Society donors make ‘life-changing’ impacts through planned gifts

For MTSU spring graduate Alexis Marshall of Murfreesboro, her hometown university provided her a chance to pursue her academic passion without mountains of debt, expand her worldview through overseas trips and prepare for the next steps toward a professional career.

Graduating at Saturday’s commencement with degrees in journalism and Spanish and a minor in Arabic, the Buchanan Fellow has taken study abroad trips to Israel and Spain during her MTSU undergraduate career as she considers a career as a foreign correspondent.

By securing the Buchanan, the university’s top scholarship, in addition to other scholarships along the way, Marshall isn’t facing crushing student loan debt as she prepares to head to Morocco for two months after graduation to study Arabic via a fully funded, government-sponsored scholarship and then apply for a position with the U.S. Department of State.

“That has been life-changing for me, because that means I get to graduate completely debt free,” Marshall said of her MTSU scholarships. “I’m glad that I’m free to pursue my passion without worrying about (thousands in debt) hanging over my head at graduation.”

Marshall and other select students joined MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, development officers, academic deans and other top administrators at Stones River Country Club in early April for the seventh annual 1911 Society Luncheon, which celebrates individuals and families who have created gifts to the university through their estate plans.

“We are very fortunate to have donors, whose contributions and planned gifts provide the financial resources our students need to succeed,” said Joe Bales, vice president for university advancement. “Private support is no longer considered secondary or supplemental funding; today the University’s success and that of our students and faculty depend on the philanthropic contributions of our alumni and friends. We would not be the institution we are today without their generosity and commitment.”

The newest members of the 1911 Society, which is named in honor of MTSU’s founding year, receive a framed rendering of Kirksey Old Main.

Also recognized at the luncheon were new members of the Signal Society, which honors annual donors who have supported the university in 20 or more years. This group is named for Middle Tennessee Normal School’s first newspaper/magazine, The Signal, which was originally published in 1912. New Signal donors receive an engraved medallion reflecting their years of support.

And new members of a third group, Old Main Society, were recognized for reaching donation milestones and received miniature replicas of Kirksey.

The newest 1911 Society members are: Gilbert Backlund Jr., Janie Hulan Bartlette, Terry C. Bird, Cornelia Freeman Cooper, Clyde L. Hall, James K. Patterson, College of Education Dean Lana C. Seivers, Pamela and Ray Singer, and Kenneth W. Walden.

The newest Old Main Society members, recognized for donation milestones, are: Barbara M. Cobble, Richard C. Key, Charles M. and Judy C. Myatt, Charles and Nancy Pigg, Ralph and Carol Ruckart, David A. and Frances L. Singer, and Clara W. Todd.

The newest Signal Society members, recognized for 40-plus years of support, are: Faye Brandon, Hutton S. Brandon, Regina Jones Giles, Charles and Delia Goodman, Ken and Lisa Halliburton, Betsy and the late Dr. Tom Johns, William and Theresa Ketron, Nelson Smotherman, and Harold and Charlotte Swafford.

Marshall’s graduation Saturday continues a strong True Blue tradition within her family — her mother and stepfather are alums, her sister is currently enrolled and one of her cousins also graduates Saturday.

For more information about donating to MTSU, visit, call MTSU Development & Advancement Services at 615-898-2502 or email

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