Living History: Charlie Rhodarmer

History is a subject in school. Some enjoy it, some study it, however, for Charlie Rhodarmer it is living history. One might say he has discovered a time machine, for at any moment, Charlie will take you back in history with historical storytelling in period costumes. It is his calling, evident when you learn his personal history. Born in Haywood County, North Carolina, he was a typical boy that enjoyed the outdoors and participated in Boy Scouts, achieving the prestigious Eagle Scout. With a great interest in military service, it was around the age of 14 that he was introduced to Civil War reenactments, and, as they say, the rest is history.

After high school, Charlie served in the 82nd Airborne. Being a veteran of our country’s military is a significant place of pride, and telling the world about the service of all men and women from the beginning to present is a passion. He received an associate degree in criminal justice from Haywood County College and a bachelor in science from Western Carolina University. While at WCU, Charlie began working at the Mountain Heritage Center.

Before, during and after his time at Mountain Heritage Center, Charlie would be introduced to many life passions. A trip to Fort Loudoun resulted in a lifelong commitment to being a living historian, with a solid involvement as a volunteer since 1988. It was also this time that interests like blacksmithing were ignited, for which he continues today. He has worked at the Scottish Tartans Museum managing exhibits, moving them when it relocated from Highlands, NC, to Franklin, NC. He designed the layout of the museum, building most of the interior himself. He also served as Curator in residence at the Scottish Tartans Museum in Comrie, Scotland, and several years as the exhibit specialist for the JFK Special Warfare Museum at Fort Bragg. His permanent position with Boys Scouts of America led to becoming the National Scouting Museum Curator in Murray, KY. When the decision came to move that museum to Dallas, TX., it seemed the next life stage would be in Texas. However, a conversation on the phone with his mentor would change the direction.

That phone call gave notice of a museum job opening close to his heart, the chance to tell the story of Sequoyah and the Cherokee Nation. All of his life paths from blacksmithing, Civil War reenactments, the Heritage Center, volunteering at Fort Loudoun and historical storytelling were intersecting at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore, TN.

From listening to recorded Cherokee stories at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian as a kid to sharing history through period clothing and reenactments, the Cherokee story seemed to always be entwined with Charlie. It seemed no matter what period he turned to, there was a Cherokee connection. World War I is a historical period that he holds great interest in sharing, having many period uniforms and regularly participating in reenactments. Charlie shared that during WWI, the U.S. 30th Division Infantry Regiments, which contained Cherokee soldiers from western North Carolina..

The U.S. Military Commanders in the area discovered that German troops were intercepting their telephone communications and attacking them. So they issued the tactic of having the Cherokee troops deliver messages in their native tongue. It was successful, as the Germans didn’t understand. The Cherokee “code talkers” were the first known use of Native Americans in the American military to transmit messages under fire.

Everywhere he turned, the story of the Cherokee was coming into his view. Since 2000, Charlie Rhodarmer has enjoyed that view, fulfilling the dream to be at Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. He has been featured on C-Span and all over the world as the Keynote Speaker for many museums and events. Often sharing in period clothing, “I have always loved history, having military uniforms and civilian clothing from many periods. It’s fun to bring history to life.” Charlie remarked. And he really knows how, no matter the period or place, he makes the historical event, place or person come alive.

The connection to Sequoyah himself, from blacksmith to military service to educating others, is not lost to those who experience the living historian, Charlie Rhodarmer. He has faithfully served, for 18 years, as museum historian and director. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum celebrated 27 years of history, heritage and culture this year. The museum honors the life and legacy of Sequoyah, the Cherokee Indian, who created the Cherokee syllabary. His passion to educate others on the Cherokee history is something he considers a great privilege. He will join the 2nd Cherokee Indian delegation to London at the end of this year, as they have been invited to participate in the 2019 New Year’s Day Parade in London. Charlie is honored to serve in the period costume of Lt. Henry Timberlake, the escort of the first Cherokee delegation to London.

It is difficult to capture the Charlie Rhodarmer story in an article. It truly needs the page numbering equal of the novel, “War & Peace.” They say success is to live your life doing something you love, and therefore Charlie is one of life’s most successful. He found the ultimate happiness living history for us all.

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Dr. Homer Laughlin Isbell, M.D. 1922 – 2018

The name Homer in its Greek origin have two simple yet powerful meanings: “security and pledge.” Homer, the legendary author wrote two epic poems in the late 8th or early 7th century BC that are considered central works of Greek Literature, Iliad and the Odyssey. The term “Homeric” is defined as “work on a colossal scale.” Coincidentally, the Isbell family just celebrated the 96th birthday of Homer Laughlin Isbell, M.D., an incredible timeline to evaluate contributions and determine if one has impacted the world around them. I often wonder… Is my Uncle Homer Isbell, a man named for a destiny of greatness or is this a man who chose a purpose of merit with hopes to live up to his symbolic given name?

