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eagle tale

illustration by Shannon Mooney ('94)
Life's surprises by Linda Tyler Rollins

Longevity on campus is full of surprises, and I received my first one when I enrolled as a transfer student at North Texas in 1969. This immediately led to a close encounter of a scary kind with Dean Imogene Dickey. Although I appreciate rules, I did not appreciate being required to move into Kendall Hall at age 22. Surprise!

After I earned my degree, taught English, got married and had three children, my career goal was to be a stay at home mom, but in 1980 I met the North Texas athletics director and commented that I'd like to tutor athletes.

My offer occurred years before the NCAA recognized a need for academic requirements for athletes. It may surprise you to learn that North Texas was among the first universities in the nation to address this issue.

Imagine my surprise when a casual offer ultimately evolved into a two-decade career as den mother to hundreds of athletes. With support from the School of Community Service, we developed two classes in leadership designed to train entering freshmen to become successful college students. As graduation loomed, we taught an upper-level class to prepare them for a major surprise — the real world.

I have amassed two decades of inside stories to tell; however, having no desire to live in the witness protection program, I will only share two "defining moments" (greetings, Dr. Phil) that led to my next unusual career.

As stated, I have a great respect for rules, especially rules of behavior, particularly when it involved my athletes. The dreaded irate phone calls did come in occasionally, and on this memorable day, one of my offensive linemen had been offensive during registration.

The athletes' privilege to register early came from the goodwill of then registrar Joneel Harris. The lineman chose to be rude, and
he chose Joneel. Bad choice. Bad surprise.

I don't recall actually having to use the phone to summon him to my office, but when he arrived, I escorted him to Joneel to supervise the requisite apology. If I could have reached his ear, I do believe I would have dragged him across the parking lot with little effort. Joneel loves this story. The lineman does not. Surprise!

Rules of behavior. Rules of the game. It depends upon which game you are playing. Football games have very strict rules of protocol. They do not kick off at three-ish, and when the ball carrier steps out of bounds, someone blows a whistle. It's difficult to win if you don't play by the rules.

In the fall of 1990, we introduced dining skills into both leadership classes, courtesy of J.T. Whitaker with UNT's hotel and restaurant management program. This event generated a good deal of mirth around campus. "They have to teach the football players how to eat … har, har, har!" A few short years later, the business college followed suit. Surprise!

My interest in Mr. Whitaker's presentation led to another defining moment. In 1999 after I traveled to Washington, D.C., for training to become a certified etiquette and protocol consultant, I retired as assistant athletics director for academic affairs to establish my consulting firm.

Thanks to a life-long discovery process at North Texas, I have flown from the Eagle's nest to expand my base and make a valiant attempt to teach people of all ages to stay in bounds, this time in business and social settings.

Yes, that may include the rules of the game for an afternoon tea party, but no one who knows me is surprised.



About the author

Linda Tyler Rollins is an etiquette and protocol consultant trained and certified by the Protocol School of Washington in Washington, D.C. She conducts training programs in the Dallas-Fort Worth region through her company, Rollins Rules. Her expertise includes international protocol and children's etiquette.










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