Retirement Speech

Retirement Speech
Let me start by telling you about my introduction to Chattanooga. Back in February, 1970 when I came here for my job interview I was skittish about flying after a Christmas flight from New York City to Chicago had my plane circling O’Hare airport for what seemed like hours before runways could be cleared of snow for our landing. So…, I took a train from NYC to Chattanooga, riding as the sole passenger between Roanoke and Chattanooga. Sitting up all night and arriving rather groggy, I was jarred to full consciousness as I walked from what is now the Chattanooga Choo Choo—yes real trains still arrived there in 1970—by a man and a woman who accosted me with “Hey boy! Want to go to Florida with us?” That was my introduction to Chattanooga! Needless to say, I walked briskly to the Read House, called my wife, and said something like, “I don’t know about Chattanooga!”
My impressions of Chattanooga, however, improved greatly over the course of my campus visit during the next two days. Strangely, I have no memory of the trip back home on the train, but I do recall being delighted to be returning to New York with offer in hand. Mary was also pleased, I might add, since we were both struggling grad students at the time. Jobs in the subfield European Intellectual History were extremely scarce in the early 70s—probably still true today—and I did not hesitate to take the offer rather than wait to see what would develop regarding two other possibilities, one in St. Louis and one in Washington State.
Chattanooga has been a good perch for both me and my wife and a good place to raise two daughters, one of whom, Elizabeth Terrill, is here tonight with her husband Brian Terrill, and the other, Sarah Carrithers, who resides in Denver and could not be here tonight.
Now let me say that this dinner is really not about me. Rather, it is a way to recognize and remind ourselves of the achievements of so many UTC students whose lives I have been privileged to influence in some small ways and who have enabled me to live vicariously by staying in touch with them after graduation and following their careers with keen interest. I am delighted that some of my former students have been able to arrange to be here, and several have come from quite a distance. You have heard from Cameron Kuhlman who now resides in Savannah. Phil Chastain is here from Charleston, South Carolina. He works for the Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services of the State Department and managed to arrange this trip back home during a busy year that has involved visiting 12 different countries and teaching courses at six different U.S. Embassies abroad. It is so good to see Cameron and Phil again, along with other past students.
And during the past several weeks I have exchanged emails with a good many past grads whose work in distant locations, including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York City, south Georgia, and Las Vegas precludes their being here tonight. Their emails have brought back many good memories. Just today Fed Ex brought me a bottle of wine from the vineyards at the Chateau de la Brède, Montesquieu’s domicile near Bordeaux, sent by Frankie Spero, a magna cum laude graduate of UTC and summa cum laude graduate of the University of Memphis Law School, who is now practicing law in Nashville and would have been here tonight except for a conflict with the rehearsal dinner for his sister’s wedding. Frankie reminded me that he enrolled in five of my courses where he was here at UTC, and let me tell you, he was a star! Also today, I received an email from Adam Owenby apologizing for not being able to come from Washington D.C. where he is corporate counsel to a technology company. He did, however, enclose an article he has written concerning what the United States might learn from Israeli laws regarding torture, and it was delightful to have news of his interesting and still evolving career. I vividly recall travelling with Adam and other members of the pre-law club to U.T. Law School years ago and literally holding the front door of the law school open for him as Adam sprinted from a distant parking lot near the football stadium so as not to miss the beginning of one of the classes we were there to observe.
It has been a real privilege to teach here at UTC for so many years and to have been warmly received by so many students who have trekked with me through the wilderness of many, many fascinating subjects in both History and Political Science. Totaling up my teaching in the History Department, the Brock Scholars program, and, of course, the Political Science Department, I see that I have been privileged to offer no less than twenty eight different courses over the years, and I think that has kept me young rather than weighing me down. I have certainly never been allowed to get “stuck in a rut.” Always something different, always something new and exciting. Just last year I introduced a brand new course entitled The Presidency and War Powers that I taught both last fall and during one of this summer’s terms. Great readings and eager students!