In an effort to thoughtfully explore this notion, I decided to ask my father, Matthew Isbell, younger brother to Homer, a few pondered questions. Who better to ask than the one person on this Earth who has known him the longest at 84 years and counting? Can you describe your brother Homer in three words? “Hmmmm…let me think on that.” A few seconds later he says “I would say Homer is a humble man with a strong faith in God and the epitome of the Hippocratic Oath.” Noting he realizes his response is more than three words my mother Barbara then pipes in and says “Homer is a brilliant Humanitarian.” My father agrees and both giggle that they could not follow the task instructions. I have always loved hearing about my Uncle Homer and his incredible journey, even more knowing how much my father enjoys speaking about his Big Brother, lifelong best friend.

Born in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and raised in Johnson City, Tennessee, Homer, the eldest son of Homer Laughlin Isbell, Sr. and Thelma Proffitt Isbell. The Isbells were the proprietors of the local “I & P” Grocery store in Johnson City, which stood for “Isbell & Proffitt,” representing the family partnership. Homer followed in the footsteps of his father, becoming a member of the Freemasons, the 14th century fraternal organization. Homer attended ETSU, later transferring to UT-Knoxville where he earned a Bachelor of Science and was a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. He obtained his Doctorate from the UT College Of Medicine in Memphis and completed his residency at the General Hospital in Washington, DC. During WWII, Dr. Isbell enlisted in the United States Air Force serving as a flight surgeon. After the war, he and bride Betty Jean Isbell (nee’ Wilkinson) settled in Maryville to further establish his medical practice and raise their growing family. Homer was appointed the Chief Doctor of the growing aluminum manufacturing company, Alcoa. After years of general practice he chose to complete education at Duke University and specialize in Anesthesia.

In 1950 Homer joined the staff of Blount Memorial, only 3 short years after its founding and at that time there were approximately 25 physicians on staff. Dr. Isbell made many a house call back then, a practice that is now mostly long forgotten. He made countless trips into the mountains in the middle of the night to assist with births, illness and injury. In an honorary article by First Federal Bank in 1990 Dr. Isbell said “A house call was $5.00 plus mileage, but once in a while we got paid in produce, because that is all people had.” After 38 years on the medical staff at Blount Memorial Hospital Dr. Isbell had among his many accomplishments being named Chief of Anesthesiology and Chief of the Medical Staff, twice serving as President of the Blount County Medical Society and named Vice President of the Board of Directors for 5 years. He delivered over 1,500 babies and administered nearly 40,000 pain saving anesthesia cases. By his retirement in 1988 he noted that there was “over a 100 physicians at Blount Memorial doing things we thought impossible.” Despite retirement Dr. Isbell continued to serve his community, “My wife and I came here because we wanted to raise our family in a small town with a strong community spirit.” Dr. Isbell continues “People here don’t retire from their community, they keep on helping others as best they can, I have never even considered moving anywhere else.”

“What do you think Homers legacy will be?” The answer came a little easier to my father this time. He responded “A family man and faith based individual who served his country, friend to all, never had an enemy.” To capture that spirit of legacy, Homer’s oldest granddaughter Carol Lee Weaver Stephens, a mother of 3 and talented Photographer recently and eloquently shared her thoughts on her “Grandad” in a social media post: “Happy Father’s Day to the greatest man I have known. His love for his family extends to his wife of 70 years along with 4 kids, 9 grandkids & 16 great-grandkids. He taught me to see people and not just rush past them but to engage in intentional conversation to make them feel loved (even and maybe more so in the line at the grocery store). He taught me to ask questions and seek greater knowledge and wisdom by thinking. He taught me to love family even in the thick of conflict. He taught me to show compassion, show mercy and give to others with a no-holds bar kind of service. He taught me that love can last 70 years and a soul-mate beside you makes life more full, makes you more of your truest self and that there is no Homer without his Betty by his side. There is no greater man more respected or admired in my eyes. He sees me, he loves me, he encourages me, he reminds me of who and whose I am. Grandad you created a legacy and you are called oaks of righteousness, displaying for years His glory. You have shown me how living in a way that pleases God by loving God, others, and ourselves is the best kind of life. I love you Grandad.”

