C-N’s Newest Employee Award Honors “Rebar All-Stars”

It is a simple concept that is the literal foundation of construction – that which is fortified lasts longer, is stronger for the long haul and provides a better experience. C-N President Randall O’Brien celebrated those who he said are “exemplars for excellence and friendly service,” with the inaugural presentation of the “Rebar All-Stars.”

The honor included recognition at Thursday’s annual Fall Faculty-Staff Workshop, the initial gathering of faculty and staff for the academic year. The CEO opened and closed his remarks to those assembled by calling to the front of Thomas Recital Hall six employees whose efforts are infused with a commitment to outstanding work and who seek to please students and others they serve.

“There should never be a college or university anywhere more student friendly than Carson-Newman,” Dr. O’Brien began. “It is in our DNA; we do not have jobs or careers, we have callings.”

He reached into a storage box and removed a piece of steel about two feet long. As audience members noted that he was holding an item used in varied forms of construction, he said. “Ever since I have been here, I have wanted to give a rebar award.”

He noted that a re-enforcement bar is essential to laying roads worth the effort or erecting buildings with a vision for the future. He likewise asserted that living, breathing rebars – staff and faculty devoted to the institution’s mission of Christian higher education – are central to Carson-Newman and its vibrant outlook.

With that he started giving what he said will become a semiannual tradition, designed to coincide with the start of each term. Each recipient took home a $100 gift card to Gatlinburg’s Peddler Steakhouse and a memento that seemed to trump the free meal, plaques O’Brien hand-crafted. He sawed treated one-by-sixes, printed with permanent marker the words a trophy shop would have engraved, and adorned on each an eight-inch rebar secured by u-nails.

Representing six distinct areas of the institution, those honored are: Assistant Athletic Director Eddie Carter (athletics), Chief Financial Officer Marty Chambers (administration), Electrician/Telephone Technician Steve Finchum (maintenance), Kathy Lawson (administrative assistants), Director of Admissions Melanie Redding (staff), and Education Chair Dr. Sharon Teets (faculty).

Redding reported that her first act upon returning to her office was to place the new hardware in direct view from her desk chair. “I love it,” she trilled. “I have it where I can see it easily. On days that might be really hard, I am going to look at it and remember why we do our work here.”

The Admissions director admitted that she felt guilty by the recognition, saying, “There are so, so many people who I work with that make things easy for me. They are the ones who work really hard all of the time.”

Each awardee demurred at the notion of being singled out.

Chambers said her plaque would also take up cherished real estate, on a wall at her family’s getaway cabin. Beyond its rustic appeal, which will match the décor, is the token’s lasting import.

“I have hung onto just a couple of awards during my career,” the CFO smiled. “But I think I will want to keep this one even after I retire.”