category: Campus News

Carson-Newman honors “The Heartland Series” creator

Stephen Dean

(Feb. 8, 2017) – Carson-Newman University’s Appalachian Cultural Center has announced Stephen Dean as the 2017 recipient of the Outstanding Educational Service to Appalachia Award. Sponsored by the University’s Appalachian Cultural Center, the award will be presented on Tuesday, March 14.

“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.

In addition to his work on “The Heartland Series” Dean has produced a number of documentary films about the Civil War and its impact on Appalachia. One of his films, “It’s Memory Alone Remains” was produced for the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture in Knoxville and is regularly broadcast on East Tennessee Public Television. Dean also produced the critically acclaimed documentary “Holding the High Ground” which traced the history of the extant earthwork forts along Knoxville’s waterfront.

In 2010, Dean was the recipient of the Robert Ragland Award from the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Alliance for his outstanding work in preserving and interpreting Civil War sites in Tennessee.

Dean’s most recent film production was about the St. James Hotel Recording Sessions held in Knoxville from 1929 to 1930. Funded by the East Tennessee Foundation for the Arts, the film was designed to dovetail with the Social Studies curriculum for the state of Tennessee. It is available online to every school in the state.

Currently, Dean is the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Museum of Appalachia. He also serves on the board of the East Tennessee Civil War Alliance and the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable.

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.

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