Jack Neely is commencement speaker for 2019

Jack Neely is commencement speaker for 2019 

April 8, 2019 

Jack NeelyJack Neely, journalist, author and lecturer, will deliver the commencement address to Maryville College’s Class of 2019 during a ceremony scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Sat., May 4 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 or at home through live stream. Details are listed on the Maryville College website.

Neely’s address to the approximately 260 graduating seniors is “Maryville College at 200: An American Rarity,” and the Scripture reading is from Proverbs 24: 3-4.

During the ceremony, Neely also will receive the honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the 200-year-old liberal arts college.

“Our emphasis in celebrating the Bicentennial of Maryville College has been to tell stories, both to educate people about its role in the history of the region and to inspire them to emulate their predecessors,” said Maryville College President Tom Bogart. “Jack Neely has spent his life collecting and telling stories about this region, including extensive work on the history of Maryville College. I can’t think of a better combination of person and timing and I look forward to the stories that he brings to commencement.”

Neely is the executive director of the Knoxville History Project (KHP), an educational nonprofit whose mission is to research and promote the history of Knoxville. KHP was the largest supporter of the Knoxville Mercury, an independent newspaper that worked to promote better understanding of the city of Knoxville and its history and culture. The last issue was published in 2017 but continues an online presence.

Neely graduated from the University of Tennessee, where he studied American history, and started working as an Egyptian museum tour guide at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville. Later, he was a criminal defense investigator for a law firm and an assistant editor for a national nonfiction magazine.

Neely is known as a Knoxville journalist with a particular interest in the city’s unique culture and heritage, described in his columns, “Secret History” and “The Scruffy Citizen.” He has written several books about Knoxville and its history, including: The Tennessee Theatre: A Grand Entertainment Palace (2015); Knoxville, Tennessee: Green by Nature (2014); Market Square: A History of the Most Democratic Place on Earth (2nd ed., 2011) and Knoxville, Tennessee: This Obscure Prismatic City (2009).

Neely has visited the Maryville College campus on several occasions, delivering lectures on everything from regional literature to the concept of Appalachia. He also wrote the bulk of the Maryville College Founding Story. He received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Best Sportswriter Award for a 2008 feature in Metro Pulse about Maryville College alumnus Kin Takahashi.

Baccalaureate planned for May 4

Randy LambertRandy Lambert ’76, who recently retired from a nearly 40-year career as head coach of the Maryville College men’s basketball team, will be this year’s baccalaureate speaker.

The title of his sermon is “Success and Significance” and the Scripture reading is from Matthew 5: 13-16.

Held in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre, the baccalaureate ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., Sat., May 4 and is open to the public.

Lambert, who now serves Maryville College as the Athletics Campaign Coordinator, concluded his 39th and final season directing the Maryville College basketball program. A Maryville College graduate who was a member of the Scots basketball team, Lambert began his first season as head coach of the Scots in 1980 after three successful years at Lenoir City (Tenn.) High School.

With 722 career victories, Lambert is one of the most successful NCAA Division III coaches. He finished his career ranked fourth in the country among active head coaches in career victories. Among all-time Division III coaches, Lambert is ranked eighth in total victories and 25th across NCAA Division III by winning percentage. He ranks 42nd all-time across all divisions with 722 wins, passing John Wooden’s 664 win total in 2016-17. Backed by its consistency in winning and its up-tempo style of play, his program was considered one of the best in the nation. His career record is 722-325 for a winning percentage of .689.

Lambert and his wife, Laney, have three children — Kami, Jason Lambert ’08 and Wes Lambert ’12 – and four grandchildren.

“For the past few years, we have asked students to suggest potential Baccalaureate speakers,” Bogart said. “Those suggestions have identified campus leaders who have an influence well beyond their individual contacts with students. Randy Lambert is a Maryville College alumnus and legendary head basketball coach, but even more than that, he is a respected leader in this community. I feel certain that his message will be both inspiring and memorable for our students.”

(Photo of Jack Neely by Kellie Crye Ward)

Jack Neely

(Photo of Jack Neely by Kellie Crye Ward)


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 2018 semester is 1,154.