Nashville event celebrates Bicentennial, commitment to access

Nashville event celebrates Bicentennial, commitment to access

March 7, 2019


Maryville College celebrated 200 years and its ongoing commitment to making education accessible for deserving students during an event held Feb. 26 at the historic Woolworth on 5th in downtown Nashville.

The event was sponsored by Stones River Group, Woolworth on 5th, Lipman Brothers and several alumni and friends, and included a gubernatorial proclamation presented by Judge Brandon Gibson, senior adviser to Gov. Bill Lee.

“It’s an honor to be here tonight,” Gibson said in her remarks. “Some of my favorite people are Maryville College products, so it’s an honor to be here and help you celebrate 200 years.  Noble, grand and true – I think that should be a motto for all of us as Tennesseans. Maryville College does an excellent job setting the stage for doing the right things for the right reasons. So congratulations on 200 years, and here’s to at least 200 more.

“You do not just get a day. You do not just get a week. No, you don’t get just a month,” she continued. “This proclamation from Gov. Bill Lee is hereby proclaiming the year 2019 as ‘Maryville College Bicentennial Year,’ [in the state of Tennessee], and I’m honored to present this to you on behalf of Gov. Bill Lee.”

The evening’s program also included performances by Voices of Praise, Maryville College’s gospel choir; a presentation by Dr. Aaron Astor, associate professor of history, on the College’s commitment to diversity and its education policy “for all races and colors without discrimination;” and an update on Maryville College initiatives by President Dr. Tom Bogart.

Charles Robert Bone, Nashville attorney and one of the investors in Woolworth on 5th, spoke about the historical significance of the building (the site of sit-ins for Civil Rights activists in the 1960s) and the recent restoration work.

A panel discussion on access to education in the 21st century was moderated by Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge W. Neal McBrayer ’86, an alumnus and member of the College’s Board of Directors. Panelists included Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton, Jr., civil rights activist and veteran of the Freedom Riders; Dr. Kathie Shiba, Maryville College professor of psychology and member of the College’s Diversity Action Team; Aaron Solomon ’20, Maryville College junior and president of the College’s Black Student Alliance; Larry Ervin ’97, Maryville College Director of Multicultural Affairs; and Dr. Michael Spalding, founder of Nashville-based Equal Chance for Education.

In opening the evening program, Mark Cate, president of Stones River Group and a former vice president of Maryville College, said he and wife Cathy consider the College their alma mater because of the years they spent on campus and the professional development opportunities given them as young administrators.

Cathy, who is now executive director for Leadership Tennessee, served as assistant dean of students before working for the on-campus outdoor adventure and team building corporation Mountain Challenge, LLC. Their daughters spent their early childhoods on the campus.

“For us, Maryville College holds a very, very special place in our family history, certainly, as well as a special place in our hearts,” Cate said.

Calling the College’s longevity “amazing,” Cate added that the College’s commitment to its founding ideals was just as impressive.

Maryville College was established in 1819 by Rev. Isaac Anderson, a Presbyterian minister who saw a great need for trained ministers and churches in the new frontier. Anderson was a vehement opponent of slavery, and among his earliest students were African-Americans and Cherokee. When Mary Wilson graduated from Maryville College in 1875, she became not just the College’s first alumna, she became the first female to earn a bachelor’s degree from a Tennessee college or university. William H. Franklin, the College’s first African-American graduate, earned a diploma from the College in 1880.

Today, Maryville College serves approximately 1,200 undergraduates and is a nationally-ranked institution known for successfully joining the liberal arts with professional preparation. In its Vision for Diversity, the College details its commitment to build a community comprised of “persons with a variety of interests, backgrounds, beliefs, and nationalities.”

A portion of it reads: “The presence of a diverse educational community provides opportunities to fulfill a commitment to democratic citizenship. Exposure to the ideas, cultures, and values of others enables all members of the learning community to grow intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.”

“I was fortunate to be [Chief of Staff] in Governor [Bill] Haslam’s Office, and we did a lot of work on the Tennessee Promise and the opportunity for students to have access to higher education in some form,” he said. “Some of that was a focus on career technical education. Certainly, there is a need for that. But there is clearly a need – probably more than ever – for a commitment to liberal arts education.”

The Feb. 26 event was attended by numerous alumni, parents and friends of the College. Several other celebrations and initiatives marking the milestone year are planned throughout 2019.

More information can be found on the College’s website.

Written by Karen Beaty Eldridge ’94, Executive Director for Marketing and Communications

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”