Monday, November 25, 2013

[263] MTSU student ministry hosting ‘Thicker Than Water’ watch party

Local cast of Bravo reality show to attend Nov. 24 event
MURFREESBORO — A new student ministry group at Middle Tennessee State University is introducing itself to campus by hosting a viewing party Sunday night for a new reality TV show with heavy local ties.

C.L.U.B. Destiny, a nondenominational group, will host a special viewing of the latest episode of “Thicker than Water: The Tankards,” a new reality show broadcast nationally on the Bravo network featuring the family of Murfreesboro couple Ben and Jewel Tankard, co-pastors of Destiny Center church on Memorial Boulevard in Murfreesboro.

The hourlong show, which airs at 8 p.m. CST each Sunday on Bravo, follows the lives of successful gospel jazz musician Ben Tankard, his business-minded wife, Jewel, and their blended family. As described by Bravo, a division of NBCUniversal, “this southern family integrates their strong religious conviction with their penchant for the finer things in life.”

The Tankard couple recently appeared on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” promoting the show, which drew 1.85 million viewers for its Nov. 17 episode, according to Nielsen. Learn more about the show at

Cast members will be on hand for the event, which is free and open to the public and will be held in the State Farm Room of the MTSU Business and Aerospace Building. A printable campus map is available at

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Sunday with light refreshments in the lobby area, with the show to air at 8 p.m. The cast will answer questions during commercial breaks, and questions can be submitted beforehand via Twitter and Facebook using the hash tag #MTThickerThanWater.

MTSU junior RuChadd Bivins, a business administration major and Jackson, Tenn., native, is C.L.U.B. Destiny’s president and a member of Destiny Center, which sponsors the college ministry. The group’s mission is to minister to college students “with simplicity” with an ultimate goal of “leading them back to Christ.” The C.L.U.B. in the group’s names stands for Christ Leading Us Back.

“I feel our mission with the viewing party is a launch to garner support for our ministry and the show and inform our campus that a new organization is approaching and open to all,” Bivins said. “We want to infect the campus with the love of Christ. If you believe it, you can do it.”

Students interested in joining C.L.U.B. Destiny can contact Bivins via email at

[262] Hundreds of MTSU students turn out for Senior Day

University sees successful return of ‘thank you’ event for future alums
MURFREESBORO — With information packets in tow, Middle Tennessee State University senior Martrell Harris left the Student Union ballroom Tuesday satisfied with the knowledge that the Blue Raider community wants to stay connected to him once he secures his diploma.

Harris was among hundreds of seniors who attended “Senior Day,” a celebratory luncheon event in which several university departments set up informational booths to prepare prospective graduates for life beyond campus. Organizers estimated close to 400 students turned out, greatly exceeding expectations for an event now planned to be held each semester.

“It’s good to know the university is interested in us after we graduate,” said Harris, a music business major from Sweetwater, Tenn. “We can always come back and use things like the Career Center to develop us and get our resumes ready.”

Organized by Alumni Relations, the Development Office and the College of Graduate Studies, Senior Day returned this year after being on hiatus for a few years. Other participants included Financial Aid, Career Development Center, Young Alumni Group, Phillips Bookstore and the Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center.

Paul Wydra, assistant director of MTSU Alumni Relations, said the event fills a “void” on campus by giving the university a final opportunity before graduation to formally interact with graduating seniors. His office was pleased with the turnout and is considering expanding the event to include organizations from the wider community.

“It has far exceeded our expectations,” Wydra said. “We’re very excited. We plan on doing this every semester.”

The wider community presence was felt early by a visit Tuesday from former Tennessee Titan Dennis Stallings, now a Nashville banking executive. Stallings met with university faculty and administrators to discuss student success initiatives and how he could become more involved.

“It’s a great opportunity to be here today,” said Stallings, who noted that some Titans players have expressed interest in opportunities to complete undergraduate degrees or pursue advanced degrees. “Anytime you can empower somebody to impact others, then you can count on me to be involved.”

Nontraditional student and Smyrna, Tenn., resident Tiffany Redding is set to graduate in December with a degree in animal science. She and her husband are raising three children while holding full-time jobs and with him also currently enrolled in the Graduate School.

