Tusculum University’s next president Dr. Scott Hummel said on Friday he wants “Tusculum to become who it says it is.”
Hummel is a 30-year education professional coming from William Carey University in Mississippi.
According to a news release, the university’s board of trustees unanimously selected Hummel to succeed Dr. Greg Nelson, Tusculum’s acting president since August. He’ll officially take over Feb. 17 as the institution’s 29th president.
“Dr. Hummel is an exceptional leader with a thorough understanding of virtually every aspect of a university’s operation,” said Tom Wennogle, chairman of Tusculum’s board of trustees.
Wennogle also called Hummel “a dedicated community servant and man of faith who will build on Tusculum’s tradition of civic engagement and our 225 years as a faith-based institution.”
In a meeting with media on Friday, Hummel said he plans to build enrollment, add academic programs and reinforce commitment to the institution’s Christian background and covenants.
Hummel’s previous experience includes holding positions of vice president for advancement and church relations as well as executive vice president and provost at his alma mater William Carey. He also helped lead the crisis response when William Carey’s campus was seriously damaged by a tornado in 2017.
Hummel discussed his values and plans for his new role on Friday, saying that he hopes to grow enrollment at Tusculum in part through the addition of medical and doctoral programs like the Niswonger College of Optometry.
He said such programs “create their own pipeline” as students enroll in undergraduate programs with the intention of continuing on to the end goal of completing a doctorate.
Hummel was an active proponent for adding these types of programs at William Carey. He said he saw the overall benefits for the university first hand, as enrollment doubled and the monetary gains allowed for investment into other programs and buildings.
In the addition of new and the continuation of existing programs, Hummel said he plans to meet with industry leaders to ask “what do they need now and what do they see coming down the pipeline.”
Hummel also focused attention on Tusculum’s and his own Christian background, saying he wants to see Tusculum “embrace its own covenants and heritage more intentionally and more vigorously.”
William Carey, like Tusculum, is a church-affiliated liberal arts school. However, while Tusculum has ties to the Presbyterian Church, William Carey is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
Of the different denominations, Hummel said he sees both as part of “a broader Christian university.”
“I very much enjoy that environment,” Hummel said.
“My calling and my purpose is to play a part in providing fantastic and quality Christian education,” Hummel added.
While Hummel said he recognizes the challenges inherent in higher education and has been briefed on those specific to his new job, he sees challenges “as something to lean into.”
When a tornado hit William Carey’s Hattiesburg campus in January of 2017 destroying six buildings and damaging nearly 50 more, totaling $110 million in damage, Hummel said his faith was a driving force in his success with the crisis response.
Hummel shared that the chapel on campus was severely damaged in the disaster, and the Bible on the pulpit was found open to Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Hummel called the tornado an “existential threat” that presented serious challenges but said that Psalm 46 stayed in his mind throughout the process.
The campus was forced to close for a month due to damage, but the winter and spring trimesters remained on schedule.
Hummel also said the experience “taught me the necessity of prioritization. I led a collaborative team approach that resulted in better, more informed but timely decisions and a successful result.”
Hummel discussed his preference for collaboration, saying he prefers not to be the smartest in the room, and that this is the approach he hopes to bring with his leadership at Tusculum.
Like the work necessary to repair tornado damage at William Carey, Hummel said not everything can be done in one term, but that he is “proud to be a pioneer.”
A man fleeing from Greene County Sheriff’s Department deputies died Friday afternoon after his car left West Main Street and struck a tree before flipping onto its top.
Authorities identified the man as Jeffery Curtis, 28, of Morristown.
The chase began shortly after 2 p.m. Curtis had active warrants on file with the Sheriff’s Department, which was why he fled from law enforcement, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which is investigating the accident.
Deputies lost sight of of the Honda Civic Curtis was driving near the intersection of Asheville Highway and East Vann Road. Witnesses pointed the deputies to West Main Street. Curtis had lost control of his vehicle near the Laurel Street intersection in the 800 block of West Main, according to the preliminary report.
