In the early 1840s, a number of Baptist leaders in East Tennessee desired to offer better prepared ministers to area congregations. The East Tennessee Baptist Educational Society, which was comprised of two groups with a common interest, applied in 1850 for a charter to establish an institution of higher learning. Afforded the use of a local church building, Mossy Creek Missionary Baptist Seminary opened to students in the fall of 1851. The Tennessee Legislature granted the school’s charter in December of that year.
As noted in their founding documents, the founders possessed a twofold intent: “to promote education in general, and among the ministry in particular.” Over time, that ideal has become the institution’s DNA of Christian service as evidenced in student volunteers as well as in the lives of alumni. The institution produced its first graduate, Richard Scruggs, in 1855. Manifesting the ideal of “education in general,” Scruggs went on to become a physician. The following year, the second graduating class reaffirmed the school’s mission by producing a lawyer and a minister, in that order.
The 1889 merger of men’s and women’s institutions made Carson-Newman an early entrant in coeducation in the region. Throughout its history, the institution has instilled a deep commitment to service in its students. The fruits of its labor, its alumni, have filled schoolrooms, courthouses, hospitals, boardrooms, pulpits, and mission fields the world over in spreading the lessons of Carson-Newman’s motto of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
Servant leadership programs abound on campus; the effects of which are staggering. Appalachian Outreach and its volunteers have provided more than 2200 weeks’ worth of home repairs in 25 years; Baptist Campus Ministries sends out more than 200 fall and spring break volunteers annually; Bonner Scholars provide approximately 10,000 hours of service per year and Community Connections offers a student-run agency that matches area needs with helpers. Global education and broadening students’ horizons are staples of the Carson-Newman experience. Scores of international students study at Carson-Newman each year while others travel from campus to study abroad. Recent efforts have included a two week study trip to South Africa, archeological excavation in Jordan, earthquake relief work in Haiti, a focus on healthcare in South Korea and ministry in Zimbabwe.
Giving back to God through diligent study and by serving His creation combine to make the double helix of the Carson-Newman experience. The heritage is tailor-fit to the vision of Dr. O’Brien: “C-N’s future will be built on the twin pillars of academic rigor and Christian excellence.” Carson-Newman students learn to think, to write, to read well, and to present and enter into the give and take of argument so as to become educated citizens and worldwide servant-leaders.