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VOL. 45 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 3, 2021

Boyd: Tennessee’s uninsured children falls to 2.5%

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The number of uninsured children in Tennessee fell from 2.8% in 2020 to 2.5% in 2021, according to a new study by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.

Among adults, the uninsured rate held steady at the 2020 rate of 9.9%, and the uninsured rate across all ages remained the same as last year at 8.3% as well.

The Impact of TennCare: A Survey of Recipients, 2021 also shows that 92% of TennCare recipients were happy with the program’s quality of care, marking the 13th straight year in which satisfaction with TennCare exceeded 90%. Survey participants also indicated they were happy with the care their children were receiving; 88% of all heads of households reported excellent or good care, while 85% of TennCare heads of households reported the same.

Affordability continues to be the top reason for failing to obtain health insurance in 2021, with 86% of respondents listing it as a major or minor reason they did not obtain coverage — a decrease from the 91% who cited affordability in 2020.

Big Orange Give gifts reach 9,450

Students, friends, donors and alumni of the University of Tennessee, made 9,450 gifts during Big Orange Give, the annual day of giving for UT’s Knoxville campus.

The total far exceeded the campaign’s goal of 8,000 gifts, including 359 gifts from graduating seniors to the Senior Impact Campaign. There were 1,000 funds to support in total, and for the first time this year gifts could be made directly from mobile phones using Google and Apple Pay.

The donors’ contributions, which ranged from $10 or more, were given to areas based on individual preferences and priorities. This annual collective act of generosity has, this year and in the past, created a substantial impact on colleges, units, divisions and programs across campus.

Volunteers gave to campus initiatives such as the Big Orange Pantry and the Jones Center for Service and Leadership, which exist to do good in the community. Alumni also supported the colleges they attended, helping to ensure a great experience for future Vols.

One student organization that garnered substantial support during Big Orange Give is the Water Polo Club, which received 140 gifts. In doing so, it won the RecSports challenge and unlocked a challenge gift from alumni Ron Frieson (’81) and Don Frieson (’90).

In addition to the Water Polo Club winning the RecSports challenge, the St. Louis Alumni Chapter won the alumni chapter and council challenge with 79 gifts. Three organizations won first place in the fraternity and sorority challenge based on their membership size brackets: Kappa Alpha Psi with 67 gifts, Phi Kappa Tau with 42 gifts and Sigma Nu with 233 gifts. Funds donated will be used to support scholarships, student organizations and other priorities.

Construction on Topgolf underway

Topgolf Entertainment Group, a global sports and entertainment company, has begun construction on Topgolf Knoxville.

Construction on the two-story, 72-bay venue continues and is projected to open in late summer 2022 across from the growing Turkey Creek Development.

This will be Topgolf’s third entertainment venue in Tennessee, as the company known for its high-tech gaming experience, outdoor hitting bays and delicious food and beverages also operates venues in Nashville and Chattanooga.

Beyond entertainment, Topgolf Knoxville will create nearly 300 full- and part-time jobs.

UT, MSC Industrial form partnership

The University of Tennessee and MSC Industrial Supply Co. have announced public-private research partnership aimed at advancing machining across the United States.

Under the partnership, MSC’s team of professional metalworking specialists will work closely with undergraduate and graduate students, as well as manufacturers, to conduct research that will enable and drive innovation in smart manufacturing.

To reflect MSC’s commitment to machining research as a premier distributor of metalworking products and services to industrial customers, the Machine Tool Research Center on the Knoxville campus will host the MSC Machining Research Laboratory.

The primary focus of the MSC Machining Research Laboratory is to improve the practicing engineer’s ability to produce accurate components in a timely manner.

For MSC, the partnership affords an opportunity to deliver on its vision of solving manufacturing’s mission-critical challenges in support of a successful industrial economy. The partnership provides a significant opportunity to build on MSC MillMax, an award-winning service that helps improve the milling performance of Computer Numerical Control machine tools and other emerging technologies and innovations.

Anonymous donor gives law school $3M

The University of Tennessee College of Law has received a $3 million gift from a longtime supporter and criminal and personal injury law firm partner.

