Cumberland University


CU to Award Honorary Doctorate to Iconic Songwriter

During its 167th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 2, 2009, Cumberland University will award an honorary doctorate to Nashville songwriting legend Claude "Curly" Putman Jr., University administrators recently announced.

Known the world over for penning such standards as "Green, Green Grass of Home" and George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today," Putman has been a member of the Cumberland community for several years through his support for the Sean Putman Memorial Scholarship at CU, an endowed scholarship established in memory of his grandson, who lost an heroic battle with cancer at the age of eight.

Putman, a native of Princeton, Ala. and member of the Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame, said he was "stunned" to learn the University planned to present him with an honorary doctorate.

"It's kind of hard to digest all at once. It is an honor ... I'm just an old country boy, and I never thought I'd have anything like this. I'm thankful," Putman said. "We've been living in Lebanon (Tennessee) for quite a few years, and I've known several of the University's trustees. I've gained a lot of respect for Cumberland while working with the scholarship in memory of our grandson."

Cumberland University President Dr. Harvill C. Eaton commended Putman for his storied career and his unyielding commitment to the Sean Putman Memorial Scholarship.

"Mr. Putman is indeed a true friend not only to this institution but to higher education and those students that have realized the dream of a college education via the Putman family's tribute to young Sean," Eaton said.

Putman joked that, although his legendary career did involve a brief stint in education, he never imagined he would receive an honorary doctorate.

"Years ago, when I was a young man fresh out of the Navy, I started teaching a high school physical education class in Alabama. I went on to play steel guitar after that, and the leader of the band used to call me 'Professor Putman'," he said.

Putman's "Green, Green Grass of Home" exemplified the universal nature of his songwriting. The song was recorded more than 400 times -- in virtually every language -- by a diverse array of artists including Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom Jones, Porter Wagoner, Dean Martin, Kenny Rogers and Elvis Presley.