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July 3, 2014

Physician aspiration: Tanner grad 1st in family to attend college, accepted into Duke pre-med program

TANNER — Pro Bowl quarterback and former Athens High star Philip Rivers famously turned in a fifth-grade poster project in which he pasted his photo to the body of an NFL player.

Josh Lovett, who graduated May 29 from Tanner High School as class president and valedictorian with a 4.4 GPA and a 33 ACT-equivalent score, isn’t going to appear on the cover of ESPN the Magazine like Rivers. But like the San Diego quarterback, Lovett also knew which profession he wanted to join at an early age.

The perpetually smiling 18-year-old, who has attended the five-week Rural Health Scholars Program at the University of Alabama and has job-shadowed ER doctors at Madison Hospital, is well on his way to fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a physician.

He is among approximately 2,000 freshmen accepted this fall into Duke University — from an estimated 32,000 applications — but it’s his perseverance and leadership ability that has earned the respect of his instructors and peers.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is his self-motivation, and his energy and willingness to take on responsibility. He wasn’t an athlete, but he is as popular with his classmates as any kid we’ve ever had.” Tanner Principal Billy Owens said. “I’m not sure we’ve had one that has come through like Josh, and it’s not going to stop at Tanner High School. It will continue on from now because he’s that driven to be someone special.”

At first glance, Lovett appears to lead a charmed life. He is entering Duke’s pre-medical program armed with a $40,000 scholarship from the private university, along with being the recipient of Tanner’s Lance Looney Memorial Scholarship.

He became drum major as a senior, won the national John Phillip Sousa Leadership Award and played trumpet for the Limestone County Honor Band six consecutive years. He achieved perfect attendance his final three years of high school, founded Tanner’s Junior Red Cross Club and recently was named to the Red Cross National Youth Council.

Lovett and his fellow class officers methodically mapped out their senior prank in May like it was a football game plan, involving more than half of the seniors and even a budget. Among other shenanigans that were harmless enough to evade being arrested or expelled, they managed to gain access to the school long enough to hang a massive “For Sale” banner from one of the school buildings.

His motorcycle-loving parents, Kim and Toby Stone, are so devoted to their only child and his extracurricular pursuits, they were recognized this spring with the band program’s first annual service award for volunteers.

But Lovett’s four-page résumé does not reveal an off-day in which he and 15 classmates volunteered at the April 28 tornado relief operation at Clements Baptist Church, or how he is the first person in his immediate family to attend college.

And you won’t find anything about a tough childhood being raised by a then-single mother — “she’s such a hard worker and one of my heroes” — or learning from his Twitter feed, Facebook page or Instagram account that his biological father had been convicted of capital murder.

“When I first found out about him, it was hard. But it gave me motivation because even if he is a bad person, it doesn’t define me. I’ve learned to be my own person, and it just made me work even harder and gave me more motivation,” Lovett said.

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