East Tennessee State University

Retirees Association (ETSURA)

Horizontal Line



Martha Culp, ETSU’s former first lady, said she started to worry about the ceiling in the master bedroom of the president’s house not long after she moved here. 

It seems that long before, President Charles C. Sherrod and his wife had been plagued with a leaking roof. With no money available for repairs, they simply used pans and bowls to catch the water. 

Finally, when the Legislature appropriated $250 to fix the roof, Dr. Sherrod decided that sharing the money with faculty members who had not been paid was more important than going ahead with the repairs. 

Still, Mrs. Culp thought she had better call the Physical Plant about the bedroom ceiling, which was bowed down in the middle. A worker looked at it and said the ceiling was as solid as a rock. He also let her know that he was too busy to be running over to the president’s house on such trivial matters. 

However, Mrs. Culp called the Physical Plant again a few days later to report that the ceiling looked even more dangerous. 

This time, the worker took one look at it, hurriedly backed out of the room and exclaimed, “My God, it’s about to fall right now!”

As the First Lady, Martha Culp tended
to plants in the ETSU greenhouse.


Many former faculty and staff members have fond memories of the kindness shown by Mrs. Culp during the years when her husband,
Dr. D.P. Culp, was ETSU’s president. 

Pat Faber, wife of retired mathematics professor Joe Faber, remembered an incident involving Mrs. Culp’s daylilies that still brings a smile to her face. 

After Dr. Faber had admired her lilies, Mrs. Culp told him that he could come and get some for the yard at his new home when she separated them. 

At about 6 one morning, she called the Faber home to say she was ready to dig the flowers.

 “OK, I’ll get Joe out of bed,” said Pat Faber, who had answered the phone.

Mrs. Culp invited Pat to come along, but she said her two small daughters hadn’t had breakfast yet. So Mrs. Culp told her to bring the girls, too, and the first lady fed them after they arrived. 

Pat says that every time she sees daylilies, she thinks of that memorable morning at the president’s house.


Mariel Cathey, wife of the late sports information director John Cathey, shared a story about John when he was manning the microphone at an ETSU basketball game.

One of the referees was making terrible decisions, and everybody was complaining.  John couldn’t take it anymore and, not realizing that the microphone was still turned
on, yelled, “How in the hell can you make a call like that?”

This went out over the loud speaker, and everybody in the gym heard it and gasped.
The next morning, John found a note on his desk when he arrived for work. It said
President D.P. Culp wanted to see him right away.

So John called Mariel to say: “Get ready. We may have to leave. I may be fired for
unprofessional conduct.”

But when John got to the president’s office, Culp looked up and told him, “I just wanted you to know that I agree with everything you said.”

The late John Cathey received a box of
his trademark cigars on the occasion of
his 201st football game worked.




"Tales of the University" is a regular column provided by the ETSU Retirees Association about the university and the people associated with it through the decades.  Faculty, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to share their memories of ETSU with the Retirees Association for consideration for future columns.  Stories, comments and suggestions may be sent to Dr. Willene Paxton, chair of the Tales of the University committee, 1203 Lester Harris Road, Johnson City, TN 37601, or willenepj@charter.net.

Mailing Address:  Office of Human Resources
ETSU Box 70564
Johnson City, TN  37614-1707
Telephone:  423-439-4457
Fax:  423-439-8354
TDD:  423-439-4710

Office Hours:  8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. E.S.T. Monday - Friday
Office Location:  Rooms 307 and 311, Dossett Hall

Updated on 09/07/10