Three Tusculum University leaders named to 40 Under Forty class of local business publication

JOHNSON CITY – Three Tusculum University leaders, who are making their mark on education at early stages in their academic careers, have earned a special distinction from a local business publication.

Left to right: Ms. Heather Keene, Dr. Ronda Gentry and Dr. Jacob Fait were honored as 40 Under Forty award recipients.

The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia recently selected the 2019 members of its 40 Under Forty class and honored them with a reception and award ceremony Friday, Oct. 4, at the Blackthorn Club. The three members from the Tusculum family chosen are:

“We are extraordinarily proud of these young professionals, who use their impressive skill set to strengthen our academic programs, campus experience and connections with the community,” said Dr. Greg Nelson, Tusculum’s acting president. “Tusculum is fortunate to have these young leaders and looks forward to their future contributions to the university’s success.”

A primary accomplishment for Dr. Fait is the College of Business’ accreditation with the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. His leadership and collaboration with his team has also resulted in Master of Business Administration program enrollment doubling in the last two years. Among his other accomplishments are establishing corporate partnerships with multiple East Tennessee companies and being engaged with the university’s participation in the VITA federal program, which is designed to support free tax preparation for the underserved.

Dr. Gentry has played a vital role in the student experience, developing strong first-year and second year experience programs and a summer bridge program for incoming students. During the summer, she was one of just 25 faculty members in the nation to participate in a multidisciplinary seminar at DePaul University that fostered growth in interfaith understanding. As a community servant, Dr. Gentry provided leadership as a member of the board of directors for A Safe Harbor Home in Greeneville, where she also served as the chief governance officer.

Ms. Keene helps shape key initiatives within the College of Health Sciences, such as the Niswonger College of Optometry. She has written feasibility and self-studies and assisted with documents needed for handbooks, committees and accreditation. Colleagues view her as a leader, mentor, collaborator and role model who uses reasoning skills and analytical aptitude to solve challenging matters. Friend Brittany Hall credits her with collecting clothes to support others in need and aiming to help those who struggle with the impact of opioid addiction on families.