2020 Distinguished Service Award Recipients Honored During Convocation

2020 Distinguished Service Award Recipients Honored During Convocation

Sept. 9, 2020

Maryville College presented the 2020 Distinguished Service Award to five alumni during the College’s 2020 Convocation ceremony, which was held Aug. 20. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual ceremony was streamed on the Maryville College website.

The recipients of the award are the members of the Blount County Alumni Association's (BCAA) Emeritus Board: Alvin Baker ’72Gail Bradley Hafner ’60Elizabeth Walton Blackburn ’58Judy Pike Woods ’71 and Robert Kennedy ’71.

The Distinguished Service Award is given to an alumna or alumnus who has contributed exceptional service on behalf of Maryville College. The award typically goes to an individual, but it was decided that this year’s award should go to all five members of the BCAA Emeritus Board, due to their dedication and service.

“Whether collaborating with each other or on their own, these alumni have shown great dedication to the betterment of the surrounding community and to Maryville College in particular,” said Angie Harris, director of alumni affairs. “They have led and organized fundraisers, volunteers and events for many years. This award has not been presented since 2002, but the remarkable work of this diverse group has set such an example of leadership and service for future students to follow that it is fitting that they should be the first to receive this prestigious honor after 18 years.”

The BCAA, comprised of approximately 1,300 members, represents Maryville College alumni living in Blount County, Tenn. The purpose of the chapter is to promote the interests of Maryville College; help provide engagement opportunities for alumni and maintain mutually beneficial relations between the College and alumni; and raise funds for Blount County student scholarships

The BCAA plans several social events and major activities every year, including the Christmas Open House and the Homecoming Harvest Crafts Festival and Bake Sale. This summer, the BCAA announced it had raised $25,000 to establish an endowed scholarship – the Blount County Alumni Scholarship Endowment – to provide scholarship opportunities for generations of Blount County students and ensure access to higher learning.

In presenting the award to the five alumni on Aug. 20, Maryville College President Dr. Bryan Coker praised them for their dedicated service to the College.

“Let these alumni be examples to all of us, and to especially our new students who can look to them as examples of what it means to be an alumnus of Maryville College,” Coker said. “Remember, you are students here for four years, but you are an alumnus for life!”

Baker has been closely involved with organizing the fundraising for the Blount County Endowment Scholarship and the chapter’s largest fundraising event, the Harvest Crafts Festival and Bake Sale, held each year at Homecoming.

“The Distinguished Service Award came as a surprise,” Baker said. “I have received recognition before from the College and continue to feel that there are others much more deserving than I. By this time in your sojourn at Maryville College you have recognized that it is a very special place. The time I spent at Maryville was both educational and formative. I learned how to think, solve problems and work with others. My work with the College and the local alumni chapter has been rewarding beyond anything I could have imagined at graduation in 1972. I have made life-long friends and been given the opportunity to give back in so many ways. It has been a singular honor to do some small part in passing the opportunity I was given along to the students who have come after me.”

Hafner has been a member of the planning committee for two choir reunions, Homecoming Choirs and the Bicentennial Choir, and she has participated in Kin Takahashi (KT) Week since 2005.

“I am deeply honored and humbled in receiving the Distinguished Service Award from my alma mater,” Hafner said. “It has been a pleasure to serve on the Blount County Alumni Board. I could not have achieved what I have without the assistance of the administration, faculty and staff of the College who help us in planning the fundraising events that enable us to provide scholarships to worthy students.  I have received so much from Maryville College, and I am grateful for the opportunity to give back.”

Blackburn has served two terms as BCAA president and several as secretary, and she has consistently given Maryville College the gifts of her time and talent throughout the years.

“Receiving the Distinguished Service Award is very humbling,” Blackburn said. “So many alumni give so much time and money to Maryville College. I have never had dollars to give but had time. I have never thought of my time on the Blount County Board of Alumni as service but as a fun way to repay a wonderful gift of an Education. In working with the board and my class’s scholarship fund, my dollars with many others have helped many students. I thank the College for this generous recognition.”

Woods has served 23 years on the Blount County Alumni Chapter Board, including one year as president, and she also served one term on the Maryville College Alumni Board.

“I am very honored to have been selected to receive the Distinguished Service Award along with the other members of the Emeritus Board,” Woods said. “Serving on the Blount County Alumni Association is a way for me to give back to the college that has given so much to me. I have made friends with other alums over the years that I otherwise would not have known.”

Kennedy has volunteered in the MC Archives, where he has led many initiatives in preserving the College’s rich history and has participated in Kin Takahashi (KT) Week for several years.

“First of all, I feel really humbled,” Kennedy said. “It was a complete surprise to me to receive this award. It’s such a treat to still be involved with the College. Although money is nice, you don’t have to have it in order to give back. Sometimes all it takes is giving your time.”

To read full bios for each of the award recipients or nominate someone for an alumni award, please visit maryvillecollege.edu/alumni/awards.

Written by M. Nance ’22 


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.”