TTU honors Pickett County native Charlene Mullins among 2012 Outstanding Alumni
COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech University has named and honored six Outstanding Alumni for 2012, including Pickett County native Charlene Groce Mullins.
Mullins was valedictorian of Pickett County High School in 1943. Her parents were Herbert Turney Groce and Nina Belle Rich Groce.
One of the longest-serving TTU faculty members, Mullins received her bachelor’s degree in home economics in 1950 at TTU and went on to complete a master’s degree in home economics in 1953 at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Mullins has dedicated her life to children and families, first of all preserving an agricultural heritage for her children, Ralph and Deborah, and as a TTU faculty member, advocating excellent care for expectant mothers and promoting high education standards for preschoolers.
In 1953 she joined the TTU faculty in the department of home economics to expand offerings in human development and relationships.
Her life’s work has focused on early childhood development. She established the Tech Nursery School, now the Child Development Lab. Mullins showed nursing, education and home economics majors how to conduct preschool in an orderly fashion at a time when there were no state standards for daycares or preschools in Tennessee.
To create those standards, she chaired the governor’s Committee on Day Care Standards and served on the task force to organize Head Start centers throughout the Upper Cumberland. She also spearheaded the movement to establish kindergartens in Tennessee.
In the early 1960s, TTU President Everett Derryberry tapped Mullins to chair a curricula sub-committee on educational programs. It was TTU’s first self-study in preparation for accreditation.
Her extensive career prompted the School of Human Ecology to name her 2008’s Outstanding Alumna.
Mullins has been recognized nationally for her agricultural heritage work. Her genealogical research of Upper Cumberland pioneers is in the national archives of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C. The Putnam County Farm Bureau named the Mullins family a Farm Family of the Year in 1986 and again in 2007, and she has served on its board of directors for a decade.
Mullins helped honor the history of her husband Harlan’s family, which began farming in Putnam County in 1943, by overseeing the relocation and log-by-log reconstruction of the 25,000-square-foot Mullbro Heritage House. The house was moved from its original location near Dale Hollow Dam in Clay County to Cookeville in 1980. The house’s first of five rooms was built between 1835 and 1845. More than 25,000 visitors have toured the house, including many TTU students and faculty.
She was one of the first to recognize the need for a crisis pregnancy center in the Upper Cumberland. She worked diligently to establish the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic, where nearly 22,000 women have received counseling since the mid ‘80s. Since the early ‘60s, Mullins’ research and instruction has advocated the importance of good prenatal care, citing the dangers of drug use, prolonged emotional stress, poor maternal diet and diseases such as diabetes and influenza as having detrimental affects on infant development.
When Mullins retired in 2007, Dr. Bell presented her a certificate of appreciation for 54 years of service. She had served with five TTU presidents.