For MTSU senior Michelle Kelley of Murfreesboro, receiving the university's prestigious Buchanan Fellowship opened up the world to her by providing opportunities to travel abroad.
The Siegel High School graduate credits the Buchanan, which is the university's highest award, and other available scholarships with giving her the freedom to concentrate on academics. That's important for a physics major who's also juggling minors in mathematics and aerospace.
"These past four years I have been able to focus solely on my education and take advantage of every opportunity," Kelley told those attending the fourth annual 1911 Society Luncheon held recently at the MT Center on Middle Tennessee Boulevard.
Kelley joined other high-achieving scholars from across the university along with development officers, several MTSU deans and other top administrators in thanking the newest members of the 1911 Society, which celebrates individuals and families who have created gifts to the university through their estate plans.
A trip to the Czech Republic two years ago is now a memorable part of Kelley's journey toward a December graduation and graduate school next year. An upcoming summer trip to Germany for her honors thesis will add to those memories. Not bad for someone who hadn't previously traveled outside the Southeast.
"Your funding has opened up the entire world to me," said Kelley, whose grandfather and uncle are alumni as well as an older sister who is now pursuing her master's degree and a younger sister finishing up her freshman year at MTSU.
In thanking the donors for their commitment, MTSU Director of Development Pat Branam noted that there were now 183 members of the 1911 Society, which is named in honor of MTSU's founding year. New members receive a framed rendering of Kirksey Old Main.
This year's new members included Joni K. and William K. Burke; Frederic M. Crawford; Emily P. and Dale Ellis; Robert A. Frazier; Mary Belle Ginanni; Mark and Sheila King; Helen W. Reed; and Dan and Margaret Scott.
Also recognized at the April 22 luncheon were 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.
Signal Society members recognized at this year's luncheon for 40-plus years of giving were Tommy H. and Milbrey Campbell; Karen Caton; Edward Chappell Jr.; George and Lynn Claxton; Robert and Janice Garrigus; and Sam and Lynette Ingram. And recognized for 50 years of giving were R. Norman and Barbara Martin.
In his welcoming remarks, Joe Bales, vice president for university advancement, thanked donors for their help with the record $105 million-plus Centennial Campaign fundraising drive that will allow the university to continue upgrading facilities and infrastructure, attract top faculty and provide the funding support students need to earn their degrees.
"Great students -- that's what this institution is about," Bales said. "You are helping truly transform MTSU into Tennessee's best institution."
MTSU senior Sam Hulsey of Lebanon, Tennessee, told the crowd he had just been to Nashville earlier in the day where he attended a meeting of various advocacy groups for immigrants that included former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. He then came back to campus to defend his honors thesis.
It's all part of an "unconventional" undergraduate education for the global studies and Spanish major that included an honors transfer fellowship Hulsey received his first year on campus that paved the way to other successes and some "wow" opportunities, he said.
Such financial support for students is especially important at a public university like MTSU, he said, since many students must work part-time or full-time jobs in order to pay for their educations.
The transfer fellowship "allowed me to concentrate my efforts in scholarly pursuits," said Hulsey, noting his opportunity to study in three different countries, study four different languages and pursue a five-month internship in Peru.
"This funding changes lives," he said. "It opens up a lot of doors."