Andy Black nearly went for a career in law.

After a three-year stint in the Army, Black, the CEO of Helen Ross McNabb Center, returned to Knoxville in 1969 to get his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Tennessee on the GI Bill. He was working at Brownie’s, a bar that later became Old College Inn, and contemplating applying for law school when some regular happy-hour patrons there turned his head in another direction.

“No, you need to get a master’s degree in social work,” Black said his customers, among them former UT College of Social Work professor and director Gid Fryer, told him. “So I looked at it, and I said, ‘Yeah, I think so.’”

That decision led Black to a career that became not only a profession but also a passion. This month he is retiring from McNabb Center after 28 years, the last 11 as CEO. In 2003, his first year as CEO, the organization served about 7,000 children and adults; last year, it served about 20,000 in 21 East Tennessee counties.

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