Covenant College President Speaks at Dade Biz Social

Dr. J. Derek Halvorson, president of Covenant College, spoke at last Thursday’s “evening social” of the Greater Dade Business Owners Association (GDBOA), hosted by the Southeast Lineman Training Center, on the subject of how to better incorporate Covenant students into the Dade community.

Though it technically resides within Dade, Covenant’s mountaintop site high above Trenton cuts it off from the rest of the county in much the same way as “the Independent State of Dade” itself is isolated by geography from the rest of Georgia. “It’s a different little slice of Dade County up there on Lookout Mountain,” Dr. Halvorson acknowledged.

He spoke briefly of the college’s history. Covenant was founded in the 1950s in Pasadena, Calif., but moved almost immediately to Missouri. It came to Georgia in 1964 when it bought the old Lookout Mountain Hotel—a Roman Catholic institution bid higher, said Dr. Halvorson, but Covenant got the building because the seller was more inclined to welcome Presbyterians from the Midwest into the neighborhood than Catholics.

Since then, Covenant has expanded until it owns 400 acres on the mountain, 70 of them maintained, with 1000 students from 44 states and 20 countries. It is a private liberal arts school whose focus is “to ground excellence in academic inquiry in a biblically grounded frame of reference,” according to its mission statement. Tuition is upwards of $33,000 a year, plus fees and another $10,000 or so for housing.

“It’s not the cheapest way to get an education,” said Dr. Halvorson. “But it’s a good way.”

He said Covenant’s engineering professor used to teach at a large university where in his introduction course he had 120 students, and his job was to weed out the weak ones. Now, said Dr. Halvorson, the professor is more apt to teach classes of 12 to 15, and his job is to make them into engineers.

Because going to college at a small liberal arts school in the mountains is a distinctive kind of decision, said Dr. Halvorson, Covenant tends to get a distinctive kind of student. “We don’t attract lemmings,” he said.

A lot of these independent-minded Covenant grads turn into entrepreneurs, he said, and a lot stay in the Chattanooga area. Niedlove’s Bakery and Clumpy’s Ice Cream were both started by Covenant alumni, Dr. Halvorson pointed out.

As far as incorporating Covenant students into Dade County, he had several suggestions: First, how's about some student discounts to lure hungry college kids into Dade restaurants and stores? College students tend to be short of money and are always looking for a deal, said Dr. Halvorson.

Also, businesses that have entry-level slots for grads, or internships, please call! Covenant's placement office is always looking for companies to employ them. That number is (706) 419-1156.

Another thing Dr. Halvorson said he’d like to see is more Covenant education students in Dade classrooms as teachers and student teachers. Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of Dade schools, who was attending the March 8 social, said the system had several examples of both, and she had found them to be excellent instructors.

Photo: Dr. Jan Harris (left). Also visible is SLTC founder George Nelson.

And finally, Dr. Halvorson quoted scripture to the effect that Christians should work for the welfare of those around them wherever God placed them. As such, he said, Covenant students did a lot of community service in Walker County, and would be pleased to do some in Dade.

Trenton Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten, who was also attending last week’s social, leaned in with sudden interest. “There’s my next cleanup crew for Dade County,” she said.

Commissioner Wooten (left) organized a citywide cleanup of the town in spring 2016. Another, apparently, is now in the stars.

Dr. Halvorson said Covenant's contact for community service—take this down, Commissioner Wooten—is Chris Robinson, (706) 419-1431, or email

These evening socials are organized by GDBOA’s Nathan Wooten and hosted at SLTC courtesy its founder and CEO, George Nelson. Guthrie's Chicken owner Will Garrett introduced Dr. Halvorson.

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