Roane State class enabled businessman to defeat public speaking fear

CROSSVILLE – The thought of public speaking used to petrify him, Crossville businessman Scott Davis admits. For 30 years, that fear kept him from obtaining his Roane State associate degree.

Davis, now 52, had taken night classes off and on at the community college in the 1980s. Two years ago, he decided he wanted to see what stood between him and an associate degree.

Reviewing his college transcript, he saw that only the communications/speech class was missing. That class is all about public speaking. 

“I was absolutely terrified of that,” Davis said. “I had a mental block about it and had kept putting it off, but I thought, ‘Surely to goodness I can pull this off.’”

“I wanted that sense of accomplishment that goes with a college degree,” he said. “I’m very happy that I finished and that I have that degree.”

Now, that diploma hangs on a wall in his office in Roane State’s Cumberland Business Incubator, where he and his partners oversee two successful restaurants and he runs Eagle Industries.

Davis returned to campus in 2019. At age 50, he was by far the oldest student in Ann Morphew’s communications class. “I can’t do this in front of a bunch of kids,” he recalls thinking. “It was very intimidating.”

But Morphew “was the perfect person” to help him overcome his public speaking dread, Davis said. “Ann is positive,” he said. “She sees the good and the positive in everybody. She’s always giving praise even in the midst of your failing miserably.”

“The fear of public speaking is real,” Morphew said. “Meeting, greeting and communicating are not always natural skills. Scott Davis overcame any concerns he had so that he could – by golly – get that ‘bucket list’ degree.”

Today, Davis looks forward to his invitations from Morphew to visit her communications classes. “I show kids that somebody like me who couldn’t get two words out in public can now talk without a script for 30 minutes.”

Morphew’s class, Davis said, “changed my perspective on public speaking and being comfortable with myself.”

His midlife academic success came decades after an ill-starred start. “I flunked out,” he bluntly says of his time at Tennessee Tech after graduating from Cumberland County High School. “I wasn’t ready for college.”

He moved to Cookeville and took a series of jobs before his father launched Eagle Industries – which makes rubber mats for commercial vans – and asked him to come home and help build the new business.

Davis took over the company when his dad retired, and it remains a successful ongoing family business. 

He’s since branched out into the restaurant business with two partners. They operate Dublin’s Crossing on West Avenue in Crossville and recently purchased Beef and Barrel, the eatery next door.

Davis and his partners now lease office space in the Cumberland Business Incubator, operated by Roane State and next door to the community college’s Cumberland County campus.

The CBI assists firms with business plans and leases space to qualifying applicants.

“I love it,” he said of the CBI. “It’s a great building and a great concept.”

Roane State President Chris Whaley and Ann Morphew, who teaches communications/speech classes, congratulate Scott Davis for returning to the community college after 30 years to complete graduation requirements. Photo taken in 2020.

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit or call (865) 882-4554.

Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at

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