What do a community activist, former community college president, late county executive and late U.S. Army Special Forces soldier have in common?
They are Blount County School's Alumni of the Year award winners.
During Thursday's fifth annual Excellence in Education banquet, the district announced its first four award winners:
• William "Bill" Bennett, a Heritage High School graduate;
• William A. "Bill" Crisp, a Friendsville High School graduate;
• J.L. Goins, an Everett High School graduate;
• Brenda Sellers, a Friendsville High School graduate.
"Excellence in education is what brings us together tonight, and they show us the excellence is out there," said Blount County Director of Schools Rob Britt. "They are great examples of leaving a legacy."
Bennett, who graduated from Heritage High in May 1986, joined the Army in December 1986. He completed bridge crewmember training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. and was assigned to the 1th Engineer Battalion in Fort Belvoir, Va.
Bennett later complete Army salvage diver training and was assigned to the 7th Engineer Battalion in Fort Kobbe, Panama. After graduating from the Army Special Forces Qualification course in 1993, he was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Fort Campbell, Ky.
During his military service, Bennett served in Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom, in addition to contingency operations throughout Southwest Asia. He also operated as part of a special forces team inserted into Afghanistan following 9/11.
Bennett was killed during a raid Sept. 19, 2003, in Ar-Ramadi, Iraq. He was 35.
The Heritage High School graduate, who received posthumously the Silver Star and a second Bronze Star, received many awards and decorations throughout his 17 years of military service. He is survived by a wife, Allison, and a son, Seth.
Crisp, who graduated from Friendsville High in 1957, served 10 years as county executive, which was the name for the county mayor's office at that time, from 1992 to 2002. He served 1967-67 on the Friendsville City Commission, served 1969-71 as Friendsville mayor and served 1969-82 and 1986-90 on the Blount County Commission.
Crisp held a number of offices throughout the years, including director of the Blount County Industrial Development Board, Smoky Mountain Visitors Bureau, Community Corrections Board, Board of Health, Blount County Historical Museum Board, United Way of Blount County, East Tennessee Human Resources Agency, Tellico Reservoir Development Agency, Tennessee Resource Valley. Transportation Planning Organization and East Tennessee Development District. He also was interim executive director of the Blount County Community Action Agency.
In addition to these offices, Crisp served 29 years in Blount County Schools. He served 1962-68 as a teacher/coach/guidance counselor at Lanier Elementary, then served 1969-92 years as a principal at Binfield, Bungalow and Rockford schools. He worked 1968-69 at ALCOA Tennessee Operations in data processing.
Crisp also served as Middlesettlements United Methodist Church's lay leader and chair of the Pastor-Parish Relation Committee and Cemetery Committee. He held a bachelor's from Maryville College and master's from the University of Tennessee.
Crisp died Aug. 22, 2014, at age 75.
The Friendsville High School graduate is survived by wife, Carolyn Crisp ; daughter and son-in-law, Staci and Andy Lawhorn; grandchildren, Ty Hamilton Lawhorn and Andi Love Lawhorn.
Goins, who graduated from Everett High School in 1959, served 1981-93 as Pellissippi State Community College's president. Under his leadership, the school changed from State Technical Institute at Knoxville to Pellissippi State Technical Community College.
Goins served 1964-66 in Oak Ridge Schools, establishing Oak Ridge High School's first marketing and cooperative education program. He served 1966-71 in Chattanooga Public Schools, overseeing the marketing and cooperative education program and serving as the adult education center's principal.
During his time in Chattanooga Public Schools, Goins developed the state's largest adult education program in distribution, marketing, management training, sales and service. He also developed the first nationally recognized training program for adults in food retailing.
Goins served 1971-81 as technical education director for the county's three districts. In 1980, American Vocational Association recognized the countywide program as the Southeast's best program.
After serving as Pellissippi State Community College's president, Goins served 1993-95 as Smoky Mountain Visitors Bureau's director. He established a national marketing program that was instrumental in recruiting "Christy," a CBS period series that aired between April 1994 and August 1995, to the area. He also established the spring and fall festivals and expanded the Townsend Visitors Center.
Goins served 1995-99 as Blount Partnership's CEO and president and served 1999-2009 as a Blount County Realtor. He holds a bachelor's from Maryville College and a master's from the University of Tennessee.
Sellers, who graduated from Friendsville High School in 1977, serves as Chroma's president. The company, which produces aftermarket automotive accessories, is located on Ross Drive.
Sellers is actively involved in the community. She has served as Maryville Kiwanis Club's president and United Way of Blount County's board chair.
Sellers serves on the Action Council for SMiles and New Hope — Blount County Children's Advocacy Center's board, External Committee and Executive Committee. She is a BCSO Citizen's Academy member, Friends of the Smokies graduate, HonorAir volunteer and Relay for Life celebrity waiter.
Sellers has received the Blount County Citizens Award and 2013 Blount Partnership Philanthropist of the Year Award. She was named East Tennessee Regional Leadership's class leader in 2014.
Sellers also participates in missionary work to help children, the elderly and veterans. She has gone on medical mission trips to Costa Rica and Honduras and worked in the slums of Brazil and other countries.
By Matthew Stewart-The Daily Times