Retired TTU Professor Makes Significant Bequest to English Department

Retired Tennessee Tech University English Professor William Warren Jenkins dedicated his life to education. From his early years as an elementary school teacher to his career at the university, Jenkins touched the lives of countless young men and women — and even now, he continues to influence generations of students through a estate gift of more than $200,000 to benefit the Department of English.

Born in rural White County in 1930, Jenkins grew up the only child in a single parent home. His mother, Rebecca, raised him by herself after Jenkins' father died. This strong mother-son bond lasted a lifetime, and much of Jenkins' dedication to education came as a result of his mother's strong encouragement.

After earning an undergraduate degree from Lipscomb University, Jenkins returned to Sparta to teach elementary school and coach basketball, later earning a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. He joined TTU's English faculty in 1968, teaching speech and American literature and authoring a textbook before his retirement in 1994.

His colleagues remember Jenkins well. English Department Chairperson Kurt Eisen describes him as "versatile and valuable," while Associate Professor Graham Kash remembers him as "informed, intelligent and merry." And said Associate Professor Linda Null, "Bill Jenkins had a distinctive voice. When he spoke, people listened.”

In retirement, Jenkins didn’t leave the educational profession entirely. Instead, he served for several years on the White County Board of Education. Even in his later years, when he had to enter a nursing home due to health concerns, Jenkins continued his work with the board, holding meetings in his room while presiding from his hospital bed.

In late 2001, Jenkins passed away. He was 71. However, his commitment to education didn’t end there; he left the university almost $210,000 through a residual (or remainder) bequest to establish the William W. Jenkins Scholarship. Held in trust by an outside trustee, the annual income from the investment supports scholarships in the English Department. At the beginning of this year, the university received the first distribution of approximately $6,700.

“We are very grateful to Bill for his wonderful generosity,” said Eisen. “His gift will allow the Department of English to help generations of students.”