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VOL. 45 | NO. 10 | Friday, March 5, 2021

Urban League’s Nichols wins Haslam honor

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Phyllis Y. Nichols, the president and CEO of Knoxville Area Urban League, has received the

James A. Haslam, II Chair’s Leadership Award by the Knoxville Chamber.

The special leadership award is given to a longtime business leader who exhibits strength in character, resolve, commitment to the community and exemplary success.

“There’s no one more deserving of this award than Phyllis Nichols,” says Pilot Company Founder James “Jim” Haslam II for whom the award is now named and its first recipient in 2005. “She has been a positive influence on our community for the past 27 years when she first arrived at our Urban League. My wife, Natalie, and I are very proud to call Phyllis our friend, and we are delighted she has received this well-deserved honor.”

The past four winners of the James A. Haslam, II Chair’s Leadership Award include Pam Fansler, the now-retired leader of First Tennessee Bank’s East Tennessee region; Sharon Miller Pryse, founder of The Trust Company of Tennessee; Mintha Roach, the now-retired longtime president and CEO of the Knoxville Utilities Board; and Wes Stowers, founder of Stowers Machinery Corporation.

“I am humbled when I look at the list of previous winners and honored to now be included among them,” Nichols says. “This award also belongs to the Knoxville Area Urban League team, our supporters and their commitment and dedication to equality and opportunity for every person in our community.’’

Nichols joined the Knoxville Area Urban League as a curriculum and education specialist in 1994 after years in public education and private business and then became the nonprofit’s leader in 2000. She expanded the organization’s impact to serve more than 11,000 individuals and families each year and has been recognized as a senior fellow by the National Urban League.

“The winner of the award is someone who understands the importance of economic impact and works to ensure that everyone in our community has the opportunity to succeed,” says Daniel Carter, president of The Trust Company of Tennessee and board chair for the Knoxville Chamber. “Phyllis has committed her life to lifting up others and helping the business community succeed at every level. It is an honor to present her with this award.”

Nichols’ other awards and recognition include the Women of Achievement from the Tanasi Girl Scout Council; Phi Beta Sigma Business Image Award; Chi Eta Phi Humanitarian Award; “Be More” Person of the Year by East Tennessee PBS; and the University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information – Diversity Award. The Tennessee Human Rights Commission recognized Nichols for her advocacy for civil rights and social justice, and she earned the “Women of Power” Award by the National Urban League.

Bienvenue to lead ORI as first director

Joan Bienvenue has been selected as the first executive director of the Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee.

As director, Bienvenue will also serve as a vice provost at UT. She begins the new position March 8.

The position was established last year to align the expertise and infrastructure of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the university in support of world-leading research and talent development.

“Joan is a scientific leader with a track record of leveraging university programs and sponsored research to address national priorities,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia says. “She is perfectly suited to lead partnerships between ORNL and UT that will create long-term national impact, accelerate critical research and prepare our next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Bienvenue comes to the Oak Ridge Institute from the University of Virginia, where she has been senior executive director of the Applied Research Institute — which she launched — since June 2013. As ORI director, she will develop a strategy for establishing leading-edge interdisciplinary graduate research in emerging fields, build world-leading programs that leverage UT and ORNL’s capabilities, and lead recruitment of faculty, staff and students.

“Our outstanding faculty, researchers and graduate students are at the heart of the Oak Ridge Institute, and they will no doubt thrive under Dr. Bienvenue’s leadership,” says UT Chancellor Donde Plowman. “Provost John Zomchick, Vice Chancellor Deborah Crawford and I look forward to supporting her in this partnership as the world’s leading scientists at both our institutions work together to solve big problems and produce tomorrow’s scientists and engineers.”

“The opportunity to lead this partnership between a national research university and the country’s leading science and energy laboratory holds transformative potential,” Bienvenue says. “The institute is a truly visionary initiative that positions UT, ORNL and the state of Tennessee at the forefront of developing the research and talent required to lead the industries of the future. I can’t wait to get started.”

In addition to her role at UVA, Bienvenue served almost five years as program manager and chief scientist of biometrics/health and life sciences for Lockheed Martin, with responsibility for program management, business development, research commercialization and technical leadership. She is a chemist by training, with a doctorate in chemistry from UVA, a master’s in forensic science from the University of New Haven in Connecticut, a bachelor’s in chemistry from Rivier University in New Hampshire and an MBA from the University of Mary Washington.