I had a job offer back in 1973 from Virginia Commonwealth University to teach half time in their Department of History and half time in their Department of Philosophy (owing to my original training in the history of European ideas), and I am very glad that I chose to remain in Chattanooga in spite of the loss of the history requirement that reduced the History faculty from nineteen to nine before the carnage was complete. Fortunately, I was able to move from History to Political Science owing to my first publication on Montesquieu, and clearly Chattanooga has been very good to me, and also to my wife, who had the privilege to teach for many years, first at the McCallie School and then at Girls Preparatory School.
I wish to thank a number of people for arranging this evening. Let me start by thanking Dr. Deardorff for the idea for this gathering and both Dr. Deardorff and Amy Oaks, our department’s able and hardworking administrative assistant, for planning this event. Not to be forgotten in this context is also Paul Clark, the able Office of Development officer who works on Arts & Sciences projects.
Next, I wish, above all, to thank my wife, Mary Carrithers, for her constant support over the course of many years and for her willingness to share me with that frequent interloper in our home, Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. She has sympathetically understood my obsession with French history and French political thought and, of course, has travelled with me to France on numerous occasions.
I thank, also, Dr. Fouad Moughrabi, past Head of the POLS Department, who could not attend this evening, for many years of friendship and for his added service as my racquetball opponent over the years. Dr. Moughrabi welcomed me warmly into the POLS Department in 1976, as did Dr. David Brodsky and other faculty, and I have always been grateful for that reception and for their friendship.
I would also like to thank several POLS adjunct faculty whose work for the department has been crucial to our maintenance of a very strong pre-law program in the department. Let me start with Judge William Barker who taught for us for twenty years, even while serving, towards the end of his service here, on the Tennessee Supreme Court, eventually as Chief Justice. I also thank Attorneys Russell Fowler, Michael Giglio, Tom Greenholtz, Zac Greene, Jerry Summers, and James Woods for their stellar work for the department.
Thanks to all these very capable adjuncts whose efforts have very ably supplemented the teaching of our regular faculty, we have been able to develop a very strong pre-law program that has been reflected in the lives of many of our graduates. During one particularly good year our pre-law POLS majors accepted invitations to attend law school at U.T., Memphis, Berkeley, Cornell, Boston College, and Emory, and there has never been a disappointing year when our graduates did not compete very well not just for law school admission but for law school scholarships. Just this year one of our majors, Matthew Plott, became the second UTC grad to win the prestigious Woodruff Fellowship at Emory Law School given to only one or two individuals each year, and last year another of our grads, Hunter Knight, won a very prestigious all expenses paid scholarship to Case Western Reserve Law School in Cleveland, Ohio, a scholarship given to just one student in the whole nation who intends to pursue foreign relations and national security law.
There are countless past officers of the department’s pre-law club that I could thank by name if time allowed. I will just bestow my thanks on the four students here tonight, Emily Saylor, Hannah Thomas, Shyloah Bisi, and Eaven Holder. The whole department appreciates the spirited involvement of these students and so many others over the years in club activities that have brought many interesting speakers to campus from the Chattanooga legal community
It goes without saying that working over the years with very talented pre-law students has been very rewarding, and seeing a number of my former students step into the role of adjunct Professor has just been icing on the cake.
I also want to single out Ruth Holmberg for praise and thanks. Her family has been extremely generous to UTC over the years, and, long ago, created the Ochs Professorship, named for her grandfather who left Chattanooga to become publisher of the New York Times. I was very fortunate to hold the Ochs Professorship from 1977 to 2015. Having this position provided key research resources while boosting salary.
I also wish to thank the University of Chattanooga Foundation for providing funds to support research and also recently retired Professor Ziad Keilany for his successful lobbying of then Chancellor Drinnon to get the grant amounts raised to the level where research in Europe was possible for young, not terribly well paid junior faculty. (My starting salary here was $9,500! That’s per year, not per month! But of course that was forty-five years ago.) It was as a result of UTC faculty research grants that I was able to do research on Montesquieu at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Bibliothèque municipale in Bordeaux, and both the British Library and Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in London. Some of Montesquieu’s writings intersect the history of physiology and medicine, and my research for the copious footnotes for a translation I published of Montesquieu’s treatise on climate and human behavior was conducted at the Wellcome Institute’s superb medical research library in London thanks to UTC support.
