KINGSPORT — Joe Bill Sloan worked the Carson-Newman College Alumni and Friends Luncheon Tuesday like a veteran, well-liked politician.
Actually, the 62-year-old political science professor and college administrator didn’t have to do much work in the dining room of at First Baptist Church of Kingsport. Folks came up to him to say hello or thank him for his service as interim president of the Baptist college based in Jefferson City.
The Rev. Marvin Cameron, pastor of the church and a Carson-Newman trustee, introduced Sloan as “a very good friend of everybody in this room.”
Sloan briefly spoke to the crowd, many like him in town for the Tennessee Baptist Convention being held Tuesday and today at the MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center.
“We’re turning some corners at Carson-Newman,” Sloan said. “We’ve made some changes. Change is not always easy.”
Sloan recalled a recent conversation at a football game with a faculty member who told Sloan he didn’t always agree with or understand Sloan’s decisions.
“But I trust you,” the faculty member told Sloan. He said trust has been key to helping lead the college.
The soft-spoken Sloan was named interim president May 4, at a time the college had a “broken relationship with some of our alumni and supporters” and financial woes, he said in an interview after the luncheon.
Sloan followed James Netherton, who left C-N for Mercer University following an October 2006 no-confidence vote by the faculty and increasing controversy about the financial and philosophical issues at the school, including liberals versus conservatives.
Sloan said Netherton called him Monday night to wish him well and talk about families and that the two remain friends, although they don’t talk often.
“My main duty in effect has been to rebuild trust, stable finances and strengthen relationships with Tennessee Baptists,” Sloan said.
The Tennessee Baptist Convention today is set to vote on whether it will give the president of the convention — currently in the conservative camp — authority to appoint two members to the Committee on Committees.
A side issue, he said, is whether anyone appointed to the Executive Committee can be challenged for having reservations about the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. If allowed, challenged appointees could be ousted and replaced by nominations from the floor.
The Faith & Message includes language about the role of women in the church. But Sloan said none of that vote should affect Carson-Newman.
“This was not supposed to be a litmus test when it was passed (in 2006),” Sloan said, adding that fewer than 10 appointees have been challenged.
No matter the convention vote, Sloan said he likely will remain interim president for another year and would not rule out accepting a permanent appointment as president sometime after that.
“I’m told I’ve received nominations,” Sloan said.
“At present, I don’t plan to apply, but then I didn’t apply to be interim president,” Sloan said. “I enjoy what I’m doing.”
Sloan has served as dean of political science, department chair for history and political science, dean of social sciences, and associate provost. He and his wife, Brenda Sloan, a licensed counselor, have been married 31 years and live in Jefferson City. His father, Albert Sloan, was a longtime math professor at the school and became treasurer.
Sloan has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from C-N, a master of arts in political science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and has done doctoral work in political science and counseling.
Sloan received C-N’s highest professorial honor, the Distinguished Faculty Member Award, in 1986. He was selected as Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen in 1989, and he is the college’s only two-time recipient of the Outstanding Student Advisor Award, in 1981 and 1988.
“There’s been a Sloan at Carson-Newman since 1936,” Sloan said. “But I never dreamed I’d be in this position.”
Sloan said he would like to remain in administration with a faculty role.
This fall, for the first time since 1968, Sloan said he isn’t teaching a college class. However, he plans to teach a political science class at C-N in the spring.
“I can’t not teach in an election year,” Sloan said. “It’ll have something to do with the election.”