Celebrating Alumni Successes and Achievements

Back row, left to right: Brian Gligor (accepted on behalf of Conrad Ricamora), Wesley W. Diehl, Carol Mayo Jenkins (accepted on behalf of Paula Pell). Front row, left to right: Carroll Van West, Betty Beaumont, Susan Dakak, Diane Grob Schmidt, Sandra White, Dean Theresa M. Lee.

Back row, left to right: Brian Gligor (accepted on behalf of Conrad Ricamora), Wesley W. Diehl, Carol Mayo Jenkins (accepted on behalf of Paula Pell). Front row, left to right: Carroll Van West, Betty Beaumont, Susan Dakak, Diane Grob Schmidt, Sandra White, Dean Theresa M. Lee.

Each year, we celebrate the creative and scholarly accomplishments of our alumni, their strong volunteerism, and their generosity at our annual College of Arts and Sciences Alumni and Philanthropy Awards Celebration. Dean Lee presided over the third installment of the event September 22, 2017, as we celebrated the depth and breadth of our college.

In their acceptance speeches, several alumni spoke to the fact that the education they received in the College of Arts and Sciences gave them the foundation they needed to succeed; even if they ended up in a completely different profession.

Bettye Beaumont, who graduated with a degree in classics in 1974 and received the Volunteer Service Award, was surprised to be honored by the college.

“When I graduated, I moved away from Tennessee and never worked in my chosen field,” Beaumont says. “Instead, I got an MBA and spent my career in marketing, communications, and HR at a Fortune 100 company in Cincinnati.”

Her degree, however, served her more than she ever anticipated.

“When I applied to graduate school, the admissions director called to ask for a personal interview ‘because he had never met a classics major before,’” Beaumont recalls. “By the end of the interview, he had offered me a full ride to grad school, and I had learned a valuable lesson of how a unique resume rises to the top of the pile. That wouldn’t happen to a business major!”

Beaumont was not alone in her appreciation of the college. Wesley Diehl, a 1982 graduate from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, ended up in his chosen field, but still credits the college for his achievements.

“When I walked on campus in 1979, I never thought I would be standing here today,” says Diehl, who regularly visited campus to recruit EPS majors for the oil industry. “One of the greatest opportunities in my career was to recruit here at UT. You may wonder what is it that EPS majors at UT have to offer the oil industry. Great fundamental skills. It did that in the early ‘80s and it still does it today.”

Even though he retired in 2016, Diehl still visits campus to recruit students and give departmental presentations on career opportunities in the oil and gas industry.

Caroll Van West, a 1978 history graduate and current Tennessee State Historian, is proud to be an alum of the college and UT as a whole because of accomplishments in the past year.

“UT stood up when it counted,” Van West says. “The UT community is much stronger than the sense of hate. I couldn’t be more proud to bleed orange than I am right now.”

Conrad Ricamora, a graduate of the MFA program in theatre received an award for his achievements in the performing arts and, although he could not accept the award in person, he expressed his gratitude through written remarks, delivered by Brian Gligor, visiting artist-in-residence.

“I have been very fortunate since I left grad school, and I talk up Tennessee whenever I can because I had an amazing experience,” Ricamora wrote. “I was accepted to more than 30 MFA programs, visited six, chose UT, and have always been very glad of that choice. My training offered me more than I could have imagined, and it remains with me in all that I do. It was foundational and inspirational.”

Congratulations to all 2017 College of Arts and Sciences Alumni and Philanthropy award recipients. The entire list, biographies, and award information is below.


Alumni Divisional Achievement

This award recognizes alumni who have achieved significant levels of accomplishment in the early to middle stages of their careers and publicly acknowledges “rising stars” who have exhibited exceptional talent and promise.

Achievement in Humanities

katherine sharpKatherine Sharp Landdeck (’02) earned a PhD in history and worked at the Center for the Study of War and Society while enrolled in graduate studies. She is an associate professor of history at Texas Women’s University with a research focus in public history. She has been recognized globally for her expertise on the Women Air Force Service Pilots of World War II, including work with the media and in documentary films.

Katherine was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work as Contributing Producer and Historian on the film Silver Wings, Flying Dreams: The Complete Story of the Women Air Force Service Pilots. Other documentary film work includes as historian on the PBS station KERA’s Emmy-winning film High Hopes and the Gracie Award-winning film We Served Too.

