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King University News :: King Alumni Recognized During 88th Annual Dogwood Weekend Celebration

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 25, 2014– In celebration of King University’s 88th annual Dogwood Weekend in April 2014, more than 350 alumni and friends joined together to reminisce and reconnect. 

During the annual celebration, several alumni were recognized for exceptional achievement in their career field, remarkable service to King, and commitment to serving as leaders in their communities.

Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award

The King’s Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award honors those who exemplify the University’s goals of excellence, achievement, and stewardship.  The award recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to their career field, shown a commitment to King, and have continually endeavored to serve as leaders and mentors to their home community.  This year the Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Joseph Thomas (Tom) Lewis.

Dr. Lewis is a native of Bristol, Tenn.  He attended Emmett School near Bristol, is a 1957 graduate of Holston Valley High School, and a 1961 graduate of King University with a B.A. in Physics and a minor in Mathematics. He received his M.S. in Physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Tennessee.  His doctoral research was performed, with support from an Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Fellowship, in the Solid State Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).  After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Lewis completed a post-doctoral fellowship in physics at Rice University in Houston, Texas.  Upon completing his post-doctoral research, Dr. Lewis went to work in the aerospace industry.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Lewis performed technical assignments, led technical development of subsystems, led performance of field test experiments, managed functional organizations, managed 'million dollar technology demonstration programs, led new business development and acquisitions activities, and managed large scale development of systems.  

The most enjoyable and rewarding assignment was a highly classified, national priority program where he served as its Deputy Program Director/Trouble Shooter and later as the Program Director.  Dr. Lewis received letters of commendation from both the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Program Executive Officer (for Space) for his contributions to the success of this program.  Dr. Lewis retired from Boeing in 2004 in Southern California after 30 years in aerospace. After retirement, he and his wife Jo Anne moved to Sammamish, WA.

Dr. Lewis has served as a member of the King University Board of Trustees for more than 4 years.  He has served on both the Enrollment Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee, and he is currently the Chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee. He also has been a very strong supporter of the establishment of the Dr. Ed Burke Endowed Professorship at King University.  He is a proud and grateful alumnus, Board of Trustees member, and supporter of King University!

Graduate and Professional Studies Award

Graduate and Professional Studies, or GPS, has become a vital part of King University’s success over the past few years.  Each year, King recognizes alumni from GPS who exemplify the University’s goals of excellence, achievement, and stewardship.  The Graduate and Professional Studies Award for 2013 was presented to Christina Blevins for her unwavering efforts to promote and sustain the heart of Bristol.

Blevins graduated from King in 2010 with her Master of Business Administration. Christina is currently serving as the Executive Director of Believe in Bristol, which supports main street programs for both Bristol, TN/VA. Because of her excellent work and tireless dedication to all things Bristol, she was honored with the Service Award of the Year from the Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau, was a recipient of the Bristol Mayors’ Award of Distinction, and was selected by the Tri-Cities Business Journal as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” business leaders in the region in 2010.  She serves on the Board of Directors for the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau, Celebrate Bristol, Train Station Operating Board, is a member of Rotary, and is involved with the Junior League of Bristol.  A colleague once stated that, “Christina maintains the brightest smile during the toughest times.  She is tireless, brilliant, and loved by our community.  I can’t think of anyone who has done more to dramatically improve two cities at once for the better. She is a force.  Her future is going to be a chain of remarkable successes.”

Young Alumnus of the Year

In 2004, the King Alumni Office introduced an award to recognize those young alumni who have made outstanding professional contributions to their field since graduating, and who have shown a strong commitment to the service of others.  The 2014 Young Alumnus of the Year recipient was 2003 King graduate, Dr. Heather Marie Whitney

Dr. Whitney majored in Physics and Performing and Visual Arts while here at King. She went on to Vanderbilt University where she received her M.S. in Physics in 2006, an M.S. in Medical Physics in 2007, and her Ph.D. in Physics in 2009. In 2010, Dr. Whitney joined the faculty at Wheaton College as assistant professor of Physics, becoming the first female professor in Physics at Wheaton.

