Steve Petty


Steve Petty earned a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Carson Newman in 1971 and a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from the University of Tennessee in 1984. His youthful idealism led to a 31-year career in social work which he came to consider his life’s calling.

Steve worked in Corrections as a prison counselor, in Children’s Services as a child abuse counselor, and in Mental Health in a variety of clinical and administrative positions. The first half of Steve’s career was spent providing direct care to clients and patients; the second half was spent in management and administration. Steve’s final position in the field was Vice President of Outpatient and Residential Services at Peninsula Behavioral Health, a division of Covenant Health in Knoxville. In this capacity, Steve was responsible for an extensive array of services, 300 employees, and a twenty-million-dollar annual budget. Along the way and on the side, Steve also taught classes for children’s service professionals for the UT Office of Continuing Social Work Education, practiced family mediation in child custody cases, and taught adult education classes.

In retirement, Steve remains as intrigued with human behavior as when he chose this field at Carson Newman. He has profound respect for those people who overcome poverty, injustice, abuse, family dysfunction, or mental illness to lead meaningful and productive lives. One of his greatest joys is reflecting on those who did. He remains an advocate for those still struggling to do so.

Steve has been married to Carson Newman graduate Liz Highers since 1974. Liz was an English and Drama major at CN and has enriched his life tremendously with great literature and theater. Together they raised three children. They now have two in-laws and four grandchildren. Outside work and family, his greatest pleasure has come from section hiking the southern third of the Appalachian Trail in the decade of his 50’s and section biking the east coast of the United States in the decade of his 60’s. That trek from Bar Harbor to Key West will be completed in February 2021.

Steve still regales Liz with stories of the Philos. He loves to remind her that since their inception, the Philo motto was “Philo Doxia, Mathasis, kai Dynimis” (For the Love of Honor, Learning, and Power). She always rolls her eyes when he does.