As my family and I drove away on July 14, 2018, I turned and waved with tears in my eyes. We rounded the slow bend of the circular drive, this time is different. My favorite Uncle who is more regarded as a Grandfather to me is now visibly frailed in years, but strong in presence. He stands proudly beside his bride as they both wave back with smiles on their faces. As the two soulmates become smaller in view, the gentleness of Dr. Isbell (96) is noticed as he turns to ensure that Mrs. Isbell (94) safely returns over the threshold and into the sanctuary of the home they built together over 60 years ago. To this day, he continues his unfailing pledge to the world, as stated in the last stanza of the Hippocratic Oath taken by Dr. Isbell. It reads, If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help. Godspeed and thanks to an extraordinary man, Dr. Homer Laughlin Isbell.

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Be A Good Boy, Harry Burn

It was August 18, 1920 when tempers flared and the pressure on the State of Tennessee became unbearable, the venue was a special legislative session to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Congress needed 36 of the 40 states to ratify in order to amend the US Constitution. It all came down to one vote, one state, one mother’s letter and one 24 year old named Harry Burn.

Harry Burn was a Republican Tennessee State Representative, his mother, Phoebe (Febb) Burn was a woman of intelligence reading three newspapers daily. However, no matter how intelligent, she could not vote. Men in her employ on the farm could vote despite their inability to read or write.

So stood Representative Harry Burn in 1920 with the deciding vote to break the 48-48 tie in favor of ratifying the 19th amendment. In all previous discussions, Burn was voting against the ratification. With the words of his mother’s letter on his heart, he changed that vote to yes, breaking the deadlock and receiving a angry reaction from his fellow General Assembly members. That one changed mind from that one mother’s letter made Tennessee the decisive state passing the 19th Amendment.

A monument honoring Harry T. Burn and his mother for their roles in the right to vote was erected by the Suffrage Coalition in Knoxville near Clinch Avenue & Market Square. It features Febb Burn standing with son, Harry Burn seated, her hand gripping his shoulder, a statement in sculpture expressing the encouragement for him to vote in favor of ratification, to forbid the US Constitution from restricting voting privileges on the basis of gender.

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Dr. William Harvey

In a day and age where fast has replaced friendly and convenience has replaced courtesy, there is a strange trend happening – many patients, when they get sick, no longer call their doctor. Assuming they will never be seen that same day, they go to a walk-in clinic or rely on the unreliable world of the Internet to diagnose themselves.

This is a trend one doctor is doing his part to combat, and if the popularity of his practice is any indication, he is doing a fine job of it.

Dr. William Harvey is a Madisonville native who was inspired by local “Iron Man” doctors, men who worked 12 hours and saw 70 patients a day. Those men were good role models, but according to Dr. Harvey, “I wasn’t sure I wanted to work as hard as they did…but I ended up doing so!” After getting his medical degree from UT Memphis and completing his residency at UT Medical Center, he opened his own practice in Monroe County in 1979.

Back then, general practitioners were not just office physicians – they worked the ER and sometimes even delivered babies! Aside from accumulating a broad repertoire of skills, Dr. Harvey’s upbringing and experience in Monroe County helped to show him what customer service is supposed to look like – taking time with one’s patients, getting to know them and offering the comprehensive care each individual deserves.

Treating a patient isn’t necessarily about treating one ailment at a time or ordering expensive tests – it’s about knowledge gained from taking the time to dig deep into all of a patient’s concerns and putting the pieces together to devise a treatment plan. And when patients unexpectedly get sick, they should be able to count on seeing the doctor who knows them and their medical history best. Dr. Harvey understands this, and it’s why he’s always made sure he is available to see his patients when they need him.

Although Dr. Harvey will always cherish his decades of work in Monroe County, the move to Knoxville offered him a good change of pace. At his new office in the Choto area, he is still able to see his regular, longstanding patients but also meets new people from the neighborhood. He has good parking, a great staff and, with far fewer patients, the flexibility to fit people in that call him that day. His focus on customer service is precisely why people still drive from Sweetwater to his new office location to see him and why his practice will surely continue to thrive for many years to come!

Dr. Harvey’s new office is located at 1612 Choto Markets Way. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Harvey, call 865-218-7485 or visit

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Jim Fox: An Impact of Kindness

It’s hard to find genuinely kind people in this world. Too often, a kind word can be precluded with unkind motivations, a hug with an end game, a gesture with a favor attached. I had the privilege of meeting one of these few people who give without holding back. My old high school was Knoxville Christian School. It wasn’t perfect, but there was one man who kept it running and made it feel like a home for the students who attended it. That man was Jim Fox.

Jim Fox wasn’t always at the quaint little school, however. He was actually born in Princeton, Kentucky, though good luck on getting him to tell you the year. It was there, and Paducah, Kentucky, where he was raised with the strong Christian values he still holds today. “I was blessed with a mom and dad.” Jim said, “My mother made the primary impact on my life. She was strong, and gentle, and always had something nice to say about everyone.” Though she died at the age of 52, young Jim made it his goal to follow in his mother’s benevolent footsteps.

