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What Professor Changed Your World?

Exemplary Professors Changing Lives 

What Professor Changed Your World Graphic

  • "I was one of four people to get a master's degree in 1970 following an environmental curriculum. This master's program was developed and implemented by Dr. Rafael Bustamante. I owe a great deal to Dr. Bustamante. Besides being my thesis advisor and chair of the committee, he was an amazing instructor and facilitated the program by providing myself and others teaching fellowships. The program started during the 1968-69 year, but the first four graduates finished in June of 1970. As I recall, he came to Tech circa 1966/1967 and taught sanitary/environmental engineering classes and was able to implement the graduate program that I was accepted to in the fall of 1968. He later went on to become chair of the Civil Engineering Department. He spent several summers working with NASA on top secret stuff he never could talk about, but I suspect it had to do with waste handling and disposal for people who spent prolonged periods of time in space. He was an innovator, a very hard worker, a great teacher, a mentor, and in my opinion, he was also a practical genius." --Bob O'Dette ('68 B.S. civil engineering and '70 M.S. civil engineering)

  • "I took Dr. Carl Ventrice's physical electronics courses in 1976. I had been on a co-op assignment with NASA the year prior and had gotten a heavy dose of both real and theoretical physics. Dr. Ventrice always related difficult electronics concepts to practical applications. The pocket calculator was brand new in 1975. The HP35 & 45 engineering calculators were somewhat limited, yet very expensive status symbols. Dr. Ventrice included a problem on a final exam worth 30% of the grade. It involved calculating the probability of finding an electron in a specific place in its orbit around the atom's nucleus. The math was simple enough to do in one's head if one understood the concept. But the non-zero percent probability was extremely tiny (less than a 1 preceded by a hundred zeros). Those that chose to use their pocket calculators discovered that, when the answer was less than 99 zeros before the 1, it underflowed and registered zero. Some put 0% on the exam as their answer only to find that it cost them several letter grades. Dr. Ventrice's point was that if the answer was zero, the universe could not exist, and we must use common sense when studying the world around us. This stayed with me my entire career." --Dave Samsel, '77 electrical engineering

  • "Dr. Danny Higdon and Dr. Jerry Ayers. Dr. Higdon knew I was avoiding working for a master's degree because I dreaded taking statistics. He encouraged me relentlessly, and one spring he came to my classroom and suggested I take statistics that summer under Dr. Ayers. He told me Dr. Ayers was the perfect instructor for anyone who felt inadequate in taking statistics. He convinced me that Dr. Ayers would repeat, start over, and do whatever it took for students to understand before moving on. Well, it worked, and I received my M.A. and went on to receive an Ed.S. thanks to these two professors who helped me get past statistics." --Nancy Fitzpatrick, '68 B.S. secondary education, '91 M.A. curriculum and instruction, '95 Ed.S. administration and supervision

  • "Dr. B.F. Jones. The first time I saw him in the halls of the History Department, I thought he was the janitor. The first course that I took with him, I knew he was a genius."  --Jack Evans, '70 history

  • "Dr. Charles Carnal. The classes he taught were tough yet very rewarding. He saw potential and challenged me to think differently and thoroughly. He also encouraged me outside of the classroom while training and running several half marathons."  --Jessica Dunaway Sherrit, '11 electrical engineering

  • "Two Tennessee Tech professors have impacted my life significantly. I met Seanad and Wei-Tsun Chang at a university summer music camp. After that encounter, I knew I would study music. I moved from Michigan to study first with Mrs. Chang and, later, Dr. Chang as well. They gave me invaluable knowledge, support, and friendship. I will forever be grateful for our time together. Thank you will never be enough." --Jill Vickers, '14 interdisciplinary studies

  • three gentlement smile at the camera

    This month, Steve Desirey, '70 chemical engineering, had the opportunity to visit with two professors--David Yarbrough and John McGee--who changed his world. 

    "Getting to visit your professors from half a century ago would make a good movie. Call it 'Back to the Past.' I have to admit, it seemed like a wild idea in the beginning, but it was a good feeling to thank someone for what they did 50+ years ago.  Those two made a difference in my life, as did many of my professors at Tech.  Of course, my dad was the motivator, but it took the knowledge transfer that the Chemical Engineering Department provided.  It all worked." 

    Pictured from L to R:  David Yarbrough, Steve Desirey, and John McGee

  • Ron Woody, '83 finance, names Norm Williams as the professor who changed his world. Ron has written two books of life lessons, titled Don't Get Lost in the Fog and Stories from the Fog, and he says the lessons he received from Tennessee Tech made an impact.

    "Norm Williams was my primary finance professor. I entered Tech as a junior in the fall of 1981, graduating in the spring of 1983. I had five classes under Dr. Williams and still today have my Contemporary Financial Management book, which was used in three of the five classes. A number of years after graduating from Tennessee Tech, I took some additional accounting classes and became a CPA. The Tennessee Tech finance major led by Dr. Williams made the advanced accounting classes much more understandable and, yes, easier. I learned a lot about real estate under Dr. Williams in his real estate class, and today I still use many of the lessons learned in both my current job and personal ventures. I have been in a number of positions over the years and must say that my Tennessee Tech degree has served me well. Dr. Williams was not only an excellent professor, but he also became a mentor to me as well. Tennessee Tech was a great experience for my father, my daughter, and me."

  • George Holmes, '71 industrial technology, remembers three professors who changed his world. 

    "Bill Lewis, Chairman of the Department of Industrial Technology, was the nicest and most supportive of any instructor I had at Tech. What a fine gentleman.

    J.B. Clark left an impression that I shall never forget. Really made the college experience unique. I doubt I can add any new stories not already told about him, but I know all the ones I have heard are true. One does not need to exaggerate when describing Dr. Clark.

