If the slightly breezy, warm spring day wasn’t enough to entice people outside Friday, the bluegrass music echoing from East Tennessee State University’s outdoor amphitheater seemed to do the trick.
It was in that area that students laid down blankets in the grass to relax or rested on the amphitheater steps, as faculty members stood to chat with staff over lemonade and blue-and-gold-decorated cake at the university’s second annual Spring Gathering.
Emerson Wells-Barrett, a junior in ETSU’s Bluegrass Program, was chatting with friends huddled together on a blanket, as they listened to fellow classmates and one of their professors play in the ETSU Bluegrass Band.
“Everybody’s just glad that the weather finally warmed up and we’re having a little celebration of getting near the end of school and hanging out, listening to good music,” Wells-Barrett said.
As a native of Austin, Texas, he said he chose ETSU because of its bluegrass program.
“It’s totally unique. That’s why I came up here, because ... there’s nowhere else where you can get a college education about that sort of folk music, so it definitely is a very cool and unique program to ETSU,” Wells-Barrett said.
He said the Spring Gathering is a great opportunity for students to get out and socialize on campus.
“I think it promotes social interaction with the students and it definitely is important to bring ... a more fun and social aspect to academics,” Wells-Barrett said.
Around 2:15 p.m., President Brian Noland addressed those at the gathering and made some important announcements regarding the university, which largely included the ETSU Arts Initiative.
“The enhancement of the arts at ETSU through the creation of a performing arts center is a dream shared across the region. In fact, it’s a dream that was identified more than 25 years ago, when we as an institution turned our attention towards the centennial,” Noland said. “Today, we had the opportunity to move that dream forward. (The) Tennessee Board of Regents and (Gov. Bill Haslam) have authorized us to begin the planning process for a new facility. This planning is the first step towards what we trust will be full funding of the facility in the 2014 legislative session.”
He said while fundraising for the facility is part of the Arts Initiative, there were many other exciting things happening on campus.
“Some days it’s quite difficult to fathom the great things that are going on at this institution, but the arts initiative is our No. 1 fundraising priority. But, it’s more than a priority for a facility, it’s a campaign that will endow chairs. It’s a campaign that will provide scholarships and it is a campaign that will expand our collective work in the arts,” Noland said. “Today, I have the pleasure of announcing a new campaign that provides each of us with the opportunity to make the Arts Initiative our own. The campaign is called ‘Now Seating,’ and allows you to name a seat in ... one of the auditoriums or concert halls in memory of a loved one, special friend or mentor.”
He also addressed the salary equity enhancements that were announced last fall and said it is his “intention to do everything possible to make another equity adjustment this year.
Noland’s final announcement was in the form of an award given in honor of ETSU’s provost Dr. Bert Bach.
The 2013 winner of the Bert Bach Servant Leadership Award was Kathy Feagins, director of the scholarship office, who received the keys to a 2013 Honda Civic to drive for two years.
“I’m a little overcome. It’s a wonderful feeling,” Feagins said after receiving the award Friday. “I will have been at ETSU 30 years in the fall, so it has been a huge part of my life. I think it’s a wonderful university. I think we have the best students in the state. It’s been a real pleasure to work with the students through the years and help them complete their education.”
Noland was also presented with a custom guitar to hang in his conference room by graduating senior Jeremy Gingerich and Bill Hemphill, associate professor in engineering technology in the department of engineering technology, surveying and digital media.
Dr. Deborah Harley-McClaskey, who teaches leadership in the College of Education department at ETSU, was at the Arts Initiative table signing up to donate money for seats for the new performing arts center. She said the Spring Gathering is a great way for students, faculty and staff to come together.
“We’re here to celebrate the end of an academic year and everybody’s worked hard and it’s time to applaud and relax and kick back a little bit,” Harley-McClaskey said.