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Hiwassee dental program acquired by Tennessee Wesleyan

Tennessee Wesleyan University celebrates a $100,000 gift from the Holston Foundation. From left to right: Grant Willhite, TWU vice president of academic affairs; Paul Bowman, Foundation executive director; and Harley Knowles, TWU president


 Holston Foundation gives $100,000 to support transfer

ALCOA, Tenn. (May 17, 2019) -- The Holston Foundation has given $100,000 to Tennessee Wesleyan University to support its acquisition of Hiwassee College’s dental hygiene program.

Tennessee Wesleyan University announced the transfer of the dental hygiene program on May 3, one week before Hiwassee College closed its doors with a final commencement on May 10.

“We are thrilled to welcome the current dental hygiene students and the faculty to the TWU family,” said President Harley Knowles. “Careers in this field are growing rapidly, and there is a high interest for incoming students.”

Paul Bowman, Holston Foundation executive director, said the $100,000 gift was the largest in his organization’s 38-year history.

“Through this gift, the Holston Foundation is able to directly support both Tennessee Wesleyan’s future and Hiwassee College as it prepares to close its doors,” Bowman said. “We are proud that this single gift can strategically impact two of the three Holston Conference colleges.”

Tennessee Wesleyan, based in Athens, and Hiwassee College, based in Madisonville, are 18 miles apart in East Tennessee. The third United Methodist-affiliated college related to Holston Conference is Emory & Henry College, located in Emory, Virginia.

Randa Colbert, director of the dental hygiene program, said the 15 rising seniors had experienced a “mixture of emotions” since Hiwassee leaders announced its impending closing on March 28.

“They were confused, incredulous, saddened and also angered by the sudden announcement and the ramifications of the decision to close,” Colbert said.

The students and faculty were “ecstatic” to learn of Tennessee Wesleyan’s sponsorship of the program, Colbert said. “We were all relieved the program would be able to continue, but we were overjoyed the students would be able to graduate on time next May. We are immensely grateful and look forward to becoming part of the TWU family.”

Hiwassee College’s board of trustees has stated that the 170-year-old college is closing due to “financial reasons.” Enrollment this year was 225.

Robin Tricoli, Hiwassee president since 2010, made the following statement: “The HC board of trustees and I are extremely pleased that our students will be taken care of and that this program will continue to thrive under the TWU umbrella of health-profession programs.”

Tennessee Wesleyan will seek accreditation approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, according to a statement from the college. The Hiwassee program is already accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Hiwassee’s dental hygiene program is one of two bachelor’s degree programs in East Tennessee, along with East Tennessee State University, Colbert said. Associate degree programs exist at Roane State Community College and Chattanooga State Community College.

The Hiwassee program is designed for graduates to receive an entry-level Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene upon completion of two years of general education and two years of the dental hygiene curriculum. Program capacity is 20 students in a class, for a total maximum of 40 students in the junior and senior years.

The dental hygiene program will temporarily remain on the Hiwassee campus in Madisonville, Colbert said. “The intent is to move the program to Athens as soon as possible, but the agreement allows for the program to remain on the Hiwassee campus for up to two years.”

The Holston Foundation’s financial gift and Tennessee Wesleyan’s acquisition ensured that the “in-demand program” would remain in the region as an option for students, according to a statement from the Foundation. The program “will continue to train students to serve underserved areas.”

The Holston Foundation is a frequent supporter of higher education, Bowman said. In 2018, the Holston Foundation awarded a total $122,700 in scholarships, including $38,900 to seminary students.

In 2018, the Holston Foundation awarded $257,845 in grants for mission and ministry to local churches and other United Methodist groups.

The Foundation’s office is located in Alcoa, Tennessee.



See also:

Hiwassee College closing in May (UMNS, 3.29.19)

Students react to turmoil after decision to close Hiwassee (The Call, 4.11.19)

Hiwassee celebrates final graduation (The Call, 5.14.19)

Hiwassee dental students treat senior residents (Daily Post-Athenian, 11.9.18)


Deadline to apply for Holston Foundation higher-education and seminary scholarships: May 31