Archive | February, 2007

Oliver Thomas

Niswonger Foundation Executive Director to address K-12 education issues in March 13 lecture

Posted on 27 February 2007 by

Oliver ThomasHow can schools meet the challenge of educating students to be successful in a world that promises to be far different than the one their elders have known?

That question will be the focus of a lecture by Oliver ‘Buzz’ Thomas on Tuesday, March 13, at Tusculum College. Thomas, executive director of the Niswonger Foundation, will present “Preparing Students for Life on Another Planet: K-12 Education for the 21st Century” at 7 p.m. in the Chalmers Conference Center in the Niswonger Commons on the Tusculum campus. The event is part of Tusculum College Arts Outreach’s Acts, Arts, Academia 2007 performance and lecture series.

Education is at the focal point of Thomas’s role at the Niswonger Foundation and of the mission of the foundation itself. Prior to coming to the Niswonger Foundation, Thomas served as a minister, attorney, author, teacher and community leader in his multi-faceted career.

As a minister, he served churches in Tennessee and Louisiana. Thomas’ interest in charitable work is rooted in his experiences as an inner-city youth minister in the Irish Channel of New Orleans. He earned a Master of Divinity from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he also graduated first in his class and was chosen as the school’s outstanding divinity student.

As an attorney, Thomas has experience practicing at every level of state and federal courts including the U.S. Supreme Court. His clients have included the National Council of Churches, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Children’s Defense Fund. He has appeared as an expert witness before the Judiciary Committees of the United States Congress several times. Thomas is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Tennessee where he graduated first in his class, and he received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee College of Law where he was Order of the Coif. Thomas earned his Master of Law from the University of Virginia.

As an educator, he was an instructor of First Amendment law at Georgetown University Law Center. Thomas has also lectured at such universities as Harvard and Notre Dame. More recently, he was a member of the Maryville Board of Education, serving three years as chairman. Thomas has also provided training to teachers and administrators from more than five hundred school districts from North Carolina to California.

As an author, Thomas co-authored The Right to Religious Liberty and Finding Common Ground, the First Amendment handbook endorsed by the Department of Education and used in many of the nation’s public schools. His articles have appeared in a variety of national publications, and he is a regular contributor to USA Today. Thomas has also been a guest commentator for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, C-Span, and National Public Radio.

Thomas’s columns have at times provoked national discussion and been referenced in national media forums and on talk radio.

Next month, Thomas’s book “10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can’t Because He Needs the Job)” will be published in hardcover by St. Martin’s Press. It is already listed for pre-order on

Admission to the lecture is $6. For more information, contact Tusculum College Acts Outreach at (423) 798-1620 or visit its Web site at

The Acts, Arts, Academia series is presented by Tusculum College Arts Outreach and supported by Dr. Sam Miller in memory of Mary Agnes Ault Miller, Society of Cicero, Hearts for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Arts Outreach.

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Power of Five group

Tusculum College Service-Learning class helps CDMS eighth graders learn the ‘Power of Five’

Posted on 26 February 2007 by

Power of Five groupMembers of a service-learning class from Tusculum College have recently taught eighth graders at Chuckey-Doak Middle School (CDMS) about ways to help themselves have a healthy and successful future.

The Tusculum students spent a week working with the Chuckey-Doak eighth graders to teach them about the principles at the center of “The Power of Five” program, which was developed by the national America’s Promise organization in conjunction with Weekly Reader.

The “Power of Five” encourages young people ages 11 to 14 to fulfill a modified version of the five promises central to the America’s Promise program’s efforts to strengthen communities to enable youth to lead successful lives. Tusculum is a College of Promise and CDMS is a School of Promise in the local Greeneville/Greene County’s Promise organization, a program of the Volunteer Center.

During the past week, the Tusculum students, members of a service-learning class taught by Robin Fife, assistant professor of social science at the college, visited the eighth grade classes to teach four of the five promises. The Tusculum students involved the eighth graders in such interactive activities as role-playing skits, art projects, and open discussions to teach them about the importance for children to have a caring adult as part of their lives, the value of having a safe place to go after school, the significance of learning marketable skills, and the benefits of good nutrition and exercise.

The week’s activities culminated on Monday (Feb. 26) with a special presentation by both the Tusculum students and eighth graders about the week’s activities and what the CDMS students had learned. Participating in the presentation were Chuckey-Doak students Stafania Collins, Ashley Gill, Natalie Guzman, April Hooper, April King, Brook McCamis, Natasha Parker, Alexis Penley, Kaylee Proffitt, and Ruby Townsend. The Tusculum students included Gala Barrentine, Cheyenne Casteel, Bryant Cook, Cerene Eddo, Aubrey Furster, Cody Greene, Ronnie Harris, Josh Hinkle, Seth Lady, Ross Lewis, Wesley Spurgen, and Cody Wiggin.

Attending the presentation were representatives from the Volunteer Center, Tusculum, Chuckey-Doak, and the Greeneville-Greene County Community Ministries. Mary Fitzpatrick, director of the Volunteer Center, and Dr. Kim Estep, provost and academic vice president at Tusculum, spoke briefly to the students.