He decided to pursue education. This is when he met his wife, Susan. They were students at the Western Kentucky University, and married in 1967. They’ve been married almost 50 years now, and even today, as I watch this couple, it’s all too evident the absolute devotion these two have had over the years. He wasn’t able to attend the college for long, however. His studies were interrupted when he joined the US Military, where he served on active duty for the US Army.

Finishing law school at the University of Memphis in 1970, Jim found work in Memphis, Tennessee, as a clerk for a federal judge, then practiced law in another local law firm. Three years later, his son Graham was born. That same year, he began working for TVA in Knoxville, as a trial attorney. A year after, his son Austin was born. Jim mentions that during this time, “It was difficult to stand on my Christian values.” He tried to get it right, but sometimes he had doubts on what was right. His trying paid off, and the company rewarded him for their success- they moved him up in litigation, then both Vice-President and Deputy General Counsel for TVA. He worked as a lawyer for thirty years, retiring in 2001. He continues to practice law to this day, however, working with children to finalize adoptions and other services pro-bono. Despite the demanding job, he was determined to be active in his community.

Jim started out at the Laurel Church of Christ for five years, then moved to the Farragut Church of Christ when they moved. There, Jim taught Sunday School and worked as an elder and deacon for 18 years. Jim and Susan now attend the Hardin Valley Church of Christ, where Jim serves as an elder. It was in these churches that he saw the need in his community, and wanted to help further.

But this requires a brief history lesson. You see, Albania was once controlled in an area where Christianity wasn’t allowed. God’s name could not be spoken, Bibles could not be brought in. “They were thirsty for God’s word.” Jim said. He brought the Bible to them as an undercover missionary. Over the course of his life, Jim Fox has traveled to Albania 22 times. As he’s traveled and worked, he has had the privilege of seeing the Bible spread in the Albanian communities he’s worked in, and even farther. Jim Fox serves on the World English Institute which provides Bible materials and studies to people, now with students in every country in the world.

His impact strikes close to home, as well. Jim Fox hasn’t just been working as a lawyer, he’s worked at Knoxville Christian School for a long, long time. Since 1989, when his wife Susan began teaching there, Jim Fox has been active in student lives. At first, he worked with his two sons, but after they graduated he saw the value of a Christian education and wanted to do more. Once he retired from TVA in 2001, he became interim principal several times, serving on the Board of Directors, and then president in 2011, and remained there until last year, 2016. He serves on the Board of Hillbrook Christian Association which operates camps for young people and
area churches.

I attended that school. This man not only impacted the facility, but me. He would genuinely try to get to know all of the students by name, and would bring us candy every Friday. If a student had questions about faith, his door was always open and a Bible at the ready. Because of the work he’d done the school increased in students. People believed in the school and the work it was doing, because he believed in the school. He believed in nurturing the students towards Christ. Most importantly, he believed in the students themselves.

And to be believed in?

That was the most important gift someone could give.

Jim Fox is one of the kindest men that I know. Whether he’s working for the law or working for education, Fox’s impact cannot be ignored not just on students, on his employees, but on the community at large.

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Growing a successful garden takes time, patience, a lot of hard work and one very important aspect—the right tools. When Neal Caldwell and his wife, Alice, built their home in Knoxville, Tennessee, they certainly possessed the determination to tackle their difficult yard, and fortunately, Neal had the innovative know-how to create the tools they would need to make their garden grow. What began as a project to beautify a plot of land others saw as useless developed into a series of inventions and even a successful business!

Neal Caldwell is a graduate of Knoxville High School and the University of Tennessee, where he earned degrees in both physics and mathematics. For 40+ years, the seeds he began to sow in his own backyard led to numerous successful products and the birth of Dalen Products, Inc., which manufactures innovative, quality gardening products. Of the products Dalen offers, Neal is especially proud of the Dalen Great Horned Owl.

Each Dalen Owl is hand-painted by American workers and serves as a scarecrow to frighten various critters away from developing gardens. The Dalen Owl has had several modifications over the years, including the additions of solar power and a swivel head that moves in both wind and sun to make it appear more lifelike. Neal enjoys interacting with his customers and encourages them to send in photos of the Dalen Owls they see or what his supplies have helped build. In germinating the seeds of trust with his consumers, he builds relationships and proves that gardening can truly bring people together.

