Whittenbarger collects Derryberry award

Tennessee Tech chemical engineering major and ROTC cadet Andrew Ross Whittnbarger accepts the Derryberry Award from president Phil Oldham.

COOKEVILLE –Andrew Ross Whittenbarger has been awarded the 2019 Derryberry Award, the university’s highest student honor.

Whittenbarger’s academic excellence, moral and intellectual integrity, commitment to good citizenship, and instincts for leadership helped him achieve this prestigious award.

“For me to get this award, it is a testament to the caliber of faculty and student mentors and the opportunities provided to students here at Tech,” said Whittenbarger. “I am very honored to receive this award.”

A native of Kingston, Tennessee, and the son of Ross and Alicia Whittenbarger, Andrew will graduate on Saturday with a degree in chemical engineering. However, he will be following a different path after graduation. A member of Tennessee Tech’s prestigious ROTC program, accompanied by his wife Rachael, Whittenbarger will be commissioned into the Army and stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. A career in the military is something Whittenbarger has wanted for a long time.

“I knew in high school that I had been extremely blessed and I started seeking out a way to give back,” Whittenbarger said. “The military best aligned with that goal to help others.”

Whittenbarger serves as the Cadet Battalion Commander, the highest-ranking position an ROTC cadet can hold. He was twice named ROTC cadet of the year and last fall was recognized as the Distinguished Military Student. 

His honors include the ROTC Best Potential Leadership Award, American Legion Scholastic Excellence Award and the Golden Eagle Battalion Commander Award. On the Dean’s List every semester and a member of the Honors program, he is the only student among hundreds who have taken the final exam in Mass Transfer to score 101. He is a graduate of the United States Army Air Assault School, and in his spare time, volunteered in an afterschool program to read to elementary school students and help with homework and crafts. 

“I heard one ROTC student tell me Andrew was his hero and he hoped in the years he had here at Tech he could accomplish half of the standard of ethics and honor that Andrew set,” said Holly Stretz, professor in the department of chemical engineering. “Imitation in this case is exceptionally high praise.” 

Whittenbarger has high praise for his time at Tech. He knew it was the right place for him the moment he stepped on campus.

“I saw it as a school that was nationally-renowned enough to get a good education and the faculty were personable and the class sizes were smaller,” Whittenbarger said. “My advice to incoming freshmen would be to surround yourself with like-minded people. Align yourself with people who want to be successful. You should also get involved and own what you do.”

There were six finalists for this year’s Derryberry Award. Seth Crum, a pre-med undergraduate concentrating in cellular and molecular biology; Lila Easter, a human ecology major in child life; Gabriella LaSala, a biology major; Ashley McGowan, a chemical engineering major; and, Leonard Di’Arra Mostella, a physics major, were also finalists.

The Derryberry Award was established in honor of Everett Derryberry, who served as Tech president for 34 years. He retired in 1974.

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