationally recognized surgeon and expert in the treatment of patients with head and neck surgery, is a leader and a warrior in the fight against cancer. 

After graduating from UT Chattanooga with a bachelor’s in chemistry in 1975, Weber earned a medical degree from UT Health Science Center College of Medicine. From 1978 to 1981, Weber served in the U.S. Navy as lieutenant commander and general medical officer. 

A mentor at heart, Weber has served as professor and held leadership roles at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He also has lent his expertise as guest lecturer and visiting professor at numerous institutions in the United States and internationally. 

Weber serves as professor and chair of the department of head and neck surgery, surgical division, at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where he is actively involved in the development and oversight of several training fellowships and in the clinical and laboratory training of young physician scientists. 

“That’s really one of the things I get a great deal of satisfaction from—taking our new fellows who come in from various institutions and imparting our knowledge on them, sharing our experience with them and teaching them how to be excellent surgeons—and then watching them leave here and go on into their careers. I find that to be one of the most gratifying things that I do.” 

His dedication to the medical field is celebrated—cited among the Best Doctors in America and named one of America’s Top Doctors—Weber also has been recognized with a Presidential Citation from the American Head and Neck Society and the Distinguished Service Award from the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. 

Kim White
Business Leader
Kim White never underestimates the power of a TV sitcom. Her first role model was Mary Tyler Moore, whose best-known television character embodied the single working woman living in a city. 

“My sister wanted to live on a big farm, but my dream was to live in the heart of a city,” recalls White. “I love Chattanooga, but I didn’t always. After college, I left for other opportunities.” Now, after more than 20 years, White has returned home, and in 2009, she became president and CEO of River City Company, a nonprofit that oversees downtown redevelopment. 

White worked in real estate relocation in Augusta, Georgia, before a successful career with ALLTEL Communications in both Birmingham, Alabama, and Fort Myers, Florida. She returned to Chattanooga in 2004 to join the Corker Group (later Luken Holdings), where she served as president and CEO. 

White cherishes her alma mater, where she is active, serving in leadership roles with the alumni board, the chancellor’s roundtable and the UC Foundation. 

“No matter how many times I walk through this campus, I get a sense of pride welling up inside me in awe of what it means for this city,” says White. 

Today she’s excited about what’s next, and her dedication ensures good things continue for Chattanooga. “When I came back, I felt the city was calling me home, and now I get to be part of this city’s great future. I’m the Mary Tyler Moore of Market Street.” 

James “Bucky” Wolford
Business Leader
“We were taught the importance of a team. We won as a team. We lost as a team.” 

The lessons James “Bucky” Wolford learned while playing football at UT Chattanooga proved an integral part of his life after he graduated in 1969. 

He carried the philosophy of team first when he started his career in retail development as part of the Arlen Shopping Center Group in 1970. Eight years later, he teamed up with four others to create CBL and Associates, which grew to be one of the largest shopping center developers in the United States. As of May 2017, it was affiliated with 125 properties in 27 states.  

Wolford retired from CBL in 1997 and, in 1999, formed Wolford Development, his own retail shopping center company. 

He grew up just north of Birmingham, Alabama, and was captain of his high-school football team and president of the school’s National Honor Society. Upon graduation, he came to UTC on a football scholarship. 

He did more than find lessons on the football field. He also found love. 

One day, waiting for the marching band to finish practice so the football team could take the field, he noticed Diane Kilgore, one of the majorettes. 

“They were marching downfield, and she was up in front with her baton, twirling, and that was the most beautiful lady I’d ever seen in my life,” he says. “So I found a way to be introduced to her. And, two weeks later, I had my first date with her… and I can tell you it was on Nov. 11, 1967.” 

Bucky and Diane Wolford married in 1969 and have two sons. Bucky Wolford died Sept. 1, 2017, at the age of 70. 


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