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More Than We Can Bear

Knoxvillians have proven that man is bear's only natural predator, as Bearfoot in the City sculptures' mysterious disappearances, vandalism, and prop thefts clearly show.The "Mace Bearer," perched on the wall at the bottom of The Hill at UT, has come and gone faster than a university president.

"From what I understood... it was taken, [and] it was returned with a note saying, 'If we had known it was for charity, we wouldn't have taken it,'" Knoxville deputy director of special events Dan Myers said of the graduation gown-attired bear.

Before you could say "Wade Gilley," the sculpture disappeared again. Plus, "A Beary Christmas in the City" suffered holes to his Santa beard during a Sundown in the City concert on Market Square. So special events folks moved him to the more serene sidewalk outside the Union Planters building. Meanwhile, intrepid thieves absconded with the "Dr. Bearwell" surgical mask and the "Newsie Bear" hat and glasses. Myers said those Gay Street bears will be repaired.

Divide And Conquer

Earlier this month, Stephen Smith did what he's often done as an advocate for clean air—criticized politicians for not taking a strong enough stand. Smith told The Daily Times of Maryville that Sen. Bill Frist has been "deadly silent" to a letter campaign urging more stringent air protection for the Great Smoky Mountains. Smith later asked a Frist staff member whether the senator's lead role as fundraiser for the 2002 elections is preventing him from speaking out. The criticism elicited an unexpected response from another conservation-minded group—Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—whose president Gary Wade and executive director Charles Maynard wrote a letter-to-editor (published in The Daily Times) defending the senator and his fund-raising efforts for the park. That letter prompted Smith to reply with a letter-to-the-editor, saying that Frist has failed to address air pollution, the biggest threat to the park (Smith did praise Sen. Fred Thompson's efforts). "Let us allow the Doctor/Senator's record on air pollution stand on its own. Sadly for the health of every Tennessean and our mountain treasures, there is not much to stand on," Smith wrote. Having worked with the Friends of the Smokies in the past, Smith isn't sure what caused the rift.

Still Ornery, but Out

Almost 46-and-a-half years after going to work at the University of Tennessee, and 13 years past his 65th birthday, Charlie Burchett has gone to the house. He says although he could have made more money if he'd retired when he became eligible, he stayed on partly out of orneriness, but mostly because he looked upon his work as a kind of mission.

Burchett, the father of state Sen. Tim Burchett, went back to college after World War II, and eventually came to UT where he held a variety of positions, most notably dean of student conduct, and became famous for befriending students in trouble and, in the process, running afoul of the UT Powers That Were. Over the years, his job description was downgraded from "dean" to "director," but he says that was OK because "every time they'd change my title to a lower level I'd have a chance to get closer to the students."

University retirees are generally given a farewell reception, the location and menu of which are thought to reflect the esteem in which the honoree is held. Burchett expected a celery and onion dip affair in a basement hallway. He was probably surprised to learn that it will be held Thursday Nov. 9, from 2-4 p.m. in the 8th floor board room at Andy Holt Tower.

October 25, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 43
© 2001 Metro Pulse