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2016 News Archive



Left to Right: Kelly Price, Eastman Credit Union, chair elect Chamber board; Carmen Butler, CenturyLink; Bill MacPherson, Domtar; Nancy Dishner, Niswonger Foundation; Mickey Trivett, WebCoUSA; Keddrain Bowen, Fanatics 101; Rick Bishop, Food City; Keith Young, Northeast State at Johnson City; Logan McCabe, Bristol Motor Speedway; Betsy Holleman, Speedway Children's Charities; Lindy White, Franklin Woods Community Hospital; and Heather Tillman, CenturyLink. 

Photo by Jeff Derby

The Niswonger Foundation was honored to receive the "Faith In The Future" Award presented by CenturyLink and the Johnson City, Jonesborough, Washington County Chamber of Commerce, and received by, Dr. Nancy Dishner, President & CEO of the Foundation. The award ceremony was held at the Millennium Centre on November 3rd.  The Foundation received the award in the Non-Profit category for providing approximately $50 million dollars in support of local schools over the past 15 years.

Recipients were evaluated based on their commitment to the future of their business, their employees, their community and the region. The featured speaker was Lester Lattany, United Way of Washington County, Tennessee.

Other recipients are:

Entrepreneur Category: Fanatics 101 Sportswear

Healthcare Category: Franklin Woods Community Hospital

Manufacturing Category: Domtar

Professional/Service Category: Bristol Motor Speedway

Technology Category: WebCoUSA Enterprises

Educational Category: Northeast State at Johnson City

Retail Category: Food City

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Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Presents Young Peoples Concert at Niswonger Performing Arts Center

On November third, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, sponsored by Niswonger Foundation, presented the 2016 Young Peoples Concert at Niswonger Performing Arts Center.  This year's theme titled KSOKids Guide to the Orchestra was presented, in two performances, to over 2200 students from across our region.  

The primary goal of this annual program is to provide the opportunity for children to see a quality orchestral performance. Each year, the concerts are specially designed as a teaching/learning experience.  The Niswonger Foundation supports the belief that developing an appreciation for the arts is an important aspect of becoming an educated person. 

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Scott Niswonger and Books From Birth Foundation Host First Lady Crissy Haslam in Greeneville

First Lady Haslam Celebrates New TN Imagination Library Partnerships at Two Green County Birthing Hospitals

October 13, 2016

Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam and the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF)celebrated the launch of newborn enrollment partnerships with Takoma Regional Hospital and Laughlin Memorial Hospital in Greene County on Thursday. At both hospitals, each family of a newborn child will now be given the opportunity to enroll in Tennessee’s Imagination Library, receiving the first book, The Little Engine That Could, as an example of the wonderful gift of books to come in the mail in the future. This initiative will introduce Tennessee’s Imagination Library program to parents and families of newborns and emphasize the joys and benefits of reading with children beginning at birth.

In celebration of these birthing hospital partnerships, First Lady Crissy Haslam presented The Little Engine That Could to families at Takoma Regional Hospital and Laughlin Memorial Hospital who have enrolled their newborn in the program

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Can't make it to this year's National Storytelling Festival? We've got you covered. On Friday, October 7th, we're streaming video live from our Family Tent so you can join us in Jonesborough from wherever you happen to be.

Throw a viewing party, check in on your phone during lunch, or binge watch the whole thing from the comfort of your couch!

 Want to convince others about the power of storytelling? Invite your family, colleagues, and students to tune in, too!  

It's easy, it's entertaining, and it's free!


Join the celebration by using the hashtag #storyfest on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Connect with our audience in Jonesborough and around the globe!


The National Storytelling Festival livestream has been made possible thanks to the generosity of the Niswonger Foundation. The Family Tent is sponsored by Dollywood's DreamMore Resort.

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Imagination and Education:

A Free Teacher Workshop with Tim Lowry

Geared toward K-5 teachers

Saturday, September 24

9:30-11:30 am

Seating is limited · Call 800-952-8392 to reserve your spot

According to Albert Einstein, imagination is even more important than book learning. Tim demonstrates practical ways to connect mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies through a child's inherent ability to imaginatively explore the world.  

Based on the works of Kieran Egan and the Imaginative Research Group.

This workshop is provided free to teachers through the generosity of the Niswonger Foundation and the East Tennessee Foundation. 

Registration information and details regarding the workshop can be found at:


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Niswonger Foundation Announces New Board Members

      ALAN LEVINE           JOHN TWEED          DAVID GOLDEN

Scott M. Niswonger, Chairman and Founder of the Niswonger Foundation, announced the addition of three members to the Foundation’s Board of Directors: Alan Levine, President and CEO of Mountain States Health Alliance; John Tweed, President and CEO of Landair Transport, Inc.; and David Golden, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Counsel, Sustainability Officer, and Corporate Secretary for Eastman Chemical Company. 

Alan Levine has 20 years of hospital operations experience, having served as CEO of hospitals and health systems from the rural north Florida town of Perry to the fifth largest public not-for-profit health system in the nation.  Levine served on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s Cabinet as the secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals and as Governor Jindal’s senior health policy advisor.  He also served as the deputy chief of staff and the senior health policy advisor to Florida Governor Jeb Bush prior to his appointment by Governor Bush to serve as the secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, an agency responsible for administering a $17 billion budget. 

He serves on the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida, the governing body of Florida’s 12 state universities.  He is Chairman of Audit and Compliance and is a member of the Finance and Building committees.  Prior to his service on the Board of Governors, he served on the Board of Trustees of the University of Florida, Florida’s flagship research university.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.  Levine and his wife Laura live in Johnson City.  They have two adult children, Terry and Katy. 

John Tweed has extensive experience as both an entrepreneur and an executive in the distribution and freight transportation industries. He is the chief executive responsible for the strategic direction, operation and financial performance of Landair Transport, Inc.

He oversees the management of all Landair operations and customer service, including logistics strategy development and implementation, sales and marketing, fleet operations and maintenance, recruiting, finance, safety and information technology, as well as the company’s continuous improvement and environmental sustainability initiatives.

Tweed was named Landair’s CEO in 2000, 15 years after he joined the company and following positions as the company’s vice president of sales and as special-projects manager. In 1996 he founded Warehouse Logistics LLC, a contract distribution services company jointly owned with Landair’s founder, Scott M. Niswonger. Warehouse Logistics later merged with Landair, strengthening the company’s warehouse distribution operations and capabilities, with over four million square feet of space.

Tweed holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from East Tennessee State University. Recently, he received the ETSU College of Business and Technology “Lifetime Achievement in Business Award.” He is an active committee and board member for several industry associations and community organizations.

David A. Golden has responsibility for Eastman's Legal, Corporate HSES, and Global Public Affairs and Policy Departments, which has personnel in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He also has overall responsibility for Eastman's Ethics & Corporate Compliance program. Immediately prior to this position, he was Vice President, Associate General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary with overall responsibility for Eastman’s Legal Department.

Golden is a native of Albany, Georgia. He holds both Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degrees from Brigham Young University, graduating Magna Cum Laude and Order of the Coif. He served on the management committee of the Law Review. He completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2012.

He joined Eastman in 1995 as an attorney and has held positions of increasing responsibility, including serving as the Company's Director of Internal Audit and Vice President and Assistant General Counsel in charge of Commercial and International Law groups. Golden assumed his current role in January 2013. Prior to joining Eastman, he worked in the Atlanta office of the law firm of Hunton & Williams.


Golden is a member of the American Corporate Counsel Association, the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals and the Ethics and Compliance Officers Association. He served on the Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission and currently serves in a leadership role with several non-profit organizations in his community. He serves on the advisory council for Western Governors University (WGU) and is a former member of the editorial board of the American Bar Association's Natural Resources & Environment journal. Golden and his wife Jennifer reside in Kingsport. They have six children.

The Board of Directors guides the work of the Niswonger Foundation which includes the two major areas of focus: the School Partnership program and the Scholarship and Leadership program. These programs support public school systems in the First Congressional District of Tennessee. 

The School Partnership program provides support for school programs from grades Pre-K to 12; and partnerships with the region’s colleges and universities. Programs are specifically designed to address the challenges of rural education.  A special focus of the work is preparing students for post-secondary education and careers.  This effort gained national attention resulting in the receipt of an “Investing in Innovation” grant from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The Scholarship and Leadership program is like no other in the United States.  Niswonger Scholars are selected through a nomination process that seeks to identify the region’s best and brightest future leaders.  They are given the opportunity to attend the college or university that will best prepare them for success in their field of study, while participating in a four-year leadership program. A unique feature of the program is that these students commit to returning to Northeast Tennessee to work in their chosen careers. The plan is that by enabling these students to pursue their academic passion and by cultivating their leadership abilities, they will return to be the future leaders of Northeast Tennessee.

The Niswonger Foundation expands its philosophy of “Learn, Earn and Return” beyond Northeast Tennessee through involvement in numerous statewide educational initiatives, and shares a percentage of the operating funds for grants to other not-for-profit agencies for programs that support the Foundation’s mission: To create opportunities for individual and community growth through education and other sustainable projects.”

