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Leaders recognized at Milligan College

By Lesley Jenkins
Elizabethton Star staff

Photo by Dave Boyd Dan Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, throws out "Eat Mor Chikin" cows to audience members at the Leaders in Christian Service program at Milligan College. Cathy was the keynote speaker.

Twelve leaders from Northeast Tennessee were recognized on Tuesday by Milligan College as Leaders in Christian Service. The college recognized individuals in education, medicine, business, and retirement.

Milligan College President Don Jeanes said, “The purpose is to recognize those individuals who are doing an outstanding job of integrating their faith with their profession. This is not an award but a way to provide examples for our community and especially to our students of what servant leadership is all about, and what it can look like on a daily basis in a variety of professions.”

Jeanes introduced the keynote speaker of the program, Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-Fil-A. He said Chick-Fil-A’s mission statement is not to “Eat More Chicken” but it is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A.”

Cathy grabbed the interest of the audience by having a “cow toss” in the chapel with the famous “Eat Mor Chikin” cows.

Cathy talked about the business and how his father, Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A, has incorporated the mission statement throughout the company, one example being that Chick-Fil-A locations are not open on Sundays. Truett Cathy said he wants to give his employees an opportunity to rest and worship with their families.

Dan said his father told him a long time ago, “Fall in love with your work and you will never have to work again.” This is one of the reasons his business has been so successful, as is the fact that he credits his success to his faith in God. Cathy said anything people do can be done to the glory and worship of God.

He spoke about attending grand opening of many Chick-Fil-A restaurants where a special promotion gives the first 100 customers free food for a year. While visiting one location the day before the grand opening, a man came up and inquired where the line started to be one of the first 100 customers.

Cathy was slightly confused since the opening wasn’t until the next morning, but he told the man, “I guess the line begins right here.” All through the evening, people filed into the line, waiting for the next day’s opening. He became concerned with all of the people gathered to spend the night, and decided to open the restaurant doors so people could rest inside and use the rest room facilities.

Ever since that grand opening, Cathy forfeited his hotel reservations, booked a sleeping bag instead and began spending the night with his customers hosting ice cream hours, chicken nugget parties, and even karaoke displayed on a large projector screen throughout the evening.

He emphasized to the audience that his two most important tools are his cell phone, to keep him connected with the outside world, keeping things in perspective. He joked that even if his family called him in the middle of the speech, he would take the call. The other important item he keeps in his left pocket is a pocket-sized New Testament, he said.

“The fundamental truths about life is that this (Bible) will never change,” Cathy said. “There is no such thing as a Christian business. Jesus did not die on the cross for GM Motors or any other company,” he added. He only said there were Christian individuals in business.

Cathy also presented a “leadership development tool,” a shoe shine brush, to each of the 12 leaders that were recognized, symbolizing the cleaning of the feet and servant leadership.

In conclusion, he said, “and for Heaven’s sake, please eat more chicken.”

Twelve individuals and couples were recognized and presented “The Basin and Towel” symbolizing the lives of Christian service to which the college and its members are dedicated. They are remind to remind individuals of Jesus, he said, who came not to be served but to serve; of his example as he washed the feet of his disciples, and of our commitment to humble service in learning and life.

Among those honored was Dr. Robbie Anderson. She is the curriculum director for Johnson City Schools. In her anonymous nomination she is described as, “Where there is a need, she listens. When you feel downhearted, she encourages.” She has a bachelor’s degree from Milligan College and a doctorate of education from East Tennessee State University. She is a member of Grandview Christian Church.

Jeanette Blazier was chosen because she is the mayor of Kingsport. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Carson-Newman College. In her position as mayor, she is described as a leader who enables and empowers others to serve with greater effectiveness. She is the chair of the Tri-Cities Regional Airport Commission, a member of the Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center Community Board and the Rotary Club. She attends First Baptist Church, where she has served on the board of deacons and as a Sunday school director.

Dr. Paul and Betty Brown were nominated for recognition. Paul is an internal medicine specialist and Betty is an author, educator and consultant. Paul received his medical degree from Medical College of Virginia and is a U.S. Army Veteran. Betty and Paul are both heavily involved in mission work and for more than 20 years, Paul has led a mission trip to Mexico. Betty received her master’s degree in psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and is the author of three books.

Bill Derby is the publisher and owner of The News and Neighbor newspaper in Johnson City. He received his bachelor’s degree from ETSU in journalism. He and his wife, Judy, strive to create a paper that builds community by praising what is good about it. He is an active member of the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.

Teri Ferguson is a nurse responsible for the Parish Nurse Program at Mountain States Health Alliance. The program supports 22 area churches. She is a volunteer parish nurse for her own church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Johnson City.

Sam and Sally Greer were also chosen as a couple because they were described as “a team that teaches our community how to love and serve, for the glory of Christ.” He is a Milligan College alum and the retired plant manager for Mayfield Dairy Farms. Sally is the former hostess for First Christian Church in Johnson City. Quietly serving behind the scenes, they impact hundreds of families in our community through their activities.

Tom Hornsby is retired from Eastman Corporation and is now a leadership consultant with his company, VisionWorks. He is the co-author of two books, New Roles for Leaders and Taming the Storm. He is active with the First Christian Church in Johnson City.

George Karnes is a dentist and founder of TMJ Treatment Clinic in Johnson City. He said he felt God leading him to this area nine years ago and decided to help those in need, namely the homeless and indigent. He started the Keystone Dental Clinic. He also leads mission trips to Mexico. He is a member of the Central Baptist Church.

Carlyle Walton is the president and CEO of Takoma Adventist Hospital in Greeneville. He was born in British Guayana, South America, and immigrated to the United States in 1982. He earns the respect of all of his associates by being a leader who leads by being seen. He is a member of the Greeneville Seventh Day Adventist, where he serves as a Sabbath school teacher.

Clem Wilkes is an investment broker for Citizens Investment Services. Whether in his personal life, professional capacity, or public works, Wilkes’ character always projects his Christian beliefs. He is described as an excellent listener who is attentive to the concerns of others. He is a member of the Lions Club, where he was named Lion of the Year and Lion of the Decade. He is a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The company invests in scholarships, character-building programs for kids, foster homes and other community services.


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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