Category: News

News about activities of importance to Johnson University.


Smith named seventh president of JU

Tommy Smith

Knoxville — Today in a ceremony at Alumni Memorial Chapel, Johnson University Board of Trustees Chairman L. D. Campbell announced that Tommy Smith has been named the president-elect of the Johnson University System.

Smith, JU’s current Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs, will be installed into office July 1, 2018 upon the retirement of current JU President Gary Weedman.

“Dr. Smith was an obvious choice for our board of trustees,” Campbell said.

He said Smith embodies the values and beliefs of the university

According to University Media Relations, Smith served Johnson University as a Professor of History from 1989-2012, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences from 2012-2014 and Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs since 2014.

In a statement of acceptance from Smith, he wrote “When the Board of Trustees extended the invitation to me to become the seventh president of Johnson University, I replied by stating, ‘There are many who love Johnson University as much as I do, but no one loves Johnson any more than me. I am humbled and honored to accept.’”

Smith said he has  invested the past 28 years of his life in this institution.

“I know much about the past of this school, have had a hand in shaping the present, and am so grateful that the trustees have given me opportunity to lead Johnson into the future,” Smith said.

Smith will have a year to prepare for his new role.

“I will have a full year of preparation for my work, and there will be more appropriate times to discuss specific plans, but I want to affirm from the beginning of this transition my commitment to the mission and core values of Johnson University,” he said. “I fully support the Third Way, Great Commission Mandate ‘to educate students for Christian ministries and other strategic vocations framed by the Great Commission in order to extend the kingdom of God among all nations.’”

Smith holds a B.A. degree from Johnson University, a M.A.R. in Church History from Emmanuel Christian Seminary, and a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Tennessee.

“He has held preaching, associate, youth, and worship ministries in East Tennessee and has engaged in several interim preaching ministries, seeking to assist churches during important transitional periods,” his official university bio says.

Smith is also the author of Above Every Other Desire: A Centennial History of Johnson Bible College.

He and his wife Debbie have two sons, Jacob and Joshua, and six grandchildren.

Weedman announced his retirement to the JU board Feb. 21. and the JU faculty and staff May 8.

Weedman was named president July 1, 2007.


Click here for more information about the president-elect.


Weedman announces retirement

KNOXVILLE — Johnson University President Gary Weedman announced to faculty and staff Monday that he will retire from the presidency of Johnson University at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.

His retirement will be effective June 30, 2018.

“Throughout Dr. Weedman’s tenure as president, Johnson University has experienced tremendous growth in enrollment, academic programs and facilities,” a statement released by the university said. “Next year will mark Dr. Weedman’s 11th year as president, 50th year in Christian higher education and his 75th birthday.”

The statement says Weedman informed the trustees of his decision in February.

“It is no small challenge to find a successor of Dr. Weedman’s caliber, and we covet your prayers during the presidential search,” JU Board of Trustee Chairman L.D. Campbell said in an open letter. ”

Weedman told faculty and staff that he will stay connected to the university in some capacity.

“Institutions, especially those favored by God, endure as resilient entities,” he said in his letter and told faculty and staff.  “No one person or persons prove to be indispensable. So, I do not worry about the future of Johnson University. God will continue to bless the school as it stays true to its mission.”

Weedman has long touted the quality of Johnson University.

“I will have occasion later to reflect on the past 11 years,” Weedman wrote in an open letter. “I have emphasized throughout that we are a 10-Talent School because of the faithful service of our predecessors and an outpouring of God’s blessings.

“We have tried to use the results of their good work to educate students to help extend the kingdom of God among all nations. It has been a joy to see God expand these efforts beyond our imagination,” he added.

The statement from the university says that the board of trustees has begun a presidential search.


Sequoyah Hills is home to historic, tranquil park

KNOXVILLE— The city of Knoxville is home to a rich history and places to visit. Among the historical places that make Knoxville unique, there is a tranquil park that has earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the heart of the city, Talahi Park is located along the west side of Cherokee Boulevard in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood.

Sequoyah Hills was named after Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee alphabet.

