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From the graduation files: Grant is fifth generation in family to receive Lipscomb degree

When Claire Grant walked across the stage in Allen Arena Saturday afternoon, May 4, to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree, she represented something much bigger than herself.

She represented her mother, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather as the fifth generation of her family — dating back to the Nashville Bible School days — to earn a Lipscomb degree.

Kim Chaudoin  | 

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Amy Smithson Grant (Generation #4), Claire Grant (Generation #5) and John T. Smithson III (Generation #3) stand in front of Elam Hall, where four of the five generations lived at some point while a Lipscomb student.

“I love hearing stories from my parents and grandparents about their time at Lipscomb, and I now have my own special stories and places on this campus,” says Claire, a native of Lebanon, Tennessee, who majored in education and will be teaching first grade at Nashville’s Tusculum Elementary School this fall.

Claire’s Lipscomb roots run deep — to the earliest days of the institution. On June 1, 1911 her great-great grandfather, John T. Smithson, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Nashville Bible School. Just 20 years earlier founders David Lipscomb and James A. Harding opened the doors to Nashville Bible School, which was renamed David Lipscomb College in 1918 in memory of Lipscomb a year after his death. 

Smithson, who pursued ministry as a calling, was one of 11 graduates in the Class of 1911. Fellow graduates included G. C. Brewer, Tate Miller, Batsell Baxter, Maurice Hollins, Minnie Pearl Flora, Minnie McCanless, Maggie Jordan, Bessie Pepper, Eva McCanless and Loula Mae Green. His diploma was hand signed by the five board of trustees members, including David Lipscomb,serving at the time and was also hand signed by the eight faculty members on staff at the time: David Lipscomb, President E.A. Elam, John T. Glenn, J.S. Ward, H. Leo Boles, E.E. Sewell, S.P. Pittman and Effie Anderson. 

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John T. Smithson, back row, far left, graduated from Nashville Bible School in 1911 starting the line of Smithson family graduates.

I love hearing stories from my parents and grandparents about their time at Lipscomb, and I now have my own special stories and places on this campus. — Claire Grant, May 2019 graduate
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John T. Smithson's diploma was signed in 1911 by founder David Lipscomb.

The second generation to attend Lipscomb was Smithson’s son, John T. Smithson Jr. A 1937 graduate, Smithson Jr. was very involved in campus life as he served as student body president and was elected by his fellow students as the ideal Lipscomb male student known as the Bachelor of Ugliness. He was the third Bachelor of Ugliness elected in the history of the university. Like his father, he also pursued a life in the ministry. 

His son, John T. Smithson III, became the third generation in the family to graduate from Lipscomb. Vice president of his class, Smithson III majored in speech communication earning his degree in 1962. Like the two generations before him, Smithson III also served as a minister.

“The faculty were always so interested in students,” recalls Smithson III. “I learned from some of the giants in Bible and speech such as Batsell Barrett Baxter and Carroll Ellis. And I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with my classmates and fellow students.”

One of those classmates, Ann Bandy, an English major, became his wife. They met in the lobby of Johnson Hall, where Claire lived for the past three years as a Lipscomb student. They had three children. Their daughter, Amy, attended Lipscomb and received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting in 1991. Amy was active in campus life as part of Circle K service club.  

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John T. Smithson Jr. was the second generation of Smithsons to graduate from Lipscomb, which he did in 1937.

“I loved the weekly service opportunities this group provided. We would visit Lakeshore every Wednesday night to encourage the elderly people, we tutored in the Nashville Inner City ministry on Tuesdays, and we often stayed overnight at Ashwood Church as part of the Room in the Inn program,” remembers Amy. “Circle K gave students a vision of how the church is called to be salt and light outside the walls of our buildings. Fruit from these early seeds is evident today in John’s work with Compassionate Hands and Claire’s passion to teach English Learners. I am grateful for Lipscomb’s vision of missional living which shapes students for the rest of their lives.”

Amy says the sense of community at Lipscomb is something that continues to resonate with her today.

“When I think back to my Lipscomb days the number one thing that stands out is the sense of community in Christ we shared,” she says. “Every day I was surrounded by friends and faculty who loved and honored God. This encouraging environment was so formative in my faith journey. The Tuesday night devotionals in Bison Square were a centering time where we lifted the name of Jesus as we lifted each other.”

She says the daily Bible classes and chapel were very meaningful experiences. She recalls having Terry Briley, professor of Bible, for a class her freshman year and how he “made the Bible come to life in ways I had not experienced previously. His Early Hebrew History class was the first time I understood our place in the overarching Story of God.”

Like her parents, Amy met her husband, John Grant, also a 1991 graduate, at Lipscomb. They met their freshman year. John’s parents, Larry and  Florrye (Dunlap) (’64) Grant, also met while students at Lipscomb, so Claire also represented three generations of Lipscomb graduates on her father’s side of the family. There have also been several of Claire’s cousins and other family members who have attended Lipscomb through the years. 

Amy and John have three daughters. Daughter Rachel attended Lipscomb for a portion of her college education, and Claire followed in her parents’ footsteps by pursuing her college education at Lipscomb. 

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John T. Smithson III graduated from Lipscomb in 1962, the third generation in his family to do so.

Lipscomb was part of Claire’s life long before she was a college student. She recalls coming to campus for Impact and Summer Celebration as a youth and was baptized on campus one summer during Impact. 

“I have some amazing memories on this campus with my family and friends,” says Claire.

As a Lipscomb student, Claire — just like the four generations of Smithsons before her — was very involved in campus life. A member of Phi Sigma social club, Claire also gave her time to coaching high school color guard in Wilson and Williamson County schools and working with students at Harding Academy’s after care program. 

“ I have made wonderful friends at Lipscomb through living on campus and in my classes. I have loved living in Nashville and seeing how Lipscomb positively impacts the city. I have found friends and mentors through Lipscomb who I know will continue to be a part of my life after college,” says the newest alum in the Smithson family line.

We are super-excited for Claire to continue our family Lipscomb tradition. And now we have the great joy of watching our daughter Claire follow in our footsteps across the stage to receive her Lipscomb diploma. — Amy Smithson Grant, 1991 Lipscomb graduate
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From left to right, Amy Smithson Grant, Claire Grant and John T. Smithson III.

Claire, who majored in PreK-3 education with an EL endorsement, says the education department has been her favorite aspect of Lipscomb. 

“I have been able to apply what I've learned in my classes during student teaching. My professors and my practicum experiences helped me develop beliefs about teaching that are connected to my faith,” she reflects. 

When Claire walked across the stage during the undergraduate commencement Saturday afternoon, Lipscomb alum Generations #3 and #4 on the Smithson side and Generations #1 and #2 on the Grant side of the family were in the stands cheering on the latest generation in the family tree to carry on the family tradition.

“We are super-excited for Claire to continue our family Lipscomb tradition,” says Amy. “And now we have the great joy of watching our daughter Claire follow in our footsteps across the stage to receive her Lipscomb diploma.”

Claire was one of more than 940 students to receive doctoral, graduate and bachelor’s degrees during spring commencement May 4.