KNOXVILLE – In the words of President Tommy Smith, “This has been a year of celebration.” At the end of his first year in office Smith feels like he has accomplished a few of the goals he walked in with.
Among those goals was: being a student friendly president, putting an emphasis on athletics, math and science, and getting the ARC finished while working on the strategic plan of the university.
In regard to his first goal of being a student friendly president, Smith said that he wanted to make as many events student oriented as possible. He also said that he wanted to be an accessible president to the students.
“I want students to know that they can come talk to me,” Smith said. “I may not always do what they want me to do, but I will be glad to listen and really hear their concerns.”
His second goal of putting an emphasis on athletics, math and science Has also been successful, according to Smith. The ARC is almost finished and will open in mid-May and Smith and First Lady Debbie Smith have also been to a lot of athletic events this year. The university has hired a new math professor, according to Provost Jon Weatherly, and is also in the process of hiring a new chemistry professor.
Weatherly said that former President Gary Weedman “crystalised” the idea of a Third Way institution that Smith has embodied well and carried on in. Weatherly is glad that Smith is putting an emphasis on math and science, and says that he hopes the progress that is being made in those fields will boost enrollment and the intellectual diversity of the student body. Weatherly hopes that the addition of new resources to these fields will increase overall student awareness and ability within these fields.
“We have all heard the jokes about Johnson math,” Weatherly said. “But soon those jokes won’t add up. It will quickly become inappropriate to say ‘I can’t answer that because I go to Johnson and I can’t do math’. It will be ‘I go to Johnson, I have friends that do math.”
Weatherly also says that he is happy with the current state of the faculty and how they have continued to progress this year. He also pointed out that professors go through the same challenges everyone does, and he hopes that they realize that they are loved and supported by everybody at Johnson.
“Those kinds of experiences continue to transform them to better teachers in the regard that they become more mature exemplars of genuine Christian faith,” Weatherly said.
In regard to Smith’s third goal, the ARC will be open on May 19, and the administration is working on the new master plan for the future of the university. He says in the years to come the focus will be on deferred maintenance that needs to be done. He also says they are talking about what the next big project will be, which he says could be transforming the gym in the PW to an 1100 seat chapel.
Freshman Drew Algate says that he feels he has been adequately challenged academically this year but ultimately loves the “uncommon community” of Johnson. Junior Micah Magee says that he concurs with Algate.
“Junior year was the most challenging year,” Magee said. “It was a great semester. I finished up my last semester of Greek…yeet! I loved the culture of the dorms. It’s something that I’m not going to have next semester, so I have been trying to take it all in.”
Smith ultimately says that chapel has been good, student morale is up and that he is encouraged by the success of the capital campaign so far. He has plans for a busy summer, but is excited for what next year will bring.