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Dr. Robert Owens recognized recipient of OVC's Thurston Banks Award for Distinguished Academic Service

Dr. Robert Owens recognized recipient of OVC's Thurston Banks Award for Distinguished Academic Service

By OVC Media Relations

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Dr. Robert Owens of Tennessee Tech University has been named one of two recipients of the 2022 Ohio Valley Conference Thurston Banks Award for Distinguished Academic Service.

The award, selected by the OVC Faculty Athletics Representatives (FARs), was established in 2013 to recognize individuals (e.g. academic advisor, professor, tutor, etc.), with at least five years of service at one or more OVC member institutions, for their outstanding contributions to OVC student-athletes' academic success, learning and development as well for his or her overall commitment to the institution's athletics program.

The other recipient this year is Jaci DeClue of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). Owens represents the third individual from Tennessee Tech to receive the honor in the last four years and the fourth since the award was established in 2013, joining Dr. Leveda Birdwell (2021), Dr. Lance Jasitt (2019), and Andrew Smith (2014).

The award is named after Dr. Thurston Banks, who served the Tennessee Tech Department of Athletics for 31 of his 34 years on the faculty and served as the Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) for 25 years before stepping down in 2006. He was inducted into the OVC Hall of Fame in 2007.

Owens has been at Tennessee Tech for over 15 years and currently serves as the Chief Diversity Officer where he advocates and oversees the development, execution, and monitoring of strategic efforts around diversity, inclusion, and equity for students, faculty, and staff, specifically with regard to recruitment, admissions, and enrollment.

His leadership in the wake of racial and civil unrest in 2020, included the organization and chairing of forums, personal presentations, and assistance with both the establishment and activities of student groups.

Prior to his current role, he served as the Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, the Assistant Vice-President for Student Affairs, and the Director of Minority Affairs. He has taught a variety of courses ranging from Learning Strategies and remedial mathematics to graduate-level education seminars.  He has also served on the Athletics Committee, the Sports Hall of Fame Committee, the Diversity, Equity and Access Council, and the Window on the World Steering Committee. He serves on various local boards, including Cookeville IMPACT and IMPACT Leadership, both non-profit organizations centered around increasing and promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Owens, who received his bachelor's, MBA, Ed.D., and Ph.D. all at Tennessee Tech, has served as a character coach for the men's basketball program, worked in a mentoring and counseling capacity with the TTU football and women's basketball teams. He has also volunteered as a chaplain for the football program.

DeClue, a graduate of SIUE, has served her alma mater for 18 years and currently holds the title of Deputy Athletic Director. She also served as Interim Director of Athletics in 2019.

During her time at SIUE, DeClue's responsibilities have included implementation of NCAA, OVC, and institutional compliance policies and procedures, training and education, risk assessment of the compliance program, and the development and execution of monitoring programs. She also is responsible for coordinating the academic services program for all student-athletes in which the focus is to develop and implement a comprehensive academic success plan, to improve personal skill levels, motivate learning, and promote self-reliance of all student-athletes.

In her new and expanded role, DeClue oversees all student facing services (Strength and Conditioning; Mental Health; Academics; Sports Medicine; Career Planning) and she is also the sport administrator for men's golf, women's tennis, men's and women's cross country, and men's and women's track and field.

With DeClue overseeing academics, SIUE student-athletes have turned in 31 consecutive semesters of a 3.0 cumulative grade point average or higher and a graduation success rate (GSR) that has been in the top 25 of all Division I public universities and No. 1 or No. 2 among Illinois public universities since 2014.

File photo by Thomas Corhern


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