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Mayor Lane Curlee, center left, presented Grant Rigney with a certificate declaring Thursday, Dec. 27, as Grant Rigney Day in Tullahoma. Rigney was named a Rhodes scholar earlier this year. In front from left are Aldermen Ray Knowis and Robin Dunn, Curlee, Rigney and his mother, Melissa. In back are Alderman Jackie Duncan and family members Mark, Andrew, Anneli, Mackenzie and Micah Rigney.

In celebration of Tullahoma’s very own Rhodes scholar, Mayor Lane Curlee officially designated Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, as Grant Rigney Day in Tullahoma.

Rigney’s special day was announced at a special reception held in his honor by the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Thursday night in the city board chambers.

According to Curlee, he wanted to take a moment to allow the people of Tullahoma to celebrate the achievements of a young Tullahoma native as he blazes a trail in the medical community for his career.

That moment wasn’t without its scheduling troubles, however. Curlee told the gathered audience that when he first approached Rigney about having the reception, Rigney originally turned him down.

The reasoning, Curlee explained, was that Rigney felt he did not want to draw any attention to himself, though Curlee lauded that as an exemplary quality of Rigney’s.

“That’s the definition of humble, I think,” Curlee said.

After talking him into the reception, Curlee then suggested a potential date after the first of the year, which Rigney also had to turn down.

This time, Rigney’s rejection was because he had an interview the following morning at Harvard Medical School in Boston, but luckily Thursday night was a night that worked for all.

Rigney was named the University of Tennessee’s eighth-ever Rhodes Scholar in November of this year, following an exhaustive application process.

Only 32 college and university students in the United States are selected for the scholarship, which enables them to study abroad at the University of Oxford in England while achieving a post-secondary degree.

According to Curlee, the Rhodes Scholarships are one of the “oldest and most celebrated international awards in the world,” meaning Rigney has achieved a rare honor.

Curlee also explained that Rhodes Scholars are not only selected based on their academic record. Instead, a profile of the whole student, including their character and contributions to their communities are submitted for qualification.

“Grant’s career aspirations involve providing leadership and policy advocacy in support of safety net hospitals as a practitioner, researcher and administrative leader,” Curlee said.

Rigney is also a licensed private pilot, triathlete, certified nursing assistant and an internationally recognized bluegrass musician in the fiddle and violin.

Giving credit where it is due, Rigney thanked the constant support of his family and various community leaders, who he said pushed him to be prepared for school and beyond.

Specifically, Rigney thanked former teachers, church leaders and especially his family, for all the “countless hours” of support they have given him.

“Really, the thing I’d like to say is to express gratitude to a lot of you in the room,” he said.

Rigney thanked former superintendent Dan Lawson for being willing to set up a practice interview for a program Rigney is currently in at UTK.

“[It’s] pretty amazing for a superintendent of schools to give me an interview and take time out of his day to help prepare me,” he said.

Rigney also thanked the Rev. Steven Hovater of the church of Christ at Cedar Lane for being “a wonderful, wonderful mentor and friend to me.” Hovater has “helped me grow a lot, spiritually,” Rigney said.

The largest thanks went to his family, of course, for investing in Rigney’s future.

“They invested countless hours and dollars and discipline and tears into me,” he said, “and supported me when I succeeded and when I failed, which was more frequent than I succeeded.”

Rigney wasn’t the only one giving thanks during the night. Several well-wishers, including friends, former teachers and more, spoke up and thanked Rigney for all his hard work in pursuing his passion.

Jim Woodard thanked Rigney for representing Tullahoma so well, telling him it’s “always nice to cheer on our young people.”

“Thank you for making our community look so good,” he said.

Lawson also lauded Rigney’s commitment to service, highlighting Rigney’s participation in a charity his brother, Andrew, founded.

“The idea of service was so deeply ingrained in Grant by a wonderful set of parents,” Lawson said, “that that made this whole work possible.”

“Grant, you have set the standard for students at Tullahoma High School, for students in the state of Tennessee and it’s not just because of those letter grades – it’s because of that heart,” Lawson added.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com