East Tennessee State University

Retirees Association (ETSURA)

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Lester Hartsell

"Tales of the University" recently told how students one day applied a slick substance to the top of a table in former history professor W. Flinn Rogers' classroom. Rogers' briefcase sailed out a third-story window when he entered the room and threw it onto the table, as was his custom. But the story doesn't end there, as Dr. Lester Hartsell, a retired professor and former chair of the ETSU math department, points out in the true confession that follows.



I was a young veteran in the 1940s enrolled in W. Flinn Rogers' history class. There were two very attractive young coeds in the same class, one the daughter of a prominent businessman and the other the daughter of a well-known minister. They seldom studied.

With the hope of making points with them, I promised to signal test answers on an objective test. They sat behind me, and I held up one, two, three or four fingers on the back of my head to denote the proper answer.

Mr. Rogers noticed what I was doing and turned the tables on me. He said, "Young man, do you have lice?" I, of course, denied it, but he didn't stop at that. He asked the school nurse, Ms. Vera Hoover, to examine my head. I was mortified, embarrassed, humiliated and angry.

To get even, I was the one who spread Vaseline on the table near the open window. Mr. Rogers rushed down the three flights of stairs to retrieve all his papers from the bushes. He even got mud on his knees, a thing that made him even angrier because he was always impeccably dressed. He said that he would have the student expelled if he ever found out who had done it.

Even though we later became colleagues on the faculty, I never confessed. When he died, I looked down on him in the coffin and still felt a little guilty about what I had done. I hadn't told anyone about this until I read the story in Accent.

And that's the rest of the story ... 





Miss Meredith

Among the most memorable faculty members in ETSU’s history was Flora Marie Meredith, who taught for 20 years in the psychology department. The following recollections of Miss Meredith were provided by Genie Dossett, Joan Dressel, Lucy McPherson and Willene Paxton: 



When Miss Meredith came to the campus, she was so pleased to be here that she had “1951” as the number on her automobile license plates from that year until long after she retired in 1971.



Miss Meredith always wore purple or lavender. She said she had loved the color since she was a child. In fact, when she was a little girl, the wallpaper in her bedroom had designs of violets in bouquets.  After several years, her mother gave her a chance to choose new wallpaper when the home was being redecorated. Flora Marie looked and looked through sample books. Finally, she said she would like to have the same paper reapplied!



In addition to teaching psychology, Miss Meredith initiated the university’s placement office. Occasionally, she would teach during summer session and receive a salary. If she was not selected to teach, she worked anyway without pay.



A big, gangling football player who was one of her students hung around and hung around one day after class. When everyone else finally had left, he came up to her desk and shyly said, “Miss Meredith, I was in a department store last night and saw a beautiful purple umbrella. I thought you needed to know about it and would want to buy it.” Miss Meredith said later that she already had a dozen or so purple umbrellas that had been given to her as gifts, but she bought this one, knowing that it was special to the student. She didn’t want to disappoint him after he had been so thoughtful.



One time a letter arrived on campus addressed to “Miss Purple.” It was immediately forwarded to Miss Meredith.



As placement director, Miss Meredith was invited to visit a U.S. Army training center.  Included in her group’s tour was the place where guard dogs were trained.  An animal lover, Miss Meredith reached over to pet one of the dogs in training, and a sergeant shouted, “Lady, these dogs are being trained to take off people’s hands if they get too close!”  Then, seeing her reaction, he told of how Bobby Kennedy, who was attorney general at the time, had visited the installation. Before he could be warned, Kennedy reached over and patted one of the big German shepherds on the head.  The sergeant thought, “There goes my career. That dog will grab the arm of the brother of the president of the United States and tear it off.”  Luckily, the dog was smart enough to merely wag its tail, and the sergeant’s job was saved.



In 1969, Miss Meredith fell in the classroom while lecturing. She stood up and continued to teach until the period was over, and then asked a student to get someone from the dean’s office.  She had broken her hip and her left arm, but nothing kept her from her duties.  One student in the class, whose wife worked at the Johnson City hospital, learned of Miss Meredith’s injury. He was astounded because, he said, “She never quit talking.”



When she first arrived at ETSU, Miss Meredith was permitted to live in a small apartment in the old Carter Mansion, where the Davis Apartments now stand.  Since there were no electric dryers, she hung her clothes on an outside line. Many passersby commented about how pretty her lacy undies were. All of them were purple or lavender.





"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