Seeger Chapel steeple against an orange sunset

Alumni honored for personal and professional accomplishments

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, TN (October 25, 2001)-Milligan College will recognize several of its alumni for professional and personal accomplishments at its “Celebrate Milligan” Banquet this Friday, Oct. 26, at 6:30 p.m. The banquet is part of the Homecoming Weekend festivities.

“These alumni have been selected by their peers as people who are not only making a difference in their communities, but who are exemplifying Milligan’s vision to change lives and shape culture through Christian leadership in various professions throughout the world,” said Theresa Garbe, director of alumni relations.

Professional Excellence Awards will be presented to Eric Deaton of Bristol, Tenn.; Dr. Mary Lynn Dell of Washington, D.C.; Gary Richardson of Tampa, Fla.; and Cal Wilson of Johnson City, Tenn. These alumni are recognized for excelling in their professional area and demonstrate high standards of integrity and Christian character.

Deaton is a 1983 graduate and current vice president of finance and operations for Wellmont Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol, Tenn. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting and later completed an M.B.A. For the past 18 years, he has been a leading figure in the healthcare industry, working for health care companies throughout the southeastern United States. Deaton serves on the boards of the local Chamber of Commerce and United Way and is an active member of the United Emmaus Community.

“Eric’s service to the community through the venue of the healthcare industry has made a difference in the lives of many people,” said Garbe.

Dr. Mary Lynn Dell is a 1981 graduate of Milligan and holds a M.D. from Indiana University. She is a child and adolescent psychologist on faculty at George Washington University School of Medicine and Children’s National Center. She has also served on the faculties in psychiatry and pediatrics at Emory University and the University of Pennsylvania, and recently conducted research at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md. Her accomplishments are not limited to the medical profession. Dell holds the master of theological studies and master of theology degrees from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and in 1993 was ordained by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

“Mary Lynn describes her work as a ministry that is interdisciplinary. It includes teaching medical ethics, receiving grants, and developing courses in religion and spirituality, medicine and psychiatry. It also includes working professionally with clergy, their families, and troubled congregations of all denominations,” said Garbe, who interviewed Dell last month.

Gary Richardson is a 1978 alumnus of Milligan, holding a degree in English and minors in speech and drama. He is the writer and producer of the nationally acclaimed musical, “The Rock & The Rabbi,” which will show Saturday, Oct. 27, in Seeger Chapel as part of Homecoming Weekend festivities. Prior to producing and managing “The Rock & The Rabbi” – which has shown to sold-out audiences at venues such as Hard Rock Live theatre at Universal Studios and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville – Richardson served as the on-air worship leader for the Christian Network show, “Worship,” and was an associate minister at Harborside Christian Church near Tampa, Fla.

“It’s wonderful to finally have a theatrical production that possesses and professes the power and beauty of Christianity and that is aimed at reaching a secular mainstream audience,” said Richard Major, director of theatre at Milligan and a 1978 classmate of Richardson. Richardson will be unable to attend Friday’s banquet due to prior commitments. He will be recognized at Saturday’s performance of “The Rock & The Rabbi.”

Cal Wilson is a 1970 graduate of Milligan College. He has had a successful 25-year career in the financial services industry, where he is currently senior vice president in investments for UBS/PaineWebber in Johnson City, Tenn. Wilson first worked for J. C. Bradford, becoming a partner in 1987. He is actively involved at First Christian Church in Johnson City and serves on the boards of Appalachian Christian Camp, the Mountain States Health Alliance Foundation, and Milligan College.

“Cal has been a wonderful example to all of us through his stewardship and faithful support of various faith-based and community projects,” said Garbe. “His friends and family describe him as a very hardworking and generous individual.”

The George W. Hardin Spirit of Milligan Award will be presented to Roger and Louise Clites in recognition of life-long devotion and service to their alma mater. The two met as students at Milligan in the late 1940s, but their lives took them down separate paths. After the death of their spouses, they each returned to Northeast Tennessee to be closer to family and friends. Their paths soon crossed again, and in 1993 they renewed their friendship and were married. Louise has volunteered in the college library’s archives for the past 14 years, logging over 600 hours to date in preservation, identification and cataloging. Roger assists her with this work, and both can be frequently seen at college functions and athletic events.

