Carson-Newman University named Dr. Charles A. Fowler as the 23rd president Monday afternoon during a press conference held at Ted Russell Hall.
Fowler succeeds Dr. Randall O’Brien, who retired last year. Fowler will take over as the top executive of the 168-year-old Baptist institution on July 1.
“It’s an honor to stand before you today,” Fowler said during his introductory speech. “It’s been one of the most incredible, joyful journeys that has brought us to this occasion. I have never felt more honored and humbled to become a part of this community.”
Fowler comes to Carson-Newman after serving as senior pastor of Germantown Baptist Church in Memphis since 2010. Prior to that, he worked for 15 years at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee in various roles including senior vice president of university relations, vice president of enrollment management, vice president of development and professor of Christian ministries and education.
Fowler holds a bachelor’s degree from Union University and received his master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Mississippi State University.
He grew up in Mississippi, but said he is looking forward to doing God’s work at the Christian university.
“My family and I are looking so forward to joining the people of East Tennessee, to be a part of educating students right here, but to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
His wife Sandra, who was his college sweetheart, was in attendance, along with his daughter Sarah. Fowler said he also has another daughter, Anna, who is married to a soldier in the U.S. Army. He also has an 18-month-old grandson, Charlie.
He said he and his wife plan to be ingrained into the community.
“We want to become an East Tennessean,” he said. “We want to become a part of the Carson-Newman family. We want to be part of a legacy that will be long lasting and bring great honor to our Father.”
Dr. David Ogle, chairman of the university’s Presidential Search Committee, started the press conference about how the search began with 10 possible candidates. But by the end, the decision was clear to offer the position to Fowler, he said..
Ogle said they wanted someone who wanted to be a “fundraiser” and “friendraiser” who had an entrepreneurial spirit with innovative ideas in a changing college system.
“As the search committee got to know this man and his wonderful wife, we realized he had all those traits I just mentioned,” Ogle said. “We had long discussions about all that is Carson-Newman. He gets it.”
Harry Brooks, chairman of Carson-Newman’s Board of Trustees, also offered praise on the selection.
“Dr. Charles Fowler is one of those rare individuals who life experiences are a perfect fit for our institution,” he said. “His experiences in academic development and external relations will help propel Carson-Newman toward a bright future of growth and expanded programs of study.”
Fowler said he plans on being innovative and driven to create new revenue streams to push the college forward into the future.
As the press conference ended, he also revealed another important attribute as head of Carson-Newman. He is a diehard football fan.
“I ring my cowbell proudly, I am from Mississippi State, even though we don’t win a lot of games,” he said, as the crowd laughed.
But, he said he looked forward to attending Carson-Newman football games in the fall, as well as watching the other sports. He said he knows about Carson-Newman’s football history.
He concluded the press conference on a light hearted note.
“I’m a great coach sitting in the stands or on the sofa,” he said, laughing. “If the coaches listened to me more, we’d win more.”
About Dr. Charles A. Fowler
- Carson-Newman start date: July 1
- Senior pastor of Germantown Baptist Church, Tennessee since 2010
- Roles in Christian higher education include (Union University): senior vice president of University Relations, vice president of Enrollment Management, vice president for development, professor of Christian ministries and education
- Degrees: Union University, undergraduate; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, master’s degree; Mississippi State University, doctoral degree (PhD)
- Married to Sandra. They have two daughters, Anna (married to Justin Mullins; son, Charlie) and Sarah (engaged to marry Bryan Doss).
- Two family dogs, Reagan, a wire-haired dachshund, and Bella, a rescue puppy
- Enjoys riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and is an avid outdoorsman.
What others are saying...
• “Charles and Sandra Fowler will be a welcome addition to the Carson-Newman family. His background as a beloved pastor will serve him well as he shepherd all the stakeholders of our University.
David Ogle, chairman, Carson-Newman Presidential Search Committee
• “Dr. Charles Fowler will be an outstanding Carson-Newman president. He is a gracious leader possessing a strong identity with, and understanding of, Tennessee Baptists. He has a successful track record as a key leader at Union University, outstanding academic credentials, a pastor’s heart and a theologian’s mind. Under Dr. Fowler’s leadership and in continued Great Commission partnership between C-N and Tennessee churches, I believe the days ahead will be filled with new and unprecedented unity, record enrollment and Kingdom advancement at East Tennessee’s flagship Christian University.”
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
• “I applaud the decision of the Carson-Newman Board of Trustees and join with them in expressing confidence that Charles Fowler’s multi-dimensional giftedness, together with his administrative and pastoral experience, will enable him to build on the fine leadership provided by Randall O’Brien in recent years. In doing so, Charles will offer a renewed vision for distinctive Christ-centered biblically anchored higher education that will serve well the Carson-Newman community in the years to come. I am genuinely excited and hopeful for the future of Carson-Newman University.”
David S. Dockery, chancellor, Trinity International University; president emeritus, Union University
• “Some of my best lessons on leadership came by observing Charles Fowler. As the CEO of a company with 18,000 employees, I have worked to adopt and emulate his special style of servant-leadership. I have a great respect for his ability to develop a vision, align the key stakeholders and execute a plan.”
Jason Little, president and CEO, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation