Central High School Wall of Fame: Stuart Worden

Dr. Jim TumblinFeature, Fountain City

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of features on the 2018 Central High School Wall of Fame inductees. Find the first article on Suzanne Matheny here, the second article on Sandra Martin here, and the third article on Jack Lee Thurman here.

Stuart R. Worden is one of the four Central High School graduates who will be inducted into the school’s Wall of Fame on Nov. 8.

Stuart was born in Ashland City, Tenn., on Jan. 22, 1932, the youngest of the three children of Penn W. Worden and LaVerne Penland Worden. Stuart became a member of Boy Scout Troop 14 at First Presbyterian Church. He became an early troop leader and persevered to earn  21 merit badges and become an Eagle Scout.

He attended Fountain City Grammar School and proceeded to Central High School where he graduated in 1949. He was secretary of the Science Club, vice-president of the Debating Club, a member and one of the color bearers in the marching band, a member of the Hiking Club and a library assistant.

He entered the University of Tennessee where he again had a record of service. Among his leadership positions was that of president of the UT Pep Club. He and others thought of naming an animal mascot for the teams, and the tradition of Smokey was born. This innovation earned him a prominent place in Thomas Mattingly’s book “Smokey: The True Stories Behind the University of Tennessee’s Beloved Mascot.”

Worden graduated from UT in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Having been in the ROTC unit at UT, he joined the Army, attended officers training school at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and served two years at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His duties included time with the Transportation Corps, and he emerged from the service with an honorable discharge and the rank of captain.

When he returned to Knoxville in 1956, he joined the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co. and partnered with Clinton Campbell to expand the company’s services to include employee benefits and investment management. That office is now known as Worden, Rechenbach & Brooke.  His leadership in the industry was recognized when he served as president of the Knoxville Association of Life Underwriters, president of the Chartered Life Underwriters and president of the Knoxville Estate Planning Council. Finally, he won the coveted David Blumberg Award.

An outstanding team which would contribute to the Knoxville arts community over many years and beyond any possible expectation was born on Dec. 7, 1963, when Stuart Worden and Elizabeth “Betsy” Fowlkes (1935-2006) became husband and wife. Betsy became an outstanding artist with works in several well-known national collections, including those of Pres. Gerald R. Ford, Vice-Pres. Walter Mondale, the Heard Collection, the American Embassy in Poland and the Knoxville Museum of Art.  Stuart was the skilled craftsman who sometimes worked all night to prepare frames for just-completed art which would often go on exhibit on the very next day.

Stuart always assisted in Betsy’s many contributions of time and effort to the Knoxville Watercolor Society, the Tennessee Watercolor Society, the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild, the Tennessee Women of the Arts, the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and many other organizations. Her work was honored when the Knoxville Arts Council awarded her its Lifetime Achievement Award.

But she considered her proudest achievement to be her 42-year marriage to Stuart and their three accomplished children: John (insurance executive and KUB commissioner in Knoxville), David (consultant for Sullivan Cotter in Atlanta) and Mary Stuart “Minky” Worden (executive with Human Rights Watch in New York City).

Among Stuart’s outstanding accomplishments was his guidance as president of the Community Foundation of Knoxville which became the East Tennessee Foundation in 1986. The Foundation now has granted over $276 million to area organizations as they make life better for our region today and for future generations. He was honored to be declared an honorary lifetime board member.

There are many other ways he has served his community: past president, Knoxville Arts Council; past chair, YMCA of Metropolitan Knoxville; past president, Knoxville Chapter of UT Alumni Association; past president, UT Chancellor’s Associates; and elder, First Presbyterian Church.

The Central High School Foundation and the Alumni Association are pleased to declare Stuart R. Worden an honoree on the CHS Wall of Fame.

The 17th annual Central High School Wall of Fame Dinner will be held at the Gresham Middle School from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8. Tickets are $25 each and are available at the C.H.S office and from C.H.S. Alumni and Foundation representatives. For reservations or tickets call R. Larry Smith at 865-922-5433 or Jean Payne 865-688-4165.

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