At the end of the academic year, graduates are getting ready to move onto the next leg of their lives. But it’s not just the students making a transition. Some professors are also making a shift from their teaching careers to the retired life.
After a 27-year-long career at Troy University, James Day, professor of English, will be retiring.
Day plans to move to Florida with his mother where he will pursue his writing career as well as fine-tune his keyboard skills.
When asked if he has enjoyed his time at Troy, Day said, “I’ve enjoyed teaching. (Troy) is surprisingly willing to let teachers do what they think they need to do. There are a lot of places where, if I were to take on literary theory, I might not get tenured. That is not true of here.”
Ben Presley, a sophomore global business major from Garland, has never taken a class with Day, but has heard many stories regarding the professor.
“He will very easily get your attention,” Presley said. “He’s a very nice person; a lot of people don’t think he is. People get overwhelmed with him in the classroom, from what I hear.”
While Presley has never taken a class with Day, he has held conversations with the professor and has become well acquainted with him. “He really cares about the students, whether people think it or not. I think what he does has meaning,” Presley said.
One of Day’s fondest memories of Troy took place three years ago. In honor of his mother’s 100th birthday, the Troy University department of theater and dance performed a dance show dedicated to her.
His second favorite memory involved Angela Glover from Florida State University playing the third Rachmaninoff concerto with strings. “I honestly felt like, when I stepped out of the auditorium, that I should be stepping onto a New York sidewalk,” he said. “It was just that kind of experience.”
Kyle Ganus, a senior political science major from Leesburg, Florida, has taken Day for only one class but remembers the experience vividly. “He’s very outspoken in what he thinks about various topics, whether they be art, literature, politics,” Ganus said. “He’s very educated. Probably the most over-qualified (person) to teach at Troy.” Day is an Oxford University alumnus.
Ganus recalls Day’s class and the workload that accompanied it. “He’s very fair, but he expected a lot out of the students. It was not an easy ‘A’ at all,” he said.
By taking Day’s class, Ganus said he was able to learn more in-depth information about not just literature, but history, art and music as well. According to Ganus, along with each story Day assigned, a lesson on the history surrounding the story would follow.
By doing this, Day hoped to give his students a better look into the culture of the times in order to show why a piece may have been written a certain way.
Brada King, a freshman English major from Nectar, is currently taking classes with Day. “He’s a very interesting person,” she said. When asked what her favorite memory of Day was, King said, “(Him) singing us the excerpt from ‘The Marriage of Figaro.’ ”
Day said he will miss Troy and hopes to see it continue to grow and prosper. “We are supposed to do the best with where we’re put,” he said. “The university is changing, it’s growing, it’s certainly more beautiful now. I think that, in time, we will do fine.”
Day’s time at Troy will be remembered by both faculty and students alike. Many students wish him well on his journey. “May he enjoy Florida,” King said.
When asked if he had any departing words to the students of Troy, Day said, “We tend to think that all of the best minds are at the famous schools, that there is a direct correlation between the Ivy League and intelligence or wisdom — that is not the case. If you make use of your classes, if you make use of what is available, you can become educated. It really is a matter of what you are willing to do.”
Within the classroom, he “commands respect but is also very approachable,” a student said. Outside the classroom, students can see him at baseball and basketball games, lauding the team and the band.
Samuel Shelton, associate professor of political science and director of master’s in public administration program, has shown his Trojan spirit for the last 13 years within and beyond MSCX. As he prepares for retirement this semester, Shelton looked back at his teaching philosophy and reflected on his time at Troy.
“I think I’ve always said that we in the political science department have some of the best students that ever applied to Troy University,” Shelton said. “So that’s been one of the most enjoyable parts about being at Troy.”
Shelton said that as many of his students are involved within the campus through Greek organizations or SGA or other service groups, it translates into them being more involved within their classes.
“I don’t think any teacher will tell you that it’s not fun to have engaging students in their classes,” he said.
Teaching at a university was something Shelton always aspired to do even while he worked as a district court administrator with the state of Wisconsin court system.
“There was a period of transitional opportunity, and so I went to North Carolina State University in their Ph.D. program,” he said. “When I completed that in 2002, I was looking for a job obviously, and there was an opening here at Troy and I applied, and I was lucky enough to get it.”
His engrossment in political science itself dates further back though. “In 1956, I would stay up and watch the two political conventions and considering I was just beginning school it was sort of an unusual situation.”
Shelton said that his interest further augmented in the ’60s through a combination of political events like the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War amongst others.
Of course Shelton’s interest is not limited to politics and academia.
Much like his students, he too has explored multiple extracurricular activities. He has worked in the undergraduate academic council and the faculty senate, serving as president of the committees at some point.
“I’ve been fortunate enough in that regard to have had an opportunity to interact with administrators and other faculty at the university, which certainly helped me to be engaged in what’s going on at Troy University and for me that was a very valuable experience,” he said.
As a sports and fine arts enthusiast, Shelton also devotes his time to attend campus athletic and fine arts events as he enjoys being a spectator at such programs.
“The other thing that I’ve always felt about universities in general and certainly small towns, which Troy certainly is, is that it doesn’t matter how small the town is,” Shelton said. “If there is an institution of higher education there, there is more than enough things to keep you involved in and I like to get involved.”
His outgoing personality combined with his strong work ethic is what made Jarrod Mack, a senior political science major from Robertsdale, say that he “commands respect but is also very approachable.”
“That’s a technique that’s kind of hard to master,” Mack said.
“He loves interacting with his students and more importantly he cares about the quality of the education that they receive while teaching his classes,” he said. “His classes, they encourage critical thinking but at the same time he gives you the knowledge necessary to learn.
Amber Voss, a senior political science major from Wetumpka, also praised Shelton for his teaching and work as her adviser.
“Dr. Shelton is wonderful,” she said. “He is very personable with his students, and he makes sure that he provides any learning opportunity for us to understand the material through group projects or hands-on activities, just to make us well rounded.”
“I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to be my adviser over the past four years. He has given me great advice over the years and I think he has really inspired a lot of students.”
The next chapter in Shelton’s life includes, to his joy, a lot of traveling — but turning that next page would not have been possible without his colleagues, he said.
“I wouldn’t have stayed for 13 years if I didn’t enjoy working with the people that I’ve worked with and it’s been certainly a unique experience, seeing the growth of the department and therefore, seeing the growth of what the department can potentially do.”
Shelton said that he hopes the expansion of the department with diverse faculty members exposes students to more ideas and perspectives to improve their overall educational prospects.
Although the department will expand and new faculties will be brought in to teach Shelton’s classes, the unique mark he has left behind in the college will be unforgettable for most of his students.
“I would just like to thank him for tolerating me the past three years and definitely being one of my best friends in the faculty here at Troy University,” Mack said.