“George W. Hardin was a man who devoted much of his life, love, and personal resources to Milligan College, and we think Roger and Louise have done the same,” said Garbe. “Their commitment to the college is exemplary and more appreciated than they know.”

The Milligan College Athletics Hall of Fame will induct Jerry Craycraft, Class of 1977, of Wooster, Ohio, and A. R. Rhea, Class of 1990, of Johnson City, Tenn. Craycraft scored 1,574 points in his Milligan basketball career, leading the Buffs to three 20-win seasons. He was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1977. He is now a commodities broker and has been self-employed for 15 years. He and his family are active members of West Hills Baptist Church in Wooster, Ohio. Craycraft is unable to attend Friday’s banquet due to prior commitments.

Rhea, who played baseball from 1987-90 holds several Milligan records, including most career wins (31), most innings pitched (307 2/3), most career strikeouts (294), lowest career ERA (1.79), most strikeouts in a season (98 in 1990) and tied most wins in a season (10 in 1990). He was a four-time All-Conference pitcher and outfielder, two-time MVP of the Conference, Player of the Year in the state of Tennessee in 1989, and was the only Milligan baseball player to be an NAIA 1st Team All-American. He was drafted and signed with the Blue Jays in 1990. Rhea is now a physical therapist specializing in sports injury and rehabilitation at the Johnson City Medical Center. He and his family are active at Central Baptist Church in Johnson City.

The 2001 Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to Del Harris and Sonny Smith, one-time teammates at Milligan who both went on to successful coaching careers. The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to individuals of the highest Christian character who excel in a lifetime of service and success and accomplish deeds of significance to society.

Harris, a 1959 graduate of Milligan, is now the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Mavericks NBA team. Harris began his NBA coaching career in 1976 after several years coaching at the high school and college levels. He led the Houston Rockets to the NBA finals in 1981, took the Milwaukee Bucks to four straight playoff appearances, and as head coach of the LA Lakers, led the team to four very successful years.

In 1999, following the death of both of his parents and a turbulent public life, Harris found himself being drawn back to the faith of his youth. He began attending church again and joined an accountability group.

“By age 45, I was worth a million dollars on paper. I had friends, a family I loved and apparent success. It all seemed good, but it wasn’t. By age 49, I was bankrupt in about every way, divorced, and out of a full-time job,” said Harris in a 2000 interview.

“But God and my family are now seeing me through the humiliation of my sins and failures through His grace and forgiveness. My hope is to have Him be able to express Himself through me, as imperfect and weakly as that might be at times. Whether that be as a coach at some level or some other endeavor, I leave that for Him to reveal.”

Due to his responsibilities with the Dallas Mavericks, Harris is unable to attend Friday’s banquet but has sent a video-taped message for the audience.

Like Harris, Smith was a standout performer on the 1957 and 1958 Milligan College basketball teams. He graduated in 1958 and spent the next 11 years playing semi-pro basketball and coaching in the high school ranks. In 1969 he became an assistant coach at William & Mary, followed by stints at Pepperdine and Virginia Tech. In 1976, he became the head coach at East Tennessee State University, leading the school to the 1977-78 Ohio Valley Conference co-championship with an 18-9 mark and earning conference Coach of the Year honors.

In 1978, Smith became the head basketball coach at Auburn University. Over his 11 year career there, he guided the Tigers to five NCAA post-season tournament appearances and coached such NBA players as Charles Barkley, Chuck Person and Chris Morris. He remains the second winningest basketball coach in Auburn basketball history.

From 1989-1998, Smith was head coach of the Virginia Commonwealth University basketball program, guiding VCU to five straight winning seasons and was twice named conference Coach of the Year. Retired from coaching, Smith is now the host of “The Sonny and Wimp Show” on Birmingham’s WJOX-690.

For more information about any of the above recipients, the “Celebrate Milligan” Banquet, or Homecoming Weekend, contact the Milligan College Alumni Office at 423-461-8718.


Posted by on October 25, 2001.