Tusculum College presented Verna June Eshelman Meen the Distinguished Service Award during the annual Tusculum College President’s Dinner on Friday, May 17. She was recognized for her service and support of Tusculum College.
Tusculum President Dr. Nancy B. Moody and Dr. Kenneth A. Bowman, chair of the Board of Trustees and 1970 alumnus of the college, presented the award.
The Distinguished Service Award is given to an individual or individuals who have a history of outstanding support of Tusculum College. The award is presented at the President’s Dinner, which honors the college’s major donors.
A pioneer from the start, Meen was born in Indiana with a strong sense of how education could change a person’s life. At a time when few women attended college, Meen set her sights on earning an accounting degree at Indiana University.
With $80 and a merit scholarship, she set out to finance her education. Meen worked her way through school, earning top marks. She worked hard, eventually graduating in just two and two-thirds years. Following graduation, she was highly recruited, receiving three job offers before even earning her degree. Of the offers, she was most interested in one from Eastman Chemical Company, which she knew to be a good company. She accepted and found herself transplanted to East Tennessee.
Still a pioneer, as not many women were working in professional fields in that day, she also purchased land, designed the house she would live in to the present day and paid for its construction. She was independent and a woman of her own means.
She met Dr. Ron Meen early in her years at Eastman. The two shared a life together that included summer trips to Canada, reading on the back deck and taking boat rides on Muskoka Lake. Their marriage lasted until his death in 2008.
In 2012, she gifted Tusculum College with $3.875 million to name the planned math and science facility the Ronald H. and Verna June Meen Center for Science and Math as a way to honor her beloved husband. Dr. Meen worked for Eastman Chemical Company and held numerous patents for chemical compounds developed for the company.
“Through her generosity, Mrs. Meen has chosen to create a living memorial to her husband at Tusculum College that will have a significant impact on the education of Tusculum students,” said Dr. Moody. “She is an amazing person in her own right, and the gift she has given will impact the lives of thousands of students for many, many years to come.”