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TTU Slugger Bringing Home National Recognition

Press Release from Tennessee Tech Sports Information Service, May 21, 2018:

Strohschein tabbed semifinalist for Golden Spikes Awards

(Story by By Mike Lehman)

DURHAM, N.C. – Tennessee Tech junior designated hitter/outfielder Kevin Strohschein was named a semifinalist for the 2018 Golden Spikes Award, announced by USA Baseball Monday.

Presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the 41st Golden Spikes Award, which honors the top amateur baseball player in the country, will be presented on June 28 in Los Angeles.

Strohschein becomes the first ever Golden Eagle named as a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist and is one of just 25 players in the nation to make the list. He also was named a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy.

Both Strohschein and Chambers represent the first Golden Eagle players named as Dick Howser Trophy semifinalists. The junior slugger has helped lead Tech to a consensus Top-25 national ranking, – currently as high as No. 18 by Perfect Game – a program-record 46 victories, an Ohio Valley Conference-record 27 league wins and the OVC regular season title. Winners of 37 of their past 39 games, the Golden Eagles also set the OVC record with a 28-game winning streak from Mar. 13 to Apr. 28

The first player in OVC history to win both Rookie and Player of the Year in the same season back in 2016, Strohschein leads the Golden Eagles with 93 hits, 16 home runs and a .694 slugging percentage. He is batting .396 in 53 games on the year, totaling 62 runs, 16 doubles, three triples, 60 RBI and a .453 on base percentage.

Beginning with the announcement of semifinalists, a ballot will be sent to the Golden Spikes Award voting body consisting of national baseball media, select professional baseball personnel, previous Golden Spikes Award winners and select USA Baseball staff, totaling a group of over 200 voters. From Monday, May 21 through Sunday, June 3, the voting body will select three semifinalists from the ballot to be named as Golden Spikes Award finalists and fan voting will simultaneously be open on GoldenSpikesAward.com. Selections made by the voting body will carry a 95 percent weight of each athlete’s total, while fan votes will account for the remaining 5 percent.

The finalists will then be announced on Wednesday, June 6. Beginning that same day through Friday, June 22, the voting body and fans will be able to cast their final vote for the Golden Spikes Award winner.

Brendan McKay took home the prestigious award last year, joining a group of recent winners that include Kyle Lewis (2016), Andrew Benintendi (2015), A.J. Reed (2014), Kris Bryant (2013), Mike Zunino (2012), Trevor Bauer (2011), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), and David Price (2007).

The winner of the 41st Golden Spikes Award will be named on Thursday, June 28, at a presentation in Los Angeles. The finalists and their families will be honored at the Rod Dedeaux Foundation Award Dinner that evening at Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.

USA Baseball has partnered with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation to host the Golden Spikes Award since 2013. The Foundation was formed to honor legendary USC and USA Baseball Olympic team coach, Rod Dedeaux, and supports youth baseball and softball programs in underserved communities throughout Southern California.

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TTU Grads Tops in Loan Repayment in TN

Press Release from Tennessee Tech University, March 13, 2018:

Tech is ranked first in Tennessee among public colleges and universities, and second in the state overall once private institutions are considered, by both groups.

Nationally, Tech is ranked #83 by Student Loan Report and #121 by LendEDU.

“College is a significant investment,” said Tech President Phil Oldham. “Students and their parents need to consider the return on that investment. These rankings, along with numerous others, show that Tennessee Tech provides a strong return on that investment by providing a high-quality education at an affordable price.”

The only other public university in the top five of Student Loan Report’s rankings for the state is the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (#5/#226 nationally). Vanderbilt University is the top-ranked school in Tennessee (#1/#78 nationally). More than 1,000 schools were ranked in the report.

The annual Student Debt Repayment Success Indicator report uses a formula to determine graduates’ chances of successfully repaying student debt. The indicator includes early career salary, student loan default rate, and average student loan debt per borrower. Several datasets – including federal repayment data from the Department of Education, data from Peterson’s Financial Aid dataset, and early career data from PayScale – are used.

The study showed Tech’s early career pay at $51,000 with the debt per borrower at $19,363 and the default rate at 5.31 percent for an indicator rating of 2.49.

A similar index from LendEdu, the College Risk-Reward Indicator, also ranked Tech as the top public university in the state, second overall and #121 nationally. Tech is the only public university in LendEDU’s top five rankings for the state. Nearly 1,000 schools were ranked by LendEDU.

LendEDU compared the average student loan debt per borrower with the average early career pay, or the median salary for alumni with zero to five years of experience.

The Student Loan Report rankings are at https://studentloans.net/student-debt-repayment-success-indicator/. The LendEDU rankings are at https://lendedu.com/blog/college-risk-reward-indicator-2018.

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Acclaimed Percussion Group Coming to TTU

PRESS RELEASE from Tennessee Tech University:

The Sandbox Percussion quartet will perform in the Wattenbarger Auditorium of Tennessee Tech University’s Bryan Fine Arts Building Friday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Sandbox Percussion has established themselves as a leading proponent in this generation of contemporary percussion chamber music. Brought together by their love of chamber music and the joy of playing together, Jonathan Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney seek to engage a wider audience for classical music through collaborations with composers and performers.

In addition to their concert schedule, Sandbox has also participated in various masterclasses and coachings at schools such as the Peabody Conservatory, Curtis Institute, Cornell University and Furman University.

This is a Center Stage Event made possible by the university’s general education fund. It is free and open to the public.

Wattenbarger Auditorium is in the Bryan Fine Arts Building located at 1150 N. Dixie Ave.