In addition to building a successful business, Neal Caldwell has helped build up his spiritual community at the Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, where he has served several roles over the years, including deacon, elder, Sunday School teacher and superintendent, small group leader and a community Bible study leader. Not only does he volunteer for his own church, he was also on the building committee as chairman for the New Covenant Presbyterian Church. His heart for serving the community has led him to volunteer as a Board of Directors member for Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) and to work for several charities abroad and here in Tennessee. Neal also believes the growing seed is the most important part of development and needs to be cared for in order to grow into a healthy individual plant. This is why he invests in young people by serving on the Board of Trustees at King’s College, as well as the Jobs Partnership Board of Knox County.

Neal tirelessly works to grow and improve his community, from helping others cultivate a garden to improving their daily lives through charity and volunteer work. The seeds of his tenacity and generosity continue to spread throughout our region, leaving a lasting legacy that will bloom for many years to come.

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Roy Smith

Balloon Meister 1957-2017

Roy Smith has been contributing to the future of kids and the joys of spectators as the Balloon Miester for Monroe Life Magazine’s Muscadine Balloon Festival since it began 4 years ago. Last year was Roy’s final opportunity to serve the kids, the pilots and the community. This spring, he surrendered an epic fight to a 6 year battle with cancer.

Roy’s joy was helping kids in hopes for the adults they would become. He did it through service in this festival and also through his contributions as Vice President of the Shiloh Riders; a local motorcycle club that raises money to provide a Christmas for the children of East Tennessee who would otherwise miss a few presents and the love that accompanies them.

His joy and passion live on in those who were close to him and even in those he never got to meet. It is with glad hearts and knowing Roy’s desire to see this event be a success that we continue his efforts. This year, we will fly in memory of our friend and leader, for the kids.

-Thanks Roy

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Meet Randy Boyd

Native Knoxvillian, entrepreneur and business owner Randy Boyd believes that the best way to impact his community is through public service–and that’s just what he’s going to do. The 2018 gubernatorial hopeful is chasing the opportunity to serve as the 50th Governor of Tennessee as a way to give back to the state the Boyd family has called home since the 1800s.

“In many ways, I’ve been running all my life–running to be a better husband, a better father and now to be the Governor of Tennessee,” said Boyd. With the election over a year away, Boyd knows success will come down to one key ingredient: work ethic.

As the CEO of Radio Systems Inc. and former Commissioner of Economic and Community Development for Tennessee, Boyd has worked hard to get where he is today. His work ethic developed early in his South Knoxville childhood when his father, Tom Boyd, began bringing him to work every day. For a dollar an hour, he swept the floors until he was old enough to begin working the heavy machinery at his father’s electric fence company. He didn’t just learn a work ethic, however–he also learned resilience. Before his father focused on making electric fences for cattle and horses, he made something called a Fido Shock, a device to discourage dogs from knocking over metal trash cans by applying a gentle corrective shock. Unfortunately, only a year after Fido Shock was invented, so was the plastic garbage can, rendering the Fido Shock obsolete.

“But Dad showed me how to be resilient. To persist and never give up,” Boyd said. At 8 years old, he watched his father start over in electric fences for cattle and horses and build a successful company.

Working with his father wasn’t the only thing that profoundly influenced Randy’s life. Growing up, he would spend about half his time in Vestal, attending the Immanuel Baptist church with his grandparents.

It wouldn’t be until he was married that he’d switch to Erin Presbyterian, where he and his wife have attended for 34 years, always sitting in the same pew his wife’s father sat at. “Every Sunday morning, we feel his presence there.” Boyd said.

First College Grad

At age 16, Randy was ready to move on to the University of Tennessee, but his father was not supportive of pursuing a college education. He thought that Boyd could work in his factory and didn’t need a secondary degree. Determined to make the next step, Boyd struck a deal with hisfather that he would work for minimum wage at the factory to pay for classes at UT.

“Every weekend, I would run injection molding machines, two twelve-hour shifts.” Boyd recalls. “…It really showed me the value of work, and learned the value of education. If you want to make a difference in the world, it starts with education.”

While at college, he doubled down on coursework to graduate early and became the first college graduate in his family at the age of 19. As a newly-minted college grad, he decided to keep working for his father for four years before striking out on his own to start a company. Within a year, that company failed. Forced to confront his own failure but too full of pride to come back to working for his father, Boyd tried again. This time, he learned from his mistake.

A Job Begun

He began selling fencing parts out of an old Dodge Maxi van in June of 1991. He would go from Florida to Georgia to Alabama, staying in the best hotels he could find for under $18. One of his favorites was a $13 a night place in Georgia. “I still remember that hotel,” Boyd remembers, and then laughs, “You never wanted to touch the rug there.”

