Starlight Awards rolls out red carpet for honorees

Maryville City Schools Foundation is getting ready to honor community leaders and special friends of education at the sixth annual Starlight Awards.

This year’s program, however, will be quite different from previous ceremonies. The event is moving from the high school to the Capitol Theater where it will be a gala evening with red carpet presentations, food and music.

In addition, the gala will be a fundraiser for Maryville City Schools Foundation.

Scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, the Sixth Annual Starlight Awards is already almost a sell-out.

“I think folks are looking for something fun to do right now,” Foundation Executive Director Barbara Jenkins said. “I don’t know of any other event like this during the February timeframe.”

Jenkins said this is the first time they have paired the awards with an effort to raise funds for the foundation.

“We moved it to a fundraiser for a couple of reasons. The foundation doesn’t have a fundraiser, so this was an opportunity to do that with a very nice event,” she said.

Boosting attendance for the honorees was also a big factor, Jenkins said.

“There would be maybe 75 people in the audience - friends and family,” she said. “It was very disappointing to us as a foundation to have these people come in and be recognized for their accomplishments and not have anyone there to see it.”

Jenkins said the planners want this to be a memorable event. “We wanted to make it a very special, very fun night,” she said. “Doing it at the Capitol really sets the theme.”

Special moments are planned, including photographer Wendy Tittsworth, who will be on hand to take pictures of the honorees as they walk down the red carpet leading into the theater. Dr. Todd White will bring his wit and humor as master of ceremonies again this year. For musical entertainment, the band “Smooth Groove” is scheduled to perform.

Members of the community are pulling together to help organize the event. “We’re just all so excited. We have representation from the school system and from the community at large,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins said tickets for the event have sold extremely well. The foundation has three major sponsorships from Clayton, Alcoa, Inc., and Blount Gastroenterology. Media Sponsor is Blount Today.

Tickets are sold out and a waiting list is available. To be on the waiting list, send contact information to

“We have three more $2,500 sponsorship tables to sell, and we’re sold out of all other tables and remaining tickets,” Jenkins said.

The Award Recipients are:

Carly Christine Waugh, MHS Class of 1994 -- Outstanding Young Alumni

Carly Christine Waugh graduated Maryville High School in 1994. After college, she became a firefighter battling vast fires throughout the West. Her firefighting crew had been called to Oregon to a 60,000-acre forest fire where Carly was in charge of a helicopter unit. The unit had been grounded for several days because of weather. Several firefighters mentioned to her there was a river about a mile from the helicopter, and they had been dirty for five or six days.

“She went over to check out the river and fell from a bluff, hit rock and went into a pool of water,” said Roger Murphy, who nominated Waugh for the award. “She did damage to her back in the fall and was drowning. One of her fellow firefighters saw her in the water, sinking, and jumped in water and saved her.”

Murphy said Waugh addressed the Maryville High School football team before a recent playoff game.

“I thought that was pretty interesting. One of my jobs is to bring in speakers, and she was an awesome speaker who really helped our guys and coaches and all the parents to be grateful for all the momentum and opportunity we’ve been given,” he said.

Murphy said Waugh is one of the toughest, hardest chargers he’s ever seen. “I went to see her at the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center when she finally got back to Tennessee. The first time is always hard. It was devastating. The next time I saw her it was Carly. She had that intensity she had at MHS as an athlete. She is one of those hard-charging kids,” he said.

Murphy praised Waugh’s mindset as a high school student. “She was vivacious and had a positive attitude,” he said.

At the rehab center, Waugh often kept others accountable. “She was fussing about people not working hard enough in rehab. She was stealing extra time in the gym because she wanted to do all she could to put herself in a position to get back as much as she possibly could,” he said.

Murphy said Waugh now is a handbike racer and is becoming committed to adaptive sports such as triathlons. “One of most stunning things is that, after being told by her doctors she had progressed as far as she could and that was about it, she worked and walked upright to get married,” Murphy said “It’s an incredible story. Less than 5 percent of wildland firefighters are female. You don’t get to meet those type of people very often.”