The anonymous gift will support the Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, the Legal Clinic, the Douglas Blaze Professorship and scholarships for students interested in pursuing legal careers in advocacy, one of the college’s primary areas of concentration.

College of Law Interim Dean Doug Blaze says the gift enables the college to expand opportunities for students that provide long lasting benefits for them, for the college and ultimately for the legal profession.

The College of Law was recently ranked sixth best in the nation in providing students with a reasonably priced legal education that allows them to graduate with less debt than their peers.

Downtown Knoxville goes all in for holidays

Downtown Knoxville’s favorite holiday festivities are up and running with the fun continuing through Jan. 2.

Residents and visitors of all ages will enjoy an immersive holiday experience, including a new twist on the popular Peppermint Trail, seasonal photo opportunities and more merry activities for the entire family.

“We are transforming Downtown Knoxville into a winter wonderland with fun activities and sights for both residents and visitors,” says Michele Hummel, executive director of the Downtown Knoxville Alliance. “Guests will have more opportunities than ever to make holiday memories as they eat, drink, shop and explore.”

A digital twist on the Peppermint Trail brings opportunities for prizes while enjoying the city center’s best coffees, candies, cocktails and other peppermint-inspired creations. Explorers can download a Peppermint Trail Pass mobile passport to track their progress on sampling holiday creations.

Those who use the Peppermint Trail Pass to check in to three participating merchants will earn a 2021 Peppermint Trail sticker, and each passport check-in beyond three is an entry in a drawing to win $25 and $100 gift cards to local businesses, as well as a grand prize of dinner and overnight stay in Downtown Knoxville.

Sign up for the Peppermint Trail Pass and see the 80-plus participating merchants and their seasonal specials at

Tour de Lights scheduled for Dec. 11

Bike Walk Knoxville and Visit Knoxville are partnering to continue the Tour de Lights tradition in Knoxville.

On Saturday, Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m., the community is invited to participate in Tour de Lights, presented by Visit Knoxville and Bike Walk Knoxville – a fun, free, family- friendly bike ride through the Old City, North Knoxville and downtown.

Participants of all ages are encouraged to get in the holiday spirit by decorating themselves and their bikes. The event engages neighborhoods and businesses, along with others who come out to view the festivities.

The ride will begin at the corner of Willow Street and Patton Avenue, in the Old City and end in Market Square. Participants are encouraged to show up early and join in the festivities and stay after the ride to enjoy the holiday scenery and businesses in downtown Knoxville. Mast General and Three Rivers Market will provide hot chocolate and cookies in Market Square following the event.

ORAU Classroom Makeover contest back

Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ trademark Extreme Classroom Makeover is back for 2022, with the winning teacher receiving $25,000 to upgrade technology in the classroom.

The mission of Extreme Classroom Makeover is to improve science, technology, engineering and math education in public schools.

The competition will award one-third through 10th grade math or science teacher at a public school within a 50-mile radius of Oak Ridge, with $25,000 in new equipment to update their classroom with the latest technology. One runner-up will receive $5,000 in new equipment. There will also be a $2,500 viewers’ choice award selected by the general public from among all entries received.

Teachers interested in the ORAU Extreme Classroom Makeover need to complete a video application by Friday, Jan. 14. Winners will be notified before spring break, and the technology will be purchased and installed in their classrooms for the start of the 2022-23 school year.

Parkwest Medical makes top Cardiovascular list

Knoxville’s Parkwest Medical Center has been named to the 2022 Fortune/IBM Watson Health 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals list in the community health category.

This year’s study included 951 U.S. hospitals with cardiovascular service lines. Based on comparisons between the study winners and a peer group of similar hospitals in the study, the winners delivered better outcomes while operating more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Based on the methodology used by Watson Health, the study concludes that if all United States hospitals’ cardiovascular service lines performed at the level of these study winners, some 6,400 additional lives and roughly $1.4 billion could be saved, and 5,000 additional bypass and angioplasty patients could be complication-free.

ETSU reports increase in new student enrollment

East Tennessee State University is one of just four public four-year colleges in the state that saw an increase in new students for the fall 2021 semester.

While overall enrollment at ETSU is down approximately 3% from last fall, the number of new students choosing ETSU went up by 13%, President Brian Noland reported to members of the board of trustees during their quarterly meeting.

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