category: Campus News

University to unveil creekside Randall and Kay O’Brien Amphitheater with ribbon cutting ceremony

(Oct. 25, 2021) JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.–Carson-Newman University will hold a 11:15 a.m. ribbon cutting ceremony for the Randall and Kay O’Brien Amphitheater. The event will be during Homecoming, Saturday, Oct. 30 to honor the 22nd University president and his wife.

“Having the opportunity to honor Dr. Randall and Kay O’Brien is truly special,” said Carson-Newman President Charles A. Fowler. “We are thankful for them and have been blessed by their leadership and love for this university. I also recognize that it is upon Dr. O’Brien’s shoulders that I stand. He fulfilled the desire of every effective president. He left the University stronger than when he found it. I pray I do the same.”

The open-air amphitheater accommodates nearly 900 people with the potential for additional seating in the surrounding greenspace. It features tiered seating built into the grassy hillside facing Mossy Creek, sidewalk pavers, and a raised stage area for musical, theatrical, academic and community uses.

“It really signifies a lasting legacy that the O’Briens have left behind that people would want to come together and honor them with something that will provide joy for our students for years to come,” said Assistant Vice President for Advancement Shelly Laux.

Dr. Randall O’Brien retired at the end of 2018 after serving as university president for ten years. Before his tenure at Carson-Newman, O’Brien served as executive vice president and provost at Baylor University.

O’Brien also served as a research scholar at Yale University, research fellow at Oxford University, and pastor or interim pastor of nearly 20 churches. He is a Vietnam War veteran and Bronze Star recipient.

Along with serving as Carson-Newman’s first lady, Kay O’Brien co-founded Carson-Newman’s Women of Vision along with then vice-president of Advancement Vickie Butler in 2011. She served the organization until 2018 to support the Carson-Newman experience by nurturing truth, enhancing beauty and enriching goodness through various improvement projects. 

The Board of Trustees approved the concept for the amphitheater in fall 2018, launching the initiative to find a location and raise funds. The Mossy Creek location was Dr. O’Brien’s first choice after its restoration as a park area in 2017.

“There were a lot of options for locations and also considerations in choosing the best place not to interfere with any potential historical areas,” said Carson-Newman’s Director of Physical Plant and Construction Manager Ondes Webster. “The way the ground was shaped, it seemed to be a great fit.”

Jefferson City’s government officially approved the site in May 2019, and work began to bring it to life that August. The amphitheater was completed in fall 2021. The University plans to add a sound system and restroom facilities in the near future.

The ribbon-cutting is open to the public. The amphitheater is located at the Allen and Phyllis Morgan East Campus on Mossy Creek, at the intersection of Davis St. and Walnut Ave. Parking is limited. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held at Holt Fieldhouse.

Carson-Newman will celebrate Homecoming 2021 on Saturday, Oct. 30. Events are planned throughout the week. A list of Homecoming events can be found at:

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