Thursday, November 16, 2017

[189] MTSU Raider Relief effort delivers needed supplies to former player’s family in Puerto Rico

Board of Trustee’s Freeman, McPhee, Davis launch effort to provide assistance

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – It was that one moment Wednesday, when Luz Cortes hugged her son, Raymond Cintron, when the reason for Raider Relief was clear.

“That moment was when we realized what we did — all the fundraising, the donations, the flight here — was helping Raymond’s family survive,” said Darrell Freeman, vice chairman of Middle Tennessee State University’s Board of Trustees and an MTSU alumnus.

“And they were so very happy, so very grateful, for our True Blue family."

Raider Relief, launched earlier this month by Freeman, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis, raised money and supplies for Cintron’s family.

Cintron, a star guard for the Blue Raiders in 2011-13, has been displaced to the Orlando area from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that devastated Puerto Rico in September.

His family remains on the island and they were in dire need of medicine, food and generators, all of which was stuffed into Freeman’s aircraft.

On Wednesday, with the help of the Puerto Rico Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, MTSU’s partner with its Department of Aerospace, Cintron’s family got the aid they desperately needed. Freeman flew Cintron, McPhee, Vice President Andrew Oppmann and university pilot Terry Dorris, who served as co-pilot, on the seven-hour journey.

“It means everything to me,” Cintron said. “This is something very, very special. This will remain in our hearts for the rest of our lives.”

The MTSU group flew back to Murfreesboro Thursday. McPhee credited the Civil Air Patrol volunteers for making the final stages of Raider Relief possible. The Civil Air Patron, or CAP, is the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.

“Our CAP partners overcame an island-wide power outage to assemble here, with volunteers and trucks, and get this aid to Raymond’s family,” McPhee said. “Without Trustee Freeman’s plane and the Civil Air Patrol, none of this would have happened.”

Col. Carlos Fernandez, commander of CAP’s Puerto Rico Wing, said his volunteers were happy to assist with Raider Relief.

“We’re in the business of helping people,” he said. “This is what we do.”

[188] Gigi’s Cupcakes founder tells MTSU students to ‘do what’s in your heart’

Gives keynote address for university’s Global Entrepreneurship Week

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Gina “Gigi” Butler came to MTSU this week to give students the “unfiltered truth about success,” while sharing the ups and downs she experienced on her way to founding the largest cupcake franchise in the country.

The founder and chief innovation officer for Gigi’s Cupcakes gave the keynote address for this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week activities at MTSU, which included an Entrepreneurship Fair for area high school students Wednesday and wraps up with guest lectures on Thursday.

Butler told the crowd of about 150 students gathered Tuesday (Nov. 14) inside the Student Union Ballroom that at some point in life each of them would need to reinvent themselves. She recalled a “now what?” stage in her life when she read every self-help book she could find to broaden her thinking and perspective.

“It’s painful and it’s hard,” said the Nashville entrepreneur. “But I expanded my mind and it changed me.”

She went from starting a gourmet cupcake business almost a decade ago with $33 in her bank account to franchising a national brand that now has over 100 locations in 23 states and growing — and 45 million cupcakes sold.

“If I can do this, then you can do what’s in your heart,” she said, noting that she got her entrepreneurial spirit from her father and her love of baking from her mother. “Success happens when you can successfully transition into something else.”

MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business again hosted the weeklong series of events and guest speakers to promote entrepreneurship, and it follows last month’s Start It Up Conference featuring “Shark Tank” star Daymond John, who Butler mentioned in her opening remarks Tuesday.

John devotes several pages in his new book, “The Power of Broke,” to Butler’s success story and Butler has asked John to write the foreword to her book that is scheduled to come out next year. During his visit to Murfreesboro last month, John shared his story of going from driving cabs in New York to building the multimillion-dollar FUBU clothing brand.

“He wasn’t an overnight success and neither was I,” said Butler, who sold her franchise last year so that she could concentrate on being a “full-time mom” to her 6-year-old daughter.

Butler’s journey to success included cleaning toilets for a living and giving up on dreams of being a country music singer. And it also meant being repeatedly turned down for loans and leases to open her cupcake business. “But they didn’t see my vision,” she said.

Butler shared the story of when her initial career vision, that of being a singer, vanished. She was running her successful cleaning company at the time and one day happened to be cleaning the home where a young, aspiring teenager named Taylor Swift lived. Once Butler heard that voice, she knew it was time for her to move on.

Along the way, she even appeared on the CBS reality program “Undercover Boss” in 2015. Other than the birth of her business and her now 6-year-old daughter, Butler said participating on the television program was the hardest thing she’s ever done. One of the major lessons she learned from the experience was the importance of brand consistency and implementing brand standards.

“Branding to me is everything,” she said, while pointing to the distinctive bags and boxes Gigi’s uses to package its products.

