Local Carson-Newman trustees to help decide fate of college's president

Rick Wagner • Jan 17, 2007 at 10:57 AM

KINGSPORT - Two local Carson-Newman College trustees who helped hire school President James S. Netherton soon will have a say in whether to keep him.

The faculty of the Baptist liberal arts college in Jefferson City made a 129-71 no-confidence vote against Netherton in October, and the board has set a March 23 deadline to deal with the issue.

The trustees will hold a regular meeting Friday following committee and subcommittee meetings today.

Former Kingsport Mayor Jeanette Blazier and the Rev. Marvin Cameron, pastor of First Baptist Church on Church Circle, are among the 34 trustees. Both said they believe the board won't address the matter this week but instead at a called meeting in February or March.

"Carson-Newman is very well-represented in Kingsport. We do have a strong presence there with the alums," Chattanooga resident C.T. Cozart, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The college and Netherton also have other connections to the Model City and region.

Netherton attended services at First Baptist Church on Church Circle Sunday, and Netherton said the college is interested in participating in the higher education center proposed for downtown Kingsport.

It is to be operated by Northeast State Technical Community College.

That center may include the University of Tennessee as well as King, Tusculum and Milligan colleges, the last three church-affiliated schools.

"We've got a lot of Carson-Newman people in the Kingsport area," Netherton said in a Tuesday phone interview from his office.

"I wouldn't be surprised down the road if we developed more in Kingsport," Netherton said of the college's Kingsport connections. "We're very interested (in the center)."

The college faculty in October approved a no-confidence vote against Netherton, and the trustees have been seeking input from alumni, faculty, students and supporters. That included a Jan. 4 meeting held in Kingsport and attended by Blazier and Cameron.

Subcommittees appointed by Cozart have sought input from faculty, former faculty, students, alumni, administrators and support staff using events like the Kingsport meeting.

The trustees in December 1999 elected Netherton as the school's 21st president, following a 10-month search to replace Cordell Maddox, who had led the school since 1977.

Blazier and Cameron referred calls for comment on the process and their stances to Cozart. But both were staunch supporters of Netherton in 1999.

Blazier, a former chair of the trustees who served on the presidential search committee that recommended Netherton, in 1999 told the Baptist Press he was the right person for the job.

"I believe that Dr. Netherton's appointment is God's gift to us," the Baptist Press quoted Blazier as saying. "I truly believe he has prepared this man to be here at this critical juncture in our history."

Cameron, chairman of the trustees in 1999 and chair of the presidential search committee, in 1999 said: "The fact he had been at institutions which had revitalized relationships with their Baptist state conventions made him very appealing to our committee."

Those schools were Samford and Baylor universities.

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