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Thanks, 'Fessor by Kelley Reese
Winter 2003      

story extras

Award criteria

Complete award list

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Thanks, 'Fessor

Rhythm and Rhinestones

Waking Up With Debbie

Capturing the American Dream


While the proverbial lightbulb going off over students' heads may be the most talked about reason for teaching, it's the goose bumps that are the real thrill, according to Juliet Getty, one of UNT's most respected professors.

Others say it's simply the joy of sharing their own passions.

But whatever their reasons, the fact is, many of UNT's professors are talented teachers.

In order to recognize those talents, the students of North Texas select one professor each year whose dedication surpasses the norm and achieves the sublime.

It's a tradition that started in 1958, when the United Students of North Texas (later the Student Government Association) declared the first 'Fessor Graham Day to honor Floyd Graham, music professor at North Texas for 47 years and director of the Aces of Collegeland stage band and Saturday Night Stage Shows for 34 years.

The 2003 recipient of the 'Fessor Graham Award — Richard Tas, professor of merchandising and hospitality management — says if there's any award that a professor would want, it's this one.

"The fact that it's student initiated means so much," he says. "It was such a privilege to be recognized by the students for teaching and instruction."

Because the exchange of knowledge between students and professors is the very core of the university, we went into the classrooms of three past recipients.

What we found — the enthusiasm, the energy, the fun — made it clear why they are award winners.

Juliet Getty
Juliet Getty
Associate professor of merchandising
and hospitality management
1999 recipient
Teaching at UNT since 1986
Class attended: Principles of Nutrition

From constipation and hemorrhoids to the differences between movie theater butter and real butter, Juliet Getty will discuss anything to get her point across.

"My goal is to arm you with information so you can make informed choices … to try to help keep you healthy," she tells the more than 300 students in this fall's 9:30 a.m. audience.

During the 90-minute class, which she also presents at 8 a.m. each Tuesday and Thursday, the students vacillate between being serious about the science behind complex carbohydrates and being overcome with laughter as the realities of our bodies' digestive systems are discussed.

"What did your mothers tell you about swallowing a piece of gum?" Getty asks.

"It'll take seven years to digest," the class responds.

"Where do they get this stuff? Every year I ask that question, and every year I get ‘seven years.' Gum — like any other insoluble substance — comes out of your body just the way it went in. Corn for instance. Anyone eat corn? …"

The students love it. They say so to each other during the lecture. They say so on the message boards that accompany the online course work. And they take notes. Ask questions. Are truly interested.

And for Getty, that is the joy of teaching.

"Teaching energizes me," she says. "I love being in the classroom with students.

"I have fun with it and so do they. And if you're having fun, you learn," she says. "Most people do well in subjects they enjoy, so the idea is to make the subject enjoyable."

Because nutrition is an academically rigorous subject that uses both chemistry and biology as its basis, Getty says it's important to tie the science to reality.

And she says the real thrill is watching her students use what they've learned.

"When they start taking what they learn in class and applying it to their daily lives, you can't ask for better than that. You really can't. It's just — well, it makes all your hard work worthwhile."

P.R. Chandy
P.R. Chandy
Regents Professor of finance,
insurance, real estate and law
1998 recipient
Teaching at UNT since 1981
Class attended: Finance

Finance. Corporate finance. It's difficult, dry, boring.

These common assumptions about the class he teaches are exactly why P.R. Chandy has spent the last 22 years at UNT dazzling students with the relevance, importance and fun that the world of finance holds.

"I believe everyone at the university should take this class. It's that important," he says.

But precisely because responsible money management is serious business, Chandy knows it's learned best when it becomes fun and relevant.

That's why he will wander into class on occasion with a mouth full of fake teeth or sporting a baseball cap with a ponytail wig. It's why he tells jokes and shares stories.

"I just want them to relax — especially on exam day. I try to give them a laugh and help them not be so serious," he says.

It's also why, even though the class focuses on corporate finance, Chandy often incorporates individual financial decisions as examples. He discusses the ins and outs of buying a house or a car as well as credit card issues and retirement planning.

And while the students' goal may simply be to earn a high enough grade to move on in their studies, Chandy is interested in making sure they understand the importance that money plays in their lives.

"Finance can be a tough subject. But this business of money affects everything. It's everywhere, and we all have to deal with it," he says.
"So I try to teach it in a way that will help my students with the choices in their lives."

The thank yous that come his way — after each class and years later — let him know he succeeds.

Fred Hamilton
Fred Hamilton
Professor of music
1992 recipient
Teaching at UNT since 1989
Class attended: Jazz Guitar Fundamentals

The language of jazz is spoken with guitar strings in Fred Hamilton's jazz guitar fundamentals class.

Even though he teaches and guides by description, it is when he plays, and the class's aspiring musicians play with him, that the learning occurs.

"In swing, the second eighth note has to fall later— be-bop. You hear that?" he asks.

The group nods.

"It's impossible to define swing; you can only get it by listening and playing. You have to feel it in your body. Let's play."

And they do.

For one hour every Monday through Thursday, Hamilton plugs in his guitar and leads the students through the basic languages of jazz, blues and swing.

The students play acoustically as a group.

Their faces are clear pictures of concentration and joy.

Each one brings a different amount of experience and talent to the class. It's Hamilton's job to ensure that the non-major guitarist receives as much guidance and help as the virtuoso who performs with the bands in the jazz program.

In addition to the fundamentals class, Hamilton teaches improvisation to jazz majors and a rhythm section master class, and he also directs guitar ensembles.

"My role is as much coach for the really talented students — who simply need to hone their skills — as it is instructor for the rank beginners," he says.

"But no matter what level they're at, they play because they love the sound."

It's the same reason Hamilton plays. And teaches.

"If you love the sound of something, then you want to make each sound that you play as pleasing and meaningful as possible," he says. "When I teach I simply share what I've learned from playing."

The trick, he says, is to nurture that love of sound and instruct without doing anything to stop the aspiration.

"There's no diminish there," he tells the class. "Let's do it again."



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