A Short Happy Time in Academia, Part 2

This began about a month ago, the second of three posts on my time at Middle Tennessee. It is meant to point out professors who helped me along the way, and some high and low points of those times.

My first English course was with Dr. Ballew. It was the summer of ’64. The students were high school seniors getting a leg up on college, several students who had failed the course in the regular sessions and moi. Dr. Ballew introduced me to Carson McCullers and The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. i was enthralled.

In my first spring semester, i took Southern Literature. Mr. Evins was the professor. He assigned us So Red the Rose by Stark Young. If there ever was the model for an antebellum novel about plantation life in the South, this was it.

One of my favorite professors was Mr. T.C. Porter. He taught Speech and Spanish. In his speech class, i had to present the opening introduction of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” as spoken by the main character, Tom Wingfield. i still think it was one of the finest presentations i ever did.

i was required to minor in a foreign language and chose Spanish. It required two years of courses. Mr. Porter did his best, and i essentially learned how to say, “Chile Relleno, por favor.” My Spanish has not greatly improved since then.

I was in a unique and in many ways a strange situation. i had to take general science even though i had taken eight hours of back-breaking, pre-med weed out chemistry and the equally difficult eight hours of physics at Vanderbilt in the civil engineering regimen. i didn’t flunk them, but all of my grades were “D” and did not transfer. It wasn’t bad in that the professor noted my knowledge level and made his lab assistant. This allowed me to help a number of good-looking coeds with their lab work.

And even though i had 16 hours of engineering calculus at Vandy, they too had been “D”s.” In May of my penultimate semester, i was looking forward to courses i had planned, especially Literature and Philosophy under Dr. Bill Holland — He is the subject of the third and last post in this series.

i didn’t foresee any problems. After all with all of the D’s that didn’t transfer from VU and what i had to take to fulfill the BA requirements, i would graduate with 196 semester hours.

But then when they reviewed my requirements for graduation, they discovered the lack of math since the calculus did not transfer. i quickly covered the problem by signing up for trigonometry, a course i had taken under Colonel Brown at Castle Heights and earned A’s.

i went to my first class at MTSU in June of ’67. The teacher was a high school teacher. The students were either high school seniors seeking a leg up on college and those who previously failed the course. The teacher, a nice lady, laid out the requirements to attend all of the classes and turn in the daily homework on time, without fail.

i had other things to do, like spend time with Dr. Holland. When the first two-week exam came in trig, i turned in two weeks of homework that day and aced the exam. When our grades were passed out, the teacher asked me to see her after class.

i went to her office and explained my situation. She nodded understanding but was adamant about attending class and turning in the homework. Somehow, the discussion turned toward other things. She revealed she was a Methodist. i showed honest admiration, told her my family was Methodist in Lebanon, how my great-grandfather had been a circuit rider and a bishop in the church, and how my brother was the president of the state Methodist Youth Fellowship.

i was cleared, didn’t attend class, turned in homework with the exams, aced all of them including the final, and received an “A.”

As noted, it was a unique situation. i was paying my own way, vowing not to cost my parents anymore money as they had dished out a lot for my Vanderbilt foray. i worked as a Nashville Banner county news and sports correspondent, at Jimmy Hankins men’s clothing store, and in the evenings as the FM disc jockey and on the weekends as an AM top forty disc jockey as well as the FM announcer.

It was one of the best two years of my life. And it was all worth it just to have experienced Dr. Peck and Dr. Holland.

To be concluded.

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