MARTIN, Tenn. – Two alumni and two friends will be honored as part of the UT Martin Homecoming activities, Sept. 30 - Oct. 6. The award recipients will be recognized during the homecoming game against Jacksonville State at 2 p.m., Oct. 5, at Hardy M. Graham Stadium.
This year’s award recipients are:
• Cade Cowan, Outstanding Young Alumni Award, given in recognition of outstanding
achievement in his chosen profession (the recipient must not be more than 40 years of age);
• Dr. Renee Bailey Iacona, Outstanding Alumni Award, given to an alumnus or alumna in recognition of outstanding achievement in his/her chosen profession;
• Jim and Janet Ayers, Chancellor’s Award for University Service, given in recognition of outstanding service to UT Martin.
Cowan is a 1994, summa cum laude graduate of UT Martin. A native of Gordonsville, he attended UT Martin as a University Scholar majoring in economics in the School of Business.
Additionally, he served as Student Government Association (SGA) president, vice president of Kappa Alpha Order, and perhaps most memorably donned the Pacer Pete mascot uniform for two years. At graduation he was awarded the Paul and Martha Meek Leadership Award.
Currently, Cowan is a managing partner of the leadership development practice for Pivot Leadership, a consulting firm that equips senior leaders of Fortune 100 companies to more effectively execute their organizational strategies. During his career, he's worked in 31 countries on five continents with leaders from companies such as Microsoft, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Aetna and HP.
In addition to his degree from UT Martin, Cowan holds a master’s degree in organizational and social psychology from Columbia University in New York.
Iacona graduated from UT Martin in 1991, with a bachelor’s degree in biology as a University Scholars graduate. At UT Martin, she served as a resident assistant, biology laboratory instructor, held many leadership positions for Alpha Delta Pi and was awarded the Greek Woman of the Year Award by Panhellenic in her senior year.
After UT Martin, Iacona pursued degrees at Vanderbilt University where she received her doctorate in pathology in 1998 and a master’s degree in public health in 1999.
Iacona currently lives outside Philadelphia, where she lives with her husband, Nick Iacona. She has worked at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals since 2001, and now serves as the head of the alliance and operations office for the global biometrics function.
For Alpha Delta Pi, Iacona has continued to serve the organization since graduation from UT Martin and now serves on the Grand Council as the international vice president of alumnae membership overseeing the strategic development of the more than 220,000 alumnae members. For UT Martin, she has started a leadership endowment scholarship and is currently serving on the steering committee for building the Alpha Delta Pi Sorority lodge at UT Martin.
Because of their commitment and vision, Jim and Janet Ayers convinced the Tennessee Legislature to approve a $200,000 annual recurring state appropriation for the establishment of operation of the UT Martin Parsons Center. The Ayers also made a leadership gift of $1 million to construct the UT Martin Parsons Center.
Ayers, a native of Parsons, established the Ayers Foundation Scholarship Program in 1999, which provides up to $4,000 for four years to any Decatur County area student in need, who meets the entrance requirements and attends any Tennessee college or university, community college or state-operated technical school. Ayers’ wife, Janet, is foundation president.
Jim Ayers, the owner and chairman of the board of FirstBank, served as the honorary co-chair of The Campaign for Tennessee (UT Martin) in 2010, was a member of the UT Foundation Board and the UT Martin Campaign Steering Committee, and is a former member of the UT Development Council. His gifts to The Campaign for Tennessee largely support the UT Martin Parsons Center and the UT Martin Ayers Scholars.