Walls, Gilliland selected for THEC community service award

Walls, Gilliland selected for THEC community service award

May 12, 2020

Miracle Walls ’20, a Maryville College senior, and Amy Gilliland, director of community engagement at Maryville College, were named recipients of the 2020 Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award, sponsored by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC).

The Outstanding Community Service Award was named for the late Rep. Harold Love, Sr., who was instrumental in establishing the first awards in 1991. With the welfare of his community as his primary concern, Love would go to any lengths to help a constituent in need, even if it meant giving from his own pocket.

The individuals selected to receive recognition represent the many dimensions of community service/volunteer work, public service, charitable service and leadership roles in community organizations. The award recipients serve as ambassadors for community service among the diverse higher education communities in Tennessee. 

Walls makes difference on campus, across the state

Walls, a biology major from Memphis, Tenn., is among five college students in Tennessee to be named a recipient. She was nominated for the award by administrators at the College.

“Through her service both on and off campus, as well as her academic work … Miracle has demonstrated her commitment to make the world a better place, for everyone, especially children,” wrote Maryville College President Dr. Tom Bogart in his nomination letter.

During her time at Maryville College, Walls volunteered with organizations that serve young people, including coaching children in soccer through AYSO and inspiring inner-city children in Memphis through art in their neighborhood.

“Through her tireless work and bright spirit, she helps children, no matter what challenges they face, achieve their highest possible strength,” Bogart wrote.

As a counselor at Camp Freedom in Dover, Tenn., and Camp Little Oak in Chenango, N.Y., Walls served children with bleeding disorders in a camp setting. She also served as a tutor at the St. Jude Reading Clinic, tutoring students with sickle cell disease and hemophilia. As someone with a bleeding disorder herself, she has been able to help others who may face similar challenges.

Shannon Cassada of the Tennessee Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders Foundation, which hosts Camp Freedom every year, wrote in her nomination letter that Walls leads “with integrity and enthusiasm.”

“There are so many teaching moments at camp, and the campers look up to her,” wrote Cassada, who added that Walls received the Tennessee and Hemophilia Bleeding Disorders Foundation’s volunteer of the year award. “She gets down to campers’ level with purpose and is a great listener.”

On campus, Walls tutored other students on campus and served in a variety of leadership roles. She is a Scots Science Scholar and a Bonner Scholar, and within the Bonner program, she was selected as a member of Bonner Council and as a senior intern. She also served as a resident assistant, peer mentor and co-president of the Latino Student Alliance. Additionally, she has volunteered at Blount Memorial Hospital during her time at MC.

 “Both in her service work and in her daily life of befriending others and serving as a positive role model, Miracle has been an outstanding example of the principles of public service and the highest values of the College and our state," Bogart said. “Miracle has used her college years to make a difference in the community around us and across the State of Tennessee.”

The four other students who received the award are: Briana Brady of the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga; Danielle Contreras of Belmont University; Mallory Fundora of Austin Peay State University; and Gabriella Morin of Middle Tennessee State University. 

Gilliland recognized for work on campus, in local community

Gilliland is among five faculty and staff members from Tennessee colleges and universities to receive the award. She also was nominated for the award by Maryville College administrators.

As director of community engagement at Maryville College, Gilliland is a “master of connection” – learning the needs and programs of community agencies in Blount County, then matching students, faculty and staff with them for research projects, mutual engagement and volunteer service.

“She spends time with individuals, learning their capacities, interests, and needs, and matches them with organizations or other individuals, where they may have an impact,” according to her nomination materials. “The result is a deeply responsive, mutual network of care, which benefits the people of Blount County.”

On campus, Gilliland teaches nonprofit management, helping students gain the skills to put their passions into action, and leads the Nonprofit Leadership Certificate Program at MC. She also travels abroad with students for cultural exchange and mutual benefit. She is a member of Staff Council, and she serves on the Strategic Partnership Group and on the advisory group to design a new community-engaged scholarship program.

Off campus, she continues to serve the community through her church mission committee, helping meet the needs of those experiencing hunger in the community; as a board member of Camp in the Community; and as an active volunteer and advocate in the county schools.

“She is regularly recruited for service both at work and in the community, and she is sought-after as a board member of nonprofit organizations, because she comes with a curious mind, a listening ear, an energetic spirit, and she is never afraid to ask a question that will move the conversation further toward creative action,” her nomination letter states.

Gilliland has worked at Maryville College for five years, but before that, “her path of service was set,” as her entire career has been in serving others: in the governmental sector through AmeriCorps and the State of Tennessee, in nonprofit organizations serving people in need, and in education settings, from middle school to college.

“The mission of Maryville College is to ‘prepare students for lives of citizenship and leadership as we challenge each one to search for truth, grow in wisdom, work for justice and dedicate a life of creativity and service to the peoples of the world,’” Bogart wrote in his nomination letter for Gilliland. “This mission only works when our own staff and faculty demonstrate these traits in their lives, both on and off campus. Ms. Gilliland embodies a servant heart, as well as leadership, dedication and passion in all that she does. Her work to uplift young people through service to local schools and her church, and in her constant example to those around her, including our students, faculty and staff, is exemplary.”

The four other faculty and staff members who received the award are: Daniel Carter of Sewanee University; Andrea Clements of East Tennessee State University; Nan Gaylord of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville: and Priscilla Simms-Roberson of the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

Written by Chloe Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications


Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”