JACKSON, Tenn. — What surprised Hannah Robison most about competing in the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant?
“Winning. Absolutely. I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe I won talent, then I couldn’t believe that I won swimsuit and it hasn’t sunk in that I won Miss Tennessee,” said Robison, after being crowned on Saturday at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson.
Competing as Miss Scenic City, Robison won talent in a preliminary on Thursday. She played “El Cumbanchero” on the piano. A 21-year old senior at the University of Tennessee at Martin, Robison won swimsuit in Friday’s preliminary.
First runner-up was Miss Tipton County, Grace Burgess of Bartlett. Miss Memphis Madison Snipes was a Top 10 finalist. Miss Collierville Miranda Dyer was among Top 15 finalists.
What helped Robison get the opportunity to represent Tennessee in the Miss America Scholarship Pageant in Atlantic City on Sept. 13 was interview strength she said.
“I had lot of interview help. I had lots of mock interviews. I think if you are confident in your interview it carries on stage so I really wanted to work on that and build up my resume.”
Robison, who is from Buchanan in Henry County, finished as second runner-up to 2013 Miss Tennessee Shelby Thompson Kuitems.
Promoting the platform of “Campaign Against Pain: Arthritis Awareness,” Robison said that she can also “make a huge difference by promoting STEM education. I think it is so important for kids to get involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at a young age. That is something I want to focus on as Miss Tennessee.”
Competing against 35 other women, Robison was crowned by Hayley Lewis, a Belmont University senior who was Miss Tennessee in 2014 and a Top 10 finalist in the Miss America pageant.
“I know that every kid Hayley talked to, they looked up to her so much and I want kids to be able to look up to me the way they looked up to her,” said Robison, who will travel the state as a spokesperson for Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam in character education.
Among the Top Five finalists in the 63rd annual pageant were second runner-up Christine Williamson, Miss Smoky Mountains; third runner-up Cassidy Sheppard, Miss Lexington; fourth runner-up Stephanie McCain, Miss Chattanooga.
Top 10 finalists also included Hannah Bobinger, Miss Nashville; MerylAnne Dexter, Miss Rocky Top; Aria Stiles, Miss Music City, Jaclyn Torrento, Miss Henderson County.
Included in the Top 12 were Caty Davis, Miss Knoxville; Kayla Neikirk, Miss Johnson City. Finalists in the Top 15 were also Sydney Shadrix, Miss Tennessee Valley; Courtney Walker, Miss Parsons; Lexi White, Miss East Tennessee.
Robison won an $18,000 scholarship; Burgess an $8,750 scholarship, Williamson $7,000; Sheppard, the daughter of Miss Tennessee 1986 and Miss America 1987 Kellye Cash Sheppard, won $5,000 and McCain $4,000.
Scholarships awards totaled $92,000. Top 10 finalists received $2,500; Top 12, $2,125; Top 15 $1,500. All contestants $1,000.
Five non-finalists winners were Marybeth Arnett, Miss Queen City; Elizabeth Painter, Miss Watauga Valley; Meredith Maroney, Miss Dyersburg; Hannah Hausman, Miss Greene County; Shelby Dotson, Miss UT Martin.
This was the second time Burgess, a 2011 graduate of Bartlett High School and a senior at the University of Memphis, competed. She was Miss Mid-South 2014.
Burgess, 21 and the daughter of Howard and Dee Burgess, is majoring in child development. She sang “Desperado” as talent. Her platform was “Ready, Set, Read!: Encouraging a Love for Reading.” Her ambition is to become a child life specialist.
In bios printed in the pageant program, Burgess wrote that she is a thrift shopper, spending days off visiting antique shops and clothing stores.
One printed question was “Describe your most rewarding moment: “A little over two years ago, my father baptized me at our church before the entire congregation, It was an unforgettable and special day and I was lucky to have my dad by my side.”
Snipes, the 20-year old daughter of Patrick and Daphne Snipes, won talent on Wednesday, tap dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.”
A graduate of Evangelical Christian School, she is a sophomore at Pepperdine University majoring in interpersonal communications wanting to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
Something that people may not know about her: She has a twin brother. “While we absolutely look nothing alike, he is literally my other half and I could not imagine my life without him.”
Her platform was “Believe To Achieve—Turning Disabilities into Possibilities.
Dyer, the 17-year old daughter of Sandra and Rick Dyer, was the youngest contestant. She is a graduate of Cordova
High School and plans to get a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. Her ambition is to be a community theatre executive director. She received the Best Actress award at the Tennessee High School Speech and Drama League competition. Her platform was “Showcasing the Performing Arts.” Her talent was the vocal “Note To God.”
Representing Memphis metro was also Jessica McCullough, Miss Shelby County. She is the 21-year old daughter of Larry and Barbara McCullough. She attends Community College of Beaver County in Monaca, PA. Her platform was “Promoting Music Education.” She is studying aviation science and wants to be an air traffic controller. She is a licensed private pilot. She would also like to sing on Broadway one day.
Describing her most rewarding moment, she wrote in the program, “Giving my life to the Lord Jesus Christ has been very rewarding. It is the most important decision I have ever made.”
She sang “Climb Every Mountain” in talent competition.
Brady Boyd, Miss Capital City, is a graduate student at the University of Memphis studying instructional design and technology. The 21-year-old daughter of Jackie and Gregg Boyd, Boyd’s platform was “Saving Sight.” She wants to be an upper elementary school teacher.
She wrote that something people may not know about her is that she has been half-deaf since age 7 and can only hear out of her left ear. She is a ballerina and performed the ballet en pointe “To This Day.”
Robison is a chemistry major and psychology minor at UT-Martin. She wants to earn an Ph.D in organic chemistry and become a professor at the university level.
She presented an organic chemistry research project at the 2014 Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American
Chemical Society in Nashville.
Her secret wish or dream? “I love animals and I have always wanted to grow up and make enough money to open an animal shelter. This animal shelter would care for abandoned and abused animals, but it would have no limit on the amount of time the animals could stay there before finding a new home.”
Moments after Lewis crowned Robison, Lewis said that she has learned a lot about her herself as Miss Tennessee.
“I learned a lot about my own personal limits. I learned a lot of life lessons and I have learned that I have it pretty darn good. It has been a blessing to be able to travel across this state and meet wonderful children as well and serve as a role model for them,” said Lewis, who was raised as a football coach’s daughter.
“I have learned that I have big things in my future. I am excited to go grab those.”
She will complete her senior year at Belmont University. Her desire is to be a sideline reporter for ESPN.
“That is my dream and goal,” she said. “I’ll be the OVC (Ohio Valley Conference) sportscaster for my school so that will be a way into the business.”
Written by Bill Sorrell, special to the Express.