Before taking audience questions, Butler gave students her recipe for success: take the leap (don’t be afraid to fail); respect the power of hard work; be grateful and thankful; and always give.

Butler’s story was “very inspiring” to Jones College senior finance major Junie Mendez of Knoxville, Tennessee, who has dreams of opening up her own coffee shop one day.

“I thought that it was great how she said stick to your education to make things easier on yourself, because that’s very important,” said Mendez, referring to Butler’s answer to an audience question about what advice she would give students.

Butler dropped out of college to pursue her business, but didn’t recommend MTSU students take that route today because a strong education can help young entrepreneurs avoid some of the pitfalls she experienced in building Gigi’s.

“There’s so much risk involved, and like she said, there’s a lot of no’s, but you have to push through that,” said Mendez, who feels her finance background will be an important asset in trying to operate a new business.

Speaker Greg Lewis, CEO of the Nashville-based Tennessee Center for Family Business, will wrap events up with a public address from 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, in the Student Union Ballroom. Lewis, an expert in organizational management, team building and generational leadership transition, will discuss the ins and outs of running family-owned businesses.

The week’s events are being held in conjunction with the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, an international celebration of innovators and job creators held each November.

Gigi Butler's appearance was being sponsored by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center based at MTSU, while the Department of Management committee members coordinating the week's events include chair Josh Aaron, Stacy Aaron, Kristen Shanine, Ralph Williams, Adam Smith, Pat Geho, and Jinxing Yue.

Off-campus visitors attending the speaking events should obtain a special one-day permit from MTSU’s Office of Parking and Transportation at A searchable campus parking map is available at

For more information, contact Stacy Aaron at 615-494-7708 or email

[187] MTSU selected to get use of new Cessna for promoting aerospace program, careers

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University’s aerospace department has been selected by Textron Aviation to receive a new Cessna aircraft as part of their Top Hawk program for 2018. 

Textron Aviation will provide a new 2018 Cessna Skyhawk 172, considered the most popular training aircraft in the world, for use by the university to support pilot training, promote general aviation and connect future pilots to higher education.

Through the Top Hawk program, MTSU has use of the new custom-branded plane from February to September.

Flight instructors within the Department of Aerospace will showcase general aviation throughout the region as MTSU attends air shows, participates in summer camps for teens and teachers, hosts a number of aviation days with area high schools, as well as participate in the Air Race Classic.

“We could not be more excited to partner with Textron Aviation as part of this program,” said Nicholas Lenczycki, MTSU Flight Operations program manager.

“Textron is a world-class organization, known throughout the world for their capable aircraft,” he added. “To be able to provide our students and community an opportunity to explore general aviation with the latest technology is just another example of how MTSU provides high quality experiences to our students.”

In addition to several regional airshows, MTSU plans to attend the 44th Sun ’n Fun International Fly-in & Expo in Lakeland, Florida, in April. As one of the largest airshows in the country, Sun ’n Fun hosts more than 200,000 guests from 60 countries.

“Sun ’n Fun is an opportunity for MTSU to reach students in a new way,” said Lenczycki. “While we normally have a booth at Oshkosh, the largest fly-in in the country, being able to fly into an airshow of the magnitude of Sun ’n Fun is going to attract a lot of attention for the university.”

Meanwhile, the Air Race Classic is an all-women cross-country air race. Race teams, consisting of at least two female pilots, must fly under visual flight rules during daylight hours only and are given four days to make flybys at each en route timing point and then land at the terminus.

The 2018 race begins June 19 in Sweetwater, Texas, and ends in Fryeburg, Maine.

The MTSU team will use the Cessna Skyhawk as their race aircraft.

“The Top Hawk is a great opportunity for the MTSU aerospace department,” said Elizabeth Keller, a senior in aerospace and one of pilots for next year’s Air Race Classic. “I can’t wait to use the plane for the air race next summer, but, beyond that, I’m excited to use the Top Hawk to spread the word about aviation and the incredible aerospace program MTSU offers. We can't thank Cessna enough!”

Established in 1942, MTSU’s aerospace department in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences has grown into one of the most respected aerospace programs in the nation. Fifteen full-time faculty members, 35 flight instructors, and more than 700 majors places it among the largest of the nation's collegiate aviation programs.

Aerospace majors choose among six concentrations: aviation administration, aerospace technology, flight dispatch, maintenance management, professional pilot and unmanned aircraft systems operations. A master's degree in aviation administration, with concentrations in aviation education, aviation management and aviation safety and security management is also offered. 

The Top Hawk program is in its fourth year. Joining MTSU as participants in the 2018 program are the University of Dubuque, Lewis University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott and California Aeronautical University.

Textron Aviation Inc., a Textron Inc. company, is home to the Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker brands, which account for more than half of all general aviation aircraft flying. Its principal lines of business include business jets, general aviation and special mission turboprop aircraft, high performance piston aircraft, military trainer and defense aircraft and a complete global customer service organization.