Murphy said Waugh and her husband have a 3-year-old son. “She is one of the most inspiring people anybody would ever want to meet,” he said.

Sherrod Blankner (MHS Class of 1986) and Ted Ousley (MHS Class of 1976) -- Distinguished Alumni

Sherrod Blankner’s nomination form describes her as a versatile and brilliant student at MHS and was valedictorian in 1986. She represented MHS with distinction at Yale University where she graduated cum laude with a BA in English in 1990. She is a gifted writer who paints with words. At Yale she became fascinated with creating visual fables with photography and painting.

She has lived in the San Francisco area since 1993. She has distinguished herself as an accomplished and highly successful impressionistic painter and graphic arts designer and writer.

English Department chair Penny Ferguson said Sherrod was in her English class. “She was an outstanding student and valedictorian at Maryville High School and was a National Honor Society member. She went to a lot of writing competitions and was such a talented writer that she won the National Council of Teachers of English award, which is the highest award you can get as a student,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said Blankner also wrote an essay for the Young Columbus Explorers to be an ambassador to England and Wales and was picked as one of two students from Tennessee to go on a 10-day trip as an ambassador to England and Wales. Blankner also was picked for the Young Scholars Program and studied at the University of Tennessee with other scholars for four or five weeks in the summer before her senior year. During her senior year she had 16 books to read and discuss with her high school English teacher. “Sherrod and I had a discussion on-going throughout her senior year. She was always on the money with enthusiasm and knowledge and took her tasks serious,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said she felt certain Blankner would have a career in writing but then she pursued a career as an artist. “She became a graphic designer in San Francisco and studied one summer in London and took up painting. She has enjoyed some fame as a painter and has studied and had shows in many places.”

Ferguson said Blankner has come to parenthood later in life and has twin 3-year-old boys. “She comes home once or twice a year, and she never fails to call me and come by and talk,” Ferguson said. “She’s a phenomenal woman. She also played tennis and was an outstanding musician. I don’t think there was much she did she couldn’t do well. When she went to Yale, she was one of the first from Maryville High School to go to an Ivy League school. She’s a phenomenal young lady, and she brings lots of recognition to Maryville City Schools. I’m so happy she going to be honored.”

Ted “Gunner” Ousley graduated Maryville High School in 1976. Ousley is a well-known radio personality at WIVK radio. He also leads special programs for the military including traveling to Iraq to report live from the front line. Other activities to help the military include recording wishes to be sent home to families, airing live phone calls to and from families and their military soldiers.

In addition, Gunner sponsored a young girl from Iraq and kept her and her mother in his home while she had surgery to improve her spina bifida condition. Ousley emcees numerous non-profit events throughout East Tennessee, including the Foothills Fall Festival. He always lets it be known that Blount County is his home.

Maryville High School bookkeeper Pam Taylor went to school with Ousley and said he was active in the band and as a football player. “He was an all-around nice guy. I went to church with him. We’re proud he’s a graduate of Maryville High School, and he’s done some wonderful things,” she said. “As a classmate I’m proud to know the things he’s done to help other people.”

James C. Campbell (deceased) -- Distinguished Service Award

Jim Campbell was a positive influence on everyone he came in contact with, former Maryville High School athletic director Jerry Thompson said. “He spent his entire life in an effort to make things better for others.”

As a young man, Campbell signed a professional baseball contract with the Cincinnati Reds but was then drafted in military service. In 1956, he was hired to coach at Maryville Junior High and began his long career with Maryville City Schools.

Thompson praised Campbell, who was athletic director at the high school, for the impact he had on the staff he worked with, and the students he taught and coached.

