Newly dedicated center to ease transition for Carson-Newman veterans
Dr. and Mrs. J. Randall and Kay O’Brien stand by a display case of memorabilia marking his time in service with the 101st Airborne Division during Saturday’s dedication ceremony of Carson-Newman University’s new Dr. J. Randall O’Brien Veterans Center.
(Nov. 18, 2019) JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — Dedicated in honor of former Carson-Newman University president and Vietnam War veteran Dr. J. Randall O’Brien, the institution’s new veterans center aims to serve those who have served in the United States armed forces by easing their transition into campus life.
The University held a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting Saturday to unveil the completed center to the community. Dozens of area veterans and members of the Carson-Newman campus family participated in the event, which featured the C-N Army ROTC Color Guard.
“I want to welcome you this morning to such an important and significant moment on our campus. It is a great joy for me to welcome Dr. and Mrs. O’Brien back to campus, in a fitting way, to see this veterans center named in his honor,” President Charles A. Fowler said. “This is a moment for which I am so grateful.”
Dr. Ross Brummett, senior vice president for Student Affairs, noted O’Brien’s prestigious academic and service history. He said that, during his time as president, O’Brien enthusiastically supported proposals to improve how the University served veterans and their dependents. The center came about through that commitment.
“The commitment is the long-standing commitment which Carson-Newman has demonstrated for decades, namely to be student-centered in all we do,” Brummett said. “The dream was that we could provide a place for all of our veterans, our students especially, but also our faculty and staff, where they could meet to study, socialize and build community as they told tales of their experiences, as only veterans can do. They deserve their own space.”
The center, located on the first floor of Baker Building, adjacent to ROTC, provides space for students, faculty and staff who are also veterans to meet, relax and socialize. It includes study areas, a kitchenette, comfortable seating and a billiards table.
Inside the center, elements honor University members’ military service, including a mannequin bust displaying a replica of O’Brien’s Army jacket with awards and insignia, Vietnam-era memorabilia, and a board to display unit patches collected from the University’s veterans.
O’Brien served with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He received, among other decorations, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the United States Air Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross and the Bronze Star.
“It’s one of the greatest blessings that God ever poured out on Kay and Randall, when he called us here to live and love and be loved by you, to serve here,” O’Brien said. “I’m blessed out of my mind. That being said, there’s another word on that sign that tears me up. I’m so thrilled about that word, ‘veterans,’ on that sign.
“When you dedicate this center to the veterans, that is a hallelujah, praise God moment of thanksgiving in my heart,” he added.
O’Brien thanked all those who played a role in making the center a reality, including Military Affairs Coordinator Kelli Blanton, the Task Force Team consisting of Carson-Newman faculty and staff who served in the armed forces, Brummett, Director of Physical Plant and Construction Manager Ondes Webster, Vice President for Finance and Business Marty Chambers, donors, workers and many other members of the University.
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.