MTSU honors Westhaven developer for innovation

MTSU honors Westhaven developer for innovation

MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business honored Tim Downey, founder of Southern Land, among a group recognized for their contributions to business and industry.

The five honorees were formally recognized recently during the 21st Century: Leaders That Matter awards ceremony leading up to the Jones College-hosted 21st Century: Work That Matters conference at Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.

Downey, founder and CEO of Nashville-based Southern Land Co., best known locally for developing Westhaven, was given the Joe M. Rodgers Spirit of America Award, which is presented to an individual who has demonstrated the highest ideals in keeping with the American spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and commitment to others.

According to MTSU: “Downey has a three-decade career in developing neighborhoods and vibrant commercial districts that adhere to traditional design principles and generate community interaction. Modeled after Walt Disney Imagineering’s desire to inspire creativity, innovation and interaction in the company and across projects, Downey’s business model enables direct communication between architecture, horticulture, construction and planning professionals.”

Retta Gardner, president and CEO of Guaranty Trust Co., was given the Jones College Exemplar Award, which is presented to a Jones College alumnus who has “walked in the shoes” of current students and whose personal and professional accomplishments demonstrate that future MTSU graduates can also achieve great things.

Gardner, who earned her MBA at MTSU, joined Guaranty Trust in 1996 as information technology manager before being promoted to senior management four years later. She was promoted to executive vice president in 2010 and to president and CEO in 2013. During her tenure, Guaranty Trust has grown from $250 million in annual production to just over $1.3 billion. She is vice president of the Tennessee Mortgage Bankers Association, board member for Volunteer State Bank and United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, and a member of the Jones College Dean’s Advisory Council.

Real Estate professionals David and Ann Hoke were presented the Jennings A. Jones Champion of Free Enterprise Award, which is presented to an individual whose achievements “are in keeping with the highest traditions of the American system of free enterprise” and who are role models in business, professional and personal achievements.

David Hoke’s passion for residential real estate began over 30 years ago when he was the Nashville partner in a regional land development company. His background includes 12 years of domestic and international marketing experience with David Weekley Homes, Proctor & Gamble and AMSCO International. Associated with Ann Hoke & Associates, he is also the broker of HomeFront Properties, a firm that manages investor-owned residential properties. He is treasurer of the Nashville chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers and past chairman of the board of the American Heart Association of Rutherford County. He is a 2015 graduate of Leadership Middle Tennessee.

Since launching her real estate business with Keller Williams in 2005, Ann Hoke has become a top producer who consistently ranks among the upper 1 percent of her peers. She is listed on the REAL Trends Top 250, the industry-wide list honoring the best real estate teams from across the U.S. She serves on the board for the Rutherford County Area Habitat for Humanity.

Lorelei Samuelson was named Young Professional of the Year. She is director of business intelligence for SME Solutions Group, an analytics consultancy company based in Nashville and in Tampa, Florida. This award recognizes someone who, at a relatively young age, has already been a role model whose accomplishments are outstanding and an inspiration to others — but who also has the potential to rise to even greater heights in personal and professional life.

An MTSU alumna, Samuelson was instrumental in founding and serves as an adjunct professor in the Business Intelligence and Analytics concentration at Jones College. She has worked at organizations ranging in size from publicly traded to private equity-owned to early startups. She served in analytics roles at the VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Sony ATV Music Publishing, and HCA. She works with the nonprofit Women in Technology of Tennessee; chaired the 2016 Nashville Technology Council Analytics Peer Group, organizing the Nashville Analytics Summit; and is developing a STEM and coding program at Bellevue Middle School.

The Jones College presented the awards in partnership with First Tennessee Bank. Jones College Dean David Urban presented the awards.

The Jones College of Business is made up of the departments of Accounting, Computer Information Systems, Economics and Finance, Management, and Marketing. For more information, visit

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