Sequoyah Hills is known as one of the earliest neighborhoods in the city developed by E.V. Ferrell in 1925.

In 1926, Robert L. Foust  purchased land adjacent to Ferrell’s Sequoyah Hills and began developing what is known today as Talahi Park.

The word, Talahi, a Cherokee expression for “In the Oaks.” The name of the park was originally “Old Papoose Park” to honor the Cherokee tribes that once inhabited the land. Each monumental structure contained some reminder of the legend of the Cherokee Indians.

Foust’s plan included concrete streets, two fountains, Sunhouse and Panther and Papoose park. According to Foust’s promotional brochure, it was the “Most aesthetically designed subdivision that Knoxville had ever seen.”

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Through the years the park has fell victim to time and nature. The park is currently undergoing restoration.

Chairwoman of the Beautification and Preservation Committee, Melinda Ethier, said that the first phase of the restoration project has already been completed.

“There are really three phases of the restoration,” she said.”The first phase has been completed and that would be Papoose park. It was becoming dangerous—giant trees had fallen on the fence and destroyed the iron work and concrete columns.

Ethier described the second and third phase as being more complex and costly because it involves the restoration of Sunhouse and Panther Fountains, along with other landscaping projects.

“The plumbing system for both fountains has never been replaced, so it is virtually 90 years old,” she said. “Because it is on city property,we have to go by all the codes, which is good because we will have up to date, top of the line equipment.

” We will have all the stuff that will hopefully keep it running another 100 years,” Ethier added.

The Kingston Pike-Sequoyah Hills Association, Beautification and Preservation Committee was awarded a $30,000  state grant for the restoration of Sunhouse Fountain. In addition, a generous Sequoyah Hills resident pledged $50,000 for the project.

The original design of Sunhouse Fountain included 12 brass frogs, of a Cherokee design, that were placed around the rim of the fountain through which water was directed toward the center. The location of the frogs today, is a mystery.

Clark Stewart, a Sequoyah Hills resident and retired professor from the School of Art at UT, designed a new mold for the frogs.

Stewart was able to examine an old photograph of the original frog and determined the exact dimensions. He then proceeded to make a model of the frog out of polymer clay.

“The hardest part was getting the model for the frog and it’s fabulous,” she said. “We don’t know what happened to any of the originals[brass frogs]. We think they may have been taken off during the war effort.”

As of now, the restoration of Panther fountain will be a more costly project due to the deterioration and structures that must be recreated. There is no funding currently set aside for this project.

There are a few Cherokee Myths that are unique to the theme of the park. Topping the entrance piers is a spider with its feet on the earth holding the fire it has received.

According to the brochure, the legend is that a long time ago there was no fire on earth and the world was cold. Men held a council to decide how to get fire from the “Man of Fire” who lived nearest the sun across great waters.

After many failed attempts from several creatures including a raven, owl and snake, the water spider was the only creature that could successfully run on top of water and reach the “Man of Fire.”

The legend says that the spider took a coal of fire from his hand and came back to earth. On the way the spider got attacked and the fire fell down into the earth where it remains to this day.

Because of this belief the Cherokees worshipped the water spider for the warmth and light she brought to the land.

The legend of the water spider is only one of many legends that can be uncovered in the design of the park. Other legends include “The Nest of the Tlanuwa” and “The Legend of the Underground Panther.”

There are plenty of symbols represented throughout the park that are genuine to the Cherokee theme and legends.

The park is located in close proximity to the University of Tennessee and UT Medical Center and features a scenic view of the Tennessee River. Foust’s vision for Talahi  was an escape for the elite.

In the foreword of the brochure it states, “To those home lovers, then, who insist upon and can afford the best, Talahi is dedicated.”

Today that vision continues as the park is enjoyed by residents and non-residents as a place to escape the city life to relax in a more tranquil environment.



Director of Counseling Center, Emily Eisenhart shares advice of how to manage finals stress

KNOXVILLE—On Friday, Emily Eisenhart, director of the university’s counseling center,was interviewed over the topic of how stress can affect students and how students can cope and manage this stress.

