Archive | January, 2012

On the Shoulders of Giants

31 Jan

Have you ever listened to the radio or a song and heard something that felt strikingly familiar? No, I don’t mean Flo Rida sampling Etta James on Good Feeling or MC Hammer “borrowing” from Rick James on You Can’t Touch This. When you listen to Justin Timberlake, Usher and Chris Brown you hear echoes of Michael Jackson. When you listen to Michael Jackson you can hear Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Barry Gordy. Its influence, not imitation, and examples of it are the foundation for which the acclaimed chorus Cantus will present its program “On the Shoulders of Giants” on Tuesday, February 14.

Hailed by Fanfare as the “premier men’s vocal ensemble in the United States,” the group will perform a selection of works that span centuries and various genres of music. It’s basically a look at masterworks and how they have inspired future generations.  For each artist there was a predecessor who inspired them.  

The performance will take place in the Sam and Sue Mars Performing Arts Center in the Duke Hall of Citizenship on the LMU main campus in Harrogate, Tenn. Tickets are available now for $15 for general admission or $10 for LMU employees and students. Purchase tickets online at or call Assistant Vice President for University Advancement Frank Woodward at 423.869.6351.

This concert will offer LMU and the surrounding area the opportunity to experience the highest quality musical performance by world-renowned artists. It’s an occasion that doesn’t come to Harrogate often, but one that I hope a lot of people will take advantage of.

Cantus includes tenors Aaron Humble, Paul J. Rudoi, Gary Ruschma, Shahzore Shah and David Walton; Adam Reinwald and Matthew Tintes, both baritones; and basses Chris Foss and Timothy C. Takach. Below is a sample of what the group will bring to Harrogate in a couple of weeks. Enjoy!



A rivalry game of chicken?

25 Jan

Have you seen the commercial for one of the cell phone carriers set at a tailgate presumably before a big game? You know, the one where the two guys are sitting there playing with their smart phones while person after person comes up to them with a “did you hear…” scenario to run by them, and their response is always “that was so 46 seconds ago.” At one point the exchange includes “Did you hear someone stole the other team’s mascot” and the camera pans to a live tiger eating chips out of bowl on the table nearby.  The plot of stealing a rival’s mascot has made its way in several television shows and movies, but it makes me wonder does it ever really happen in real life? I mean, are you really going to risk life and limb for a prank. You know live tigers are nothing to mess with.

Coach Dan Burns

According to campus lure, LMU’s basketball rivalry with Carson-Newman includes some wild tales. In passing over the six years I have worked at LMU, I have heard about a statue going missing and other pranks surrounding the LMU-CN games.  To dig deeper, I went to one of LMU’s longest tenured employees, Softball Coach and Director of City Park Dan Burns. If his 30+ years as an employee aren’t enough to qualify him to speak about the topic, he also played in the rivalry during his time as a student.

Dan Burns in his playing days.


When I asked him about it, Burns immediately started chuckling. “Yeah, there are a lot of stories. I can’t be sure that everything happened as fact, but there has been enough talk about this to reasonably assume at least part of these stories have to be true,” he said.

The most common tale involves a missing statue. Burns places this one some time back in the 1960s when LMU and CN were regional rivals playing in the NAIA division of college athletics. He said that as the story goes, CN students snuck into Harrogate and onto the LMU campus in the dead of night and stole the Lincoln the Lawyer statue that stands outside the Carnegie Vincent Library on the quad. The statue was missing the week before the game and mysteriously returned, facing backward, following the game. Another version of the tale has the missing statue buried somewhere on campus and found the next day. Burns said that in retribution, LMU students stole CN’s stuffed eagle mascot the following year.

Lincoln the Lawyer

A tale that was new to me, was what Burns described as the “chicken years.” He said it became tradition for LMU fans to throw chickens on the court during introductions of the CN players. “Live chickens?,” I asked. “Oh yeah, live chickens,” he answered, laughing. “It was quite a sight. It really disrupted the games too. Five little chickens running around.”

Burns said the chicken rivalry started sometime in the 1960s and carried on until about 1976. During those years, the chickens wreaked havoc at Mary Mars Gym. Every year they would be thrown out during introductions and as you can imagine would run and fly all over the place. They would go back into the stands, pecking at people; they would defecate on the floor, delaying the game as the cleanup occurred and they were often hard to contain once they had been let loose. It was the latter issue that eventually brought the “chicken years” to an end.

At one game the chicken throwers decided that they would make the recapture easy by fastening strings to the chickens, so they could be reeled in after introductions. A fine idea in theory, but it didn’t end so well for one of the chickens. The string worked just fine, except the person who did the reeling used poor judgment and started to whip around the chicken, snapping its neck in the process. Following that incident, the chickens never returned to Mars Gym. In this day and age when you enter a sporting event, you can expect to open your bag or be checked for things like recording devices or weapons, but can you imagine being stopped and checked for chickens?

