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Carson-Newman celebrates class of 2022, reminds graduates “you are a child of God”

Patricia Bible, president and CEO of KaTom and chair of Carson-Newman’s Board of Trustees, speaks to C-N graduates during Spring Commencement.

Recognizing the culmination of academic achievements, Carson-Newman University’s spring commencement 2022 celebrated 565 undergraduate and graduate students across three ceremonies representing 26 states, 15 countries, earning 14 degrees in nearly 60 fields of study.

Being forced to move activities inside due to inclement weather did not dampen the spirit of the graduates and families commemorating the pinnacle of work in the classroom.

“Today is a special day indeed for these graduates,” said Carson-Newman President Dr. Charles A. Fowler in addressing the audience. “It’s the culmination of years of hard work and study. These years have also brought immeasurable joy while it has certainly brought many challenges as well. I am convinced that the world has never needed Carson-Newman graduates any more than we need them today.

It was a special day indeed with the installation of the first class of inductees into the Robert Reedy Bryan Society. Named for the institution’s second and sixth president, the society serves to recognize retired faculty, staff and others whose dedicated and selfless service to Carson-Newman is exceptional, inspirational and meritorious. It is designed to honor those who have honored this University by answering the call to go above and beyond and through their actions and attitudes have raised the bar for us all.

Inaugural class members inducted prior to the awarding of degrees were: Vickie Butler, Dr. Mark Heinrich, Mary Phipps, Dr. Frank Pinkerton and Joe Bill Sloan.

“Today in an effort to create a culture of gratitude, we want to initiate this new award recognizing people who have demonstrated their willingness to stand in the gap,” Fowler said prior to introducing the honorees. “These five individuals are people who have done their part to strengthen the school and advance the mission.”

Biographies of the honorees, including their varied service to the institution may be read here.

The audience then was treated to comments from keynote speaker Patricia Bible that were both energetic and inspirational.

Co-founder, president and CEO of restaurant supply company KaTom and current chair of the Board of Trustees, Bible challenged the students to remember they were children of God and that He can provide exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ever think or ask.

Drawing on her own hardscrabble, impoverished upbringing in Hamblen County, Tennessee, Bible remembered being told she was the “the girl who can’t, the girl who won’t and the girl who shouldn’t.”

But being raised by a strong mother and grandmother who had her in church on Sundays, Bible said she did not buy into what she was told by others but what we were promised we could achieve through keeping Christ in the center of our decisions and actions.

Forming a company in the early 1980s with her husband, Bible’s “can-do” attitude instilled by those strong influences in her life, helped the duo grow KaTom through five expansions and to $4 million a year in sales.

Right when things seemed perfect, however, Tim Bible died suddenly. Life was under water and, again, Patricia Bible had to dig deep and swim against the current.

“My world was turned upside down,” said Bible. “And each and every one of you will have times in our life that your world will turn upside down.”

Bible threw herself into her work and then later turned her attention to the Savior. In the process, KaTom has grown, as much as 50 percent during the Covid-19 pandemic and is approaching the $500 million mark

“… It was scary times,” she said of the last two years. “But during those scary times, God gave me this verse, Second Timothy (chapter) one (verse) seven: For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. If you really trust God to take you through those very difficult times, that’s what happened at KaTom. The rest of our industry dropped 40 percent. KaTom grew 38 percent. That is a delta of 78 percent over and above what our industry was doing. So, 2022, this year is going to bring 50 percent growth. Thank you, God. It is amazing how bountiful He is.”

“The same thing’s waiting for you. I am not an anomaly. You can be whatever God chooses for us to be. Just always remember God can provide exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ever think or ask. … So, let me ask you one more time, who are you? God’s child. Absolutely. Every one of you [is] destined for greatness. Don’t miss it.”

Strong advice for the latest round of graduates leaving Carson-Newman prepared as educated citizens and ready to fill roles as worldwide servant leaders.

Watch Patricia Bible’s address to graduates:

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