Chattanooga State dinner to honor educator Edna Varner

Board member Edna Varner speaks at the annual United Way of Greater Chattanooga Community Celebration on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Board member Edna Varner speaks at the annual United Way of Greater Chattanooga Community Celebration on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Longtime education champion and local educator Edna Varner will be honored at Chattanooga State Community College's Dinner of Firsts Thursday night.

This is the fifth-annual dinner to raise money for the school's First in the Family scholarship, which provides financial support for first-generation college students.

Varner, the oldest of eight siblings, was the first - but not the last - in her family to graduate college. And she went on to teach middle and high school students for 20 years, now serving as a senior adviser at Chattanooga's Public Education Foundation.

Tammy Sawyers, director of college advancement at Chattanooga State, said that each year this dinner honors someone in the community who is the first in their family to graduate college.

"I think it's good for the students to see how the community supports education," Sawyers said. "We are all encouraged by the support."

During the dinner, Pete Cooper, Wade Hinton, Stacy Lightfoot, Keith Sanford and Elaine Swafford will roast and make light-hearted jokes about Varner, which is one of the dinner's traditions.

Nearly half of the students who applied for financial aid for the last academic year were first-generation college students, Sawyer said, and this scholarship is an additional way the school is working to support the students.

During the last four years, more than $226,000 has been raised to help support 113 students, Sawyer said.

The event chairwoman is Stefanie Crowe, a general partner at The Jump Fund, and the night's entertainment will be hosted by Jeff Jackson, market president of First Tennessee Bank, and Greg Vital, president and CEO of Independent Healthcare Properties and Morning Pointe.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at 423-757-6592 or krainwater@timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.