Mentors Who Matter

Alumni remember their most inspirational professors in the arts and sciences at UT

We asked fans of the College of Arts and Sciences Facebook page to tell us which college faculty members inspired them and changed their lives during their time at UT. You’ll find memories by alumni, in their own words, below.


We want to hear from more of you! Send us your memories of arts and sciences professors and faculty mentors who made a difference in your life. E-mail with the subject line “Mentors Who Matter.” We may feature your story in an upcoming issue of Higher Ground!


Marjorie Davis
I was a sophomore in Leon Wisener’s drawing class. He gave me a B++ and I asked him why not an A–. He told me he wanted me to try harder. When I completed his class in the spring, I went to see him to get my work. I entered his office, and he had one of my drawings hanging on his wall. I asked him, if I tried really hard, would I be able to get into graduate school. I never will forget when he looked at me and said, “Marjorie, with your talent, you can go anywhere in the country you want to go.” Two years later, I bumped into Gary Allen, my freshman drawing instructor, and told him I was getting a degree in art education so I could teach. He told me that was a very smart thing to do. I’m now a retired art teacher from the Anderson County school system. I’ve never quit drawing and painting. I’ve never become famous, but I hope I have passed on my love of “true art” to children, as my mentors at UT did for me.

Blake Barton Renfro
I was very fortunate to take an honors historiography seminar with Ernie Freeberg. He was one of the most engaging and generous teachers I have encountered. Dr. Freeberg encouraged us to read beyond the text and think about how history could inform other disciplines. Likely aware that the vast majority of us were not going to become professional historians, he helped us cultivate valuable analytical and communication skills. Perhaps most importantly, he challenged me to think about the significance of historical arguments in everyday circumstances. In short, history became something more than a mundane academic pursuit; it has now become something that constantly shapes my worldview. Since my time at UT, I have traveled to sixteen countries and I find myself wanting to thank Dr. Freeberg and the other history faculty for teaching me how to think historically. As a mentor he played an important role in my intellectual development at UT, and as a friend Dr. Freeberg remains the always-inquisitive listener.

Annette Hendrix
Dr. Ralph W. Haskins, professor of history in the 1950s, had a remarkable impact on my life. I enrolled in all seven classes that he taught while I was there, and I changed my education major from elementary to social studies. I still remember how impeccably dressed he was and how he wrote outlines on the board each day; thank you, Dr. Haskins!

Aimee Minton Porterfield
Dr. Evans from political science. He was a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair. I took classes from him and later worked as his assistant. Not sure what happened to him. Lost contact. I really admired his perseverance under difficult conditions. I also learned a lot especially about apartheid.

Bill Shorts
Political Science’s Mike Fitzgerald is among the top five people in my life who boosted and supported and believed in me. He’s a dynamo, a friend, a hell of a teacher and mentor.

Lisa Campbell
Dr. Bass was a huge influence for myself. He always pushed me to try harder. I loved going to classes.

Alice McCorkle Simpson
Bruce Wheeler, American history; Mrs. Hoffman, literature; Paul Pinckney, western civilization; Michael Fitzpatrick, political science; and Dr. Bass, anthropology. Seriously, I had wonderful instructors in all of my classes—these are just a few of the names I remember. Oh,yeah, Dr. Kleinfelter in chemistry convinced me that a career in science was not in my future!

Peggy Bledsoe
Dr. Bass

Jay Weise
Dr. D. Habel in art history