Middle Tennessee State University has announced this year’s winners of its outstanding alumni awards and True Blue Citations of Distinction.
Torrance Esmond (Class of 2003) of Nashville is the winner of the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Known professionally as “Street Symphony,” Esmond is a record producer, music executive, composer and adjunct MTSU professor, spearheading a new hip-hop and R&B songwriting class.
Esmond has received Grammy, Dove and Stellar awards. As a young man, Esmond received a scholarship and enrolled at MTSU, studying mass communication and media studies. After attending an Outkast concert, he felt compelled to pursue his love for music.
Esmond’s first industry job was vice president at independent record label Reach Records. While serving as an executive and producer, he and Lecrae (former MTSU student Lecrae Moore) won Grammys for Best Gospel Album and Best Contemporary Christian Song.
Esmond returned to the mainstream and started his own imprint, Track Or Die, a production and boutique music publishing company. In 2015, he started the Street Symphony Scholarship for aspiring music business students at MTSU, where the adjunct teaches hip-hop and R&B songwriting.
This year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award, given to a graduate age 35 or younger making a positive impact in the world, goes to Gabrielle Thompson (Classes of 2012 and ’15),a Nashville resident and Free for Life International’s executive director and CEO for the past six years.
Thompson has expanded Free for Life International’s work to seven countries, seen the rescue of 700-plus women and girls, partnered with one Safe Home, developed two prevention and interception curriculums and created one nationally recognized survivor scholarship and mentorship program.
Thompson is board chair for CareCom, a board advisory member for Youth Against Trafficking and member of the Tennessee’s Human Trafficking Working Group Steering Committee and two orphan organizations.
She holds a master’s of international affairs and a bachelor’s in global studies from MTSU.
The MTSU Alumni Association has presented the awards since 1960. For the eighth consecutive year, True Blue Citations of Distinction are being awarded as well. This year’s honorees, including a new one for Military Service, are:
• Achievement in Education (MTSU faculty) — Rebecca Foote (Class of 2006), of Murfreesboro, a Jones College of Business faculty member and Master Instructor coordinator in the Department of Accounting.
• Achievement in Education (non-MTSU faculty) — Mitchell Miller (Classes of 1990 and ’91),of Middleburg, Fla., the John A. Delaney Presidential Professor at the University of North Florida, where he also serves as editor of the American Journal of Criminal Justice.
• Service to University — Chip Walters (Class of 1985), of Murfreesboro, the longtime “Voice of the Blue Raiders” in football and men’s basketball and master of ceremonies for athletic and university-wide functions and volunteer on numerous MTSU boards and committees.
• Service to Community — Col. Barry Melton (Class of 1982), of Cleveland, Tennessee, who has worked since 1986 with the Civil Air Patrol.
• Military Service — Col. Joel Cook (Classes of 1992 and ’93), of Yorktown, Va., who has spent 30 years in the Air Force as a pilot, vice wing commander and current director/chief at Air Combat Command headquarters in Virginia.
Regarding the new military award, Office of Alumni Relations Director Ginger Freeman said “as an institution that has such a strong history with the military and veterans, it was only natural to add this new award. It is an honor to recognize an alumnus for their military service.”
The Alumni Association will recognize them at several events during MTSU Homecoming in October.