By Jennifer Sicking | Photo by Sam Thomas
The McClanahan family has been entwined with the University of Tennessee System since 1946.
Now the family’s UT pride is on display for all who drive on Interstate 40 past their Crossville farm with the 15th mural in UT System’s “Everywhere You Look, UT” campaign. As of September 2021, UT has painted 19 murals across Tennessee with a goal to place a mural in all 95 counties.
Claude and Bernice Little bought the 65-acre farm in Cumberland County in 1948. Claude earned his master’s degree from UT Knoxville in 1947 before teaching agriculture and serving as a Future Farmers of America advisor for 42 years. Now, their daughter, Nancy, and her husband, Janson, call on UT agronomists and veterinary school experts for their herd of polled Hereford cattle at the same farm.
“UT is an integral part of the entire state of Tennessee, especially with agriculture as the state’s biggest industry,” Janson says.
Growing up, Nancy listened to her father’s stories of life on the UT Knoxville campus, including classes with some of UT’s greatest-of-all-time football players, who were coached by Gen. Robert Neyland.
Janson grew up attending UT’s football games, traveling on winding, two-lane roads from Carthage to Knoxville along with other fans decked out in orange and white in the bumper-to-bumper traffic. Also, as a pharmacist in Crossville, every two years he has taken 30 hours of continuing education classes through the UT Health Science Center since 1979.
Nancy and Janson’s sons, Matthew and Colton, grew up attending football games—and even one memorable basketball game when Colton lost his first tooth biting into a UT hot dog. As high school students, they also participated in state-winning 4-H cattle judging teams coached by a UT extension agent. Matthew and his wife, Lauren, graduated from UT College of Law in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and practice law. Lauren also graduated from UT Martin in 2016.
“UT is so important and special because it transcends so many different areas of my life, both personal and professional,” Matthew says. “I met my wife at the University of Tennessee College of Law. That’s where we met, in income tax class in law school—where all great romances start.”
Colton is a financial officer for Farm Credit Mid-America. His wife, Rachel, graduated from UT Martin in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree and from UT Knoxville in 2018 with her master’s degree. She is an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Oakland High School.
The family knows UT has been entwined in its past, present and future, as the university has been with the state of Tennessee.
“The state wouldn’t be where it is today without UT,” Colton says.
Matthew says UT graduates can be found across the state in agriculture, business, courtrooms, government offices and classrooms.
“The alumni showcase the true reach of the university,” he says. What UT provides, Nancy says, is opportunity. “It opens so many doors and enriches so many people’s lives.”
To learn more about the UT campaign, each location and to nominate a canvas for use, visit everywhere.tennessee.edu/murals.