Ken Stephenson


We moved to Knoxville for my work. I have been a mathematics professor at UTK for 46 years. My wife Dee worked at the UTK Vet School for 36 years. We started coming to TVUUC around 1979 or 1980. We came because of our two children. In their school they were being read Bible stories and asked to raise their hand if they went to church. So we started attending for them.

I was raised Episcopalian. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. I am a humanist. I am still not sure whether to close my eyes in church when someone says “Let us pray.”

What church activities are you involved in now?

I am about to be President of the church, starting in July (2022). In the past I have been on the RE Committee and done babysitting in the nursery. I led the Endowment Committee for six years. I have done coffee and ushered quite a bit.

Why do you attend TVUUC?

I come for the social activism and the people I meet here. I see others doing so much and it inspires me to do more. It raises my consciousness and without TVUUC those issues could be left on the back burner. I think it is important to support social action causes and “show the flag.” I want to make a difference in the world and this community helps inspire me to do more. I hope we can bring in more people to TVUUC who are interested in social action causes. Also, I enjoy the worship services. As a mathematician my mind is often busy with formulas or projects. Church allows me to be quiet and just sit quietly for a time. I also enjoyed the forums when we had those and I hope we can start doing those again.

What difference has TVUUC made in your life?

It helps me have a balanced life. As UTK faculty I think a lot and coming to church helps keep me and my life balanced. It also introduced me to tai chi, starting when classes were held at the church. I have been doing tai chi for 24 years and I hope to continue as a tai chi leader when in-person classes resume. I have been in a men’s group for about 30 years, a group that is full of TVUUC members. We are not an official TVUUC group but a lot of us attend TVUUC. Right now Dee and I also meet with a group on Fridays that Jametta Alston started and I enjoy that.

Did you ever take a break from TVUUC over the last 40 years?

There was a time when I was not attending regularly. It was an odd occurrence. We had a TV on in the kitchen, a TV which we rarely have on. I was watching something and I saw scrolling across the bottom about a shooting at TVUUC. I immediately called my friend Terry Uselton who was at the church and I talked with him. That ended my break from church and I have been attending regularly ever since.