Tennessee Speaker of the House named 2012 Alumnus of the Year

By Kim Chaudoin on 4/17/2012

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Beth Harwell, Tennessee’s first female Speaker of the House, has been named Lipscomb University’s 2012 Alumnus of the Year.

A 1978 graduate of Lipscomb, Harwell has served in the Tennessee Legislature since 1988. She will be honored at several receptions and brunches as well as at Lipscomb University’s spring commencement on May 5, where she will address graduates and their families.

“The Alumnus of the Year Award is the highest form of recognition given by the Lipscomb University Alumni Association. Beth Harwell exemplifies the Christian business leader we hold up to our students, alumni and community. We are so proud to claim her as one of our alums,” said Bennie Harris, vice president for development and alumni relations.

The award is given annually to an alumnus or alumna who “is a successful individual who, through exemplary accomplishments and recognition, and through his/her strong faith and servant-like heart, epitomizes the potential of a Lipscomb education and thereby brings credit and honor to the university.”

Harwell was unanimously elected to serve as Tennessee’s speaker by the 33 Democrats, 64 Republicans and one Independent that make up the Tennessee House. She is a strong advocate for tougher sexual abuse laws, victims’ rights, welfare reform, children’s issues and education. She has sponsored and passed legislation clarifying and toughening the penalties against stalkers, requiring more time behind bars for rapists, strengthening Tennessee’s laws against rape of a child and building crime prevention cooperation among states. 

In 2009, Harwell’s dedication to education reform resulted in the passage of landmark legislation that enables thousands of children statewide to attend charter schools. In addition, she successfully pushed legislation that directs additional funds to improving training of day care workers. She seeks to collaborate with both parties on both sides of the political fence and focus on increasing state education standards, curbing unemployment and balancing the state budget.

A native of Pennsylvania, Harwell holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lipscomb University, a Master of Science degree from George Peabody College and a doctorate from Vanderbilt University.