She is a member of the Board of Army Research and Development of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

UT College of Law honors staff, students

University of Tennessee College of Law students, staff, faculty and recent graduates were recognized this month for their scholarship, service and overall excellence.

In a virtual ceremony, interim Dean Doug Blaze acknowledged Professors Teri Baxter, Alex Long, Paula Schaefer and Scott Childs, as well as staff members Chris Bombardo and Teresa Peterson for their extraordinary leadership and service while working through the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic.

Blaze also acknowledged College of Law support staff members for their persistence and dedication throughout a year that has challenged routine work practices.

In addition, the following individuals received awards:


Taylor Flake-Lawson and Nicole Williams: Charles H. Miller Civil Advocacy Award for outstanding achievement in advocacy

Elana Samuels: Jerry P. Black, Jr. Student Clinic Attorney Award

Bei Yang: Transactional Clinic Student Attorney Award


Eric Amarante: Tom and Elizabeth Fox Faculty Award for service to the bench and bar

Rebecca Kite: Carden Outstanding Faculty Award for Service

Don Leatherman: Harold Warner Outstanding Teacher Award

Tom Plank: Carden Outstanding Faculty Award for Scholarship

Briana Rosenbaum: Wilkinson Research Professor for 2021

Brooklyn Sawyers Belk: College of Law Outstanding Adjunct Teacher Award

Greg Stein: Marilyn V. Yarbrough Faculty Award for Writing Excellence

Maurice Stucke: W. Allen Separk Faculty Scholarship Award for outstanding body of work in any area of legal research


Tucker Beard: Stanuszek Law Group, PLLC Award for strong interest in private practice

Samantha Buller Young: Knoxville Auxiliary to the Tennessee Bar Association Award for the highest scholastic average as a first-year law student

Kaleb Byars: Herbert L. Davis Memorial Trust Fund Award for the highest grade-point average as a second-year law student and the Pryor Award for excellence in advocacy

Martha Dinwiddie: Harshfield Award for Excellence In Civil Procedure and the Jerry V. Smith Evidence Award for outstanding promise and expertise in evidence

Drew Ellis: Merchant and Gould Excellence In Intellectual Property Award

Lindsey Hull and Miles McDowell: James L. Powers Award for excellence in criminal advocacy

Dave Hall: Cunningham Excellence in Legal Writing

James Cole Hodge: Tennessee Attorney General’s Trial Advocacy Award

Andres Lozano: Cunningham Legal Research Award for exemplary performance in legal research as a first-year law student

Robert Meyer: International Academy of Trial Lawyers Award

Avery Morelock and Kelsi Pratt: Frank Benson Creekmore Memorial Award for future promise as practitioners of law in Tennessee

Olamide Oso: Hodge-Worthington-Baker-Donelson Leadership Award for a student who does not hold a prominent leadership position but who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership

Zee Peterson: Susan B. Anthony Award for academic achievement and a commitment to enhancing the legal rights of women

Johnelle Simpson: William M. Leech, Jr. Public Service Prize for uncommon commitment to public service

Jesse Small: Cunningham First-Year Best Brief Award

Cristina Spear: National Association Of Women Lawyers Award for commitment to enhancing the reputation of women in society and the profession

Abena Tawiah: Herbert L. Davis Memorial Trust Fund Award for outstanding academic progress as a second-year law student

KCDC hires Kingston as vice president housing

Richard J. Kingston has been hired as the vice president of housing of the Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation.

“Richard will direct KCDC’s affordable housing programs and oversee our sustainability and modernization programs,” says Ben Bentley, executive director and CEO of KCDC. “He will work with local government, community members, residents and civic groups to manage affordable housing programs. His extensive background in the field also has focused on the intersection of health and housing. We welcome Richard to the team and know he will advance our mission at KCDC.”

Previously, Kingston served as vice president of sustainability for the Housing Partnership Network in Boston, a business collaborative of 100 of the country’s leading affordable housing and community development nonprofits.

Kingston has more than 20 years of experience in affordable housing. He was vice president of property management at Project HOME in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The organization helps individuals break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through affordable housing, employment, health care and education.

He is a Certified Assisted Housing Manager, Certified Occupancy Specialist and Tax Credit Specialist through the National Center for Housing Management and is skilled in LEED, the WELL Building Standard and Passive House construction models, which focus on energy conservation and the “healthy built” environment – neighborhood design that supports good health.

Kingston is a frequent guest speaker at housing events centered on healthy and energy-efficient materials, modular construction, and building and operational sustainability in affordable housing.

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