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UT Martin Gateway Columns dedicated; create symbolic entryway between university, city of Martin


Contact 1: Bud Grimes

MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin dedicated its first donor-supported Gateway Columns entryway Saturday near the completed columns that stand at the end of Pat Head Summitt Drive next to Skyhawk Parkway. University and local elected officials, university and city Town & Gown Association members, Skyhawk athletic teams and cheer squad members, and Captain Skyhawk were among those who honored Dr. Nassar Nassar and Savant Learning Systems Inc. for supporting the columns. Nassar is president and CEO of the educational services company headquartered in Martin.

The Gateway Columns project is part of the university’s campus master plan update completed in 2016, which includes seven designated campus entryways. This project represents the second completed entryway and is the first entryway to be dedicated.

“When you think about the reason we’re here today, it’s really about two sets of relationships,” said Dr. Keith Carver, university chancellor, after he welcomed dedication attendees that included both Martin Mayor Randy Brundige and Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum. He first highlighted the relationship between Nassar and Dr. Bob Smith, UT Martin chancellor emeritus, who came in June 2015 to lead the university in an interim role.

“Bob came back to Martin and hit the campus running and really did a lot for us … and Bob was the right person at the right time,” he said. “And in similar fashion, Nassar has been that (a leader) for the Martin community and for Weakley County. … He’s created lots of jobs, has absolutely transformed downtown Martin, and has developed a company and a series of products that are transforming education, not just in Tennessee, not just in this region, but all across the United States and the world.”

Carver credited Smith with the columns entryway idea and for working with Nassar and Savant to make the gift possible. He then noted the second relationship that exists between the university and the city and county, which are joined together symbolically by the columns.

“And what … this entryway does, is it removes a fence, it removes a barrier, and it provides an easy path for students to interact with businesses and with the community, and it makes the campus open and a friendly place for our community to interact with our campus, our faculty and staff,” Carver said. “And it’s seamless, and I think for me it really represents what town-gown truly means, and that's a campus, a community, a city, businesses, industry working together to make this place a better place.”

Carver welcomed Nassar to the podium, who agreed with the significance of the columns for both the university and the community. “I’m very proud to be a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin,” he said. “I’m definitely proud to be the CEO and president of Savant Learning Systems. … “I’m also very proud to be a part of the team that is ‘Town and Gown.’ The efforts of those folks and definitely a vision of Bob Smith to create something that brings us together, that’s exactly what we see in those columns.”

After concluding his remarks, Nassar invited his daughter, Summar Nassar, a 19-year-old UT Martin psychology major, to offer final comments before the columns plaque was unveiled.

“This university, the University of Tennessee at Martin, it’s what brought my father to Tennessee and to Martin,” she said. “And the kindness of the wonderful people in this community is what’s kept him here to establish Savant Learning Systems. … Now I see those columns … as a symbol of UTM bringing my father and many others to learn and prosper in Martin, and the community who welcomed him and our family here and has made this into a great home for us.

“Now I’m confident that UTM will continue to provide an outstanding education to many in my generation, as well as the generations to come, and produce productive citizens that will hopefully stay here and help contribute to our expanding, positive community,” she added.

For more information on the UT Martin Gateway Columns or information on becoming a sponsor, contact Dr. Charley Deal, UT Martin associate vice chancellor for alumni relations, at 731-881-7611.


COLUMNS DEDICATED – Pictured following the dedication of the Gateway Columns on Nov. 18 are (l to r) Tommy Legins, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Savant Learning Systems Inc.; Dr. Nassar Nassar, president and chief executive officer, Savant Learning Systems Inc.; Dr. Bob Smith, chancellor emeritus, UT Martin; and Dr. Keith Carver, chancellor, UT Martin.

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