Tom Hodges has been named Professor Emeritus at Amarillo College
While approaching Amarillo College’s stately Ordway Hall in the fall of 1967 to conduct his very first freshman composition classes, Tom Hodges admits to feeling as though he’d bitten off more than he might could chew.
“On my first duty day there, those cornerstone statues, the gnomes flanking Ordway Hall’s main entrance, struck me as formidable,” Hodges said.
“As a novice English instructor with only a vague notion of how to handle my five sections of Freshman Composition, I definitely felt out of my league.”
But Hodges, in spite of those first-day jitters, was quick to find his comfort zone at the College and certainly within Ordway Hall, the scholarly nerve center in which he imparted clarity of language to myriad pupils over a remarkable 40-year span.
For his unfailing, decades-long commitment to Amarillo College and the students he passionately served, Hodges has been named Professor Emeritus at AC.
Concerned about the well-being of his former colleagues who likely would brave the pandemic to attend an event in his honor, Hodges has chosen to forgo the traditional in-person Emeritus celebration.
The Faculty Senate, therefore, decided to honor him virtually with a short video.
“I want to extend to the Faculty Senate and all their colleagues my sincere appreciation for this honor,” Hodges said. “In my early days at Amarillo College I got some help from many generous and talented teachers, and not just in my department but from other colleagues, some sharp administrators, and invaluable staff.
“I spent the next forty years trying each semester to get things right.”
That he got things right is unquestioned among the peers who weighed in. In fact, the consistency of effort that Hodges demonstrated throughout his tenure, day in and day out, as both a teacher and during the years he spent as English Department chair, led some to attempt to emulate him.
“Tom is always the epitome of a gentleman, and I love his sense of humor,” said Dr. Dan Ferguson, a recently retired professor of English who continues to teach in an adjunct capacity. “But the one thing I appreciate most is that he always taught with gusto – even on his very last day.
“I remember thinking, ‘That’s how you do it, and that’s how I want to retire.’ I never forgot that and did my best to teach with gusto even on my last day. I was lucky to have a role model like Tom.”
Dr. William Netherton, still an integral member of the English faculty, says Hodges was a highly professional department chair, calm of demeanor, both fun and fair.
“Tom established camaraderie in the department during the few years he served as chair,” Netherton said. “And as a teacher, he was always looking out for students who needed help. Long before what we now know to be developmental classes, Tom created a course in which students received tutoring and learned at their own pace.”
Hodges also was known to enjoy wielding hand-to-hand type weaponry.
“At the end-of-year picnic he liked to set up a target and show us how to throw a tomahawk,” Netherton said. “And he was our resident Shakespeare man – knew more than most, anyway – and he had a real sword he would swing during certain lectures.”
Rumor has it that Hodges occasionally acted out something of a fencing demonstration with the help of a student he equipped with a drapery rod. For Hodges, the “grand enterprise” of teaching revolved putting students first, instilling in them the potency of writing with clarity, and teaching them to think.
“Basic training for writers means recognizing misplaced modifiers, passive voice, vapid generalizations, logical fallacies, etc.,” Hodges says. “Training aims at what to think, but all of that lays the foundation for the other objective, education, learning how to think.
“Gradually over the span of a semester, the intellectual interplay among student, text, and nurturing teacher leads to the self-discovery we call education.”
And gradually over the span of his brilliant career, Hodges became less and less intimidated by the gnarled expressions of the gnomes guarding the west entrance to Ordway Hall, but it did take a while.
“For several years I would walk past them and use the other, plainer entry, the one with a line of boot scrapers, steel blades anchored in concrete,” Hodges said. “Back in the late ’60’s they said to me, “Howdy. Show some respect. First scrape off the mud and manure. Now, c’mon in and have at it.”
And for 40 years he sure did that.