BY SARAH GREGORY
These were the four inaugural C.O.R.E. Champions selected by the Greeneville City Schools Education Foundation and honored Thursday evening:
CAPT. JORDAN YOKLEY M.D.
The first individual honored was Captain Jordan Yokley, M.D., U.S. Army, a 2001 honors graduate of Greeneville High School.
Yokley, whose specialty is anesthesiology, was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
Captain Yokley was unable to attend the banquet because he is currently involved in a "rigorous residency" at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Md., Stroud announced.
"I understand he may even -- I'm not kidding -- be in brain surgery tonight," Stroud told the audience.
A 2001 graduate of Greeneville High School, Yokley already has an impressive list of academic and professional achievements under his belt.
They include a Bachelor of Science degree in Life Sciences and Environmental Engineering from the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., completion of the U.S. Army Air Assault School, and completion of a Doctorate of Medicine from Vanderbilt University.
He spent an intern year at Tripler Army Medical Center of Honolulu, Hawaii.
Capt. Yokley served as Battalion Flight Surgeon with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan in 2010-2011.
He has published several medical research papers and is currently stationed at the new Walter Reed Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.
His parents, Eddie and Carolyn Yokley, were on hand to accept the award on his behalf.
Eddie Yokley read a prepared statement from his son, which reflected on his experiences and mentors, including those in the Greeneville City School System.
He also expressed appreciation for the honor of being awarded the first recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumni award.
JOHN C. COMPTON
John C. Compton, a 1979 graduate of Greeneville High School who now lives in Knoxville with his family, was given the Foundation's Distinguished Alumni Award.
Compton worked for PepsiCo for 29 years, working his way from Frito-Lay Production Supervisor in Pulaski to PepsiCo president, responsible for all of the company's global category groups, global operations, global marketing, and corporate strategy.
In September, he ended his career with PepsiCo and returned to Tennessee to take a position with Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J, which is owned by the Haslam family of Knoxville.
He has been named strategic adviser for Pilot Flying J, the Cleveland Browns NFL team, and the Haslam family.
A 1983 graduate of the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance, he was honored in 2010 as the Distinguished Alumnus of the UT College of Business Administration.
The following year, he received the highest honor offered by the university itself: Distinguished Alumnus, in recognition of "extraordinary distinction and success in his chosen field, bringing credit and acclaim to UT Knoxville through his accomplishments, and benefiting society at large."
In response to the award Thursday night, Compton spoke for a few minutes, reflecting on his years in the Greeneville City School System, particular his years at Greeneville High School and working for Terry Leonard at what was then Leonard's business, The Men's Shop.
"I learned a lot about relationships, accountability, commitment, and about learning to tell the truth," Compton said of those years, and especially his experience with Leonard.
Compton also announced that he and his wife were making a contribution to the work of the City Schools Education Foundation.
In addition to his wife, Cindy, and two of their three children, Compton was accompanied to the award banquet by his parents, former Greenevillians Norman and Martha Compton, who live near Knoxville.
The Distinguished Service C.O.R.E. Champion award was given to Terry Leonard, a 1956 graduate of Greeneville High School.
Leonard established The Men's Shop in 1963, undertook real estate development in the 1970s, and expanded into manufacturing in the 1980s.
Currently, he is the chairman of Leonard Associates, LLC, a holding company for BTL Industries, LMR Plastics, and Leonard Manufacturing.
Since the 1970s, Leonard has been extremely active in the promotion of economic development in Greene County, and his efforts have been instrumental in decisions by several industries to locate plants here.
He is the chairman of the Industrial Park Board and serves on the Greene County Foundation.
In 1995 he was named Economic Development Volunteer of the Year by the State of Tennessee.
Leonard was instrumental in creating the Greene County Partnership in the early 1990s.
He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Greeneville Light & Power Systema and as chairman of the Board of Directors of the former Greene County Bank/ GreenBank, now Capital Bank.
Leonard helped form the Greeneville City Schools Education Foundation and was a leader in the technology fundraising drives that helped to provide computer equipment for students in the city school system.
Following the death of his wife, Kathryn W. (Kay) Leonard, in 2005, Leonard and his children donated their family firm's headquarters to the Greeneville City School System.
That building, located at the corner of Irish and W. Depot streets, is now known as the Kathryn W. Leonard Administrative Office.
"In every successful organization there must be people who are quietly supporting and advocating behind the scenes. Terry Leonard has been one of those people for the Greeneville City School System for many years," Stroud said.
After being presented the crystal cup recognizing the award from Stroud, Leonard held it up and said simply, "I'm speechless," to warm applause before returning to the table he shared with his family.
SCOTT M. NISWONGER
The Outstanding Patron award was given to Greeneville businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger.
Niswonger is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Aviation Technology.
He also has an Honorary Doctorate of Technology from Purdue, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Tusculum College, and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tusculum College.
Born and reared in Van Wert, Ohio, Niswonger moved to Greeneville in 1968 as pilot for the president of The Magnavox Company, based in Ft. Wayne, Ind., which was at the time by far the county's largest industry.
In 1973, he started a cargo airline called General Aviation, which he later sold before becoming Senior Vice President of North American Operations for Flying Tiger Lines, an international cargo airline.
In 1981, Niswonger co-founded Landair Services. In 1990, he formed Forward Air Corporation.
Today, he is the majority shareholder of Landair Transport, Inc. and chairman emeritus of Forward Air Corporation.
A full list of Niswonger's activities, leadership roles, recognitions, and philanthropic endeavors is exceptionally long and impressive.
Some highlights include his being selected by Junior Achievement International as worldwide recipient of its International Distinguished Graduate Award; being selected as Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southeastern United States;and having his companies listed for nine consecutive years in the Forbes "Best 200 Small Public Companies."
He has received the State of Tennessee Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy; Purdue University's Distinguished Technology Alumni Award; and the George L. Carter Award, the highest honor bestowed by East Tennessee State University.
Niswonger is also the lead benefactor and namesake for the Niswonger Children's Hospital at the Johnson City Medical Center, where he serves on the Executive Council.
He is the founder and president of the Niswonger Education Foundation, which currently has 18 student-scholars and 44 graduate alumni.
The Niswonger Foundation is the recipient of a $20 million federal Innovation in Education Grant that has had an impact on students in all 29 high schools across Northeast Tennessee.
"The Greeneville City School System has certainly benefited from Scott's generosity and leadership for many years and in a myriad of ways," Stroud said.
"Scott Niswonger not only talks the talk of his philosophy of 'learn, earn, and return,' but he also walks the walk of his beliefs," she said, just before presenting the crystal "loving cup" representing the Champion award.
Niswonger spoke briefly about his support of the Greeneville City School System and about the Niswonger Foundation.
"Our group of 19 associates at the Niswonger Foundation see school districts and are in schools in 15 northeastern Tennessee counties, and every time when I talk to them, when they come back to Greeneville, it's always the gold standard of what we're doing here that they carry forward into other school systems," he said.
Niswonger said school systems from as far away as South Dakota have visited to learn more about the Greeneville City Schools' forward-thinking initiatives, such as the distance-based learning program.
That program, he noted, uses technology that makes it possible for classes in Mandarin Chinese at Greeneville High School to be shared in real time by students in remote locations, such as a small school in Hawkins County.
The Niswonger Foundation has assisted the City School System in offering the distance-learning program.
"We wouldn't be able to take programs being taught in this community and apply them to young people who would have never had that opportunity if it weren't for the vision of the Greeneville City School System," he said.