Tracy R. Frist Establishes Fund To Support Ferrum College and Blue Ridge Institute’s Preservation of Appalachian Literature and Folktales

This November, former Ferrum College student and longtime supporter of the College, Tracy R. Frist, made a generous gift to Ferrum College to support the College’s Appalachian Literature project (AppLit) and the digitizing and archiving needs of the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum (BRIM).

Tracy Frist at Ferrum’s annual folklife festival in Ferrum, Virginia

“Tracy’s generous gift to the BRIM archive will provide us with the resources we need to digitize collections of folktales and songs so that they will be easily available for public use,” affirmed Bethany Worley, director of the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum.

AppLit is an online resource created by Tina L. Hanlon, professor of English at Ferrum College, to serve as an archive of Appalachian literature for children and young adults. Frist’s own original animal tale, “Mountain Marbles: An Appalachian Tale,” is archived on the site and is an example of how the project includes student and faculty authored works as well those gathered from oral traditions.

Frist’s support will help in preserving folk literature of the region and enhance the educational resources available to students.

“One of the magical threads in the tale of my three decades in Virginia has allowed me to cross paths with Tracy Roberts Frist periodically: from studying Appalachian folktales in a graduate course in the 1990s, to publishing Tracy’s original animal tale and teaching materials in our website AppLit, collaborating in Ferrum’s Teaching Appalachian Literature project, discussing Appalachian books at conferences, and bumping into Tracy and her sweet mother at Ferrum’s folklife festival over the years,” Hanlon recalled. “I’m so grateful Tracy has established this fund that will enable us to upgrade AppLit as well as continuing to engage students and alumni in the important work of preserving and sharing folklore and literature of the region.”  

The AppLit project was originally funded in 2000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities and serves as a resource for educators and dramatists. Reflecting Hanlon’s background as a librarian, it features a rich bibliography of works as well.

In addition to Frist’s gift, Ferrum College received a Humanities Research for the Public Good grant from The Council of Independent Colleges to fund student work on the project. Abigail McGovern, a senior majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, is one of four Ferrum College students whose work with the Blue Ridge Institute digitization as well as AppLit has been critical to these preservation projects. McGovern was invited to present at the Appalachian College Association Summit in September highlighting the college-community collaboration. 

“One of the things I learned from working on this project is how folklore can connect community. Folklore is perceived as historic and no longer relevant, but in reality, we create folklore daily – it represents values and culture that connect us all together from the past into the present,” said McGovern.

“The value of the AppLit resource and the BRIM archive is the themes and stories. What makes Ferrum College unique is the local culture and these resources celebrate it and drive engagement with it. Appalachian folklore is part of our story as students,” McGovern continued.

Frist shared how Hanlon’s course enlightened her about the value of folktales and inspired her to support the ongoing preservation work through Ferrum College.

“Dr. Tina Hanlon taught me preservation of culture, history and diversity lies in storytelling. Ferrum College and the greater Appalachian community is full of powerful and transformative stories. I wanted to be a part of saving these stories with this rich cultural evidence and making them accessible to everyone,” stated Frist.

To support the AppLit and digitizing efforts of Dr. Hanlon and the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum, select “Other” in the drop down menu and type “Tracy R Frist Fund” on Ferrum’s giving form here.

Bill and Tracy Frist enjoying Ferrum’s annual folklife festival in Ferrum, Virginia

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What Childhood Poverty Means

(Huffington Post, February 3, 2012)

By Bill Frist, M.D.

This post is part of a series on childhood poverty in the United States in partnership with Save the Children and Julianne Moore. Moore leads the organization’s Valentine’s Day campaign, through which cards are sold to support the fight against poverty in the U.S. To learn more or to purchase the cards, click here.

More than one in five American children lives in poverty. In my home state Tennessee it is an astounding one in four.

And it’s only getting worse. Less than four years ago, the national number was one in six children. Childhood poverty has increased 18% since 2000, as 2.5 million more children live in poverty today. But those are just cold, hard numbers. It’s what happens to kids who happen to be born into poverty that matters.

Childhood poverty does not just mean a family of four makes below $23,050 a year (it’s estimated that a family needs over twice that income to actually meet basic needs). No, childhood poverty limits access to the simplest, most basic things such as healthy foods, books, the Internet, and a secure place to play, exercise, or even sleep.

It means poor children,nearly half of whom are overweight, grow up with worse health..

It means at the age of four, poor children are already 18 months behind developmentally.

It means without early education programs, poorer children struggle and are 25% more likely to drop out of high school.

It means they are more likely to become teen parents, commit a violent crime, and be unemployed as adults.

It is a sad fact that at birth, one in five Americans today is well behind in the pursuit of happiness. The evidence increasingly points to the fact that once a child falls behind in the crucial early years, they may never catch up.

As a doctor, I focus on the devastating, long-lasting impact poverty has on a child’s health. Simply put, on average, the lower on the “socio-economic ladder” a child falls, the shorter life he will live. Americans in the lowest income category are more than three times more likely to die before the age of 65 than those in the highest income bracket.

For a child, a healthy body, a strong heart, normal development, and progressive learning all require adequate and balanced nutrition. But poor families too often don’t have access to nearby, affordable healthy foods. This stands as a major reason that debilitating chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes disproportionately afflict these impoverished youths.

“Food deserts” are those all too frequent regions of a city or rural areas, wherever poverty may exist, where affordable, healthy, fresh and nutritious foods are nowhere to be found. A 2011 Food Trust Report found that nearly one million Tennesseans, including 200,000 children, live in communities underserved by healthy food-providing supermarkets.

Across America 23.5 million live in areas that lack stores selling affordable, nutritious food. Without access to healthy foods, the cheap, fried, over-processed foods that accelerate the path to obesity become the mainstay diet. And the cause of early death.

This can be fixed. And an effective way to do so is for enterprising grocery retailers to partner with others in the private sector.

For example, just this year the Partnership for a Healthier America secured commitments from seven leading grocery companies to build new stores in areas where they’re needed most. All told, these commitments will bring fresh, affordable foods to ten million people!

Calhoun Enterprises alone will be building ten new stores in Alabama and Tennessee, creating 500 new jobs while figuratively bringing water to these deserts. And forward-thinking companies are increasingly learning that such “social partnering” not only helps the health and welfare of millions of Americans, but it also improves their own bottom lines.

And our government can also be a lot smarter. For many impoverished children, the majority of their meals, breakfast, lunch and even an afternoon snack, come from their schools. In 2010, almost half of all Tennessee students received government-subsidized school lunches. However, for longer life and better learning, we as tax-paying parents and citizens must insist on trading out pizza and tater tots for more whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Tennessee has recently started on this process. In June of last year, Tennessee, along with Kentucky and Illinois, joined a USDA pilot program for the “Community Eligibility Option,” allowing kids in low-income areas to skip the applications and red tape and receive the benefits of a free, healthy breakfast and lunch at their schools.

Nationally, last month the Obama administration overhauled the school lunch program for the first time in 15 years. Overall the menu will include items with less sodium, more whole grains and a greater selection of fruits and vegetables. Don’t worry, pizza will still be on the menu, but made with better ingredients.

Partnerships that focus on health and nutrition between the public and private sector, and between faith-based and secular nonprofits, will help lift children from the dire consequences of poverty.

America is the wealthiest nation in the world. The most technologically advanced. The most generous and accepting. We are the fastest car on the fastest track. We cannot afford to leave more than a fifth of our children behind.

To see the full article on the Huffington Post, please click here