Commenting on the appointments of the new Board Members, Dr. Nancy Dishner, President and CEO stated: “We have gained remarkable assets for the Niswonger Foundation.  These three individuals bring a wealth of management and leadership skills to the table.” She further commented:  “Each of these individuals has had a longstanding interest in education and has shown tremendous support for the mission the Foundation. Importantly, they are all exceptional role models for the Niswonger Scholars. We are honored to have them engaged in our work.”  

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Niswonger Foundation Third Annual Counselor Convening

White House Representative Addresses Northeast Tennessee Counselor Convening

             ERIC WALDO              KIM WEITKAMP         LEIGH BAGWELL

A White House representative, fairytale skit, renowned storyteller, message from the state director of school counseling, and many more activities, focused on the importance of preparing students for post-secondary education and careers as the Niswonger Foundation hosted the Third Annual Northeast Tennessee Counselor Convening.  This year’s Convening was held at Northeast State Community College, on Monday, June 27. 

The counselors, in attendance, represented seventeen school systems, two community colleges and five four-year colleges and universities in the Niswonger Foundation’s service region. These counselors serve the region’s students from kindergarten through college and university throughout Northeast Tennessee.

Niswonger Foundation President and CEO, Dr. Nancy Dishner, stated that “We know of no other Counselor Convening of this type in the nation.  The key ingredient is that we bring together advisors and counselors serving all students in the region from kindergarten through university – literally “crayons to careers.”  She further commented, “We are proud to sponsor an event where we can recognize the skills and commitment of such a dedicated group of professionals.”

Eric Waldo, Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative addressed a crowd of over one hundred school counselors.  Waldo’s message outlined Mrs. Obama’s commitment to ensure that all children have the opportunity to prepare for post-secondary education and successful careers.  He praised the gathering of counselors for their role in helping children Reach Higher to achieve their greatest potential. 

A highlight of the day’s agenda was a performance by the theatre department from Unicoi County High School.  Performing an original skit, with a fairytale theme, the group shared the importance of planning for post-secondary education. The skit was initially performed at UCHS as part of the 2016 College Signing Day event. 

Kim Weitkamp, noted storyteller and inspirational speaker, provided a keynote address.  Weitkamp taught the importance of sharing one’s personal story as a means to encourage and motivate young people.  She expressed that, through stories, a line of communication can more easily be opened with children. 

Director of School Counseling for the Tennessee Department of Education, Leigh Bagwell, provided the attendees with an overview of the State’s commitment for quality school counseling.  Dr. Susan Roach, Tennessee School Counselor of the Year, addressed the group.  Dr. Roach was recognized for her service to Northeast Tennessee as a counselor at Jefferson County High School. 

Denise Arnold, Niswonger Foundation Director of College and Career Advising, served as master of ceremonies for the day’s event.  The Niswonger Foundation’s College and Career Advising program – NiswongerCARE – provides a staff of eighteen individuals who assist the 31 high schools in Northeast Tennessee with college and career advising services.  This program is in partnership with the Care Foundation of America. 

Speaking of the value of the event, Denise Arnold stated: “As a school counselor for over twenty years, I greatly value the importance of providing effective professional development for our region’s counselors and advisors. This is gratifying to hear their comments about the importance of this annual convening.”

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The 2016 School Success Symposium will be held on June 30, 2016. Sponsored by the Niswonger Foundation and Eastman Chemical Company, the Symposium will be held at the Niswonger Preforming Arts Center and Greeneville High School.  The theme will be LETS TALK LITERACY," in recognition of Tennessee’s focus on improving literacy skills and in support of the goal of 75 percent of Tennessee’s students having the ability to score proficient or advanced in English language arts (ELA) by the end of third grade.

The keynote speaker is Craig Kielburger, co-founder of ME to WE  (,  which empowers children to take their learning to their communities.  Mr. Kielburger says, “If you give kids the inspiration and tools to change the world, it will change their own lives.”  This event is for K-12 educators. The breakout sessions that follow the keynote speaker will focus on literacy development across the curriculum and will address the needs of children from all ability levels.  

Updated Symposium Progam 2016.pdf


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The Niswonger Foundation, in partnership with the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at East Tennessee State University, is entering the third year of providing opportunities for students to learn and practice coding skills. Week-long code camps have been provided in the summers of 2014 and 2015, with nearly 200 participants.  The instructors and families have seen students thrive… as they learn to apply the logic involved in coding, exhibit pride in their finished projects, and some even make firm commitments toward a career path in an “in-demand” area of the workforce. Additional camps will be provided this summer with some significant enhancements.


