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2024 Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Discovery Awards

Mar 2nd @ 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Discovery Awards Gala and Fundraiser will bring together thought leaders, policymakers, philanthropists and others to celebrate the winners, all of whom have deep roots in West Tennessee. The 2024 Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Discovery Award honorees are:

  • Dr. Nick Dunagan
  • Deanie Parker
  • David Ring
  • Elizabeth Taylor

Dinner for the gala will be provided by Artisan Kitchen of Paducah, Kentucky, while entertainment will feature live music by Nashville musician Evie Grace Fowler and an ensemble from The Jackson Symphony Orchestra. In addition to cocktails, a dinner and awards ceremony, this year’s gala will also include a “sweet” after-party with live entertainment in the ATA Traveling Exhibits Gallery and a selection of desserts to sample from Obion County, Tennessee bakeries. The gala and awards ceremony will be emceed by  Joey Sulipeck. Sulipeck is an author, professional event host and investment advisor of Memphis, Tenn.

Enjoy an exhibit and silent auction featuring memorabilia and artifacts such as photos from the history of Obion County—including a rare set by Verne and Nonie Sabin — and a framed photo autographed by American military leader Douglass MacArthur. Attendees can also bid on one-of-a-kind items from the archives like a vintage sign advertising Kickapoo Joy Juice, handmade wooden bowls likely from the late 1800s, a vintage Chinese opium pipe, a Vietnam and Pacific Theater short sword, vintage water buffalo horns etched with different scenes/images and more.

Jackson Symphony ensemble at the 2023 Discovery Awards Gala.
Artisan Kitchen
Joey Sulipeck
Evie Grace Fowler
Purchase Tickets for the 2024 Discovery Awards Gala

2024 Discovery Awards Gala Invitation

Interested in being a sponsor of the 2024 Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Discovery Awards Gala?

Your sponsorship includes:
  • Logo or business name recognized on signage at the entrance
  • Verbal mention from the master of ceremonies
  • Tickets to the Discovery Awards Gala

GOLD SPONSOR: $2,000, 10 tickets

SILVER SPONSOR: $1,000, 5 tickets

Click to button below to sponsor the 2024 Discovery Awards Gala.

Dr. Nick Dunagan was named Chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin in April of 2001 and served in that role until his retirement in July 2007.  He began his work at UT Martin in 1973 as director of development. Through the years his many roles have included executive vice chancellor, vice chancellor for development and administration and vice chancellor for student affairs. Before being named UT Martin’s eighth chancellor in April 2001, he served as interim chancellor three times (1985-86, 1997-98, 2000-01) and as executive director of WestStar, the university’s regional leadership program.

In the 1960s, Deanie Parker was a key administrative executive for Stax Records working with performers including Isaac Hayes, Booker T & the MGs, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Richard Pryor, The Dramatics, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King and others. Later, as the first president and CEO of Soulsville, Parker led the nonprofit organization established to build and manage the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School located in an area of Memphis, Tennessee dubbed Soulsville USA.  Parker then established the Soulsville Foundation and served as its President to fund program operations for the three entities. Today she’s active in numerous arts organizations including the Tennessee Arts Commission.

A family history in Union City has inspired David Ring, who calls Massachusetts home, to implement a unique vision for restoring much of Union City’s downtown area including the Nailing Building. His passion for historic preservation and strategic improvements has led to expansion, beautification and development of the entire Union City Mainstreet area. Ring, executive chairman of Applied Plastics, is a renowned international medical device and contract manufacturing expert.

Elizabeth Taylor is a Dyersburg native who has philanthropically contributed resources to improving the lives of many West Tennesseans. She and her late husband, Ab Taylor III, have been actively involved in The Care Center of Jackson, a shelter for women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness. She was a leader with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and served on the board for the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation. Today, she is involved with several organizations where she enjoys sharing her faith and love for the West Tennessee community.

Photos from previous Discovery Awards Galas