Dr. Brian Noland wore an ETSU themed bow tie, blue suit, ETSU socks and a nice pair of brown leather shoes. Looking back over the past 10 years, the interview began by asking Dr. Noland, “What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
Noland was joyful, evocative, as he reflected on the things he had accomplished — or helped accomplish — over the past 10 years. He noted that he was pleased with the production at the Martin Center for the Arts and fascinated by the number of debuts he was able to participate in (which he mentioned took so long because he likes to get involved). stop and give the students a hug.) But at the root of it all is what it came back to: the students, the names, and the faces that made the last decade possible.
“When I think back to when I had the honor of being president of the university, what I’m most proud of are the thousands of students who walked across the stage and made their dreams come true.”
Noland became ETSU’s ninth president in January 2012, succeeding Dr. Paul Stanton. As a student, he earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at West Virginia University, then earned a doctorate in political science from the University of Tennessee.
Prior to landing at ETSU, Noland served as Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and a faculty member at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education. His notable pre-presidential accomplishments include helping implement the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship.
When asked if he had any regrets; he responded by getting up from his chair, saying he would be right back, and left the room. He returned a few minutes later with a picture frame in his hand. He pointed to the picture and said, “It’s my very first basketball game,” and then he started pointing at people, “It’s Mrs. Stanton, it’s Dr. Stanton, it’s ( former ETSU athletic director) Dave Mullins,” and he says that last part emphatically, “and he’s my son, he’s a freshman.”
He cried: “My biggest regret is everything I missed with my son and my wife.” He shared that he “missed games, performances, teaching him to drive. I missed a lot of my son and wife’s life.
But the memories he has – of this campus, of these people – gently remind him that there are always cracks where light can penetrate. He smiled as he reflected on the opening of Roger’s Buc Mart, the cutting of the ribbons at the new buildings, the first blue and gold game, the egg hunts in Shelbridge (the official residence of the ETSU president).
During the first week of his presidency, he was determined to hit the gym and shoot basketball. He walked in, started playing a game with a student, and after the pick up game, the person asked, “Are you the president of this place or something?”
We continued to talk about some of the specific people at ETSU, such as Dr. Chris Dula. There was sadness in Noland’s eyes as he started talking about Dula, a beloved teacher who died in January 2019 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. Noland embraced the man’s dedication to his job and the celebration of life ceremony at ETSU’s Brooks Gym.
“People get married here. They come out of the Earth here. We take this place for granted. I have never been to a place that means so much to people who call it home as here. said Noland.
When asked what the next 10 years have in store for us, he replied, “If I have the chance to hold this position again, it would be the honor of a lifetime.