Meet Our Alumni – Part 2

Union University is known for shaping the next generation of great leaders. Our alums go on to elite graduate schools, meaningful careers and mission and ministry opportunities around the world. There are scores of Union alums doing amazing things, and here are some we would like you to meet.

Part 1


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“At a nonprofit, you are the whole communications team. Studying such widespread curriculum really let me transition well to this position.” – Chelsea Cobb Croom (’15) – Communications Coordinator, RIFA, Jackson, Tenn.

Learn more about Chelsea’s work with RIFA here.


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“A Union education completely transformed the paradigm through which I viewed my faith and the world. I was taught how to think Christianly, how to broaden my faith to affect every single endeavor and activity of life.” – Chad Wilson (’01) – President, Foundation Bank, Jackson, Tenn.

Read more about Chad here.


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“It is rare to find a school with such camaraderie. The faculty enjoy what they do. They pushed me to read widely, critically and charitably.” – Hannah Clardy (’12) – Doctoral Student, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Read more of Hannah’s story here.

Alumna Celebrates Jackson Community

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Katie Howerton said Union taught her what community is and how important it is to the lives of the people within it.

“Union taught me how to care so much about the community I was in that now I feel inclined to care for the community I’m in at work,” she said.

Howerton is the communications manager for Our Jackson Home, an organization created to celebrate the people and the stories of Jackson, Tennessee. A 2015 Union graduate, Howerton worked on the design for the Our Jackson Home magazine as her senior project.

She said in her time in the Union community, she slowly developed a love for the Jackson community. After she graduated, she said she wanted to continue working for Our Jackson Home because of the way it speaks to Jackson.

“I knew I wanted to do it, but I knew it couldn’t just be a hobby,” Howerton said.

She said Our Jackson Home was run by volunteers, and they knew that if no one took over to run it full-time, it would not last long. They asked her if she would be interested.

“It could have become just this thing that happened in 2015 if nobody took over,” Howerton said. “They said, ‘Hey, we know that you may not be super confident, but we’re confident in you, and we’re willing to take a risk.’”

Howerton said she is glad to have had Union as a training ground for her professional career.

“On top of training to be a professional, I also was given plenty of room to be creative, which was what first allowed me to come up with the idea for Our Jackson Home (magazine) and continues to allow me to run it,” she said.

Howerton said her professors at Union gave her direction, but they also set her free to follow creative ideas. She said that has helped her as she continues to develop ideas for Our Jackson Home.

“I don’t feel aimless because I don’t have specific directions,” she said. “I’m comfortable allowing room to explore.”160422_KMW_KatieWorking009160422_KMW_KatieWorking014

Meet Our Alumni – Part 1

Union University is known for shaping the next generation of great leaders. Our alums go on to elite graduate schools, meaningful careers and mission and ministry opportunities around the world. There are scores of Union alums doing amazing things, and here are some we would like you to meet.


alumni-ClaudiaVelasco-400

“Union gave me the confidence to apply for opportunities that were outside my comfort zone. I had always been a good student, but Union really helped me thrive as a leader. It’s the combination of a small student body, really supportive professors, spiritual growth and great opportunities within campus — I felt like I could try new things and succeed.” – Claudia Valasco (’13) – Client Solutions Manager, EMC Corp., London  

Learn more about Claudia’s work with EMC Corp here.


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“Union allows you to feel valued. I felt that I truly mattered as a member of this community and, in turn, it gave me a desire to serve that community. Union felt like home.” – James Barbee (’13) – Math Teacher, Lauderdale Middle School, Ripley, Tenn.

Read more about James’ goals as an educator here.


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“Choosing a college is one of the most significant decisions you will make, because the friendships and relationships you form in college are likely going to be some of the most important and lasting relationships you’ll have throughout your life. And I can’t think of a better place than Union University to find and form those kinds of relationships. Not to mention, you’ll receive a top-tier Christian education at one of the finest undergraduate institutions in the country.” – Justin Wainscott (’02) – Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn.

Learn more about Justin’s journey to becoming a pastor here.

From Differential Equations to Bank President, Grisham Values his Union Education

gary grisham headshotGary Grisham looks back on his time at Union with a sense of accomplishment – especially in one particular area.

“My highest academic achievement was passing Richard Dehn’s differential equations class,” Grisham says.

Nearly 40 years later, Dehn is still teaching math at Union, and the skills he taught to Grisham have paid off. Grisham is now the chairman and CEO of The Bank of Jackson and a strong supporter of Union University.

“I’ve always thought of my diploma as a stock certificate – that I actually own a piece of the campus,” Grisham says. “I think I’ve truly gotten a great return, if you look at in the financial sense. I do believe my degree is worth more today than it was even when I finished.”

A native of Memphis, Grisham transferred to Union after two years at a community college. He played baseball his junior year and basketball both his junior year and senior year. Baseball proved to be a bit of a stumbling block to him, because he failed Dehn’s class as a junior – which Grisham attributes to several missed classes because of baseball games.

Grisham with his college basketball teammates

Grisham pictured here with his basketball teammates. He is on the bottom row, third from the right.

His senior year, he didn’t play baseball specifically so he could focus on that pesky differential equations class. He made a B.

Grisham graduated in 1975, a member of the last graduating class on the old Union campus. He met his wife Susan while he was a Union student, and their daughter Mallory followed in their footsteps, graduating in 2009 with a nursing degree.

Through the years, Grisham’s love for Union has continued to grow.

“Union has always been a highly respected, highly regarded institution of higher learning,” he says. “Today, its light shines brighter than ever.”

 

Grisham's basketball photo and a photo of him escorting his wife at homecoming

Grisham escorting Susan Pittman, whom he would later marry, at a homecoming game | Grisham’s basketball portrait.

Grisham in his office

Grisham in his office

Grisham chatting with bank employees