Tech President Phil Oldham applauded the Gaw family for their support of Tech football

The Gaw family name is synonymous with development and real estate in the Upper Cumberland.

Jerry C. and Brenda Gaw recently provided a donation toward the construction of Tech’s state-of-the-art, 40,000-square-foot Football Operations Center on the northwest end of campus. Once complete, the venue will include a new locker room and meeting rooms, players’ lounge, theater-style auditorium, sports medicine center and turf practice field.

Pictured – Members of the Gaw and Phillips families are pictured with Tennessee Tech leaders and a portrait of the late Ottis Phillips. From left: Tech Athletics Director Mark Wilson, Jill Gaw Betcher, Brenda Gaw, Jerry C. Gaw, Cindy Phillips, Emily Phillips Rains, Kristie Phillips, Tech Head Football Coach Bobby Wilder and Tech President Phil Oldham.

Now, the longtime Cookeville business and philanthropic leaders are embarking on a new passion project: a generous gift supporting Tennessee Tech’s student-athletes given in memory of their close friend, Ottis Phillips.

For the Gaws, the gift was a way to both honor the legacy of a late friend and decorated Tech football alumnus while supporting the hometown university that has shaped their family’s journey.

“Ottis Phillips was a friend to my family for almost a lifetime,” said Jerry, who even shares a first cousin with the late Tech Sports Hall of Famer. “He was a graduate of Tech and a four-year letter winner in football. I grew up in Cookeville and remember watching Ottis, along with Mike Phillips, Mack and Watson Brown, Ralph Mullins and others all play football as Cavaliers for Cookeville Central High School.”

Phillips died in early 2023. Before his passing, he spearheaded fundraising efforts for the Football Operations Center alongside close friend and fellow Tech alumna Dr. M. Dianne Murphy, who remains chair of the Football Operations Center Steering Committee today.

“I grew up on Dixie Avenue down the street from Tech. We kept students in our home in the 1950s before additional dorms were constructed,” said Jerry. “I attended Tech in the 1960s and our daughter, Jill Betcher, is a Tech graduate in marketing. Our grandson, Hayden Bernhardt, is enrolled to begin his journey at the university this fall. So, we are thankful to have the opportunity to give back to a place that continues to do so much for the Cookeville area.”

Jerry says the Gaw family is excited about the momentum surrounding Tech’s Golden Eagle football team since the hire of head coach Bobby Wilder in December. In addition to the new football operations center, the university previously announced plans to completely rebuild the west side of Tucker Stadium to offer new amenities, suites, upgraded seating and expanded concessions, among other improvements.

Demolition is slated to begin later this spring. Tech President Phil Oldham applauded the Gaw family for their support of Tech football.

“Jerry and Brenda’s generous gift to Tech’s Football Operations Center is not only a powerful showing of support for our student-athletes, but also a moving tribute to their friend – and our friend – Ottis Phillips,” said Oldham. “Ottis loved Tech football and understood its importance to our university and our community. I know this gift would make him proud.”

The Gaw family, who have already been supporters of Tech’s basketball program in recent years, say that the opportunity to put their mark on Tech football is a “privilege.”

“As a community, we are all excited for the growth and expansion for the future,” said Jerry.

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Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

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