Dr. Whitney does research in the area of medical physics, specifically in how the principles of physics can be used to improve the measurements made by the different medical physics imaging modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound.  She is also interested in physics education research, as well as mathematics of music theory and the physics of musical instrument, particularly the piano.  She has been published several times and is frequently asked to present at conferences. 

Dr. Whitney’s husband, Josh is also a graduate of King. 

Legacy Award

King is blessed to have numerous families who have made attending King “a family affair.”  The Legacy Award, established in 2009, recognizes their commitment to King as well as their lifetime of service and achievement.  This year the Legacy Award recognized the Buchanan family. The Buchanan family boasts four generations of King graduates. 

Grundy Sexton Buchanan was a member of the class of 1927.  His son Andrew “Bucky” Buchanan graduated in 1956.  Bucky’s daughter, Melanie Buchanan Sherrod, is a 1978 graduate, and her daughter Eden Buchanan Sherrod graduated in 2013.  Eden is the fourth generation family member from the Buchanan family to graduate from King.  In addition to these four generations, there are more King graduates in the family. Grundy Sexton Buchanan’s brother Thomas Wilson Buchanan also attended King and is a 1938 graduate.  Thomas’s sons, John Timothy Buchanan and Thomas Wilson Buchanan, Jr. also graduated from King. Tim is a member of the class of 1969 and Tom graduated in 1965, while Tom’s wife, Alice Barkley Buchanan graduated in 1965.  Representing the Buchanan family during the Dogwood Award Luncheon were Bucky Buchanan, Melanie Buchanan Sherrod, and Eden Buchanan Sherrod. 

Volunteer of the Year Award

King University is blessed to have a core of faithful volunteers who are willing to support the University when asked.  This year's Volunteer of the Year award recipient, Dr. David Hopper, class of 1972, is known for many things.

Dr. David Hopper is a family physician who owned his own practice in West Virginia for nearly 30 years and has been working in an urgent care clinic in North Carolina for the past six years.  While he is known by his patients in both West Virginia and North Carolina as a committed physician who believes in treating the physical, mental, and spiritual health, King has recognized his extraordinary role as a volunteer.

Raised in South Korea as the son of Presbyterian missionaries, Dr. Hopper was attracted to international mission work. In the early 1990’s he took his first medical mission trip to Ecuador.  In the following years, he began participating in short-term medical missions in challenging locations, such as China, Haiti, South Sudan, Indonesia, and others. He quickly volunteered to be part of disaster relief teams in Indonesia after the tsunami in 2004 and in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

He takes regular medical mission trips into the Lopit Mountains of Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan.  The villages are largely unreachable except by flying a mission plane into a tiny dirt airstrip or by a day’s travel by car to the border of Kenya or Uganda.  But twice a year, without exception, he arrives in the Lopit Mountains with a small team and duffel bags filled with medical supplies.  The villagers recognize him instantly and joyfully shout, “Doctor David, you have come.”

Events for the annual Dogwood Weekend included such favorites as the King University’s alumni luncheon, picnic on the Oval, the choral production of “The True Story of Cinderella,” catch and release fishing tourney, production of “The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks” by King’s Performing Visual Arts (PVA) department performed at the Paramount Center for the Arts in downtown Bristol, Dogwood Ball, Hall of Fame induction ceremony and banquet, reunion gatherings, and much more. 

During the week leading up to Dogwood, King University celebrated its first Student Spirit Week, which included daily activities, games, and an undergraduate research poster session in the E.W. King Library.

For more information on King’s annual Dogwood Weekend or to donate to King’s Annual Fund for Scholarships and Programs, contact Denise Asbury, director of annual giving and alumni services at 423.652.4895 or visit


King University is a Presbyterian, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.