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Volume 24, Number 9 — September 2017

TBR Chancellor's, Regents' awards for philanthropy presented to Martins, Thomases

The Regents' Award was presented to James C. Martin and the late Mary B. Martin, whose support has enabled ETSU to establish and operate the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts.
The Regents' Award was presented to James C. Martin and the late Mary B. Martin, whose support has enabled ETSU to establish and operate the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts.
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February 18, 2013

KINGSPORT Tennessee Board of Regents member Paul Montgomery of Kingsport and Chancellor John Morgan bestowed the Chancellor's and Regents' Awards for Excellence in Philanthropy upon individuals who have helped East Tennessee State University and their communities in extraordinary ways.

These acknowledgments of the generosity of the recipients came during the annual Distinguished President's Trust Dinner, held at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center.

The Chancellor's Award was presented to Gerald D. and Cassandra Thomas and the Thomas Construction Co. Inc. for their philanthropic leadership in the recent development of ETSU's athletic facilities, including their recognition by the TBR with the naming of the university's new baseball facility as Thomas Stadium. The Thomas family provided stadium site development, labor and materials valued at approximately $500,000, and their support helped ETSU to move its intercollegiate baseball program to campus after playing for many years off-campus. The family also provided site work for the Betty Basler Field, home of the ETSU Lady Buccaneers softball team.

The Thomas family's total contributions to ETSU over the years exceed $1.3 million and include gifts to the James H. Quillen College of Medicine, Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, Buccaneer Athletic Scholarship Association and Hoops Club.

Gerald Thomas is president and owner of Thomas Construction Co. Inc., a Johnson City infrastructure contractor that builds roadways and municipal utilities and does site work for commercial, industrial and residential developers throughout Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. Thomas has been with the company since its inception in 1973 and purchased full ownership from his brother, Joseph V. Thomas, in 1999.

Thomas, a native of Meadowview, Va., and U.S. Navy veteran, graduated from ETSU with his bachelor's degree in 1971 and his master's degree in 1972. ETSU's 2008 Outstanding Alumnus serves on the Johnson City Power Board, Johnson City/Washington County Economic Development Board, Blue Ridge Physicians Group Board and Bank of Tennessee Washington County Advisory Board. He is a member of the ETSU Foundation Board of Directors and Distinguished President's Trust, as well as the Mountain States Health Alliance Foundation. Gerald and Cassandra are active with their support of ETSU's BASA and with numerous other community organizations.


The Regents' Award was presented to James C. Martin and the late Mary B. Martin, whose support has enabled ETSU to establish and operate the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts.

While working full-time as a chemical technician at Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Mary Martin took night classes at ETSU and graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1962. She went on to hold two United States patents for her inventions. Outside her work, she had a lifelong interest in and passion for the arts, especially music and storytelling, and that involvement has resulted in a lasting legacy since her death in 2008.

James Martin was also a chemist at the Eastman Chemical Division of the Eastman Kodak Co. He holds numerous patents for his innovations over many years. He established a $1 million endowment in the ETSU Foundation in honor and memory of his wife, leading to the creation of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts in 2009. The annual earnings from the endowment are used to ensure collaboration and coordination among the university's various arts programs, including the performing arts of music, dance, theater and storytelling, as well as the graphic arts, such as painting, sculpture, photography, digital media and more. The school reaches out to the community by bringing to the region artists who would typically perform or present in major metropolitan areas.

Since his initial gift, Martin has continued to give, and the endowment now exceeds $5 million. He has made funds available for current operations of the school. In addition, the Martins have supported the Department of Chemistry, public radio station WETS-FM (89.5) and the Reece Museum at ETSU through the years, and James Martin has supported the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough and Milligan College with naming gifts in Mary's memory.

In his letter nominating the Martins for the Regents' Award, ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland noted that the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts allowed the university "to undertake some groundbreaking approaches for educational possibilities in the arts, foster collaborative relationships among ETSU and a diverse spectrum of artists, and create opportunities for the artistic and cultural enrichment of the people of our region and beyond.

"Jim's forward-looking stewardship and Mary's living legacy for the arts," he continued, "are truly transformational for the arts here at Mary's university and will continue to be so for the future well-being of the arts in higher education, and shall also strengthen and consolidate ETSU's position as the region's leader for the broad enhancement of the arts for the people we serve."

Both the TBR Regents' Award and the Chancellor's Award recognize people and organizations that have clearly demonstrated generosity of time and resources to TBR institutions, encouraged others, promoted higher education, and provided examples of ethical leadership, civic responsibility and integrity.

Regents' Award recipients are selected on the basis of their giving to a TBR institution and their outstanding volunteer fundraising efforts for the school. Only four are given annually, and winners are selected from nominations submitted by institutions throughout the entire TBR system. Chancellor's Awards are presented at select occasions hosted by the nominating entity.

The TBR is the nation's sixth largest higher education system, governing 45 post-secondary educational institutions. The TBR system includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 26 technology centers, providing programs to over 180,000 students in 90 of Tennessee's 95 counties.

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The Chancellor's Award was presented to Gerald D. and Cassandra Thomas and the Thomas Construction Co. Inc. for their philanthropic leadership in the recent development of ETSU's athletic facilities.