Kim Trevathan, beloved Writing Communication professor of 23 years to retire

Wrapping up over two decades as a professor of Writing Communication, Maryville College’s “renaissance hillbilly,” so-called by colleague Dr. Jay Clark, will retire at the end of the academic year. Kim Trevathan will be greatly missed by faculty and students alike.

If one had to describe him to a stranger, writing and nature would be the key talking points. “He’s a medium stature outdoorsman with a somewhat grizzled look who is good at journalism, writing in the corporate world, and creative writing,” said Dr. Sam Overstreet, MC English professor and chair of the Division of Languages and Literature.

Trevathan’s diverse skill set has made him the perfect fit for a school nestled in the foothills of the Smokies. “His public speaking engagements have been divided between speaking about creative writing and speaking about ecology, and that’s great. He stands for things the college believes in, and he’s good at what he does,” said Overstreet.

Trevathan came to the college having published his first book, “Paddling the Tennessee River: A Voyage on Easy Water” (2001). As a professor, he would write three more: “Coldhearted River: A Canoe Odyssey Down the Cumberland” (2006), “Liminal Zones: Where Lakes End and Rivers Begin” (2013) and “Against the Current: Paddling Upstream on the Tennessee River (2021)”. 

“Dean Naylor commented with pleasure, ‘This guy, you give him a little bit of faculty funding, and, boom, he produces another book.’ Trevathan was devoted to spending his summer times paddling his kayaks on rivers and producing books about it,” Overstreet said.

Trevathan was named to the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in 2019. “We regard him as something of a luminary, a little bit of a local legend…He’s acquired a regional reputation not just as a creative writer, but also as somebody who can speak knowledgeably about nature and natural resources.”

Dr. Jay Clark, Director of Environmental & Sustainability Initiatives, said “He has a way of connecting with people through his writing that as a songwriter I completely respect…He keeps his cards close to his chest, until he starts writing with his pen.”

The magic of Trevathan’s work is something anyone can appreciate. “If I read any books, they’re almost 95 percent of the time about science or history. I’ve literally read two novels since college. He’s one of the few [authors] that I’ve read and really enjoy,” said Clark.

“When you take a sabbatical to float a river backwards, that’s pretty damn cool. There aren’t many professors that could pull something like that off. That’s what makes Kim unique,” Clark said.

Trevathan is also an experienced journalist. His outdoor columns have appeared in “The Daily Times”, “Metro Pulse” and the “Knoxville Mercury”, and he’s shared his knowledge as the faculty advisor for The Highland Echo for the past two decades. Former editor-in-chief Eliza Komisar (‘21) recalls the day he returned from sabbatical her freshman year.

Maggie, Kim Trevathan’s pup, is featured on the 2022 publication calendar of The Highland Echo. Photo courtesy of Katie Leming.

“I thought he was going to be a woman, so I was surprised to see him,” she said, pausing to chuckle. “He can be kind-of gruff when you first meet him, so I was a little nervous, but you realize pretty quickly that he’s really nice.”

The former editor described Trevathan as straightforward and earnest. “I trusted his feedback, and he was very receptive to feedback, too,” she said. “He let us make our own mistakes, but he would help when we asked.”

Trevathan also had a good sense of humor, she said. “I had written an article about fall crafts, and a week later, when I was outside collecting leaves for my fall crafts, he walked by and said ‘Oh, you really do that.’ I said ‘Yeah, I’m a journalist!”

“He was a part of the team and was a really great support person,” she said. When the staff wanted to participate in the homecoming parade, he tagged along with his dog, Maggie. She remembers fondly when he agreed to wear matching shirts for a group photo and attended all of the holiday parties. “Mr. Trevathan always shows up.”

In a few weeks, Kim Trevathan will begin the next adventure, and it’ll be a hard goodbye for Maryville College. As Overstreet put it, “He’s just plain good.”

One thought on “Kim Trevathan, beloved Writing Communication professor of 23 years to retire

  • April 29, 2023 at 1:52 am

    The best professor and mentor of all time. I enjoyed being in his classes and working with him on The Highland Echo throughout my 4 years at Maryville. He will definitely be missed. Happy retirement!


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