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Clarksville, TN – This November, Austin Peay State University will honor six distinguished individuals with this year’s APSU Alumni Awards at a small gathering of their personal guests and several University officials.
In keeping with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local guidelines, the University is unable to host a large, in-person gathering for the 2020 Outstanding Alumni Awards Luncheon, which is traditionally held during APSU Homecoming week activities.
The 2020 honorees are Outstanding Service Award recipients Joey Smith (’99) and Brad and Jan Kirtley (’78); Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipients Ashley Williams (’13) and Dr. Diarese George (’11); and Outstanding Alumni Award recipients Dr. Camille Holt (’71) and Joe Giles (’61).
Smith is the public health director for the Montgomery County Health Department. He has more than 20 years of experience working for the Tennessee Department of Health, is a veteran of the United States Navy and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. Smith earned a certificate in risk communication from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a certificate in leading change from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and a certificate in business excellence from the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management.
In 2014, Smith was named Public Health Worker of the Year by the Tennessee Public Health Association. In 2015, he was one of 12 public health officials in the nation to be named as Emerging Leaders in Public Health by the Kresge Foundation. For his efforts in the fight against breast cancer, he was named to the 2015 Class of Pink Tie Guys by Susan G. Komen Central Tennessee.
In August 2016, Smith’s years of demonstrating transformational leadership and his ability to take data and turn it into stories made him one of 22 out of nearly 40,000 state employees selected to be in the inaugural class of Governor’s Excellence in Service by Governor Bill Haslam. On July 1st, 2020, Smith was appointed to represent Region 4 on the National Association for City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) Board of Directors.
In the last year, along with leading the Montgomery County Health Department and the local COVID-19 Coronavirus response, Smith provided guidance to the Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board and to local businesses. He also has assisted in the development of safe reopening plans for Austin Peay State University, Clarksville Academy and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.
Brad and Jan Kirtley
Brad was employed by Austin Peay State University as sports information director for 32 years, and Jan, who spent 36 years in information technology at Trane, was constantly helping APSU athletics during that time as well, even traveling to NCAA Regionals to help with ticketing. Now in retirement, the couple continues to assist APSU athletics by providing sports statistics, compiling relevant information and making monetary gifts as well as in-kind gifts. They also have created an endowment and given to multiple areas within the University.
Jan graduated from Austin Peay State University in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in computer science. While at Trane, she was one of the original members of Trane’s Austin Peay State University support group.
Brad had the opportunity to have a front-row seat on one last OVC basketball championship (and the 51st title during his tenure) run in 2016, before joining Jan in retirement. But like Jan, retirement didn’t mean disappearing into the sunset for Brad.
He remains an active member of the APSU Athletics Hall of Fame committee, joined the Austin Peay State University Retirees Association (APSURA) Board, has worked the scorer’s table for men and women’s basketball, served as a peer mentor and worked color for Austin Peay State University baseball broadcasts in addition to providing service where needed. He and Jan also volunteer at Austin Peay, Ohio Valley Conference and NCAA tournament events.
Williams currently works as an HR project manager and strategic partner with HCA Healthcare. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from APSU in 2013. During her more than seven years with HCA Healthcare, she has served in a variety of Human Resource roles. Her diverse background in the company’s HR realm, as well as her management experience, has positioned her in a unique place to serve as a project manager and strategic partner to the company’s HR strategy and initiatives.
One of her most prized accomplishments is being able to serve as an HR business partner at HCA Healthcare’s flagship hospital. Throughout her time at TriStar Centennial Medical Center, she was able to work “boots on the ground” and learn firsthand about the company’s culture, needs and day-to-day operations. While she was able to serve the employees and leaders at the facility, they also impacted her life, which ultimately changed her outlook on some of her future aspirations.
Williams is passionate about creating an inclusive culture and providing leaders with the tools they need to meet both business and employee needs. She is currently working on her MBA with plans to be an effective leader within her organization. Her goal is to work on the HCA Diversity and Inclusion Team to bring their vision and goals to life. When she is not keeping busy with work or school, you can find Williams with her husband and three children enjoying sports, food and all things fun.
Dr. Diarese George
George is the founder and executive director of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance, an organization focused on developing, supporting and connecting educators of color with decision-making power to shape, create and influence policy. Recruiting, retaining and providing mentorship and leadership pathways for educators of color are byproducts of this work.
George started his career in education teaching five years as a high school teacher, with a focus on business for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. During his tenure, he was selected to participate in several education leader fellowships focused on policy and advocacy.
Afterwards, he served as the director of recruitment for the Nashville Teacher Residency, where his primary focus was recruiting more people of color to the education profession. During his three-year tenure with the organization, more than 71% of the people recruited were from racially diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.
