Leadership Blount will move to MC campus

Aug. 5, 2003

Leadership Blount County Inc. will soon call the Maryville College campus home.

During Leadership Blount’s opening reception for the Class of 2004 Monday at Two Rivers Pavilion, executive director Carolyn Forster announced that staff members for the leadership enhancement and development program are expected to be operating out of the College’s Alexander House before Christmas.

“ When Leadership Blount learned a few months ago that we would have to find a new home, we almost panicked,” she said. “We had no idea where we could move, so we sent out a plea to all of our alums to help us look [for available space].

“ Fortunately, because of our relationship with Maryville College and our Youth Leadership program, [Maryville College Vice President for Advancement and Admissions] Mark Cate suggested that we meet to discuss the possibility of expanding that relationship. The rest, as they say, will soon be history.”

Leadership Blount has operated out of the former Union Planters Bank building for more than 10 years. Ruby Tuesday purchased the building earlier this year but allowed the organization to stay in the building until the end of August. Forster said Ron Ivens, a local realtor, has generously offered temporary office space at 282 Cherokee Professional Park; Leadership Blount will work from there August until December.

According to Forster, the move to Alexander House will mean more space – “like a gift from above,” she said, as Leadership Blount recently hired another staff person.

“ We are also excited about the location,” the director said. “Maryville College is such a valuable asset to our community, and we are so pleased to be able to partner with the College in providing leadership resources to our community.

“ The benefits to Leadership Blount are a wonderful location with close ties to an exceptional educational facility,” she added, “but we hope Maryville College will also realize long-term benefits from our association.”

Building on a solid relationship

According to Cate, the College’s partnering with Leadership Blount in this capacity makes perfect sense.

“ If you look at the College’s mission and commitment to the liberal arts, the education offered here [at Maryville College] is focused on the preparation of citizen-leaders,” Cate said. “Obviously, we’re very interested in promoting and supporting leadership development among our students and in the wider community.”

Established in 1990, Leadership Blount serves to identify, train and motivate individual citizens in community service. By selecting participants with diverse backgrounds and both established and potential community leaders, the organization seeks to provide a large number of well-trained, highly motivated citizens to assume leadership roles in civic, educational, economic development, cultural and philanthropic organizations and groups.

Leadership Blount already uses some of the resources of the campus, including using facilities for meeting space and participating in the Mountain Challenge program. With Leadership Blount on the MC campus, Cate said the College hopes to build on an already solid relationship.

“ Our hope is that the resources we have – be they human, physical or intellectual – can help this program to grow. We strongly support and believe in its mission,” he said, adding that the College stands to gain from the partnership, as well. “Leadership Blount is a model program for many communities, and we believe students interested in community development initiatives and non-profit work will benefit from interning and volunteering with the staff there in Alexander House.”

House under renovation

Alexander House, a nearly 100-year-old structure located at 714 Hillside Avenue on the edge of campus, is currently under renovation. The house offers approximately 4,000 square feet; the College’s plans are to designate the lower level for Leadership Blount offices and the upper level for College Advancement offices.

Work completed in the next four months will include re-building the interior walls, refinishing the hardwood floors and installing new carpet, plumbing, electric and HVAC systems. Extensive exterior improvements are planned, as well. Joseph Construction has been hired as contractor.

“ As a College, we identified the space we needed to accommodate our people and programs, and it wasn’t available on campus,” Cate explained. “Running the numbers, we saw that it was more cost effective to renovate a vacant building than build a new structure.”

A historic home

Another factor in the decision to renovate Alexander House, Cate said, was its historical tie to the College. Built in 1906, the Colonial Revival-influenced residence was home to the Rev. John Alexander, an alumnus (Class of 1887) and 50-year member of the College’s Board of Directors, and his wife, Jane Bancroft Smith Alexander, who taught English and history at Maryville College for more than 30 years.

In 1989, Alexander House was put on the National Register of Historic Places, and unlike the College’s other buildings placed on the Register because of their architectural features, Alexander House was chosen for inclusion because of its inhabitants and their cultural contributions to Blount County.

When Mrs. Alexander died in 1938, her obituary printed in the Maryville Times described Alexander House as “a center of culture and fine Christian zeal for the best in all fields of thought and endeavor.”

Jane Alexander’s sisters, Anna B. “Belle” Smith and Elizabeth Judson Smith, both lived on the Alexander House property and from the home and small studio located nearby, hosted numerous students, speakers and clubs, including the Chilhowee Club.

Belle Smith was an accomplished artist who headed the College’s art department from 1915 until 1921 and also taught in the local elementary schools. Along with her sister Jane, she is credited with helping to organize the Maryville Public Library.

Also a lover of books, Elizabeth Smith served as librarian at MC from 1918 until 1924 and ran a private elementary school on High and Lamar streets.

Following the death of the Alexander couple and Smith sisters, college faculty and staff used the home as a private residence until the late 1990s. When Fayerweather Hall caught fire and was razed in 1999, the College’s business services and human resources offices relocated to Alexander House and operated there until the new Fayerweather Hall was completed.

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 offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.