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Union alum enjoys seeing work on state quarter

JACKSON, Tenn.March 3, 2002 – From now on, whenever an anxiously determined collector of future antiquity reaches into the depths of a weathered purse or coin bank hoping beyond hope to ensure the recently minted state quarter’s place in his or her collection, they will not see the work of a renowned, art prodigy or that of an established Ivy League university professor busy lecturing on various “isms” and unseen light sources, but that of an ambitious art teacher probably working to instill in his students’ minds that blue and yellow make green.

Union alum Shawn Stookey ('91)displays the Tennessee state quarter that he designed.
Teacher Shawn Stookey, Union University graduate and resident of Waverly, Tenn. entered a contest along with a number of his own students in hopes of making his mark on history by designing a piece of the 50 State Quarters program launched two years ago. This new, creative currency push features the minting of each state’s own quarter design to be distributed for a period of ten weeks and will never be produced again.

Stookey’s award-winning design is set in a fitting Musical Heritage theme as a result of the strong musical tradition that is so prevalent throughout the history of the state of Tennessee. The three musical instruments each boast the traditions of their respective geographical regions; the guitar for the country music of Central Tennessee and Nashville, the trumpet for the Blues of West Tennessee for which Memphis is famous, and the fiddle for the Appalachian sounds of East Tennessee. In its origin, the three centerpieces were offset by a background silhouette of their state, but as each entrant agreed to any changes made by the state legislature, it was changed to the three stars from Tennessee’s state flag.

At the outset of the contest, there were more than 1,000 entrants, the field being narrowed down to five major themes by an appointed seven-person Tennessee Coin Commission. From the field, Governor Don Sundquist chose three finalist concepts, “Sequoyah”, the “19th Amendment” and the winner, “Musical Heritage”, chosen by the United States Secretary of the Treasury.

Stookey (far right) poses with "Queen of the Blues" Ruby Wilson and Country music star Ricky Skaggs at the launch ceremony for the quarter.
Proud Tennesseans flocked to the launch ceremony held in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Ford Motor Company Theatre. Stookey found himself surrounded on a platform with musical celebrities the likes of Isaac Hayes, Ricky Skaggs, Mary Stuart and Ruby Wilson as Governor Sundquist delivered a speech which echoed the sentiments of his listeners. The introduction of the Tennessee state quarter marks the end of the production of the Kentucky state quarter, the fifteenth state admitted into the Union; Tennessee became the sixteenth on June 1, 1796.

Seemingly destined for this achievement, Shawn’s interest in coins came from his father in law Maurice Coleman (class of ’56) at the outset of his marriage with his lovely wife Denise Coleman Stookey (class of ’86).

An art teacher to kindergarten through eighth-grade students at Lakeview Elementary in New Johnsonville, Tenn., Stookey made the contest for designing Tennessee's quarter a student project and turned in his own drawing as well as those of several students.

"We did it as an art project," said Stookey, explaining that the design he created was originally intended as an example for his students. "Most of them wanted to color them [the designs] in, but I had to explain to them that you don't color in coins."

Stookey was not aware of any prize that comes with winning, but said it didn't matter. "Just the fact that I know it's mine is reward enough," said Stookey.

By Josh Howerton,
Class of 2005

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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