MTSU Honor Outstanding Alumni


Middle Tennessee State University is again recognizing outstanding alumni who represent excellence and distinction through their professional careers, loyal support and service to the broader community.

From 1960 to present, the MTSU Alumni Association has recognized accomplished alumni with the association’s highest honor: the Distinguished Alumni Award.

This year’s recipient is Eddie Gossage, who has enjoyed an extensive career in the motor sports industry since 1980.

This year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award, given to a graduate 35 years old or younger making a positive impact in the world, goes to Tierra McMahon. She has an expansive background in foreign policy and environmental and economic issues.

For the fourth consecutive year, the True Blue Citations of Distinction are being awarded. Categories and this year’s honorees include:

• Achievement in Education (current or retired MTSU faculty) — Paula Thomas, who has deep roots at the university as both a former student, earning two degrees, and sharing her expertise with accounting students since 1983.
• Achievement in Education (outside MTSU) — Chris Whaley, a former attorney who has become a college president in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.
• Service to the University — Whitney Dix, who has shown great loyalty to her alma mater’s aerospace department in various ways through her work with a major airline.
• Service to the Community — being given posthumously to Doug Young, a Murfreesboro native whose leadership and service to his city, church and university are immeasurable.

Awards will be presented during Homecoming Week at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception, which will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, in the Sam H. Ingram Building, 2269 Middle Tennessee Blvd.

The public is invited. It is a complimentary event, but organizers request RSVPs to plan for food and space. To register, RSVP to

A searchable campus parking map is available at For more on visitor parking on campus, visit

In addition to the awards ceremony, all will be recognized during various MTSU Homecoming activities.

Here are more details about the 2017-18 honorees:

Distinguished Alumnus
Eddie Gossage (Class of 1982), Communications/Media and Entertainment

A Nashville native, Gossage is in the midst of his 21st year as the only president and general manager in the history of Texas Motor Speedway, a sprawling 1,500-acre, 135,000-seat complex — one of the world’s largest sports venues. He is considered a legendary racing promoter with colorful and memorable promotions and an innovator on the business side of the sport. Gossage has promoted two of the country’s major music festivals — one eclipsing the crowd at Woodstock in New York in 1969 — and major concerts.

Gossage also has generously hosted MTSU alumni at the prestigious speedway club level and has served on the board of professional advisers for the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment and Speedway Children’s Charities Board of Trustees. He is one of only 22 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee members and one of only 58 members on the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s selection committee. Among many honors, he is a member of the College of Media and Entertainment’s Wall of Fame.

Young Alumni Achievement Award
Tierra McMahon (Class of 2003), Philosophy

Currently living in France, McMahon is a policy analyst for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. As part of this role, she worked with the state secretary of Kazakhstan to discuss a gender project proposal and contributed to the architecture and flagship publication of a high-profile project signed at the 2015 World Economic Forum by the Kazakhstan prime minister and the OECD secretary-general. The project, known as the OECD Kazakhstan Country Programme, involves extensive OECD policy reform support ranging from education and government integrity, to innovation and investment.

Earlier, McMahon worked at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, where she was involved in the publication of BRICS: Building Education for the Future, which was launched at the 2014 United Nations General Assembly and translated into Chinese, Russian and Portuguese. She was responsible for seeing this flagship publication through from start to finish, with input from diverse government and intergovernmental stakeholders.

True Blue Citations of Distinction

Achievement in Education (MTSU faculty)
Paula Thomas (Classes of 1978, ’83), Accounting

Thomas earned both her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and master’s degrees in accounting from MTSU and has been an accounting faculty member for 30-plus years. She holds the Deloitte Foundation Professorship in Accounting in the Jones College of Business, an honor bestowed upon her by Deloitte for her successful efforts in instilling knowledge and professionalism in her students and preparing them for accounting careers. Thomas has served MTSU in numerous capacities and has been actively involved in teaching, research and service. She chaired the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Core Competency Framework Committee and has also chaired and served on numerous educational task forces for both the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association.

Achievement in Education (non-MTSU)
Chris Whaley (Class of 1991) Political Science

Whaley is president of Roane State Community College. After finishing a degree at MTSU and later becoming an attorney, he returned to Roane State as program director of the paralegal studies program, where he developed the original curriculum. From there, he assumed successively greater administrative responsibilities as a dean and a vice president before becoming Roane State’s fifth president. In his time as president, Whaley has developed several new initiatives including legal studies courses through distance education, New Faculty Academy, Student Learning and Diversity committee, promoted growth of dual studies program and provided leadership on various committees across the state. He also developed articulation agreements in legal studies with MTSU and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Service to the University
Whitney Dix (Class of 1999), Aerospace

Dix provides significant support to the university all the way from Houston, Texas. She has continually given time and effort by mentoring MTSU aerospace students, establishing the Shanda Carney Memorial Scholarship in 2013 (which has already awarded four scholarships) and frequently returning to campus to speak to aerospace classes on professional and practical experiences. Dix facilitated a partnership with Southwest Airlines and The Weather Company to donate valuable software to the NASA Focus Lab and arranged a visit of the National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt. She also represents Southwest Airlines at career fairs on the MTSU campus. She also takes time to welcome and mentor MTSU alumni moving to the Houston area.

Service to the Community
Doug Young (Class of 1971), Sociology

For Young, who died Dec. 16, 2016 at age 68, the results of his involvement will impact others for years to come. He started serving with the Murfreesboro Planning Commission in 1989 and was vice chairman. He was elected to City Council in 2002 and held the office of vice mayor upon his passing. He served on many other boards and commissions including the Board of Zoning Appeals, Main Street Murfreesboro, City Schools Foundation, Regional Transportation Association, Urban and Environmental Board, St. Clair Senior Center Citizen Board, MTSU Foundation and Alumni boards and chairman of the MTSU Liberal Arts Advisory Board. As an elected official, Young was not eligible for this award previously.