InterVarsity Alumni - Jim and Charlotte Womack

Jim and Charlotte Womack are a lot like Thaddaeus, one of the twelve apostles. Thaddaeus was a quiet and faithful worker for the gospel, but you have to dig into church history to appreciate the influence of his ministry. So it is with Jim and Charlotte Womack. Jim was a founder of the InterVarsity chapter at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville (UT), and he and Charlotte have been faithful in their support of student ministry for the past sixty years, but they are humble about their work.

Jim arrived back in Knoxville from World War II in 1946. As he enrolled in the University of Tennessee he wondered how he would live as Christian on campus. Then as he was standing in the registration line, he overheard two other young men talking, as he put, “Christian talk.” Jim introduced himself as a fellow believer and soon the three of them started a Bible study on campus. By the end of the school year, forty people were meeting together to study the Bible and pray.

The following year, they affiliated as a chapter with InterVarsity. The group was truly student led and since their staff worker was responsible for schools throughout the southeast, she could only make it to campus a couple times a year. Jim learned to lead Bible studies and prayer meetings. He addressed the spiritual needs of the students, sometimes by bringing in outside speakers. Once, he invited Dr. Donald Barnhouse, a prominent theologian of the day, for a two-day lecture series on campus.

Jim also met his wife through InterVarsity. Charlotte was a native of Knoxville and began attending the InterVarsity meetings when she was in high school. While in college, she attended the woman’s daily prayer meetings. She also read InterVarsity Press books and learned that Christians are called to develop intellectually, to honor God with their whole being.

Over the next several years, Jim and Charlotte settled into married life. They attended the local church, had three children, and led very busy lives. Jim was appointed to the engineering faculty at UT. Charlotte taught school, set up a pre-school at church and taught in Bible Study Fellowship. But they did not did not neglect their ties with InterVarsity and student ministry.

One day a young man came into Jim’s office on campus and declared that he was going to revive the InterVarsity chapter at UT and Jim was going to be the faculty advisor, a position he would hold for many years.

Charlotte was also looking for a place to minister. One day she had a one hour meeting with an InterVarsity staff wife. According to Charlotte, that was the most significant one hour in her life. The staff wife told Charlotte that though she was busy with her young family and did not have much time, she could invite college students to her home. “It doesn’t matter that everything is not neat and that the food is simple, college students don’t care about what the house looks and they will eat anything.” So, Jim and Charlotte began a long career of hosting students for Sunday dinner and weekday evening Bible studies.

In 1986, officially designated “Homecoming Year” in Tennessee, Jim and Charlotte organized a reunion of InterVarsity Alumni. Some people returned to campus after nearly forty years. They shared how their Christian walk had been molded through InterVarsity and where God had taken them since their college years.

Jim and Charlotte continue to serve InterVarsity’s work on campus. Just this year they helped the graduate chapter host a Veritas Forum, ferrying speakers to and from the airport and attending many of the sessions.

As Charlotte looks back on her time in InterVarsity, she appreciates having learned the importance of a daily quiet time and the value of Bible study and prayer. But most importantly, she is thankful that InterVarsity showed her that a Christian need not be afraid to ask questions and learn how Christianity addresses the current cultural issues. “I could have lived my Christian life without the influence of InterVarsity, but it would have been a life lived with a much poorer intellectual life.”

And InterVarsity in east Tennessee would have been much poorer without the life-long support of Jim and Charlotte Womack.