2024 Commencement Award Recipients

Brianna Troyer – The Faculty Award of Excellence

The Faculty Award of Excellence is based on academic excellence, integrity, engagement, and personal demeanor and was given to Brianna Troyer. Brianna is a member of the Philomathean Society, the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, and the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society and has served as the President of the Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society. Brianna assisted in research with Dr. Julie Phillips, which paved the way for the formation of an IACUC at Cumberland.

Sydney Griffin – The President’s Award

The President’s Award is given to a graduate who most nearly embodies the ideals, principles, and spirit of the university. These candidates are academically high-achieving students with a strong sense of integrity and superior leadership skills. This year’s recipient, Sydney Griffin, has been a President’s Ambassador, Student Alumni Ambassador, President’s Leader, a member of Alpha Lambda Delta, First Year Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Gamma Beta Phi, Assistant Editor for Lyre of the Phoenix, CU’s student journal, and an Editor for Novus Journal, a literary arts journal that publishes national and international poets, writers, and artists.

Carol Anne Clanton – The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards were established by the New York Southern Society in 1925, in memory of Mr. Sullivan, a southerner who became a prominent lawyer, businessman, and philanthropist in New York in the late nineteenth century. 

Carol Anne has been a President’s Ambassador for three years and Secretary of the Student Nursing Association for the past two years. She is a member of the Philomathean Society, served as a Nursing Tutor, and is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Alpha Chi, Gamma Beta Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa, Leadership Honor Society, and Sigma Theta Tau International – Nursing Honor Society. 

WP Bone – The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan award for Community Engagement was given to WP Bone.

WP Bone is a trustee of Cumberland University, and former Chairman of the Board of Trust. He earned an associate degree from Cumberland University followed by a bachelor’s degree from Centre College. He is a U.S. Army veteran, and co-owner of Wilson County Chevrolet Buick GMC and Wilson County Hyundai Genesis. WP is a Paul Harris Fellow with Rotary International, and charter member of the Lebanon Breakfast Rotary Club.

Professor of Sociology, Dr. Kent Hallman – The President’s Award for Teaching Excellence

The President’s Award for Teaching Excellence is presented each year to a faculty member who has made a significant difference in the lives of our students. Nominations are made by the graduating class. 

Dr. Hallman is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Cumberland University, with cross-disciplinary background in Sociology, Cultural Anthropology and Theology/Religious Studies. He has lectured at a number of universities in Europe and in the United States, and has held positions in higher education, healthcare and ministry. Dr. Hallman is passionate about teaching, and his research interests include the sociology of ethnicity/race, culture, religion, folklore, sociolinguistics and diaspora, as well as Jewish Studies and Romani Studies.

Dr. Tammy Sellers – The Award of Excellence in the Millard and JJ Oakley School of Humanities, Education, and the Arts

Dr. Tammy Sellers graduated from Cumberland University in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history.  She earned her Master’s Degree in history from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in 1999. She continued her studies at MTSU and earned a Doctorate in Historic Preservation in 2005. In 2001, Dr. Sellers began her career in historic preservation at the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) as a historic preservation specialist. Dr. Sellers received the Tennessee Historical Commission Certificate of Merit for Significant Contributions to Tennessee Historical and Architectural Heritage.  

Dr. Casey McGee – The Award of Excellence in the Jeanette C. Rudy School of Nursing and Health Professions

Dr. McGee received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree in 2004. In July of 2009, Dr. McGee joined Urban Physical Therapy where he now serves as Vice President. He is also a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. He volunteers his time by serving as a preceptor for the Athletic Training program here at Cumberland University. 

Nancy Cottrell – The Award of Excellence in the Labry School of Science, Technology and Business 

Nancy Cottrell received her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Lipscomb University before attending Cumberland University where she was a member of the first cohort to graduate with an MBA. Nancy now serves as the President of Taiho Manufacturing of Tennessee (a Japanese-owned – Automotive Supplier) located in Gordonsville, Tennessee. She is the only female to hold an Executive title with the Taiho Global Group. She has served in this capacity with Taiho for over 16 years and has led Taiho to win Toyota North America’s most prestigious Superior Quality Award for 13 consecutive years—the only company in the U.S. to do so. Nancy currently serves as Secretary on the Taiho Manufacturing of Tennessee Board of Directors and as Treasurer on the Emmanuel House non-profit Board of Directors. 

Jenna Burns – Rising Phoenix Award

Jenna Burns, a Cumberland University alumna, holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Management and a Master of Business Administration. Recognized as the Tennessee Society of CPAs Top Accounting Student in Tennessee in 2014, Jenna began her career at Terry Horne CPA and Associates, where she spent three years prior to graduation. Since 2015, she has been a pivotal member of Perry & Associates CPAs in Marietta, OH. Notable among her achievements is the initiation, in 2020, of an outsourced accounting services line at Perry & Associates, catering to nonprofit organizations across Ohio, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Currently serving as tax principal, Jenna oversees both the tax services division and the nonprofit outsourcing division. 

Dr. Trenton Watson – The Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Trenton M. Watson is a native of Memphis, TN, and a lifelong educator. He is a graduate of Tennessee State University, Cumberland University, and the University of Arizona.  Dr. Watson has worked in several different capacities within the school system, from teacher on all learning levels to Principal. Dr. Watson’s affiliations include Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Youth of Westwood Board of Directors, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Tennessee Principals Association, and Jobs for Tennessee Graduates’ Board of Directors.  Currently, Dr. Watson is the principal at Westwood High School in Memphis, Tennessee.

Jacqueline (Jackie) Waters – The Posthumous Distinguished Alumni Award

Jacqueline (Jackie) Waters, originally from Wilson County, Tennessee, stood as a pillar of inspiration in her local community. Born in 1952, Jackie emerged as a trailblazer in the educational landscape from an early age. Jackie attended Cumberland University, earning her associate’s degree in 1971, etching her name in history as the second black person to receive a diploma from the institution. Jackie then went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University. Returning to her roots in Lebanon, Jackie became a fourth-grade teacher, where she dedicated an impressive 27 years to shaping young minds. Her impact on the lives of her students extended far beyond the classroom, instilling values of resilience, determination, and the importance of education in the hearts of those she touched. 

News / Blog / 2024 Commencement Award Recipients