“It’s finding that balance…from finding positive ways of relieving stress such as reaching out to family or friends to have someone to debrief with or just to get off campus, and then sometimes food isn’t the best option though,” Eisenhart said.

When asked about how the UCC can serve students dealing with finals stress, Eisenhart answers the question with,”We’re definitely up here, when you come up here you don’t have to commit if you just need some support.

“It’s the end of the semester, you’re thinking about getting out of the dorms, summer plans, yet you’re in the in-between stage of being almost done, yet these grades for finals may be a lot heavier than the other grades during the semester,” she added.

Eisenhart advises students to manage their schedules and food intake wisely during finals week.

“Finals week may be that week to pull back from some of the other activities going on outside of academics,” she said. “Make sure you’re eating, but limiting the sugar and caffeine intake, usually that gives a surge of energy and then you’ll get a crash that has the reverse effect.”

Eisenhart also stresses the importance of taking a brief break from studying.

“Movement can be really important, breaks are too. Taking 60-90 minute study times and then a 10-20 minute break is good,” she said. “Going for a walk and listening to music is a way that lets the mind take a rest from the stimulation it has gone through with studying.”

Eisenhart adds that taking a break to be on your phone isn’t helping your mind because it is still stimulating the brain. Lastly, she advises students on how to cope with anxiety.

“If anxiety is what is keeping you from studying the first thing is to not ignore it. Take a moment to figure out what you need to do to take care of yourself, so you can focus without trying to fight anxiety,” she said.

If you need to reach the University Counseling Center, their number is 865-251-2217, and they are open from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. The UCC is located in Myrtle Hall directly behind the Gally Commons.


Class election results are in!

KNOXVILLE— On Tuesday, students cast their vote for the nominees of the class officer elections. Below are the results for the 2017-2018 officers.

For the upcoming sophomores, their officers are:
Samantha Duncan as class president and Mallory Galloway as secretary.

The upcoming junior officers are:
Clay Merriman as president, Yeni Martinez as vice president, Jeannie Hood as secretary and finally Domanic Hildebrand as treasurer.

Now for the upcoming seniors, we have Marley Jones as president, Amanda Welch as vice president, Emily Beamon as secretary and finally Barak Frederickson as treasurer.


From inner city life to inner city work

KNOXVILLE — Beginning in the fall, Thomas Davis Jr., a senior at Johnson University, majoring in Journalism and Digital Mass Media, will begin working with the Knoxville Fellows.

“We are very excited for Thomas to be coming into our program,” Rick Khulman, Director of Knoxville Fellows, said.

Davis will remain with Knoxville Fellows for one year.

Knoxville Fellows is a Christian organization located in downtown Knoxville.

There are multiple components to the program, living on site: Which includes partaking in community service, touring and visiting other Fellows from neighboring cities.

The Fellows work Monday through Thursday at the site while they are pursuing their graduate degrees.

Davis currently works with a radio station and hopes to stay with them throughout his Fellows experience, but he said he has also considered working with Emerald Youth in their communications program.

The last component is the master’s program. Davis will continue to take classes in pursuing a higher education.

“We are looking for servant leaders, and I think Thomas really brings that,” Khulman said. “He also brings a different life experience. In fact, we look at that in all our Fellows. We want very different types of people with different life experiences. He also has a willingness to be all in.”

Khulman said when they go through the interview process to choose the Fellows, they look for somebody that is going to be devoted to the program. Khulman said the reason for this is because there is a lot to do.

“There are a lot of things to attend, and studying, and service, and work,” he said. “It’s easy to start out with great motives, but then to stay the whole time. We think Thomas has that desire and passion to stay with us and to really add a lot to the program.”

The Knoxville Fellows’ main mission is to help the inner city.

Davis moved to inner city Knoxville after his seventh grade year in school. His father is African-American and his mother is Caucasian. Davis’s mother raised him after his parents separated.

Davis said he felt like he “became a statistic” of African-American fathers not being in their sons’ lives.

Davis said his mom was always there though.

“She was my angel,” Davis said.

Davis mother, Sandy Knight, is a registered nurse. They developed a very close relationship through the years.

“I’m a momma’s boy,” he said.

