Netherton leaving Carson-Newman

Rick Wagner • Feb 16, 2007 at 8:24 AM

JEFFERSON CITY - Embattled Carson-Newman College President James S. Netherton is leaving for Macon, Ga.-based Mercer University, officials of both schools announced Friday.

Mercer University President William D. Underwood announced the appointment of Netherton - subject of a 129-71 Carson-Newman faculty no-confidence vote Oct. 5 - to the position of executive vice president for administration and finance for the 7,300-student school.

The appointment is effective Oct. 1. Carson-Newman in a news release said Netherton will continue to serve as president of the college, which has about 1,900 students, through May 31.

"While we are very happy for Dr. Netherton to accept this wonderful new opportunity for advancement, we will certainly miss both him and his wife, Patricia, at Carson-Newman," Board of Trustees Chairman C.T. Cozart of Chattanooga said in the release. "His numerous contributions will be positively felt by this campus for generations."

Cozart said he plans to name a search committee and committee chairman during a March 2 called meeting.

The board scheduled a series of listening posts across the state and had set a March 23 deadline to deal with the no-confidence vote.

"Our search committee will be comprised of representation from the board, faculty, alumni and others. This board has spent several hundred hours in the past few months listening to key stakeholders of Carson-Newman College," Cozart said. "The input and counsel we have received will be invaluable in helping us as we move forward."

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.

Former Kingsport Mayor Jeanette Blazier and the Rev. Marvin Cameron, pastor of First Baptist Church on Church Circle, are trustees. He chaired and she served on the committee that recommended Netherton, but neither could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Under Netherton's tenure, Carson-Newman restructured its relationship with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, expanded and renovated the residence hall system, constructed a new building for Family and Consumer Sciences, built a new football stadium, and started construction of a new academic facility for business.

However, detractors of Netherton, including retired professor Bill Fletcher, cited a laundry list of concerns about Netherton.

Fletcher, who could not be reached for comment Friday, wrote an open letter to the trustees in support of the no-confidence vote. He cited a lack of consistent raises, lack of full and adequate funding, no enrichment budget for conferences, deterioration of campus buildings, a lack of meaningful planning process, and not seeking proposed budgets from department heads.

But the Carson-Newman release said that since Netherton took office in February 2000, he has worked to restructure the college's leadership team, develop a campus master plan, and acquire real estate adjacent to the campus for future expansion.

Carson-Newman also is nearing completion of the most successful fund-raising campaign in the college's 155-year history, a $55 million capital campaign that produced four consecutive years of record giving and surpassed its goal one year ahead of schedule.

"It is humbling to be approached by a multi-campus university like Mercer and have them offer me such an incredible opportunity to join their senior leadership team. I am convinced that the next decade can be one that is truly invigorating as Mercer strives to become a truly national Baptist university," Netherton said.

"However, I will miss the friends I made at Carson-Newman College," he said. "I am proud of the accomplishments that our faculty and staff have made in the seven years I have served as president of Carson-Newman, and I believe the college is poised for great things in the future."

A lifelong Baptist, Netherton is a math professor who moved into administration in 1981 when he went to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, from Armstrong Atlantic State University, now Armstrong State College, in Savannah, Ga.

At Baylor, Netherton served as vice president and chief operating officer until 1996, when he accepted the provost position at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. Both schools "realigned" with their respective Baptist conventions during his times there.

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