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April 19, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Webb School dedicates “Governor’s Center for Innovation” in honor of Bill Haslam

Webb School of Knoxville administrators and community leaders have officially dedicated the 4,500-square-foot “Governor’s Center for Innovation,” which is named after Webb School alum and former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

Located in the center of campus, the Governor’s Center is available for Webb students in grades 6-12 across program disciplines and by other community schools and student organizations. It offers cutting-edge spaces to guide students through the cycle of innovation from theory to practical application. The renovated building houses classrooms, collaboration and study areas, maker spaces, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) testing lab and broadcasting studio.

“I’m humbled by this dedication and remain grateful for the head start that I received from valued teachers and mentors during my days at Webb School of Knoxville,” said Haslam, a graduate of the Class of 1976. “The best policies are created when open-minded people collaborate on practical solutions, and I applaud the work being done now to foster those patterns early in future leaders.”

At the dedication, school leaders unveiled a 2014 photo of Haslam, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, Class of 1970, and then-Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee, Class of 1971, three senior constitutional officers for the state who all are Webb alums.

“We hope that our students will be inspired by this photo to imagine where their newfound leadership skills can take them – especially in service to our community,” said Michael McBrien, President of Webb School of Knoxville. “Innovation is central to everything we are doing at Webb. Gov. Haslam’s success and approach to creative policymaking serves as the cornerstone of our vision as we work to build this incubator for future leaders.”

The new facilities are bolstered by an academic program focused on global experiences and entrepreneurship.

“The center provides the hub for completely reimagined classroom experiences,” said John Tolsma, former Chair of the Webb School Board of Trustees and Chair of the school’s “Reimagining Extraordinary Campaign,” which led to the funding of the center. “For example, our entrepreneurship curriculum is rooted in the use of Harvard Business School case studies complemented by the voices of local and national entrepreneurial leaders. We don’t know of any other K-12 institution using that unique combination. Entrepreneurial methods are at the core of Webb’s innovation strategy, and we know that access at a younger age is a key to success in today’s world.”

Students walking through the innovation center’s space or outside its floor-to-ceiling windows may observe colorful 3D-printed prototypes, a lively entrepreneurial brainstorm conducted on neon-green lounge chairs or even a test robot climbing a human-sized obstacle course.

“Exposure to big, exciting ideas and critical thinking is crucial for our students,” said Misty Mayes, current Chair of the Webb School Board of Trustees. “Tomorrow’s challenges will be solved by those who are able to activate tools from all fields of study, and we hope that one day they look back at this experience as a catalyst for their success.”

(Pictured at this week’s event are {left to right}: Jennifer Phillips, Head of the Middle School at Webb; students Murphy Diddle and Ben Vickers; Lee; Governor Haslam and Crissy Haslam; McBrien; Tolsma; and Mayes.)

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