Jefferson City Resident Presents Home to C-N
Don and Joyce Heiss retired to Jefferson City in the early 1990s having already purchased a home as close to Carson-Newman’s campus as they could find.
After serving as missionaries in Japan for 34 years, the Ohio natives wanted to be near their alma mater so they could reconnect with old friends and be in a place where they could get to know students. The 1951 graduates did all of those things together for most of 21 years, at least until Joyce’s health began to decline. Then, they began discussing how they could continue to do something for their beloved institution and those it serves.
They decided to give their North College Street house to C-N.
“We started talking about it in 2009 when Dr. Heiss came to us and said that he and Mrs. Heiss had decided it was a way to support the institution for years to come,” said Chris Cates, director of major gifts for C-N. “It fits who they are; they spent their lives giving of themselves and they wanted a way to continue to do that.”
Heiss recalled with a certain sense of providence how they had found the property. “We searched for a house about 10 years.” Having begun to think about returning to their adopted hometown when they retired, the couple used furloughs to look for what they intended to be their last home together. On what became the last reconnaissance trip, Heiss pointed to the structure across the street from Heritage Hall and asked if it might be for sale.
The agent said that it would be, but had not yet been listed. The couple was able to purchase it before it officially hit the market and rented it out while completing their service as Southern Baptist missionaries. They made the house a home in 1991 and became stalwart members of Jefferson City’s First Baptist Church where Joyce taught Sunday school and Don served as a deacon. They were active members in the Jefferson County’s Genealogical Society and have helped many international students who studied at C-N.
When his wife died in January of this year, Heiss began developing plans to formally present the white frame house to the institution when he moved to Darby House. Given that his children had agreed with the couple’s decision, he chose a July 14 family reunion as the optimal time for the symbolic donation.
“Thank you for coming,” the retired missionary told Dr. Randall O’Brien shortly before the event began.
“Are you kidding?” Carson-Newman’s president demurred with a smile. “Thank you for the gift of your home. It is more than generous and more than gracious to think of Carson-Newman College in this way.”
Heiss stood with his children, daughter Paula, and sons, Jim, John and Dan; the four are spread between Alabama, Hawaii, and Kentucky. Speaking on their and his late wife’s behalf, the patriarch said, “We dedicate to God and turn over this property to Carson-Newman College for the glory of God and the work of His kingdom.”
In his formal acceptance of the property, the president thanked the Heisses for their commitment to their alma mater and divine service. “Thank you for beautiful and meaningful lives lived for God’s Kingdom,” he said, then noting that, after a spouse and children, home is “a most precious possession.”
O’Brien said the gift has generated a strong sense of appreciation from those at C-N who have heard about it. “We are all very touched that you would do something like this. And also to Jim, John, Paula and Dan, that they join you in this great joy of giving this home to Carson-Newman for God’s purpose. We are grateful indeed.”