Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Passing the Torch

Board names Tim Henderson executive director of Humanities Tennessee

November 20, 2012 Humanities Tennessee’s board of directors has named Tim Henderson the executive director of the organizaton. He will assume that role following President Robert Cheatham’s retirement at the end of the year. Henderson is currently director of operations at Humanities Tennessee. He has been with HT since 1998, serving as the director of digital programs before taking on his current role. He has earned a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from Union University in Jackson, a master’s degree in English from Middle Tennessee State University, and a master’s degree in information science from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“After conducting a thorough national search, the board of Humanities Tennessee is confident that Tennessee native and longtime Humanities Tennessee employee Tim Henderson is the ideal candidate to lead the organization,” said Neil Hemphill, chairman of the board of Humanities Tennessee. “Tim’s experience, knowledge and commitment to the humanities are exemplary, and his familiarity with the organization’s outstanding staff and programs will ensure the continuity of Humanities Tennessee’s great work across the state.”

Cheatham has been president of HT since 1978. Under his leadership, the organization has received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities for its overall program, as well as numerous awards for specific projects. Cheatham was the founding president of the Southern Humanities Media Fund. Among his significant accomplishments is the founding of “The Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word” in 1989. The Festival has been the model for numerous other festivals around the country. Under his leadership, Humanities Tennessee’s community history and grants programs have supported museums, historical organizations and exhibits in small and large communities statewide.

From 1989 to 1997, Cheatham served on the Board of the Federation of State Humanities Councils and as Chair of the Federation from 1993-1995. Expressing great confidence in Henderson he said, “I am of course pleased with the Board’s decision to hire Tim. He knows the needs of the state and the programs of the organization very well. I leave with full certainty that Tim and the staff will continue to serve the public well through a wide range of programs.”

Noting the successes of his predecessor, Henderson said, “Robert has been a mentor to me and to everyone here at Humanities Tennessee, as well as a nationally respected leader in the humanities. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to continuing the work that he began with this organization.”

Humanities Tennessee was incorporated in 1973 as the Tennessee Committee for the Humanities, a “state-based” program of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In 1985, the Tennessee Committee for the Humanities became the Tennessee Humanities Council which became Humanities Tennessee in 2000. These changes in name reflect the organization’s evolving understanding of itself and of its means and purpose. Begun solely as a grant-making organization, supported solely by federal funds and charged by the NEH with “bringing the humanities to the public,” Humanities Tennessee has become an organization that conducts programs and makes grants, that raises and earns significant support in addition to its NEH appropriation, and no longer simply brings the humanities to the public, but attempts to engage the public actively in the humanities and to make the humanities an integral part of community life in Tennessee.