Request Info!
Home Apply Now! Request Info!


Laying the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Students

Laying the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Students

Fittingly, nature’s model for Carson-Newman’s new Nest Builder’s Society is the eagle.

An eagle takes a mate and, over the course of years, decades even, the pair makes a home together. One or a few at a time, twigs, sticks and branches are combined with feathers and patience to provide what will sustain the future.

“Eagles start building a nest together and they continually work on it year after year,” says Karen Wilbur, wildlife program coordinator for the American Eagle Foundation, located at Dollywood. “They never leave it, unless it is destroyed. And then if it is they rebuild it as close as they can to the original location.”

While 1972 graduates Bob and Karen Gay did not pattern their support of Carson-Newman on eagles, they appreciate the life lesson. Putting away for the future makes a difference now and in years to come. Contrary to popular myth, the core of philanthropy is not making one or a few major financial contributions. Rather, it is Nest Building 101 – steady stewardship secures the future.

“Nest Builders offers Carson-Newman's alumni and friends an affordable, sustainable program to support Christian higher education,” asserts Bob. “We can achieve this important goal together, one straw at a time."

Carson-Newman means much to the Gays, including their meeting as freshmen in a Latin I course each took to fill out their respective schedules. They concluded long ago that they might have not met otherwise.

“There we were in a class neither had intended to take,” recalls Karen. “As time went by, we met, talked and began to grow our love, and it’s still growing 47 years later.”

In 1983, the couple committed to providing Carson-Newman a percentage of their income through Bob’s financial planning work, month-in and month-out. The support has helped expand their knowledge about and deepen their love for their alma mater, and they note their desire to sustain the crucial mission.

“Both of us believe in the importance of a Christian University,” says Bob. “Carson-Newman needs to be there. We give monthly because young people need it as an educational option.”

Like nesting, philanthropy represents steady effort and keen attention. According to, a Vermilion, Ohio, nest maintained over 30 years by one pair of eagles “measured 9 feet across and nearly 12 feet high,” and weighed more than 4,000 pounds.

The Gays hope to foster such growth in the society, as they are among the just 90 couples or individuals who give monthly to Carson-Newman. Bob points out that current monthly supporters represent a figure equivalent to .04 percent of the 22,000-strong alumni body. They hope to help grow the number of Nest Builders, those who contribute monthly, to one percent of graduates (approximately 190 members) in the next two years.

“We have no intent to step on anyone’s plan of giving,” said Bob, who will join the Board of Trustees in January 2016. “We just believe there’s a group of folks for this particular niche, those who will give an amount they can to provide for the future.”

To discuss Nest Builders and other giving options, call or email Lindsey Maples at 865.471.3404 or

Rankings & Recognitions View All