Tennessee Technological University is celebrating a century of education, a century that has seen the Cookeville campus flourish and grow from its humble beginnings as Dixie College.
“Turning 100 is a big deal for anybody or any institution,” said Tennessee Tech president Dr. Phillip Oldham during his address Thursday to the Rotary Club of McMinnville. He, along with former school presidents Dr. Angelo Volpe (1987-2000) and Dr. Bob Bell (2000-2012), were in attendance.
“It came from a grassroots beginning,” Dr. Volpe said. “It began as Dixie College and then became Tennessee Polytechnic Institute. The idea was to make education as accessible as possible.”
Dr. Bell said keeping education affordable has become a tough job given smaller contributions being given to education by government.
“The state used to pay about 60 percent of the cost of education, but now that has diminished to 20 percent,” said Bell, noting it’s become even more important to seek private donations and funding so education can be affordable.
It was private donations that helped fund the new School of Nursing at Tech, which was the centerpiece of the recent Tech building program that also saw a new residence hall, athletic facility and engineering center.
Bell noted one course through college for some has been athletics, something almost like de-claring a double major since school work and athletic work put demands on the student’s time. How-ever, there are rewards for scholarship athletes.
“Student athletes, on average, have a higher GPA and a higher graduation rate,” Bell revealed, noting one such Tech alumni, Barry E. Wilmore came to Tech on athletics and ended up graduating and heading the International Space Station. Wilmore was team captain of the Golden Eagle football team.
“There’s a lot to be proud of,” Dr. Oldham declared, noting Tech has recently been named as a Doctoral Research University. “We compete with the best because we confidently aspire to be the best. We remain committed to pushing for groundbreaking technology and we remain committed to providing an affordable education.”
As for the university changing with the times, Dr. Volpe noted Tech was ahead of its time in race and gender relations.
“We were ahead of the curve,” Dr. Volpe said, referring to recent tensions at the University of Missouri, pointing out a women’s center and a cultural center were started on campus well over a decade ago to promote equality.
Dr. Bell added that Tech’s success has spread around the Midstate and has been helped by communities such as Warren County.
“You’ve helped us start programs that have spread across this state,” Dr. Bell said, pointing to teacher-education programs and the 2-Plus-2 program that helps provide four-year degrees for local students.
The address by the presidents is available in its entirety at www.southernstandard.com in the multimedia section.