Starlight Award winner Scooter Clippard recalls his days in the principal’s office

Scooter and Fran Clippard are pictured with Sen. Bill Frist and Fred Thompson, candidate for president. Scooter was National Fundraising Chairman for Thompson’s run for president.

Scooter and Fran Clippard are pictured with Sen. Bill Frist and Fred Thompson, candidate for president. Scooter was National Fundraising Chairman for Thompson’s run for president.

B.C. “Scooter” Clippard, Jr.

B.C. “Scooter” Clippard, Jr.

Scooter Clippard really doesn’t want his name in the paper.

Clippard will take home a Starlight Award later this month, having been named Maryville High School’s Outstanding Alumni by the Maryville City Schools Foundation. He will be feted and applauded, with friends and family coming to honor him from as far away as New York. He will be among five honored in 2011, for an award that never has a shortage of candidates.

And Clippard is still in a state of shock.

“I mean, I just gotta tell you,” he says in a telephone interview from his home in Nashville, “this whole thing really caught me by surprise. I’m still thinking there really must be some kind of a mistake.”

When Clippard’s wife, Fran, asked him for his resume, he just assumed it was for another grant or more paperwork for the foundation the two of them run. When the call came that he had been chosen as the Starlight Award recipient as a Maryville High School Outstanding Alumni, Clippard was more than honored. He was flabbergasted.

“I was a terrible student,” he says, “and I’m not being modest. Out of a graduating class of about 107, I was lucky if I was number 100 in academics. I liked high school because I loved football and sports and my friends, but I spent most of my time getting paddled in the principal’s office.”

As for putting his high school academic challenges behind him and excelling in college, Clippard laughs. “It’s a long story, but it took me 25 years to get my college degree.”

The Clippard family -- Buster and Jean Clippard with 13-year-old Scooter, 9-year-old Dickie and 7-year-old Van -- moved from Jackson, Tenn., to Maryville in 1963, where they lived until 1970. Buster was tired of the family car business in Jackson, was in the National Guard, so he moved the family to East Tennessee, settling in Maryville. Jean, who had been the society editor of the Jackson Sun, became society editor of the local daily paper, and the boys settled down into Maryville Junior High and the elementary schools.

“I remember my first day at Maryville Junior High,” Scooter says. “It was kind of scary, moving to a brand-new place, and it seemed like we were going around the world. My first day, I went to football practice because I had played football in junior high in Jackson.”

At that practice, Scooter met Steve Caldwell and Chuck Cary. “I was a new, smart-aleck little kid from Jackson, and I made Steve mad. We were going to fight right after practice, and Chuck came along to referee. We walked all the way up the street behind the school to find a place to fight, then we decided to pick another place, so we walked some more. Soon we were at my house, so Steve comes in and meets my mother, and then we go on to his house -- still looking for a place to fight. I go in and meet his mother and dad. We never did fight, and the three of us became best friends.”

Scooter Clippard remembers his junior high and high school days as being “fantastic.”

“I lived for football and baseball and golf, and I umpired Little League baseball games down by the courthouse. Even when I was at UT, I was still coming to Maryville and umpiring Little League games. But I was a bad student.”

During one of his many trips to the principal’s office, Scooter remembers principal Walter Williams telling him, “Scooter, if you would apply yourself just 10-percent to your school work like you do on the football field, you would be fine.”

“I was so lucky to have people like Walter Williams and Coach Ted Wilson who had faith in me,” says Clippard. “Coach Wilson mentored me; he looked after me. I think -- even though I was in the principal’s office most of the time -- my teachers liked me. I was just such a bad student! Coach Wilson taught me a lot of lessons, though, that weren’t reflected on my report card.”

It was Coach Wilson’s influence and the excellence of the Maryville High School football program that got Clippard to thinking about football state championships. He is the founding chair of the TSSAA Football State Championships that kicked off in 1982.

From Maryville High School, Clippard went to the University of Tennessee, where he was a student, was in the Air National Guard and worked in the construction industry, juggling all with college. “I would work a quarter, take a quarter off. I was doing a lot of road work in my part-time construction job, and, in the summer of 1974, the company I was working for offered me a full-time job, but I had to move to Nashville. I had about 10 hours left to get my degree, but the company said I could go to UT Nashville to finish up, and they would pay for it. So I took the job.”

From there, the stars all aligned wrong for Clippard finishing his degree, he says. “They closed UT Nashville. I had three courses left to take, but I got frustrated because I couldn’t do it at night at UT Nashville, so I just gave up on it. Then, 15 years later, I decided I really wanted to finish my degree. I was embarrassed that I hadn’t, and there were things I wanted to do that I needed to have that degree. So I decided I was going to do it.”

