MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business again honored a group of business people with awards in recognition their contribution to business and industry.

The five honorees were formally recognized recently during the 21st Century: Leaders That Matter awards ceremony leading up to the Jones College-hosted 21st Century: Work That Matters conference at Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.

Tim Downey, founder and CEO of Nashville-based Southern Land Co., was given the Joe M. Rodgers Spirit of America Award, which is presented to an individual who has demonstrated the highest ideals in keeping with the American spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and commitment to others.

Downey has a three-decade career in developing neighborhoods and vibrant commercial districts that adhere to traditional design principles and generate community interaction. Modeled after Walt Disney Imagineering’s desire to inspire creativity, innovation and interaction in the company and across projects, Downey’s business model enables direct communication between architecture, horticulture, construction and planning professionals.

Retta Gardner, president and CEO of Guaranty Trust Co., was given the Jones College Exemplar Award, which is presented to a Jones College alumnus who has “walked in the shoes” of current students and whose personal and professional accomplishments demonstrate that future MTSU graduates can also achieve great things.

Gardner, who earned her MBA at MTSU, joined Guaranty Trust in 1996 as information technology manager before being promoted to senior management four years later to help establish the company’s third-party division, also serving as IT, human resources and marketing manager. She was promoted to executive vice president in 2010 and to president and CEO in 2013. During her tenure, Guaranty Trust has grown from $250 million in annual production to just over $1.3 billion. She is vice president of the Tennessee Mortgage Bankers Association, board member for Volunteer State Bank and United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, and a member of the Jones College Dean’s Advisory Council.

David and Ann Hoke, both real estate professionals, were presented the Jennings A. Jones Champion of Free Enterprise Award, which is presented to an individual whose achievements “are in keeping with the highest traditions of the American system of free enterprise” and who are role models in business, professional and personal achievements.

David Hoke’s passion for residential real estate began over 30 years ago when he was the Nashville partner in a regional land development company. His background includes 12 years of domestic and international marketing experience with David Weekley Homes, Proctor & Gamble and AMSCO International. Associated with Ann Hoke & Associates, he is also the broker of HomeFront Properties, a firm that manages investor-owned residential properties. He is treasurer of the Nashville chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers and past chairman of the board of the American Heart Association of Rutherford County. He is a 2015 graduate of Leadership Middle Tennessee.

Since launching her real estate business with Keller Williams in 2005, Ann Hoke has become a top producer who consistently ranks among the upper 1 percent of her peers. She is listed on the REAL Trends Top 250, the industry-wide list honoring the best real estate teams from across the U.S. Hoke began her career as a retail fashion buyer and worked within the senior living and healthcare fields before professional opportunities led her to real estate. She serves on the board for the Rutherford County Area Habitat for Humanity.

Receiving the Young Professional of the Year Award was Lorelei Samuelson, director of business intelligence for SME Solutions Group, an analytics consultancy company based in Nashville and in Tampa, Florida. This award recognizes someone who, at a relatively young age, has already been a role model whose accomplishments are outstanding and an inspiration to others — but who also has the potential to rise to even greater heights in personal and professional life.

An MTSU alumna, Samuelson was instrumental in founding and serves as an adjunct professor in the Business Intelligence and Analytics concentration at Jones College. She has worked at organizations ranging in size from publicly traded to private equity-owned to early startups. She served in analytics roles at the VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Sony ATV Music Publishing, and HCA. Her expertise includes project management, process improvement, executive dashboard development, data architecture, data warehousing, master data management, analytic reporting and predictive analytics. She works with the nonprofit Women in Technology of Tennessee; chaired the 2016 Nashville Technology Council Analytics Peer Group, organizing the Nashville Analytics Summit; and is developing a STEM and coding program at Bellevue Middle School.

The Jones College presented the awards in partnership with First Tennessee Bank. Jones College Dean David Urban presented the awards.

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