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LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: OUR CHAIRMAN

March 15, 2009

Deems

By Eric S. Deems

Marty G. Dickens, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Belmont University, boasts a number of professional accomplishments in addition to the service he provides to our community. In addition to being a member of the Executive Board of Genesco, he was a founding Board Member and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Avenue Bank, and Chairman of the Board of Harpeth Companies (an investment banking, consulting, and ventures group). Since moving to Nashville, Dickens has also served on a number of community boards including the YMCA, Boy Scouts of America, The Nashville Symphony, Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, the Adventure Science Center, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was also once Chairman of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Music City Coalition, a community effort to fund construction of a new convention center. Dickens and wife Betty have two sons, John and Jamey, and a wonderful daughter-in-law, Sherri, who is married to John.

Dickens grew up in North Carolina. He earned a baccalaureate degree from East Carolina University and a Master’s degree from Georgia State University. Dickens began his career with AT&T in 1969 prior to joining BellSouth in 1973. He held a number of positions, working his way up the ladder in the comptrollers’, public affairs, and regulatory departments prior to joining BellSouth International in 1992. As Executive Vice President of Bell South International, Dickens was a member of the senior team responsible for overseeing the management and growth of BellSouth foreign operations. He also served on the Board of Directors of the BellSouth operations in Brazil, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, Denmark, Belgium, Israel, China, and New Zealand. He retired October 2007 after nine years as President of AT&T-Tennessee.

Mr. Dickens was kind enough to sit down with the Right Aisle Review to provide some insights into the life of Belmont’s Chairman of the Board:

RAR: What do you find most rewarding as Chairman of the Board?

Dickens: Most rewarding for me is being associated with an outstanding liberal arts university that is experiencing great success, while staying true to its mission and holding up Christ as the measure for all things. Right along with that is being able to work with Dr. Fisher, a great visionary leader who loves Belmont.

RAR: Through Belmont’s recent growth, what challenges have you faced in leading the Board of Trustees?

Dickens: The truth is that Belmont has an outstanding Board of Christian men and women who all work extremely well together to ensure the university provides an environment that does its part to enable our students to succeed and become all God wants them to be. What an honor it is to be associated with them.

RAR: What advice would you give to Belmont students wanting to get involved in this exciting time of growth and expansion for our community?

Dickens: Don’t wait for an opportunity to come to you. Go out and find a way to get involved. With all the great growth and success comes even more opportunities to help others and give back to your community. Now that is truly exciting!

RAR: Though some faculty have publicly denounced this publication, how important do you feel it is for conservative and libertarian voices to be heard on our campus?

Dickens: It is important that conservative and liberal viewpoints be heard without advocation or discrimination.

RAR: Some students and faculty who have been at Belmont longer than I, have said that the campus has taken a turn to the left. Is this an observation you share?

Dickens: No. Remember, Belmont is a liberal arts university and sharing viewpoints from the left and the right is part of that experience. However, viewpoints that are in direct conflict with the mission and values of Belmont should not be espoused or endorsed by those on the Board, in leadership, or teaching at the university.

RAR: Many Belmont students have expressed concern to the RAR that university-sponsored convocation events consistently display leftist ideology and rhetoric. What are your thoughts regarding their concerns?

Dickens: I can’t speak specifically about “their concerns.”  However, it is very important that all university-sponsored events are fair and balanced in presenting ideology and rhetoric without advocation. Belmont students are smart and will make up their own minds about what they hear.

RAR: Regarding Belmont’s recent history with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, how do you envision our future progress as a private Christian institution?

Dickens: Belmont has been, is, and will continue to be a shining example of an outstanding university that holds true to its Christian mission. There is no doubt in my mind that the successes and good fortune that have come Belmont’s way are because of this.

RAR: Belmont is a Christian university with a rich Baptist heritage. How much should this influence the faculty and staff on our campus? Should they be held to a Christian standard both in and out of the classroom?

Dickens: All Christians are to let others see Christ reflected at all times in how they live and in everything they do.

RAR: What is being done to encourage diversity within all aspects of our campus? While the university encourages racial and ethnic diversity, are there steps being taken by the administration to diversify the professional staff and faculty?

Dickens: With respect to student admissions, faculty and staff hiring, and board member appointments, Belmont embraces and pursues diversity. With respect to qualifications, Belmont is blind to race, gender and ethnicity.

RAR: How can Belmont maintain its Christian principles while pursuing excellence in academia with wide-ranging diversity of fields of study?

Dickens: Belmont will continue doing what it has always done, which is hold true to its Christ-centered mission and never compromise on its values.

RAR: What steps has the Board of Trustees taken to cooperate with the Belmont Goes Green initiative? Are there any future “green” goals?

Dickens: The Board of Trustees has encouraged and supports Belmont’s “green” initiatives. Future goals will be considered by the Board when they are presented.

RAR: Looking ahead, where do you see Belmont in ten years?

Dickens: In ten years Belmont will continue to be that beacon of light shining brightly as the example to our nation of what happens at a university where Christ is at the center of all it does. I’m excited about that.

The Right Aisle Review Editorial Board and Faculty Advisory Board thank Mr. Dickens for his time, candor, and support of this publication. Eric S. Deems is a sophomore Business and Political Science double major and a member of the Honors Program.

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