Redding stopped by Senior Day — quickly — to get information about graduate school as well as basic details about the December graduation ceremony. While still undecided about graduate school, Redding said her undergraduate experience at MTSU has been great.

“I did have options for a lot of online classes, distance education and things like that,” she said. “It’s worked out well for us.”

Fellow senior Harris, who is wrapping up his studies within MTSU’s nationally recognized recording industry program, plans to pursue career opportunities with Universal Music Group after graduation. The aspiring recording artist admitted that MTSU wasn’t his first choice to attend college, but it certainly ended up being his best choice.

“There are more students here than in my entire town, so I didn’t know if I was going to fit in well. But MTSU has a great experience, from CUSTOMS until now,” he said. “I met friends from day one, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to come here. It has been the best decision I’ve ever made.”

[261] Family of George Jones establishes MTSU scholarship fund to create a living memorial to country music legend

Nancy Jones says the university’s programs, students embody late singer’s memory

NASHVILLE — The widow of country music icon George Jones announced Monday that her family has established a scholarship fund at Middle Tennessee State University, which they hope will become a living memorial to the late singer.

Nancy Jones announced the creation of the fund at a Nashville ceremony to unveil a monument to her husband of 30 years. The Country Music Hall of Fame member died April 26 at the age of 81.

“George would have liked the fact that MTSU attracts so many first-generation college students, as well as students who face financial challenges,” Jones said. “Like George, they are hard-working folks who are determined to make their dreams a reality.”

Nancy Jones will be making the first donation to the fund. MTSU Recording Industry Department Chair Beverly Keel, who will oversee the donation drive for the fund, said she hopes the effort will raise enough for multiple scholarships and programs that celebrate Jones’ music and career.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, who attended Monday’s announcement at the Woodlawn Roesch-Patton Funeral Home and Memorial Park, thanked Jones for choosing the university to honor the memory of her husband.

“MTSU is a very appropriate place to honor George Jones because of its nationally known recording industry program,” McPhee said. “We have educated many of the leaders of the country music industry and we are dedicated to teaching students about the important contributions of country music.”

Donations can be made online at or by mail at George Jones Scholarship Fund, MTSU, Office of Development, Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. For more information, call 615-898-5595 or email at

MTSU’s College of Mass Communication, which houses the Recording Industry Department and the Center for Popular Music, is working to preserve and promote the legacy of Jones, who charted No. 1 country songs across several decades, from the '50s through the '80s.
Jones won two GRAMMY Awards, the first coming in 1980 for his now-classic hit "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which was named Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, and the second in 1999 in the same category for "Choices." He was presented a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
“George Jones had an extraordinary life and career on so many levels and we are grateful that his legacy will inspire and benefit a new generation through education,” said Mass Communication Dean Ken Paulson. He said the college will add to its collection of research material and artifacts surrounding Jones’ career.
Keel said her department is developing a course on the life and music of Jones and will “create opportunities for scholars to offer their analyses and interpretations of his music that can then be shared with scholars internationally.”
“We want to make sure that students 100 years from now will fall in love with ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ just as we did, no matter what future technology they may use to listen to his traditional country music,” Keel said.

Nancy Jones said her husband would have been pleased to have students benefit from this effort in his name.

“George received help from people as he strove to have a country music career, so I am thrilled that we will be able to help young people in the name of George Jones,” she said. “I know he would have loved this.”


[260] MTSU ag facilities impress prominent Chinese researcher

MURFREESBORO — A renowned Chinese professor, administrator and researcher left MTSU Nov. 20 following what he called a “very impressive” first-hand look at the university’s agricultural facilities.

Renjie “Randdy” Dong of China Agricultural University in Beijing spoke with university administrators, including President Sidney A. McPhee and School of Agribusiness and Agriscience Director Warren Gill, before visiting the dairy processing unit on campus and MTSU Experiential Learning and Research Center (the farm) in Lascassas, Tenn.

Dong, head of energy engineering and low carbon technology at his university, said the dairy facility at the farm is “advanced” and was impressed by the fact about 40 Food and Drug Administration personnel were receiving training on campus during his visit.

“Research is fantastic here,” said Dong, who also serves as director in the Office of International Relations and executive director of the Biomass Engineering Center at China Agricultural University.

