Family: Married to Lora Irwin, and they have three children, Bryan Jr., 17; Andrew, 15; and Cade, 11.
Occupation: Owns an American General insurance agency with offices in Athens and Knoxville, but he lives in Maryville.
Bryan Irwin has his own mantra for facing each day. He says he tries to live in a way of thinking that encompasses: “What would you do today if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
“In this economy, one of my greatest fears is not having a job,” says Irwin. “But, like everyone else, I also have a certain fear of failure. Who wants to fail? Unfortunately failure is a necessary part of success. No one succeeds because they did everything right. We only succeed because we failed our way to success.”
Irwin armed himself with this attitude when changing jobs and careers throughout his adult life.
Irwin grew up in North Knoxville and graduated Webb School in 1988. He graduated Carson-Newman College and from there went to Richmond, Va., to Baptist Theological Seminary. While earning his masters degree, he worked on church staffs and, at age 28 became pastor of Central Baptist Richmond. “It was pretty tough. We had three young kids at that point, and I was trying to go to school and be a pastor too.”
As soon as Irwin earned his masters degree, his wife went to earn her masters degree as a nurse practitioner. After 12 years in Richmond, he and his wife moved the family closer to home, and he became pastor at Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Seymour. After four years, he decided to make a career change.
Irwin worked at a funeral home for three years, a line of work Irwin says can be tough emotionally. “I decided to do something completely different,” he says “So I ended up in the insurance business. I’m getting it off the ground, but we’re getting there.”
Irwin says there has always been a familiar thread that runs through everything he has had the opportunity to do. “All I’ve ever done is work with people. You learn how to approach and size someone up quickly and have a conversation with them,” he says.
Irwin still gets the opportunity to share scriptural and life lessons through an adult Sunday School class he leads at New Providence Presbyterian Church. “It’s a good outlet, and I’m a story teller. When you’ve mastered how to tell a story, you’ve connected with people,” he says. “Facts are great, but you’ve got to couch the facts in a situation people can connect to.”
Here is Bryan Irwin, Sr.:
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“It comes from the movie, ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou?’ and is an exchange between the characters Delmar and Pete after Pete reappears and Delmar explains that he thought a spell had turned Pete into a toad.
What are you guilty of?
“Watching too much TV.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“Probably some items from my grandfather. They are not worth much in themselves, but they mean a lot to me.”
What are you reading currently?
“I read a wide variety of things. Some of the most valuable things I have are books.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“I want to fly in the cockpit of a jet. I would love to blast off in the cockpit of the shuttle. I wish I could fit in a cockpit.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Storyteller. I have practiced the art of telling my story, and the story of many people. Sometimes the story is humorous. Sometimes it is filled with grief or anger. You connect with people when you know how to tell a story.”
What is your passion?
“I think my passion is learning. I love learning new things.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“Roosevelt. I would love to ask him everything behind the scenes of the largest world changing event in history - World War II.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“I’d go back to the 1980s and do it all over again. Wow, that was some real fun.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Do not go down Kanterbury Hill on your bicycle. I took that advice and instead went down that hill with three other idiots in a homemade ‘toy box’ go-cart with no steering wheel or brakes. I think she meant do not take anything that rolls down that hill. That’s when I learned about ‘the spirit of the law.’”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“My wife. Lora is a strong woman. She is the love of my life and the best thing that ever happened to me. I talk about everything to her.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“Facebook. I would have never known what was going on in so many people’s lives had Facebook not come along.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“Church janitor. I think that one speaks for itself.”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
‘“Fat Albert.’ Who doesn’t like Bill Cosby?”
What irritates you?
“Being very inconsiderate. I know there is a lot going in people’s lives that keep us from being considerate. However, those who park diagonally, drive as slow in the hammer lane as the guy in the right lane on the interstate, people who decide to have a conversation in a group in front of the doors everyone is trying to get out and those who speak and act disrespectfully -- those things irritate me.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“Anywhere you go in Blount County is a great place. Our family lived in Richmond, Va., for years, and the geography is much different there. We loved it, but there is nothing like coming home and seeing the Great Smoky Mountains. It is home.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“I would tell myself to look at a lot of options. Don’t take pressure to do or be anything that you don’t want to be. Be more diverse. Explore more hobbies. Take care of yourself.”
I still can’t quite get the hang of…
“I can’t the hang of Twitter. I just stopped. I don’t see a need in my life for one more way to avoid talking to someone face-to-face.”
If you could do one impulsive thing, what would it be?
“Sky dive. The impulsive part would be where I strapped Lora to me before I jumped. It would be the closest to death I would come on many levels.”