Achievement in Performing Arts

conrad ricamoraConrad Ricamora (’12) received his MFA in theatre and in the five years since, has distinguished himself as an artistic talent, playing major roles on and off Broadway and on television. Conrad’s most visible and current work is as the featured character, Oliver Hampton, on ABC’s hugely successful legal series, How To Get Away With Murder, starring Academy Award winner Viola Davis.

He has also just completed reprising his breakout role as Ninoy Aquino in a new production of the musical Here Lies Love, by David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim, for which he received a Theatre World Award and was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical. Conrad is also a generous and eloquent supporter of UT and the Department of Theatre.


Alumni Professional Achievement

This award recognizes alumni who have achieved a high degree of success in their field and have a record of notable career accomplishments and history of outstanding contributions to their profession.

wesley diehlWesley W. Diehl (’82) graduated with a degree in geology and is now highly respected at ExxonMobil. He arrived at Exxon just before the oil crash of the mid-1980s and worked his way up through the highly competitive organization. In 2007, he took a big step into advising development of some of the company’s largest international oil and gas players. He supervised 50 senior geologists involved in ensuring that oil and gas reservoirs are developed in an efficient and environmentally safe manner. Wesley retired in 2014.

Wesley has also made a huge contribution to the success of the UT Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and our students. Wesley and his wife, Cindy, have been very generous with their time, talent, and treasure. During his annual recruiting visit to UT, Wesley gives talks to students about career opportunities. In 2011, Wesley and Cindy Diehl established a Faculty Achievement Award fund-the fund is used for awards to our most highly productive faculty.


Alumni Scholarly and Creative Achievement

This award recognizes alumni who have achieved a high degree of success in their chosen field in either a scholarly or creative endeavor.

Alumni Scholarly Achievement

Carroll Van WestCarroll Van West (’78) received his BA from Middle Tennessee State University, MA in history from UT, and PhD from the College of William and Mary. He is a professor in the Department of History at MTSU. Carroll currently serves as Tennessee’s State Historian. He is the co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and director of The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. He played a central role in founding and developing the MTSU program in public history, the most important and visible such program in Tennessee, and one with a national reputation for academic excellence.

He has all the accomplishments of a significant scholar in his field, including books, articles, and presentations that reflect a long and distinguished academic career. In 2013, Governor Bill Haslam appointed Carroll as State Historian.

Alumni Creative Achievement

paula pellPaula Pell (’86) is an outstanding and noteworthy alumna of the Department of Theatre. After graduating from UT, Paula worked for Disney as a writer and performer. In 1995, she started writing for Saturday Night Live and was nominated for an Emmy as writer of the “Saturday Night Live at 40” special. Paula is credited with some of SNL’s most enduring sketches, including “Debbie Downer” and for the performers Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, and Will Farrell. Paula’s most enduring success post-SNL came with the 2015 film, Sisters.

As a performer, Paula can be seen as Tammy Zero in Parks and Recreation, and as herself in the web series Hudson Valley Ballers. Paula has received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Writing – Variety, Music or Comedy Series. Paula was recognized with the Clarence Brown Theatre Artistic Achievement Award in 2016.


College Philanthropist

This award recognizes the exceptional generosity and impact of a philanthropist whose philanthropy has made a significant difference to the College of Arts and Sciences over an extended period of time.

Sandra WhiteSandra White is the widow of David C. White, former professor of microbiology. Since 2008, the American Society for Microbiology has awarded a David C. White Research and Mentoring Award to recognize distinguished accomplishments in interdisciplinary research and training in microbiology. In 2015, Sandy established the David C. White Memorial Travel Award Endowment at UT. The fund covers the cost of registration, travel, lodging and food for select undergraduate or graduate students that want to attend the national meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. The fund is designed to help our students further their educations and careers as microbiologists.

In 2014, The David and Sandra White Faculty Endowed Professorship in Microbiology was established through a generous philanthropic commitment from Sandy. The head of microbiology will always hold the David and Sandra White professorship and will be required to maintain standards of distinguished performance in relation to their duties as a department head and microbiologist.


Volunteer Service

This award recognizes exceptional service or long-term, continuing service of leadership by alumni or friends to the college, department, or program within the college over an extended period of time.

