Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Glade Sun

April 9, 2014

Abacus Column: Rooting for the prodigal daughter's success

Hinch accepts "dream job" with Aspen Institute

CROSSVILLE — Around June of 2006, I wrote an article for the Chronicle and Glade Sun entitled, “Tonya Hinch: A Prodigal Daughter Returns to Crossville." I had been requested to meet and write about Tonya by a friend and local writer. “Why me,” I asked; “You are a good writer.” “Maybe so,” he replied; “but I don’t speak business, you do.”

Thus began a friendship for my wife and I with Tonya, her mother Brenda, and many of their friends and acquaintances. Tonya may be a very successful entrepreneur; however she is also a whiz as a communicator and educator. She told me recently that I was the first person to take the walking history tour of downtown Crossville, which is now available to adults and schoolchildren on a regular basis. The interesting part is that the tour was tacked on to our initial meeting over lunch. I happened to mention to her I had a business and history major and was interested in local history. Next thing I know, I am walking downtown Crossville learning about every building, famous and infamous visitors, and much more. Tonya is never shy about educating someone about places or people she cares about, and she cares deeply about Crossville and Tennessee.      

Having been an executive of a large department store corporation, I have met and worked with many outstanding male and female executives. I mention this only because Crossville is the hometown of two of the most accomplished and dynamic women I have ever known, Carol Darling and Tonya Hinch, and both were graduates from the University of Tennessee.

I recall early conversations with Tonya about The Aspen Institute that included the nomination and initiation process. She mentioned the project that she was embarked upon as part of that initiation; it was a colossal and remarkable project. Tonya was one of the assemblage of friends that founded DCI, a support group to bring Crossville into a renaissance. That may or may never happen. Many elected officials today do not understand non-partisan politics or serving the best long term interests of one’s community – at times, personal issues and “projects” become the priority. In fact, many elected officials have no view beyond their current term in office. But, I digress.

Here is the scoop: Tonya has accepted her “dream job,” a key position with The Aspen Institute headquartered in Washington D.C. The Aspen Institute was founded in 1951, it is a non-partisan leadership program that accepts 20 new nominees between the ages of 30 and 45 each year. The nominees have risen to prominence in many fields of endeavor. Now, through the initiation process, annual seminars, projects and interaction among members of an international organization, these individuals learn how to be exceptional leaders for our world. Sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky doesn’t it? It is not a pipe dream, it is a real factor in positive thinking and activities throughout the world. Members are as politically diversified as former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice. Members come from government, business, the arts, and many other fields of human endeavor. Check it out at, you will be amazed. I am very excited for Tonya; she is about to fill a position that has the potential to change the world. We should be rooting for her success.

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