Covenant Health honored with Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy following historic land donation

Last updated on September 06, 2023

Knoxville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) has chosen Covenant Health as a recipient of the Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy, a recognition reserved for those who go above and beyond in financial and volunteer aid.

Representatives from TBR, Roane State Community College, and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Knoxville recently honored Covenant Health during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Knox Regional Health Science Education Center. Covenant Health President and CEO Jim VanderSteeg accepted the Regents Award trophy on behalf of the organization.

“Our leaders are committed to community engagement, continued education and workforce development,” VanderSteeg said. “We want to be a valued healthcare partner to the people of East Tennessee and provide effective patient care in our facilities. Excellent care leads to improved health outcomes and enhances patient satisfaction, promotes a positive reputation for our health system and fosters a sense of community and support for patients and their families.”

award photo

Jim VanderSteeg accepts the 2023 Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy, presented by the TN Board of Regents to Covenant Health for their outstanding commitment to Roane State Community College. Left to right: Dick Tracy, executive director of facilities development, TN Board of Regents; Kelli Chaney, president, TN College of Applied Technology; Dr. Chris Whaley, president, Roane State Community College; Danni Varlan, board member, TN Board of Regents; Jim VanderSteeg, president and CEO, Covenant Health.

Earlier this year, Covenant Health donated a 10-acre parcel of land on Sherrill Boulevard to the Knox Regional Health Science Education Center project. The donation ensured the new campus could be constructed on prime West Knoxville real estate near one of the area’s busiest hospitals – Parkwest Medical Center. The land is the largest philanthropic gift in Roane State history. The location has since been named the Covenant Health Campus.

“One of my favorite roles as a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents is recognizing those individuals or organizations that support our community and technical colleges,” Regent Danni Varlan said during the award presentation. “This gift is transformative, and the partnership will support our students and community for generations.”

Jim VanderSteeg accepts the TBR Excellence in Philanthropy award.

The new facility will significantly expand health science education programs at Roane State and TCAT Knoxville, help address the critical shortage of healthcare workers in East Tennessee and replace Roane State’s current landlocked campus in Knox County. Construction is scheduled to begin soon with a tentative opening set for fall of 2025.

“This gift may be the largest, but it’s certainly not Covenant Health’s only contribution to this important project,” explained Dr. Chris Whaley, president of Roane State. “Covenant Health’s leadership was instrumental in our earliest conversations about this effort, assisting us tremendously during the feasibility phase. The partnership was strengthened when Covenant
Health leaders Jim VanderSteeg, president and CEO, and Mike Belbeck, executive vice president, signed on as co-chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Roane State Foundation fundraising campaign. This campaign will ensure we have enough capital to equip the new center and provide dollars for a health science endowment for student scholarships.”

“This new campus will impact and empower the next generation of healthcare workers and equip our hospitals and health system with passionate caregivers,” VanderSteeg said. “We are honored to be recognized by the Tennessee Board of Regents. We hope the continued education offered through Roane State and TCAT Knoxville aligns with community needs, attracts and retains top talent, creates a partnership that fosters innovation and ultimately contributes to the improvement of patient care and healthcare delivery.”

The service areas for Roane State and Covenant Health overlap significantly, creating opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration throughout the region. In Oak Ridge, Covenant Health’s Methodist Medical Center has long held a scholarship fund and endowment at Roane State Foundation which supports student scholarships and other awards for those pursuing careers in healthcare. The original funds for this scholarship were raised by the hospital’s own volunteers. In total,  Covenant Health affiliates have gifted over $600,000 to Roane State Foundation since 1998.

Updates on the Knox Regional Health Science Education Center can be found in the news section of

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