Currently, George serves on several councils and committees statewide, including The Education Trust in Tennessee’s P-12 Policy Council, Working Group on Tennessee Education Research, Tennessee Education Leadership Learning Community and the Tennessee Education Research Alliance’s Advisory Council.
George is married to his beautiful wife, Brittenee, who is a high school English teacher. They are the proud parents to five amazing children.
Dr. Camille Holt
Holt is a retired professor who spent 32 years in teacher education at Austin Peay State University and at the Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Austin Peay State University. For several years, she taught in elementary and middle schools in Tennessee and Kentucky. She then completed doctoral work at the University of Memphis and returned to teach at APSU in 1975.
Over the years, she moved into various administrative positions, including graduate dean and special assistant to the president. While in the latter role, she expanded the APSU National Alumni Association (NAA) from a local, Clarksville-based group to a national organization. Through many trips, contacts and functions (primarily in the Southeast), she helped establish chapters in Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, Memphis, Hopkinsville and other communities.
Her initial contacts with supporters such as Wayne Pace, John Ogles, Dr. Phil Roe, Jim Roe and Larry Carroll led to major contributions to Austin Peay. During that time, Holt worked with many individuals including Oscar Page, Wendell Gilbert, LaRae Davenport and Doug Barber to broaden the reach of the NAA, though she preferred teaching, and eventually returned to the classroom to complete her tenure as an educator.
While at Austin Peay State University, Holt received the Community Service Award, presented annually at commencement. She also earned the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce Award for Volunteer of the Year. She is a 1995 graduate of Leadership Clarksville and served as a member of both the APSU Tower Club and the APSU Foundation. In 2019, Camille established the Jo and Isaac Buck Scholarship for Reading Specialist majors in the Eriksson College of Education in memory of her parents.
As a Nashville resident in retirement, she has served on planning committees for various Austin Peay State University alumni functions in the Middle Tennessee area. She also spent time volunteering with Alive Hospice and with her church. She is the mother of two daughters, Dr. Laura Barnett and Dr. Leslie Dillard (Minkoff). She and her husband, Charles Biter, have a total of nine grandchildren, with whom many happy and hilarious times are spent.
Giles is a native of Clarksville. He is the son of Emmett J. and Rubye Waters Giles. He attended what was then the Austin Peay State College Demonstration School at New Providence (now known as Byrns L. Darden Elementary School). He graduated from Clarksville High School in 1957.
While at Austin Peay, Giles played in the Governor’s Own Marching Band and was in the band when it marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thanksgiving Day, 1960. He became a charter member of Theta Tau chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity in 1959.
Giles began teaching in the former Davidson County School System in the fall of 1961 and continued through the merger of the Nashville City Schools and Davidson County Schools. Over the years, he served at H.G. Hill Elementary School, Stratford High School, McMurray Junior High School, Hillsboro High School and Bellevue Middle School.
His longest tenure was at Hillsboro High School, where his varsity choir won consistent superior ratings in choral festivals. They won the Gold Medal in Festival of the Nations International Choral Festival and performed in the Washington National Cathedral, St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City and in churches and concert halls in Virginia, Tennessee and Florida.
In addition to his work in the schools, for three years Giles directed the Sounds of America Youth Chorale that performed in six European countries, and he also directed church and community choirs in the area.
In 1984, Giles was selected to become the first director of arts education at the Tennessee Department of Education. Through this position, he was in charge of developing the state’s first curriculum frameworks and guides for each of the arts disciplines (music, theatre and creative dramatics and the visual arts), and was in charge of professional development activities in the arts across Tennessee.
The Tennessee Arts Academy grew out of the professional development strand and became the premier summer training program in the arts for music, visual arts and theatre, with tracks for administrators, supervisors and classroom teachers who were not arts specialists. The Academy has trained thousands of teachers during its 34 year history, and continues as a national spotlight event for arts education.
He also served as president of the National Council of State Supervisors of Music, and was a member of Task Force Five in the Development of National Standards for the Arts. He worked with the College Board’s Project Equality working towards the inclusion of arts for all students. He has been a frequent speaker and clinician on behalf of arts education in this country and in Canada.
Giles credits Austin Peay State University with preparing him for the opportunities he encountered in his career and is grateful to the faculty and staff who encouraged and enabled his journey.
TopicsAlumni Awards, APSU, APSU Athletics Hall of Fame, Ashley Williams, Austin Peay State University, Bill Haslam, Brad Kirtley, Byrns Darden Elementary School, CDC, Clarksville, Clarksville Academy, Clarksville Montgomery County School System, Clarksville TN, CMCSS, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Joe Giles, Joey Smith, Montgomery County Health Department, Outstanding Service Award, Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Governor, Trane, Trevecca, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Navy, Vanderbilt University, Veteran
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