Growing Up at and Giving Back to Carson-Newman
Curt Ramage grew up hoping to grow more. He needed size to fulfill his dreams of D-I football and playing for a national title one day.
The dreams didn’t die when he stopped getting bigger. In fact, they transformed – from the black and white haze of Never Never Land to a living color reality that included two of his high school games when a coach with five championships came to watch. It became an easy exercise of mental math; ultimately adding up to the all-state offensive lineman, Baptist preacher’s kid from Powell High School getting the chance to play for Carson-Newman under the tutelage of Ken Sparks ’68 and Mike Turner ’73.
Or, as Curt says, “It didn’t take a whole lot of time for me to decide that was the place that I needed to be.” It wouldn’t be the last time he committed to C-N.
His four seasons as a C-N lineman were indeed dreamlike. He played 1996-’99—he fondly calls it “The Big Run”—when the Eagles lost just six games in four years, and o-n-l-y two in regular season play. There was a loss in 1997’s semifinals, leaving three “very last game of the season” matches in the span of four years. That includes 1999’s four-overtime clash with Northwest Missouri State, which many hold in the pantheon of American football’s great title contests. Therefore, of the losses Curt experienced in college football, half came in National Championship games.
Muddy and Happy -- Curt and his dad, Dr. Mike Ramage, following what has come to be known as the Mud Bowl. The 1996 playoff comeback against the University of California-Davis is considered one of the greatest games in C-N history.
While some might focus on heartache from a triad of near misses, Curt emphasizes the positive; “Oh, it was a great experience. And we had some talented, talented athletes over those four years.”
Football might have gotten him to Mossy Creek, but it was only the beginning of his appreciation for this place. He found more to love in both the classroom and the cafeteria.
He discovered Dr. Jim Baumgardner ’59, the prof who he holds equal to his coaches on his influence pedestal. A course on the Vietnam War his junior year revealed an unexpected, even emotional, side of the now 49-year-tenured professor that stirs the businessman to this day. In the cafe, he fell in love with a Liberal Studies-Elementary Education major and Callie named Kati Wood ’01. He credits friends who were Columbians with introducing him to the pretty girl from Florida’s west coast. And he notes that he is awfully grateful to football for the meal plan that granted him the chance get to know her.
A dozen years after Kati’s graduation, the Ramages live “near paradise” in her native Sarasota with their children, seven-year-old Ty and his three-year-old little sister Baylee Kate. From there, Curt oversees several businesses in Florida, Tennessee and Michigan, the development of which, Curt says “is a God thing.”
Along with football, Curt came to Jefferson City with law school packed in his suitcase of hopes. He had visions of being well paid for courtroom theatrics, but a stint as a runner for a Knoxville firm and LSAT prep convinced him he was more interested in imagined drama than the daily routine. He decided to apply his BA in Political Science and double minor in History and Psychology, his drive and his personality to the insurance business by working as a State Farm underwriter and adjuster while Kati finished C-N.
He liked much about the insurance industry, but he was chafed by corporate strictures, his cubicle’s confinement and the prospect of keeping his bride-to-be so far away from her folks. Kati’s father had his own employee benefits operation, so Curt asked if there was a place for him to learn the ropes of providing such services. He joined the business, becoming an innovative product developer and marketing consultant who generates benefits programs and promotes them to agents who in turn offer them to the customers.
Not the Cafe Anymore -- It's been more than a dozen years since the linemen got to know the Callie, thanks to friends and a meal plan.
Faith, family, friends and business were among the blessings he was considering one evening. One thing led to another, which led to something of an epiphany of how they were each tied to Carson-Newman. “Without being there, I would probably have never met my wife, … or some of the best friends I have to this day. And I wouldn’t change (those things) for anything,” Curt surmised, noting his and Kati’s commitment to support it.
Already Eagle Club supporters, the Ramages have since become monthly contributors to the Annual Fund and have begun the process of establishing an endowed scholarship that will provide help to students in perpetuity. Few perhaps understand that the way that Curt does, as a Christian insurance/benefits businessperson. “It hit me… Man, what better ministry would it be for me—not only to be tithing at my church—but also… What better gift (is there) to support the institution that is responsible for putting people in ministry and touching lives?”