Leaders at Carson-Newman University are continuing to navigate through the recovery and assessment phases in the wake of a fire that damaged the school’s Pedersen Nursing Building during Thanksgiving weekend. (Story HERE).
“We are in the process of finalizing our plans for the (upcoming) semester so that our nursing students will have a consistent place where we can teach well and for them to have a home elsewhere on campus,” said Carson-Newman president Charles Fowler during a phone interview with the Baptist and Reflector on Dec. 1. “I think we have a good plan in place, and we are continuing to work out all the details.”
The fire occurred in the early morning hours of Nov. 26. Carson-Newman faculty and students were on Thanksgiving break at the time of the fire, and the building was empty. No injuries were reported.
Fowler said the university is currently going through the protocols that take place following a fire — with both the fire department and the insurance companies doing investigations pertaining to the cause of the fire and other details.
“Right now, there is nothing we can do with the building itself — aside from cooperating with the standard investigations that are taking place — so we are focused on taking care of our students,” Fowler said.
All the contents of the building were destroyed, Fowler said, either by the fire itself or from water damage that occurred while the fire was being extinguished.
Fowler noted that the building housed all of C-N’s labs, including simulation labs, in addition to some of the technical classrooms.
“There wasn’t anything that was salvageable,” he said. “The contents of the building were significant equipment in technology. It’s not just chairs and desks. We lost all of our instructional equipment that is unique to nursing. So we have a lot to recoup from.”
Fowler said his immediate concern was finding out if there was anyone in the building at the time of the fire.
“That was honestly the only thing that was on my mind when I got the initial phone call that the building was on fire,” he said. “My expectation was that it had been locked up for several days, since (the campus was closed) for Thanksgiving break. And I was so thankful when I found out that was true — that nobody had been in the building for several days. It was a hallelujah moment when we discovered that everybody was accounted for and safe.”
Fowler was at Union University when a tornado touched down on the campus in Jackson in 2008. He said he remembers how relieved he and the other faculty members were when they learned that — while there were injuries from the storm — there was no loss of life among the Union community.
“As bad as that tornado was, it would have multiplied (many times over) if there had been loss of life,” he said. “We can replace technology and equipment and buildings. But you just can’t replace a life.”
‘Resolute’ in commitment to students
Fowler asked that Tennessee Baptists pray for the university’s leadership as they seek ways to continue the school’s commitment to its Christ-minded mission and to excellence in nursing education.
He said Tennessee Baptists can also pray that God will continue to work in the details as the university continues through this time of transition.
“We don’t want to simply find a place to educate students,” he said, noting that he wants the nursing students to “feel at home” in their new locations.
Fowler said the C-N leadership is “resolute” in their commitment to delivering everything that the students and the parents of students expect from Carson-Newman.
“I want our students to know that our commitment to those things has not lessened one degree,” Fowler said.