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Leadership Tennessee class concludes successful first year

Kim Chaudoin | 615.966.6494  | 

Leadership TN group pic

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view and walk around in his shoes.

Haslam_ClarksvilleThirty business, government, education and nonprofit leaders from across Tennessee have followed Atticus Finch’s advice in “To Kill A Mockingbird” by getting to know the people, challenges and issues facing the state through a different lens as a result of the just-completed inaugural Leadership Tennessee

program, coordinated by the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership.

On Monday, June 9, the inaugural class reflected on lessons learned and relationships built over the last ten months during the final session and graduation ceremony.

“I appreciate your commitment to the program,” Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry told the group of participants who gathered at Liberty Park in Clarksville. Tenn., for the final class meeting. “Rarely do we have the chance to start something from the beginning like this. I appreciate your vision and your generosity in wanting to make Tennessee a better place. You cannot be who you need to be if you remain where you are. This program has helped you move from your segment of the world to other places. We will all benefit because of this.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam thanked the class members for investing their time in the program.

 “I strongly believe that this experience will help you personally and will help make our state stronger,” he said When we learn more about other parts of the state, we understand issues more fully and can make more collaborative, informed decisions. I also appreciate the thought leadership of this group. This is a great program for Tennessee.”

Leadership Tennessee, an initiative of Lipscomb University’s Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership, is strategically designed to, each year, help a group of select state leaders learn more about their home state including its diverse economic, business, education, cultural, geographic and other sectors.

“By bringing together top leaders in business, education, health care and the nonprofit arena, we have learned from our differences, but also understand the collaborative nature of conversation and action that will continue to move our state ahead,” said Cathy Cate, executive director of Leadership Tennessee and director of community leadership programs for the Andrews Institute.

During the 10-month program, members engaged in collaborative learning and dialogue spanning the state’s three grand divisions, issue-specific education for demonstrated leaders, introduction to a diverse representation of participants and opportunities to affect change. The group met seven times in addition to participating in other activities, research and projects throughout the program. The class focused on three main issues—education, government efficiency and health and wellness.

“It seems like a very short time ago this was just an idea,” said Tom Ingram, Andrews Institute leader-in-residence. “Leadership Tennessee has come together in ways we could never have imagined when we were in the planning phase. I hope this class will have a bond for many years to come and will continue to grow these relationships they have made across the state.”

Leadership Tennessee participants shared with Haslam their takeaways from the experience.

“We should not talk about grand divisions of the state any more,” said Randy Boyd, president and CEO of Radio Systems Corporation in Knoxville. “We should talk about the state as a whole.”

Steve Bares, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation, said the networking aspect of the experience was valuable.

“It’s wonderful to meet great leaders from across the state,” he said. “Networking has been the biggest benefit for me. But it was also great for this group of leaders to roll up their sleeves to really get something done together.”

Many participants noted the value of the networking opportunities with colleagues from across the state.

“It has been most exciting to network with this caliber of leaders across Tennessee,” said Mary Lou Apple, president of Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma. “It’s inspirational to know we truly care about its people and its future. It is programs like Leadership Tennessee that are the impetus in taking us to that next step of lasting change.”

J. Laurens Tullock agrees.

“It has been an incredible opportunity to meet folks from across the state,” said Tullock, president of Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville. “We’ve gotten to see places across the state in new ways. It’s great that is was more than just networking through the projects we worked on. This really has the opportunity to be meaningful long term.”

The inaugural class had its first meeting Aug. 18-19 in Townsend, Tenn., which included an overview of state history, culture and politics. Haslam welcomed participants and outlined the critical issues affecting Tennessee, which set the agenda for future sessions. The group learned about these issues during the program as well as discussed collaborative solutions. During the course of the program, the group produced a plan of action designed to impact the entire state, as well as each region. The program took participants to Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville among other locations in Tennessee.

Members of the inaugural class of Leadership Tennessee
Chattanooga: Jim Hobson, chief executive officer, Memorial Health Care; Rebecca Hunter, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Human Resources; Todd Womack, chief of staff, Senator Bob Corker

Clarksville: Kim McMillan, mayor, City of Clarksville

Franklin: John Schroer, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Transportation

Knoxville: Joe Armstrong, state representative, Tennessee House of Representatives; president, National Black Caucus of State Legislators; Randy Boyd, president and chief executive officer, Radio Systems Corporation; MaryAnne Carter, president, MAC Research; A. Richard (Rick) Johnson, president and chief executive officer, the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness; Special Assistant to the Governor; Raja Jubran, chief executive officer, Denark Construction, Inc.; Michael T. Strickland, chairman, Bandit Lites; J. Laurens Tullock, president, Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville; Jamie Woodson, president and chief executive officer, Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education

Memphis: Laura Adams, executive director, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy; Dr. Steven Bares, president and executive director, Memphis Bioworks Foundation; Martha Perine Beard, Memphis regional executive, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Mike Carpenter, executive director. Plough Foundation; Jack Sammons, chair, Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority; Blair Taylor, president, Memphis Tomorrow

Nashville: Michael Burcham, president and CEO, The Nashville Entrepreneur Center; Karl F. Dean, mayor, Metro Nashville – Davidson County; Stacey A. Garrett, founding member and chairperson, board of directors, Bone McAllester Norton PLLC; vice president for online and professional studies, Cumberland University; Many-Bears Grinder, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; Dr. Candice McQueen, senior vice president and dean, College of Education, Lipscomb University; Dr. Claude O. Pressnell, president, Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association; Renata Soto, executive director, Conexion Americas

Oak Ridge: Dr. Thom Mason, director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Parsons: Janet Ayers, president, The Ayers Foundation

Sevierville: David Ogle, president, Five Oaks Development

Tullahoma: Dr. Mary Lou Apple, president, Motlow State Community College

The second Leadership Tennessee class will be announced later this month with the program beginning in August.

For more information about Leadership Tennessee, visit or contact Cate at 615.966.5180