By Lonnie Wilkey
JEFFERSON CITY — Tennessee Baptist pastor Charles A. Fowler was elected June 7 as the 23rd president of Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City.
Fowler was the unanimous choice of both the C-N presidential search committee and the board of trustees. He was introduced as president on June 10 during a news conference on the C-N campus.
“Our search was deliberate, intentional and process-oriented,” said David Ogle, chair of the search committee and member of First Baptist Church, Gatlinburg. “It went according to plan. I commend our search committee members for their hard work and faithful service as we carried out the mission to which we were assigned.
Ogle said the committee received more than 75 nominations. Among the attributes the committee looked for were a devout and sincere belief in Christ demonstrated over a lifetime, integrity and strength of character, leadership and listening skills, someone who was a proven fundraiser and someone who could help improve relationships with churches and pastors in East Tennessee and across the state.
“Our search was bathed in prayer,” Ogle said. “Not a time did we gather that we didn’t go to the Lord in prayer to guide us in our search and to yield a nominee who would, in every way, be His nominee.
Trustee chairman Harry Brooks, a member of Union Baptist Church, Knoxville, agreed. “We were very thorough. It was amazing the amount of interest in this position,” he observed. He said the committee examined every applicant. “Dr. Fowler is the person God intends to lead this university,” he affirmed.
Brooks added that Fowler “is one of those rare individuals whose life experiences are a perfect fit for our institution. His experiences in academic development and external relations will help propel Carson-Newman toward a bright future of growth and expanded programs of study.”
Fowler comes to the presidency from Germantown Baptist Church, Germantown (Tenn.), where he has served as senior pastor since 2010. Prior to accepting the Germantown pastorate, Fowler served in a number of roles at Union University in Jackson for 15 years, including vice president for enrollment management, vice president for development, and professor of Christian ministries and education.
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“The opportunity to serve as president of Carson-Newman University is incredibly humbling and exciting,” said Fowler, who will assume the presidency on July 1.
“I look forward to locking arms with Carson-Newman’s trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni as well as the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention,” he continued. “We look forward to working together to graduate servant-leaders who are equipped to be difference makers for the cause of Christ.”
During the press conference, Fowler reflected on the history of the school which was established in 1851 to “prepare preachers and missionaries.”
“God has been at work here for a long time and I look forward to how He’s going to work here in the future,” the new president said.
Tennessee Baptists voiced appreciation for, and support of, the decision of C-N trustees to elect Fowler.
“Tennessee Baptist Convention churches have been praying for the search team at Carson-Newman since the beginning of their work,” said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “As a Tennessee Baptist, I am very thankful that this diverse and remarkable team of servant-leaders have reached a place of God-birthed unity and a God-ordained recommendation. Dr Charles Fowler will be an outstanding Carson-Newman president.”
Davis went on to say that Fowler is “a gracious leader who has a strong identity with, and understanding of, Tennessee Baptists.” Davis cited Fowler’s track record as a key leader at Union, his outstanding academic credentials, and his “pastor’s heart and theologian’s mind.”
Davis predicted that under Fowler’s “leadership and in continued Great Commission partnership between Carson-Newman and Tennessee Baptist churches, I believe the days ahead will be filled with new and unprecedented unity, record enrollment and Kingdom advancement at East Tennessee’s flagship Christian university.”
David Green, pastor of First Baptist Church, Greeneville, and president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, agreed. “I truly believe that Dr. Fowler is God’s man for the next chapter at Carson-Newman,” he said. “He has a proven track record as a leader in Tennessee Baptist and Southern Baptist life. He served as Union University’s senior vice president for university relations and executive director of the Union University Foundation prior to his calling to be the pastor of Germantown (Baptist Church).
“His love for Christ, the Word of God, the local church, pastors, and his high academic standards with a biblical world view are a few of the characteristics that make Dr. Fowler the right choice for Carson-Newman University,” he added.
Chuck Groover, a C-N trustee and pastor of Victory Baptist Church, Mount Juliet, said he was excited to see Fowler elected as the school’s 23rd president. “He will honor its heritage and follow the path that represents the best of who we are as Tennessee Baptists,” Groover said.
Former Union University president David S. Dockery, now chancellor of Trinity International University in Chicago, applauded C-N’s decision. He observed that Fowler “will offer a renewed vision for distinctive Christ-centered, biblically-anchored higher education that will serve well the Carson-Newman community in the years to come.
“I have known Charles Fowler for almost 25 years and had the privilege to serve with him for more than 15. He is deeply committed not only to Christian higher education, but also to Tennessee Baptist life. I know that churches across the TBC will be greatly encouraged by this announcement. I am genuinely excited and hopeful for the future of Carson-Newman University,” Dockery said.
Fowler told the Baptist and Reflector that he looks forward to and is committed to working with Tennessee Baptists.
“Tennessee Baptists have invested more money into Carson-Newman than anyone else over the years,” he reflected. “Tennessee Baptists are our core constituency. We want to be good stewards of what they have invested in this university by providing students a Christ-centered education and to grow the kingdom of God.”
— This article includes reporting by Charles Key of Carson-Newman University.
- Native of Corinth, Miss.
- Graduate of Union University, Jackson; Mississippi State University, Starkville; New Orleans (La.) Baptist Theological Seminary.
- Fowler and his wife, Sandra, have two daughters: Anna (Justin) Mullins and Sarah Fowler; one grandson (Charlie).
- Leadership positions: Trustee, SBC International Mission Board, Baptist Memorial Healthcare, Union University, Blue Mountain College; Leadership Council, SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Chaplain, city of Germantown.
- Honors: Union University Distinguished Service Award; Alumni Fellow ad Outstanding Doctoral Student, Mississippi State University.