The car struck an embankment in the yard of a house at the intersection and went airborne across the yard, striking trees behind the house and flipping over, according to the THP’s preliminary report. The vehicle also apparently struck the back of the house there.
Curtis was not wearing a seat belt, and THP officers indicated that it would have made a difference in the outcome of the accident. A preliminary report indicates he had been using drugs. Test have been ordered.
No one inside the house was injured. Debbie Maxwell said she was inside the home, which is owned by her best friend, and they were preparing for a family reunion later in the day.
Maxwell said that no one in the house saw the accident, but that the back of the house had some significant damage.
“It sounded like a bomb went off,” she said. “I first thought maybe a train had left the tracks.”
Other witnesses at the scene said the vehicle had passed them on Asheville Highway at a high rate of speed.
West Main Street was blocked to traffic initially after the accident. It was reopened about an hour later with one lane remaining closed as authorities completed their investigation of the scene.
A number of emergency agencies responded to the accident. In addition to the THP and Sheriff’s Department, on scene were the Greeneville-Greene County Emergency Medical Service, the Greeneville Police Department, the Greeneville Fire Department and the Greene County Rescue Squad.
Editor’s note: This column is the second of two about the October 1998 slaying of ￼Tennessee political figure Tommy Burks, and its aftermath. The first part, published in the Jan. 4 edition of The Sun, dealt with the murder of Burks, a popular state senator. Incumbent Burks was seeking re-election at the time he was killed, opposed in that race by a candidate named Byron Looper. That column is online at www.greenevillesun.com.
Byron Looper, known for cantankerous and odd behavior, was property assessor in his Middle Tennessee home county of Putnam in 1998. Looper’s previous efforts to achieve state-level elected office in Tennessee, and earlier in Georgia, had failed. As his political aspirations grew, he’d even legally changed his middle name from Anthony to “(Low Tax),” apparently in an attempt to appeal to voters.
Looper as a public figure gained a reputation as a loose cannon. He faced formal and informal accusations of misusing his role as Putnam County property assessor, and frequently made public negative comments about his fellow elected county officials.
Burks himself was quoted by a friend as saying that Looper was “absolutely crazy,” and “capable of doing anything.”
When a man drove a car onto Burks’ huge farm straddling the county line dividing Putnam and Cumberland counties on Oct. 19, 1996, and shot Burks to death with a 9mm handgun, a young farm hand caught a glimpse of the man behind the wheel. The farm worker, named Wesley Rex, didn’t recognize the driver.
Later, though, Rex saw a television news report that included images both of Burks and also his political opponent, Looper. Rex immediately called Burks’ widow, Charlotte, to tell her that the man he’d seen on the farm Oct. 19 had been Looper.
Authorities began looking for Looper, but could not immediately find him.
He later was located and arrested far away, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he had gone to see a childhood friend who had grown up to become a recruiter for the Marine Corps. That old friend would later testify in court against Looper, saying that Looper told him he’d murdered his opponent in the senate race in Tennessee and wanted help in getting rid of the car he’d used during the crime, and its tires.
What would have prompted Looper to such an extreme act as killing his political foe? The answer apparently lay in an old Tennessee law that required the removal of a candidate’s name from the ballot, without being replaced, if he died within 30 days of the relevant election. Burks had been killed within that time frame.
The result of that was that Burks had to be removed as the Democratic candidate in the race. Thus, Looper’s name easily could have been the only one on the ballot in the November senate election, giving him victory by default.
The only available counter-option was for someone to run as a write-in candidate, even though history showed that write-ins seldom won elections. In fact, no write-in candidate ever had won a senate election in Tennessee.
This was no ordinary situation, though. Though there had not yet been a trial, what Looper was accused of doing had cast a dark pall over the senate race. The prevailing public mood in Looper’s senatorial district, and in Nashville, was that no one should be allowed to benefit politically from murder.
A write-in candidate had to be found.
Enter Charlotte Burks, widow of Tommy. She was willing to launch a last-minute write-in candidacy and, if elected, take over her husband’s old seat in the state senate.
A flood of bipartisan volunteers appeared, ready to help. For the Republicans who stepped in, keeping Looper out of the senate outweighed the usual party loyalties.