When Davis was accepted into the Fellows program, Knight said she was “so excited and proud of him, because it’s a big accomplishment for him to be able to graduate from school and then go on to better his education.”

Having grown up in the inner city, Davis  said he feels his experiences will help him better understand the needs of those in similar circumstances. The Fellows program should give him this chance.

“What we hope will happen, is that Thomas will go back and he will be known by the people that he grew up with and that he can go and tell them the experience that he has gone through in our program and hopefully create an excitement in that community for more people to get involved,” Khulman said.

Davis said he believes the move into inner city Knoxville helped mold who he is today.

“I am able to see what life is made for now,” he said.

Knight said she has seen the growth Davis has experienced while at Johnson.

“When he initially began school he was on the younger side,” Knight said. “As school went on, and him being at Johnson, he learned more about Christ and how to let himself go and believe and have faith that pushed him along through all these years.”

Fourteen students participate in the Knoxville Fellows each year.

Caylee Carter, a 2016 graduate of JUTN, is currently in the program.

“We are looking for someone with a proven track record of success,” Khulman said. “We look for someone that has the academic capability to take our classes. We look for someone who will be an important part of the community.”

The program also offers mentors, prayer groups and other facilities that help the Fellows reach their full spiritual abilities.

“This will be a chance to learn about myself and be around other Christian people, like here at Johnson, but more interactive,” Davis Jr. said.

This is accomplished through a series of retreats, classes, and a whole bunch of different activities and opportunities.

“While Thomas is here we hope he will develop a love for our city, we hope he will learn more about who God created him to be, and we hope that he will know more of what God’s plan for his life is,” Khulman said. “The key is Thomas’ attitude. Thomas has a very positive attitude, he’s got a willingness.”

Davis said he feels blessed to have risen above his situation by meeting difficulties with endurance.

“My biggest passion that I have, my biggest gift that I’ve been blessed with by God, is resiliency,” Davis said. “I have been able to fight through a lot of things that I have been through, throughout my life.

“God blessed me, in choosing me to be able to get out of that situation [inner city life]. To go out and get my college degree and on to a masters’ program,” he added.

Knight said she is most excited to see her son succeed and be happy in life. She believes this program will help him in that.


Internationals find community in Knoxville

It’s warm out, the sun is shining and there is a nice breeze. The sidewalks and roads are busy and people are happily going about their days. Everything is full of life and color.

But as you look around you realize that you don’t understand what anyone is saying. You can’t read the street signs and you don’t know how to ask for help. You’re an outsider, without a community. You’re alone on a city street full of people.

This is what Carol Waldo experienced when she lived in Singapore, and what many refugees and immigrants experience every day here in Knoxville.

For Waldo it was especially difficult.

“I’m an extrovert and I was isolated, even in a city-country of  four and a half million people I felt alone,” she said, “We were expats, so our company provided our housing and our work and so forth, and we had all of our needs met, except for the socialization.”


Carol Waldo welcoming students to Culture Class at West Park Baptist Church.

Living in Singapore for her was difficult, she didn’t speak the language, she didn’t know the culture and she could not socialize. But eventually she was connected with a local church that was able to teach her these things.

Singapore was not going to be her forever home and Waldo said eventually God called her family back to Knoxville.

Waldo said, “When we came back to Knoxville I really wrestled with God and asked ‘Why did you take me and show me all of this and bring me back to Knoxville?'” she said. “That made no sense to me and I had reverse culture shock.”

Waldo said her time in Singapore changed her.

“When you go overseas you expect things to be different, but when you come back you expect things to be the same,” she said. “But you’re different.”

Waldo went on to say that she had this emptiness in her heart, this need for something more.

“Then I got involved with being an encourager in an ESL class,” she said. “And God burdened my heart that He’s bringing the nations here.”

Waldo said she realized she could help refugees who are coming to Knoxville.

“How he (God) provided for me when I was adapting to the culture in Singapore, now I had the opportunity to welcome the nations to Knoxville who don’t know how to navigate the employment, who are refugees that come here with just the clothes on their back and their passport.” Waldo said, “Knowing that they don’t know how to navigate the housing system, the health care system, the language, God gave me a burden for them.”

