category: Campus News

Donors find ways to “love Carson-Newman forever”

Photo of Mary Kate Howell that appears in the 1931 Appalachian yearbook.

Estates and planned gifts matter to all colleges and universities. And so they are important in the life of Carson-Newman University. Such gifts vividly demonstrate the regard donors have for the institution.

Three inspiring stories are among several 2014 developments that will add a combined $1.4 million to Carson-Newman’s assets.

Carson-Newman Major Gifts Officer Vickie Butler finds one similarity with these donors to be particularly telling.

“We are not talking about people you would define as rich,” said the 1976 alumna and 25-year Carson-Newman employee. “In many cases we are talking about people who made their living in education, or ministry or a human service field. A few of them desire for Carson-Newman to receive all of their estate, while others provide for heirs and set aside a small provision for the institution. Both models ensure that our mission continues.”

Ben Carr’s March 2013 obituary in the Tampa Bay Times was less than 90 words. It mentioned Carson-Newman, his 40-year career as a schoolteacher and his proud service in the Korean War. It also noted his interment in the family plot back home in East Tennessee.

What it did not include was how much his undergraduate experience and commitment to his faith meant to him. That evidence comes from another document – on file in Carson-Newman’s Advancement Office – establishing a six-figure scholarship to support ministerial students in his and his late wife Kay’s names.

While this 1951 alumnus designated a specific purpose for his bequest, some benefactors leave such decisions to University administrators.

Behind one undesignated gift is a love story that began on campus.

The senior photos in 1931’s “Appalachian” yearbook are arranged in such a way that Theron Hodges and Mary Kate Howell are face-to-face each time it is closed. It could be the sweethearts planned it that way, as they were both yearbook staff members who would get married in 1933.

A native of Boyd’s Creek, Theron served on the Student Body Council for three years and was part of the Agoga Sunday school class and the Columbian Literary Society for all four years. Mary Kate’s involvement spanned the whole of campus, from the Hypatian Literary Society to the Orange and Blue newspaper, Modern Portia Club, Knox County Club and vice president of the senior class. The yearbook is replete with her distinctive artwork.

After marrying, they moved to Sevier County where Theron taught school. After a year, he moved into administration as superintendent of the school system and she became a teacher. They moved to Nashville when he joined Tennessee Department of Education, returning home in their retirement years.

The couple’s generosity recently yielded $450,000 after the probate process following Mary Kate’s death, which happened two years ago at the age of 102.

Having known them since 1945, Emma Knight Atchley ’42 understood keenly their love for one another and abiding care for their alma mater.

“Oh, they were intellectual, interesting and gracious,” said Atchley. “They wanted to be sure that what they had left would go to Carson-Newman. You might say that Carson-Newman was their baby.”

Such sentiments resonate well with Linda Clark, whose love for the University began during her freshman year of 1963. When financial hardships prevented her return, she could not have imagined the huge role it would still play in her life. But it did, thanks to an impromptu fuel stop when she and her husband, Don, were moving back home to Memphis from Maryland.

A local realtor saw their license plate and inquired about looking at houses. By the end of the day, they had agreed to buy a farmhouse in White Pine with plans for Don to pursue a doctorate in business at the University of Tennessee. That helped lead him to what he was told would be a “temporary teaching position” at Carson-Newman – one that lasted until his retirement 27 years later.

Linda Clark says her husband’s fondness for Carson-Newman deepened, and that he very much appreciated the opportunity to teach and mentor students. Her thoughts about how much it has meant to them facilitated her recent estate planning process.

“Giving something to Carson-Newman would not surprise Don a bit,” she said, adding a resolute nod and smile. “I want to do this because it’s a way we can love Carson-Newman forever.”

“That may be the best explanation of a perpetual gift that I have ever heard, and certainly the sweetest,” said Butler. “It shows how donors can know where their gifts are going and understand the difference they make.”

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