Happy Anniversary to me! Six years ago today, I started work at Lincoln Memorial University. It was a glorious day for sure. Not only, did I get to come back to higher education, I managed to stay off unemployment after my last employer was bought out. In honor of my six fun-filled years in Harrogate, I have come up with a list of the six most important or memorable moments since I joined the LMU family.
6. Ribbon Cutting & Grand Opening celebration at LMU-Cedar Bluff (June 17, 2010)
The University had outgrown its former West Knoxville Extended Learning Site on Hayfield road. Home to the MBA program and graduate education classes, the facility was at capacity and the University was looking to expand its offerings in Knoxville. For months LMU Chairman Pete DeBusk and President Jim Dawson scoured the area for space. The pair kept coming back to a then-vacant former Food Lion location in the Cedar Bluff area. The lease deal became final in January of 2010 and the construction team immediately got to work with the goal of having the facility ready for fall classes.
The timeline accelerated after it became apparent that the facility would be needed for summer classes. This also meant marketing the new facility and programs would need to be bumped up as well. Pulled together in less than two months, the Ribbon Cutting & Grand Opening kicked off the campaign. Once we started an award-winning advertising campaign promoting the event, the nail biting started as it wasn’t 100% that the facility would be ready on time. Thankfully, all was well that ended well and the day went off without a hitch. Hundreds of people streamed through the open house and now almost a year and a half later the site is a vibrant hub of activity.
5. COM Announcement (January 18, 2006)
The day that LMU announced its intent to pursue a College of Osteopathic Medicine was an important day for the University, but it was memorable to me as an early test in a new position. Though I had been on the job for four months, it was the first time my writing was really scrutinized. I think we rewrote the press release nearly fifty times and it was frustrating. In the end the announcement was made to a full crowd of media, alumni, local politicians and guests. The press release was pitch-perfect. As much as I stressed about the press release and questioned if I was good enough for the big job I had taken, the day was pretty enjoyable. Though the thought of a medical school on campus was very exciting, the idea of it was pale in comparison to the reality that is now the DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine
4. DSOL Naming (March 27, 2009)
In February of 2008, University officials signed a lease to take over the occupancy of one of Knoxville’s most historic buildings, Old City Hall. At that time the University didn’t have specific plans for what it would put in the building, though the idea of a law school had been floated. By March 27, 2009, LMU had renovated the facility, received Sothern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and Tennessee Board of Law Examiners approval for a School of Law and hired a dean for its new school. What it hadn’t done was announce publicly the name for the new venture. After months of careful planning, a press conference and reception was held on site. It was the public’s first opportunity to see the multi-million dollar renovation of Old City Hall. Once again, it was an event that I spent a lot of time planning and stressing over. When the day arrived I panicked as the new sign for the school was delivered and installed early in the morning. As the sign was hoisted into its position the covering flew off allowing the morning rush hour traffic at Summit Hill and Henley to see what in a few short hours we intended to announce, that the law school was being named in honor of Congressman Jimmy Duncan. I can still picture myself stomping out to the installation team demanding them to cover the sign. Surely, we couldn’t have our guests driving past a sign declaring the very thing that we had invited them there to announce. Thankfully, a new cover was found. Again, the announcement was made without a hitch and the event was beautiful. Congressman Duncan’s wife, Lynn, went to special lengths to invite many of her husband’s congressional colleagues to be on hand for the announcement. The surprise guests made the day all the more special.
3. The Arrival of Amy Drittler (September 5, 2006)
In my first year on the job it was not unusual for me to be at the office by 6:30 a.m. and work until 6:30 p.m. There were at least six months between the time that my predecessor left and I started at LMU. Catching up and getting a feel for what needed to be done was overwhelming. Handling all the marketing and public relations for the University, which was just 2,802 students strong in 2005, was a big job and I was determined to prove myself. Then at the turn of the new budget cycle, my boss told me that we would be hiring someone to handle the public relations and marketing for the then “proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine.” Prayers had been answered, I was getting help. Unfortunately the search process took another three months.
My savior, Amy Drittler, started on September 5, 2006. In 2006 the University had under-3,000 students, the medical school had not opened and the school of law wasn’t even a glimmer in the administration’s eye. In the five years that we have been a team, the University has grown rapidly. The PR and Marketing department on the other hand, remains a team of two. As much as we have grown, learned and gained valuable experience from our hard work, I think we would both agree that our friendship has been the grand prize.
2. DCOM Inaugural Class Graduation (May 14, 2011)
The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine has been the catalyst for LMU’s rapid growth. I’m not sure event Pete DeBusk would have predicted how much the medical school would change not only LMU, but the surrounding community. Having been there from the very first announcement, the inaugural commencement ceremony was special to witness. From the initial announcement, to the groundbreaking, to the entrance of the first class, I had had been a part of many milestones for the institution, but no one was more poignant that watching that first graduate go up the steps a student and come down on the other side as a DOctor.
1. The First Remote Area Medical Clinic (August 19 & 20, 2006)
WOW! What a weekend. It is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The experience truly changed me. The whole RAM saga started when my boss invited me to join her for meeting about “something health related.” It turned out to be the start of a movement at LMU. The Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corp. provided a wide range of free basic health, dental and optical services to the people of Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Northeast Tennessee. At the time the Knoxville-based organization kept thing fairly local, though they now travel across the country and around the world. In this instance they were looking to fill a whole in their schedule. The good news was that LMU could do it. The bad news was we had less than three months to pull everything together. A host of issues compounded matters and in the end I went from attending a meeting to coordinating the entire event. When the weekend arrived we didn’t know what to expect. By the time the doors opened at 6:30 a.m. more than 200 people were waiting in line for the free services. All told, LMU and RAM served over 500 people and provided services in excess of $100,000 to people who may otherwise have not been able to pursue care. Additionally the expedition provided veterinary services to 231 animals. The people we served were so grateful for the services it was overwhelming to be a part of such good works. The University’s mission was so in line with the RAM mission, that we have made in annual event.