category: Campus News

Remembering Jim Baumgardner

On August 13, 2015, the University lost a mentor, colleague, friend and its longest teaching faculty member in Carson-Newman history with the passing of Dr. James “Jim” Baumgardner.

Jim was a genuine Christian statesman and friend. He spoke the truth with genuine empathy and love. He loved the church and the classroom always putting people first, both students and church members. His departure is a great personal loss. Rest well friend!

– Dr. Wayne Ballard, associate professor of religion

Jim was a special friend! I really got to know Jim when he and I were on faculty council for years. As you can imagine, our topic of conversation was the college most of the time. He loved this school and wanted to see it at its best. He and I always laughed in the line-up at graduation- every year we discussed how close we were getting to the top of the lineup! Such fun- now, I am at the top of the line-up!

– Ann Jones, professor of music –voice, chair of vocal division

For all the time I spent on Faculty Council and in meetings with Dr. Baumgardner, I didn’t know about his personal life. And yet I did. Carson-Newman WAS Jim Baumgardner’s personal life. He took every moment he worked for our campus personally — which brought him a vast spectrum of experiences, from great joy to great worry. But Jim didn’t have it in him to compartmentalize. He lived his work, and that life is a great example, less of sacrifice and more of absolute devotion to students, colleagues, and place.

– Dr. Susan O’Dell Underwood, professor of English

“A man with a deep, growling voice that belied his frame and the breadth of his heart and love for C-N faculty and students.”

– Dr. David Crutchley, chair of religion

Jim was our North Star, steady in our skies for half a century. I knew him a mere 25 years, so much backstory he shared, as he unfolded Carson-Newman to me, decade by decade. I’ll clearly remember in my mind’s eye and ear: His deep voice, with glasses in hand, hand outstretched, booming “Isn’t it true?” …centering each faculty meeting. His laughter was genuine as we watched alums at Homecoming, his side comments to me even more cherished. How his faith built bridges for himself, and many others; we can still get across today. Yes, Jim was true, inner-lit, beloved and gruff.

– Dr. Joc Collins, professor of psychology

Dr. Baumgardner will be greatly missed by all of us in the Carson-Newman family. With more than 50 years in the classroom, Jim literally taught thousands of students, mentored countless history and political science majors, and shared life with hundreds of colleagues. He kept more than a few administrators on their toes, too, I might add. Jim was deeply loved by his students, respected by his peers, and cherished by our alumni. Frankly, it is hard for me to imagine Carson-Newman without Jim. I will miss him.

– Dr. Randall O’Brien, president of Carson-Newman University

Dr. Baumgardner was among the first faculty members I met outside my department upon joining the C-N family in 1977. Jim was an outstanding historian and teacher, a loyal alumnus of C-N, a vigorous supporter of the welfare of the College/University and its faculty, and an exemplary Christian who pastored many churches throughout his long career. We mourn the passing of a true friend and dedicated colleague who leaves an unparalleled legacy.

– Dr. Kitty Coffey, professor and chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Jim could make you hang—not on a word—but on a syllable. While I cannot know how many of his visits, phone calls or voicemails I received, I know this; each time I recognized his number or heard his voice, I could take comfort in knowing that I was about to learn something, and that there’d be plenty of time to take notes with leisure.

– Mark Brown, University Relations

We have lost a giant, our patriarch. Of Jim’s many contributions to this place, the two I will miss most are his willingness to speak up in faculty meetings by asking just the right question at just the right time, oftentimes with a humorous edge to it; and his modeling of remaining on the cutting edge by always developing new courses, well past age 70 and well past 40 years of teaching. He served as a model for innovation.”

– Dr. Ross Brummett, vice president for Student Affairs, professor of religion

I will miss Jim greatly. He was always a person to whom I could go and talk and ask questions. I trusted that what was said would be kept in confidence. And I knew that what he said was the honest truth from his perspective. I will also miss his droll sense of humor and his concern for others. He was a true southern gentleman!

– Dr. Peggy Hypes, professor of education

I have three general faculty meetings that are definitively memorable from my 27 years at C-N. One, was my first (as a brand-new faculty member in 1988), one was the emotionally charged discussion over whether to stay a college or become a university (for which many years later a decision was made without such a vital discussion) and the best of the three was when I had the absolute pleasure of sitting between Charlie Moffat and Jim Baumgardner. It was (another particularly intense meeting) and the comments from the two were priceless, as were their not silent grunts and chortles — the sheer delight I felt was unimaginable. I felt as if I had ‘arrived’ to be sitting between two giants. I have many other memories of Jim but this one, a gift of opportunity (since I had arrived late and came in the side door)—with me simply as a child sitting between wisdom and courage—calling it as they saw it.