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Chestnut Blight-Fighters Breeding Brighter Future

Tide slowly turning in war against against decimating spores

Grand stands of native chestnut trees, now absent from our forest landscapes, are the stuff of legends.

Hailed in its heyday as the “Redwood of the East,” the once mighty and magnificent North American chestnut was a towering, commonplace presence across woodland countrysides, from the middle of Mississippi throughout Appalachia and New England up into Canada.

American chestnuts thrived in nearly all of Tennessee, save some of the western lowlands.

Throughout its 200 million acre range in the eastern United States, chestnuts provided a source of forage for the entire food chain.

Prior to the tree’s calamitous demise in the early and mid-20th Century, chestnuts were “the single most important food source for a wide variety of wildlife from bears to birds,” according to the Tennessee chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation’s website. It was an “essential component of the entire eastern US ecosystem.”

The wood and nuts served as a staple of survival and prosperity for humans as well. Prized not just as a food source for people and livestock, Chestnut trees were a nearly boundless source of sturdy lumber.

Chestnut is estimated to have at one point been the highest timber-volume tree in Tennessee.

Insidious Interloper Introduced

But nature’s native chestnut bounty is no more in this country.

“Oh mighty, magic chestnut tree, how did you slip away from me?” asked Dolly Parton in a musical ode to the arboreal archetype.

The answer was a foreign invader.

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Dr. Hill Craddock discusses chestnut blight disease characteristics at a field demonstration in Cookeville. The orange-colored blight spores can be seen encasing the trunk of this tree.

A fungus blight imported from across the Pacific Ocean on Oriental varieties of chestnut trees in the late 1800s and early 1900s took hold in New York. And over the course of just a few decades, the relentless pestilence — which was relatively innocuous to the Asian chestnut varieties — devastated the non-resistant American chestnut.

“There is no example of a forest disease that so quickly and completely eliminated its host,” Dr. Hill Craddock, a biology professor and chestnut-breeding expert at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, told Center Hill Sun. “It spread very quickly in concentric circles, killing literally billions of trees.”

Craddock said the distinction between “epidemic” and “pandemic” is tragically vital in the tale of the American chestnut tree’s rapid descent toward oblivion.

“This was a true pandemic. There were no unaffected individuals,” he said. “The chestnut blight pandemic may be the worst ecological disaster in the history of North America since the Ice Ages.”

The blight pathogen, which kills back infected trees by scoring and splitting the bark with necrotic cankers, reached Tennessee in the 1930s. By the 1950s, mature American chestnut had been all but obliterated from forests throughout the United States.

However, if there was anything resembling a bright side to the blight plague, it was this: The fungus cankers terminate the tree’s trunk and canopy growth, but the root systems lived on.

And the chestnut is famous for its ability to send up fast-growing new shoots.

“If you walk in the woods today, you can still find chestnut trees sprouting from the base,” said Craddock. “So, therein lies the hope that we can bring them back.”

Craddock, 56, is a celebrity and savant among chestnut restoration enthusiasts. He’s committed his professional life to battling the blight through means of plant breeding and public education about how to engineer a rebound. In a 2004 Smithsonian magazine profile headlined “Chestnutty,” he was described as a “chestnut evangelist.”

This spring, Craddock led a group of regional foresters on a tour of a university chestnut-breeding plot he is managing near Tennessee Tech’s Hyder-Burks Agricultural Pavilion.

“The strategy we’re using is to create a hybrid between the blight-resistant Asian species and the American chestnut,” said Craddock.

Backcrossing to the Future

The breeding process he is using to develop blight-resistant trees is known as “backcrossing.” Parent trees of both Chinese and American are crossed, then back-bred to successive generations to eliminate most of the Chinese tree’s physical characteristics — except for blight resistance.

“If we start with a tree that’s fifty-fifty Chinese-American and we backcross that to an American, we get a tree that is three-quarters American and one-quarter Chinese. When we backcross that generation, then we get a tree that’s seven-eighths American. Backcross that, and then we get a tree that is fifteen-sixteenths American.”

Craddock selects for trees that have the look or “form” of the American chestnut, and also display blight resistance.

“When the trees get up to four or five years old and two or three inches in diameter, we deliberately inoculate the tree with the chestnut blight fungus,” he said.

Trees that show acceptable resistance are used in future crosses, thus bringing forth evermore resistant varieties that are, genetically speaking, very close to native chestnuts.

Seeds from the most resistant strains are then planted in a seed orchard. “In those trees we expect to recover full resistance,” he said.

So, in a nutshell, things are looking up for the iconic giant that once shaded the eastern United States and showered sustenance onto forest floors.

“Ultimate success,” however, is measured not in decades, or even human lifespans, but more like centuries, said Craddock.

“We are talking about ecosystem restoration” he said. “We need a tree that can survive and reproduce on its own under natural conditions. We are hoping to be able to release these trees into the woods in a way that allows natural selection to take over.”

For that to occur, trees must display a level of blight resistance enabling them to survive and reproduce in the wild. “In my lifetime, I think we will have initiated those plantings,” Craddock said.

“A hundred or two hundred years from now, I think we will be able to measure success in another way: if we have naturally reproducing populations of chestnut trees in the forest,” he said.

Interested in learning more about chestnut trees, or obtaining young trees that have been bred for blight-resistance? Contact Dr. Craddock through the American Chestnut Foundation at paul@acf.org, or visit the Tennessee chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation website at tnacf.org.

(Photo at top of page: Krystal Kate Place of Chattanooga is pollinating chestnut flowers. The bags over the blossoms are to prevent pollen pollution.)