July 20, 2007

New Miss Tennessee plans to maintain strong Vanderbilt ties

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Miss Tennessee Grace Gore signs an autograph for Parker Lyon, 7, at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Susan Urmy)

New Miss Tennessee plans to maintain strong Vanderbilt ties

When Grace Gore walked into the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson, Tenn., on June 23 as Miss Lexington, she had no idea she would be walking out as the next Miss Tennessee.

“I honestly never expected that I would actually win,” said Gore, a doctoral student of Audiology at Vanderbilt.

Growing up in Mississippi, Gore became involved in pageants partially due to the urging of her voice teacher, who encouraged her to find a way to showcase her singing in public. She participated in the Miss Mississippi Teen pageant and the Miss Teen USA pageant in high school.

She decided to try out the pageant stage again as an extracurricular activity in graduate school. As she'll easily tell you with a smile on her face, Gore — who was participating in the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant for the first time — never expected to go all the way.

“The night that I was crowned, I was so shocked,” Gore said. “It was so surreal.”

Along with a $12,000 scholarship, Gore becomes the official spokesperson of Gov. Phil Bredesen's Safe and Drug-Free Tennessee program, a duty that requires her to travel across the state to speak to elementary and junior high students. Her responsibilities also include being an ambassador and helping to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network.

“I'm excited because the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt is a Children's Miracle Network hospital, so I'll get to do some work there,” Gore said.

She also has the freedom to initiate and work on her own philanthropic events.

Devoted to her pageant platform “Graceful Sounds,” which focuses on hearing conservation, rehabilitation and awareness, Gore plans on getting more involved with the Ear Foundation in Nashville. She hopes to raise money for people who cannot afford hearing aids.

Such responsibilities will take Gore, who just finished the first year of her Audiology program, away from her doctoral studies for a year. She says that, with the support of Edward Conture, Ph.D., Sue Hale and other Vanderbilt faculty members, she will return to her studies after her reign as Miss Tennessee ends.