– Dr. Patsy Boyce, professor of biology

Over the decades, my German and Spanish students would tell me that they enjoyed their classes with Dr. Baumgardner. I wish I could have taken one of his courses too.

– Dr. Maria Clark, associate professor of Spanish

Each of us who work and study on the 2nd floor of the Baker building will miss Dr. Baumgardner’s presence, unique sense of humor, love of history, and his dedication to Carson-Newman. He had a special spot where he spent many hours each week preparing for the classes he would teach and sharing stories with each of us. We are grateful for the many years he served C-N and especially for the last few years we had the opportunity to get to know him better and only begin to understand the impact his life had on this university!

– Dr. Carolyn Brewer, associate professor of counseling, director of graduate studies in counseling

I appreciate my connection to Jim. He was always ready to share a hug, a basket of candy and witty words to soothe the soul!

– Tanya Ramsey, assistant professor of Sociology

As a new alumni director joining the C-N staff in 1989, I feared Dr. Baumgardner and others who typically sat on the back row in Tarr Music Center for faculty/staff meetings. How would my ideas come across? Would they take me seriously? However, over time Jim and I developed a friendship of mutual respect and appreciation for legacy. I was totally flattered when he would actually call ME for a historical recollection of an event or person. I felt I had ‘arrived.’

– Vickie Butler, associate vice president for Advancement and executive director of Alumni Relations

Jim was the most generous, selfless, caring man that I have ever met. He loved his family, church family, C-N family, and friends. I feel blessed and honored to have been his fiancée and will always love Jim!

– Sandra Kay Yarnell, Student Success

Dr. Baumgardner truly loved Carson-Newman. As he said to me recently, “I have no plans to retire—really, Carson-Newman is my LIFE!” And it was. He gave us his all.

– Dr. Sharon T. Teets, professor of education

Being still somewhat new to Carson-Newman, I did not know Dr. Baumgardner very well. I so regret that, as I know I’ve missed out on a unique person. And I know from so many that his imprint on hundreds is forever.

– Mary Leidig, executive director of University Relations

My memories are as a former student in political science and history was his unwavering expectation to get things exactly right. There were no half-correct answers. That sense of discipline has helped me in my life time and time again, and while at the time giving my best to earn an “A” was tough and exhausting with many late night study sessions, now I see the value of that work is beyond measure.

– David Needs, assistant head football coach, director of football operations, track & field coach

Jim devoted his life to the alma mater he loved so dearly. He was a passionate teacher, a colleague who would go above and beyond the call of duty, and a man with a heart of gold. He inspired and helped so many people. We will miss him.

– Dr. Kara Stooksbury, chair, Department of History, Political Science, and Sociology

Jim was what I would call a courageous faculty member. He didn’t hesitate to tell the truth with students or colleagues. He always seemed to have the best interest of C-N in the things he did.

– Dr. Alden Starnes, associate professor of mathematics

When I was a child Dr. Baumgardner served as my interim pastor at Blue Springs Baptist Church in Rutledge, TN. Later, as a history major at Carson-Newman, Dr. B taught me American history- with gusto! He was an extremely kind, generous person. We last spoke in the Appalachian Center a few months ago. He expressed concern and condolences for my family regarding a recent loss, complimenting my parents’ character. I will never forget his encouragement, nor his enthusiastic love for teaching.

– Julia Roach Marshall, administrative assistant, English Language Institute

Jim always made coming to work an adventure. It was always nice to see such a friendly face when walking in the door first thing in the morning. He was one of the kindest people I ever had the pleasure of knowing. His jokes and his unconditional love for everyone he came in contact with will be greatly missed.

– Ashley Livesay, administrative assistant, Department of Social Science

Dr. Baumgardner truly loved Carson-Newman and supported her for many, many years. He not only taught history, but witnessed and was a part of Carson-Newman history for his 51 years. I am especially glad that he found love and happiness with his fiancée, Sandra Yarnell, for the short time they had together. He will be sadly missed by Sandra, his friends and colleagues at Carson-Newman.

