Dr. Carolyn Blair was a key figure not only in Anderson Hall, but in the life of the College.
Her tenure at the College began as Assistant Professor of English in 1948. She hailed from Leeds, Ala., and earned her bachelor’s degree from what is now the University of Montevallo in 1943. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1948 and would later complete her doctorate from UT.
Considered one of the finest professors to ever work at Maryville College, she taught numerous courses in the major – topics ranging from freshman honors English to Shakespeare. Nineteenth-Century British literature was her first love, but being the inquisitive, creative scholar she was, she challenged herself with courses such as the history of drama and children’s literature.
In the classroom, her students were awestruck by her energy, mastery of the material and interest in … them. Twice, Maryville’s student body voted her “Most Outstanding Teacher.”
During her career, she served on faculty committees on curriculum and personnel standards and served on the Faculty Liaison Committee to the Board of Directors. From 1972 until 1978, she served as Dean of the College (the official now known as the “Vice President and Dean”). She was the first woman to hold that title at the College and the first female academic dean among institutions in the Mid-Appalachian College Consortium.
She chaired the Department of Languages and Literature from 1978 until her retirement in 1987.
In 1991, Carolyn Blair was back on campus to accept the Maryville College Medallion. The first faculty member honored with the College’s highest award, she met more than one of the award’s criteria: exemplary service to Maryville College, outstanding service to her community and church, a prominence and leadership in her chosen profession or career.
One of her greatest contributions to the College was the co-authoring of By Faith Endowed: The Story of Maryville College with Dr. Arda Walker, published in 1994. This history book is an invaluable, nearly daily resource for administrators at the College.
Her last years were spent in Alabama, but colleagues and former students fondly remember her Maryville residence on Miller Avenue. Neighbors remember a “traffic jam” of cars in front of Dr. Blair’s house every Homecoming and Alumni Weekend.
Americans describe people like Carolyn Blair as legends, but the British have a different expression to convey the meaning of “legendary” or something that will happen only once: a one-off. Joan Worley, former Maryville College librarian and a neighbor of Dr. Blair’s, explained this in a letter to Paul Blair following the death of his sister, in 2007.
Ms. Worley wrote: “Carolyn was a one-off, and I can only give thanks that I had the good fortune to know her.” Countless students concurred.