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TCC annual award winners to be honored on Aug. 23

Tidewater Community College will recognize five faculty and staff members from across the college with annual special awards on Aug. 23.

Selected by their peers, the honorees will receive their awards at TCC’s 2019 Fall Convocation at the Chesapeake Campus Student Center.

Professor of the Year

Professor Debra Duffy at the Norfolk Campus
Professor Debra Duffy at the Norfolk Campus.

Debra Duffy, who teaches geology and oceanography, is TCC’s Professor of the Year, an award established by the Faculty Senate to recognize excellence.

Duffy, 60, has made waves in learning with a partnership with Nauticus, enabling students to complete service learning projects while gaining hands-on experience and leadership skills.

Oceanography students design, build and test their own Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in the Seabots Design Lab at the Norfolk maritime science center and museum. Once they master the challenge, they share what they’ve learned during daily ROV building and testing workshops with Nauticus guests and community members.

“It means a great deal to be recognized for my work, and it makes me want to build on what I’m doing,” Duffy said. “I really enjoy the community college setting and the caring nature of our staff and faculty. I see all of this goodwill trickling down to our students and that’s really what we’re all about.”

The Norfolk resident started as a field geologist in industry. Her work included wetlands delineation and mitigation, which she enjoyed despite the tick bites and stings. When the research lab closed, she began teaching in high school, and since 2016, has taught at the Norfolk Campus. Duffy is the discipline lead for geology and oceanography.

“I love learning my students’ stories and helping them through any trials, so they can meet their educational and life goals,” she added.

Duffy holds a bachelor’s and master’s in geology and a Ph.D. in science education, all from Old Dominion University.

She and husband Bernie have two grown children.

Faculty Special Achievement

Professor Gregg Tennefoss at the Virginia Beach Campus.
Professor Gregg Tennefoss at the Virginia Beach Campus.

Picture it and you can make it, Professor Gregg Tennefoss tells students at TCC. The man who is crafting a Lamborghini in his driveway had the vision to create a maker space inside the Advanced Technology Center at the Virginia Beach Campus. The space allows students access to equipment and support to build whatever they can imagine from cabinet drawer parts to robots.

“The space is open to all students, not just STEM students,” said Tennefoss, noting one student started designing her own jewelry. “If you have an idea, we can help you make whatever you want.”

Tennefoss 60, joined TCC 24 years ago, initially as an adjunct before being hired as a full-time information technology professor in 1995. He holds associate degrees from the college in business and accounting and a certificate in data processing. He went on to earn his bachelor’s in computers and education and a master’s in management information systems, both from Old Dominion.

“I was studying to be an architect, started playing with computers and realized that was a lot more fun,”  he said.

The maker space opened a little more than a year ago in H206. Inside are three electronic stations, a laser engraver cutter, 3-D printers, woodworking tools – a gamut of accessories that fuel the creative juices. “Write it down and we’ll figure out together how to make it,” is his approach to students who want to try their hand at the internet of things.

As for that Lamborghini, he’s not using a kit. “I’m making it from the wheels up,” he said. “Motor’s done, suspension’s done. It’s a lot of work.”

Tennefoss and wife Dawn Marie reside in Chesapeake. They have three adult children and five grandchildren.

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty

Professor Elizabeth Harris at Portsmouth Campus.
Professor Elizabeth Harris at Portsmouth Campus.

Elizabeth Harris, recipient of the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty award, embraces the start of another fall semester with the same enthusiasm as she did 31 years ago. That’s how long she’s taught history, humanities and occasionally, French, at TCC.

“I love it here,” she said from her office at the Portsmouth Campus. “I’ve always loved to teach at TCC. You get to teach a broad spectrum of ages. I especially enjoy helping students who are first-generation in college.”

Harris’ unique background brings an authenticity to her classes that engages students. Her parents were missionaries. She grew up in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where, decades later, Osama bin Laden met his end. Harris, 68, didn’t move to this country until her college years, settling in Hampton Roads given her mother’s roots in Deep Creek. She earned bachelor’s degrees in history and French along with a master’s in history, all from Old Dominion. In addition, she completed 24 graduate hours in French literature as well as numerous graduate credits in economics and philosophy.

Harris retired from public high school in 2017 after teaching social studies and French for 26 years in Portsmouth and Chesapeake. At TCC, she frequently mentors international students and other navigating the transfer process.  “Being raised in the Third World, when we have international students or even students in the military, I understand many of their challenges,” she said. “You can really be helpful to students at a very transformational time in their lives.”

Portsmouth residents Harris and husband David have two adult daughters and two grandchildren. Harris enjoys mission work and spent the summer teaching everything from literacy to chess to crafts at the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. Her fun fact? Harris is the sixth great grand-daughter of Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Classified Employee of the Year

Mary Beth Apperson at the Norfolk Campus.
Mary Beth Apperson at Norfolk Campus.

Mary Beth Apperson is the Classified Employee of the Year. She has been with the college for more than 20 years and currently serves as manager of Visual Communications. Apperson continually emphasizes the importance of internal and external customer service, magnifying her staff’s strengths.

Apperson, 52, and her team provide the college community with everything visual – from simple flyers, brochures, video and signage.

She encourages her team to use organizational design thinking beyond the walls of the department to see how Visual Communications can serve the college, students and creatively support the TCC Educational Foundation, the TCC Real Estate Foundation and the Center for Workforce Solutions.

“Every day is a new challenge at TCC, and that’s how I like it,” Apperson said. “I’m humbled, honored and grateful for this award. To know that it came from people I work with means a whole lot.”

Apperson holds a bachelor’s in fine arts with a specialization in graphic design from Old Dominion. The Norfolk native is also an alumna and former adjunct faculty member of TCC, having taken and taught graphic design classes at the college.

Apperson and husband Carlton have a son, Matthew, who recently graduated from Virginia Tech.

Wage Employee of the Year

Pinkey Brown at Chesapeake Campus.
Pinkey Brown at Chesapeake Campus.

TCC alumna Pinkey Brown, the Chesapeake Campus welcome desk supervisor, is the Wage Employee of the Year.

Brown came to TCC after working as a store manager for Super K-Mart for 22 years. Brown came to retrain for a second career and found a new home.

The Chesapeake resident started as a Work-Study student while earning her associate degree with a perfect GPA.

She now welcomes students, staff and faculty with a warm smile and encouraging words. She is well known on campus for her enthusiasm and “can do” work ethic.

“My purpose, when someone walks through those doors, is to make sure they get what they need. I make a point to get to know names, so I can direct people to the right locations in the building,” she said. “I always feel so much joy when working with students. I love my job and know that this is where I’m supposed to be.”