One of the legacies of John Tarleton was the development of an institution of higher learning. Initially this took the form of a junior college, John Tarleton Agricultural College. In the 60’s a group of administrators and professors turned the junior college into a four year college then into a university. This group included Dick Smith, O. A. Grant, William Martin in the Liberal Arts; Leo Purvis, Joe Cummings and Ron Bradberry in Education; George Housewright in Business; Joe Autry and Jessie Tackett in Agriculture; and Bob Fain and Lamar Johanson in Science.
In the 70’s and early 80’s a new group of professors came to Tarleton State University and have worked with Barry Thompson, Dennis McCabe, and now Dominic Dottavio to turn the university into the vibrant university that it is today. This group included but is not limited to Tom Pilkington, Russell Long, Don and Pat Zelman, Nick Lilly, Marilyn Robittaile, Mikael Pierce, Mark Davis, Mark Littleton, Ann Calahan, John Calahan, and Chris Guthrie. Tom Pilkington passed a few years ago and we lost Chris earlier this month.
Chris joined the faculty in 1982, seven years after I was hired to teach Psychology in the then Department of Education and Psychology. Chris and I became good friends over the years sharing many different experiences. Students and colleagues know of Chris’s accomplishments in university service, scholarship, and teaching. Although Chris and I worked together on committees and other university events, my favorite memories of Chris were based on experiences outside the university setting. Some examples:
One Saturday afternoon four or five of us decided to watch the Texas – OU game at Bostock’s or maybe at the time Southfork. After the game was over and I think OU won, we decided to play some pool. We had such a grand time that we decided to meet the next Friday afternoon to play again. From this humble beginning started a tradition of Friday pool. The numbers grew to such an extent that most Fridays we played on three tables. Chris was one of those individuals that routinely joined the event.
One afternoon Tom Pilkington, Mike Pierce, Don Zelman, and Ron Presley, a professor of Economics, were having a scholarly conference at Zelman’s house and developed the idea of a scholarly association for the dissemination of scholarly works. Thus was created the Association of Stephenville Scholars (A.S.S.). The Association met once a year following spring graduation. Initially, the event was held at Lake Proctor then moved to Ron Presley’s house that was in the country but closer than Lake Proctor. Later the meeting moved from house to house and was hosted by one Chris Guthrie and was attended my new TSU employees Christopher and Leslie Stanley-Stevens. To gain membership, one had to create a tongue-in-cheek title of a scholarly paper. Members would then vote on these titles to select new members; only one or two a year gained membership. Chris was almost a charter member. The Association also gave an award to the member that had made the greatest blunder in the preceding year. This award was titled the A. S. S. of the year. Former TSU professor Richard Lampe won it for knocking the windshield out of his wife’s car, breaking a ceiling fan, and spilling blue paint on white carpet all in trying to build a closet in his master bedroom.
Then there were the monthly card games. When I joined the group consisted of Chris, Don Zelman, Russell Long, Mike Pierce, Nick Lilly, and others. While playing cards, lying about our lives as we played, we often talked about the university and how if the administrators would just listen to us how we could change the university into a world class institution. It is funny to look back because to some extent we did.
Chris, Mike, Tom, Russell, Don, and I plus several others would have a Super Bowl party. When the Bears were a Super Bowl caliber football team I found that being in the room with Chris was barely tolerable. He loved the Bears and the Cubs and really did not care for the Cowboys. He would say, “Bobby, the Cowboys suck”. For some reason he always called me Bobby.
But now he is gone but I will carry memories of him for the rest of my life. Bill Muncey mentioned in a Facebook post that Chris and long-time Cub announcer will oversee the Cubs next season. I can imagine that Chris and Tom Pilkington are arranging a new chapter of the Association of Stephenville Scholars. Given the quality control of Chris and Tom it will not be a given that a person will be given automatic admittance. Chris thought we had lowered the admission standards of the old association.
So rest in peace my friend.
Bob Newby is a psychology professor at Tarleton State University who lives in Morgan Mill. He is a member of the E-T's community columnists and can be reached at email@example.com.