How I Got to Knoxville

In September 2014 I went to the 40 year celebration of the founding of Pellissippi State Community College. Early in 1974 I was working in San Ramon, California with a good salary, an interesting job and a nice home in an attractive area.

So how did I get to Knoxville?

I always wanted to teach. I was very good at chemical plant development and I enjoyed it but I felt that I had a talent for teaching and I wanted to use it ( the faculty voted to give me the outstanding faculty member award the first time it was given). I did not get a doctoral degrees after the masters degree because I think you need to work at something yourself before you try to teach it. I had worked for 9 years with Shell Chemical Company ( plus 3 years with duPont and 2 years with Olin Mathieson) and I wrote letters to all the chemical engineering schools where they speak English — all over the world (Canada, New Zealand, India, etc.- 400 letters) with no response. The next year I wrote to all the chemical engineering schools in Washington, Oregon, California, Florida and North Carolina. Someone in North Carolina sent my letter to Jack Mauer in Knoxville. Jack was starting a technical institute and he sent me the curriculum. I had never heard of a technical institute but I decided I could use my experience better in a technical institute than in a junior college. So I wrote all the technical institutes in Washington, Oregon, California, Florida and North Carolina.

I was born in Knoxville and my parents lived here, my wife’s parents and brothers lived here,and I had always kept a few miles away. I had turned down an offer to interview Rohm and Haas in Knoxville.
The only offer I ever got to teach was in Knoxville.

I left my job in California (while I was in Knoxville agreeing to come and teach, my supervisor in California called to tell me I was getting a raise) and I came to Knoxville. It was a terrible teaching offer — less than half my industry salary — to teach in a position that was 12 months per year instead of the 9 months that I was hoping for– so I could spend more time with my family. But I wanted to teach. Fortunately, I had no way of anticipating the birth pangs of what is now Pellissippi State Community College. So I took the job.

I felt like I could understand Jonah better.

That’s how I got to Knoxville.

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