Many-Bears Grinder is commencement speaker for Class of 2016

March 14, 2016

Many-Bears GrinderMany-Bears Grinder, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services, will deliver the commencement address to Maryville College’s Class of 2016 during a ceremony scheduled for 2:30 p.m., Sun., May 15 on the lawn between Anderson Hall and Sutton Science Center.

In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre as a ticketed event, due to limited seating. Others will be able to view the live broadcast in Cooper Athletic Center.

Grinder’s address to the approximately 225 graduating seniors is “Call to Serve,” and the Scripture reading is from Matthew 25: 35-40.

During the ceremony, Grinder will also receive the honorary doctor of public service degree from the 197-year-old liberal arts college.

“At Maryville College we challenge students to ‘dedicate a life of creativity and service to the peoples of the world,’” said Maryville College President Dr. William T. “Tom” Bogart. “Commissioner Grinder exemplifies this ideal, and we are excited to introduce her to our graduates.”

In January 2011, Grinder was appointed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam as the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services (TDVS) – the first woman to serve the State of Tennessee in this capacity. In order to accept the appointment, Grinder retired from the Tennessee Army National Guard as a Colonel with more than 35 years of service. The Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran served in Afghanistan as the Head of Secretariat for the International Police Coordination Board.

As commissioner for the TDVS, Grinder is responsible for the operation of TDVS field offices, appeals division and four state veteran cemeteries. She is also an ex-officio voting member of the Tennessee State Veterans Home Board (TSVHB), which oversees the operations of the four existing homes. Under her leadership, the department focus increased to include “Everything Veteran” to improve customer service to Tennessee veterans. The department has improved claims assistance efficiency through digital claims processing, is now offering online pre-registration for burials at the Tennessee State Veterans Cemeteries and serves as support for Veteran Treatment Courts.  TDVS is making strides regarding higher education access for student veterans with the addition of Veteran Education Coordinators, increased recruiting of veterans for workforce development programs and veteran business resources. 

Grinder, who was inducted into the Fort Benning Hall of Fame in 2004, holds a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College and a master’s degree in human resources development from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.

Grinder is a member of numerous military and veterans associations. In September 2013, United States Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki appointed Grinder to the VA Advisory Committee for Minority Veterans to provide guidance on the needs of minority Veterans regarding health care, rehabilitation benefits, compensation, outreach and other programs administered by VA.  Haslam formed the Governor’s Veterans Education Task Force in November 2013 and appointed Grinder as chair of the group, charged with finding ways to improve recruiting, retaining and supporting student veterans through to graduation. Grinder, who became co-chair of the Nashville Serving Veterans Community Board in January 2016, also serves on the Executive Council for the Tennessee Economic Council for Women as their Middle Tennessee Representative.

A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, Grinder moved to Tennessee in 1989, where she met and married her husband, Ernie Grinder. 

Graduation broadcast live

Streaming video of commencement exercises will be broadcast live. This broadcast will be viewable from the MC website for free and archived on the MC website for a short time. A DVD copy of the ceremony will be available for purchase (more details will be posted on the MC website closer to the event).

Baccalaureate planned for May 14

Vandy KempVandy Kemp, vice president and dean of students at Maryville College, will be this year’s baccalaureate speaker.

The title of her sermon is “Lessons of Love from MC and Me,” and the Scripture reading is from Micah 6:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13.

Held in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre of the Clayton Center for the Arts, the baccalaureate ceremony will begin at 5 p.m., Sat., May 14 and is open to the public.

A native of Virginia, Kemp is a 34-year veteran of secondary and higher education, with experience ranging from high school counseling and administration to college academic support services and senior administration.

She spent a total of 11 years as a high school assistant principal in Sevier County and principal at Heritage High School in Blount County before moving to higher education administration.

At Maryville College, Kemp directed the College’s Denso Learning Center from 1990 until 1999, and she has served as vice president and dean of students since 2004. In her current role, she oversees athletics, residence life, campus security, multicultural affairs, student activities, student health and wellness, Mountain Challenge, volunteer services, judicial affairs and campus ministry. She is a member of the College Cabinet and chairs the Student Life Committee and Student Intervention Team. 

She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and music education from Radford University and a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in educational psychology with educational administration and supervision. She has also completed 34 additional graduate hours in educational administration from UT.

She is a graduate of Leadership Blount and the Harvard Graduate School of Education Institute on Educational Management.

By Chloe Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications

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.