Outstanding TTU Alumni include two athletes, one supporter

Outstanding TTU Alumni include two athletes, one supporter

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Athletics played a visible role in the lives of three of the people selected recently as Tennessee Tech's 2010 Outstanding Alumni, with two former athletes and one loyal supporter pf the Golden Eagles.

Among the six people honored earlier this month were astronaut Barry Wilmore, a former linebacker for the Golden Eagles in the 80s, and Mike Winchester, an All-America baseball player at Tech during the 70s. A third honoree, Kent Johnson, is an after-school recreation director who supports Tech athletics and instills Tech Pride in the children he mentors.

"The connection to athletics and participation in sports by these three Outstanding Alumni award winners is a good indication of just how much athletics plays a role within the lives of Tennessee Tech students," said Director of Athletics Mark Wilson. "We see how much athletics plays a large role in the overall University community, not only for the student-athletes but for all students who are fans of Tennessee Tech's teams.

"We are so proud of all of their accomplishments, but also of how much they remain involved in the university and that comes, in part, from their involvement in athletics during their time on campus," Wilson said.

Mike Winchester (History, 1975), recognized as one of the top banking lawyers in Knoxville based on a Knoxville Bar Association magazine survey, began a legacy of excellence at Tennessee Tech.

A member of the Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame, Winchester attended TTU on an Ohio Valley Conference baseball scholarship from 1971 to 1975. He was selected to three consecutive OVC baseball teams (1973, 1974, 1975), the NCAA All-South baseball team (1975), and the American Association of Baseball Coaches All-American baseball team (1975).

Academically, Winchester graduated first in his class in the School of Arts and Sciences and received the Derryberry Award, the university’s most prestigious student award given to an outstanding graduating senior.

After graduation, he attended the University of Tennessee College of Law and received a doctor of jurisprudence degree. He was admitted to the Tennessee Bar and the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

A member of the Knoxville, Tennessee and American Bar Associations, Winchester is the founding member and president of Winchester, Sellers, Foster & Steele, P.C., a law firm formed in 1983 concentrating in creditor’s rights, banking, commercial, and business litigation in Knoxville and surrounding areas.

He is the past president of the Mid-South Commercial Law Institute and a member of the Knoxville Bar Foundation. He has been recognized on a national peer-review by Martindale-Hubbell as an AV (pre-imminent) rated attorney for more than 15 years.

Winchester has been giving back to Tennessee Tech since 1986. He initiated and continues to fund the Winchester History Lecture Series in the School of Arts and Sciences and has been an advocate in many ways for the Tech Athletics Association and Tennessee Tech Baseball.

A Nashville native, Winchester has been married to Patty M. Winchester for 34 years and has two grown children, Jared and Celia. He is also the proud grandfather of two grandchildren, Gavin Luke and Caroline.

As a mentor to about 80 children in after-school programs at Cecil Webb Center in Knoxville,Kent Johnson (Interdisciplinary Studies, 2009) is creating what he hopes is a nest of Golden Eagles, future students who take on challenges, beat odds and adjust expectations for themselves.

And his love of purple and gold in the land of orange stands out; he was named 2009 City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation Employee of the Year and was recently featured on a Knoxville television station for promoting purple pride. As center director for the City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department since 2001, he’s responsible for all daily operations and management and supervises after-school and summer programs. He also creates and organizes citywide special events.

Johnson’s efforts to promote academic excellence and a sense of family in his kids revolves around his pride for Tennessee Tech. Johnson’s methods to instill purple pride include visits to campus, quizzes, contests, decorations and rewards. He’s created bulletin boards filled with Tech trivia. He’s given the children shirts with “Top 10” funny facts about TTU. And his grand prizes—given to students who play one sport, have high grade point averages and show exemplary behavior—are Golden Eagle football jerseys personalized on the back.

A three-sport athlete in high school who excelled in football, wrestling and track, Johnson continues to place a high value on physical fitness and excellence. He was a competitive weightlifter from 1985 until 1997 and a competitive martial artist from 1987 to 2001.

He holds a third degree black belt in Shingitai, a black belt in Jujitsu from USJA and a black belt in Kenpo. He was also a martial arts instructor for 21 years. He is certified as a lifeguard and water safety instructor as well as a personal trainer. His career background includes positions as an ergonomics program director and an industrial medicine coordinator.

Johnson serves as the children’s church director at Dotson Memorial Baptist Church. He and his wife of 17 years, Mikell, have two sons, Storm and Dalton.

Barry Wilmore (Electrical Engineering, 1985 and 1994) has seen earth from a perspective only a handful of people ever experience. As pilot of NASA’s STS-129 space shuttle mission to the International Space Station last November, he put his hometown of Mt. Juliet and Tennessee Tech University in the national spotlight.

Before he became a Navy captain and an astronaut, he was reaching for the stars at TTU as a student-athlete. He was one of the university’s first graduate-student athletes. Having been redshirted with a knee injury as an undergrad, he took advantage of remaining eligibility and established himself in TTU’s record books, reaping several post-season honors. He was voted Academic All-District and named to Leonard’s All-America team. He also won a scholar-athlete award from the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. He was elected to TTU’s 2003 Sports Hall of Fame class.

In 1987, he was in Corpus Christi, Texas, flying A-4s for the Navy. He flew 21 missions in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, then conducted initial flight tests for the T-45, and later spent a year as a Navy Test Pilot School instructor.

After five years of flying F-18s and two more deployments, Wilmore became a test pilot instructor at Edwards Air Force Base as part of a Navy/Air Force exchange. He was chosen as an astronaut candidate in 2000.

During the STS-129 mission, his crew delivered two Express Logistics Carriers to the International Space Station, about 30,000 pounds of replacement parts. The mission was completed in 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits.

Wilmore’s wife, Deanna, is a TTU graduate. His father, Eugene, is a 1958 graduate in industrial management. His brother, Jack, is a 1984 graduate in industrial technology, and Jack’s wife, Selena, is a 1985 graduate as well. Add to that TTU legacy, Jack’s children – Lucas, a senior, and Elizabeth Ann, sophomore.