Lipscomb's 2014 retirees acquire over 150 years of experience

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Lipscomb University’s 2014 retirees have a heart for teaching and pouring into students’ lives both in the Lipscomb and Nashville communities, and have racked up over 150 years of experience in doing so.

In his 41 years of teaching, Dwight Tays has spent 29 of them at Lipscomb as a political science professor. Aside from contributing to the Lipscomb community, Tays has also spent many years reaching out to the Nashville community.

Tays worked for former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen’s  for a semester, helping with the alternative licensure of teachers and expansion of home and community health care. Tays also took a sabbatical to work with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), conducting research on how to keep kids in school. Tays has also worked with the late Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter on policy initiatives.

Lipscomb, Tays says, has given him the avenue to impact students in the classroom and in a broader setting as well.

“One of the best things about being a political science professor is there is always something current,” Tays said. “That has been rewarding to me to look at some of those needs, and think about how to solve that, in policy-making and with students to get them thinking about solutions as well. To teach how to think, not what to think, but to look analytically at a problem and try to come up with solutions.”

“I will be pounding the pavement, knocking on doors and writing letters. That is my activity outside the classroom,” Tays said. During his retirement, he also has plans to develop a pilot program to explore ways to keep kids in school. Tays is an elder at Western Hills Church of Christ.

In her time at Lipscomb since 1984, Janet Cates made Babbler (the student newspaper) headlines as the first female registrar at the university. Cates has seen and been through many changes of the system throughout the years. She has implemented three different degree audit systems to the university and adopted the use of online student enrollment using the National Student Clearinghouse during her 30 years at Lipscomb.

“The registrar is sometimes aptly referred to as the “academic conscience of the university,” and Janet has served well in managing and living up to that responsibility,” Provost W. Craig Bledsoe said. “She has been very effective in her work with students and faculty and has earned the trust and respect of our campus community.”

“When I first came, students registered on cards, and we entered all the data in the computer,” Cates said. The process shifted to rely on bubble sheets and scanners, and finally to the online world in 2001. Cates has spent almost 25 years in her position as registrar. Before this position, Cates worked at the front desk, where she learned almost every aspect of the registrar’s job.

Cates is also a member of the Tennessee Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, of which she served as secretary treasurer from 1997 to 1999. Her husband, Paul Cates, has served as director of the Counseling Center since 1984. He retired in December.

Among Cates’ duties as registrar are to organize and administer the records, registration and graduation function, including transcript evaluations, maintain and report student records, and direct class schedule processes and utilization of academic space.

“The university would stop in its tracks without the Registrar’s Office,” Cates said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding because you see the kids come in, you see them mature and get ready to go out into the world.”

Assistant professor of English and modern languages and “Lipscomb Lifer” Wayne Garrett’s first love is English Renaissance. From his time as a kindergartener at the original kindergarten on the Lipscomb Caldwell and Morris property through his years in Lipscomb’s high school and the university, Garrett has not ventured far from his alma mater.

After attending grad school at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Garrett came back to Lipscomb as an adjunct in 1981, and shared an office with Matt Hearn, present department chair of English and modern languages. Garrett became a full-time Lipscomb faculty member in 1986. He has taught a wide variety of literature, ranging from Chaucer and English Renaissance to modern drama and James Joyce during his 33 years at Lipscomb.

“Even as technology changes, these literatures still have relevance and this is why we read them,” Garrett said. “It may be different clothing, but we are still dealing with the same problems as medieval England, and Shakespeare’s England.”

Garrett is also the inaugural sponsor for Delta Tau, a Lipscomb men’s social club. The best thing about his time at Lipscomb, Garrett says, is “the relationships with friends and in the classroom; great students and great faculty.”

Carolyn Wilson is the kind of person who keeps a recording of a respected colleague’s lecture for decades just so she can listen to his voice. She cooks for every planning meeting of the Women’s National Book Association and wants to create a cookbook of the recipes.

She has also managed to run the largest classroom on campus, Beaman Library, with knowledge, skill, grace and a heart for students and faculty for 34 years.

Wilson, who became library director in 1999, has “made certain that Beaman Library is an effective, useful and compelling environment in which to learn,” said Lipscomb Provost Craig Bledsoe. “She has supported faculty and student library needs and has promoted the library as the heart of the learning experience at Lipscomb University. I am also grateful for her attitude of placing Lipscomb University first on her very busy agenda.”

That agenda included not only library operation but also coordinating the annual Landiss Lectures in the humanities, bringing the stars of Southern literature, such as Natasha Trethewey, Will Campbell and Ron Hanson, to campus each semester; helping to organize the annual Southern Festival of Books; and serving as an officer with the Tennessee Writers Alliance, the Women’s National Book Association and the Library of Congress’ Center for the Book.

“One of Carolyn's greatest contributions to Lipscomb has been her hard work to strengthen the reputation of Beaman Library and Lipscomb in the larger Nashville and national book community,” Bledsoe said.                                                                                                                        

Wilson has received the Frances Neel Cheney Award from the Tennessee Library Association, Lipscomb’s Baker Faculty Excellence Award and the Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker Mentoring Award. In addition, she has twice been nominated for the Athena Award, honoring exceptional women leaders in Nashville who inspire others to achieve excellence in their own professional and personal lives.

Also retiring this year is Mike Ramsey. Ramsey spent 31 years as building engineer for Lipscomb Academy’s middle and high school campus.

“He was a real asset to the facilities team,” said Mike Engelman, director of campus construction. “He was a good guy and was a familiar face to academy students for several generations.”