History of the East Tennessee Chapter

The Early Days

The East Tennessee Chapter of the University of Alabama Alumni Association traces its roots back to 1948 when it received its charter. Jeff Coleman, secretary of the National Alumni Association, presented the charter at a meeting held at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in downtown Knoxville. Sherrill Mitchell, class of 1926, was installed as the chapter’s first president.

Like many volunteer organizations, the chapter apparently had its ups and downs during its early years. The records are sketchy, but the chapter met sporadically during the 1950s, languished toward the end of the decade, and was re-activated in 1962 when Cecil Jackson agreed to be president.

New Directions

A couple of important steps were taken in the late 1970’s that put the chapter on its present course and established it as one of the National Alumni Association’s premier out-of-state chapters. First, Col. Joe Shepherd, then a faculty member at the University of Tennessee, secured a permanent meeting place at the University of Tennessee’s Faculty Club, and the club started meeting on the third Friday of every month (in honor of a little rivalry called the 3rd Saturday in October) for lunch at the Faculty Club.

Secondly, the chapter, acting on a suggestion from Travis Parker, voted to establish a chapter scholarship. The scholarship, initially valued at $1,000, would be used to encourage a top East Tennessee Area student to attend UA with scholarship and leadership as the twin criteria.

Gathering Funds for Scholarship

Fund raising to support the scholarship commitment became the chapter’s main focus. Encouraged by a contribution from Joe and Claire Shepherd, several chapter members agreed to contribute $100 each and become members of the Century Club to get the scholarship fund going. In 1980, the chapter had enough cash to award its first scholarship.

For several years, the chapter had to fund the scholarship from its current funds while it worked to accumulate a $10,000 balance, the minimum amount required to endow a scholarship through the NAA. In 1987, the $10,000 goal was finally reached and an endowed scholarship became a reality. In recognition of their continuing generous support of the scholarship, the chapter named the scholarship in honor of Col. Joe and Claire Shepherd.

Taking advantage of the University’s matching funds program from the sale of Alabama license plates, the chapter over the years has been able to build its endowment to a sizable amount. In 2007 we added two additional scholarship endowments to be awarded annually Mr. and Mrs. Bill Stallworth scholarship endowment and Hoyt and Margie Turbyfill scholarship endowment and in 2009 the chapter established a fourth scholarship named for the club, which reached the required endowment level of $20,000 in 2010.

[Update: Since that time four additional scholarships have been added: the Edward B. Lester and Roberta J. Evans scholarship endowment; the Virginia K. and William E. Morrow scholarship endowment; the Jim Bogan Memorial scholarship endowment and the Mark and Elaine Heinrich Endowed Scholarship. As of 2020, the balance for all chapter scholarships was over one million dollars.]

The Famous Tennessee Riverboat Cruise

As the ETUA chapter gained stature in the eyes of the University and NAA, it was called upon to host visiting alumni at a pre-game party before the biannual Alabama-Tennessee football game in Knoxville. The chapter used this opportunity to also raise additional money for its scholarship funds. In 1996, Jesse Hammond hit upon the idea of a river cruise on Friday evening before the game. The idea clicked. Now the trips aboard the sternwheeler Star of Knoxville are long anticipated by visiting alumni, and the boat filled to capacity for both early and late evening cruises.

Notable Success

With solid scholarship endowments, a student recruitment effort that reaches thousands of high school students, an annual spring banquet, popular pre-game cruises, and well attended monthly meetings, it is no surprise that the East Tennessee Chapter is a perennial winner of Chapter of the Year honors for the NAA.

The chapter has come a long way since its somewhat ragged beginnings more than seven decades ago.

Written by member Worth Wilkerson

ETUA Chapter Honors

1996-1997 Alabama Alumni Out-of-State Chapter of the Year, Division AA
2002 Scholarship Leaders Club
2003 Scholarship Leaders Club
2003-2004 Alabama Alumni Out-of-State Chapter of the Year, Division AA
2004 Scholarship Leaders Club
2005 Scholarship Leaders Club
2005-2006 Alabama Alumni Out-of-State Chapter of the Year, Division AA
2006 Scholarship Leaders Club
2006-2007 Alabama Alumni Out-of-State Chapter of the Year, Division AA
2007 Scholarship Leaders Club
2008 Scholarship Leaders Club
2015 Outstanding Out-of-State Small Chapter Award
2019 Outstanding Out-of-State Small Chapter Award