Charles W. Bone is the recipient of the 2023 McClurkan Award, which is presented to a non-alumnus whose life reflects Trevecca’s values.
Charles Bone is passionate about immigration and undocumented students having the same opportunities to attend college as their native counterparts. As a practicing lawyer hoping to make an impact, that desire often resulted in his crossing paths with Trevecca.
“My connection with Trevecca has grown out of my interest in the non-citizen students who have been denied educational funds from almost all other sources,” Bone said. “It was 10 or 12 years ago when I first came to campus and participated in meetings promoting the work of Trevecca and providing help for these students.”
Bone would be part of a number of meetings on campus over the years that revolved around how best to support undocumented individuals. He also became well acquainted with Trevecca President Dr. Dan Boone, as the pair have a shared concern about this ongoing need.
“We've both been involved with the immigrant issues in Nashville for many years,” Bone said.
Bone got his start in law 50 years ago. After encountering a group of law students he admired as a freshman at Vanderbilt University, he decided to pursue the same career path. He went on to attend law school at University of Tennessee and returned to his hometown of Gallatin, Tenn., to practice law. Now, he works in Nashville as part of a nationwide law firm. Despite all of his success and his busy schedule, he continues to invest in the undocumented community and fight for their access to education.
Bone has been active in multiple nonprofit initiatives and organizations, including Equal Chance for Education and the Tennessee Justice Center. He has also had many interactions with young undocumented men and women through his law practice, and that has cemented his perspective.
“We had a DACA student from a local college work with us for a year. She was wonderful with a great future and yet has had to deal with this handicap,” Bone said. “I’ve gotten to speak with a number of DACA students and see that there is still the fear that they could end up being deported, which is just crazy and inhumane and unjust.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created to protect eligible young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and to provide them with work authorizations temporarily. However, these individuals do not have all the benefits of citizenship and often struggle to obtain the necessary funding for higher education.
Bone’s work is deeply connected to his faith, and he sees Trevecca as an obvious partner in the work of bringing justice to immigrant students throughout Nashville and beyond.
“I am a Christian and I believe that the Bible is clear on the importance of outreach to the immigrant community. That is consistent with Trevecca’s values,” Bone said. “My core values also come from the Declaration of Independence. It says that all men are created equal. I think it is very clear that our stance is to be welcoming to immigrants.”
He is proud of the work Trevecca has done and sees it as an example of how colleges should help undocumented students obtain an education and pursue their calling.
“Trevecca has been a leader in this area. That takes commitment in the environment in which we live, where there's a lot of criticism and a lot of pushback,” Bone said. “For the president and the students to say, ‘We're going to do what we think is right, we're going to follow the example of Jesus,’ is incredible. Trevecca gets all the credit. I'm just so proud to be associated with and continue partnering with a university like that.”