October 8, 2010

Dr. Bowman, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, esteemed guests, friends and family, you give me great honor by your presence here today as I become the 27th president and first female president of Tusculum College. Thank you.

While this inaugural event is certainly a landmark in my life and career, today we celebrate Tusculum College. This is a celebration of the oldest college in Tennessee whose founding dates back to September 4, 1794 when Greeneville College was granted a charter by the legislature of the Territory South of the Ohio River. Please recall that it was two years later on June 1, 1796 that President George Washington signed the statehood proclamation making the region the first American territory to become a state. We are steeped in history.

In 46 B.C., Cicero noted that “Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?”

Tapestries, one of the most pervasive works of art throughout historical Europe and elsewhere, were designed to tell a story. The beauty and intrigue of a tapestry is that it doesn’t reveal itself until all the threads are in place. It is not until each thread comes together, intertwines, overlaps and blends its own uniqueness into a new whole that the complete work of art becomes known. Tusculum College is a living tapestry. From our founders Samuel Doak and Hezekiah Balch, to the graduation of the first black person in Tennessee, Jack-the-slave, to the admission of Julia Doak (class of 1879) the first female to be admitted to a Presbyterian College, to the more than 400 new students who entered Tusculum College for the first time this fall, each has lent uniqueness to the design that is and will be the art of Tusculum College. We are not all the same thread with the same color, same texture and same thickness. We are diverse.

The term pioneer at Tusculum College has a much broader, bolder definition – to prepare the way. In our diversity, each of us, as have those who have gone before, bring unique individual perspectives, ideas, and talents that we lend to one another to form a combination of light, shade, color and pattern that defines what each of us perceive as our Tusculum College.

Our mission, to provide a liberal arts education in a Judeo-Christian and civic arts environment with pathways for career preparation, personal development and civic engagement has persisted since Samuel Doak and Hezekiah Balch sought to bring religion and education to this untamed frontier. We continue to be proud of our strong ties with the Presbyterian Church, and we continue to strive to provide an education to those who enter our doors with a desire to learn. Our founders are present in today’s Tusculum College tapestry in the way that we teach our classes, in our focus on service, in our civic arts tradition, and in our continued commitment to afford the gift of education to the people of the Appalachian Region. We talk often of these great men and women whose vision lives today and forms the backbone and some of the most vivid colors of our tapestry.

Through the years many have contributed to the support of that mission. Generous benefactors like Nettie (whose given name was coincidentally Nancy) Fowler McCormick who came to know us through the former students she met at the McCormick Seminary in Chicago. So impressed was she by the character of these alumni that she sought to learn more about our unique institution. She became Tusculum’s first, and one of our most generous, benefactors. She is evident in a very real way today in the tapestry of Tusculum College – Her name on our administrative building; her portrait looking over those who enter McCormick Hall; out to the arch that welcomes all who enter our campus. We recognize and honor her each fall with Nettie Fowler McCormick Service Day in which our students give thousands of hours of service work to non-profit agencies, people in need and local schools. To this day, Nettie urges us to do more and to do our best. Nettie appears in the clean lines and soft shades of the Tusculum College tapestry.

The three dimensional tapestry of Tusculum College comes alive from the generosity of a more recent benefactor, Dr. Scott Niswonger, whose name graces this building. His presence is reflected in activities designed for school children at the Doak House, in athletic facilities, the support of academics, scholarships, and the new band program. His influence urges us to strive for quality in everything that we do, to focus on the whole student, one who will leave here not only academically prepared, but prepared to be a servant leader in his/her community, to share what they know with others and to give to those in need. From the beautiful facilities that his generosity has provided to the work of the Niswonger Foundation serving all of East Tennessee with its focus on “Learn, Earn and Return”, it is easy to feel his influence as our living tapestry continues to reveal itself.

Each of our alumni is part of the legacy and tapestry of Tusculum College. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists, missionaries, inventors, communicators, business owners and artists provide balance to the Tusculum College tapestry with fullness and life that provide meaning and definition to the revealing image. The championship game, the best friend made from the unknown roommate from freshman year, the thrill of watching your sons and daughters return to become students at your beloved Alma Mater are all revealed when the threads of our tapestry come together as one. With cherished nostalgia, we each experience our own memories reflected in the images of the Tusculum College family.

As the 27th president of Tusculum College, I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, as do you. Collectively, we must continue to build on all that has come before, as well as strike new ground and lead this community to continued success. We must as pioneers – prepare the way.

Tusculum College must continue to build degree programs; pursue new academic programs founded upon local, regional and national data and sound financial analysis; grow the endowment and use the earnings to help support operations of the college; continue to develop financial stability which is the foundation for the future; allow the mission and strategic plan to guide us to make sound data-based decisions; construct a sound organizational structure that firmly supports the college and provides us with opportunity to excel in areas where we are currently challenged; make sound data-based decisions about current academic and extracurricular efforts; secure funding (gifts, grants, tuition, federal allocations, or through partnering) to provide the human, physical, technological, and financial resources to attract, grow, develop and retain the brightest and the best talent, to support capital projects identified and approved by the board to support growth; continue to build a strong supportive Board of Trustees; continue to develop collaborative relationships with other academic institutions (high schools, community colleges, universities, and professional schools), and most importantly continue to attract, nurture and educate students with the knowledge and skills to not only thrive in their communities but to contribute their knowledge, skills, time, talent and resources to help others.

Cicero also said that “A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation”. We must continue to cultivate the minds of our students through instruction in every class, in every program, at every level, in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in a civic arts environment providing them an education promoting the development of the knowledge and skills to be successful on their life’s journey.

The tapestry of Tusculum College is one that reflects many pioneer leaders – those who ventured into the unknown, those who have innovated, those who have preceded all others, and those who have established themselves in previously barren environments or areas.

I am proud to be part of the colorful, diverse and complex tapestry of Tusculum College that is evolving. We can only consider the dynamic future of this college through reflection of the various threads, how they are woven or blended together to form the whole through the influence of the past, the present, and even the future.

Before I close, please join me in a moment of silence to celebrate the lives of a few pioneers who have gone before us including Dr. Sam Miller, Dr. Stan Welty, Dr. Don Hennard, the Dr. Rev. Wylie Prugh, Dean Hurley, and Marion Edens.

Others who are part of the Tusculum College tapestry include many of you here today – current and former members of the Board of Trustees, former president Dr. Bob Knott, Tusculum College alumnus and former employee, Dr. Ron May, Class of 1968, who is currently the president of Acilla College, and representatives of the Classes of 1940 through 2010. If you attended Tusculum College or are an alumnus of the College, please stand and be recognized. Others who I would like to ask to stand and remain standing – members of the Cabinet, faculty, staff, and all employees. These people are the wind beneath my wings and the power and energy that will move Tusculum College forward. Today, I ask that you recommit yourself to the values and mission of Tusculum College because it is all of us together who will move this great institution forward.

I give thanks and appreciation to wonderful parents and grandparents, to a supportive husband and children, and to all of the wonderful Pioneer role models in my tapestry in this life journey – many of whom are here today. You know who you are. Last but not least, I appreciate the opportunity afforded to me by the Tusculum College Board of Trustees to work with a great group of dedicated faculty, staff and students, and the people of the cities of Tusculum and Greeneville, and Greene County. As I continue to say, together, alumni, family, friends, members of this community, we can accomplish much at Tusculum College that will impact the lives of students of all ages and also impact this community that we seek to serve. Thank you for allowing me to be part of the Tusculum College tapestry.