Shirley Carr Clowney is commencement speaker for Class of 2018

Shirley Carr Clowney is commencement speaker for Class of 2018 

March 27, 2018

Shirley Carr Clowney ’58, a civil rights advocate, community leader, author and historian, will deliver the commencement address to Maryville College’s Class of 2018 during a ceremony scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Sun., May 20 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. Details are listed on the Maryville College website.

Clowney’s address to the approximately 230 graduating seniors is “Rise Up,” and the Scripture reading is from Daniel 3.

During the ceremony, Clowney also will receive the honorary doctor of public service degree from the 199-year-old liberal arts college.

“Shirley Carr Clowney is one of the first Maryville College people I met, and she is one of the most impressive,” said Maryville College President Dr. Tom Bogart. “Her record as a pioneer, educator, author and community leader exemplifies the Maryville College mission to prepare students who will ‘dedicate a life of creativity and service to the peoples of the world.’ She is a perfect person to both inspire and challenge this year’s graduates.”

A native of Alcoa, Tenn., Clowney enrolled at Maryville College in the fall of 1954, just a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school segregation and the Maryville College Board of Directors resumed its earlier policy of integration. Clowney was among “the Maryville Six,” six modern-day black students at Maryville College – including Nancy Smith Wright ’60, Freeman Wyche ’58, Queen Elizabeth Crossing ’58, Louise Hill-Gilmore ’58 and Leo Valentine ’58 – to reintegrate the College that year. She was also one of the first four black women to attend Maryville College.

Clowney later transferred to Tennessee State University to finish her bachelor’s degree, and after graduation, she moved to New Jersey, where she taught for 28 years. She also attended Rutgers University.

In 1992, she returned to Blount County, where she has been active in numerous local organizations. Her activities and service include: president of the Blount County Genealogical and Historical Society, member of the board of directors for the Blount County Historical Museum, member of the Leadership Blount Class of 2003 and chair of the Education Committee of the Blount County Anti-Racism Task Force, which implemented a support line to be used by students who have been bullied, harassed or treated unfairly.

After she returned to Blount County, Clowney became aware of the missing early history of many African-Americans in the area, and she has spent much of her retirement researching, recording and preserving local black history.

In 2003, she co-founded the African-Americans of Appalachia and Blount County (AAABC), an organization dedicated to compiling artifacts, photographs and information on African-Americans who have made contributions in areas ranging from education to economics. As executive director of AAABC, she is called upon by churches, schools and organizations to share historical information that she researched. Her exhibits have been in the Blount County Public Library and many local schools. One is a traveling exhibit, “Black Inventors and Inventions,” which has been shown in New Jersey and Knoxville. In 1995, she co-chaired the publication of The History of Blount County and its People: 1795-1995.

She also has collaborated with Maryville College faculty members on an oral history project to encourage student involvement in local black history.

Clowney has been honored by the Tennessee Human Rights Commission for her work as a civil rights advocate. She was one of the first 10 recipients of the 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Advocate honor, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant impact in their local communities and across the state of Tennessee.

In 2008, she helped bring attention to the first six black students to reintegrate Maryville College. She worked with former Maryville College President Gerald Gibson to have a plaque installed and dedicated in their honor, 50 years after the students’ original class graduated. The plaque hangs in Anderson Hall.

In 2017, Clowney published Our Place in Time: Blacks in Blount County, a pictorial history chronicling the contributions of blacks in the county.

She and her husband, Cato, live in Maryville.

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 $20 and can be purchased online.

Baccalaureate Planned for May 20

Dr. Terry Simpson, professor of secondary education and director of teacher education at Maryville College, will be this year’s baccalaureate speaker.

The title of his sermon is “When God Opens the Door, the Status Quo is Shaken,” and the Scripture reading is from Acts 16:6-10; 19-24.

Held in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre, the baccalaureate ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., Sun., May 20 and is open to the public.

Simpson, who holds degrees from the University of Tennessee, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Texas A & M University (formerly East Texas State University), has taught secondary education at Maryville College since 1990. He is retiring at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.

He has served as the director of teacher education since 2001, and he was chair of the Division of Education from 1998 until 2012. In 1996, 2002 and 2007, he received Maryville College’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. To date, he is the only MC faculty member to have been selected for the honor three times by juniors and seniors.

In 2000, Simpson was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholar award to serve as a lecturer at the University of Tartu in Estonia, where he taught Instructional Strategies for Secondary Teachers and Education, as well as Social Issues in Education in the United States. In 2002, he received a Fulbright Senior Specialists grant, which allowed him to work with the Saudi Ministry of Education in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

From 2008 until 2012, he served as the director of the East Tennessee Math/Science Partnership Grant, which was funded by the United States Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Education with the goal of improving math and science instruction, as well as student test scores.

Simpson has served on multiple committees at the College during his tenure. He has also advocated for education at the state level, serving on several committees and advisory boards. He was a member of the implementation working group for meeting Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) standards for the Tennessee State Department of Education. Maryville College was chosen as one of five higher education institutions for the inaugural Network for Education Preparation Partnerships in 2016-2017.


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 2017 semester is 1,181.