June 1, June 15, July 5, July 26
9:00 am - 3:00 pm each day 
JUNE 1 and JULY 5
ETSU - Gilbreath Hall
JUNE 15 and JULY 26
Kingsport Higher Education Center


Kingsport Higher Education Center
Town of Unicoi Tourist Information Center 


GIST (Girls in Science and Technology)
5th Grade Girls - June 6 - 10
6th Grade Girls - June 20-24
8:00 am - 11:45 am each day
East Tennessee State University, Gilbreath Hall


ETSU at Kingsport Allandale, Kingsport
East Tennessee State University, Gilbreath Hall
Professional Development Center, Greeneville

ETSU at Kingsport Allandale
East Tennessee State University, Gilbreath Hall


9:00 am - 3:00 pm each day
Lunch will be provided 
JUNE 27 - JULY 1
Tusculum College, Garland Library
JULY 11 - JULY 15
JULY 18 - JULY 22

East Tennessee State University, Gilbreath Hall


JUNE 20 - JUNE 24
Dobyns-Bennett High School

JULY 11 - JULY 15
East Tennessee State University, Gilbreath Hall


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Offers “Inspired” Theme

Providing quality professional development to support the efforts of our high school counselors continues to be a major focus of the work of the Niswonger Foundation.  Through our annual “Counselor Convening” we are able to bring together our NiswongerCARE advising staff along with the region’s school counselors, the financial aid and admissions counselors from the post-secondary institutions, and other college access professionals for an opportunity to refine their skills and build networks.

The Niswonger Foundation will host the Third Annual School Counselor Convening on Monday, June 27, 2016, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., at Northeast State Community College. The theme for this year’s Convening is “Inspired,” in honor of the commitment of our school counselors to ensure that students in Northeast Tennessee graduate from high school prepared for post-secondary education, and on a successful career path.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kim Weitkamp.  As a humorist, consultant, singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, she shares her story and encourages others to do the same.  


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Niswonger Foundation May Partner with Greene County Schools to Increase Literacy

The Niswonger Foundation hopes to increase literacy in Greene County by partnering with the Greene County School System.

The Greene County Board of Education heard from the Foundation's staff during a board workshop in early February.  One of the topics discussed was a partnership between the school system and the Foundation aimed at increasing K-2 literacy across the district.

The idea of this partnership came about after a meeting between Dr. Nancy Dishner, president and CEO of the Foundation, Dr. Richard Kitzmiller, Niswonger Foundation director of programs and outreach, Greene County School Board members and county school officials along with SCORE staff in Nashville. 

"We are beginning something that we think is going to be a really powerful partnership between the Niswonger Foundation and the Greene County Schools," Dr. Dishner said.

The project will be called Greene County/Niswonger Foundation Literacy Initiative.  The initiative would begin with a pilot program in which 20 teachers in three elementary schools would participate for three years. "The reason for that is tracking the kids so we have a real record to see if what we're doing is making a difference," Dishner said.

A literacy specialist would provide support to  participating teachers. More technology would be made available for these teachers and their students. Stipends would be provided since participating teachers would be asked to do more, stated Vivian Franklin, coordinator of Educational Opportunities at the Foundation.

These teachers would receive ongoing professional development with continuous followup and support over the three-year pilot.

This will be a data-driven process, so we will be looking just to make sure that what we're doing can be justified," Dishner added.

The three schools that will be involved in the initiative will not be announced until a formal signing of responsibilities, Dishner said.

"The plan is to provide the professional development to the teachers this summer so they will be ready to implement in the classrooms this fall," she said.

If the K-2 literacy initiative proves to be successful, it could spread beyond the pilot schools.

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Niswonger Foundation Selects Five New Scholars

                Christian Dalton                 Elijah "Bo" Pless                 Kori Smith

                                            Savannah Agan               Tanner Shively

The NISWONGER FOUNDATION, founded by Greeneville, Tennessee businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger, has selected five high school seniors to join the Niswonger Scholars program.  Currently, there are 20 Niswonger Scholars, with the newly selected students for 2016 bringing the total to 25.  The Foundation, also, supports the current network of 57 Alumni from this program. 

It is believed that this program is unique to any other leadership program in the nation.  Niswonger Scholars are selected through a nomination process that seeks to identify the region’s best and brightest future leaders.  Criteria for consideration include:  1) evidence of outstanding leadership in their schools and communities; 2) academic excellence and intellectual curiosity; 3) family financial need; 4) personal integrity; and, most importantly, 5) the commitment to return to Northeast Tennessee.

