Richard “Gar” Secrist named MC's Outstanding Senior

May 8, 2009
Contact: Penny S. Gibbons, Office of Communications

Gar Secrist, a biology major from Knoxville, was named the 2009 Outstanding Senior at Maryville College during the Academic Awards Ceremony held on campus April 18.

Established by the Maryville College Alumni Association in 1974 and first presented in 1975, the Outstanding Senior award recognizes those students whose overall record of academic achievement and participation in extracurricular activities stand out as most exemplary.

The purpose of the award is to recognize a senior who has been active in a broad range of activities in college, who exemplifies an “ideal” Maryville College graduate and who has the potential to be an outstanding alumnus/alumna.

Secrist, the son of Richard and Spain Secrist of Knoxville, enrolled at Maryville College in 2005.

While at the College, Secrist has been a member of the Environmental Action Team, serving as secretary and president. He served on the Peace and World Concerns Committee and as a senator in the Student Government Association. Secrist played cello in the Orchestra at Maryville College and has been a member of the American Chemical Society, serving as co-president, treasurer and secretary.

Secrist has also been a member of the American Humanics program, serving as the chair of the Internal Communications Committee during his senior year. (He will receive non-profit leadership certification upon graduation.)

Off campus, Secrist has volunteered for the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and the Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge in Knoxville, surveying animal and bird populations.

In presenting the nominee at the April 18 ceremony, Dr. Jeff Fager, vice president and dean of the College, said, “Gar has accepted a Student Fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for this summer and will apply for internships at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland. These experiences are meant to prepare him for graduate work in ecology as he works toward a career in conservation biology or restoration ecology. It is clear that Gar will leave the planet a better place to live.”

Only those seniors with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 are considered for nomination for the Outstanding Senior Award. A committee that includes student, faculty and staff representation is given the responsibility of choosing five finalists. Those finalists are invited to respond in writing to questions about their view of their future role as alumni of Maryville College, their goals for the future and their understanding of how the College has influenced them and helped shape those goals.

In his essay, Secrist wrote that he hopes to volunteer with the Student Conservation Association before entering graduate school next fall.

Another personal goal is “to continue to be informed about issues of poverty, hunger and sustainability and to be actively involved in these issues in the communities I will be a part of in the future,” he continued.

The community of passionate MC students and faculty, he wrote, has greatly impacted his drive to make a positive impact on the community by pursuing causes in which he believes.

“I want my career to contribute to the understanding of how people interact with the environment and how they can better coexist,” Secrist wrote. “As a result, I am now interested in interdisciplinary studies that connect ecological concepts to issues of resource management and public policy.”

Finalists for the Outstanding Senior award included: Andrew Alfano, a biology major from Decatur, Ala.; Catherine Culbertson, a sociology major from Georgetown, Ky.; Matthew Mart, a biochemistry major from Morristown, Tenn; and Nina Verevkina, a biology major from Memphis, Tenn.

As finalists, Alfano, Culbertson, Mart and Verevkina were each presented a framed award. Secrist was also presented a framed award, plus a cash award of $500. His name will be added to the Outstanding Senior plaque displayed on campus.

Secrist earns other academic awards

In addition to the Outstanding Senior award, Secrist was recognized with the A. Randolf Shields Award, which goes to the graduating senior who has the most outstanding four-year record in biology, and the Alpha Lambda Delta Award, which goes to the senior Alpha Lambda Delta member(s) with the highest GPA through the fall semester of the senior year.

He is a student leader

At a separate leadership awards ceremony held on campus April 28, Secrist received the Student Activist of the Year award, as well as a Spirit of the Covenant award. He was also selected as a member of Alpha Gamma Sigma honor society of seniors, as well as the Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.