I also want to take this occasion to express my heart-felt thanks to all those faculty who supported me during my rather long tenure as Department Head—thirteen years; by no means a record, but a long stint. I should single out Dr. David Edwards for special praise. It was he who wrote the initial two-volume self-study that brought accreditation to our Master’s Program in Public Administration during my tenure as department head, and it has been through his expert and steady work as Co-ordinator of the MPA program, assisted by an able faculty, that UTC has been able to retain that accreditation. The Dean of the Graduate School during our initial accreditation effort was Dr. Deborah Arfken, who is here tonight, and her efforts in support of that initiative were instrumental to our achieving our goal.
I also want to express my thanks to the numerous students over the years who have made my teaching worthwhile. We faculty are of course here for them, and when our students respond as positively to what we present and discuss as they have done over the past forty-five years in my classes, it energizes us faculty and draws from us our best efforts. I have been known as a tough grader, and I should thank numerous students, some of whom are here tonight, for enduring such rigor and stepping up their efforts accordingly. And what a privilege it is to be a University Professor. I cannot think of a more satisfying profession. I have been twice rewarded, first just to be a teacher and, second, to have had truly excellent students.
I will close by mentioning that I am of course pleased to learn about the efforts of the UTC Development Office to endow a lecture series that will bear my name. I was amused to hear, over the past summer, that some of my former students who were approached about helping with this, said with a good sense of humor, “Of course, but we need to make sure not every lecture is about Montesquieu!”
I do confess to an obsession with that great French political philosopher, but I have only succumbed to the temptation of teaching a seminar on his thought three times. I have tried to keep all that in balance, realizing that not all would share my obsession and realizing that comprehending Montesquieu’s thoughts on so many subjects requires a background in French history that many students, through no fault of their own, will not possess.
It is my strong hope that the new lecture series will enrich what is already one of the best pre-law programs in the Southeast. As a student at Williams College years ago, I greatly benefitted from evenings when scholars from other university’s journeyed to our campus to present lectures on issues that were of substantial historical or current importance, and it is my hope that the lecture series will bring many diverse viewpoints to our campus and help to enrich and contribute to expanding the intellectual experience of our POLS majors while also bringing alumni back to the campus on a more regular basis.
There are nine individuals who are serving on the Steering Committee for raising the funds for this lecture series, and we all owe them a strong vote of thanks. They are:
H. Franklin Chancey ’85
Charlotte Kimsey ’09
Russell Fowler
McCracken Poston ’82
Zachary H. Greene ’01
Robert Wheeler ’12
Tom Greenholtz ’96
Kellyann Mulroony Johnson ’87
J. Michael Giglio

I will close with a comment on how I envision retirement. I am thinking of it as a long sabbatical since I will be continuing my research and scholarship. I will be working with a Professor at Exeter University in England and a Professor at Dartmouth to finish a project long in the works to publish the first English translations of Montesquieu’s lesser-known writings, and I will also be working to finish a long manuscript entitled Montesquieu and Venice. When a former student, Steven Benjamin Smith, learned of my retirement he wrote from Yale University where he has been a Professor of Political Science for many years now, to say I need to collect my essays on Montesquieu and publish them in book form. Should I take his suggestion and attempt to do that, I would include two unpublished essays I have written, one analyzing Montesquieu’s views on the decline of Spain during the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries and one analyzing his views on the state and religion.
Dr. Deardorf has kindly provided me with office space for a couple more years in our new quarters in Pheiffer Hall, and I hope to remain engaged with the UTC community since that association has meant so very much to me. It is comforting to see the Department of Political Science in such excellent shape under her able and energetic leadership, and I know that the department, under her direction, will continue to push our students in the direction of the very best work they can achieve.
I thank all of you for coming tonight. I look forward to staying in touch with you in the future and to remaining part of the UTC community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *