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Interview with Thomas R. Lupton, July 22, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Thomas R. Lupton, July 22, 2002
Date:
July 22, 2002
Description:
Thomas R. ("Tommy") Lupton is Assistant Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Sciences at UNC-Wilmington. In this interview, he discusses his career at Wilmington College and UNCW. Mr. Lupton came to teach at Wilmington College in 1958 following service in the U.S. Air Force. When he began teaching at Wilmington College, he was almost finished with his M.A. in mathematics from East Carolina University, which he completed during his first year of teaching. This interview includes Mr. Lupton's description of teaching physics and math in the Isaac Bear Building and later moving to the new campus in 1961. Mr. Lupton retired in 1995, but has taught on an adjunct basis since then. Interview includes discussion of life as a faculty member, family life, and life in Wilmington over the years.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Lupton, Thomas R. Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 7/22/2002 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 59 minutes

Lack: Good morning it is July 22, 2002, Monday. We’re in the Randall Library conference room. I’m Adina Lack the archivist for UNCW, and I’m here with professor Lupton.

Lack: Can you please state your name.

Lupton: Thomas R. Lupton, better known as Tommy.

Lack: Welcome, I’m glad you could make it here. We’ll be talking to you about your long association with the college and the university as well as other aspects of your life here in Wilmington. I have here in my sheet that you arrived at UNCW which was then Wilmington College in 1958.

Lupton: That’s correct.

Lack: What brought you to the college?

Lupton: Well I graduated with a B.S. degree at East Carolina in May of 1954. I was in ROTC so I went into the Air Force and went through pilot training and ended up flying with Strategic Air Command for a couple of years. They tried to entice me to stay in the military, but I made up my mind I wanted to teach so I got out and went to graduate school and ended up coming down here.

When I came down, I had one or two courses to finish on my Master’s which I did finish the first year by going up on weekends taking courses. So I got my Master of Arts in mathematics in ’59 from East Carolina. I got married I believe the day before graduation or something that year. Married a local girl who had been working in Dr. Randall’s office when I came down here in 1958 for my first interview.

Lack: Really!

Lupton: So I’ve been around since then.

Lack: And you have Wilmington College to thank for your wife. What is her name?

Lupton: Mary Kay.

Lack: What was her maiden name?

Lupton: Tompkins.

Lack: She’s from Wilmington and she worked for Dr. Randall.

Lupton: She was working part-time in the president’s office at that time, Dr. Randall.

Lack: And you just met.

Lupton: We met, we started eating lunch together over at New Hanover High School. We didn't have a cafeteria per se. We had what was called the Pub where you could go down and get a candy bar and a drink maybe, but that’s all that was in the old Isaac Bear Building at that time.

Lack: I think I’ve seen pictures of it, that’s wonderful. So there were no sandwiches or anything?

Lupton: I don’t believe they had sandwiches. I actually taught a physics class one summer there in a closet. That’s how cramped we were for space. We had one classroom that had been turned into faculty offices. There were about 15 on the faculty back then and I believe 10 or 12 of us were in that one classroom for an office. I had an old beat up desk that I put shellac on.

We were on a quarter system back then. At the end of first quarter, I believe I finally got one shelf on a bookcase and one drawer in a filing cabinet and that was about the extent of my office supplies. So we’ve come a long ways since then.

Lack: I should say so. Was there an advertisement in the paper or something?

Lupton: No, I had interviewed for several jobs in high school. They offered a job up in a Delaware actually for more money than I got here, but being from North Carolina, I jumped at the chance to come here. The registrar at East Carolina had assured me that he would get me a job here if there was one available and so he did.

He put in a good word for me and I came down here and got the job. He got me a hundred dollar raise when I went back. He said he wouldn’t recommend anybody to work for what they were paying me which wasn’t much back then. But I came I’ve enjoyed it and liked it ever since. Home, being Greenville, is 120 miles away. I have family ties there. If I had gone up to Delaware, it would have been so much further from home so I have no regrets at all.

Lack: What is it that drew you to teaching? You’re obviously a lifelong teacher.

Lupton: I just always liked the idea, I got a teaching certificate and did student teaching when I was at East Carolina as an undergraduate. I went into the service and went through a lot of different schools and had some teachers that I thought were so sorry, so maybe I thought I could do a better job if I did it. I had a brother that was in education in public schools. He worked as a principal in elementary school. I have no regrets.

I missed the Air Force and flying for a while, but as years went by, I just dreamed about it and that didn't even seem like I had ever done it. It just didn't seem real at all that I could be doing something different than what I was doing.

Lack: Now you look back on it, where were you based?

Lupton: I was in Fort Worth, Texas, the last two years. I went through pilot training when I was in Florida and Lubbock, Texas. I spent a little time in San Antonio at bomb commander school. My overseas duty amounted to one weekend in England. We flew over on a deployment to see if they could handle a bomber stream from the Strategic Air Command.

We actually carried a nuclear weapon with us on our flight over there, but I fought the wars of Texas. Fortunately I was not in during any hostile activities going on, though there were threats, there always is.

Lack: You learned an excellent skill, that’s for sure. Did you ever fly as a civilian?

Lupton: Commercially about two or three times and a friend from the Marines came in one time on a weekend and took me up in a military aircraft that he had. He was flying that weekend. I would have liked to have, but not being able to afford it. It cost a lot just to go out and fly just for the fun of it. Always told people, well if you pay the bill, I’ll go out, take you up. I never had any takers. They wouldn’t go out and wreck the plane. I actually got a commercial license while I was in, but I never did pursue flying commercially.

Lack: Well that’s a whole different set of skills. And then you ended up staying in mathematics. Was that always your…

Lupton: When I came here, I taught physics. Anybody that came that ever had a physics course had to teach physics seems like. I’d had a little bit of physics and I’d had a lot of related things in my Air Force training and the mathematic background. I was the Physics Department here for three years, the first three years I was here.

That was real interesting because a lot of the lab experiments I had to do, I had to find pictures of what they were talking about to know what equipment to drag out. That’s how qualified I was to teach physics. We just had the one course. We were a two year school then. We were teaching the same textbooks they were using at North Carolina State in physics and math because we were doing a lot of pre-engineering students. They were going to be transferring to State at the end of the second year, having only two years at the time. So I worked very closely with a lot of pre-engineering students.

I have no regrets teaching physics. Even up to the last day I teach math, I’m sure I’ll use illustrations from physics because math is just a tool which you can use in your sciences, physics, chemistry, business and other areas. I really learned a lot. I didn't know much physics when I started. I still didn't learn as much as I should have about some of the things (laughter).

Lack: You learned a lot I’m sure.

Lupton: But it was fun.

Lack: Just to keep up with it. You taught physics for?

Lupton: Yeah I did for three years. We just had the one course.

Lack: You were the physics department?

Lupton: I was the physics department. Ronald Elson came in and took over after I did. We had such a small amount of laboratory equipment. I’d usually have to run three labs for my one class, usually had about 30-35 students and had enough lab equipment to handle about 10 or 12 at that time. So that for one course, I ran about three labs. So I’d spend a lot of time doing that.

Lack: After that?

Lupton: After that, I was teaching all math.

Lack: What subjects in math did you teach?

Lupton: Well I was teaching physics, the pre-engineering counselor’s course and probably pre-calculus, algebra, trig, usually about a typical load. While I was working with pre-engineering, I went to Summer Institute in 1963 at Texas A&M and took a workshop, for the whole summer just about, in engineering mechanics which I was teaching. The first time I’d ever taught that, I’d never had that course and I was about a day or two ahead of the students.

There again, it was the math background that enabled you to do it. You used the math as a tool. When I went to the Summer Institute, I had already struggled through the whole course on my own so it made it a whole lot easier when I got out there. I believe we were using a text very similar if not even the same text for the course out there. So it was another good experience.

Lack: What were those early days like? You’ve mentioned the shortage of equipment and teaching courses that there was a real need for someone to teach. What were some of the other…do you remember what else it was like there?

Lupton: Well we didn't have too many classrooms to teach in. We didn't have an area that we could call our own and of course the math department…had always thought of us as just being tenants in some building because all we needed was a chalkboard, a piece of chalk and an eraser where other subjects need more special equipment. So we’ve been stuck all over everywhere.

I’ve taught math, I had an office in maybe the chemistry physics building. I taught math in Trask Coliseum. I’ve had classes down there, all over campus, the business building, humanities building. So we just get a piece of chalk and walk across campus and teach anywhere. In recent years, we’ve had more of what we would call our own space, but even last year, I was teaching in Friday Hall two of my three courses I believe.

So we’d just go around wherever there was space. But in the beginning years at Isaac Bear, there were not, gosh, about three or four of what would be legitimate classrooms and you’d go in a room where somebody had taught English in, you’d have to take things off the board where they put things on the board, poems and pictures and all and leave me about two feet of board space.

Well for teaching math, you’re continuously writing on the board and erasing. So I’d have to take their material down, you know. Some of them were real possessive. They felt like it was their room, but really it wasn’t. So it was nice to get where we had room to work, primarily for math classes.

Lack: The Isaac Bear had been a school before?

Lupton: It had been an elementary school building I believe. It was really old. When they fired up the furnace on a cold day, we had one janitor, Mae Buckin Hattie. If you wanted to know what was going on in the school, you’d ask Hattie, she usually knew. Hattie was usually going around humming. You didn't have to see her, you could hear her coming because she was humming.

But that old building was so old, when you fired up the furnace in the basement, you’d get fumes coming up through the floors (laughter). On a cold day, we had to pull the blinds away from the windows. It was not a very tightly constructed building because it was so old. Of course it’s been taken down now. It was directly across from New Hanover High School.

As I mentioned earlier, when we had lunch, we’d go to the high school cafeteria for lunch. That’s where the college crowd would go. We had less than 500 students I think at that time when we started.

Lack: Still you must have had to have classes all day.

Lupton: Oh we did. We had classes until 10:00 at night, started at 8:00 in the morning.

Lack: Because there were only a few classrooms. Was the administration housed there too?

Lupton: They had an area for the administration, the registrar, the president and all, wasn’t much bigger than this room. It was split up into about two or three little rooms. It wasn’t a whole lot bigger than this room I bet. The bookstore was a little closet right in front of it. It was a small closet really.

Lack: And somebody took the money for the books.

Lupton: Yeah, they would take the books, I know they gave me a slide rule in my books. You’d always get your desk copies of what you were teaching. It’s a different story now with what we have. Going from one building with all the offices in it, you’d have people with music, history and business and all the different disciplines in one area.

Lack: Did you hear music classes while you were teaching?

Lupton: I don’t know. Some of the courses possibly were taught over at New Hanover High School in the evening. I know in the early stages, they were. Music, we didn't have a music department as such, but they had a choir, a college chorus. They would perform of course. As far as the discipline of studying music, I don’t believe they had at that time a major in it. Just the basic studies.

Lack: So probably about when you came there was talk about purchasing the land for down here.

Lupton: Yeah, they had purchased the land. The first year that, I believe I got married in May, at the end of the first year I was here. It was either that summer or the next summer that I helped survey the land out here. There were three of us. There was one that taught the surveying course for the pre-engineering students and some math.

One of the English teachers and myself would hold the poles for him to do the surveying. We’d kill snakes and chop paths with bush axes and all for this land out here. I think it was about a two lane road out on College Road. It was about a two lane highway at the time, you didn't call it a highway. So we’d come out here, I was making a dollar an hour surveying which would buy groceries and that’s about all (laughter).

Lack: You surveyed for other?

Lupton: No.

Lack: Just here and they said we’ll give you some money.

Lupton: No, just here, the land out here. I’m sure he was getting paid a good bit more than we were as his helpers. But we’d survey to determine the elevation and all the different aspects of where the buildings would be going. Then they started the building. I spent three years at Isaac Bear so we moved out here. The first year we moved out here, we moved I believe in the summer. I can remember moving some of that physics equipment, putting it through the windows getting it into the layout. I had to help move it myself.

We taught classes. At that time you didn't have all these regulators telling you when you could occupy a building. We started classes and I can remember we didn't even have chalkboards or blackboards. I can remember looking in the hall and finding pieces of cardboard boxes that were laying out there from work during the day. I’d take them into the classroom and work problems on the chalkboard.

The restrooms, we had to go across the street to the church to use the restroom cause they didn't have the plumbing hooked up all the way (laughter).

Lack: Was that during the summer?

Lupton: That was in the summer. There was no air conditioning going I don’t believe. We had classes in the evening because of the heat. So we’d have summer courses that started maybe at 6:00 or 6:30 and actually had to stop when it got dark because we didn't have lights in the building either.

Lack: What building was this, do you remember?

Lupton: Oh, it was Hoggard Hall, was primarily the classroom building. I can remember teaching some in Alderman which is where the administration is now. At that time the library was downstairs in that building. Then we had some classrooms upstairs. I can picture teaching in rooms up there. What they did, they put you on the west side of the building so you’d have more sunlight coming in for the first few days. I can’t remember how long before we really felt like we had it.

Lack: How was learning during this time? Do you think this impacted the students’ learning or they just went along.

Lupton: Really we hear so much about improved SAT of students, but the students have not improved. We had good students. They were motivated I think more so than I find most of my students in recent years. A lot of them at that time were older students. I had a lot of the fellas in my class, physics and chemistry, that were probably about my age at that time. They’d been in the military and gotten out and they were on the GI Bill. They knew where they were going, what they wanted to do and it made a big difference in how they would prepare themselves.

Lack: They were just very motivated.

Lupton: Yeah, maybe they didn't have the SAT score that many of our people today have, but they were hard workers. There are people that are smart and then there are achievers. Some will achieve without a whole lot of background. They’ll do what it takes to learn the material. They’d come and get help from you a whole lot more than students do today. It’s a little different now.

Lack: Really. It’s probably like you’re saying partly maturity and a lot of them had been in war and they thought…

Lupton: We were not as big and I think they felt like they could get more special attention. When you get a place as big as we are now, you still have your office hours, but very few students would come by to get help. It used to seem like…maybe it’s because they would be more open to a younger person. I think now when they see somebody that’s over the hill or down at the bottom of the hill (laughter), they might be a little reluctant to come in to get help. A lot of changes over the years.

Lack: So at the time when you moved over to the campus, was there a lot of growth in the faculty? Did that start right away?

Lupton: Yeah, it started growing then. I know when we moved, one of the nicest things, we got an individual office, an office in Hoggard Hall, I think for nine years. The math department was up on the second floor of Hoggard Hall. We had chemistry in that building, biology, physics, all were taught in that building. In Alderman Hall, they had the social sciences and probably the business department.

One of the greatest improvements was as we grew, the supplies, just little things like chalk. I remember we first moved out here, to get pieces of chalk I’d have to go from Hoggard Hall over to Alderman Hall and find where the comptroller was. He kept the chalk in there. If he was there, you couldn't get but a couple of pieces. If he wasn’t there, I’d get a box full and take back over with me.

I think it’s getting about that bad with the budget’s crunch now. I used to keep a whole box in my desk drawer. Just things like that, furnishing, red pencils. Probably the first few years I taught, I furnished all of my red pencils and things like that. Of course, we were a community college.

It was not state supported right at that time. The state took over about the time I got here so there were big changes. It wasn’t long before we became four year school and just seeing things growing all the time. Faculty expanding.

Lack: Yes, the four year status came in the 60’s, ’63, was that expected?

Was that a long time goal?

Lupton: I think that was the dream probably that Dr. Hoggard had when they started the campus originally.

Lack: So you were at that time, after moving to the campus, you mostly taught math.

Lupton: Yeah, I taught math. I never taught physics out here. I believe Mr. Nelson was coming out the first year we were working on this campus. He had been working with Carolina Power & Light and wanted to get into school out here. We knew each other before. We were in the same church, worked together in church. We were pretty active in Temple Baptist Church at the time. I’m still there. He’s out at Pine Valley Church.

Lack: You were out here and teaching in the math department. Was there a chair of the mathematics department?

Lupton: Yeah, Adrian Hirsch was the chair when I came out here.

Lack: We certainly hear his name a lot. Was he active in the college?

Lupton: Yes, he’s a real humble person. If you think of somebody being humble, it was him. Yet he was quiet, get things done quietly. Seemed to know people in the community with contacts which were very helpful I think over the years of the university. He’s a real southern gentleman type, fisherman, shrimp. The first year I was here, I got some shrimp, 25 lbs I think at 25 cents a pound. You go buy shrimp now for $8 or $9 a pound.

He’d give me fish. He’d catch fish. He lived out on the sound, very nice family. A good man to be working with. We didn't have as many committees. Committee structure grew as the school grew. There were not many committees formed. You didn't have a very large faculty. You found yourself serving on a lot of the committees. As we got bigger and bigger, you would be lucky enough to just have to serve on one. Some people like to serve on more. Over the years, I served on the athletic committee a good number of years while I was here.

Lack: Were there also departmental committees?

Lupton: Oh yeah, you’d have your departmental responsibilities broken down. Did a lot with the student committee working with student programs there.

Lack: What courses did you teach?

Lupton: I didn't ever get a Ph.D. so I was limited somewhat, but yet before we got all the Ph.D.’s hired here, I taught some of the other courses. I learned differential equations more or less on my own. I taught it over the years. I did some work in statistics, taught statistics and all the calculus and algebra and trig, some of the education courses. I taught the one for the teachers, but then again as we grew, we got people with more specialty in that so I didn't teach too many of those classes.

I would say primarily the thing I loved to teach was the calculus, the long calculus course. Of course when you retired, you don’t get to teach any of those. I do occasionally teach the short calculus and the pre-calculus, the algebra, trig or the combination courses.

Lack: What do you teach mostly now that you’re retired? Last semester you said you taught three courses.

Lupton: Last semester I had one course, the short calculus, the three hour one that we teach primarily as a prerequisite for a lot of the business courses. Then I had two sections of…I had one section of pre-calculus and then I had another one in the second semester of the pre-calculus. I really had three different courses which I always like doing. A lot of teachers didn't. They would say give me two or three of the same. I know there were many semesters I would teach four different courses.

Lack: Isn’t that a lot more work?

Lupton: Not really after you’ve taught it for a few years. If I had four different courses the first year I taught, I would not have liked that maybe, but I had three. I had physics, calculus and a pre-calculus every time.

Lack: I guess a lot of students end up taking, what is it – I don’t remember what it’s called, the college algebra.

Lupton: Well the pre-calculus, math 111, is nothing but a review of high school algebra. We don’t teach them that much more than what they’ve already had.

Lack: So that’s what a lot of people take, right?

Lupton: Yeah, that’s the basic study requirement. They can get by with a minimum of that in most disciplines. They take the math 101 and 102 if they’re in liberal arts. That course I never liked to teach as much, but I had some good classes in it. I always refer to it as the no math math. You just taught a lot of different concepts.

You could maybe do more with it if you weren’t pressured to cover so many sections. We’re always working under a pretty strict syllabus in the pre-calculus and the calculus to make sure we covered that should be covered to prepare them for the next course along the way.

Lack: There’s a course now with people trying to take a test and then they can place out of that.

Lupton: If you have a good strong math department in high school, you can take some of the calculus and test out of maybe the first semester of calculus. We use a placement test. If they have a real good high school background, SAT scores and placement score, we have a lot of students can place into calculus and not have to take the pre-calculus. Over the years I’ve taught students that didn't take the first semester of our long calculus course.

They would take the placement test, I forget what they call it, CLEP, college level exception. I believe they actually give them credit for it which is good if they give you credit because it’s that much money you don’t have to spend for your tuition along the way. My daughter graduated in math and she could have gone in, I don’t think at the time she did it, they didn't give the advanced placement in there, but I think she could have just gone ahead and started into second semester. She wouldn’t have gotten credit, but she opted to do the first semester.

Lack: So that is interesting, she chose math like you.

Lupton: She did much better than I did (laughter).

Lack: That’s really interesting. She picked up on your enthusiasm for it as well as ability I’m sure.

Lupton: She graduated I think with about a 3.9 grade point average in applied math.

Lack: What did she do for DuPont?

Lupton: Well she’s done just about all of it. She started out doing some work with computers cause she had had a work study program with GE and they hired her. She had a career day and there was nobody at the table. She just left her resume on the desk there and that night somebody called her and wanted to talk to her. He just about told her on the phone he would hire her sight unseen. She started out doing work with the computers out there.

They saw she was bubbly person, never seen a stranger so they said she was perfect to get into personnel. She’s good with people so she ended up after about a year supervising about 20 men on the assembly line at night. They wanted to go the whole route with it. Then she’s had a lot of different jobs out there. Right now she’s in finance really with what she’s doing with payroll and planning. I think her husband said he lets her handle the money at home. He said she handles millions of dollars out there so she could handle what little money they have (laughter).

Lack: That’s great. So she’s still there at DuPont?

Lupton: Well she got phased out with the September 11 with the plant closing. She opted to remain loyal to DuPont and they assured her they would find her something. She had people all up the line. There’s always somebody higher up the line that says we can’t do it, but she got severance from out there for about 6-1/2 months. Before she finished her severance, she got on as a contract worker. They needed her with the ones that stayed.

She could have just slid right on over with her job or with her salary, but not the position. She didn't like where they were going to put her. She wanted to remain loyal to DuPont and it backfired on her early, but she’s been out there since July nearly a year doing contract work and they’re negotiating a contract with her now to go on with Dac. They were working on it last week.

Lack: Dac is the company…

Lupton: That’s the Mexican company that bought DuPont doing basically the same thing. The people she’s been working with out there, the same people she worked with at DuPont. So they all know her.

Lack: And she stayed in the Wilmington area.

Lupton: She’s been able to stay here which she kind of wanted to do and it made us happy to have her stay here. Having a son in Virginia makes it…well a lot of people don’t have any of the family with them. They’re so spread out, but it’s nice having family here.

Lack: And he also went to the school here in business, your son did?

Lupton: My son did. He got a degree in business management. Daddy didn't have a company for him to manage, so it was kind of hard going. He got a carpet cleaning business which didn't go. That’s the worst mistake I’ve ever made in my life, backing him in that I think. Then he got into the grocery business, he sold insurance, got back into the grocery business, tried three or four different things and then was called to the ministry.

I think the Lord was just leading him down paths to show him where he didn't want to go. He called him and really I feel like he was called for what he’s doing now. His family too. When you get called into the ministry to preach, it’s not a one person thing. If family’s not with you, you’ve got a hard way to go.

Lack: Yeah because it’s a lot of sacrifice and everyone has to be in it together.

Lupton: He never was a good student compared to my daughter. He had the ability. They both had that, but he was not motivated. She was an achiever. I think they’re both probably pretty close to the same capabilities, but he did other things. Of course they both worked all the time. He didn't have it that easy. They pretty much supported themselves a great deal.

I remember one time he said that she got more A’s this semester than I got the whole year at school. And I said, yes, you worked more this semester than you did in four years. But you know he got into the seminary and I didn't think he’d ever pass Greek, but he got where he loved Greek, he loved Hebrew and he’s been the last couple of years to Africa on a mission trip doing a basketball camp over there. They go into these countries you can’t go in under the guise of religion, but he’s learning Arabic over there. Has some friends he’s met over there. He really loves to do research now.

He would love to teach. He’d love to get his Ph.D. in religion and go and teach at a school, but with three children, it took him 4-1/2 years to get that Master in Divinity. He has his degree. He worked 25 hours a week or more while he was doing that. He was painting, so he learned another good trade. He worked with the seminary maintenance people. He started out working at a grocery store, Harris Teeter in Raleigh where he’d been working before he was called to the ministry.

They took these old buildings. I don’t know whether you’ve ever been on the old Wake Forest campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina. That’s where the Southeastern Baptist Seminary is. They’ve got some beautiful buildings and they’ve redone some of them. They knocked windows out and put new windows in and just made a new building out of the old building.

Lack: That’s where he went to school?

Lupton: That’s where he went to seminary at Wake Forest.

Lack: He went from there to Virginia, the hills of Virginia?

Lupton: I guess it’s kind of the foothills. It’s real pretty country between South Boston and Farmville. You just drive 30 minutes to get a Walmart so that’s not good. They’ve got a little town that’s close by about 7 miles. It has a Burger King, a Rite-Aid and a Food Lion and beyond that, there’s a couple of service stations and a post office.

Lack: It sounds like the church has probably provided a lot of community.

Lupton: Yeah because everything you do is 7 or 8 miles apart, but having no stop lights there, there’s one blinking light in the whole county, you can get places a lot quicker, see. They can get around just as quick as they could when they were in Wilmington where we’ve got all this traffic here. So they don’t have that trouble.

Lack: So he just started and is doing well. Well you never know, sometimes people go back for their Ph.D. It’s a sacrifice, but somehow people do it.

Lupton: Well they say where’s there’s a will, there’s a way. He really turned into a good student which I knew he had the ability to do. He likes to go to the library and get the books out and do the research. Of course to do a minister, you have to do that I guess. If you stay in one place very long, they would hear all I had to say in two or three months (laughter).

Lack: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Lupton: You have to keep preparing. There’s an awful lot in the bible to preach about.

Lack: You’ve go to do research for the sermons. It’s amazing how much preparation they have to do.

Lupton: It’s a good job, you work an hour a week. Well the Baptists, you’ve got Sunday mornings, Saturdays, you’ve got Wednesday night service, you have Sunday night service.

Lack: There’s the youth ministry. Does he work with the youth?

Lupton: They did call a part-time youth worker shortly after he got there. So they’ve made some progress there. But he’s working with the young marrieds. He said he’s got a lot of people in the church that were single, had been married you know, still coming. A lot of people when they break up the marriage, they let church go by the way. But he says he’s got several and he’s trying to develop a ministry for them, having them over for dinner and different things, working with them. I think that’s the class he’s teaching too.

Lack: Well that’s great. So he’s turned in to following your lead perhaps and being more scholarly and more interested in learning. At the university, they started bringing in some more of the Ph.D.’s. What was that like? Did people fit in well?

Lupton: Well I never had any problem. I’ve wondered about it at first, whether they would not fit in, but they were what we needed, people to teach courses, develop programs. To get the B.S. degree and the Master’s degree, we offer an M.A. now so they would teach the courses like that that they had specialized in. When you get the Ph.D., you study a certain area of mathematics that emphasizes analysis or algebra, different areas. So they would come in and have the expertise to develop courses of that nature.

Lack: I guess after you got four year degree status, was there a directive from Dr. Randall to get more Ph.D.s?

Lupton: Yeah, I think it was natural to do it. Most four year schools will have Ph.D.’s, a big percentage. I don’t know what percentage we ended up. The one disadvantage in my position was that there was not much chance of getting promoted beyond assistant professor without a Ph.D. unless you did some special area.

There was one time along the way I thought I might go and work. I applied for a National Science Foundation grant at the University of Georgia and I was named as an alternate. In the meantime, my wife got pregnant with our first child and they called me right about the time school was going to start in August that I could come if I wanted to. They had room so it was decision making time. With her doctor here and all and the baby just a few months off, we opted to not go.

Lack: That would have been going to Georgia for a number of years?

Lupton: Yeah to get a doctorate degree possibly if I had done that. I don’t have any real regrets. I mean it certainly limited what I could do, it limits how much money you can make. It would have been three years, hard years out of our life at the time. Our son would have been an infant which people do that. It’s just your priorities, where you put them.

Lack: I know a number of people did that, but I’m sure it was hard. I just interviewed David Miller. He did that.

Lupton: Well Earl Allen did it. Earl was one of my best friends. He died of cancer. We went to the same summer school class and I’d give him things out of my garden and he’d bring me fish he’d catch. We swapped fish with the vegetables.

Lack: What department was he in?

Lupton: He was in P.E. and he’d always call me if he had math problems. He said he could talk to me, he couldn't talk to some of those Ph.D.’s (laughter). He said I could get on a level with him. I could explain what he was trying to do.

Lack: Well I think that’s so important too because so many students…I know it took me a long time to feel more comfortable in math. When I got in college, I felt much better, but I certainly had a math phobia. Did you deal with that? A lot of students maybe are just fearful of math.

Lupton: Oh yeah, we had, over the years, what we refer to as retreads. The older students that when they get to family raising, they want to come back to college and I can remember teaching some of them. The first day of class, they’d come in and follow me back to my office wanting to drop. They’d think they’d never be able to do the math.

I’d always talk them out of it and they’d end up being better students in the class. I’d tell them you just have to work at it and it’ll come back to you. You’ll get some help. So I had some real good experiences with our non-traditional students instead of retreads what I called them. We had some that did very well and I think even the last semester that I taught, you always get some of these back in the classes that have been out of it.

Lack: I suppose you observed over the years the change in demographics. When you started, you probably had mostly men in your classes?

Lupton: Yeah, pretty much.

Lack: Is it more even now?

Lupton: It’s about even, about the same.

Lack: There’s just as many women as men now?

Lupton: There’s probably more. I don’t know. I believe when we were a junior college, gosh, the physics and calculus class I taught, I don’t believe there were one or two women in it. There was one girl called Tugboat Annie, she worked on a river boat. She was a pre-engineering student. I can picture her, but I can’t recall her name.

Lack: (Laughter) They called her Tugboat Annie?

Lupton: I think it was Tugboat something I believe.

Lack: How are the students now? I mean you have a perspective of teaching now for more than 40 years at the same place. Well you can’t even say it’s the same place, can you?

Lupton: It’s changed so much. It’s not like it was when I started in 1958. It’ll be 44 years. It seems like the attitude, you have a harder time working with attitude. You hear this, I think sometimes we think we don’t have that problem. I’ve had some classes where one or two can make the class have a bad attitude. Most of the time, you don’t have that, but something you do and it’s hard to handle.

They come having come from backgrounds in high school where a number of teachers that leave after a few years. They just make it unbearable for teachers. Well we don’t like to put up with it in college. Tell them they can either come and do like the class is doing or they can not come. They just don’t have the approach of the students that I remember from the first year. Some of it can be me, I don’t know. I hear all the other teachers talking about the students not being willing to do things as much.

You see teaching the first year or two, you have to realize that they have not been away from home. You’ve got to take that into account. They’ll come to class pretty regularly the first two or three weeks and then they find out it’s more fun to go down to the beach instead of coming to class. That’s when they start going down, the grades and all. You can see that in the student. It’s hard to cope with.

You can tell them. I give them the fatherly talk about the parents are making a sacrifice for them. You should be here. You should come to class if you don’t do anything else. If you come to class, you can learn. But we had an attendance policy back in the beginning which you can set your own now. But if you set up a strict one where nobody else has one at all, it would be hard to enforce.

When I first started teaching, you miss 25% of the class, no matter what your grade was, you flunked.

Lack: No matter what class?

Lupton: No matter what class it was. That was the school policy. When I was at school, if you missed more than three classes, you’d lose quality points. But we don’t have that control over them. I had students that would miss, gosh, 50% of the class and wonder why they were having difficulty. They’d come to class, there was no continuity in what I was telling them if they weren’t there every day.

So on your evaluations, you get everybody thinks you’re the greatest to the worst because of that. I’d like to think that the ones that think I’m halfway decent, were the ones that were there to hear what I had to say every day. I don’t know (laughter).

Lack: That would be more fair.

Lupton: It’s a battle to do that when you have the system there. Now see, it’s freshmen that do it. When I was teaching more of the sophomores and some of the juniors, I had students that said I wish I had listened to you three semesters ago. I’d be further along. I mean they’d take the course with me three times.

I don’t think they were blaming me when they did that. They’d say if I had just listened and did a little bit of homework and come to class everyday, I wouldn’t be here the third time. That’s the type thing you’re facing. But after they’d been here a year, if they make it through a year, their attitude would probably change and of course the last seven years I’ve been teaching, the ones that are just here now, right out of high school. That’s probably given me a little different outlook that what I think students are like.

I know they’re better qualified if the SAT is worth anything because when I started here, you could get in with an SAT score of about 600. Well now my daughter who graduated with a 3.9 something, she’d have trouble getting in out here with her SAT. She was about fourth or fifth in a class of 200 or 300 in high school cause she was an achiever, but she never took the SAT but once. I told her don’t waste my money taking it again you’re going to get admitted. She took it in 10th or 11th grade, so I think she would have scored higher if she had taken it her senior year. I didn't see any need for it then, it wasn’t going to prove anything to me.

Lack: I wonder if SAT scores are going up everywhere.

Lupton: Well they changed the base where they started a little bit. I think you get a little higher boost to begin with. As I remember, I used to be on the admissions committee. That’s been so long, I can’t remember, but that’s one of the many committees that over the years I’ve served on. We would review individual cases and I think 200 was the minimum on each part.

So you’d get 400 to start if you took it. So if you didn't make but 600, you didn't do that well. Just like our math placement tests, they start placing, we used to give a 35 question placement test and minimum to get into some of these courses was making 10. Getting 10 out of 35 right, that’s not too good. Not for courses of things you should have had. I would tell mine as an advisory, you’re not going to do very well in that course with a 10. I’d tell them they better take the math 100 which is a noncredit course and then take the pre-calculus and some of them didn't want to do that.

Well I’d tell them they had the choice. They could either do the one semester or the two semester route or the three semester. I’d say you can take one, take it the first time and fail it, then go take the remedial, then come back and take it and it’ll take you three semesters to get that one course. If you go ahead and take it the first time, the remedial and then that, you do it in two semesters. Some would listen to you and some wouldn’t.

Those scores usually would not lie. They’d be pretty accurate to what they would do.

Lack: Right and now I suppose with tutorials on the computer, I think people can prepare more maybe for the SAT.

Lupton: And we’ve got graph and calculators, they do so much work for you on a test. If they just learn in my pre-calculus, if they use that graph and calculator, the only reason they’d fail, but they come to class and don’t bring their calculator with them.

Lack: Wow, I never used that. I never took calculus.

Lupton: Well you use it in algebra I guess. You use it in some many things. It’s really a great tool.

Lack: I mean we used calculators, but this is different.

Lupton: But we have a math lab now for them to go to. They can get their things on the computer. We give copies of old file exams. We go over them with them. We used to never do this.

Lack: There’s a lot of things.

Lupton: They can come to the library and get old file exams for that comprehensive exam that we give in our pre-calculus. I had one girl that was working, I wish I had every student like her. She really worked. I think she made about a 55 or 60 on the first test. She was working for an A and she would come in and get help. I think she got a B- which was really great for her to have done that.

