About Bob Owens
The Bob Owens Community Leadership Fund was established as part of the Chamber Foundation in 2022 as a fund to support programs and scholarships focusing on community leadership, advocacy and empowerment in the name of Bob Owens.
G. Robert (Bob) Owens was a beloved community leader in Northeast Tennessee who served as the chair of the Chamber Board in 1987. Bob was an incredible advocate of raising mental health awareness and breaking the stigma around seeking treatment. He served as a key player in the creation of the Watauga Mental Services, the first comprehensive community mental health center in the state. This center later became the privately financed psychiatric hospital known today as Woodridge Hospital. Bob’s efforts in these worthy causes led him to receiving many awards including the national Presidential Award in Psychiatric Hospital Administration from the American Organization of Private Psychiatric Hospitals (1987) and the Dorothea Dix Award for outstanding services in mental health from the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations (1995). He served as president of that organization in 1963 and 1977. Bob was also awarded the Spirit of Johnson City award by the Johnson City Medical Center was later indicted into the Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. When speaking of his professional life, particularly while working with patients, Mr. Owens often said he learned more from them than they did from him. That reward exceeded all the formal ones.
Bob passed away in 2019, survived by his wife and two daughters. In 2022, his family partnered with the Chamber Foundation to create the Bob Owens Community Leadership Fund. In addition to mental and behavioral health awareness, the fund focuses on health care/public health, leadership education, social understanding and advocacy. The fund has sponsored events such as 4ThirTeen’s Night of Hope, raising mental health awareness among teenagers and a TedX event, discussing the topic of rewriting the Appalachian Narrative. The fund also provides a scholarship to one participant in the annual Leadership Johnson City class, letting that participant go through the program free-of-charge.
Contributions to the Bob Owens Community Leadership Fund can be made by calling the Chamber office at 423-461-8000 or by emailing Lauri Hale.