In 2011 Waldo began to work for Knoxville International Network. KIN works to rally the body of Christ in Knoxville to welcome internationals to Knoxville. Their ultimate goal is to see the nations become one city; many nations and one family.

Waldo works with many organizations through KIN, helping to teach international people and refugees the English language, and helping them with the new culture that they’re experiencing.

“The official language of Singapore was English, but the majority spoke Chinese, and I struggled adapting.” Waldo said, “I wouldn’t answer my cellphone because I couldn’t understand the accent, and it took me several months to be able to adapt to that.”

Waldo says that because her experience, she is now able to train others to help refugees.

“I’m able to train our volunteers when they complain saying, ‘Well, I called them and they wouldn’t answer my calls.'” she said. “[I tell them] text them, because then they have a translator, or email them because it’s very challenging, especially with an East Tennessee accent.”

Waldo said she fields a variety of complaints from people who are trying to serve the refugee community.

She went on to say that she often had to explain that many refugees do not understand some sayings such as ‘a quarter till four’, therefore one must use more common terminology when talking with refugees.

Waldo said that she enjoys welcoming these foreigners into our land, but also teaching others how to welcome and interact with these people as well.

Waldo said she enjoys watching internationals come in who are afraid or won’t speak very much, change to be more sociable and comfortable enough in their environment to ask for help outside of the classroom setting.

Waldo said that this is what they are really working toward in KIN; getting internationals to interact with the community and become confident in themselves.

Waldo said that much of working with the internationals isn’t necessarily evangelizing, but just helping them survive.

“We seek to come along side as friends, that they would not only survive in this new homeland but they would thrive, and they would find hope, dignity and purpose, and really their purpose in Christ and why he brought them here,” she said. “You have to truly love your neighbor.”

“Whether or not they come to love and accept Jesus Christ as their savior, will you love them? I think that’s the mandate that God gives us. That we will love them no matter what,” she said.


Culture Class at West Park Baptist Church, with students from Germany, Jordan, Arabia, and Mali.

You walk into a church building, you still can’t speak the language fluently, and you worry constantly about how others will perceive you. But you walk into this church and are met with smiling faces, many of them not your own nationality, but it’s OK, because they are your community.

You are no longer alone in a city of one hundred eighty thousand.


Graduation approaches for Johnson community; JUTN student prepares for transition

KNOXVILLE — For graduating seniors and their families, commencement is a time of celebration, remembrance and recognition of accomplishments.  For university faculty and staff, it is a time to say goodbye to another class. 

“It [graduation] is one of the biggest events for Johnson University each year,” Andrew Frazier, JU associate registrar said. “And, it is the culminating moment for each of our students who [have] worked so hard to reach the completion of their degrees.”

This year, JUTN’s commencement ceremony is slated for 3 p.m., April 29, at The Sevierville Convention Center, located at 202 Gists Creek Rd, Sevierville, Tennessee, 37876.

Students who are participating in the ceremony should arrive at 1 p.m.

“We are excited to be back for our second year at The Sevierville Convention Center, which is a wonderful venue that continues to give us room to grow as we graduate more and more students each year,” Frazier said.

Rehearsal for the ceremony is set for 2 p.m., April 28, in the Phillips-Welshimer Gymnasium. Graduating seniors and faculty are asked to attend.

Following rehearsal, Gary and Janis Weedman are hosting a graduate reception at 3:30 p.m. at the White House. Immediate family of graduates are invited to this event as well.

“It truly is a joy to get to work together with almost every office in bringing about a successful and memorable graduation for our students,” Frazier said.

Two hundred and fifty-four students are participating in the commencement ceremony, including students from the JU Tennessee campus, online students and ExtendEd students. Eight students will receive associate degrees, 179 students will receive bachelor’s degrees, 62 students will receive master’s degrees, and five students will receive doctoral degrees.

The graduation keynote speaker is Ken Mahanes, the vice president for religious life, and the special adviser to the president, at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Senior Class President Tyler Davis will also make remarks.

Written Report: Abbey Whitaker

Video Report: Thomas Davis Jr.