“…I didn’t have air conditioning in my van, and that’s because I was cheap.” Boyd said. “… but I didn’t have a radio because I wanted to make sure that I was listening to my customers.” In 1989, his customers started asking for the “Invisible Fence.” They told Boyd that they would buy “as many as [he] could get.” So Boyd called the company in order to supply his customers’ demands.

When Invisible Fence refused to sell products to him, Boyd did some digging and found out their patent was about to expire. Seizing his chance, Boyd decided to make his own and sell it as a do-it-yourself product versus the professionally installed sales model the Invisible Company used.

An engineer quoted him $30,000 to design what he would call a Radio Fence. Randy recalls that while that may sound like a lot of money to some, it was more than his total net worth of $26,000. He and Jenny bet everything on the design of this one product. By 1991, they began selling the product. Randy hoped to sell 100 units a month, but instead, in the first month, he sold 3,000 units and $1 million worth in the first year. The next year, sales grew to $5 million, then $9 million and then $15 million.

Though those numbers look good on paper, success didn’t come to him overnight. For the first few years, “I was sleeping three hours a night, and we didn’t know if we were going to make payroll each week. It was very, very difficult times,” said Boyd.

Working out of his van, and then a 40-ft tractor trailer, Boyd had very little to help support his wife, Jenny, and their two-year-old son. This was where his father’s lesson kicked in. To persist and never give up.

Eventually, Radio Fence would give way to the Invisible Fence brand and Radio Systems Corporation. Today, the company makes over 4,600 products with 700 employees and sales over $400 million. “God has blessed both Jenny and I beyond our wildest dreams. I feel like if I spent my whole life trying to pay back what I’ve been blessed to have, I’ll still die in debt,” said Boyd

Giving Back

Overcome by a desire to give back, Boyd’s passion for education emerged as he recalled the trials of being the first college grad in his family. In 2007, he began exploring ways to impact the K-12 public school system in Knoxville, including potentially starting a charter school for at-risk students. He worked with Pond Gap Elementary School to develop a middle ground between public and charter schools–a community school. With the help of UT professor Bob Kronick, Dean of Education Bob Rider and countless other administrative partners, Pond Gap became Pond Gap Full Service Community School.

This concept expands the services of an existing school to offer evening programs for the whole family, from extra reading and math for students to GED classes for parents to dentistry services, along with a hot dinner for the entire family. Based on the success of this model, Knox County has now rolled out 8 other schools funded through the Great Schools Partnership.

People began to notice Boyd’s education expertise, including Governor Bill Haslam. In 2012 ,Randy served in the administration of Governor Bill Haslam as an unpaid advisor on education.

“I was very resistant because I thought that government was too slow and bureaucratic, and as a business person, I would never want to do anything like that, but he [Haslam] convinced me that if you want to make a difference, the place you can make the biggest impact is in public service,” said Boyd.

His work resulted in creating the Drive to 55 and the Tennessee Promise. Tennessee Promise empowers more first generation students to enroll in community colleges and technical schools than ever before, with no additional cost to the taxpayer.

After his successful tenure as a special advisor on higher education, Boyd was appointed to Governor Haslam’s cabinet as the Commissioner for Economic and Community Development, a post that fit perfectly with his skills as an entrepreneur and executive. As commissioner, his new “customers,” Tennessee citizens, showed him just how much work needed to be done for the state to thrive economically and educationally.

He saw that 19 of Tennessee’s counties were in distress, and 33 were at risk. That less than 50% of all Tennesseans got an education beyond high school. Yet his energy, coupled with revolutionary solutions, took him to all 95 counties of Tennessee in a quest to create job opportunities for rural and urban areas alike. Under his leadership, the private sector committed to creating 50,000 new jobs and investing $11 billion in the Tennessee economy.

Those that know him well know Boyd’s passion for public service isn’t just fueled by work ethic: it’s his boundless energy to push limits and never shy away from the challenge. The race for governor may be a year away, but Boyd is busy visiting and revisiting all 95 counties and recently announced his plan to run 537.3 miles across the state from Bristol to Memphis.

In the meantime, you may just see him running down Kingston Pike in pursuit of making Tennessee the State of Opportunity

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Behind East Tennessee Foundation: An Interview With President & CEO Mike McClamroch

When you hear “East Tennessee Foundation,” you might immediately think of the many charitable resources this foundation has contributed to East Tennessee over the past 30 years. From scholarships to wildfire relief funds, this organization has its hand in charity work all across our region, with over $250 million in cumulative grants awarded since 1986. Many, however, do not know the story behind East Tennessee Foundation’s President and CEO, Mr. Mike McClamroch.