You might also ponder, why chickens? I know I did. Burns said it was because they are the Eagles and students were saying the team members were more like chickens than eagles. Burns said the rivalry was reciprocal. If CN could expect chickens in Harrogate, the Railsplitters saw a lot of blue jeans and overalls in the stands in Jefferson City. “Being the fine Baptist institution that they were, they liked to think they were more refined and we  were a bunch of backwoods hicks,” Burns said. I don’t know, I think I would take the overalls over the chickens.

As both schools changed, the rivalry fell off for a while. LMU moved to the NCAA, while CN stayed NAIA. When CN eventually joined the NCAA, they became a part of the South Atlantic Conference, while LMU was playing in the Gulf South Conference. The teams continued to play in non-conference competition, but all of that changed when LMU joined the SAC. The move meant the two rivals now meet at least twice every year. The rivalry rekindles tonight at Tex Turner Arena. Tip is set for 6 p.m. for the women and 8 p.m. for the men.

Is it better to be No. 1 or to beat No. 1?

19 Jan

The question is it better to be No. 1 or beat No. 1 is making the rounds at LMU. This comes after our Railsplitter Men’s Basketball Team ascended to the top of the NCAA Division II rankings last Tuesday. It was an achievement no LMU basketball team had accomplished in the past and, in fact, was a first for a South Atlantic Conference team.

Certainly it was a point of pride for LMU, the SAC, the Railsplitter athletic department, Coach Josh Schertz and the entire team. Railsplitters everywhere promptly took to Twitter and Facebook to tweet and post that the Railsplitters were NO. 1! The team also received notice from Knoxville media including the Knoxville News Sentinel, WBIR and WVLT, something that has been hard to come by even with a resurgent program.

The next day, Coach Schertz and his team scored 131 points in a win over Mars Hill. Though the Lions scored 96, it was still a 30+ point whipping of their conference foe. A true test for the team came on Saturday when they travelled to Anderson for an afternoon game.

Coaches and players alike will tell you there are just some teams that have your number. No matter the odds or how the cards are stacked, you just always struggle against them. For LMU, Anderson is that team. In last year’s record breaking run, Anderson handed the Railsplitters two of their three losses and ended the season by beating them in the NCAA Tournament.  Sadly, the trend continued on Saturday as Anderson picked up an overtime win over the No. 1 ranked Railsplitters.

Under coach Schertz, LMU is a program that is unaccustomed to losing. It was just the 12th loss in three years. It should be really interesting to see how the team responds. Which brings me back to the original question, is it better to be or beat No. 1? The reports I heard said that most people who were asked that question responded, “to be No. 1”.

Honestly, either option is a pretty sweet deal, but up until last week I would have said beat No. 1. I love underdogs. Anyone who beats No. 1 has to be considered an underdog and how can you not pull for the underdog? Why the change of heart? Well, for the first time in my lifetime as a basketball fan, I had two No. 1s to root for and it was heartbreaking to have one of them lose so quickly after reaching the pinnacle.

Wait, two No. 1? Yeah, you read that right. I’m a college basketball fanatic and I have four teams that I claim. First and foremost, the Railsplitters (my check says LMU, I know where my bread is buttered!), but the team I have rooted for since birth has been the Syracuse Orange(men). I also have a sweet spot for my alma maters, St. Bonaventure University and the University of Tennessee.

So after seeing the Railsplitters falter at Anderson and then watching a close-ish game for the Orange against Pittsburg, I will revise my opinion and say it is better to be No. 1 than beat No.1, unless you’re the underdog beating No. 1.

Math and Science Center Update

13 Jan


An artist's rendering of the exterior of the LMU Math and Science Center

An email I received earlier this week reminded me that I had not recently provided an update on the major campus building project going on at LMU. While classes were out and offices operated on abbreviated schedules with skeleton crews over the holiday break, the work never slowed down at the Math and Science Center construction site.

In fact, crews pushed ahead in the favorable weather. The roof is on. The parking lots have been paved and are even lined. The exterior brick is complete and all the openings for windows have been covered with plastic as the crews move their attention to the interior.

The parking lots have been paved.


It is no small feat to accomplish this much on the large building. The Math and Science Center will be the largest building on campus when it is complete. At 145,000 square feet it will be approximately 25% larger than DCOM. It will house state-of-the-art classroom, research and office space and be home to the Caylor School of Nursing, DCOM classes, all of the undergraduate science programs and even some classes for the proposed College of Veterinary and Comparative Medicine.

It will house a 400-seat auditoria, microscopy suite and over 4,600 square feet of research labs to enable faculty and students to engage in more research activity. For the undergraduate programs, it will be complete with state-of-the art biology, chemistry and physics labs and classrooms. The building will have complete wireless internet integration and full high definition and digital classrooms. Also planned for the building is a much larger anatomy suite which will accommodate professional and undergraduate students in four pods. It will be poised to provide advanced learning for advanced students.

I hope to get some inside access in the coming weeks, so be on the lookout for an update on the interior progress.  Stay tuned!


Additional views of the construction.


A view from DCOM to the Math and Science Center. From this view you can see the progress being made on the new residence halls.