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Carson-Newman honors “The Heartland Series” creator at special event

(March 15, 2017) – Carson-Newman University’s Appalachian Cultural Center presented Stephen Dean with the 2017 Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia Award at a March 14 special dinner. The event was sponsored by the University’s Appalachian Cultural Center.

“Stephen Dean is one of the most influential and prolific storytellers in our region of the country,” said Dr. Jennifer Hall, director of the Appalachian Cultural Center. “As a documentary filmmaker and television producer, Mr. Dean understands the art of storytelling and the impact it can have on the viewer. His vision has promoted pride in and respect for the Appalachian culture.

A native of East Tennessee, Dean began his 30-year marketing, branding and film profession with Knoxville’s WBIR, Channel 10, in 1974 after graduating from the University of Tennessee. He is the creative genius behind the TV station’s over-arching theme of “Straight From The Heart.”

Dean also created, wrote and produced the Emmy award-winning “The Heartland Series” for WBIR in 1984 to help commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Through nearly 2,000 episodes and 150 specials, “The Heartland Series” elevated the region and its people by transporting viewers into the world of craftsmen, musicians, historians, farmers and scientists. In 2009 when the series ended, the wrap party at the Museum of Appalachia drew some 10,000 people to celebrate its success and to say “thank you” to Steve and his production team.

In addition to five regional Emmy awards, “The Heartland Series” has won three Iris awards from the National Association of Television and Program Executives as well as three medals from the International Film and Television Festival of New York.

After thanking colleagues for their work and partnership, and Carson-Newman leaders for bestowing the honor, Dean closed his remarks citing the work of James Agee. He quoted the Knoxvillian describing the typical resident dispossessed by another generation’s progress, saying, “(H)e is a mountaineer. He is the strong backbone of the Tennessee Valley. His forefathers settled this country in the 1700’s when the effete civilization east of the Alleghenies stuck in their craws. They whipped the Britishers and Loyalists at King’s Mountain. They kept much to themselves and their great-grandsons do likewise and live in much the same way…”

Dean and his wife Nancy have three children and three grandchildren. They live in Concord, Tennessee.

For 29 years, Carson-Newman’s Award for Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia has recognized outstanding individuals for their contributions to the region. Past honorees have included Dr. Ernest Lee, Rev. Lawrence and Martha Baldridge, Jim Claborn, John Rice Irwin, Bill Landry, Jeff Daniel Marion, Lee Smith, James Still and Wilma Dykeman Stokely.

Founded in 1851, Carson-Newman is located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, among the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The University has over 2,600 students and offers 50 undergraduate majors, as well as associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.

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