category: Campus News

Carson-Newman inaugurates 23rd president, Charles A. Fowler

Carson-Newman University celebrated the inauguration of its 23rd president, Dr. Charles A. Fowler (center), on Friday, Nov. 8. Presenting the University’s Presidential Medallion are 22nd president J. Randall O’Brien (left) and 21st president James S. Netherton.

(Nov. 8, 2019) JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — In a ceremony attended by delegates of more than 40 academic institutions, associations and learned societies, Carson-Newman University inaugurated Dr. Charles A. Fowler as the 23rd president of the 168-year-old institution.

The formal Inauguration Ceremony took place Friday morning at First Baptist Church of Jefferson City. Fowler was named the University’s 23rd president in June following a unanimous vote by the institution’s Presidential Search Committee and Board of Trustees.

“My heart’s desire as I stand before you today is that, as future presidents deliver their inaugural addresses, they remember the mighty works of God in our generation and commend them to the generations to come,” Fowler said in his inaugural address. “I pray that the narrative of our lives and of Carson-Newman University will be remembered by history to have been marked by the blessings, the favor and the mighty acts of a faithful God among his people at Mossy Creek. With thanksgiving I declare that God is the hero of today, and he will be the hero of our future!”

In looking to that future, Fowler detailed five Pillars of Purpose on which he intends to shape the University: missionally directed, confessionally defined, church focused, innovatively driven and culture impacting.

Within the context of these pillars, Fowler announced several initiatives that the University will undertake, including:
• strengthening the partnership with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
• an institutionwide assessment of missional focus and fidelity.
• the research and development of an economic model that would contain new revenue streams to subsidize away from the tuition-based model.
• programming within Campus Ministries to provide students with practical experiences in ministry and missions.

Fowler came to Carson-Newman following the retirement of the former president, Dr. J. Randall O’Brien.

“After almost a year of searching, looking over the candidacies of over 75 people, interviewing 10 people personally face to face, our search committee came to the unanimous conclusion that Dr. Charles Fowler was the person our Lord was guiding us to for such a time as this,” said Dr. David Ogle, who chaired the university’s Presidential Search Committee. “Dr. Fowler has many skills, but he has a particular set of skills that will help him as he leads this place for the next chapter in its long and storied life serving Christ.”

Fowler had served as senior pastor of Germantown Baptist Church in West Tennessee since 2010. Prior to that, he served as senior vice president of University Relations at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, after more than 15 years in various roles including vice president for Enrollment Management, vice president for Development, professor of Christian ministries and education, founding executive director of the Union University Foundation and director of the R.G. Lee Center.

Along with holding the rank of full professor at Union, Fowler also taught at Mississippi State University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

His other leadership roles have included serving on the board of trustees for the International Mission Board, Baptist Memorial Healthcare, Union University, Blue Mountain College and the Leadership Council for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, as well as being chaplain for the city of Germantown.

Fowler is a graduate of Union University, Mississippi State University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His honors include the Union University Distinguished Service Award and being named an Alumni Fellow and Outstanding Doctoral Student both from Mississippi State University.

Many of those he worked alongside in his various roles were in attendance for Friday’s ceremony. In addition to the numerous attending delegates, Carson-Newman Board of Trustees Chair Harry Brooks welcomed local and state elected officials, representatives of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, members of Germantown Baptist Church, the University’s Board of Trustees, former presidents, current and retired faculty and staff, students, alumni, and Fowler’s family members, including his wife, Sandra, daughters, sons-in-law, grandson and extended family.

“This is a special day, a day which God has ordained and blessed,” Brooks said. “In the short time that Dr. Fowler and his lovely wife, Sandra, have been on campus, we have grown to love them, and we look forward to many future years of their service and leadership.

Friday’s ceremony was the culmination of several Inauguration events on campus, including an Inaugural Convocation on Thursday, led by Dr. David S. Dockery, president of the International Alliance for Christian Education, and an Inaugural Worship Service held that night, which featured Dr. Tom Elliff, president emeritus of the International Mission Board, and Dr. Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

In a benediction to close the worship service, Davis prayed, “I thank you for those all over East Tennessee and beyond, who love this institution, and love the mission and love their Lord enough to sacrifice so the students could be educated in a Christian environment. Father, you have positioned Carson-Newman for such a day as this, and you have called Charles Fowler here for such a day as this.”

Those who were unable to join the worship service or Friday ceremony may view them at:

Founded in 1851, Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts-based university affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The University is located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, among the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and has over 2,700 students. Carson-Newman offers 50 undergraduate majors, as well as associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

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