    Mr. Joe Floyd changed my life in that the things I learned from his woodworking class stayed with me and allowed me to do several woodworking projects at home through the years. Really useful stuff!"

  • “In 1992, Dr. James Akenson in the School of Education, truly changed my world. Not only did he present his education experience with wisdom and insight, Dr. Akenson also demonstrated his passion for helping young teachers know the realities of working in the school system. His style of teaching, engagement with students, and creativity set the high standard for the teacher I would become. He enlarged the worldview of this mediocre student who came from a rural county in East Tennessee and the first to graduate from college in her family. My life forever changed thanks to Dr. Akenson. He truly exhibits Tech pride in his teaching and calling! In 2013, I returned to TTU to complete my Ed.S. after serving in the non-profit, faith-based sector for 15 years. Dr. Yvonne Malone took time personally to teach me educational psychology with passion and personal experience. Because of her influence, I became a more compassionate and emphatic teacher, nurturing my students to see the best in themselves to develop their futures with intention and goal-setting. Dr. Malone not only now serves as a professional mentor, but a colleague in education as well.  TTU is a better educational institution because of these two individuals, and I am forever indebted to them both for helping me see beyond myself as a person, and future educator!  I’m a Tech Golden Eagle forever!  #wingsup4life” 

    --Nancy L. Hamilton, ’93 B.S. Early Childhood Education and ‘14 Ed.S. Educational Psychology and Counselor Education 

  • “The Professor who opened my eyes to the world was Dr. James Akenson.  I came from Jamestown, Tennessee, and had never really out of the county before.   Dr. Akenson was my advisor in undergraduate.  During my student teaching, he had me using Coca-Cola products (something all kids are familiar with) to teach all the subjects.  I participated in a workshop at Peabody University and shared my ideas and strategies.  I also did this in a county-wide in service for teachers in Fentress County.  Dr. Akenson was my advisor and chair of my committee for my Master of Arts in elementary education.   My Ed.S. was in Instructional Leadership, and he served on that committee also.  During my years at Tennessee Tech, Dr. Akenson and his wife graciously invited me in their home to meet friends and attend meetings in Nashville where I got to meet Tom T. Hall.  He definitely opened my eyes to the world though his Social Studies class, Education classes, his family, and his love for teaching.” 

    -- Cynthia K. Boyd, ’74 B.S. Elementary Education, ’81 M.A. Curriculum and Instruction, and ‘05, Ed.S. Instructional Leadership

  • Colonel Daniel Chapa, '85 business management, named Economics Professor James Spilman as the professor who changed his world.

    Chapa shared, "Professor James Edward Spilman was an American Hero and a very wise man who often quoted the Latin phrase 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' which means, literally, 'after this therefore because of this.' The post hoc fallacy is committed when it is assumed that because one thing occurred after another, it must have occurred as a result of it. Mere temporal succession, however, does not entail casual succession. Just because one thing follows another does not mean that it was caused by it. Professor Spilman taught us how to think and to question. An economist must consider all factors of an equation before making an economic forecast. He helped to shape how I think and view the world."

  • Allen McCampbell, '65 business management, identified William Bonner as the professor who changed his world.

    McCampbell shared, "In my business communications class in the fall of 1962, Dr. Bonner asked the question, 'When it comes to service, who is the most important person in your company?' I will never forget his reply: 'The person who deals directly with the public.' So think about how they interact--that person that answers the phone or sends correspondence to the customer. Dr. Bonner was a great professor and I will always remember that discussion."

  • "Dr. Elinor Ross in Education"

  • "All of the heat transfer/fluid mechanics faculty (Drs. Simms, Griggs, Marquis, Darvennes, Han, Hoy, etc.) were great."

  • "Mr. “Putty” Overall – Health and Physical Education"

  • "Robert C. Briggs III"

  • "From 1952-1956, we were family.  Dr. Derryberry spoke to us Wednesday mornings at 10:00 am.  Our seats were checked.  Also, Dr. Wisner in Education."

  • “If you graduate from Tennessee Tech and do not continue learning and growing, you are nothing but an educated fool.”  --Chrissa Wendt, Professor, 1964 (a very apt quote from an excellent nutrition professor)

  • "Dr. Albert Cooper – I was naïve about American ways when he took charge of me.  He guided me and changed my horizons and later my education.  I will always remember him!"

  • "Dr. Danny Holland – Chemical Engineering.  He introduced bio-based experiments in senior lab.  I went on to get my PhD in Chemical Engineering-Bioengineering from Carnegie Mellon.  Dr. Holland was always a gentleman as well as a fair and experienced teacher.  Everyone loved him!"

  • "Dr. Stuart Wells.  He had real world experience that helped me understand how and why my education was important and would be used in my future."

  • "Dr. Biernacki taught me some of the fundamentals of chemical engineering that I have used throughout my career."

  • "We thoroughly enjoyed our time at TTU.  We had multiple professors who took an interest in us, as people, that we could credit."

  • W.J. Huddleston and Clyde Hyder – School of Agriculture 1953-1956

  • "Dr. John McGee and Dr. Danny Holland"

  • "Dr. Bobby Jones in History.  As a math major, I was required to take American History.  I signed up for Dr. Jones’s seminar."

  • "Dr. Banks, Dr. Kline, and Dr. Swartling.  Chem Med Club.  Dr. Banks and Dr. Kline pushed me into dental school.  Dr. Swartling taught me how to think both objectively and subjectively in chemistry and life."

  • "Calvin Dickinson made me into an English history buff and Australian-obsessed individual."

  • "Dr. Bailey and Dr. Stevens in Home Economics."  

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