By Chuck Wasserstrom
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Vice Chancellor for Access and Engagement Stacy Lightfoot was among the prominent leaders in the arts, business, education, entertainment, government, corporate America and community honored at the eighth annual Diamond Awards, held on Saturday, Jan. 27 at the Morehouse College Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel in Atlanta.
Lightfoot was recognized in the category of Education: Excellence in Leadership, Philanthropy, Humanitarian and Community Engagement.
The Diamond Awards, dubbed the “Oscars of community service” by its host organization, the Not Alone Foundation, is a program designed to honor professional accomplishments and contributions to society on a local, state or international level.
“I am incredibly honored to receive a Diamond Award,” Lightfoot said. “My sincere gratitude goes out to the Not Alone Foundation for its steadfast dedication to identifying and assisting leaders in a variety of professions. The organization’s work is incredibly inspirational, and receiving this award inspires us to keep aiming for excellence in everything we do.”
The Not Alone Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides financial, educational and medical resources for chronic kidney disease patients and their families. The foundation was established by Mark Dodd, a survivor of kidney failure.
“When I talked to (Mark Dodd), one of my first questions was, ‘How in the world did you get my name?” Lightfoot recalled. “He told me, ‘We did our due diligence. We looked at colleges and universities doing access and engagement work well and saw what UTC had done to create and build up the division.’
“To win the award is very humbling. I wake up every day living my purpose–and my purpose is to elevate and inspire. To see how our impact has reached beyond Chattanooga is the humbling part.”
According to Lightfoot, Dodd was mentored by members of the Academy Awards presentation as a graduate student at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. As a result, when he created the Diamond Awards, he took inspiration from the Academy Awards.
Thanks to Dodd’s Hollywood connections, the entertainment industry is represented annually. Among those receiving awards alongside Lightfoot were 1980s TV sitcom stars Phylicia Rashad (who played Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show”) and Glynn Turman (Col. Taylor on “A Different World”).
Rashad is dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard University.
“I shared the same stage in the same program with Phylicia Rashad, one of my idols as a child in the ’80s,” Lightfoot said. “I grew up watching “The Cosby Show,” which was the hottest show on TV, and “A Different World,” which was the spinoff of that.
“Phylicia Rashad was this strong African American actress who I emulated to be. To grace the stage with her and Glynn Turman … thinking about it, I’m still speechless–and it takes a lot to make me speechless. This award has done so.” Other Diamond Award honorees in education included UT President Randy Boyd, UT Chief Human Resources Officer Brian Dickens, UTC Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Strategy Officer Bryan Johnson and Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Mark Wharton.