Maryville College celebrates Bicentennial at Clayton Center

Maryville College celebrates Bicentennial at Clayton Center

Oct. 19, 2019 

As Maryville College’s “Alma Mater” played, orange and garnet balloons dropped from the ceiling, capping off a lively celebration of the College’s 200th birthday.

Hundreds of alumni, faculty, staff and friends of Maryville College gathered in the Clayton Center for Arts for the Founder’s Day and Bicentennial Celebration on Oct. 19 – the College’s actual founding date in 1819.

 “We have an incredible history, but I believe that Maryville College’s best days still lie ahead,” Maryville College President Tom Bogart said. “I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to serve as your president, especially at such an exciting time. I think you will agree that we are off to a great start for the next 200 years and beyond.”

The evening began with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails – including a signature cocktail called “The Highlander,” served in a souvenir glass – while attendees visited various locations throughout the Clayton Center to experience learning opportunities and entertainment. There were archival exhibits, photo displays and historical choral music recordings, as well as performances by members of the instrumental ensemble MC3Band, vocal ensemble Off Kilter and the Maryville College Theatre Department, which presented a portion of the production, “Take Me Home,” written by Diamond Cronan ’21.

City of Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor ’70, who served as the master of ceremonies for the Bicentennial Showcase, welcomed attendees in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre, after piper Kelly Shipe performed “Highland Cathedral.”

“On this day – Oct. 19 – exactly 200 years ago, the Synod of Tennessee adopted a plan for the Southern and Western Theological Seminary, and a day later, the Synod elected the Rev. Isaac Anderson as the seminary’s Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology – its only instructor,” Taylor said. “From a class of five students that first fall in 1819, the College closed out its first century with more than 400 undergraduates enrolled. It had survived poverty, fires, wars and attempts to move it elsewhere. It had graduated the Scots-Irish of the Southern Appalachians but also African Americans, international students and women – achievements that peer institutions wouldn’t celebrate for decades. And, Maryville had developed a reputation as a progressive, first-rate college accessible to deserving students and committed to sending out graduates who would make a positive difference in the world.”

Introducing a video of archival footage, Taylor talked about the years after 1919.

“Closing out its second century, Maryville College has experienced not only tremendous growth in student populations, but also growth in faculty and staff numbers and expertise, curricular offerings, physical spaces and extracurricular programs,” Taylor continued. “Its reputation as a progressive, forward-thinking institution has continued to grow.”

Off Kilter, the College’s select vocal ensemble, performed “People Are the Key,” by award-winning composer Paul John Rudoi. The piece was commissioned for the Bicentennial, after choir alumni organized a fundraiser for the special composition. The piece debuted earlier that day, during the Maryville College Homecoming Choir concert. Soloists during the evening performance included Hannah White ’18, vocalist; Kelty Oringderff ’21, violin; Amber Nejme-Hatmaker ’16, bodhran; and Cole Senn ‘21, guitar.

Wayne Kramer ’74, co-chair of the Bicentennial Steering Committee and former chairman of the College’s Board of Directors, recognized the contributions of his committee co-chair, Dr. Gerald Gibson. Gibson, president emeritus, led the College from 1993 until 2010 and was president during the College’s 175th anniversary. Kramer also recognized the members of the steering committee, which include Bogart and Taylor, as well as Dr. Carl Gombert, professor of art; Dr. Drew Crain, professor of biology; Cole Piper ’68, executive-in-residence for the University of Tennessee’s Retail and Consumer Sciences department; Suzy Booker, vice president for institutional advancement; Sue van Aken ’83, retired administrator of the Franklin Township (N.J.) Recreation Department; Nichole Johnson McCord ’02, Title I teacher with Blount County Schools; and the Rev. Dr. Anne McKee, campus minister.

Kramer recognized the numerous sponsors who have supported Bicentennial projects throughout the year, including premier sponsors Clayton Homes, DENSO Manufacturing of Tennessee, Cole Piper ’68 and West Chevrolet.

Kramer also introduced videos of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. Both were unable to make it to the celebration but wanted to send their congratulations.

Lane Shuler, a nationally touring spoken word poet, presented a performance, titled “Forever to Thee.”

The Bicentennial Mosaic, comprised of 5,000 photos submitted by Maryville College alumni and friends, was presented by Marcia Rethwilm ’89, MC Alumni Association President, and Dr. Mary Kay Sullivan, chair of Maryville College’s Board of Directors. The commemorative piece of artwork will be installed permanently on campus so it can be enjoyed for years to come.

The event also included the premiere of the Bicentennial video. The three-minute video, produced by Loch & Key Productions, celebrates the past, present and future of the College.

Before Off Kilter took the stage to perform the Alma Mater, Bogart concluded the program.

“When we set out, the main goals for the Bicentennial were for more people to know about Maryville College, realize and celebrate the College’s influence in the region and support the important work happening on campus and beyond,” he said. “Well, all I can say is, ‘mission accomplished!’

In addition to city, county and state proclamations, the College has carried out almost 40 bicentennial-themed events and projects since January 2019. In February, Gov. Bill Lee proclaimed the year 2019 as the “Maryville College Bicentennial Year” in Tennessee.

“We’ve done everything from trail hikes covering the same territory as Rev. Isaac Anderson to a college preparation activity book distributed to every second grader in Blount County; from a monthly interview-style podcast called ‘Chilhowee Chats’ to receptions and galas where we have highlighted our dedicated faculty and staff and the impressive students pursuing their studies and dreams here at Maryville College,” Bogart said.

Looking to the future, Bogart cited the College’s strategic plan that was recently approved by the Board of Directors. He said the College is committed to addressing five strategic imperatives outlined in the plan: empowering students and graduates through transformative education; living our mission as a community and in our community; accelerating change through operational excellence; investing in people, resources and infrastructure; and building financial resources for resilience and growth.

Examples shared included online education, evaluating course offerings and new majors and programs, and fundraising for campus improvements.

The president highlighted several areas in which the College has already made progress: themed residential communities; grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against Women to fund important programs; continued success with the Maryville College Works program; a new Partnership Advisory Council to cultivate strong partnerships; a healthy endowment and investment pool; and a strong student retention rate.

“For two centuries, Maryville College has reinvented itself in order to serve its core values in changing times,” Bogart said. “As we look ahead, we recognize the need for our next moment of reinvention, capitalizing on what we do uniquely and well, while addressing the challenges we face. We look to position Maryville College as the preferred choice for students who are a good match to come, flourish, launch and contribute to the world. In this age of continuous learning and rapidly evolving digital tools, we seek to find new ways to serve the educational needs of people at many stages of their educational journeys.

“Looking inward, we aim to attain new levels of operational excellence, developing and using our resources wisely to create maximum impact,” the president continued. “Looking outward, we aim to attain new levels of relevance in our larger communities, serving as a catalyst for constructive change, and inviting your partnership in advancing the larger economic and civic agenda of our region.”

At the end of the night, a commemorative gift was given to attendees as they departed: a Maryville College pennant pin that was designed specifically for the Bicentennial Celebration. It was inspired by a pin belonging to John Patton Brown, Class of 1906, from Philadelphia. 

(Note: Check the Maryville College website in the coming weeks for video of the event!)


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.”