2019 Annual Alumni Awards

Story by Ashley Copeland


During this fall’s Homecoming festivities, Tennessee Wesleyan University hosted an Alumni Awards Dinner, honoring a trio of professionals for the achievements and civic contributions.


Dr. Tommy Lee “Tom” Phillips
a graduate from the class of 1951, Dr. Phillips was named recipient of the J. Neal Ensminger Distinguished Alumnus Award. This award is based upon individual achievements within the alumnus’ profession, church and community service or service to the university.


At Tennessee Wesleyan, Dr. Phillips began his science-centric education, which culminated in a Bachelor of Arts in botany and geology, as well as a Ph.D. in paleobotany.

His proficiency in science earned him an appointment at the University of Illinois, where he was a professor of both Geology and Botany.


“In his 44-year tenure, Dr. Phillips specialized his research on the Carboniferous period, and his efforts led to the largest coal ball collection in the world,” said Blake McCaslin, Tennessee Wesleyan’s Assistant Vice President of Advancement and Alumni Affairs. “Now his namesake, the Phillips Coal Ball Collection is housed at the Prairie Research Institute Center for Paleontology at the University of Illinois.”


McCaslin also shared that Phillips has been honored internationally including:
•Received a Guggenheim Fellowship
•Named a National Academy of Sciences Exchange Scientist to the former Soviet Union
•Served as a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Mining in the People’s Republic of China
•Received the Gilbert H. Cady Award by the Geological Society of America
•Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

“It has been said that Dr. Phillips taught his students: ‘One does the work for the love of the work, not for recognition’,” McCaslin said. “In the spirit of Tennessee Wesleyan’s distinguished alumni, Dr. Phillips certainly embodied the dedication that deserves timeless recognition, and we are proud to name him the 2019 J. Neal Ensminger Distinguished Alumnus.”


Allen Carter
The Robbie J. Ensminger Friend of Wesleyan Award, which recognizes those who have given their time, talent and resources to the university – was given to Allen Carter.

Carter, who owns Athens Insurance, has aided the university in a myriad of capacities. A past chairperson for the Tennessee Wesleyan Board of Trustees, he is currently the vice chair and the Advancement Committee chair.


Carter also co-chaired the Proud Heritage, Strong Future Campaign – which raised more than $22 million for the University and helped fund the Colloms Campus Center.


“Allen embodies the true meaning of community,” McCaslin said. “He is passionate about bringing people together and creating a sense of fellowship. Allen’s ability to connect with others no doubt helped in our fundraising efforts and helped the university in this pivotal campaign.”


Dr. Traci Dubuque
Dr. Dubuque was honored with the 2019 Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. This award is based on professional achievements and civic service, but is only given to graduates within the last 15 years.


A graduate of Tennessee Wesleyan’s Fort Sanders Nursing program, Dubuque became a Certified Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse and, ultimately, earned two master’s and a doctoral degree in nursing.

She currently serves as a nurse practitioner, as the District 2 President for the Tennessee Nurses’ Association and holds an adjunct faculty position for East Tennessee State University.


“When Traci is not treating patients, writing publications and presenting at conferences – she serves as an advocate for the nursing profession by arranging and participating in political awareness campaigns and community outreach programs,” said Dr. Lisa Vesser, Tennessee Wesleyan’s Associate Dean of allied health.


“In 2008, the Tennessee Wesleyan nursing faculty described her as a ‘determined young lady, a leader and spokesperson for class and an advocate for patients.’ These attributes are manifested in the work Dr. Dubuque continues to this day.”


“Congratulations to all of our award winners, as well as their friends and family,” McCaslin added in conclusion. “As an alumnus, and on behalf of Tennessee Wesleyan, we are so proud and grateful for the amazing alumni who have left our alma mater and continued to excel – shining their lights on the lives of those they meet.”