The result: Voters that November gave Charlotte Burks 30,252 votes. Looper received 1,531 votes.
When the 101st General Assembly convened, Charlotte Burks was welcomed by her husband’s former colleagues. She soon sponsored a bill that repealed the balloting law Looper had apparently sought to exploit by murdering Tommy Burks.
The new Sen. Burks took her position seriously, and worked in state committees and in other functions focused on education, economic development, government operations, environment, conservation and other aspects of government.
Though re-elected multiple times, she opted not to run again after the 2013 election, and retired back to the Burks farm.
But what became of Looper?
After running through a succession of lawyers, Byron (Low Tax) Looper finally had his day in court in 2000 and was convicted of first-degree murder. Sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole, he was sent to Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, and after Brushy Mountain’s closure, to the Morgan County Correctional Complex.
He made one effort to have his conviction overturned, but got nowhere.
Looper’s conviction had a Northeast Tennessee connection: jurors hearing his case had been brought in from Sullivan County to help ensure an unprejudiced panel and fair trial.
Among key witnesses against Looper were the young Burks farm worker who was with Tommy Burks the day of his death, and also the Marine recruiter whom Looper had visited shortly after the killing.
In June 2013, the incarcerated Looper, having heard talk of moving him into the general prison population, which he didn’t want to happen, reportedly hit a pregnant prison counselor on both sides of her head, requiring guards to restrain him.
Soon after, on June 26, 2013, Looper, 48, was found dead in his prison cell. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation looked into his death. An autopsy concluded Looper had died from a heart condition exacerbated by several medications, including high doses of anti-depressants.
One of my best old Cookeville friends from elementary school through high school was Bill Gibson. Bill and I spent many an after-school afternoon goofing off at his parents’ house, which was within walking distance of the elementary school we attended.
Bill grew up to become a prosecutor in the Looper case. Having not communicated with Bill for years, I asked him a few days ago, in preparation for this column, for his take on the Burks case and on Looper.
Bill’s replies, given by Facebook message, follow.
Bill Gibson on the Burks slaying:
“That case had so many moving parts and the entire backstory is fascinating. When a beloved state senator gets gunned down a lot of resources become available. It was the most intensive investigation I was ever involved in. As you can imagine there was a lot of pressure to file the charge. As Looper was coming in to focus as the likely killer the TBI pressed hard to make the arrest. They needed probable cause.
“In the DAs office we were pumping the brakes as we needed proof beyond a reasonable doubt. So much of the evidence proving his guilt came during the months after he was charged (thank the Lord). The publicity did bring some people forward with good information.”
Gibson on Looper:
“I felt that he was narcissistic but also had some delusional thinking. As time went on after the conviction and through the appeals he got more bizarre and ‘out there.’ Some of his many lawyers wanted to use mental defenses but he would have no part of it.
“From my very first awareness of him in the community when he was campaigning for property assessor he gave me a very definite case of the creeps. Just a very dark and confusing spirit about him.”
Tommy Burks rests in Cookeville’s Crest Lawn Cemetery. Tommy’s memorial is inscribed with the following quote from the slain senator: “To serve others is the most lasting treasure anyone can receive.”
Findagrave.com lists Looper’s burial place as unknown.
For his friend Patrick Wine, Johnny Dale Arrowood of Greeneville, who died this week after a bout with cancer, was “truly one of God’s special people,” and not just because the well-known baker had the ability to create what Wine wistfully described as “the best apple fritters I have ever eaten … and eaten … and eaten ...”
John Arrowood was best known locally as the man at the helm of Greeneville’s Peggy Ann Bakery, an iconic bakery/restaurant here, now with a branch in Johnson City as well. For Wine, Arrowood was a close personal friend of the sort who became closer as time went by.
Early on, Wine told The Greeneville Sun, Arrowood would give a simple “hi!” greeting when they ran into one another. Over time, the greeting was supplemented by a firm handshake, and eventually, an even firmer hug replaced the handshake.
Wine describes his friend, who is being buried this morning in Graceland Memorial Gardens, as a Christian man whose focus was on “God, his family and his community.”
