For the 2018 Graduation ceremony, Maryville College has selected Mrs. Shirley Carr Clowney to deliver the commencement address on May 20.
An Alcoa native, Clowney was one of the Maryville Six, the first group of African-American students admitted to the college following the 1954 Supreme Court decision “Brown v. the Board of Education,” the ruling that ended segregation in the nation’s schools.
Clowney and the other members of the Maryville Six, all of whom enrolled in MC in the Fall of 1954, were the first African Americans to attend the college since 1901.
Unfortunately, like many of the other members of the Maryville Six, Clowney did not have the honor of graduating from MC. Instead, Clowney transferred colleges, ultimately pursuing her education further by completing her Bachelor’s degree at Tennessee State University (TSU), a historically black university, in Nashville.
After graduating from TSU, Clowney moved to New Jersey where she studied at Rutgers University before pursuing a career as a teacher for 28 years. In 1992, Clowney retired from teaching and moved back to Blount County.
Since her retirement, Clowney has spent much of her free time ceaselessly working for the causes close to her heart.
In 2003 she co-founded the African-Americans of Appalachia and Blount County, an organization that collects information and artifacts on blacks in Appalachia and chronicles their achievements and history in the region.
Clowney has also been active in numerous other local organizations. She has served as President of the Blount County Genealogical and Historical Society, a chairperson of the Education Committee of the Blount County Anti-Racism Task Force, a member of the Blount County History Museum, and a member of the Leadership Blount Class of 2003.
Her prodigious activities have also brought a share of accolades. For instance, Clowney has been recognized by the Tennessee Human Rights Commission for her work as a civil rights advocate, being one of the first 10 recipients of the 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Advocate honor.
She has also published “Our Place in Time: Blacks in Blount County,” a pictorial history book that showcases the contributions African Americans have made throughout the history Blount County.
In tandem with the graduation festivities, the College will also be awarding Clowney with its honorary Doctorate of Public Service, an award clearly deserved for a life filled with service toward others.
Clowney’s commencement speech will be titled “Rise Up” and will be based on the third chapter of the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Clowney’s commencement address will also coincide with the Maryville Six’s 60th graduation anniversary.
Every MC student has heard, and perhaps overheard in all honesty, the motto of our school: “Do good on the largest possible scale.”
This year at commencement, the college as a whole, from faculty and staff to soon-to-be graduates and lowerclassmen, will all have the honor of hearing from a person who has lived out this motto in the their professional life.
May the entire Scots community welcome Mrs. Clowney with the admiration and respect so deserved of a person of such high character and experience.