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The Volunteer 40 Under 40

Recipients of the inaugural awards are making their mark around the world.

April 08, 2021

Membership in the Volunteer family doesn’t end after graduation. More than 250,000 alumni are manifesting the Volunteer Creed, lighting the way forward in leadership and service from Knoxville to the world.

This year the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, named the first recipients of its Volunteer 40 Under 40 award, which recognizes young alumni who have had a significant impact on their industry or field, demonstrated outstanding civic or professional achievements, or served UT in an exemplary manner.

Here are a few of the inaugural recipients:

Kara Lawson (BS finance ’03), Durham, North Carolina—head women’s basketball coach, Duke University

A four-time All-SEC selection and two-time All-America choice at Tennessee, where she played for the late Pat Summitt and led the Lady Vols to three NCAA Final Four appearances during her collegiate career, Lawson was named Duke University’s women’s basketball coach in 2020. Previously she served as a game and studio analyst for men’s and women’s college basketball and the NBA for ESPN. The former WNBA and Olympic champion also spent one season an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics— the first woman coach in the franchise’s 73-year history. Lawson continues to serve UT as a member of the Board of Trustees.

Shuwanza Goff (BA political science ’06), Alexandria, Virginia—deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and liaison to the US House of Representatives

In 2020 Goff was appointed to her current position by then President-elect Joe Biden. Prior to her appointment, Goff had served as floor director for legislative operations for the Office of the House Majority Leader. In that role, she became the first African American woman to direct action on the House of Representatives floor, which made her possibly “the single most important unelected official in Congress,” according to UT Professor of Political Science Richard Pacelle. Her career on Capitol Hill began in 2008.

James Trimble (BA religious studies and psychology ’05, Master of Public Administration ’08), Knoxville—chief operating officer, EventBooking

A Tennessee native, Trimble is the chief operating officer for EventBooking, where as vice president of product strategy he steered the development of software products for more than a thousand clients in 23 countries. Trimble is the front man for the the Dirty Guv’nahs, a popular rock band he started with other UT grads. The band continues to tour around 10 days a year, selling out shows in every city where they perform.

Inky Johnson (BA political science ’07, MS sport psychology ’09), Atlanta—motivational speaker

A routine tackle during a UT football game on September 9, 2006, left Johnson with a paralyzed right arm. His injury didn’t turn him into an inspiration; it showed the world the inspirational life he had been living all along. Executives, professional sports teams, religious groups, and young people around the country have all benefited from Johnson’s raw energy and charisma. Whether the topic is leadership, teamwork, or perseverance, Johnson is a highly sought motivational speaker, traveling the world and transforming lives.

Brooke Fraser Drummond (BS broadcast journalism ’12), New York City—producer of Today, NBC

Drummond is currently coordinating producer for digital for the NBC show Today. After graduation, she moved to New York City for the NBC page program. She went on to work on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and the network’s Olympic coverage.

Describing her favorite memory from her time at UT, Drummond said, “Seeing how I grew as a person from freshman year to senior year. I discovered a lot about myself and who I wanted to become. The university set me up for the real world.”

Learn more about all the recipients.

Produced by The Office of Communications and Marketing

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