Tusculum University raising funds to create endowed scholarships for two distinguished faculty and staff members

GREENEVILLETusculum University is raising funds to create endowed scholarships in memory of two well-established and respected figures at the higher education institution who positively impacted students.

Ron Conley

Ron Conley

The Office of Institutional Advancement is working with Tusculum’s College of Science, Technology and Mathematics and family members of Ron Conley, a faculty member for 30 years, who retired in 2013 as associate professor of mathematics, to establish the scholarship in his name.

Institutional Advancement is also coordinating with an anonymous donor to enact a scholarship in the name of Marion Edens, a 1932 Tusculum graduate, who coached several teams served as athletic director and worked in admission at the university.

“Both of these gentlemen made a profound difference in the lives of students,” said Edward Roberts, vice president of institutional advancement. “We are honored to support the development of these endowed scholarships and encourage individuals to impact our students with a gift in memory of these distinguished members of the Tusculum family. The donations will transform students’ lives and put them on the path to being career-ready professionals.”

To achieve endowed status, a scholarship needs to have $25,000 raised. Edwards said Tusculum has received generous donations for both proposed scholarships but still has a way to go before they are fully funded.

During his years at Tusculum, Conley served as chair of the Mathematics Department and was a member of numerous governance committees, search committees and task forces. After his passing in 2023, many alumni who were his students reflected positively on the way his teaching and support helped them in his classes. He was a Marine Corps aviator, achieving the rank of captain, and a business owner in eastern North Carolina before joining the Tusculum faculty. In the summer of 2023, seven months after his passing, Tusculum remembered Conley by planting a tree near the Old College building.

Dr. Heather Henson-Ramsey, dean of the College of Science, Technology and Mathematics, said the endowment would enable Tusculum to present an annual scholarship to a Greene County student, preferably a junior or senior, who is one of the top finishers in the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Association competition held annually at Tusculum.

She said Conley played a part in the competition each year and said the scholarship would be an excellent way to honor his role in that event and his lengthy service to Tusculum. The scholarship represents a great opportunity for a high-achieving student to attend the university with financial assistance, she said.

The scholarship would be contingent on the recipient choosing to enroll at Tusculum. Dr. Henson-Ramsey and Kim Carter, Tusculum’s chemical hygiene officer, Environmental Protection Agency coordinator and lab assistant and one of Conley’s former students, have worked with the family on the scholarship.

Albert Conley, one of Ron Conley’s four children, said the family is grateful for the effort to create the endowed scholarship, He said it confirms the respect people had for his father.

“This is a tangible gesture,” Albert Conley said. “Dad was there for the students. He took a personal interest in each student to help that person achieve his or her maximum potential, whether that was a student struggling with remedial math, a pre-med student trying to pass physics or an adult student trying to improve their current life position. He spent countless hours, even beyond classroom hours and his posted office hours, working with students to make sure they understood the concepts and could apply them to the material at hand.

“He was especially noted for his ‘practical math’ approach as he applied concepts to everyday situations. Students would often return to Tusculum to visit with Dad and thank him for the outsized impact his teaching and mentoring had on their career and life trajectory.

“Hopefully, this scholarship will continue Dad’s legacy of assisting and enabling students to attend Tusculum and in achieving their goals.”

Marion Edens

Marion Edens

Edens earned letters on the Pioneer football team from 1929-1932. His last two seasons included a 6-1-1 team in 1931 and a 5-2 finish in 1932. He later served as Tusculum’s athletic director while also serving as head football coach in 1946, men’s basketball head coach from 1942-1944 and 1946-1947 and head baseball coach in 1947. In 1983, Edens was inducted into the Tusculum Sports Hall of Fame.

But Edens’ influence on Tusculum came from more than just athletics. He recruited many students to Tusculum as a leader in the Office of Admission and helped make sure they had the financial support to attend the university. In an alumni news item from 2014, the university shared a story from Commander John Redden, U.S. Navy retired and a 1965 Tusculum alum.

Redden said he called Edens about a week before he was scheduled to start classes to say he would not be able to attend Tusculum due to finances. In spite of the tight time frame, Edens came through with a $500 scholarship through his local Presbyterian church. Redden’s 2 1/2 years at Tusculum qualified him to enter flight training in the Navy, which led to his career as a carrier pilot. He told Tusculum he would not have achieved his childhood dream of flying off carriers if a very dedicated director of admission had not taken the time to make it happen.

“I will always honor Mr. Edens and Tusculum for the opportunities that the college opened to me,” Redden said.

Redden was not alone. When the late Walter Johnson, a 1970 alumnus and member of Tusculum’s Board of Trustees, received an honorary Doctor of Science in 2021, he shared during his remarks that Edens had loaned his personal money to him to cover tuition.

According to the book “Tusculum College Tennessee” by Frank T. Wheeler, published in 2000 by Arcadia Publishing, Edens was granted an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from the university in 1975. Earlier in his life, he served in the Navy during World War II.

Dr. David Bow, professor of sport science and a former coach and athletic director who has served at Tusculum for 47 years, had a few interactions with Edens. He recalled a few amusing stories Edens shared about Edens’ time as the basketball coach.

One was about the aftermath of a basketball game Tusculum won by one point against Carson-Newman University. The two teams were eating together following the game, and the Carson-Newman coach was insisting his team actually won the game, though the official record showed otherwise. The other was about a game played at Lincoln Memorial University, which had installed a new gym floor over the old one but had not raised the baskets. The baskets were 6 inches lower from the floor than they should have been, but the two teams went ahead with the game.

Edwards said the effort to pursue an endowed scholarship in recognition of Edens developed from the anonymous donor’s suggestion. When the donor was a child, he knew Edens. The donor said Edens was well accepted in the community.

To donate to the Conley scholarship, please visit https://giving.tusculum.edu/the-ronald-conley-memorial-scholarship-fund. To support the Edens scholarship, please visit https://giving.tusculum.edu/the-marion-edens-scholarship-challenge. For more information, please email Roberts at eroberts@tusculum.edu or Cheryl Fehl, senior director of grants and development, at cfehl@tusculum.edu or call 423-636-7303.

More information about the university is available at www.tusculum.edu.