East Tennessee State University

Retirees Association (ETSURA)

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Dr. William Fisher, retired professor in management and marketing, has vivid memories of the ways promotion and tenure were handled in years gone by. 

Without completing an application, submitting reports of activities or doing anything else that resembled today’s tenure process, Fisher got a notice telling him that he had received tenure. If that weren’t surprising enough, he received another letter the following year saying exactly the same thing. 

In those days, contracts were prepared and signed ahead of time. When Fisher looked over his contract one year, he noticed that it listed his title as “professor.” Again, there had been no paperwork, no committee
recommendation — nothing. 

Fisher approached his department chair and was told, “Oh, yes, you got promoted.” And that was that.
 

Dr. William Fisher

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Dr. Barbara Humphrys, who was an office management professor, told a story about the way the protocol of hiring faculty members has changed since her arrival at the university.

When she was finishing requirements for her degree at the University of Texas, Humphrys answered a general notice about a position here and said she would be interested in an interview. In reply, she received a letter from President Burgin Dossett saying that she was hired.

Humphrys arrived for duty without having been on campus. She hadn’t met anyone, or even discussed details of her job. 

When she met Dossett, he hemmed and hawed for about two minutes and then said, “Well, you look like a child. How old are you?” Both the comment and the question, of course, would be strictly verboten in hirings today.

After Humphrys told the president she was 27 years old, he said, “Oh, well, I guess you’re old enough to know what you’re doing.  Welcome and goodbye.”

The whole conversation lasted about three minutes. Afterward, Flora Marie Meredith of the Psychology Department helped the newcomer find a place to live, and she started to work almost immediately.

Humphrys said the other faculty members in the College of Business were very nice to her. No real office space was available, so she was assigned to share a cubicle with Margaret Stewart. 

“The office was the width of her desk and mine,” Humphrys said, “and there was one file cabinet. Margaret had a chair with arms, but mine was a standard stenographer’s chair. 

“When we needed to move or get up, the other person would have to move, too. I think we may have signaled by clearing our throats or something like that. When Margaret needed to leave, I would scoot my chair over, since it had no wheels.  When I needed to stand, she would come over as far as she could, and I could turn my chair around toward the doorway and leave.”

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Humphrys recalls a time that an economics professor had prepared a lengthy test relating to the gold standard.

The secretary tried to decipher his handwritten questions and quickly typed up the test for him.

As he rushed to get ready for class, the professor noticed that the test had been neatly typed, but the words “goat standard” appeared every place he had mentioned “gold standard.”

“What is the goat standard?” the test asked. “How does the goat standard apply to our economy? How would you describe the support of the goat standard? What is the importance of the goat standard?”

 

Dr. Barbara Humphrys

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"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.

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Mailing Address:  Office of Human Resources
ETSU Box 70564
Johnson City, TN  37614-1707
Telephone:  423-439-4457
Fax:  423-439-8354
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Office Hours:  8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. E.S.T. Monday - Friday
Office Location:  Rooms 307 and 311, Dossett Hall

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Updated on 09/07/10