To celebrate the College of Communication and Information’s 50th anniversary, we asked our alumni about their most impactful professors. From genuinely caring to fiercely motivating, these professors shaped students’ careers and lives.
“Alice Wirth brought me into the Diversity Student Leaders Society my junior year by bribing me with free food. It was a new organization and I immediately got involved. I ended up being the Vice President my senior year and the lessons I learned and friends I made during that time taught me a lot about seeing things from a different view point. They are lessons I carry with me each and every day, especially in the world we live in now it’s more important than ever before to think differently.”
“Professor Don Hileman, first Advertising Department Head and second Dean, who recruited me to become an advertising major … ‘Son, mind if I move around while we talk? I’m all about promotion, and the better part of promotion is motion.’ And Prof. Richard Joel, second Advertising Department Head, who made me realize I was a copywriter and always would be. He said this once in a copywriting class, ‘Being good at this is tough, and the toughest part is having to murder your own children every day.’ I’ve thought about that quote every time I’ve written something; and every time I’ve critiqued or edited something someone else has written. The man was memorable. And accurate. And a mentor and friend until he died in his 90s.”
“June Adamson gave me the guts to write.”
“Dr. John Haas. I always felt less stressed out after talking with him. His perspective is refreshing and motivating.”
JEM, 1985; MS C&I, 1993
“Paul Ashdown was my advisor both during my undergrad years and when I pursued my Master’s. He had thoughtful advice and real-world experience that was helpful. He was a wonderful mentor.”
“Dr. Kelly Leiter was a professor who was sincere in his passion to prepare journalism students for what they would need to succeed in their future. For example, later in my life, Dr. Leiter remembered and recommended me for a prestigious position with the State of Tennessee. To me it was almost unbelievable for a former professor to keep tabs on my career that would enable him to make such a recommendation. Unfortunately, I was unable to accept the position. May Dr. Leiter rest in peace. He sure deserves it.”
“Jerry Morrow inspired excellence with his keen attention to detail in the classroom and as our fearless leader in the Student Public Relations Society.”
Kate Spencer Sowrey
JEM, 2010; MS C&I, 2014
“I had quite a few wonderful CCI professors during my time in the college, but the one who had the biggest impact on me would be Dr. Jim Stovall. I took a class from Dr. Stovall in undergrad and then took a class with him in graduate school as well. Dr. Stovall ended up serving as my graduate school advisor and was a great resource during that time.
“I enjoyed all of the classes I took with Dr. Stovall, as he challenged us to think of new and innovative ways to communicate with our audience. As an example, I took a class with him in graduate school that focused on the ‘iBooks Author’ software and using that as a new medium. I thoroughly enjoyed that class and was inspired by the idea enough to use it for my final MS degree project. Dr. Stovall was inspiring and genuinely cared about his students’ success. I feel lucky to have had him as a professor and mentor while at CCI!”
“Dr. Sam Swan was a wonderful professor! He was always very patient with students and genuinely wanted to see everyone do well. I am very grateful for my time at UT and the guidance provided to me by Dr. Swan.”
Karen Hood Hopkins
“Dr. Jerry Morrow taught my first journalism course, Basic Newswriting. He was the first person in my college career I can remember who told me that I did something well: write!
“He not only solidified my choice to join the journalism department and work toward a degree in public relations, he encouraged me to apply to Oscar Mayer to be one of the first ‘Hotdoggers.’ Along with my classmate, Mary Schinbeckler, I was able to pursue this rather unorthodox, but incredibly rare opportunity to work as a national spokesperson for the consumer affairs department of one of the best known brands in the world. Victoria Barksdale would follow in our footsteps a couple of years later. Jerry had a knack for motivating his students by challenging our (usually flawed) logic and encouraging us to think and stand on our own two feet.
“Later, he would again encourage me as I applied for the Ph.D. program. The last time I spoke with him was a few weeks before I defended my dissertation. He told me I would be so glad I did it. He kept his feelings close to the vest, as not to betray his snarky exterior, but I know he was proud of all of his students and their accomplishments. I am also forever in the debt of John Haas for taking a chance on me and giving me my first opportunity to teach at UT. I’m so grateful for his belief in me and his encouragement as I pursued teaching as a career.”
“Courtney Childers. She was someone who inside and outside of the classroom just took you under her wing and made you feel like you could succeed at anything!”
“June Adamson, journalism professor, was a tough, experienced newspaper reporter, who brought journalism alive in the classroom and writing lab. My best course was an elective with her, Feature Writing, where she taught me storytelling. Solid journalism was a great base that served my career very well and allowed me to span a broad range of communications fields.”
MS C&I, 2004
“Dr. Ed Caudill. He was my thesis chair as well as professor. He gave me some very valuable advice when I was working on my thesis and having difficulty finding the right story angle. He said you should ask yourself two very important questions before diving into the work: “So what?” and “Who cares?” If you can answer both of those questions, then you’ve got yourself a worthwhile story. They are questions I continue to ask myself in any project I undertake.”
“Dr. Jerry Morrow had tremendous wit and a memorable teaching style that encouraged independent thinking. He was refreshingly honest about each student’s ability and was willing to share needed improvements while also acknowledging successes.”
Have a Favorite Professor?
Are you a CCI graduate? Tell us about a professor that influenced your career or life path. We might use your responses in a future story!