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Tusculum celebrates 225th birthday with special celebration

GREENEVILLE, TN – Joy, laughter and song filled the Tusculum University campus Tuesday, Sept. 3. More than 400 people with deep connections to Tennessee’s first higher education institution celebrated its 225th birthday with Charter Day.

An excited crowd of students, faculty and staff, as well as alumni and guests from the community, joined to sing “Happy Birthday.” With the original charter, encased in glass, as the star attraction, the Tusculum family honored its past by recognizing those who helped establish the institution.

tusculum 225th birthday
Dr. Greg Nelson, Tusculum University’s acting president, cuts one of the 225th birthday cakes at the Charter Day celebration; image submitted

“Our faculty, staff and students have worked hard over 225 years and continue today to provide an institution of higher education that East Tennessee and the Appalachian Mountains deserve,” said Dr. Greg Nelson, Tusculum’s acting president. “We have achieved great things together, and even brighter things are ahead in our future. Let’s always connect Tusculum’s future to our history and remember our roots and our mission will guide us as we walk into the future.”

As part of celebrating Tusculum’s 225th birthday, Tusculum held Day of Giving, an opportunity for people to financially support all facets of the university. People still have an opportunity to give by logging on to

The charter for Greeneville College, a predecessor of Tusculum University, was signed Sept. 3, 1794, with the Rev. Hezekiah Balch as founding president. In 1818, the Rev. Samuel Doak and his son, Samuel Witherspoon Doak, founded Tusculum Academy. Fifty years later, the two institutions merged and experienced a couple of name changes before becoming Tusculum University in 2018.

One of the people attending Charter Day was Dr. David Bow, a professor in the physical education and sports studies department, who is now in his 43rd year at Tusculum. He has seen many changes in facilities and watched the number of sports increase. Today, he is excited Tusculum is able to offer as many as three doctoral degrees.

“Probably the thing that comes to mind most is how Tusculum has grown from what it was when I came to what it is today,” Dr. Bow said. “Every day, the opportunity to come here and contribute keeps me going. I could have retired some time ago, but I don’t think I’m ready to retire because I still feel like I’ve got something to contribute and I really enjoy doing it.”

Reflecting on some of the attributes of Tusculum, Dr. Nelson highlighted the growth of the Master of Business Administration program and the College of Education’s partnerships with school systems. Another program Dr. Nelson discussed is the Niswonger College of Optometry, for which Tusculum is working through the accreditation process. “It’s one of those generational moments in the history of Tusculum that future generations will look back and say, ‘We’re grateful to Tusculum not only for what it did for this campus but for what it did for this region,’” Dr. Nelson said.

Published September 4, 2019

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