It was a time to say goodbye to a quiet, humble man who has made a lot of noise for the college he loves as the community came to the new Blount County campus of Pellissippi State Community College to honor Dr. Allen Edwards.
Edwards retired today, June 30, as president of the college. Friends, Pellissippi Foundation board members and colleagues gathered on June 21 to honor Edwards for his work with Pellissippi and in Blount County.
Edwards quickly turned the tables on those praising him.
“Everything I’ve done has been as part of a team,” he said.
The outgoing president said everything he has been able to accomplish has been a reflection of the community’s efforts. Edwards thanked the elected leaders, school board members and citizen volunteers who he says have been key to the college’s success. “I know who is responsible, and it is all of us.”
The retiring president thanked his wife, Dr. Sue Bunney, for her support throughout the years. “I’m really grateful, and I appreciate your support over the past 26 years,” he told her.
Dr. Anthony Wise, vice president of Learning, assumed the position of president of Pellissippi State on July 1.
Holly Burkett, assistant dean at the Blount campus, said Edwards will be missed. “Dr. Edwards’ shoes will be hard to fill,” said Burkett. “He has had such an impact on Blount County. When people see this new building, they should know that he’s mostly responsible for bringing this campus to the community.”
Joy Bishop said she has enjoyed serving on the Pellissippi State Foundation board and getting the opportunity to work with Edwards. “Look at this building and all the students who have an opportunity to have an education,” she said as she talked about Edwards’ impact. “I think a lot of him as a person, as president of the college and as a fellow Texan. It has been a privilege to serve on his board.”
Former State Rep. Bo Henry said Edwards has made a terrific impact, not only in Knox County, but Blount County as well. “This is the third location in Blount County, so the school has had a presence in Blount County for 25 years,” he said. “It has gone from very few students to around 1,400 students. Pellissippi probably leads the community college system in job placement.”
The mayors or vice mayors of Blount County, Maryville and Alcoa were on hand to present proclamations honoring Edwards. Abbott recalled how he worked as principal at Alcoa High School 16 years and got to know Edwards during that time. “We appreciate his service to our community and to Blount County,” Alcoa Vice Mayor Clint Abbott said.
County Mayor Ed Mitchell praised Edwards for his years of work in the community. “Dr. Edwards has brought Pellissippi to a new era in Blount County,” he said. “It’s an era that is creating a partnership that is going to be amazing for many generations to come.”
Maryville Vice Mayor Andy White thanked Edwards for his many years of work on behalf of the college. “I can tell you first hand, Dr. Edwards is a great leader, and we wish him well in all his future endeavors,” White said.
Attorney David Black praised Edwards for being a good leader and educator. Blount County Commissioner and Foundation board member Jerome Moon recalled Edwards’ phone call when he asked Moon to get involved in the steering committee for a new Blount County campus. Moon said initially he didn’t think much would happen because folks had been talking about getting a new Blount County campus for years and nothing had happened.
“I thought, maybe in my lifetime, we’ll see a new Blount County campus, but I was skeptical,” Moon said. “It really happened because Allen Edwards knows how to accomplish many things through collective efforts.”
Les Fout, director of Major Gift Development for the college, said Edwards has always shown patient, yet aggressive leadership, especially throughout the years when funding never seemed to materialize from the state to build the new campus. “He was a calming influence on the volunteers, especially when they wanted to call the governor,” he said.
Fout said the new campus makes a difference in the economic development of the county. “We’re able to recruit new businesses, retain businesses and re-train employees at those existing businesses,” he said.
Bryan Daniels, president and CEO of the Blount Partnership, praised Edwards for his efforts in getting the new campus in Blount County. “Many generations will benefit from his tenacity in getting a new campus built,” Daniels said.
Peggy and Keith McCord were on hand for the reception honoring Edwards for his efforts. “He made the difference because he got out front,” Peggy McCord said.
Keith McCord thanked Edwards. “He’s been very important to East Tennessee,” he said.
Steve West said Edwards led the college as it evolved through the years to serve more people and was an integral part of industrial recruitment.
“Pellissippi has grown with this community. It’s not just a trade school, and it’s not just bricks and mortar, and that is because of his leadership.”