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.

Since 1960, the MTSU Alumni Association has recognized accomplished alumni with the association’s highest honor: the Distinguished Alumni Award.

This year’s recipient is Jeremy Cowart (Class of 1999) of Franklin, who is an internationally acclaimed photographer and also an entrepreneur.

Named the “Most Influential Photographer on the Internet” in 2014 by Huffington Post, Forbes and Yahoo, Cowart also has published four books and has made presentations at TEDx (technology, entertainment and design), the United Nations and creative conferences across the country.

His latest endeavor is The Purpose Hotel, a planned global for-profit hotel chain designed to fuel the work of not-for-profit organizations. His first hotel is scheduled to open in downtown Nashville in 2022.

This year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award, given to a graduate age 35 or younger, goes to Aaron Shew (Class of 2011), a Murfreesboro native now working at Arkansas State University. He has spent more than a decade working in international development and agribusiness.

At MTSU, Shew studied abroad in Morocco, India and Turkey, received a grant for undergraduate research at the MTSU Farm and served as the vice president of the Plant and Soil Science Club. After graduating summa cum laude with degrees in international relations and global studies and a minor in agriculture, Shew worked with a nonprofit organization in Afghanistan and Iraq to establish soybean-milling operations.

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

• Achievement in Education (MTSU faculty) — Carroll Van West of Murfreesboro, who is the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation director, the Tennessee State Historian since 2013, history professor and author of numerous books.

• Achievement in Education (non-MTSU) — G. Edward Hughes of Union, Ky., who retired in 2015 after 42 years as a higher education teacher and administrator in Tennessee, Illinois, Arkansas, New York and Kentucky.

• Service to Community — Meagan Flippin of Murfreesboro, the president and CEO of the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon counties since 2013 and president of Rutherford CABLE.

Awards will be presented during Homecoming Week at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception, which will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, in the Sam H. Ingram Building.

The public is invited to the reception. It is a free event. To RSVP contact alumni@mtsu.edu.

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