Discovery Park of America Announces 2023 Discovery Award Honorees

We have announced the honorees for the 2023 Discovery Awards Gala and Fundraiser that will be held Saturday, March 4, 2023. The award recognizes individuals whose work, like that of Discovery Park, brings enlightenment, inspiration and education to those whose lives they’ve touched.

It’s also one of our most popular events and one we look forward to hosting every year. The event sells out quickly each year, so you’ll want to get your tickets or table now, before they are gone.

This year, the awards ceremony will be emceed by Keli McAlister, a popular event host and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation public information officer.

The 2023 Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Discovery Award honorees are:

  • Her Excellency Amy L. Bondurant, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of Economic
    Cooperation and Development
  • Dr. Keith Carver, chancellor for the University of Tennessee at Martin
  • James Ross, president & CEO of West Tennessee Healthcare
  • The Honorable John S. Tanner, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives

Ambassador Amy L. Bondurant’s career spans more than 45 years of leadership in government, business, law, and nonprofit governance. Ambassador Bondurant’s tenure as the first female U.S. Ambassador (1997-2001) to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France spanned both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Ambassador Bondurant served as Senior Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, as a senior partner in a major Washington, DC law firm, on corporate boards such as Rolls Royce in London, England  and on nonprofit boards such as the American Hospital in Paris, France. Bondurant was born in Union City, Tennessee and raised in Hickman, Kentucky.

Dr. Keith Carver began his duties as the 11th chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin on January 3, 2017. Carver has worked with the UT System for 24 years and served as executive assistant to the UT president from January 2011-December 2016 before accepting the post at UT Martin. Prior to his position with the UT System, he held various positions on the UT campuses in Knoxville, Martin, and Memphis, which included serving as interim vice chancellor for development and alumni affairs at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis and as assistant vice chancellor for development at UT Martin. He was born and raised in Alamo, Tennessee.

James Ross, now CEO, joined West Tennessee Healthcare in 1985 as a registered nurse in the surgical intensive care unit. Positions held during his career are critical care coordinator, cardiac services manager, director of CCU, administrator of the West Tennessee Surgery Center, executive director of physician services, director of case management/social services and vice president of hospital services. In 2009, he was named Chief Operating Officer for West Tennessee Healthcare, and in 2016 was named by the Board of Trustees as the acting President and CEO. Ross was named President and CEO with full authority for the organization in 2017. He is from Henderson, Tennessee.

Former Congressman John Tanner of Union City, Tennessee served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 22 years where he represented Tennessee’s 8th congressional district. While in Congress, Tanner served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, where he chaired both the Social Security Subcommittee and the Trade Subcommittee. He also chaired the U.S. House delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the alliance’s legislative branch, for several years. In November 2008, legislators from all NATO member nations elected Tanner to serve a two-year term as esteemed President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

The names and biographies of the 2023 honorees will be added to a kiosk at Discovery Park with those from previous years.

The event will be held here at Discovery Park, (830 Everett Blvd., Union City, Tennessee,) on Saturday, March 4, 2023, with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and and the awards dinner at 7:00 p.m. The gala and fundraiser will also feature a silent auction, entertainment performed by regional musicians and more.

Information about tickets and tables can be found here.


Image caption: The 2023 Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Discovery Award winners (l to r): Amy L. Bondurant, U.S. Ambassador (Ret’d); Dr. Keith Carver, Chancellor, The University of Tennessee at Martin; James Ross, West Tennessee Healthcare CEO; and John Tanner, U.S. representative for Tennessee’s 8th congressional district, serving from 1989 until 2011.

Caption: Keli McAlister to emcee the 2023 gala. McAlister serves as a Public Information Officer for the Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation. She works directly with local, state, national and international
media as well as law enforcement agencies and community groups across the
area on behalf of the Bureau.