Betty BeaumontBetty Beaumont (’74) graduated with a BA in Latin from the Department of Classics and has served in various roles, including marketing, communications, and HR at Proctor and Gamble for 24 years. Her final role was as associate director of human resources. Since retiring, Bettye has devoted herself to volunteering for a variety of organizations both at UT and in the Cincinnati area.

Bettye has served as a Board Member for the Archaeological Institute of America at the University of Cincinnati, the World Figure Skating Championship, and Cincinnati Bicentennial Committee (as P&G rep). In addition, Bettye has served as an officer for the Cincinnati Art Museum Docent Corps, Hyde Park Center for Older Adults, Greek Alumni Advisors Council at the University of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Alumnae Panhellenic Association. Bettye serves as Council President, Trustees Chair, Staff-Parish Relations, and e-newsletter editor for Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.

At UT, Bettye has served on the Classics Advisory Committee since 2013, designed and helped implement a system for recruiting more majors and minors for the department, and participated in a video project. Bettye set up the Athena Travel Fund Endowment in the classics department to help students with travel costs.

The Arab American Club of Knoxville (AACK) and its individual board members (Susan Dakak, Lina Shatara, Maysoon Nadrous, Suzanne Mubarak, Samia Hanna, Rula Habibi, Helen Harb, Robert Darraj, Suhair Burbar, Randa Halloun, and Susie Saah) have worked with UT for years and include many long-term donors. Collectively, the club has supported and enhanced the Medical Center, the McClung Museum, the Baker Center, the School of Music, the Departments of Religious Studies, History, Political Science, Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, and the newly formed program in Middle East Studies. They have financially sponsored museum displays and outreach events, musical programming, and the ongoing Arab Fest, now in its fourth year.

Most recently, they have worked to raise thousands of dollars toward the university’s first endowment related to Middle East Studies programming and student travel. AACK devotes considerable resources to planning and executing our annual Arab cultural festival. Although AACK partners with various departments in the college, the board members themselves purchase many of the items that make Arab Fest a success and spend hundreds and hundreds of hours from February until October planning programming and coordinating an army of community and student volunteers.

The Arab American Club truly embodies the Volunteer spirit, modeling civic engagement to our students and helping the college fulfill UT’s mandate as a land-grant institution. They give of their time, money, and talents for one purpose – to enhance the cultural experiences of the UT student body and the greater Knoxville community.

arab american club knoxville


Dean’s Distinguished Alumnus

The purpose of this award is to recognize an outstanding alumnus/alumna of the College of Arts and Sciences who has attained extraordinary distinction through a lifetime record of achievement and service.

Diane Grob SchmidtDiane Grob Schmidt (’69) received an AB in chemistry from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and an MS in organic chemistry from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She completed her PhD in chemistry at the University of Cincinnati and joined Procter and Gamble Co., where she progressed through the ranks and became the research and development section head with global responsibilities from 1997 to 2014. She was involved in and led hair care technology development for combining shampoo and conditioning and anti-dandruff agents into single hair care products. Technology she developed is utilized in Pert Plus, Head and Shoulders, Pantene, Vidal Sassoon, Ivory, and Prell. The research teams she led at Procter and Gamble also developed perfume delivery technology for detergent granules and liquid fabric softeners, and technology for adding antibacterial actives and controlled release/targeted delivery of antibacterial actives into cleansing products. All of these products are commonly found in households across the United States and the modern world and have enhanced the lives of millions.

In 1994, she was named the Distinguished Scientist of Cincinnati, the first woman ever chosen for this honor by the Engineers and Scientists of Cincinnati since its founding in 1898. Schmidt has been active in the American Chemical Society (ACS) since soon after she graduated from UT. She is also a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (2011), American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (2016), and the National Academy of Inventors (2016). She has won numerous other awards from her sorority, ACS, and Proctor & Gamble, among others. Diane has served her discipline and her university continuously since embarking upon her career. She joined the CAS Board of Visitors (now the Dean’s Advisory Board) in 1996, and the Department of Chemistry’s Board of Industrial Visitors/Industrial Steering Committee in 1999. She served as chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board 2013-2015 and chair of the Chemistry Board of Visitors. She paved the way for women chemists in industry. While doing so she also led the way for women chemists to take an active role in their national organization. In 2016, the NAI Fellows Selection Committee chose her for induction as a fellow into the National Academy of Inventors.


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