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TTU News

The estate of the late Avo Anderson, an educator in Putnam and Jackson Counties for 43 years, goes up for auction Saturday, Oct. 18, to benefit Tennessee Tech University, with the proceeds adding to the rich gifts “Miss Avo” bestowed on generations of students.

The auction, which begins at 10 a.m., will be held at 337 Jim Anderson Rd., about eight and a half miles from TTU off the Gainesboro Grade. The absolute auction will feature Anderson’s home, farmland, barns, and personal items, including antique furniture and collectable artwork.

With a singular stated purpose, Anderson planned her life, her career and her legacy.

“Life is always richer by thinking more of thyself than myself,” she was known to say.

Born in Jackson County, Tenn., in 1908 to Maggie Lou and Jim Anderson, she knew she wanted to be a teacher the first day she hiked the three miles to Shiloh Elementary School. The Andersons encouraged their only child to pursue her dream as she attended Cookeville Central High School and then Tennessee Polytechnic Institute, as Tennessee Tech was then known.

She graduated from TPI in 1937 and returned to Shiloh as a teacher, living with her parents and hiking those same three miles each day. In the cooler mornings she would build a fire in the pot-bellied stove, and every morning at 8 a.m. she would ring the “dinner bell” to begin class. For $60 a month, she taught elementary students in the one-room school.

After a few years, Anderson moved to Jackson County High School, where she taught for the next 19 years. During that time, she achieved another personal goal by earning a master’s degree from George Peabody College for Teachers in 1952. After almost two decades at JCHS, she taught two years at Algood High School and six years at Putnam County Senior High School.

At the encouragement of university officials, Anderson joined the Tennessee Tech faculty in 1965 and spent eight years teaching English and English Literature. After some four decades of teaching elementary, high school and college students, she retired in 1974. At her retirement reception, she reminisced about her teaching days.

“When I started my career back in the 1930s, we had a one-room school, two teachers, and no electricity or running water,” she said. “When students were thirsty, they carried their water in buckets from the nearby spring and drank from dippers. Now at the end of my career, I’m at a state university with air conditioning, 400 teachers and 7,000 students. What a difference!”

Retirement simply gave Anderson more time to pursue hobbies and volunteer work. She loved to cook, grow flowers, garden, sew, make crafts and read. She also spent many hours devoted to what she called her Christian duties, taking food to the sick, visiting those ill or in the hospital, and comforting those in grief.

On April 9, 2003, Anderson died in the home where she had spent most of her adult life. The scheduled auction of her property and selected personal belongings is a result of her estate planning designed to provide for the educational needs of others through scholarships. The proceeds will be used to establish endowed scholarships named in her honor in TTU’s College of Business Administration and the College of Education.

McWilliams Realty and Auction Co., Bartlett Surveying, and attorney Jerry Jared are donating their time and services to further benefit the university. Other businesses supporting the auction are The Peddler, The Southeast Advertiser, Mitchell Media and the Herald-Citizen. For more information about the auction, call McWilliams Realty at 526-3331 or visit