C-N Homecoming to Celebrate Several Campus Projects

 

Halfway Home – Work crews recently moved into the second stage of work at the JoAnn and Howard Chitwood Alumni Center at Hale Place. The project is one of several that will be celebrated or dedicated during Homecoming festivities next week. The Chitwood Center celebration is slated for 4 p.m. Friday, October 21 and others are planned the following day.

 

 


Along with next week’s traditional Homecoming festivities, Carson-Newman will celebrate the refurbishment of a residence hall, a new baseball training facility and the second phase of the JoAnn and Howard Chitwood Alumni Center at Hale Place.

The “Home Sweet Homecoming” theme has become even more fitting as projects were finished, noted Alumni Relations Director David Buchanan.

“Thanks to the generosity of many supporters, the prospect of Homecoming has just gotten better and better over the last few months. The new facilities and amenities aren’t even the best part. It’s that these projects, and the gifts that made them so, are testaments to the great love and commitment our alumni have for Carson-Newman,” Buchanan said.

The Saturday, October 22 celebration of completed projects begins at 9:30 a.m. with tours of Sarah Swann Residence Hall. Recently updated through a Women of Vision initiative, the effort was centered on the 107-year-old building’s common areas.

Swann’s ceremony will be held just off the building’s lobby at 11:15 a.m. in what has traditionally been called “Parlor A.” The large room has been transformed into a stunning event venue that will memorialize Colleen Keebler Harmon, a 1943 alumna who would become a vital part of the Carson-Newman family and the Jefferson City community.

The event will feature the unveiling of a portrait of Colleen by Elizabeth Sromalla Casper, a 1968 C-N graduate who holds the MEd from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. She recently retired after 43 years of teaching art for the Clark County School District. A past president of Art Educators of Nevada who received the 1998 Nevada Art Educator Award, she is an adjunct professor for UNLV’s graduate program.

A Lenoir City native and valedictorian of her senior class, Colleen Keebler lived on Swann’s north hall of the third floor. An honor student who double majored in English and French, Colleen was an active member in the Hypatian Literary Society, Modern Portia, Dramatic Club, Drill Team and Glee Club. A talented pianist who played by ear, she frequently entertained dorm mates and friends at the parlor’s piano. A member of Jefferson City’s First Baptist Church, she was active in Sunday school and in a missions group.

She married Roy Harmon, who became a C-N professor and coaching legend credited by scores of players and alumni for their success on the field and in life. Colleen strongly supported her husband’s career and Eagles athletics. She is said to have kept in contact with many of her husband’s players long after his untimely passing. She taught at both the elementary school and high schools level, retiring after 17 years.

The couple had four sons: Dr. Harry Harmon ’68 (Pam) of Aiken, SC, Dr. Tom Harmon ’68 (Donna) of White Pine, Ralph Harmon ’73 (Susan) of Hiram, Georgia and Brad Harmon ’81 (Pam) of Knoxville, Tennessee. The couple had ten grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Led by Tom and Donna Harmon, the Colleen Keebler Harmon Parlor revitalization effort was supported by family members and numerous friends.

The Swann reveal will also include a surprise for residents. While they know that Allen ’68 and Phyllis Morgan undertook the remodeling of a student lounge on the second floor, they have yet to see it, as it is secreted behind a blind until Homecoming. Other projects included the kitchen, a television lounge, redecoration of a prayer room, new wood floors in the lobby parlors and extensive landscaping around the facility.

Established by First Lady Kay O’Brien and friends of the College last fall, Women of Vision is a vehicle for women who want to help C-N advance its mission. Along with O’Brien, the group’s charter council includes Betty Catlett, Sandy Dyer, Donna Harmon, Wanda Moore, and Kristi Paczlowski. Ruth Graham is honorary chair of the organization that launched the Swann project with a four-day Back to the Creek event in July that drew alumni, faculty, board members and community supporters.

Alumni, including former players, will gather on Silver Diamond Complex for the 10 a.m. ribbon cutting of the Bobby Wilson Indoor Baseball Facility. The 4000 square foot addition to the complex, which includes two batting cages, two pitching mounds and retractable netting, was made possible by the support of family, alumni, friends and former players in the three years since Wilson’s death.

