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Alumnus Williams Joins MTSU ODK Fall Initiates

Alumnus and NewsChannel5 investigative reporter Phil Williams was special alumnus inductee at the Omicron Delta Kappa fall initiation ceremony Friday, Nov. 30, in the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building amphitheater.

In all, 16 student initiates, two ODK circle squires and three MTSU faculty/administrators joined Williams, a 1985 graduate from MTSU and the honors program, in the ceremony.

“We had a good number of initiates,” Honors College Dean John Vile said. “It truly was a wonderful evening.”

Vile said it was rewarding that Williams, an award-winning television journalist, returned to his alma mater to be a part of the ceremony.

A Columbia, Tenn., native, Williams graduated in 1985 from the College of Mass Communication and joined its Wall of Fame in 2003. While at MTSU, Williams completed his thesis, “Dissent in a Free Society,” during Dr. Ron Messier’s tenure as honors program director. Messier was Williams’ thesis adviser.

Williams is the winner of two George Foster Peabody Awards, the George Polk Award for TV Reporting, a National Headliner Award and a 2012 Alfred I DuPont-Columbia Award for excellence in local reporting. He has earned three DuPont awards.

New faculty initiates included Dr. Debra Sells, vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services; Dr. Deana Raffo, assistant professor of management; and Dr. Charlene True, associate professor of educational leadership. Raffo was ill and unable to attend.

New ODK student members are juniors Jared Adams, Jonathan Herlan, Nathan Phelps, Michael Ripley and Ashley Sweeton; seniors Chelsea Fleet, Tyler King, Rachel Lee, Kayla McNabb, Jake Verhoeff, and Tyler Whitaker; and graduate students, Marques Fulford, Natasha Gerstenschlager, Sarah Gray-Panesi, Jonathan Murray and Victoria Warenik.

Sophomores Davis Thompson and Kevana West were introduced as circle squires, a program that allows promising sophomores to be involved with the local circle while they await full membership as juniors.

Michael Giles Jr., an ODK Foundation trustee and a marketing manager for Nashville-based Pedigree and Cesar pet food brands, shared the history of ODK and issued a challenge to new initiates. Giles earned his bachelor’s from Samford University in Birmingham and his M.B.A. from the University of Alabama.

The MTSU circle of ODK was chartered in April 2010 with 50 members, including President Sidney A. McPhee, Congressman Bart Gordon, then-MTSU Foundation President Murray Martin and Roy Martin, brother of Paul W. Martin Sr.

ODK, a national leadership honor society, was founded Dec. 3, 1914 at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. ODK was the first college honor society of national scope to give recognition and honor for meritorious leadership and service in extracurricular activities and to encourage development of general campus citizenship.

The ODK circle of MTSU accepts applications from juniors, seniors and graduate students who maintain a 3.5 GPA and who are involved in leadership and service roles on campus and in the community. The society recognizes leadership in five areas: scholarship; athletics; campus/community service, social/religious activities and campus government; journalism, speech and the mass media; and creative and performing arts.