Mr. McClamroch graduated from Webb School of Knoxville, Furman University and Cumberland School of Law. He was a lawyer with the firm of Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis as well as an active volunteer in the community before taking the lead role at the East Tennessee Foundation in 2001. He and his team helped build the foundation from total assets worth $30 million to now over $300 million.

We had the privilege of speaking with Mr. McClamroch at his office in downtown Knoxville. Sincere gratitude and thankfulness radiated from Mr. McClamroch as he discussed his upbringing, his faith and family, his present-day accomplishments and what the future may hold.

We want you to tell our readers about who you are! Can you begin by telling us about your childhood?

“I am from Knoxville. My parents are from Knoxville, all the way back to my great-grandparents, so I am an East Tennessean born and bred. I grew up in the country in West Knoxville and had all kinds of animals growing up. I was the only kid at Sequoyah School who was a member of 4-H. I grew up with lots of space, and we did everything outside. You know, it was a great way to grow up. We had a garden, not because we had to have it to eat. We had a garden because it was great fun. And I still have a garden, I still work in the yard and I still work outside. That’s how I relax.”

Can we talk a little bit about your upbringing as far as your faith is concerned? Is it a big part of your life?

“It is a huge part of my life. It, in fact, is the driver for almost everything that I do. I learned a reliance early on where it feels absolutely natural for me, when confronted with a problem, to hand it over to God and ask for guidance and wisdom and strength and the wherewithal to get through it. And that serves me really well.”

“I would not be here with ETF if I hadn’t had enough faith to take a real jump, a real counter-intuitive jump. You know, I went to a lot of people to seek advice. I went to my dad, and I said, “Dad, they’ve come to talk to me about this job. What do you think?” And he said, “Are you crazy? Your law practice is booming. You are doing so well. You’ve worked so hard. My advice is no way.” And for your gut, your heart, to tell you that your dad is just dead wrong, because he doesn’t know you as well as God knows you, or you know yourself, that was a hard thing for me to do. But I knew it was the right thing to do, and I called them back and I said, “Yes.”

Tell us about your son. We know he is very important to you.

“He is the most important thing to me. I am continually amazed by him. He is a wonder to behold. I could not be more proud of him, and not just in his accomplishments. He is a great athlete, and a great student, but he also is a deep thinker and really well spoken. Sometimes it is shocking to me and I have to remind myself that he is only fifteen. I love seeing him be a natural born leader. I love seeing him interact with his peers. He is one of those children who is equally at ease with his peers as he is with adults.”

“Recently, we cooked and served dinner at Knoxville Area Rescue Mission and Michael’s response to that was not, “Oh my gosh, that was such hard work.” We stood for hours and made 34 pork tenderloins. The hair on both my arms was singed from the oven. It was hard work. His response was, as we got in the car after dinner and were driving home, “If we made a grant out of our fund to KARM, what do you think they need the most?” That’s the stuff that makes you cry as a parent. I believe as parents we cannot impart that to our children—that is a God-given sensibility. I am just gratified that he has it. And he has a lot of it.”

What sort of goals did you have when you were younger?

“You know, my goals have morphed or matured over time. I was really idealistic at twenty-five. Back then, I really thought that I could reform public policy. But as I grew older and I got deeper into politics, I grew increasingly weary of politics for the sake of politics. Back then, I was the youngest-ever GOP chair and I may be the only GOP chair that counted the seconds until my term ran out. It was an eye-opening experience for me and a great way to pivot and shift gears. I recognized that I needed to figure out a better fit for me to make changes in our community.”

Tell us about the East Tennessee Foundation and what you do there.

“ETF was founded in 1986 and I joined shortly after 9/11 as the economic crisis of 2001 was underway. Our growth since then has been really significant, with the crash of 2008 sitting right in the middle of that. We were able to maintain our grantmaking through both crashes, and it provided survival dollars for a lot of organizations, especially arts organizations that would have gone out of business otherwise. Cumulatively, our grants in the region are over $250 million. That goes a long way and changes a lot of lives in East Tennessee. We are all proud of that.”

“Part of my job is to make sure that everyone here who is crunching numbers or reading grant applications, proofreading the newsletter or whatever it is, feels connected. To the ones whose lives we are changing. It is not uncommon for me to read the thank you letters, the gut-wrenching stories, in our staff meetings. I encourage everybody to go on the site visits, to serve on the scholarship committees, to do all of that work. It is what they have to do to stay focused and to remember that their job has meaning, no matter how difficult it is that day. It is easy for me, because I am at a 20,000-foot level, and at any point, I can go down and get involved in any part of it, but I think that it is important for our team. And it matters.”

What ETF accomplishments are you most proud of that have taken place in the last year?

