C-N Honors Dean Sharon Teets and Alumni Couple Jim and Irene Murphy
Carson-Newman College honored alumni couple Jim and Irene Murphy and longtime professor Dr. Sharon Teets during Alumni Awards festivities Thursday, March 29.
President Randall O’Brien reads the plaque denoting Dr. Sharon Teets as the recipient of the R.R. Turner Spirit of the College Award. The president requested Michael Teets join his wife for the presentation during a dinner last evening.
Jim and Irene Murphy became the first married couple to receive together C-N’s Distinguished Alumni Award during Thursday ceremonies. Dr. Randall O’Brien presented the award and the couple’s daughter Julie, a 1992 graduate, was on hand to help her parents celebrate.
The Murphys received the Distinguished Alumnus and Alumna Awards, marking the first time the recognition has been shared by husband and wife. Teets, dean of the School of Education, was presented the institution’s Spirit of the College Award, named for legendary professor and Jefferson City resident Dr. R.R. Turner.
“What a marvelous opportunity to celebrate three people who have spent their lives and their careers in service to others,” said C-N President Randall O’Brien. “Jim, Irene and Sharon all embody Carson-Newman’s ideal of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, but the kicker is that none of these three believe they deserve such accolades. They have lived this way because they wouldn’t live any other way.”
The Murphys, of Greenwood, South Carolina, both earned associate’s degrees at North Greeneville College and sociology degrees from C-N – Jim in 1964 and Irene (Dow) in 1966. Jim earned the MA in the sociology from the University of Tennessee graduate in 1968.
The C-N dynamic duo has worked to make the world a better place through their shared ministry over the last half century, say those who know and love them. Dr. James R. Thomason, pastor of Anderson, South Carolina’s First Baptist Church says his friends have a way of rubbing off on those with whom they have contact.
“They influence those around them to be better, to care more deeply and to serve others in ways that will make a difference in their lives and in the Kingdom,” affirmed Thomason.
As Carson-Newman students, both Jim and Irene were active in Baptist Collegiate Ministries, which foreshadowed their professional careers and commitment to their faith. Irene served as a member of the Residence Hall Council and Psi Chi (the honor society for sociology majors). Jim also was a member of Phi Mu Delta and was part of C-N’s volunteer mission organization.
In the time following their undergraduate years, both invested themselves in a host of service roles. Jim worked as executive director for Greenwood County’s Food Bank and later as the Saluda Baptist Association’s director of Church and Community Ministry. His volunteerism has included roles as a team member and as a leader on several domestic and international and mission trips.
Irene’s career has included being an associate for the Women’s Missionary Union and several years as an Independent Mary Kay Consultant. Other professional service includes working for Foothills United Way, the Literacy Association of Anderson County, and the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and at the Saluda Baptist Association. She has been honored on several occasions for her commitment to literacy education.
Kelly Jo Barnwell of Anderson, South Carolina’s Jo Brown Senior Center has had many opportunities to watch the couple in action in her role as program coordinator. “Individually, their accolades are numerous, Together, they set an example worthy of following,” praises the administrator.
Irene Murphy used the occasion to say she was thankful for the honor and to tell students how much they can accomplish through faithful service. “God can use you in more ways than you will ever know. Just give him your time and your talents.”
Her husband summed up their appreciation for their alma mater’s role in their lives, saying, “God has used Carson-Newman faculty and our fellow students to help lead us, and to enrich our lives.”
The couple has two adult children. Their son Howard is a 1990 graduate; he and wife Peggy have two children, Jack and Natalie. Their daughter Julie is a1992 alumna married to 1990 grad David Maxey; their daughters are Chloe and Sadie.
Teets has worked at Carson-Newman some 30 years beyond what she initially expected. She began in 1980 as director of the College’s Child Development Laboratory. She said she thought she would work there for a couple of years and move on to another institution.
“Having risen through C-N’s ranks from her early days in the CDL, joining the School of Education long before it was a School and by demonstrating throughout her tenure how to be a great teacher by being a great teacher, Sharon Teets is Carson-Newman,” championed Mark Brown, director of News and Media Relations.
Beyond fulfilling her duties as a faculty member and administrator, the professor, along with her husband, Scott, regularly attends evening events to support her students and colleagues as an active member of the Carson-Newman family. The couple chose New York as their destination to celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary because several music students had auditioned and were selected for a Carnegie Hall performance.
Dr. Kim Hawkins says her colleague’s regard for and interest in others is constant. She noted a recent exchange with a commuter student whose car had broken down that morning. “She said that she knew Sharon would have helped her so that who she had been trying to find.”
Hawkins says Teets has assisted her in recent years during the pursuit of a doctorate. “Sharon’s helped me develop as a faculty member and scholar. She helped me select a topic for my dissertation, read multiple drafts of various chapters, and volunteered to help with data collection. Like the student with the broken down car, I know that Sharon Teets will help me whenever I call.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Ross Brummett said that Teets “embodies a Ministry of Presence… I have known her on more than one Saturday to be on campus in the morning, in Knoxville in the afternoon, and back on campus at night, all for C-N events.”
The honor “overwhelmed and humbled” the woman who, as of this year, has spent half of her life teaching at Carson-Newman.
“I am filled with gratitude for being able to work in a place that reminds me so very clearly on a daily basis what it means to be Christian,” effused Teets. “The environments in which we spend our time; the people with whom we interact – shape us in that that we cannot understand. So, if I, in any way, represent the R.R. Turner Sprit of the College it is because I reflect, I reflect the way I have been treated by students, alums, faculty and staff – everyone here at Carson-Newman. It is your spirit of love, respect, faith and intellectual curiosity that have nourished and shaped me. My prayer for each of you is that you to will be so nourished.”
Sharon and Scott reside in Jefferson City and are active members of Knoxville’s St. James Episcopal Church.