C-N’s baseball coach for 23 years, Wilson won 11 conference titles, including 10 consecutive from 1965-74. Ole Miss’s Johnny Vaught recommended Wilson to C-N Coach Frosty Holt as an assistant in 1964 and he was named head coach when Holt became ill. He led the team to the1965 NAIA National Championship, the first athletic national title in the institution’s history.

Wilson compiled a 490-260-1 C-N record and had 16 All-Americans play for him from 1965-87. A member of the Carson-Newman faculty, Wilson retired in 1990 from his position as assistant professor emeritus of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. He was inducted in C-N’s Athletic Hall of Fame and saw his #38 jersey retired.

A Piedmont, Alabama native, the WWII veteran enrolled at the University of Mississippi as a 22-year-old freshman and soon established himself as a Rebel standout. He lettered in both football and baseball and amassed a dozen SEC gridiron records. A member of the All-SEC 75-Year Anniversary football team, the defensive back made 20 interceptions for a combined 379 returned yards during his Ole Miss career. An All-SEC baseball player and team captain, he was drafted by both the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Eagles.

He is survived by his wife, Martha, a C-N physical education professor emerita who will speak during the dedication. The couple has one son, Rob (Bari ’82) and three granddaughters.

On Friday, the day before Homecoming, something akin to a “Phase Two” party will be held at the former residence of the late Julius David Hale, an alumnus who bequeathed his Russell Avenue home to his alma mater. The 4 p.m. event will include the recognition of donors and honorees, including JoAnn and Howard Chitwood, who served a combined 71 years on C-N’s staff and faculty, respectively.

The couple moved back to East Tennessee when Howard ’57 accepted a position following military service. After teaching for a few years while working part-time on a PhD in mathematics at the University of Tennessee, it was clear to the couple that Howard needed fulltime study to complete it. JoAnn therefore took a newly designed, 30-hour per week clerical position in the Alumni Office. It was 1961.

She worked with Dr. Joe Chapman, a biology professor whose job description included a partial assignment of serving alumni through events and personal updates. Living on campus in what was then a new – but long since gone – College Street duplex, the young family (with sons Jeff ’78 and Wes ’81) existed in the center of campus activity. JoAnn’s work with faculty, staff and a growing number of graduates put the young woman on the point of the information stream. She was the embodiment of connectivity and the personification of Facebook long before Gates, Jobs or Zuckerberg.

Alumni information was kept on cards and each graduate had three cards: alphabetical, geographical and professional. Then as now, young people fresh out of college moved. Given the draft, then war in Vietnam, and a robust economy, some moved a lot. Each change was tripled. It wasn’t long before there was no need to pull cards when an administrator or a professor wanted to know about an alum. They just asked JoAnn.

Beyond keeping up with marriages, children and moves, the Oliver Springs native and UT graduate was the personal secretary to the Alumni Relations director, recorded the Alumni Association’s executive committee meetings, generated meeting information to chapters, handled correspondence, compiled magazine notes, coordinated events, served as hostess, supervised students workers, oversaw general office matters and “other duties as assigned.”

By 1994, she was tired. Having been a walking-talking catalog, the advent of Excel sheets and Word files was a signal for her. She retired after working with five alumni directors and more development officers than she can remember.

Having established the Howard and JoAnn Chitwood Math Scholarship some time back, the couple’s eldest son Jeff and his wife Julie ’78 liked the balance of flipping the order as a way to honor his mother’s diligent service.

The importance of C-N in the lives of its graduates will be evident throughout the Chitwood Center. Some areas will be named for graduates, some for couples who met here and other rooms will represent families that include multiple generations of alumni.

The culmination of several projects during harvest season creates a serendipity not lost on Buchanan.

“There are several things at work here: how many things fell together, how many graduates are deeply connected to these developments and the sense of joy in each effort. Plus, we will honor several people who worked, studied and lived in this close community at the same time. It will be a sweet Homecoming indeed.”