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‘Vanderbilt Roads Scholars Tour’ stresses closer ties with East Tennessee

Aug. 20, 2002, 4:00 PM

August 20, 2002

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The chiefs of Tennessee’s largest public and largest private universities sat down for dinner last night and vowed cooperation, as the first ever “Vanderbilt Roads Scholar Tour” ended day one of an excursion designed to strengthen ties between the Nashville school and East Tennessee institutions, businesses and people.

Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon Gee and an entourage of about 40 faculty, students and administrators dined on fried chicken, ham and chess pie at the home of University of Tennessee-Knoxville President John Shumaker after having traveled more than 300 miles from Nashville to stops in Lynchburg, Chattanooga and Athens.

Student leaders joined newly tenured and newly hired faculty members as well as a number of administrators on a chartered bus emblazoned with a banner proclaiming “Vanderbilt Roads Scholars Tour.” Before boarding the bus on the Vanderbilt campus early Monday, Gee told the group the two-day trip was intended to get the word out that “we’re about moving from being an ivory tower to being a helping hand.”

During the dinner in Knoxville, the Chancellor stressed the important role UT plays in the state. Noting that 80 percent of the nation’s college graduates attended public colleges or universities, Gee said, “The greatness of a public university is the center of a great democracy. The future of this nation depends on the greatness of our public education.”

Shumaker, who became UT president earlier this summer, said he envisioned the two universities working together to improve undergraduate education for students at each school and for the betterment of the state. “Let the professional and personal relationships that develop here tonight lead to great things.”

The first stop on the two-day trip was the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, where the entourage toured the facility storing more than 6,000 barrels of Tennessee whiskey but limited its imbibing to straight lemonade. Then it was on to Chattanooga, where the Vanderbilt group lunched with area alumni and dignitaries, including Bill Stacy, chancellor of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker.

“This is the first time you may have seen us, but not the last,” Gee said. “We intend to be great neighbors.”

Corker said Chattanooga welcomes closer ties with Vanderbilt. “Our boon has been about partnerships,” he said, referring to the great economic strides in recent years that have landed the city on a recent list of great American renaissance cities. “And we’re honored that [Vanderbilt] would come to Chattanooga, and we look forward to working with you.”

Lunch was followed by a tour of the Hunter Museum of American Art, and an hour-long ride to Mayfield Dairy Farms in Athens.

In addition to informing Tennesseans about Vanderbilt, Gee has said he envisioned the tour as a way of introducing the newest members of the Vanderbilt community to “this great state.” Faculty making the trip represent a wide variety of disciplines – from economics, astronomy and pastoral theology to mechanical engineering, medical ethics and special education.

Day two began with a trip this morning to the Tennessee Valley Authority facility in Knoxville, with stops planned later at the Scott County Higher Education Center in Huntsville, Oneida High School, geology professor Molly Miller’s research site at a rock quarry in Jamestown and the Joe L. Evins Appalachian Center for the Crafts in Smithville.