Getting that done and getting his degree meant traveling anywhere UT was offering the classes he needed. “I would drive to Knoxville one day a week. I went to Tullahoma, to Jackson -- anywhere there was a UT satellite campus that had the classes I need. I graduated in 1995, and got a big hug from (former UT president) Joe Johnson. I was 45 years old.”

Clippard spent 25 years in the building supply business and loved getting things built. He worked in the construction business and then in the building supply business at AJ Smith & Company, the state’s largest building supply company, eventually serving as president before he left in 1988. He then started his career in banking with Community South Bank and later as chief development officer for FirstBank.

“I remember coming to East Tennessee with the banks in the 1980s and getting to reconnect with all those great Maryville friends -- Joe and Art Swann, Steve West, Johnny Weston, Steve Caldwell. I loved going into places where we were going to put a bank and getting people together, putting together a local board.”

Clippard also worked in politics in the campaigns of Gov. Don Sundquist, Winfield Dunn and as National Fundraising Chairman for Fred Thompson and National Finance Co-Chair for John McCain in 2008.

Being founder of the TSSAA Football State Championships came through Clippard’s involvement with what was then called the Clinic Bowl. Playoff and championship games were under the auspices of the TSSAA, but were held all across the state, depending on who was in the finals. “There were three divisions at that time, and I made a proposal to Gil Gideon, who was head of the TSSAA, that we play the final games at Vanderbilt University. The Junior Chamber of Commerce was sponsoring the Clinic Bowl, and my proposal was that we sponsor the whole thing. Gil thought it was a good idea, but never thought the board would go for it. I made the proposal, the board agreed and we kicked off the TSSAA Football State Championships in 1982.”

Clippard says if he has any talent, it is in fundraising. His wife, Fran Clippard, decided to tap into that talent for a cause very dear to their hearts 25 years ago.

“I moved to Nashville in 1974 and met Fran. I chased her for a year and got her to marry me in 1975. After we married, we went to California to visit her brother, Donald, who was in an institution in California because he is a chronic schizophrenic.”

When Fran’s father died, Donald was moved to Tennessee and was in what was then called Central State Mental Hospital, says Clippard. “She loves her brother, and she would go see him almost every day. I would go every Sunday. I had been doing fundraising for different causes, and Fran came to me and said, ‘We are going to start a foundation and build a private home to help Donald and others like him with mental illness. We are going to sign a personal note for $25,000, and you are going to raise another $50,000.’ That was the birth of the Center for Living and Learning. We celebrate 25 years this year.”

The center is on a farm in Franklin and is a 24-hour residential facility with a side component job training day program.

“We started with room for three people. In 1991, we went to four, then six in 1998. In 2000, we built another room for 6 more. Somewhere along that time Fran started a job training program, and we built two greenhouses where we do hydroponic gardening and teach those with mental and physical disabilities to work. They work in the garden, in a bicycle repair show and then, when possible, we do job placement.”

Fran is executive director, and Scooter retired from FirstBank about four years ago to spend more time with the Center. They now have room for 14 residents plus 10 who come for the day program.

“The sad thing is we have a waiting list and are always full. Over the years we have graduated 29 people to their homes or apartments or back to families. Our goal is to get our residents to where they can live at their highest level of productivity, whatever that is. It is all run by private dollars and is considered a model program.”

The Clippard’s daughter, Candace is 24 and was an outstanding soccer player at Samford University and is now back in Nashville as assistant soccer coach at Brentwood Academy and working for a Christian athletic camp called Barefoot Republic.

“It is for children who would never get to go to camp. She took after her mom,” says Scooter, proudly.

Not a bad resume for someone who spent most of his time in the principal’s office. As for not wanting his name in the paper, it’s not the Scooter Clippard, Jr., he minds.

“Okay,” he says with a sigh. “The B.C. in B.C. Clippard, Jr., stand for Bernard Cole. But I’ve always been Scooter.”

Also being honored as Starlight award winners are Richard Harbison for Distinguished Service; Katie Gamble for Outstanding Young Alumni; Clayton Homes for Community Partnership; and Cindy Wilson for Family Partnership.

The Starlight awards will be given to the recipients at the Starlight Gala on Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus. Community members are encouraged to purchase tickets to attend the award ceremony and dinner. The evening will also include a live auction. For more information or to purchase the $100 ticket, contact Barbara Jenkins, MCSF executive director, at 865-982-7121 or bhjenkin@ci.maryville.tn.us.

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