Character. It can mean various things; a word that can be used in different ways. 

“She has a lot of character.”

“He sure is a character.”

“He is such a good actor; people remember his characters more than his real name.”

“Winnie-the-Pooh is my favorite cartoon character.” (Just threw that one in there.)

I appreciate people with character, on whose word you can rely. I appreciate characters. I appreciate Pooh.

That is one of the things we hear often about Carson-Newman, the actual grounds, the 200-plus acres that make up this campus on the banks of Mossy Creek. That it has character. 

True enough. Character is part of our mission. We have had our share of characters. But at Carson-Newman, sometimes the “character” is not a person, but a place. Anyone out there remember “The Barn?” Students actually wrote an obituary in the campus newspaper when that building was razed.

Like a great novel or a cast from a movie, those characters permeate Mossy Creek, both young and old alike. In a history that spans more than 170 years, our campus has buildings that span nearly 70 percent of that life cycle.

Construction on Sarah Swann Hall began 120 years ago and the first female students moved in the following fall. Over the years and decades, it has become more than a building. It is a living part of this University. Built by Colonel A.R. Swann and named in honor of his mother, it remains one of the most popular facilities on our campus. 

Throughout the past century, thousands of students have called Sarah Swann home. It has seen more than its share of meetings, functions and even a few weddings – a couple on the morning(s) of commencement.

When opened a little more than 100 years ago, Butler-Blanc Gymnasium was a state-of-the-art attraction throughout the entire Southeast. Housing facilities for basketball and swimming and including a suspended track in the upper level (do not put too much arch on a jump shot from the corner!)

Our beautiful campus is home to buildings, structures – characters – from nearly every decade, serving their purpose and standing in the gap as new areas are built.

Baker, now home to, among other things, our award-winning ROTC program, The Store and more. Through the years, it has hosted Family and Consumer Sciences, the offices of the Orange & Blue (former campus paper) and The Appalachian (yearbook) and the student activities center (before the Maddox Center) and the cafeteria (prior to Stokely).

Burnett Hall, first, was the home of former president Jesse McGarity Burnett. An alum of Carson College, before the merger of the men’s and women’s institutions, Burnett was a professor of foreign languages and philosophy and later became chairman of the faculty before being named president of the institution 1912-1917. When first used, it housed 24 female students. After renovations and remodeling twice, the original structure and some other buildings were removed to make way for the current building in the early 1960s. More than 15,000 female students have made Burnett home through the years.

Alumni Hall has been a men’s residence life facility, then a women’s facility and then back to men’s. 

Warren Hall (1939) has been home to the sciences, chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics and even once housed the school’s Office for Alumni Relations. For decades now, it has been home to the Carson-Newman Art Department.

When enrollment grew and space was at its maximum, new facilities have been built.

In the last 25 years, Appalachian Commons apartments, Blye-Poteat Hall (the new home to Family and Consumer Science) and Ted Rusell Hall. 

In the last two years, the Drama and Ted Rusell Center, the new home to our health sciences programs, has opened (August 2023), West Campus Commons, a 524-bed residence life facility is opening soon. There are needs and plans for new buildings for Chemistry, Biology, the Social Sciences and our award-winning Education program.

There are memories here, pouring out of the walls. A common refrain when friends return to Mossy Creek and gather together, the conversations are contagious. They do more than simply talk, they reminisce. 

Stories, memories, one after one, flow, usually beginning with the phrase “do you remember?”

Those memories are part of the character, the history. The DNA.

There is an obvious appreciation. As years pass and times change, there is an appreciation for the good times; and as we gain life perspective, maybe an appreciation for the challenges as well. We are reassured multiple times in Scripture of God’s promises over overcoming hardships and that He already has won the battle.

And there is an appreciation on our part for others. For the nearly 26,000 alumni living and serving in all 50 states and 61 countries; an appreciation for those who came before us to lead – whose names are on the buildings mentioned above; an appreciation for those who helped build the buildings, and pay the bills and support the school, some known, some anonymous.

And an appreciation for the vision more than 170 years ago of those who gathered, talked and prayed for a way to build and open an institution of higher learning rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

An appreciation for Carson-Newman and what it has meant in the lives of so many.

Kevin Triplett, Vice President for University Relations

Previous IMPACTFUL Blog Post


Next IMPACTFUL Blog Post