Council on Aging Announces Recipients of 2021 Sage Awards


Council on Aging (COA) of Middle Tennessee announces the recipients of the 2021 Sage Awards. In its 29th year, the Sage Awards supports COA’s vision to foster a community where the wisdom, knowledge, skills and experiences of older adults are respected and valued. The awards are given to adults age 50 and older who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment of working to improve the quality of life in their communities. Sage Awards are also presented to organizations that have made a significant and positive impact on the lives of older adults in Middle Tennessee.

The 2021 individual honorees are: Ernie Bacon (Franklin), Dr. James E. K. and Phyllis D. K. Hildreth(Nashville), John Hood (Murfreesboro), Charles Strobel (Nashville) and Tim Takacs (Hendersonville). In addition to the individual awards, COA will honor Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center and The West End Home Foundation with Sage Organization awards.

“The Council on Aging believes that older adults should be celebrated and honored, especially during this challenging time,” said Grace Sutherland Smith, COA’s executive director. “We feel it is vitally important to recognize older adults who have and continue to improve our communities, as well as organizations that significantly improve the lives of older adults throughout our region.”

The 2021 honorees were selected by the Sage Awards committee from nominations received, and include older adults living in COA’s 13 county service area (Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Houston, Humphreys, Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Williamson and Wilson).

As COA’s signature event and fundraiser, funds raised from the Sage Awards directly support the organization’s mission to champion informed and positive aging, and serve as the area’s catalyst for collaborative solutions. Awardees will be honored at a luncheon on Oct. 18, 2021 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs.

Following are a few of the honorees’ accomplishments and legacies:

Ernie Bacon – Williamson County

Ernie Bacon, a native Tennessean, had a long career as a senior corporate executive with several healthcare companies. He also served as alderman and planning commissioner for the City of Franklin. In an effort to create family-friendly outdoor spaces and preserve historic land, he was key to the acquisition of two major land parcels, which became the Park at Harlinsdale Farm and the Eastern Flank Battlefield Park. He participated in the founding of Franklin Tomorrow, Franklin Sister Cities and the Franklin Transit Authority. He also serves on the Tennessee Historical Commission.

Dr. James E. K. and Phyllis D. K. Hildreth – Davidson County

James is the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College and has emerged as a respected national figure in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. His research on HIV resulted in international recognition. He has received numerous awards including honorary degrees for his scientific accomplishments, leadership, service to disadvantaged communities and mentorship of students and junior colleagues. He has served on numerous national scientific councils including current membership on the Advisory Council to the NIH director. James is the chair of the board of trustees of the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He also serves on the boards of the Nashville Healthcare Council, Nashville Health, Boy Scouts of America and General Board of Higher Education of the United Methodist Church. He has transformed institutions and lives through a unique combination of skills, expertise and passionate drive.

Phyllis serves as vice president for Institutional Strategy and Academics at American Baptist College where she leads initiatives to increase vitality within diverse congregations, develop new models for ministry, and extend of congregational outreach. She also serves as the college’s liaison to the Nashville Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCU) Consortium. Hildreth is an adjunct professor for Lipscomb University’s Institute for Conflict Management and Institute for Law, Justice and Society. She is also a board member for the Centennial Park Conservancy, the Southern Environmental Law Center and Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. She also served for two terms on the Nashville Human Relations Commission. Phyllis is a fiber artist, an entrepreneur, and a member of the Leadership Nashville Class of 2011.

John Hood – Rutherford County

Hood’s career and community service to Rutherford County span six decades with posts in radio, banking, human resources, higher education, government and civic service. Before he accepted his current position as the director of government and community affairs at Middle Tennessee State University, he represented the 48thdistrict in the Tennessee House of Representatives for 12 years. Since 1951, Hood has volunteered for leadership roles with the Exchange Club of Murfreesboro and the Exchange Clubs of America. He has also served as a leader with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, Murfreesboro City School Board, Tennessee School Boards Association, Rutherford County Quarterly Commission, Tennessee Advisory Board for the AAA Auto Club Group and MTSU National Alumni Association. He is a current member and treasurer of the Rutherford County Emergency Communications District Board of Directors.

Father Charles Strobel – Davidson County

A native Nashvillian, Strobel has dedicated his life to offering hospitality and hope to Nashville’s homeless population. While serving as a parish priest, he welcomed homeless individuals into his church building for the night, which led to the creation of Room In The Inn in 1986. Room In The Inn offers emergency services, transitional programs and long-term solutions to Nashville’s most vulnerable neighbors. Now in its 35thseason, Room In The Inn’s winter shelter program provides safe shelter and hospitality for those experiencing homelessness during the coldest months of the year.

Tim Takacs – Sumner County

Certified Elder Law Attorney Tim Takacs was one of the first elder law attorneys in the nation to assemble an interdisciplinary team of experts to provide integrated client care. He coined this new form of elder law as “Life Care Planning.” He has inspired hundreds of attorneys to switch from traditional elder law, which focuses on saving assets for the older client’s children, to focusing on maximizing the older client’s quality of life and independence. In 2006, he founded Life Care Planning Law Firms Association (a national association with more than 100 members) to teach other attorneys across the country how to make their practice more “elder-centered.” He is the author of Elder Law Practice in Tennessee and A Guide to Elder Law Practice.

Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center

Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center (MWCHC) believes that all people deserve access to quality healthcare and health education. Since 1968, MWCHC has provided affordable, comprehensive care for underinsured and uninsured Middle Tennesseans regardless of their financial status. MWCHC provides person-centered programing to support the physical, educational and social emotional needs of older adults. MWCHC operates three facilities in Nashville, Clarksville and Smyrna reaching more than 17,000 patients a year.

The West End Home Foundation

The West End Home Foundation is an independent, charitable foundation dedicated to enriching the lives of older adults through grant making, advocacy and community collaboration. To date, The West End Home Foundation has granted almost $19 million to 60 nonprofit partners serving older adults in Middle Tennessee. In addition to grant making, the Foundation is part of a national initiative called Reframing Aging that seeks to create age-friendly communities where older adults are fully valued, supported and engaged in ways that matter. The West End Home Foundation is committed to advocacy, building greater capacity among direct service providers and to leveraging resources for support of aging services as they did through their leadership role in the Senior Trust statewide grant process.

For more information on COA’s Sage Awards, please visit

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