“I am proud of so much, but I am most proud of the way our team works with each other to get it all accomplished. This is not false modesty, but anybody that knows the Foundation and sees the way that it works, day in and day out, knows it is not a reflection of me. It is a reflection of this team. I am a part of, always, a larger whole, and the way they respect each other, the way they communicate with each other, the way they are able to advance the mission of the Foundation and just, one after another, set records in all of these accomplishments…it’s a reflection on them. Overall, I think the thing I am most proud of is our work environment, because it is conducive to success. It makes success not just possible, but likely. And I am really proud of that.”

Looking ahead at the next couple of years, what is the ultimate goal?

“The ultimate goal is to stay in that position where we are managing, guiding and feeding that growth. We are going to be stretching in some areas in which we have never been able to stretch before, and we have done a great job on a meager budget on name recognition and brand recognition. We have done a great job on becoming the conversation starter for meaningful philanthropy in East Tennessee, so we have to continue all that. But we are going to be exploring really fascinating things like mission investing and other things that are going to be really attractive to potential donors, potential fund holders, and will multiply, I hope, exponentially, our impact in the region. When we get to invest, not just through grants but through investments in projects that are changing people’s lives, our impact and the benefit we provide is going to increase exponentially. I am really excited. We are now positioned to not only watch it happen, because there is nothing passive about any of this, but also to make it happen.”

The Foundation is a grant-making institution comprised of over 425 charitable funds established by donors interested in impacting their communities. ETF can accept almost any asset of value. If you have questions about charitable giving, feel free to contact Mike or his staff at 865-524-1223 or visit their website for more information:

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Terry McNew: Mastercraft CEO

There are those who measure success by a job title or social status, and there are others who measure success by hard work and the ability to overcome hardships. No matter how you quantify the word, Terry McNew is, without a doubt, an incredible success story.

Terry was born in Florida but raised near Compton, a city in southern Los Angeles County that has struggled with unemployment and crime. His father served in World War II as a “Frogman,” or combat diver. Upon his release from the service, he worked in the space program but was laid off when Terry was 9 and remained unemployed until Terry was 12. He was eventually rehired into the manned space program, but this taught Terry to be self-sufficient at an early age.

Despite family hardships, Terry discovered a love for watercraft. He and his brother, who was almost 5 years older, rebuilt a Glastron Boat and sailed off into the Pacific Ocean to catch what they could. They discovered that with a slight redesign of the hull, they could get better performance from that boat…and thus began his thirst for a career in design and performance of watercraft.

At age 16, while still in high school, Terry decided to strike out on his own. Getting jobs wherever he could, he saved his money while living with his godfather in Stanton, California, sleeping on his own store-bought foldout sofa in the living room.

Terry then moved to Florida, where he worked for a company selling heavy construction equipment. He funded his own education and graduated with a BSBA degree in economics from the University of Central Florida, College of Business Administration. He then began his career with Sea Ray’s PD&E division in Merritt Island, Florida, a division of Brunswick.

The years that followed included an array of positions as he began his ascent toward CEO. Terry worked in several areas of manufacturing at Sea Ray boats, holding different key roles before taking the position of Vice President of manufacturing in 2001. In 2004, he was offered and accepted the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of Correct Craft Boats. In 2006, he was again invited to join Brunswick, where he held several executive positions at Sea Ray and Brunswick Boat Group. In August 2012, after 24 years in the boating industry, Terry was offered the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of MasterCraft.

During his tenure as CEO of MasterCraft, the company has grown from a production level of 1,200 boats a year, to just under 3,000. In 2015, Terry led a team that took the company public, and they are now listed on the NASDAQ exchange. He even got to ring the closing bell at the exchange on the day of the IPO offering.

Terry has several additional success stories of his own – his son, Philip, and daughter, Tara. Philip is a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force at Langley Air Force Base and is currently serving in Afghanistan. He has served 13 years so far. Philip is married to JoAnna, who is also a staff sergeant in the Air Force. They have two children—Aiden, who is 8 years old, and Jude, who is 6. Terry’s daughter, Tara, lives in Redding, California, with her husband, Jordan, who recently graduated from Moody Bible College. They have two children, Isiah, 6, and Lizzy, 3. Terry recently married his beautiful bride Allison in March and added three more children, Leah, Lauren and Beth, plus, two more grandchildren, Parker, 3, and Graham, 1.

In addition to his successful career, Terry contributes to a number of missions that provide various kinds of aid to families that need assistance. He has a caring heart and a strong faith in God and feels he has been blessed over the years with God’s guidance. His motivation comes from his desire to leave this Earth a better place than when he got here—and this sentiment, truly, makes him the greatest success story of all.

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