– Lisa Hodge, administrative assistant, Education Department

On the Friday morning following Dr. Baumgardner’s death, we opened the second day of faculty workshop with a Psalm and then moved onto to sharing Dr. Baumgardner stories. For 30 minutes faculty shared his impact on their lives, on the lives of students, and the university. What came across was that Dr. Baumgardner represented the best of Carson-Newman. He was passionate about every thing he did. It was easy to see that he was loved by this community and will be greatly missed. I admired him for his determination to continue practicing his passion long after most would have retired. I appreciated the fact that he took the time to come and meet with me this past summer and encourage me to pursue the provost position, and remind me in his own way, “Don’t give us too much more to do because we already have enough.” It seems to me in my short time of knowing him that was his style – honest, frank, and kind.

– Dr. Paul Percy, provost

Dr. Baumgardner was a great professor and person. Every once in a while he would have to pick up a package at the Campus Post Office. Even though I didn’t get to see him much, I always respected him and enjoyed it when he did get to come by. I heard him speak at one of the graduations and he definitely was a man full of wisdom and great values. He will be sadly missed around campus for sure.

– Mary Gatlin, campus post master

The word Baumgardner has a world of meaning to any C-N student of the past half century. Despite his curmudgeonly reputation, he was one of the kindest, most supportive, and funniest human beings I’ve ever known. He will be missed beyond measure.

– Dr. Sandy Long, associate professor of education

For many years Jim and I were often the first to arrive each morning at “the hut”, our affectionate name for the History and Political Science building. We each commuted long miles coming from different directions, me from upper East Tennessee and he from Oliver Springs near Oak Ridge. Regardless of how early I arrived it seemed that Jim always got there first and had a pot of coffee ready. Over a cup of coffee as we got ready for the day we would discuss the news that we had both heard. He always had an opinion about the political news –mostly incredulous exasperation at the doings of the Tennessee legislature and a considered and often expert opinion on national and international affairs. There wasn’t a topic in this area that he was not interested in and knowledgeable about. He had an incredible curiosity about what was going on in the world and was a fierce advocate for civil rights and toleration. His passion about the tragedy of the Vietnam War touched the lives and hearts of several generations of college students. His observations on American foreign policy were often blistering but he had a deep respect and concern for veterans. He made students think about the nature of war and peace. He will be missed. He is, indeed, irreplaceable.

– Dr. Beth Vanlandingham, professor of history

I always appreciated and admired Dr. Baumgardner’s love and commitment to the betterment of this special place.

– Charles Key, director of communications

Jim was one of the first faculty members I met outside the Religion Department when I arrived at C-N in 1995. He was already an institution then since he was a 32-year veteran of the faculty when I joined our ranks. We worked closely together as members of the Center for Baptist Studies Committee, shared similar interests in the study of history, and filled the pulpit for each other at our respective congregations that we pastored.

– Dr. Merrill Hawkins, professor of religion

C-N faculty members knew that a faculty meeting was about to become interesting whenever Dr. Baumgardner rose to ask the President a question. I’ll never forget that deep breath and dramatic pause that preceded each question, questions powerful in substance and in tone. After the pause, he would begin with a slow, deliberate, “Mr. President,” with that unmistakable diction and focused look in his eye.

– Dr. Brian Austin, professor and chair of Philosophy, director of Carson-Newman Honors Program

The grade I earned in Dr. Baumgardner’s class over 30 years ago was the hardest-earned, most satisfying grade I’d ever received. When I would see him, some 30 years later, I always hesitated to approach him, knowing he wouldn’t remember me. Last Wednesday, the 12th, when I saw him “lunching” at The Creek with Sandra, I finally told him that he made American history come alive for me. I’m glad for that moment.

– Bari Wilson, Admissions

In my second year at C-N, I dared to sit in the back corner seat at a faculty meeting. Little did I know that it was Jim’s reserved location for faculty meetings. Needless to say, when Jim showed up, I wound up moving.

– Dr. Mike Seale, associate professor of physics

Jim Baumgardner taught us what it really means to love this University. He taught us to look with a critical eye toward what this University could be, how we sometimes fell short, and how we could do better. But always underneath this criticism was the absolute confidence that this University and our students were worth our very best.

– Dr. Shannon Collins, associate professor of English

From 1964 until I was moved to the Dougherty Science Center in 1972, Jim and I worked together in the same department. He was ALWAYS ready for class, ready to help a student or another faculty member, and insisted upon keeping up with the professional journals and changes in his field. He will be missed by many but especially by his colleagues!

– Dr. Edward Freels, professor emeritus of geography and geology


Dr. Baumgardner’s obituary is available here.

See story featuring Dr. Baumgardner as it appear in the fall/winter 2013 issue of Journey magazine.

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