category: Faculty Emeriti - In Honor Of

Terry Fern

Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts

Terry Fern

Dr. Terry Fern (1944-) was 
born in Oklahoma, where he
 graduated from Putnam City 
High School in Oklahoma 
City in 1962. He graduated 
cum laude with a bachelor’s
 degree in sacred music from
 Oklahoma Baptist University
 before earning a Master of
 Music in Voice Performance 
from the University of
 Louisville with a minor in choral directing. He later
 continued his education at 
the University of North Texas,
 earning a Doctor of Musical
 Arts and Voice Performance, along with postdoctoral studies at Vanderbilt University.

Before his time at Gardner-Webb, Fern worked in several churches and universities, interrupted only by a year’s deployment to South Vietnam from 1967-68 as part of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of sergeant and received the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat V. From 1971 to 1980, he was employed at Houghton College, University of North Texas, Ouchita Baptist University, and Belmont University, respectively.

Fern joined Gardner-Webb in 1980, and for 33 years assumed myriad positions, including the chair of the Department of Fine Arts, professor of applied voice, director of the GWU Opera Theatre, stage director of GWU Opera Theatre, lighting/stage director of GWU Theatre Productions, set/stage designer of GWU Opera Theatre Productions, set/stage designer for GWU Theatre Productions, director of Carillon Activities, GWU Carilloneur of the GWU Hollifield Carillon, and the GWU GOAL Program Professor of Music.

Fern would liked to be remembered as a “diligent, caring, Christ-oriented professor known for sharing his heart, experiences, and personal motivations via the instruction of music, art, and theatre. May I inspire in others an excitement and love of God’s creations and revelations via the Fine Arts.”

His personal motto is, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” while the motto he expressed to each of his classes is, “Your most important ‘IQ’ is not your ‘intelligence quotient,’ but your ‘imagination quotient,’ because ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you know, but what you do with what you know.”

Fern is most proud of his more than 30 years of teaching at GWU, as Opera Theatre Director, and his time as GWU Carilloneur of the 48-bell Hollifield Carillon. Fern’s commitment to the Opera Theatre pioneered an effort to introduce elementary, middle, and high school students to this style of musical theatre. Gardner-Webb began offering an annual “Student Day at the Opera,” and by 2015, nearly 30,000 students had the opportunity to experience the art form. Thanks to Fern’s commitment in those early years of the program, the “Student Day at the Opera” celebrated three and a half decades in 2015.

He married Linda Robertson, of Nashville, Tenn., in 1968; she worked as a nursing instructor at Gardner-Webb. They have two children: Jeremy Lee and Jennifer Lynn.

Fern now lives in Boiling Springs.

Source: Personal interview—Matt Renfer and the Gardner-Webb Office of University Communications (February 2015)

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