How do we respond? 

Pick any saying. “When the rubber meets the road.” “When the going gets tough.” “When push comes to shove.” 

They are the same really. Different ways to say the same thing. They challenge how one responds when things get challenging. How do we respond? Do we step up or step back?

Three years ago, Carson-Newman President Charles A. Fowler and the University executive team created a group; a society. The purpose? To honor those who, when the rubber met the road, stepped up.

The Robert Reedy Bryan Society was formed to honor those who have honored the University by their service.

Bryan was one of the founders of the institution, one of the driving forces pushing for an institution of higher learning rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was one of the first three officers called to serve the school when it opened in September 1851, along with first President William Rogers and financial agent C.C. Tipton.

When Rogers passed away from complications of typhoid fever less than three months after the opening of the school, Bryan, the lead classroom instructor and designer of the curriculum, was also asked to serve as interim president. He did so.

In 1852, he oversaw construction of the Seminary’s first building, located on the banks of Mossy Creek. The following year, he returned to teaching, specializing in natural sciences, a role he fulfilled for the next 13 years. Like many places, the College suffered in the years during and following the Civil War. In 1866, Bryan once again answered the call to serve as president. Now closed due to the war’s aftereffects, his second term required extensive fundraising and bold leadership to position the school for a future of possibilities waiting on the horizon. He stands as an example of one who devoted so much to the health and well-being of the College, regardless of the role and weight of the responsibility in which he was challenged.

Emblematic of the characteristics and example set by Bryan in his willingness to “stand in the gap” and invest his career in the service to and advancement of what is now Carson-Newman University, the Robert Reedy Bryan Society has been created. Each year, starting with this illustrious group, Carson-Newman will induct into the society retired faculty, staff and others whose dedicated and selfless service to Carson-Newman is exceptional, inspirational and meritorious. It is designed to honor those who have honored this University by answering the call to go above and beyond and through their actions and attitudes have raised the bar for us all.

Through the past three years, in a special ceremony during spring commencement, 14 individuals who met these criteria with their service, their willingness to step up and stand in the gap when called, have been honored with induction into the Robert Reedy Bryan Society.

Among this group are seven former faculty members with more than 250 years of combined service to Carson-Newman, alumni, board members, staff; each one dedicating themselves to the mission of the school and the students it serves.

Mary Phipps mended clothes for female students far from home. Her sister Gladys Clay was a strict but beloved counselor for many student-athletes who looked at her as a second mother. Frank Pinkerton led the chemistry department and coached the women’s tennis team for severalyears. Vickie Butler, an alum herself, served as alumni director and impactful fundraiser for the institution. 

Ann Jones and Jim Baumgarder taught music and history, respectively, with a passion that is often fondly remembered by former students and colleagues. Eddie Carter played basketball at Carson-Newman and then served in various roles in the athletic department for decades, mentoring student-athletes like he had been. 

T. Max Bahner, who as a son of a former professor grew up at Mossy Creek, and Jeanette Blazier, a former cheerleader and proud alum are two of the longest-serving members of the Board of Trustees. Carey Herring (math) and Jim Coppock (business) not only taught for a combined 80-plus years, but served as chair, dean and director of multiple committees, programs and departments.

Becky Boatright came to Carson-Newman at the suggestion of a friend and faithfully served for 36 years in every role she was asked to fill. In his decades at Mossy Creek, Mark Heinrich held more than 10 titles, including dean and men’s tennis coach; and Joe Bill Sloan, a modern-day Robert Reedy Bryan himself, an alum and professor of more than 40 years, stepped in when asked to serve as interim president of the University for several months in 2007 and 2008.

Their more detailed stories can be read here: Robert Reedy Bryan Society 

So, back to the original question. How do we respond when we are asked?

And how do we respond to those, when asked, stepped up.

As the Scripture passage from Matthew 25 states, when being faithful with a few things, one often gets put in charge of many things. 

For those, the ones who stepped up when the rubber met the road? Well, from our standpoint, the response is full appreciation.

Previous IMPACTFUL Blog Post


Next IMPACTFUL Blog Post