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University presents highest faculty, staff honors

Pictured left to right: University Provost Jeremy J. Buckner; Kayla Williams, SOAR Award; Dr. Thomas Bass, Distinguished Faculty Award; Hayden Cox, SOAR Award; University President Charles A. Fowler.

Carson-Newman University presented some of its highest awards to faculty and staff during its 55th annual Honors Convocation on April 18.

Those honored during the special event were Dr. Thomas Bass, Hayden Cox and Kayla Williams.

Bass was named the 2024 Distinguished Faculty Member. The honor is the University’s highest recognition of a tenured faculty member who is active within the community and recognized by their peers, students and alumni as an outstanding teacher and mentor.

“Dr. Bass has dedicated the full-measure of his time at Carson-Newman whether in or out of the classroom,” said University Provost Jeremy J. Buckner. “His care and support of students is evident. He balances high expectations with genuine support. While his intellect can be intimidating, his affability and sense of humor are welcoming to others. He is the very model of faculty we celebrate when we honor them as Distinguished Faculty.” 

Bass joined Carson-Newman’s faculty ranks in 1995 after serving as assistant professor of mathematics at Dallas Baptist University. He now serves as chair of Carson-Newman’s Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science. He earned his doctorate from Vanderbilt University and undergraduate degree from Mercer University.

Among his many honors, he was recipient of C-N’s Teaching Excellence and Leadership Award in 2000. Bass is revered by his colleagues for his loyalty, generosity, servant-leadership, and his approach to engaging his students. From overseeing his department to his roles on various committees including Faculty Council and the Undergraduate Academic Programs and Standards Committee, Bass’ commitment to the University is second to none.

“He is well-known for being an excellent math teacher, and the students adore him for his patience, his dedication to their success, and his ultra-dry sense of humor,” said long-time colleague Dr. Shawn O’Hare. “The fact that he has starred on stage during the Homecoming musicals only endears him more to the students.”

Hayden Cox and Kayla Williams are recipients of the 2024 SOAR Award, the highest honor given to staff members. Recipients must have served C-N for at least five years and exhibit passion for furthering the University’s mission, excellence in their job performance, and positivity in their spirit and attitude.

Cox joined the University’s Maintenance staff in 2018. He is not only credited for the quality of work he performs for the University, but for his willingness to always make extra efforts to ensure a campus project is successful. Respected by his peers, he is championed for his selflessness and positivity. One colleague shared, “Hayden is a shining example of what it means to be a hard worker and a kind-hearted individual.”

Williams joined C-N’s Admissions staff in 2015, rising to serve as co-director of Undergraduate Admissions. She is celebrated for her giving spirit, enthusiasm and going out of her way to assist others whether prospective students or departments on campus. Recognized for her effectiveness as an ambassador for the University, Williams is cited for her passion of showcasing why Carson-Newman is a special place to attend.

Other recognitions included: Sammi Simpson, President’s ROTC Award; Eric Thorson, Professor Emeritus of Music; Susan O’Dell Underwood, Professor Emerita of English; Laura Wadlington, Professor Emerita of Psychology.

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