These Scholars are given the opportunity to attend any college or university, in the United States, that will best prepare them for success in their chosen field of study. During their college experience, the Scholars participate in a four-year leadership development program, including personalized and group activities. Through an emphasis on leadership, business management, community service and ethical decision making, the Scholars are provided travel experiences; training that includes an array or successful regional, state and national leaders; study abroad; internships; technology; academic advisement and personalized support to become model leaders and citizens of the world. 

Making a positive impact on the future of Northeast Tennessee is the fundamental goal of this program. Following the Niswonger philosophy of “Learn, Earn, Return,” these students commit to returning to the First Congressional District to work in their chosen careers, while serving their communities as servant leaders. The plan is that by enabling these students to pursue their academic passion and cultivating their leadership abilities, they will be committed to returning to their “roots” and being catalysts for the growth and improvement of this region.

The five new Scholars are Savannah Agan, Unaka High School; Christian Dalton, Hancock County High School; Elijah “Bo” Pless, Elizabethton High School; Tanner Shivley, Sullivan South High School; and Kori Smith, Chuckey-Doak High School.

Savannah Rose Agan is a senior at Unaka High School in Elizabethton.  She has served as Chapter FFA president and as secretary for the Eastern Region FFA and for the Appalachian Fair Youth Board.  She is a member of the 4-H Wildlife team, 4-H Forestry team, and FFA Agricultural Sales team.   Her awards include, FFA GOLD Leadership Award, State FFA Degree recipient, state finalist in Agricultural Sales Competition, and state finalist in Small Animal Production & Care Proficiency. Savannah has completed community service with the National FFA Organization, Health Occupations Students of America, 4-H, Johnson County High School and the Key Club.  Her intended college major is agriculture. Her parents are Jerry and Amanda Agan.


Christian Michael Dalton attends Hancock County High School in Sneedville, where he earned a 4.0 GPA.  He serves as president of HCHS Student Council, vice president of the Sneedville chapter of FFA, Senior Representative on the Tennessee 4-H State Council and as an Upper 8 Scout for the Tennessee 4-H Eastern Region All Star Council.  He is a member of the 4-H Honor Club, 4-H All-Stars and 4-H Livestock, Land & Soil and Wildlife Judging Teams. He was nominated for and received “Vol State” at the 2015 4-H Roundup.  He has completed community service hours through 4-H and FFA. He is planning to major in agriculture. Christian is the son of Rita Dalton.


Elijah Charles “Bo” Pless is a student at Elizabethton High School. He has served as Executive Board Member and Senior Class Secretary for the Student Government Association, vice president of the Carter County Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Group, and Calvary Baptist Church’s Student Leaders in Christ Council.  His awards include, Tennessee Division 2 Class AA State Marching Band Champion, Most Outstanding Band Student, Wynell White Biology Award and Paul H. Pless Award. He has co-authored a book “Footprints of Appalachia”. He is active in Varsity Basketball and Varsity Baseball at EHS.  Bo has completed community service hours through Mission Fuge Camps, Hale Community Ministries, Carter County Chamber of Commerce and Race for Wandell. His intended major is engineering. He is the son of Eddie and Kim Pless.


Tanner Lynn Shively attends Sullivan South High School. He is a member of Sullivan South Baseball Team, National Honor Society, Beta Club, National Society of High School Scholars and Health Occupations Students of America. His awards include Honorary Usher- Senior Honors and Commencement, faculty nominee for Mr. Sullivan South and American Legion Boys’ State- Tennessee Technological University. He is active with community service through Cornerstone Fellowship Church, ER and Pediatrics at Wellmont Medical Center, Salvation Army, United Way, Boys and Girls Club and Saving Grace Baptist Church.  He plans to pursue a premedical track in college. Tanner is the son of Tammy and Robert Jarvis.


Kori Lynn Smith is a senior at Chuckey-Doak High School.  She is president of her senior class, vice president of the Chuckey-Doak FFA, Co-Captain of the Greene County and City Schools’ Destination Imagination Team, Co-Captain of the Lady Knight’s Soccer Team and Co-Captain of the Lady Knight’s Tennis Team.  She is a member of the Black Knight’s Nation -  the Chuckey-Doak Marching Band, Spanish Club, Tusculum College’s Upward Bound Program and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She is a graduate of the Greene County Youth Leadership program.  She has completed community service hours through Destination Imagination and First Church of God. Her plans are to major in education.  She is the daughter of Gena Shipley.


Established in 2001, the Niswonger Foundation’s mission is “To create opportunities for individual and community growth through education and other sustainable projects.” The Foundation’s primary programs are the Scholarship and Leadership Program, and the School Partnership Program.  Additional information regarding the work of the Foundation is available at


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