Lessons Learned with Dr. Gary Lilly

The Collierville Schools Superintendent provided information on Career Ready programs to business and community leaders

After a break hosting the sold-out Excellence in Business Awards in March, the Collierville Chamber resumed its monthly meetings on Wednesday with Dr. Gary Lilly, Superintendent of Collierville Schools. His talk was heard by over 150 Chamber members and Collierville community members. Before his informative speech on Collierville Schools, Chamber business took place. First, Dr. Deborah Suddarth of Collierville United Methodist Church and Mayor Stan Joyner delivered the innovation and Pledge of Allegiance, respectively.

Afterward, Jimmy Turner, Chairman of the Chamber board, took to the podium to being the meeting. He started off by thanking Collierville First Baptist Church and Simply Done Catering, the anchor lunch sponsor, for their continued help in making these meetings a success. Jimmy first welcomed fellow Chamber board member David Pickler of Pickler Wealth Advisors to the stage to preview next month’s meeting, featuring Erin Gruwell (affectionally known as Ms. G), renowned educator, writer, and the subject of the movie Freedom Writers. Pickler encouraged everyone to come and invite a friend to pack the room for Ms. G.

Jimmy then welcomed Susan Ewing and Chad Lindsay of Collierville Balloon Festival (CBF) to the stage for a special presentation. The CBF awarded Collierville First Baptist Church $1,000 dollars for their help during the big event. The Church offered its parking lot for attendees to use during the festival. Sam Nichols accepted the donation on the church’s behalf. He was “very surprised by very grateful” for the recognition and looks forward to partnering with the event again this year.

Jimmy’s final announcement centered around the nomination process for the 2023 Excellence in Business Awards. The board would like to receive nominations from other chamber members to better reflect the Chamber membership and recognize more members. The Chamber board will start accepting nominations for next year’s awards in the Fall. He concluded by recognizing Chamber board members as the best group and the work they do to help the Chamber succeed.

Jimmy turned the program over to Mark Heuberger, president of the Chamber. Mark picked it up by acknowledging elected officials in the audience and the Chamber’s premier partners. These companies make significant financial contributions and presence throughout the year. New members were then recognized: The Greer Agency, Rejuvenate 901, and Staks! Pancake Kitchen. Nick Boudlen of the breakfast place was present and invited people to its Grand Opening on Monday. Staks was sought out by Chamber board members Joe Sarrio of State Farm and Bill Samisch of First National Bank and Trust.


The Student of the Month presentation, sponsored by Patriot Bank, honored the last student of the 2022-2023 school year. Amelia Robert from Collierville High School was the recipient of this month’s award. Presenting Sponsor (Berkshire Hathaway Home Service, McLemore and Co- Niki Berry and Melissa Reed (2022 Ambassador of the Year honoree). Both spoke to the unexpected journey to the business and their personal stories highlighted their success as real estate agents in Collierville and surrounding areas, even in Mississippi. They love helping commercial and residential clients find the best fit.

At their conclusion, Wright Cox, President of BankTennessee and School Board Member, graciously introduced Dr. Lilly to the stage. Dr. Lilly started off his interactive presentation with a poem by Robert Frost, but career-ready programs were the focus of the superintendent’s speech. Dr. Lilly emphasized the need for prepared and innovative workers. Programs at all Collierville Schools are imperative to the economic development of this area. Companies like Blue Oval City are in desperate need of employees, but there are several positions in dire need that lack workers with the necessary skills on day one.

Dr. Lilly filled chamber members in career-ready initiatives through elementary and middle schools STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and high school CTE (Career Technical Education) programs. For example, CHS offers 13 Career Clusters, 19 Programs of Study, and 15 Industry Certifications to its students. With career ready curriculum throughout the entire system, students in Collierville Schools are ready to enter the workforce after graduation.

This direction of offerings from Collierville Schools gives great opportunities to those that do not want to take the more ‘traditional’ route of higher education. Collierville Schools are leading the way for career-ready education and creating a prepared labor force. The impressive offerings of the school system might make audience members want to go back to high school, Dr. Lilly joked.

At the conclusion of Dr. Lilly’s remarks, honorary chair and co-chair of the Chamber’s upcoming Golf Tournament, Jack O’ Keefe of Simmons Bank and Matt Young of ServiceMaster Restore, respectively, filled the audience in on how they can be involved with this year’s event, including donations for golfer’s swag bags. Mark Heuberger returned to the stage a final time to preview some upcoming Spring and Summer meetings and officially dismissed attendees.