UT Extension Specialist John Toman Honored with Visionary Leadership Award

Picture of John Toman accepting award
John Toman, UT Extension Eastern Region director, accepts an award from Epsilon Sigma Phi for Visionary Leadership. Also pictured is Johnny Barnes, past president of the Tennessee Omega chapter of ESP. Image courtesy UTIA. Download image​

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture faculty members have been recognized with six awards for their commitment to Extension and outreach work across Tennessee. The honors are given by Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP), a national organization that includes thousands of Extension professionals from land-grant universities across the country. Tennessee Extension professionals were recognized in six of 12 categories across the South.

“These awards really highlight the incredible talent and leadership of UT Extension agents, specialists and professors,” says Michele Atkins, Tennessee ESP Omega Chapter president. “We submitted entries in nine categories, and won six of those. That’s an impressive number,” continues Shelly Barnes, awards and recognition chair for the chapter.

John Toman, UT Extension specialist, has been awarded the Epsilon Sigma Phi Visionary Leadership Award. This award is designed to recognize Extension professionals whose significant accomplishments have resulting in leading Extension forward in new directions. An honoree’s visionary leadership must have enabled Extension to anticipate a significant new opportunity and developed support to implement program organizational changes necessary to achieve success.

For almost two decades, Toman has served UT Extension in various IT roles, and his passion for serving others has naturally resulted in a statewide reputation as the “go-to” guy for technology-based solutions. Through his leadership he has continually sought ways to update antiquated paper-based processes, migrating to technologies that provide efficient impact reporting, volunteer management and enhanced education delivery, providing more information to improve the lives of the citizens of Tennessee and beyond.

“While this is an individual award, I am honored to be part of some great teams, both within the Institute of Agriculture and UT Extension as well as within the UT System,” says Toman. “Without their collaboration I would not have been successful in achieving this award. I am truly thankful for the people I work with every day to support the mission of the University of Tennessee.” 

The full list of UT Extension award winners are listed below:

Continued Excellence Award – Janie Burney, professor and nutrition specialist

Administrative Leadership Award – David Perrin, Eastern Region director

Visionary Leadership Award – John Toman, Extension evaluation and staff development specialist

International Service Award – Patsy Watkins, UT Extension Williamson County

Diversity Multicultural Team Award – Kane Reeves, UT-TSU Extension Madison County, and Sharon Tubbs, UT Extension Madison County

Distinguished Team Award – Allisen Penn, Central Region program leader, team leader​

Full descriptions of the award categories and a comprehensive list of winners nationwide is available at the Epsilon Sigma Phi website.

When asked about the success of UT Extension, UTIA Chancellor Tim Cross credits dedicated people and partnerships. “UT Extension has more than a 100-year history of advancing Tennessee, thanks to exceptional county financial support, dedicated employees and volunteers, and a strong partnership with our 1890 institution - Tennessee State University,” he says. “Long-term successful state programs tend to result in professionals who are heavily engaged in associations like Epsilon Sigma Phi.”

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.



Beth Hall Davis, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 865-974-7141, bethdavis@tennessee.edu​