Archive | November, 2011

Hope for the Holdiays

30 Nov

Our halls have been decked, our wreaths have been hung and our lights are ready to shine. This week Lincoln Memorial University will kick off the holiday season with our annual Tree Lighting ceremony and Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra. In my six-year tenure with the University it has always been a personal highlight for me. And this year there is so much more to look forward to with two KSCO concerts and a holiday silent auction to benefit Women of Service.

Perhaps the most important thing we do at the Tree Lighting event is collect for Mission of Hope’s Christmas Campaign. Our shared mission of providing opportunity for the people of Appalachia brought us together. What has evolved is a true friendship where both organizations help each other.

The Mission of Hope was born in response to a local television station broadcast, WBIR’s broadcast “Hunger for Hope.” During this broadcast, TV news anchor Bill Williams informed viewers of the destitution and poverty in rural Appalachia by showing real life examples of children and families who suffered from physical hunger in the mountains, hills and hollows of southeastern Kentucky. One viewer took the story to heart and organized the first Mission of Hope collection in 1996. That year the organization distributed coats, clothes and toys to 150 children. The Mission of Hope movement has just grown from there.

Santa and Mrs. Claus greet Forge Ridge Elementary Students during a Mission Of Hope delivery in 2008.

Since 1996, the Mission of Hope has ministered to the people of various counties in Kentucky and Tennessee from which 80% of the region’s residents no longer have jobs in the coal mining industry. Last year because of the generosity of so many people, the Mission of Hope was able to help over 17,000 children and their families with food, clothes, toys and hygiene items. I have had the exceptional opportunity of joining MOH volunteers on two deliveries where they go into schools and give every student a Christmas present. The experience is truly awesome. To see the pure joy on the faces is amazing. I can still remember one boy who was clearly 10 or 11 picking out a baby toy from the table. When a volunteer asked about it the boy said he wanted to use his selection to make sure his little brother got a Christmas gift that year.

MOH Volunteers uncover the gift table for Appalachian students to choose from during a Christmas Delivery at Forge Ridge Elementary School in 2008.

The MOH volunteers walk away each year with hundreds of stories like this. It is so enriching and really sets the tone for the season. If you are planning on coming out to LMU’s Christmas Festival don’t forget your donation for MOH! This will be the 15th year for the Christmas Campaign. The Christmas Campaign focuses on providing food, new clothing, hygiene items, books and new toys to needy families throughout rural Appalachia. For a complete list of items needed, please visit



Giving Thanks

23 Nov

As I log on to Facebook every day, I can’t help but notice my “friends” who have taken the challenge of posting a thankful thought every day in the month of November. Though I didn’t join the fun, there is plenty to be thankful for at LMU.

From the exponential growth over the past decade to the physical plant improvements at LMU, you don’t have to look far to see our blessings. And they are not limited to the main campus in Harrogate, Tenn., expanding staff and resources abound system-wide.

However on the eve of Thanksgiving, I think the University’s greatest blessings continue to be its students. Our students are outstanding. They come from all walks of life and follow in the footsteps of our dedicated alumni who have never forgotten their alma mater.

Many undergrads come here as first generation college students, full of promise, expectation and apprehension. They are brave souls, breaking barriers for their families in search of opportunity to grow their minds and enhance earning potential. For them LMU is THANKFUL.

And we have our legacies as well, children who have followed parents who have followed their parents. The blood in those families really does run blue and grey. For them LMU is THANKFUL.

Not too long ago, the Educational Specialists Degree was the highest degree our students could achieve at LMU. In May we celebrated our inaugural class of Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. In our system today, we have students pursuing doctoral level degrees in three disciplines – osteopathic medicine, law and education. These students have taken our level of scholarly activity to a new level. They have expanded our world. For them LMU is THANKFUL.

So in a month where we are challenged to come up with 30 thankful thoughts, LMU has 4,550 – OUR STUDENTS.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

22 Nov

With Thanksgiving breaking getting closer with each passing class, it’s hard to believe that Winter Commencement and then the Holiday and semester break is just about a month away. Then again, the first level of Kresge Hall has been looking a lot like Christmas for weeks now.

The holidays took over our humble abode. It came in a wave as silent auction items from LMU’s Women of Service flowed in. One day the University Advancement division was holding its weekly staff meeting and the next the conference room was overtaken with gift baskets, jewelry and holiday décor. Then the trees started to trickle in and Christmas claimed not only the Kresge conference room but more than half of the creative suite, home to our web team. And just this week the LMU grounds team has been hard at work hanging wreaths and putting up all the holiday lights.

For many years the University has kicked off the season by hosting a Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra (KSCO) concert and an Annual Tree Lighting. The Tree Lighting has grown changed and moved around as the landscape of the campus has evolved, but the KSCO has always been a highlight not only for the University but the community at large. The concert is always free and open to the public thanks to the University and its generous donors.

The holiday silent auction is a new event for what is being billed as LMU’s Christmas Festival. It is a fundraiser for the Women of Service, which supports students and provides cultural opportunities for students. The auction will include a myriad of holiday goods available for bids under a heated tent on the quad. Items include wreaths, centerpieces, jewelry, decorated trees and much more.