After spending more than 30 minutes with MTSU alternative fuels researcher Cliff Ricketts and surrounded by a variety of vehicles in the Vocational Ag Shop, Dong spoke of how he “found the green energy excellent” on campus. Green energy is any type of energy that is produced with less negative impact on the environment, lessening our dependence on fossil fuels.

“Cliff turns knowledge into technology,” Dong said, noting that Ricketts uses four fuels in one car and still uses a hydrogen car. Ricketts also uses electricity to produce hydrogen and uses hydrogen (from water) to drive the car.

“I meet with many universities,” Dong added. “Many leave it (research) in the laboratory. Here, you can see real practical application.”

Ricketts, who drove 2,600 miles coast-to-coast using no gasoline in March, has much in common with Dong.

“I was very impressed with him being up to date on technology in China and all his contacts he has in the United States,” Ricketts said. “He’s very open-minded and collegial. He’s a very brilliant man who is very up to date on alternative fuels and green energy. It’s his thing.”

One area of shared interest is algae. The veteran professor wants to do a cross-country drive with algae as the fuel source.

“That’s our game,” Dong said, “and it’s an alternative fuel he has studied. It’s green energy. He successfully has worked with a company (Tractor Supply for more than 20 years) and he has received funding that has been matched by the university. This shows the university supports green energy research.”

Waste management, clean biomass stove, algae, constructed wetland and climate change/carbon furnace are Dong’s current research fields.

One of Ricketts’ students this semester in an ag leadership class, junior Ting Dai of Beijing, formerly attended China Agricultural University. He is an agribusiness major.

McPhee and David Schmidt, vice provost for international affairs, served as Dong’s campus tour liaisons.

Schmidt called it “a great visit by a representative of our first strong partnership in China.”

“This partnership continues to grow stronger and the mutual benefits multiply each year,” Schmidt added.

In the spring semester, Dong’s son, Wenbo, is expected to work on research projects with MTSU’s Charles Perry, who holds the Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence affiliated with the Department of Engineering Technology.

Dong also was introduced to fellow countryman Song Cui, a first-year assistant professor in the MTSU ag program. Both have mutual ties to other U.S. universities.

Friday, November 22, 2013

[259] MTSU Honors College hosts Nov. 25 concert as part of ‘Beauty’ lecture series

MURFREESBORO — The MTSU Honors College will welcome countertenor and lutenist Mark Rimple and soprano Julie Ferris as they perform songs in praise of love across four centuries of Western music.

The concert, titled “Beauté Parfaite” (perfect beauty), will be held at 4:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, in the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building amphitheater (Room 106) on campus. The concert is free and open to the public. A printable campus map can be found at

The concert is part of the Honors College Fall Lecture Series and will follow Rimple’s 3 p.m. presentation, “Returning the Soul: Concepts of Beauty in Expressionist Music, Art, and Literature.” The lecture also is open to the public.

Rimple, who is a professor of music theory and composition at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, also serves as the director of the Collegium Musicum, a chamber ensemble specializing in the use of authentic instruments and performance techniques in the music of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras.

“As director of the Collegium Musicum, I try to find music that both educates the student about larger historical trends and styles of music and that reveals a bit of the hidden treasures of our past,” said Rimple, who is a skilled composer and performer and frequently appears with the musical groups Trefoil and The Newberry Consort.

Ferris, who will perform with Rimple, was born and raised in Murfreesboro. She lives in southeastern Pennsylvania and sings with the vocal ensemble Musica Humana. Ferris also has performed as a soloist with early music ensembles such as New York Collegium and The Folger Consort. She studied voice as an undergraduate at Northwestern University and completed a master of music history degree at Temple University

Ferris also has extensive experience as a professional church soloist in the Chicago and Philadelphia areas. Her father, Norman Ferris, served as an MTSU history professor for about 35 years before retiring in 1997. Norman Ferris and other family members plan to attend.

Rimple and Ferris will present love songs from Machaut’s Remede de Fortune and from the lute ayre collections of Thomas Campion, John Dowland, Francis Pilkington and Alfonso Ferrabosco, a collaborator in Ben Jonson’s masques.

Rimple will perform several solo lute compositions by Francesco da Milano, Valentin Bakfark and John Dowland, and will also perform several selections from the small corpus of surviving medieval dance works on the gittern, a precursor of the European Lute.