Dr. A. Bland Crowder, M.E. and Ima Graves Peace Emeritus Professor of English, has been a member of the Hendrix faculty since 1974.
What’s next for you?
I’m in the midst of a phased retirement; I teach during the spring semesters. Last fall I tried to fix up my old house I’ve been neglecting, refinishing my front door and creating a new flower bed in the front. I did manual labor for three or four hours each day, and then read on my front porch for the rest of the day. Next fall, I’ll be visiting my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I’m also considering writing a biography of William Styron, who was a writer for the Newport News who died this year.
Describe the most memorable moment of your time at Hendrix?
In my (Victorian lit?) class, we read a Robert Browning play called Pippa Passes. Browning misused a word, thinking it referred to a nun’s headgear, rather than an intimate anatomical part. That’s how innocent the Victorians were. We later read a Browning poem called “Count Gismond,” and we were discussing critical views of the poem. One critic considered the poem very sexual, and my student Emily Parker blurted out, “That’s ridiculous! Browning doesn’t even know what a _____ is!” We laughed for almost fifteen minutes.
What is the most significant change you’ve seen at Hendrix during your time on campus?
The addition of faculty positions. We now have about two times as many faculty members than there were when I first started, for about the same number of students. At first I needed to teach eight courses every year; now I only teach six. I would work all the time on my lesson plans, staying up till 11 at night, then getting up early to work on them. I would have retired a long time ago if I still had the same course load.
What is something that others would be surprised to find out about you?
After I got my masters, I taught at Centre College for two years. I met my wife Lynn there, when she was a student. She was 19, and I was 23. At Hendrix, I would have gotten fired for that. But it would have been worth it.
Why did you choose to teach at Hendrix?
I found the job at Hendrix through the Old Boy network. I only had a two year contract at Centre College, and then I taught at Eastern Kentucky University. I wasn’t so happy there – I didn’t like the big state university atmosphere. I was looking for a job, and I knew Chuck Chappell and Ken Storey. When there was an opening at Hendrix, they told me to apply, and I did.
Where were you when –
The Challenger exploded
Watching TV? I don’t remember. For JFK: I was at the library at the University of Tennessee. Some Republican made a joke about it. I just watched TV all day long, and didn’t eat. That night, I went out to a diner and ordered a beer and cherry pie. Those don’t really go together, but those were what I really wanted.
You heard Elvis was dead
I don’t remember; I’m not as much of a fan as Dr. Entzminger.
I was at home. I was watching on television when the second plane hit the tower. I had planned to fly somewhere the next day, so I called Northwest Airlines and said, “I guess you’re going to want me to cancel my reservation.” They did.
Have you ever been thrown in the fountain?
No, I have not, but there’s no need to remedy that. My birthday is in late June, so that may be why.
What is your favorite meal in the cafeteria?
The bean loaf, which is vegetarian meatloaf. I’m a vegetarian.
What is your favorite place on campus and why?
The brick patio, where we used to hold graduation while it was 100 degrees in the sun. We were sitting there in our hot, black robes, with no shade at all. Nothing’s more fun than that. Actually, though, I enjoy the window from my office, and its view out across the turtle pond and the fountain.
If you could do anything over again, what would it be?
Looking back, I would have been more measured in my responses to some of policies I argued against than I was at the time.