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Marcella Jane Carter BuisMarcella Jane Carter Buis

Buis graduated from Walters State in 1984 with an associate of science degree in horticulture. A gourd artist since 1990, her journey in that medium includes being named the Kummba Festival Feature Artist. She began her career as an artist after experimenting with some decorated gourds she purchased at a yard sale. She refers to her gourd carvings as AfroLachian art because it blends the different heritages of her bloodline: Appalachian, African-American and American Indian. Her works have been exhibited in many local and regional galleries and museums, and she was one of 10 artists commissioned in 2003 to create a sculpture from one-ton slabs of marble as part of the Dogwood Arts Festival. Jane has been active in the Beck Cultural Center, Oakridge Art Center, Chattanooga Diversity Festival, the Walters State Black History project and many other art projects, festivals, and museums. Her art is displayed in eight states and three countries. Jane was honored by The Osborne Foundation and was a member of From Africa to Appalachia. She is a member of Toney’s Chapel Church, Lowland, where she serves as Sunday school superintendent, facilitator of the women’s department, president of the usher ministry and a member of the adult choir.

Buis was honored with the Walters State 2016 Distinguished Alumni for Achievement in the Arts Award.

Sharon HayesGeorge L. Clemmer Jr.

Clemmer graduated from Walters State in 1982 with an associate of science degree in agriculture. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Tennessee. In addition to serving as a Greene County commissioner and being a family farmer, George has worked as a claims representative with Tennessee Farmers Insurance Companies since 2001. For 36 years, Clemmer also has hosted on his family farm — a 650-acre cow/calf operation with 100 cows — Walters State’s animal management class. He is past president of the WSCC Ag Alumni Club and was a student in the inaugural agriculture class.

Clemmer was honored with the Walters State 2016 Distinguished Alumni for Community and/or Volunteer Service Award.

Staci Fish HigginsStaci Fish Higgins

Higgins of Hixon is a 1999 graduate of Walters State with an associate’s degree in general education. She went on to graduate from Carson-Newman University in 2001 with a bachelor of arts degree. She completed the Blount Memorial Nursing Program in Maryville in 2003 to become a licensed practical nurse and is working toward a master’s degree in K-6 education at Bethel College. Staci served as assistant softball coach at Carson-Newman University in 2005-06 and has served as clinical research coordinator for University Surgical Associates since 2008. After a standout softball career at Maryville High School from 1994-97, she played softball for two years at Walters State, earning All State Team and All Conference Team awards from the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association, while ranking 5th in batting nationally with a community college batting average of .586. As a softball player at Carson-Newman from 1999-2001, she was named to the South Atlantic Conference first-team 3B All Conference Team, breaking five single-season batting and scoring records.

Higgins was honored with the Walters State 2016 Distinguished Alumni in Athletic Achievement Award.

Senator Steve SoutherlandSenator Steve Southerland

Sen. Southerland attended Walters State in the1970’s and majored in general studies. A Republican state senator, he was first elected to the Tennessee Senate in 2002, assuming office in January 2003 during the 103rd General Assembly. Representing the 1st district, which encompasses Cocke, Greene, Hamblen and part of Sevier counties, he is Deputy Speaker of the Senate. He is chairman of the Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and serves on the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, the Senate Transportation and Safety committee and the Joint Fiscal Review Committee.

Southerland serves as chaplain of the Senate Republican Caucus and is a member of the Financial Services Standing Committee of the National Conference on State Legislatures. He has received legislator of the year awards from the Tennessee Development Districts, the Tennessee Forestry Association, and the East Tennessee Development District, along with similar recognitions from several other organizations. A retired mortgage broker, Southerland is a member of the Morristown Area Chamber of commerce, the Rotary Club of Morristown, and Buffalo Trail Baptist Church.

Sen. Southerland was honored with the Walters State 2016 Distinguished Alumni in Civic Achievement Award.