Today we have a special guest post from Carolyn S. Head, who is the Executive Director of Library Services at Southwest Tennessee Community College. She and her family have a long history as students at the University of Memphis, and she wanted to share their story.
My parents did not obtain college educations. My mom completed high school and my dad received his GED late in life. However, education of any nature was highly valued. My parents helped support my mother’s youngest sister so that she could obtain her bachelor and master’s degrees. It was always understood that my brother and I would attend college. I don’t recall this being verbalized, just implicitly understood. Education in our household and community was valued and cherished.
I moved to Memphis in 1974, after my then-husband and I completed our master’s degrees in librarianship at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. I immediately enrolled in a graduate class at the University of Memphis, then Memphis State University, just for the fun of it. That class was in anthropology and taught by Dr. Stan Hyland. Eventually he persuaded me to seek a master’s degree in urban anthropology, and later he was instrumental in my obtaining a critical and much-needed fellowship. Dr. Hyland also made certain I graduated by insisting I take my comprehensive exams during my pregnancy rather than waiting until the following fall. My youngest was born in February and three months later she attended my May graduation in 1982.
Two other professors at the UofM that have been important to me and my family and whom I admire are Dr. Charles Williams and Dr. Reginald Martin. I was inspired and encouraged by Dr. Williams, who set an example by his dedication to the field, and as an African American role model in academia. There were very few students of color in the Anthropology program during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and if memory serves me correctly, at the time he was one of the only instructors of color in the program. Dr. Martin influenced not only me, but also my son. I credit Dr. Martin with positively impacting my son’s academic career during his undergraduate career. After hearing so many great things about Dr. Martin and witnessing the change in my son’s academics, I had the pleasure of auditing one of his classes. Being able to learn and benefit from the same professor at the University was a uniquely special experience for my son and me, and one that I continue to value.
The University of Memphis has been an educational touchstone for my entire family, as every member of my family has had important experiences there. My husband received his law degree from the University (and my son attended law school). My son will graduate this May with a master’s in public administration. He also received his bachelor’s in graphic arts from the University. My oldest daughter received her doctorate at the University in clinical neuro-psychology. Although my youngest daughter did not attend the University she (along with both her siblings) attended the University’s Campus School. They are 34, 44, and 47, so our association with the institution goes back more than 30 years.
I have continued my education at the University by auditing classes the past five years as a senior audit student—an amazing benefit the University offers for those who are 60 and older. This is an ideal opportunity to participate in an enlightening and informative lifelong learning experience. It is an opportunity that I deeply value. I have encountered so many dedicated, committed and enthusiastic instructors (Dr. John Gilmore, Dr. Andre Johnson and Dr. Brandy Wilson to name a few), as well as often experiencing invigorating interactions in the classroom with both undergraduate and graduate classmates.
I hope to continue my educational experience at the University for years to come.