Carson-Newman makes Fowler 23rd president

Carson-Newman University celebrated the inauguration of its 23rd president, Dr. Charles A. Fowler, middle, on Friday. Presenting the University’s Presidential Medallion are 22nd president J. Randall O’Brien, left, and 21st president James S. Netherton, right.

A new era of Carson-Newman University began Friday.

Dr. Charles A. Fowler was inaugurated as the 23rd president of the university in a ceremony at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City that last almost two and a half hours.

But, Fowler, just after being presented the President’s Medallion by former presidents J. Randall O’Brien and James S. Netherton remained humble, giving the glory to God.

“With thanksgiving, I declare that God is the hero of today and he will be the hero of our future,” he said.

Fowler was named the university’s president in June after an extensive search and received a unanimous vote from the university’s Presidential Search Committee.

He had served as senior pastor of Germantown Baptist Church in West Tennessee since 2010 and also has served as senior vice president of University Relations at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He also served in several roles at Union University.

He holds degrees from Union University, Mississippi State University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Friday’s service, however, served as a welcome to the university’s newest president.

More than 40 delegates from other academic institutions attended the event, along with faculty, staff and retired faculty.

Dignitary after dignitary came to the podium to welcome Fowler to the university.

Those who welcomed him included state Rep. Jeremy Faison, Jefferson City Manager John Johnson and Jefferson County Mayor Mark Potts.

Fowler delivered a 40-minute speech that delved into the future of the university. He detailed his “Five Pillars of Purpose.”

Several initiatives announced included:

• Strengthening the partnership with the Tennessee Baptist Association.

• An institutional assessment of mission focus and fidelity.

• Research and development of an economic model that would contain new revenue models that would subsidize away from the tuition-based model.

• Programming within campus ministries to provide students with practical experience in ministry and missions.

• Defining themselves as a missional learning and confessionally driven community.

The ceremony saw singing and prayers for the new president as he begins his path at the Baptist university.

Carson-Newman Board of Trustees Chairman Harry Brooks welcomed Fowler, along with all the dignitaries and officials who attended the event.

He told a story about how he first met Fowler and knew right away he would “like him.” He said Fowler showed up to speak with him wearing a plaid shirt and jeans.

“There was no pomp and circumstance with him,” he said.

Fowler referenced past presidents in his speech, looking back in history, and referencing their roles in the past during turbulent and changing times.

But, in the end, his speech pointed toward the future of the university.

“My intent through this address is not to articulate a definitive vision for each strategic step we take in the future, but rather provide a framework upon which a definitive vision will take shape,” Fowler said. “A vision that will inspire us, challenge us and move us into God’s preferred future for Carson-Newman University.”