Three CCI alumni were among the 19 honored by the UTK Alumni Board at its October 2, 2015 awards dinner held in Knoxville at the Knoxville Convention Center. Alan Wilson (BS/JEM ’80) received UTK’s highest alumni honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Rachel Ramsey Cruze (BA/CS ‘10) and Rich Middlemas (BS/JEM ‘97) received the UTK Alumni Promise Award (see below).
“We are very proud of all three of CCI’s UTK alumni award winners,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “Their outstanding accomplishments and generosity toward UT and CCI inspire our students, faculty and staff to give their all for Tennessee!”
Since taking over as president and CEO of McCormick & Company Inc. in 2008, Alan Wilson and his team have moved their company forward through a “comprehensive continuous improvement” program that has helped more than double McCormick’s earnings per share.
During the same time, he has made comprehensive, continuous contributions to his alma mater. He received the UT Accomplished Alumni Award in 2010 and has served as a guest lecturer in the College of Communication and Information, where he was the commencement speaker and received CCI’s highest award – the Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011. He served a two-year term as the inaugural president of the UTK Alumni Board and continues on the Advisory Board of the Haslam College of Business, where he has also been a guest lecturer. Wilson and his wife, Wendy, have given major gifts to the UTK Alan and Wendy Wilson Career Development Suite in the new Student Union, which is named in their honor; the College of Communication and Information; the Haslam College of Business; and the Debby Schriver Endowment for Student Orientation.
Wilson attended UT on an ROTC scholarship and earned a BS in communication in 1980. After graduation, he served as a US Army captain, completing tours in the US, UK, and Germany.
In nine years at Procter & Gamble, he held progressively responsible positions in product supply, procurement, and manufacturing. Since joining McCormick in 1993, he has led different organizations and held many executive roles.
Other CCI Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award recipients include: Alan Greenberg (BS/ADV ‘72) in 2014 and Larry Patrick (MS/C&I ‘’73) in 2012.
Rachel Ramsey Cruze
Rachel Ramsey Cruze was born the year her parents, Dave (’82) and Sharon (’87) Ramsey, lost everything and filed for bankruptcy. She grew up watching the sacrifices they made and learned early on how to save for the future, spend wisely, avoid debt, and give generously.
Cruze grew up hearing people tell her dad, “I wish I’d heard this message years ago.” That fueled her desire to reach people and share the hard lessons her parents learned. It became her passion. It’s why she spoke to groups as large as 12,000 at the age of fifteen, and why she travels the country for the Lampo Group, her father’s company, encouraging audiences ranging from universities and nonprofits to corporations and associations.
Cruze has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today show, The Meredith Vieira Show, Katie, and Fox and Friends. She’s contributed to magazines like Women’s Day and is a featured speaker at events like Smart Conference and The Legacy Journal LIVE! Her video blog launched in 2014 with the goal of making money fun. Her first book, a collaboration with her father called Smart Money Smart Kids, is a No. 1 New York Times bestseller.
Immediately after graduating from UT, Rich Middlemas moved to Hollywood where he worked for the president and COO of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. In 2005, he branched out into independent producing, optioning the book Fifty Dead Men Walking, which was eventually adapted into a feature film starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Jim Sturgess.
In 2009, while he was following UT football recruiting, Middlemas was intrigued by a Memphis Commercial Appeal story about sixteen-year-old left tackle O.C. Brown and the struggles of the Manassas High football team. He and fellow filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin met with Coach Bill Courtney and started capturing the challenges and struggles of the players on film.
The project evolved from the story of an individual player to one of the team and the volunteer coaches’ dedication to the futures of the young men. The three producers also became involved in the high school students’ lives while filming at the school. They taught video production to the advanced history class and helped them make their own documentary.
As it turned out, the underdog Tigers had a winning season and their first visit to the playoffs in the school’s 110-year history. Undefeated won the 2012 Oscar for the Best Documentary Feature, making Middlemas the first UT graduate ever to win an Academy Award. He’s currently hard at work on his next project producing the film “House to House: An Epic Memoir of War,” an adaptation of the 2007 book by Iraq War veteran David Bellavia, for Universal Studios.