J.R. Arnold with Clyde Austin 4-H Center in Greeneville Wins Mildred Pendergrass Award

Picture of JR Arnold with UTIA Leaders
Pictu​red above from left to right, Tim Cross, chancellor of UTIA; J.R. Arnold, Clyde Austin 4-H Center; and Robert Burns, dean of UT Extension. Photo by T. Salvador, courtesy UTIA. Download image​

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture recognized some of its top faculty, staff, researchers and extension experts at UTIA’s annual Awards and Promotions Luncheon held on the UTIA campus in Knoxville August 17, 2018. Many of the awards are gifts made possible by past faculty, alumni and friends of the Institute.

Chancellor Tim Cross hosted the award winners and praised them for their work. “
The people we recognized at our ceremony exemplify the Institute of Agriculture’s commitment to our mission of providing real life solutions through teaching, discovery and service on campus throughout Tennessee and across the world,” Cross says. “Their hard work and dedication inspires all of us to be our best.”  

Reaching kids with his coolness - his given name is Alva Lavearle, but to co-workers and thousands of grateful 4-Hers he’s known affectionately as “J.R.”

J.R. Arnold is a UT Extension Assistant with the Clyde Austin 4-H Center in Greeneville and the winner of the Mildred Pendergrass Award for Outstanding Service. This award is presented in memory of Mildred Pendergrass, wife of the former UT Vice President for Agriculture Webster Pendergrass, and goes to employees among the technical, skill and service staff of the Institute.

From fossils to physics, rocks to rockets, natural history to our solar system, Arnold teaches science as part of the camp experience, instructing 15,000 youth in a typical year. Part curator, part tour guide, he also runs the fossil room at the center, though the term “room” doesn’t do it justice. The fossil room includes a full-scale model of a T-Rex skull. He’s also known to build teaching materials, including a mini – cannon made out of PVC pipe and a vacuum tube – that fires ping pong balls at speeds of 300 miles per hour by harnessing air pressure, all to demonstrate how we measure the heaviness of air. Arnold is also a wildlife instructor and works with 4-Hers on the rifle and archery range.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture celebrates 50 years of excellence in providing Real. Life. Solutions. Through teaching, discovery and service.



Charles Denney, 865-382-8058,

J.R. Arnold, 423-639-3811