Still Thankful After Nearly 50 Years
Alumni reconnect after losing touch in wake of military service
By Rhonda Minton | 11/12/2018
People’s thoughts naturally gravitate toward gratitude and thankfulness this time of year. For one 1972 alumnus, resolving an insurance issue motivated him to seek out a long-lost U.S. Navy friend. After nearly 50 years, Fred Enters ’72 of Ashland City, Tennessee, reconnected with Frank Ryan ’66 of Nashville earlier this fall to say “Thanks.”
Enters previously had experienced a health issue that required medical treatment. A billing error developed with an insurance company, requiring Enters to track down military documents to prove coverage resulting from his military service.
“I realized had it not been for Frank, who encouraged me to go into the Naval Reserves, I would not have had the additional insurance benefits,” Enters said. “It had been so long since I’d seen him and his wife, I thought ‘I really need to find him and thank him … not only for encouraging me to join the reserves, but also for some other things, too.’”
By working with the Office of Alumni Relations, Enters and Ryan connected and arranged to meet for lunch. The two men and Ryan’s wife Myrna, a 1967 graduate, visited Lipscomb’s campus in September. They reminisced about the campus as it was during their respective times as students.
Ryan has a lifelong connection with the institution, having grown up on Granny White Pike across from campus and attending Lipscomb from grade school through college. His mother, Gertrude Ryan, worked as the mailing supervisor for Lipscomb. Ryan graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. The Ryans' children attended Lipscomb, and they now have three grandchildren at Lipscomb Academy.
After Ryan graduated from Lipscomb, he attended Middle Tennessee State University to complete a master’s degree program. He received notice about being deployed so he joined the Navy. After completing boot camp and stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, he received orders for duty in Vietnam. He was accepted into Officer Candidate School (OCS), completed training and was ordered to Vietnam. The trip aboard the ammunitions ship USS Mazama from Newport to Vietnam took nearly two months.
“We traveled at about 14 knots, or around 18 miles per hour,” he said. “That was a long trip.”
He spent a year in Vietnam working in communications aboard USS Mazama. The World War II vessel had been torpedoed during WWII action, but had been since been repaired and recommissioned for Korea and Vietnam.
“The ship had a concrete patch to plug the hole where the torpedo had hit in World War II,” Ryan said. “When we were coming back from Vietnam, we got caught in a typhoon, and the 70-foot waves blew out the concrete plug.”
Once it finally made it back to port, the ship was sent to Washington, D.C., for decommissioning. Ryan was the one assigned to decommission the ship, a task that took three months to complete.
“We had to completely take apart controls, levers, knobs—anything connected to the ship’s operation—and document each piece,” Ryan said.
After leaving the service in 1970 as a lieutenant junior grade, Ryan spent three years in the Navy Reserves, leaving with rank of full lieutenant. He began work with the Ingram Corporation in Nashville, and then went into private practice as a certified public accountant. He’s been in private practice for more than 30 years.
Enters enlisted in the Navy in 1963 after graduating from high school in Souderton, north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was stationed in Newport for a few years before being transferred to Pensacola, Florida. After a three-year stint in Florida, he returned to Newport, where he and his first wife met the Ryans in 1967 at the Newport Church of Christ.
“They spoke so highly about Lipscomb and what it meant to them,” Enters said. “They encouraged me to attend Lipscomb once I got out of the service.”
Enters served as a ship secretary aboard the USS Yosemite, USS Browson, and USS Lookout. He was deployed in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean and North Sea during the Vietnam War.
“You recognize the sense of duty but the sense of loneliness as well during as part of long deployments,” Enters said. “It’s difficult for others to understand the hardship that servicemen and families face during those times.”
After concluding his active duty six years later in 1969, Enters and his wife moved to Nashville, where he enrolled at Lipscomb on the GI Bill. He also worked part-time at Genesco. The couple lived in the married housing section, affectionately referred to as “the Ghetto.”
Again following Ryan’s advice, Enters joined the Navy Reserves, and served 16 years as a reservist. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in three years and became a fulltime supervisor at Genesco.
In the early 1980s, Enters joined Ingram Barge Company as a claims director. He spent 25 years at the company before retiring in 2000.
Enters said one of the things acquired during his military service that continues to benefit him today is a “sense of discipline.”
“My daughters call me ‘The Commandant,’” he said with a laugh. Enters has two daughters; one is a Methodist minister in Newcastle, Delaware, and one is a school teacher in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He and current wife Priscilla live in Ashland City.
Although the two men didn't attend Lipscomb during the same timeframe, Enters and Ryan fondly recalled their student days during their recent campus visit. They both shared photos, reviewed Backlog yearbooks and talked about their time on campus.
“Dr. (Athens Clay) Pullias was president, and one of my favorite professors was John Hutcheson,” Enters said. “And I was a student worker for Frank’s mother.”
During a quick campus tour, the two met Chad Staggs, director of veterans services, who shared about the university’s program for veterans. When visiting what is now the Student Veterans Lounge, a small brick building near Elam Hall, Ryan stopped and said, “I think this may be the same building where my mother once worked.”
One particular shared memory from their lives as Lipscomb students, elicited sly grins.
“We had chapel every day at 9 a.m., and you had assigned seating,” Ryan said.
