Cumberland University

Rob Carter (Class of 2003)

CUAA President Scott Lawrence ('08, '11) presenting
the Rising Phoenix Award to Rob Carter ('03)

What does Cumberland University mean to you and how do you feel about being recognized as the recipient of the 2016 Rising Phoenix Award?

I am very honored and humbled to accept this award and join the past recipients whom I admire and respect so much. I am especially grateful because this recognition is from my alma mater. I cannot honestly say that I ever envisioned a day, even at my most optimistic, that one day my university would recognize me along with such other wonderful alumni. I thank President Stumb, the Board of Trustees, the alumni association and Board of Directors, the entire staff at Cumberland University, Jonathon Hawkins, Curt Baker and the entire University for this honor. I salute all of this year's nominees, each of whom has made such a wonderful contribution to our community and University. Also, I would like to give a special thank you to John Fanning and to those that nominated me and supported my nomination. Also, of course, a special thank you to my extended family, wife, parents, children and all of my professors and colleagues for supporting me in school and in my professional career. 

Cumberland University means very much to me. Specifically, the time that I was afforded with the professors and staff is a great part of what has molded me as a man, personally and professionally. The in-class rigors prepared me for law school. The challenge and discipline learned during extracurricular opportunities benefit me every day in the practice of law. My entire experience at Cumberland University is now part of me and part of my personal and professional character.

Do you have any special memories or stories about Cumberland that you would like to share?

I have many special memories about my time at Cumberland University═ż however, the most vivid memories arise from my time in my history classes with professors Monty Pope, Jim Dressler, (councilman) Rick Bell, Fred Heifner and others. Moreover, to this day, I can vividly recall my time with Dr. Heifner in class and in New Mexico during his unique out-of-the-classroom course. In fact, on many days, I wish that I were back in New Mexico with the class and Dr. Heifner. 

I would be remiss if I did not say that the most important memory I have of my time at Cumberland University comes from the morning of September 11, 2001. I had an early morning class with President Charlene Kozy upstairs in Memorial Hall. I arrived to class on time without having turned on a television or radio prior to entering the classroom. I found the class empty but with my fellow students’ bags, books and belongings still sitting in the room. Upon investigation, I found the class, and President Kozy, downstairs in Memorial Hall watching the large television and watching the news reports from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. When questioned about my September 11th experience, I take great pride in recounting President Kozy placing her arm around me as we watched the television and her suggestion that I go home and call my mother…which I did.

CU President Paul Stumb congratulating Rising Phoenix
Award Recipient Rob Carter ('03)

Tell us about your current and past work experience and how Cumberland may have helped you prepare for success.

After graduation from Cumberland University, I attended, and completed, law school at the University of Memphis. Unlike what appeared to be the entire rest of the class, I had no prior realistic experience with the law. The majority of other students had spent some amount of time outside of academia prior to law school and had real world experiences to draw upon when analyzing the cases or issues discussed during class. Consequently, I was forced to rely almost entirely upon my educational background to complete these difficult courses. It did not take long to recognize that the rigors I had previously faced at Cumberland University had greatly prepared me for the challenges of law school. Many law students can recall the fear of the law professor selecting you as the subject-student for the day. I, however, had been through Jim Dressler’s in-class confrontations and was confident in my response.

After law school, I joined a private firm in Nashville where I practiced contract and construction law for nearly five years. I worked alongside very good lawyers who were also very good men and women. However, each of these colleagues had different personalities, different life perspectives and different ways of going about business. The diversity of such characters was not new to me as a result of my time at Cumberland and in Memphis.

Today, I am the elected District Attorney General for the 17th†Judicial District, which includes Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore Counties, Tennessee. As you can imagine, the daily challenges and conflicts are never ending. The personalities that I encountered and learned to adapt to, outside of my childhood community, for the first time at Cumberland University, has been a boon of experience for my current position. Furthermore, the academic rigors of Cumberland University and law school greatly prepared me for the challenges associated with this position every day.

What impact do you see Cumberland having?

It is my hope, and my belief, that Cumberland University will continue to have the same, if not an improved, impact on future professionals that it has had on me. The continued growth and improvement developed by the past and current administration shows our University’s willingness to confront the new challenges that are arising in our communities. The recognition and attention to our University’s historical significance and past accomplishments is also very important to me and to our alumni. While I am greatly honored and humbled by this award I recognize that there are many others as qualified, if not more so, and many others who continue to spread the good word and works of Cumberland University. For this, I am proud and I am delighted to see the future impact that Cumberland University will have on our students, alumni, our communities, our State and our Country.