Cumberland University

Toby Compton (Class of 2011)

L to R:  Scott Lawrence, Toby Compton, Paul Stumb

What does Cumberland University mean to you and how do you feel about being recognized as the recipient of the 2017 Award of Excellence in Humanities, Education, and the Arts?

Cumberland University is a special place to me. My maternal grandmother was from Lebanon and I remember the school from very early in my life. She would have been thrilled to know that I got my master’s degree from the university. I am particularly happy that I have maintained a close relationship with my professors and the school administration. Getting the Award of Excellence came as a complete surprise and I am truly honored, and humbled, by the recognition. Frankly, I’ve never received such a huge award and it means a lot.

Do you have any special memories or stories about Cumberland that you would like to share? Favorite professor, coach, staff member that greatly influenced you?

Cumberland University means Bill McKee to me. While I knew about the university, it was really introduced to me through Bill and his outreach at the right time in my career. Literally I had gotten an e-mail while working in the Mayor’s Office for Karl Dean. I had always wanted to pursue a master’s and had researched and thought about it. I got an e-mail through Metro HR and on a whim responded. Literally, the next day Bill came to the office and met me. What I thought would be 15 minutes turned into two hours. Two weeks later I was enrolled and ready for school. Not only did the MSP program benefit me professionally, but personally though my lifelong friend, Bill McKee. Most master’s programs, or undergraduate programs even, cannot say that.

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

Currently, I am the President/CEO of the Greater Tennessee Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC). ABC is a statewide trade association representing commercial contractors. Prior to that, I was a senior advisor to Mayor Dean and helped with Music City Center and First Tennessee Park, among other things. I’ve also worked extensively in political and issues oriented campaigns. Completing the MSP program at Cumberland gave me a leg-up in my career for sure. The classes provided me the background and knowledge in core areas like human relations, diversity, public administration and statistics. Without question, my master’s degree from Cumberland was the best time and money I’ve ever spent to advance my career.

Tell us about the impact Cumberland has had on you as well as the impact you see the university having in our local and regional communities.

In my travels and dealings, Cumberland has a wonderful reputation. I’ve worked with several of the MSP classes since I graduated and people in the program and graduates sing the praises of the university and the dedicated instructors. I’ve been greatly impressed that Paul Stumb has been a huge proponent of regionalism through his work with Leadership Middle Tennessee. I’ve also been impressed with the university’s work on the presidential papers of Martin Van Buren. Cumberland is rich with a history of graduating leaders in the community and it is wonderful to see leadership at the school continuing that rich tradition.