Phyllis A. Tickle
2006 Award of Honor
– Class of 1955
Her East Tennessee State University experience began in 1934 when she was born into the family of P.W. Alexander. Phyllis Alexander lived, breathed and ate all that was ETSU. She lived for the first six years of her life in the faculty apartment in Ritter Hall, the now-demolished men's dormitory. She played on campus and in the halls of the Training School (now University School ) where her father was principal. The famous teas or open houses of her mother Katherine became the whole family's fall activity. By the 1950s, the family's Christmas parties had grown to a full two-day circus. Each party had five or six hundred guests, but maintained the charm which Katherine gave to the first parties of thirty to forty guests in the early 1930s.
The ultimate party occurred on June 17, 1955. On that day, Phyllis married Sam Tickle (Class of 1954) in the Shakespearian amphitheatre behind the Sherrod Library. There was a beautiful, large lawn there and the wedding reception filled the area with all the faculty, family and friends in attendance. Over a thousand people attended the event. The couple left Johnson City to go to Memphis where Sam was enrolled in medical school. She began her career as a college teacher and, for almost ten years, served as academic dean to the Memphis College of Art before entering full time into writing and publishing. The couple was still connected to ETSU as Dean Alexander soon became Director of Alumni and used their house as a stopping point a she established alumni chapters across the state.
Tickle, for many years has held the position Contributing Editor in Religion to Publishers Weekly , the international journal of the book industry. She is frequently quoted in sources like USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, NY Times, PBS, NPR and The Hallmark Channel.
In addition to her lectures and numerous essays, articles, and interviews, Tickle is the author of some two dozen books, most of them on religion and spirituality. The widely-acclaimed and best-selling Stories from The Farm in Lucy trilogy was released in 2004 by Loyola Press and includes What the Land Already Knows, Wisdom in the Waiting , and The Graces We Remember. Oxford University Press released Tickle's Greed appropriately enough on April 15, 2004; and Paraclete Press released A Stitch and A Prayer for Veterans' Day , 2003. The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime , the first in a three volume contemporary manual of prayer, was released by Doubleday in March 2000, followed by The Divine Hours: Prayer for Autumn and Wintertime in September 2000. In October 2001, the series was completed with the release of The Divine Hours: Prayers for Spring. Doubleday has subsequently published as separate volumes Christmastide - Prayers for Advent through Epiphany from The Divine Hours and Eastertide - Prayers for Lent through Easter from The Divine Hours. Also among Tickle's most current works are The Shaping of a Life - A Spiritual Landscape , a memoir of the life of prayer, released in April 2001 by Doubleday and Prayer is a Place - America's Spiritual Landscape Observed , released by Doubleday in June 2005. Other recent works include God-Talk in America , a Spring 1998 alternate selection of BOMC's One Spirit Book Club and Main Selection of The Catholic Book Club ; My Father's Prayer: A Remembrance , which won a 1996 "Book of Excellence" Award from Body, Mind and Spirit; and Rediscovering the Sacred: Spirituality in America , which won a 1996 Catholic Press Association Book Award in Spirituality.
In September 1996, she received the Mays Award, one of the book industry's most prestigious awards for lifetime achievement in writing and publishing, and specifically in recognition of her work in gaining main stream media coverage of religion publishing. In 2004, she received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the Berkeley School of Divinity at Yale University , also in recognition of her work.
She and Sam are parents of seven children and they make their home on a small farm in rural West Tennessee.