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Carson-Newman honors couple’s work in Appalachia with University award

Carson-Newman University President Randall O’Brien (left) and Dr. Jennifer Hall, director of C-N’s Appalachian Cultural Center (right), congratulate the Rev. Lawrence and Martha Baldridge. The Baldridges were honored with the University’s Award for Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia.

(March 18, 2015) – Carson-Newman University awarded its 26th Annual Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia Award to the Rev. Lawrence and Martha Baldridge. The presentation took place during a March 17 event at the University’s Appalachian Cultural Center.

“Tonight we come together to honor two who have walked the good life and lived so beautifully in our midst,” said Carson-Newman University President J. Randall O’Brien to those gathered at the Center.

Lawrence and Martha were appointed Southern Baptist home missionaries to Pippa Passes, Kentucky in 1974. Under their leadership, they brought a Headstart Program to Pippa Passes on two different occasions, and they also started a Senior Citizens Nutrition Program in the basement of Caney Baptist Church, where Lawrence has served as pastor since 1964. Martha served as primary cook/dietician for the program, which served the needs of the elderly for 15 years. The couple has been involved with the North American Mission Board for more than 30 years.

A native of Garrett, Kentucky, Lawrence has been a servant-leader in his community, Lawrence helped establish a community Kiwanis Club, Head Start Program, Senior Citizens Program and the first Baptist Student Union at Alice Lloyd College. Warning about the dangers of strip mining and mountain top removal, he was also an early advocate for environmental preservation and stewardship of the Appalachian landscape, hills and mountains.

A respected educator and poet, Lawrence also coordinates summer activities for Baptist and Leader Trek groups who donate their time to construct and repair area housing and church facilities and to provide summer programs for youth.

Martha Baldridge, a 1962 Carson-Newman alumna, was born in Jaguaquara, Brazil, a daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries. Along with a lifetime of service work with her husband, she is the primary pianist for Caney Baptist Church, where she also teaches Sunday school and gives piano lessons. She has served as a 4H leader, teaching such skills as cooking and sewing, and as a substitute teacher. Most recently, she retired from her position as head dietician at a local nursing home.

“I can’t describe how pleased we are to be here,” said Martha during the evening. “We just feel that this honor is too much, but we appreciate it so much.”

The couple has three children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandson.

Throughout its history, Carson-Newman’s Award for Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia has recognized outstanding individuals for their contributions to the region. Past honorees include: 2014 recipient Bill May, Jim Claborn, John Rice Irwin, Bill Landry, Helen Lewis, Jeff Daniel Marion, Lee Smith, James Still and Wilma Dykeman Stokely.

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