Baker earns highest student honor with Derryberry Award

Rachel Baker is presented the Derryberry Award by Tennessee Tech president Phil Oldham.

COOKEVILLE — Rachel Baker has been named the recipient of the 2021 Derryberry Award, Tennessee Tech University’s highest student honor.

The daughter of Denise and Tracy Baker, and a native of Holladay, Baker recently earned a degree in chemistry with a concentration in pure chemistry along with minors in environmental studies, agriculture and honors.

“I’ve loved Tech and loved every minute here, so it’s kind of sad to know that my time here is up, and I will be an alumna instead of a current student,” said Baker. “I’m also excited to see what the future holds.”

Baker was named the recipient of the prestigious Derryberry award for her leadership, community service and academic success.

“Rachel has been extensively involved in campus and community activities throughout her time at Tech. Her leadership experience is unparalleled compared to any other student I have worked with in my nine years of teaching,” said Amanda Carroll, a senior lecturer in the department of chemistry. “Rachel graduated in our most rigorous chemistry concentration and maintained a good GPA while also completing the coursework for her different minors. She is a highly motivated and driven student and exemplifies the qualities demonstrated by a Derryberry award winner and a successful Tennessee Tech graduate.”

During her time at Tech, Baker was involved in several different student organizations such as the College of Arts and Science Student Ambassadors, Student Government Association, Associated Scholars Guild, Student Members of the American Chemical Society, Baptist Collegiate Ministry and American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

She was also a member of the University Curriculum Committee, Pedestrian Flow Taskforce, Student Affairs Committee, Academic Council and University Assembly.

“There are so many student organizations to choose from,” said Baker. “I was over-committed in high school, so I came here with the goal that I would narrow that down. When I look at my resume, I didn’t narrow it down a whole lot. I’m thankful for all the organizations that I had an opportunity to be involved in and all the activities those organizations have put on.”

When it came to community service, Baker logged hundreds of hours helping others. Whether it was a service project near her home in Benton County, various projects led by student organizations or UT/TSU Extension and 4-H, Baker displayed a leadership quality and a selflessness that made her stand out for the award.

“Her extensive list of extracurricular activities, ranging from serving as secretary of state in the SGA to various community service, should not be mistaken for that of a student who is simply compiling a diverse resume,” said Rita Barnes, director of Tech’s honors program. “Rachel’s activities are driven by her passions with a focus. She has future political ambitions, but they are informed by her commitment to science and service to others, not through a love of politics, nor by ego.”

Baker is the first chemistry major earn the DerryBerry Award, which was established in honor of Everett Derryberry, who served as Tech president for 34 years and retired in 1974. She says that being named the recipient of the award tops off a great experience at Tech.

“There were so many great candidates and to know I was chosen for this award makes it very special,” Baker said. My time at Tech has been outstanding. It’s been amazing. Tech is like a community of its own inside a larger community of Cookeville. The chemistry department really has a family feel, and has people you can rely on and go to even when it’s not chemistry related.”

Baker will remain in the field of chemistry, accepting a job with a company close to her home in Benton County where she will serve as a research and development chemist.

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