“There were three or four ladies in the balcony … the ‘chapel checkers’ … we called them,” Enters said. “They watched and took attendance to make sure you were in your assigned seat.”
The two exchanged quick glances and smiles, leading one to think that there possibly may have been some mischievous students who may have recruited other students to sit in as replacements.
Maybe it was their military background, but neither Ryan or Enters confessed to participating in such antics. However, the one thing they admitted was that after such a long time since their military days in Newport, reconnecting was a special moment.
“He probably doesn't even realize how much his advice impacted me,” Enters said of Ryan. “I owe him a lot, and I thank him.”
Gilliam follows passion of storytelling as way to help others
Young alumnus returns to Nashville on March 28
with Disney tour at Grand Ole Opry
By Rhonda Minton | 3/25/2018
Cameron Gilliam (’13) of Los Angeles, California, was on track for a career in the medical field, until he discovered storytelling through performance as a way to help others.
“The thing about medicine that intrigued me was that I’ve always had that heart to see others improve, and I wanted to do something that helps heal the world. I realized that storytelling can do that,” Gilliam said. “Stories teach us who we are and who we can be. They inspire people to create, to dream, to connect and to live.”
A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Gilliam’s life growing up included sports, music and church. An accomplished singer, dancer and choreographer, Gilliam also plays guitar, piano and drums. He sang backstage harmonies for Singarama as a Lipscomb freshman, and he was a featured dancer during his sophomore year. However, it wasn’t until his senior year at Lipscomb that theater became a primary focus.
“I was asked to perform in a one-act short for a theater class. I played a 65-year-old man in ‘Moon Over Buffalo,’” he said.
“That experience made me rethink my life,” he said with a smile.
Gilliam had 13 hours left to finish his degree in molecular biology, and he added as many theater courses as he could. He graduated from Lipscomb in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree and med school on the horizon. He had already taken the MCAT and was preparing to start the journey toward life as a doctor, but the acting bug had firmly taken hold in widespread fashion.
“I knew I had to get this performance thing out of my system before I could even begin to focus on med school,” he said.
About six months into his role with a boy band, Gilliam had his first medical school interview. That meeting changed the course of his future. The interviewer closed her book at the end of the meeting and said, “I don't think we want you.”
“I was stunned,” he said. “She told me that I had the grades, the personality and the work ethic to be a doctor, so I was confused. Then she said to me, ‘I’m going to be real frank with you. I don’t think you’ve ever been given permission to do what you really want to do.’
“And I broke down right there. That was Feb. 16, 2014, the day I said goodbye to med school,” Gilliam said.
Three months later the boy band broke up, and Gilliam started working with Nashville Dance Company. A casting director landed him a three-month performance gig in Germany in 2015. Upon returning to Nashville, he worked in musical theater with Nashville community theater, performed in music videos, taught acting and dance classes and worked as a choreographer for musical acts. He was picked up by a film agent and found himself on the “Triple Threat” competition on Harry Connick Jr.’s show “Harry” in November 2016. Gilliam won that competition and its $10,000 prize.
More acting jobs continued coming his way. In fall 2017, Gilliam landed an opportunity with “Part of the Plan,” a musical based on the music of Dan Fogelberg that was staged at Tennessee Performance Arts Center (TPAC) in Nashville. Gilliam was a member of TPAC’s ensemble cast and an understudy for one of the lead roles.
“I met many actors from New York and Los Angeles who told me I could get a lot of work if I moved to either city,” Gilliam said.
After a few weeks of deep soul-searching, Gilliam bought a Nov. 1 ticket to LA.
“I decided if it wasn't a right fit, I always had a home and creative community in Nashville,” he said.
Barely a month into life in LA, Gilliam was invited to audition for “Disney Junior Dance Party On Tour” and landed the lead role of “Jay.” Inspired by the favorite Disney Junior series, the concert tour features beloved Mickey and Minnie Mouse, as well as other characters. The family show is framed around Gilliam and co-star Paris Nicole who are hosts “Dee and Jay” for the interactive performance. The tour launched March 14 in Southern California and is performing 67 shows in more than 50 cities across the country.
While a permanent move back to Nashville doesn't seem apparent anytime in the near future, Gilliam will return to Nashville on March 28 when “Disney Junior Dance Party On Tour” plays at the Grand Ole Opry. The complete tour schedule is available at disneyjuniortour.com
“I’m excited about coming back to Nashville,” he said. “This tour and the cast are amazing, and families are going to absolutely love it!”
Gilliam is enjoying the storytelling route his life is taking.
“When you take something as potent and effective as a story and share it, that’s when you can really communicate and connect with others,” he said.
“A story allows you to see gratefulness, a change in perspective and, in some instances, enables you to speak up for those who don’t have a voice. Story also can inspire those like me … who felt forced toward a particular career… or those who had to put off or give up their dreams to go the safe and secure route, to take a chance,” he said.
“So, I encourage people to get passionate about something that takes your heart and God's heart to the world ... and then do it. Get off our phones, get out and experience the world,” Gilliam said. “The cost of living an adventure-less life isn't worth the predictabilty of playing it safe.”
Learn more about Cameron Gilliam at www.camerongilliam.com. Follow him on @camerongilliam on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.