“If you knew anything about Jim, you knew he was always concerned about the welfare of others before he was concerned about the welfare of himself,” Thompson said. “He was a coach, friend, educator and mentor and a good man to have around. He always looked for the good in people and in what they could do. The number of lives Jimmy touched and all the kids he touched through Maryville High School and the church and all the things he was involved with is legion in number. He was always involved and engaged in the community.”

Thompson said Campbell was a unique person. “He used the vehicle of athletics to teach. He used those sporting events to better people’s lives so kids would have the opportunity to work hard, train hard, understand self-sacrifice and learn how to be good young adults and good citizens of the community.”

Thompson said Campbell also had a wonderful sense of humor. “He was just a good influence on everyone,” Thompson said.

Don Story -- Family Partnership

The nomination form for Don Story say his life can best be described by one word: Service. He served Maryville High School and the Maryville City Schools for more than 40 years. During that time, he was a teacher, coach and administrator. Service to the system was not limited to his professional life. As a private individual, he has donated money to every school in the system.

Bret Coulter, Maryville High School assistant principal, praised the retired teacher and coach for his commitment to the community. “This particular award is slated to be someone who was supposed to really typify a person who has given everything to his community. Coach Story is definitely that,” Coulter said. “He’s lived life as an educator and coach and given his time to the community and to kids who have grown up in community.”

Coulter said a look at Story’s life shows how he has contributed throughout the years. “He made several good investments in the stock market and actually acquired quite a lot. Instead of spending it on himself, he turned it back to his school,” Coulter said. “I can’t think of a school in the system that Coach Story has not given money to help.

Coulter said Story was instrumental in getting the state of the art weight room that most college facilities would love to have at MHS. “He matched the funds for us to have that. When Penny and the committee came to me and asked for a nomination for someone I felt was a contributor to the progress of our school, I couldn’t think of anyone better than Don,” Coulter said. “As a teacher, coach and benefactor, this isn’t a one-time deal. He’s the first one to step up, whatever it costs. We can count on him, either with effort or support or him being there or money out of his pocket. He is there for all types of situations.”

Randy Burleson and Aubrey’s -- Community Partnership

Aubrey’s Restaurant in Maryville was nominated because of the many ways the management and staff gives to help the community, said the organizers. The restaurant received several nominations for the Community Partnership award.

“Our community is blessed to have such a giving company in Maryville,” Foothills Elementary School vice principal Tammy Hooper said. “They’ve truly made a difference at Foothills Elementary.”

Maryville Middle School principal Lisa McGinley said Aubrey’s has always supported the school. “They provide teacher appreciation desert coupons for us, and they give coupons for dinners for two,” she said.

The restaurant also provides a $100 savings bond to the most outstanding student at both grade levels at the school at the end of the year.

The restaurant management provides a congratulatory meal for the drama students in the fall and spring performances. The management and staff helped with the Builder’s Club, Festival of Trees, a congratulatory meal for club members at the end of the year. They provide an end-of-the-year school newspaper party. At the end of the first semester, they provide teacher appreciation desserts for the whole faculty and staff.

“This year our new initiative was the Bulldog Game Day. They provided dessert coupons for our prize packages for all students who participate in Bulldog Game Day and have donated 10 gift certificates for Red Ribbon Week celebrating being drug free at MMS. “They have just supported us and the faculty and staff and community in so many ways.”

Assistant principal Joe Pinkerton at Maryville High School said he was glad when he heard Aubrey’s had been given a Starlight award. “What they do for us as a school as well as a system here in the community is outstanding,” he said.

Pinkerton said when the restaurant first opened, the management sought out ways to help the schools. “Every time we have a new teacher or need something, they’ve donated every type of gift certificate. They take care of our sports teams before games at a very, very reduced price. They do Maryville High School coaches’ dinner and the Blount County Basketball jamboree,” Pinkerton said. “They’re always so generous. Anytime we have something where we need a little help for the student incentive program, they help. We may ask for 20 or 30 gift certificates, and they give us 100. They’re always very glad to be in the community and are very supportive.”

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