Web designer Liz Murphy Thomas uses her design skills for the WOS auction


 For my part, I will be donating baskets of home baked goods. Generally, I am a fairly modest person, but I do brag about my cookies. I’ve actually been told on more than one occasion that if this PR gig doesn’t work out, I could fall back on baking. Chocolate chip cookies are my specialty, but I plan to include all my favorite holiday treats, with the recipes (including my grandmother’s classic sugar cookie cutout recipe).  

Following a couple years of standing room only crowds at the KSCO concert, the University found additional underwriters to fund two performances by Knoxville’s premiere music group this year. The performances will take place before and after the tree lighting which will also feature music by LMU student groups and festive story telling.


Holiday gift basket that will be up for auction.

The tent and bidding will open at 3 p.m. The first KSCO concert is set for 4 p.m. in the Sam and Sue Mars Performing Arts Center in the Duke Hall of Citizenship. The Annual Tree Lighting will take place on the quad near the Harold S. Finley Learning Resources Center in the Carnegie Vincent Library at 6:30 p.m. The final KSCO performance will follow at 7:30 p.m. The bidding at the silent auction will close at 10 p.m.

So mark your calendars, December 1 will be here before the turkey leftovers run out.



LMUKate, sports photog?

13 Nov

In PR, you wear a lot of hats. It’s a profession that you can find yourself doing just about anything. I can recall one week early in my career where I dealt with port-a-johns and pigme goats. To be quite honest, I thrive in these situations. And this weekend was no exception. I really enjoy the variety that comes with my position. This weekend I got to dust off my photographer hat. Though I take photos every week, I rarely get a chance to capture athletic images. Check out the fruits of my labors from the SAC Championship match.

Catawba celebrates after winning the second set of the Championship match.


Rolling out the red carpet for SAC Volleyball

9 Nov

Later this week Lincoln Memorial University will have its first chance to show the entire South Atlantic Conference what Harrogate hospitality is all about. It will be the first time since LMU joined the SAC during the 2006-07 school year that it will host a conference championship as Mars Gym is home to the 2011 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Volleyball Championship.

 The action will get under way on Friday as No. 1 seeded Wingate tangles with No. 8 seeded Carson-Newman at noon. Fourth seeded Tusculum will meet fifth seeded Lenior-Rhyne in the second match of the day set for 2:30 p.m. The evening session will get underway at 5 p.m.  as No. 2 seeded Catawba clashes with No. 7 seeded Newberry. Our third seeded Lady Railsplitters will take on No. 6 seeded Mars Hill in the final quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. Semifinal Saturday will pit the winners of the day and evening sessions against each other at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. The Championship match is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Beyond all the extra planning and game operations that go into hosting a Championship event, the Railsplitter Athletic Department has been hard at work making sure our campus is ready to put on a really successful event. This is where the ever handy jack-of-all-trades PR hat comes in. The PR and Marketing department is lending all four of our hands to set up the hospitality room for the weekend. This means calling and soliciting local restaurants for meal donations, begging for other snack donations at local retailers and distributors and when that failed grabbing a shopping cart and filling the trunks of our cars with all (or at least most) of the supplies we’ll need.

I spent six plus years in college working in sports information, or athletic communications. I truly understand what the Athletic Department is undertaking in hosting such an event as I ran point on the media relations end of a Southeastern Conference Volleyball Championship while I was a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee. It is sure to be an exciting weekend not only for our team, but all the teams. For at least five of the teams it will be the end of their season and some of the athletes the end of their careers. As hosts, it’s our job to roll out the red carpet and make it as memorable as possible.

Really this is a great opportunity for our community to shine as well. For most of the SAC officials and even the teams it will be their first time staying near LMU. Given the tight travel budget and conference match schedules, very few teams actually spend the night in the city where they play. Coaches will often opt to get on the bus after matches and travel two or three hours toward their next competition site and stay in a larger or more affordable local between the two venues.

For our local economy, this tournament means 70+ hotel rooms and the accompanying taxes. Not to mention, meals at local restaurants and shopping. Not only will seven teams be traveling to the area, but also parents, students and fans as well. As a University we are fortunate to have generous supporters from local business owners that never fail to step to the plate when called upon. Restaurants like Subway of Harrogate and Kentucky Fried Chicken and J. Milton’s of Middlesboro. Our entire community and local economy will benefit from this endeavor.

Beyond the boon to the economy, LMU students are also using the tournament as a platform to continue good works in the community. LMU’s Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) are asking fans attending the tournament  bring canned food items or make a $1.00 donation to join the fight against hunger in the local community. Each can or dollar donated qualifies the person making the donation to win other items that have been given to help the cause. All donations will go to benefit Servolution Ministries, a non-denominational food pantry located in Speedwell, Tenn.

It promises to be a great weekend for Lady Railsplitter Volleyball, LMU Athletics and the Harrogate and Middlesboro Communities at large. Come on out and show your support. GO SPLITTERS!