ETEC Presents Two Muddy Boot Awards

Source: ETEC | Release | April 4, 2022

The East Tennessee Economic Council presented Muddy Boot Awards last Friday to Tennessee State Senator Ken Yager and Robert S. Eby, P.E. at a special edition of ETEC’s Friday morning meeting. Both of these deserving honorees have impressive resumes of service in East Tennessee and a passion for education.

The Muddy Boot Award was created in the 1970s to honor individuals who have gone above the call of duty—like those who served the nation during the Manhattan Project—to make the community, the state of Tennessee, and the nation a better place to live and work. Over 80 people have received the award. A full list of recipients and more information about the award can be found on the ETEC website,

ETEC President Tracy Boatner said, “We are very pleased to honor both of these men with the Muddy Boot Award. Throughout their careers, they have made lasting impacts on their communities, and their shared passion for education is making a difference both for this generation and for those to come.”


Ken Yager, Tennessee State Senator

Senator Ken Yager has been a long-time advocate for Oak Ridge and East Tennessee. He has a career-long commitment to public service as an educator, government official, and community leader.

Yager served as the Roane County Executive for 24 years where he established himself as a sound fiscal manager leaving office with a budget surplus with no tax increase and improving the county’s credit rating from A- to A during his tenure.

He has continued this service for over a decade in the Tennessee Senate where he recently helped to secure funding in the state budget for the Oak Ridge Enhanced Technology and Training Center now under construction in Roane County. Governor Lee said about the project, “The Oak Ridge Enhanced Technology Training Center creates yet another opportunity for Tennessee to be a global leader in nuclear energy.”

Sharon Templeton, government relations director at EnergySolutions, said in her letter of support for Sen. Yager’s nomination that Ken’s priorities have been God, family, and community.

“Ken is a Senator who puts his constituents first and believes in the open-door policy,” said Templeton. “He has also continued his strong commitment, first established as County Executive, to reaching out to the public through town hall meetings, frequent public events, and one-on-one contact with citizens in all six counties in the 12th Senatorial District. He attends many events throughout the year in the counties that he serves.”

Chris Whaley, president of Roane State Community College said, “Yager’s longtime association with Roane State includes service as an adjunct instructor, assistant professor, dean of business and technology, and program director of paralegal studies. His heart for students and his belief in the power of education inspired him to support the college and the entire TN Board of Regents system in the development of initiatives to help more students access higher education and persist to the accomplishment of their goals.”

It is this passion for student access to higher education that led Yager to found and sustain the Malinda Raby Yager Scholarship awarded annually to a Roane County graduate of Oliver Springs High School and to support such initiatives as the Middle College scholarship program, and a science-lab wing at the Campbell County Higher Education Center.

Jim Henry who presented the award said, “You would be challenged to find a more deserving individual to receive the prestigious Muddy Boot Award than Ken Yager.”


Robert S. (Bob) Eby, Professional Engineer and Vice Chair, State of Tennessee Board of Education

Bob Eby has had an exemplary career in radiochemical processing and a passion for public education. He has committed over 40 years to the pursuit of both.

Harold Conner who presented the award and nominator Spencer Hall said at Friday’s meeting that Bob is a cheerleader for the Oak Ridge community. He has worked for decades to strengthen the public school system in both Oak Ridge and the State of Tennessee and has contributed scientifically in significant ways to his field, been a consistent leader across many Oak Ridge institutions, and exhibited care and integrity in every role he has held.

Eby served in significant leadership positions in a number of different roles across the DOE complex in Oak Ridge He was Site Manager of the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant in the early 1990s and Director of Technology and Process Engineering for USEC, and then Centrus Energy for many years. Most recently he is semi-retired from Navarro Research & Engineering where he is a consultant for the National Nuclear Security Administration of the Department of Energy.

He has made scientific contributions with three patents (Method for Control of the Composition and Physical Properties of Solid Uranium Oxides, UF6 Recovery Process Utilizing Desublimation, and Gas-absorption process) and a record of scientific impact that culminated in his receiving AIChE’s Robert E Wilson award in 2018.  The Wilson Award is presented annually to a recipient “for outstanding chemical engineering contributions and achievements in the nuclear industry.”

Eby has been an indefatigable advocate for the public school system, moving into semi-retirement so that he can devote most of his energy to serving as Vice-Chair of the Tennessee State Board of Education. He served on the Oak Ridge Board of Education from 1985-1986, 1991-1995, and 2009-2018 and was Vice-Chairman and Chairman of that board in different periods. In 2018, he was appointed to the Tennessee State Board of Education and has been Vice-Chairman since 2019.

He has been a tireless advocate for the community through leadership posts with ETEBA (Past President), ETEC (Board of Directors), and KFI (Board Member). He also served on the Board of Directors for Global Community Fellowship, a non-profit mission that provides clean-burning stoves to impoverished Mayan families in Mexico.

About ETEC:

The East Tennessee Economic Council is a non-profit membership organization that focuses on bringing people together to create new opportunities for federal research, national security, and environmental programs, and to support technology transfer and economic development programs.