But she was working the middle of the semester. She was working on the final exam. That type of student is what really makes you keep going on when you see someone that would do that and work that hard.

Lack: Was that recent?

Lupton: Yeah, that was last semester. I’ve had two or three emails from her this summer. She’d ask me a question or something. I’d usually respond if I’d get it.

Lack: Do you use the computers more now?

Lupton: When I retired, I wouldn’t even use their computer. I think that’s one reason I retired when I did. I was just not a computer person and I had been using one for two years. I’d use it to make my tests and things like that, it’s good for a word processor. I play hearts and free cell and read about the ball scores and all that. But my children talked me into getting that. I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t regret getting it. I’ve spent a lot of time on it, got to do something with your time.

Lack: So now you’re using it some just for emails and internet. It sounds like you’re pretty busy in your retirement with teaching. What else?

Lupton: Well I have a garden. I do gardening and I’m fairly active in my church, working with elderly people there. Being old is relative. I tell them they make me feel young. The average age is about 90 years old I believe. Most of them or all of them now are ladies. Started out with some men, but all the men have died I’d been working with them so long. It’s fun working with them, seeing them and their outlook on life and all.

Lack: Spending time with them or taking them on errands.

Lupton: Mostly in church and one on one. If they get sick, I’ll go visit some of them or talk to them on the phone. We have a social get together occasionally. They’re just fun to see and be with, the attitudes that some of them have, keep on going.

Lack: And you have grandchildren?

Lupton: Yeah, I have three grandchildren, 12, 7 and 4, all from my son. I have a grand-dog, Shitzu, got his picture up on the bookcase. I just picked her up in Wilmington.

Lack: So your daughter doesn’t have children?

Lupton: No, she doesn’t. She hasn’t been married but three years. She married a boy that they knew each other in high school and neither one of them had been married. They’re both 33 or 34 when they got married, neither one of them had been married. So I don’t know whether they’ll have children or not. She’s 37 now. My son, I have another grand-dog in Virginia too. They’ve got a dog. They have to get somebody to keep him every time they go anywhere.

Lack: And you’d like to keep teaching?

Lupton: I’d like to. I help I’ll be able to get a class in the fall. I think it keeps you young a little bit to be around people that are younger, getting out too. I tell people that’s my down time when I get out from under my wife’s control with housecleaning. Before I got out today, I had to get out and shine the porch light and the yard light, the brass on it and wash the storm doors. I notice I’m programmed to clean out the garage one day this week.

Lack: She keeps a schedule.

Lupton: She makes out a schedule. She sits down and has a calendar. I was telling my doctor last night at the church and told him I need to see him to get a physical. He’s 81 years old and still working (laughter). He said he could probably see me any day. I said well I might call you about tomorrow, but I’ll have to check with my wife to see whether I can go. I’m going to have to put it off (laughter).

Lack: She’s lucky then.

Lupton: She had about a month she had to scrub floors and run the vacuum herself. I had my gallbladder out about a month ago. The doctor told me I couldn't do anything for four weeks. I said are you sure you can’t make that eight weeks (laughter). I was chomping at the bit so I kind of pushed it ahead a full week and got out to do my yard work. After a week, I started sneaking in the garden, picking tomatoes that wasn’t that much work to do.

Lack: Well it keeps you fit and nice and trim.

Lupton: I walk. I go to walking at the mall Monday, Wednesday and Friday at least and sometimes on Thursday. On Tuesday we have a group, have a prayer breakfast at a restaurant we eat at. I stay busy. My father-in-law, we just got him moved over to a retirement home. We see him two or three times a week, doing things for him.

Not quite as convenient now that he’s in the nursing home. It’s not but a couple of miles away. It’s a retirement home, not a nursing home. Luxury living to me, Lake Shore Commons. He says he’s got the biggest house of anybody in the family (laughter). Great big house with the nicest cafeteria, dining room.

Lack: So he’s doing good.

Lupton: Well he’s been there two weeks. He likes soul food better. He says they cook that food, they’re too many Yankees that come down here. I thought it was good, I’ve eaten out there.

Lack: Well maybe it’s healthier.

Lupton: That’s what we tell him, they don’t put as much fat and grease in it. Help you live longer.

Lack: Well we’re running out of time. I’m going to turn this off before we run out of time. I’d like to thank you very much.

Lupton: I’ve enjoyed it for what it’s worse. Nobody will probably ever look at it (laughter).

Lack: Oh, that’s not true.

Lupton: Do people actually come up here and look at these things?

Lack: Yeah, we do catalog them and for example, Jerry Chin, we did many hours with him.

Lupton: He’s quite a character.

Lack: And people have come to look at that. In fact, some people have come back cause they’ve been in touch with me and they realize there were some things they didn't get to say. So I’d like very much if you were interested in coming back. For example, Dr. Dankel from math, he was so quiet and thought he wouldn't have anything to say, but we managed to have a couple of hours.

Thank you very much.

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