Carson-Newman Honors Program celebrates 50 years

Current and past Carson-Newman Honors Directors attended a celebration dinner at Calhoun’s on the River in Knoxville April 19. From left are Dr. Mark Biddle, Dr. Gerald Wood, Dr. Paul Brewer, Dr. Mark Hussung, Carolyn Blevins, and current director Dr. Brian Austin.

Current and past Carson-Newman Honors Directors attended a celebration dinner at Calhoun’s on the River in Knoxville April 19. From left are Dr. Mark Biddle, Dr. Gerald Wood, Dr. Paul Brewer, Dr. Mark Hussung, Carolyn Blevins, and current director Dr. Brian Austin.

Fifty years ago, Dr. Paul Brewer began a tradition of excellence and academic achievement at Carson-Newman University for the University’s brightest and most engaged students.

“I started the honors program a long time ago when I was carrying a 15-hour teaching load. I was assistant football coach and had a wife and three little boys,” said Brewer, former C-N professor and first honors director.

The program began with no budget or relief in Brewer’s teaching load, but he and the subsequent honors directors have grown the program to the enriched learning environment that it is today.

“For almost 50 years now, the Carson-Newman Honors Program has provided academic challenges and opportunities for intellectually gifted and curious students through team-taught interdisciplinary classes and extra-curricular events,” said current Honors Director Dr. Brian Austin.

The University celebrated the program’s anniversary through a commemorative dinner attended by nearly all of the current and past honors directors, as well as Honors Council members and current honors students.

Each past director was given the opportunity to share some of his or her memories of directing the program.

“Carson-Newman, whether a college or university, has a long history of excellence and the Honors Program has been in many cases the center of this wonderful tradition,” said Dr. Gerald Wood, retired C-N professor and past honors director.

When Carolyn Blevins was honors director she initiated the fall retreat, which is still a highlight of the program.

Dr. Mark Hussung was key in developing the social community that allows honors students to get to know each other and grow from their relationships. His focus on community saw the number of honors students completing their honors thesis double. The thesis is considered the culmination of the experience and required for graduation from the program.

Austin took over honors in 2010 and already has a vision for the future. He dreams of an Honors College, a vision supported by Executive Vice President and Provost Kina Mallard. Mallard announced that evening the start of a fundraising campaign for the Honors Program and the future of an Honors College.

“We are not sure what that Honors College will look like,” Mallard told those gathered. She said it could be a residential building allowing the community of scholars to extend and grow, which is Austin’s vision.

“We are also going to be raising money for enhanced programing, for enhanced scholarship, and maybe if we don’t have a brand new building perhaps we can find a building on campus,” Mallard said.

The goal is that current freshmen will see an initiative in place by their senior year.