April 21, 2003
When J. Ben Wicker II arrived as a freshman on the Maryville College campus in 1999, he didn’t know what he wanted to major in. He didn’t have concrete plans for a career. He couldn’t articulate the concept of a liberal arts education.
He knew less about the term “Renaissance Man.”
What Wicker knew was that he wanted to make a name for himself in the college community of 1,000 students.
“At a large high school, it’s hard to stand out,” said Wicker, a 1999 graduate of Farragut High School. “I was involved in high school, but I was a leader in only a couple of areas: my high school band and Scouts. But I wanted to stand out here [at Maryville].”
Wicker has met that goal, and proof lies in his nomination as a finalist for the College’s Outstanding Senior Award. Along with four other seniors, Wicker was introduced and applauded for his academic and co-curricular achievements during the College’s annual Academic Awards Ceremony held April 12.
Established by the Maryville College Alumni Association in 1974, the Outstanding Senior Award recognizes those students “whose overall record of academic achievement and participation in extracurricular activities stands out as most exemplary.”
Only those students with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 are considered for nomination.
Ben Wicker will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in business and organization management. He has taken the required number of courses for a minor in outdoor recreation. Graduate school and an advanced degree in student affairs or college administration are among his plans for the near future; ultimately, he would like to become a dean of students at Maryville College or at a similar liberal arts college.
“For me, college was a chance to change who I was,” Wicker explained. “To facilitate that kind of change for other students and help with that process would be very gratifying.”
Wicker’s own leadership experience with numerous student organizations and college initiatives certainly gives him a leg-up in his career goals. His time at Maryville has included four years in the Student Government Association, four years in Student Foundation, three years as a Peer Mentor to freshman classes, two years as a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society for leadership, and two years as a residence hall assistant.
Wicker was selected to represent students in the Window of Opportunity strategic planning process, which set goals for the College into the year 2007. Well-liked and well-respected among his peers, he was crowned Homecoming King during a 2002 football game, and last year, he was elected president of the Class of 2003.
Maryville College is known to challenge its students academically, spiritually and socially, but Wicker has, perhaps, pushed the boundaries of his comfort zone more than his fellow classmates. He intentionally and constantly sought the “total college experience.”
The Knoxville native continued his musical interests in the Maryville College Community Concert Band, but he also decided to join the College’s gospel choir, Voices of Praise, because of the group’s spiritual nature and the opportunity to sing music that was “so heartfelt, so soulful.”
He has been on the staff of all three student publications – the yearbook, the campus newspaper and the College’s literary magazine. During the summer of 2001, he ventured west to volunteer at national parks with other students participating in the Maryville Outdoor Outreach Service Experience (MOOSE).
As a finalist for the Outstanding Senior Award, Wicker wrote an essay that was submitted to the award selection committee. In it, he said: “The people who have coordinated and facilitated these activities have influenced and encouraged me to pursue the field of college student affairs. The amount of encouragement and support that I have received from so many people has been a confidence booster in my ambition to pursue my goals.”
Wicker is a first-generation college student. He decided he would pursue a college degree about the same time he met a Maryville College student working with him at a national Boy Scout jamboree. Wicker said Brian Gossett, a fellow Eagle Scout and then-MC student, was enthusiastic about his school.
During the college search process, Wicker found out that his test scores and GPA made him eligible for several scholarships at Maryville. He earned a Dean’s Scholarship, which paid half of his tuition, and he also earned a music scholarship because of his band involvement. Through his mother’s employment with Saks, Inc., Wicker earned an additional scholarship.
He said he’s appreciative of the emotional and financial support of his parents, Fred and Delores Wicker of Knoxville. The business major is leaving Maryville College with no loans to pay back.
He’s leaving Maryville College a little sad for the community he’ll miss but confident that he can become a citizen-leader in many other communities.
And considering all that he has learned and all that he has experienced, Ben Wicker is leaving Maryville College a different person – a Renaissance Man.
Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state‘s third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester was 1,168.