Ross Lewis, speaking on behalf of the Tusculum students, thanked the Chuckey-Doak eighth graders for welcoming the college students into their classes, giving them their respectful attention and participating in the activities. Fife also thanked the students, their teachers, and the CDMS administration for allowing the college to come and work with them in the Power of Five program.

While the Tusculum students taught the eighth graders the first four promises, the fifth one involved the Chuckey-Doak students taking the initiative. This promise involves giving back to the community through service, and the eighth graders conducted a canned food drive to benefit the Food Bank operated by the Greeneville-Greene County Communities. The students collected several hundred cans of food, which was accepted during the presentation by Carol Thornburg from the Food Bank.

Thornburg thanked the students for their efforts, noting that the Food Bank relies on volunteers daily to be able to provide food and other assistance to families who find themselves in situations in which they need help with their basic needs.

Students in LeAnn Myers homeroom at Chuckey-Doak collected the most cans, 288, and were rewarded with a ‘healthy party’ hosted by the Tusculum students.

Service-learning classes have been involved in Power of Five projects in local schools since the fall of 2002, and their efforts have been featured in publications of the America’s Promise organization.

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Families given FAFSA aid during special event

Posted on 26 February 2007 by

college_goal_pic.jpgThe computer lab in Tusculum College’s Virginia Hall was busy Sunday afternoon as the College hosted College Goal Sunday, an event that provided help in filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form required for students at any college or university who apply for federal financial aid.

A team of Tusculum College Admission and Financial Aid staffers, along with volunteers from other departments of the College, helped a total of 15 families complete their FAFSAs.

Some FAFSAs were submitted on the spot via the Internet. Students planning to attend any College were welcomed during the two-hour event. Originally scheduled for Feb. 18, the event was delayed by one week because of bad weather on the 18th, though some families came on the 18th despite the closure and were given FAFSA help by College staffers who had come by just in case someone showed up

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Reading group honorees

Hal Henard students honored at Tusculum College game for reading achievements

Posted on 25 February 2007 by

Reading group honoreesSeveral students from Greeneville’s Hal Henard Elementary School who excelled in the “Slam Dunk Reading Program” held in recent weeks at the school were honored for their achievement during a recent Tusculum College basketball game.

The students also earned an in-school party for themselves and their classmates. TC’s basketball players have lent support to the reading program as a community project. Hal Henard educator Ron Fields led the project at the elementary school.

The Hal Henard students who attended the basketball game are shown in the front row. They are, from left, Mack Mathis, Kelsey Leng, Mindy Neas, Sydne Stephens, Zoe Bowman and Marc Bowman. Standing behind them are members of the Tusculum College Pioneer basketball squads. They are, from left, Tyler White, Eric Williams, Chris Poore, Brooke Underwood and Diana Neves.

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Winners of creative writing competition at Tusculum College announced

Posted on 20 February 2007 by

owens_awards2.jpgTusculum College students Becca Friddle, Anup Kaphle, and Eliza Land are the 2007 winners of the Curtis and Billie Belcher Owens Literary Prize creative writing competition at the state’s oldest institution of higher education.

The winners of the competition were announced on Feb. 15 during the fifth annual English Department Extravaganza, an event hosted by the English Department for its majors. The English Department coordinates the annual Owens creative writing competition. This year’s English Department Extravaganza event, which had a Mardi Gras theme, also provided information about English student organizations and upcoming course offerings.

Friddle, a senior from Honea Path, S.C., was the winner in the fiction category with her story, “He Said, She Said.” This was the first submission in the competition for Friddle, who is majoring in English literature with a minor in writing. She is a managing editor of the Tusculum Review, the college’s literary magazine, and a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. Friddle is a member of the Tusculum Women’s Golf Team.

Kaphle, an international student from Katmandu, Nepal, was the winner in the poetry category for his poems, “Baghdad,” “Katmandu, 2027,” “Brothel in Bombay,” “Night, Trekking Down Tatopani,” and “Coup d’etat.” Kaphle, a senior majoring in English writing with a minor in journalism, is editor of The Pioneer Frontier student newspaper and worked last summer as an intern for Newsweek. He also attended the prestigious Bard Program for Globalization in International Affairs last summer. This is the third time that Kaphle has placed in the competition, previously earning honors for poetry and fiction.

Land, a senior from Greeneville, was the winner in the nonfiction category for her essay, “Calling It Home.” Land, who is majoring in English writing with a minor in journalism, is a Trustee Scholar, the president of the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society, a tutor, and Student Support Services mentor. Last year, she served as managing editor of the Tusculum Review, and editor of The Pioneer Frontier. Land won an honorable mention in the competition last year for her poetry.

The Curtis and Billie Belcher Owens Literary Prize was established in 1995 by Professor Curtis Owens, a 1928 graduate of Tusculum, and his wife. At Tusculum, Owens played football, debated, won a special award for philosophy, two awards for poetry, wrote the class poem for the 1928 annual, and wrote a play presented as part of commencement. After graduation, he began a career in education, serving as a school principal in eastern Kentucky where he was noted for his drama productions and later as a professor of English and speech at Pace Institute in New York City, now Pace University. Although Professor Owens and his wife are both now deceased, the prize continues to recognize their long-standing commitment to Tusculum by providing for the annual competition among students and a monetary prize to the winners.

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