When he visited Peggy Ann Bakery over the 20 years since moving to Greeneville, Wine said, he almost always found Arrowood at work, but ready to pause to welcome his friend and inquire about him and his loved ones, and give news of his own.
“Our conversation, though short, would almost always be about his family and his joys and concerns for them,” Wine said. “Or about his business and all the little things he was working on so he could take care of his customers and make them happy.”
Wine, himself with more than 35 years of retail experience, said he found it “heartening that after John’s many years of serving the public he still had a smile in his heart for his customers.”
Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison called The Greeneville Sun to comment on Arrowood’s contributions to the community through the “flagship label” of Peggy Ann Bakery. Arrowood’s “masterpiece creations” as a baker made Peggy Ann Bakery a “branding institution” in Greene County, Morrison said.
He noted that he has taken part in few special community events that did not showcase baked items from Peggy Ann Bakery, ranging from donuts through “bachelor button” cookies.
Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels also called The Greeneville Sun with praise for Arrowood and what he as a business man and positive individual did for the town and county as a whole and its people as individuals.
“He was simply a good man,” Daniels said. Like the county mayor, he said Arrowood and Peggy Ann Bakery became iconic and regionally attractive contributors to local life.
“He was a good man, and he definitely will be missed,” Daniels said. He also noted Arrowood’s love for golf, and said that was a point of common interest between Arrowood and himself.
“Everything I’ve ever heard people say about John was good,” he added.
Arrowood was a hands-on businessman, several who knew him well indicated. Heath Pruitt, who has known Arrowood since his childhood, said it was common for Arrowood to begin his work day about 4:30 a.m. or so, then work straight through until past 6 p.m.
“From daylight to dark, he worked,” Pruitt said.
Despite an exhausting work schedule and with potential and actual distractions always surrounding him, Arrowood never overlooked his friends or their families, according to Pruitt. “He was one of those who treated my kids like they were his own,” he recalled.
Wine made similar observations about Arrowood’s appreciation of family – his own and those of others. “It is uncanny how after many years you are able to understand a man’s true nature not so much by what he had said in all of our short conversations, but what he did not say, and more so how he acted towards the people he loved and worked with.”
Wine continued: “The very extraordinary love he and his wife Imogene shared, the exceptional love he had for his children and the glow he showed when he talked about his grandkids all point to the man he was.”
In those rare hours he wasn’t working, getting ready to work, or catching some sleep badly needed because of all that work, Arrowood sometimes found time for a bit of golf over the years, friends noted.
Arrowood clearly thought that “having as many golf clubs in your bag as it could carry was not a bad thing,” according to Wine.
Bob Southerland, who sold advertising for The Greeneville Sun for years, described himself and Arrowood as “golfing buddies,” particularly in earlier years. “He was a good friend,” Southerland said.
Southerland concurred with those who described Arrowood as possessing an incredibly consistent and strong work ethic. “He was one of the hardest-working men you’d ever know,” he said. He said further that many people do not realize the level of work required to operate a successful commercial bakery.
In the obituary they wrote for Arrowood, his family members noted his love of “serving the East Tennessee community by making donuts, pastries, and desserts of all kind.”
He was a member of Retail Bakers of America and Southeastern Retail Bakers of America and served for years on the board of the latter group.
“He helped others grow their business by teaching and sharing his great knowledge of the bakery industry,” his obituary noted.
Wine described his friend’s passing as bringing tears: “tears of both sadness and joy.”
The sadness derives from losing the ability still to see and converse with his friend, Wine said, and the joy comes from “knowing he is with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and all those who have gone before.”
Arrowood was at home Wednesday when he passed away after a brief battle with cancer. He would have turned 70 this year.
Born July 5, 1950, he was a Greeneville High School class of 1968 graduate, and attended Kansas State University and Tusculum College.
He married his wife, Imogene, 40 years ago. His father was the late William Arrowood, best known as Bill, and his mother, who survives him, is Peggy Ann Arrowood.
A full family listing and obituary were published in the Friday edition of The Sun.