Ladawna Parham, Pat Duke & Others Among MTSU’s 2020 Distinguished, Young Alumni


Editor’s Note: Over the years I’ve learned to value people that I come across in life who I’ve considered are-just plain ‘real.’ I was pleased to see Ladawna Parham be recognized for her efforts in our community. Anyone that knows Ladawna loves her contagious smile.

Her efforts to make our community a better place for those who may be struggling with hunger is an honorable calling. Ladawna and the Tennessee General Assembly, along with Governor Bill Lee were able to secure $10,000 for Nourish Food Bank (formerly Smyrna/LaVergne Food Bank).
Although it took us four years to obtain the budget request Ladawna never waivered from her mission-which is to feed the needy.
Keep up the ‘Good Work’ Ladawna.

Town of Smyrna Steps Up for Nourish Food Bank

Town Manager Brian D. Hercules and Mayor Mary Esther Reed

Many thanks to the Town of Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed, Vice-Mayor Marc Adkins, Councilmen H.G. Cole, Gerry Short, Tim Morrell, Steve Sullivan, Racquel Peebles and Town Manager Brian D. Hercules and Smyrna Fire Department led by Fire Chief Bill Culbertson and parade organizer Jill Strange for their efforts to feed the needy. They assisted Ladawna and Nourish Food Bank with over 82,000 can goods collected during the Smyrna Christmas Parade in 2019.



Pat Duke, LaDawna Parham among MTSU’s 2020 Distinguished, Young Alumni, True Blue Citations of Distinction honorees


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 Pat Duke of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, whose voice has been heard far and wide on many food and beverage commercials, Super Bowls, television shows, animation films and video games.

This year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award, given to a graduate age 35 or younger making a positive impact in the world, goes to LaShan Dixon, a Murfreesboro resident with four MTSU degrees, who helps improve the quality of life in the community as an administrator for the Rutherford County Health Department.

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

  • Achievement in Education (MTSU faculty) — Odie Blackmon, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and popular Recording Industry faculty member from Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Achievement in Education (non-MTSU) — Jo Ann Hood, of Antioch, Tennessee, a band director at five secondary schools, including 30 years of leading the John Overton High School band in Nashville.
  • Service to Community — Ladawna Parham, of Murfreesboro, CEO of Nourish Food Bank in Murfreesboro since 2013 and in nonprofit management for more than 15 years.

The Alumni Association hopes to recognize them with an in-person event in spring 2021.

Here are more details about the 2020-21 honorees:

Service to the Community

Ladawna Parham (Class of 1998), College of Media and Entertainment

Parham’s role as CEO of Nourish Food Bank is far removed from a former journalism career in East and Middle Tennessee, where she earned numerous accolades, eventually pursuing her passion for supporting nonprofit and community efforts to aid those in crisis in management positions for many years.

Ladawna Parham

While at Nourish, Parham has grown the food bank to include multiple sites, offer more than 400,000 meals annually, partner with dozens of organizations to address food insecurity across the region and create a network of support to ensure the longevity of the agency’s reach. When not at Nourish, Parham, who also has a master of education in nonprofit management degree from Belmont University, works in real estate with Advantage Realty of Middle Tennessee. 

Parham is a Leadership Rutherford graduate, Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce diplomat, member of Junior League of Murfreesboro and Rutherford CABLE, co-founded Spread the Positives Women Nourishing Our Community Series to honor local women making a difference and is on the Rotary Club of Smyrna board of directors.

A mother of two sons, Parham has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Women in Business by Murfreesboro Magazine and Nashville Lifestyles and one of VIP Murfreesboro’s Leading Ladies for her work to empower women and inspire her community. She is a 2020 ATHENA Awards nominee.