Richard Harbison learned a lesson from his mother when he was a little boy, and he shared it with a packed audience Saturday night as he received the Maryville City Schools Foundation Starlight Award for Distinguished Service.
Harbison, a Maryville High School graduate and current director of Facilities and Vocational director for Maryville City Schools, recalled his mother’s answer to children who complain about what they had or didn’t have.
“She said people don’t get to pick what family they are born into. The question is what good do you do with this life you’re given.”
Harbison joined Katie Gamble, Cindy Wilson, Scooter Clippard and Clayton Homes in being honored Saturday at a gala event at the Clayton Center for the Arts.
Harbison is a former basketball coach and Industrial Arts teacher at Maryville High School. He thanked several people who have helped him throughout his career, including Bill Driscoll and the late Jim Campbell, former basketball coach at Maryville High School. He thanked his four brothers and five sisters and thanked the Maryville City Schools Foundation. “I do not deserve this, but I’ll end this now before you agree with me,” he said.
Tom Howard, chairman of the board of directors of the foundation, said the Starlight Awards recognize special people and a special corporate citizen each year. “We’re also here to raise money for a very good cause,” he said.
Howard said the mission of the Maryville City Schools Foundation is to raise and administer funds to support the educational mission of students of the Maryville City School System. “We think we have an excellent school system, and the proof of that is the people who go through it,” he said. “Education is not the only determent of success but very few people achieve success without a good education, and this is what our city provides.”
Ted “Gunner” Ousley served as master of ceremonies and is himself a former Starlight recipient. The WIVK radio personality said that wherever he goes, he is proud of his roots as a Maryville schools alumnus. “We’re the best, and it’s not bragging if you can prove it,” he said.
Ousley recalled the history of the Starlight Awards and how they started in 2003 with a ceremony in the cafeteria at Maryville High School. Through the years the event moved to Maryville College and then in 2008, the foundation revamped it as an evening gala fundraiser. This was the first year the event has been held at the Clayton Center for the Arts.
Katie Gamble, a 1994 Maryville High School graduate, was honored as the Outstanding Young Alumni Award recipient. A graduate of Western Carolina University, she is the owner/artist of Lady Earth Studios. She specializes in oils on canvas and linen and Trompe L’Oil Murals.
“Katie’s biggest influence has always been her mother. She told Katie there was nothing she couldn’t accomplish,” Ousley said.
Ousley said Gamble has not only made an impact by her art work, such as the mural seen on the wall at Amburn’s Produce on Church Avenue, but also in the Last Friday Art Walk initiative she started four years ago and still champions.
Ousley said Gamble was also key in creating the Maryville Arts Coalition that now is responsible for organizing the art walk. MAC brings together different genres of art and raises money to support scholarships for artist students.
“I’m very honored and nervous,” Gamble said in accepting the award. “My passion for painting murals first started as a student at Maryville High School. After that, I was hooked. I wanted to be an artist very badly.”
Gamble said she was constantly asked what her backup plan was for supporting herself. “The arts are such an important part of society, there wasn’t a backup plan,” she said. “Whether we realize it or not, arts are an important part of the community.”
Clayton Homes was honored with the Community Partnership Award because of the company’s community involvement and educational support. Over the past three years, Clayton Homes has given more than $2 million to various charities and communities, most them local, not including the many thousands of dollars given by individual Clayton team members. “Clayton Homes is not only an important partner of the Maryville City Schools, they play a vital role in the community at large,” Ousley said.
Mary Jane Anderson, the first Blount County employee hired on in 1986 when Clayton Homes moved their headquarters to Blount County from Powell, spoke on behalf of CEO Kevin Clayton who couldn’t attend the gala. “Clayton Homes has always been a supporter of education. They paid for my college education, and it is an honor to accept this on Kevin’s behalf,” she said.
Anderson said Clayton Homes believes in supporting education because today’s children are the company’s workforce of tomorrow. “Our future is in our children,” she said.
B.C. “Scooter” Clippard Jr. was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award. A 1968 graduate of Maryville High School and a University of Tennessee alumni, Clippard now resides in Nashville with his wife, Fran. Clippard has been an active fundraiser for charities, political campaigns and for a foundation in Franklin, Tenn., started with his wife that provides residential care for adults with persistent mental illness.
Clippard was active in the campaigns of Winfield Dunn, former President George W. Bush, former Gov. Don Sundquist and presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John McCain. He also served as national finance chair for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign.
He is also a veteran of the Tennessee Air National Guard.
“Scooter Clippard epitomizes what Maryville High School and the Maryville City Schools Foundation stands for in the community,” Ousley said.
Clippard thanked the foundation for the honor. “I was really taken aback and humbled,” he said. “I don’t deserve this, and I’m dad-gum proud to be here.”
Clippard thanked former football coach Ted Wilson for his inspiration. “Coach Ted Wilson, you are my rock. You instilled in me the tenacity to never give up,” he said.
He thanked his wife and praised her for her work with the mentally ill. “There would be a lot of folks homeless without you, Fran,” he said.
Clippard thanked the foundation and praised his home town. “This is the greatest place in America to raise a family,” he said.
Etta Caldwell nominated Clippard and praised him and his wife for their work at the Center for Living and Learning. “I was touched because he was always so humble,” she said. “He has been so successful in every endeavor he tried.”
Cindy Wilson, co-owner of the Great American Cookie Company with her husband, Dave, was recognized with the Family Partnership Award for volunteer activities and for her support of Maryville City Schools. Even though her children have graduated from the system, Wilson continues to help the schools by donating many cookie-cakes throughout the year for different educational initiatives. Wilson has been involved with Sam Houston Elementary’s Smokie Strut, Foothills Elementary’s Raccoon Romp, Fort Craig, Foothills Elementary, Maryville Intermediate’s parent-teacher organization, Maryville Middle School parent-teacher cooperative, Maryville High School sports, band and numerous clubs.
Wilson thanked her husband, Dave. “I wouldn’t be here without him. He has been my friend and confident,” she said. “Tonight -- 30 years ago -- we had our first date and 28 years ago tonight he proposed.”
Wilson praised the teachers of the Maryville City Schools. “They constantly encourage their students to live big dreams,” she said. “This award means so much to me.”
Todd White, chair of the Starlight Awards Committee, said the event went very well. “All those attending had a great time. They thought it was a classy event,” he said.
White said the recipients are very touched because the Starlight Awards tend to recognize people for their accomplishments. “It’s a culmination of their life up to a point and to be recognized really touches people,” he said.