Impact of Alumni Scholarship Remembered Nearly Two Decades Later

Tennessee Proud: Lisa DeBusk (Knoxville ’01), far right, remains grateful for the UT Alumni Association’s Davidson County Scholarship she received in 1997. It came on the heels of Debusk’s father’s death while she was a high school senior. UT is a family affair for her stepdad, David Graham (Martin ’77), mom, Cheryl Taylor DeBusk Graham (Knoxville ’70), and her likely-to-be-a-Vol-someday daughter, Kate.

By Chandra Harris-McCray

The sudden death of her father solidified what she already knew.

“I would be a Vol, just like him, my mother and my paternal grandmother,” says Lisa DeBusk. “It’s in our blood line, and I don’t think Dad would have wanted it any other way.”

Along with making her dad, Alan DeBusk (Knoxville ’69), proud, Lisa DeBusk wanted nothing more than to be a Vol. It was what she had dreamed of as a young girl voyaging from Nashville to Big Orange Country to attend football games. The traditions were already hers, and she officially claimed UT as her own in 1997 as a mourning high school senior after learning she was the inaugural recipient of the UT Alumni Association’s Davidson County Alumni Scholarship.

UT became her home away from home. She found her classes on the Hill with ease and connected with student groups, including the Student Alumni Associates (SAA), through which she supported the events and fundraising activities that netted her and others the alumni scholarships.

Thirty-nine scholarship recipients later, the Davidson County Alumni Scholarship “continues to transform lives, just as it did mine,” says DeBusk, who graduated summa cum laude and debt free from UT Knoxville in May 2001.

She hasn’t taken off her UT ambassador cap since. After graduation, she connected with the Davidson County Alumni Chapter by serving on the executive board, and she continues to serve on the UT Alumni Association’s Board of Governors.

“That alumni scholarship relieved a financial burden at my time of greatest need, so I’ll always be connected to UT and the alumni association,” DeBusk explains. “I have a unique connection with the other Davidson County scholars, since I know firsthand what it means to receive such a scholarship.”

Having marked 43 of the 50 United States off her travel bucket list, the self-proclaimed traveler still gets from Brentwood, Tennessee, to Knoxville a few times a year, often during football season. She’s usually joined by her 2-year-old daughter, Kate, her mother, Cheryl Taylor DeBusk Graham (Knoxville ’70), and her stepfather, David Graham (Martin ’77).

Lisa DeBusk and daughter KateWhile she makes a living in medical sales, Lisa says, “Being a mom to Kate is by far the best job.”

Orange-and-white outfits already are a mainstay for Kate, born a Vol for life and immersed in Big Orange Country since birth.

“If I have anything to do with it, Kate will likely follow in my footsteps,” Lisa says, laughing.

It’s a legacy she says she counts on her daughter taking forward.

Learn more about the impact of the UT Alumni Association on students and faculty at: