Patty Sarden and Kathy Sehler of Greene County were recognized for their service to the community Thursday during as recipients of 2008 Civic Responsibility and Outstanding Character awards.
Sarden and Sehler were among the 20 community volunteers from seven counties in Northeast Tennessee recognized for exemplary citizenship and outstanding character with the awards during “Celebrating the Past and Future of Our Civic Heritage” program, hosted by Tusculum College, the First Tennessee Human Resource Agency, and Foundation for Life Principles. Nominations for the awards came from each of the communities involved, and the award recipients are people who often work behind the scenes and may not have gotten much public recognition for their efforts, said Dale Fair, executive director of the First Tennessee Human Resource Agency. “This recognition came from the people in your community,” he told the award recipients. “Someone has been watching what you do. It has nothing to do with titles or halls of fame, but with the little things that people notice. In reading through the nominations, almost every one said that the nominee loves their community.” In announcing the award for Patty Sarden, Fair noted her varied community service using her creative talents to assist others. An amateur artist, she has been involved in Black History Month by displaying her artwork in the Nathanael Greene Museum. She writes and recites poetry in the community, has been involved in a writing correspondence course with children, and writes children’s stories and Christmas skits.
A self-taught pianist, Sarden is minister of music at Jones Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church and volunteers to play at weddings, funerals, and social events. Sarden was the first president of the George Clem Scholarship Foundation, and was involved with the foundation in the 1980s and helped reorganize it in the 1990s. Sarden helped in the fundraising for scholarships and in selecting the scholarship recipients. She was also part of the reunion committee for the George Clem community. Announcing the award for Kathy Sehler, Fair said she was described as the “epitome of ‘super mom’” in her nomination. Sehler has taken a number of foreign exchange students into her home over the years and provided them a warm, caring place to call home during their time in the United States. “She has cared for the foreign exchange students as she cares for her own children,” he added. From the individual award recipients, a person is chosen to receive the overall Balch-Doak Award for the region. This year’s recipient is Kathi Baty of Washington County, who shares her personal battle with breast cancer in efforts advocating regular screenings for the disease.
The Balch-Doak Award is named for Rev. Hezekiah Balch, the founder of Greeneville College, and the Rev. Samuel Doak, a co-founder of Tusculum Academy, the two educational institutions that evolved into the Tusculum College of today. George Collins, director of the college’s Museum Program and Studies, said that as both Rev. Balch and Rev. Doak believed in an education that included the development of good character, they would be pleased with the event that recognizes those who exemplify the type of citizens they were trying to develop through their teaching. Carrie Marchant, vice president of development for the Foundation of Life Principles, recalled discussing with Collins in 2003 a way to recognize adults who serve others and are role models of character in their communities and from that discussion, the awards program was established. Marchant has worked with the CHARACTER COUNTS! and Moral Kombat programs in the region for several years, and CHARACTER COUNTS! is part of the “Quill Mark and Ink Spot” educational program for school children at the Doak House Museum on the Tusculum campus.
“In a world filled with so many other things, it is refreshing to be in a room filled with so much goodness,” she said. In her work with young people, Marchant said she unfortunately finds that many young people are not able to see their values, which is not the case with the award recipients. “The people in this room have stood up and said ‘I am going to do the right thing whatever it costs’,” she added.
The award recipients were welcomed to the college by Dr. Russell Nichols, interim president of Tusculum, who discussed the college’s continuing efforts to provide students an education that includes development of strong citizenship and good character, a mission that dates back to its founders.
“At this historic institution, we celebrate what you are doing and thank you for the work you are doing,” he said. “May God bless you for your efforts.”
State Rep. Eddie Yokley (D-11) also addressed the recipients, thanking them for their efforts to serve others in their communities. The Doak House Museum and the President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library are administered by the Tusculum College Department of Museum Program and Studies under the direction of George Collins, director of Museum Program and Studies, and Cindy Lucas, associate director of the department and director of the Doak House Museum. The department also offers one of the few undergraduate degree programs in museum studies in the country.
The Doak House Museum, which was the home of the Rev. Samuel Witherspoon Doak, co-founder of the college, hosted nearly 10,000 school children from East Tennessee last year for a variety of educational programs related to the 19th century and CHARACTER COUNTS! The Andrew Johnson Museum, located in the oldest academic building on campus, houses a collection of books, papers, and memorabilia of the 17th president of the United States. The museum also houses the Charles Coffin Collection from the original college library and the College archives containing documents related to the history of Tusculum. The museums are also two of the 10 structures on the Tusculum campus on the National Register of Historic Places.