4/28/2010 - Long-time English professor to retire
English Professor "Dr. Dan" says Farewell, JC
Dr. Daniel Thornton will step out of the Judson College classroom this spring after 41 years of teaching. Last year Thornton considered retirement, but after a decline in the stock market, he chose to remain with the college for an additional year.
Thornton said that he will continue his work as rector at St. Wilfred's Episcopal Church in Marion where he's served since 2006. He plans to explore new hobbies such as painting and drawing. He also plans to write, edit and publish a book of poems.
Thornton graduated from Sewanee University, a single gendered university, in 1965, and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Alabama. In 1969, he and his wife, Molly, moved to Marion and he began teaching at Judson. Upon arrival he had no idea that this would be his career for the next 40 years.
Originally Thornton chose Judson over a college in Virginia because Judson was conveniently located between his parent's home in Montevallo and his wife's parent's home in Eutaw. Once settled into Marion, Thornton and his wife never left.
Over the years, Thornton has seen an array of changes on the Judson campus and in the Marion community. The biggest changes he's seen involve the introduction of intercollegiate sports, the decline of field hockey which once involved a travelling all-star team and the introduction of the equine program.
When Thornton arrived at the college 40 years ago, there were around 500 students enrolled and the three year option, a plan allowing students to graduate in three years of fall, spring and summer class was popular on campus.
Thornton also remembers a time when the "J"-the Blount Student Center-- was the hub of campus. At one time students and faculty alike spent time and shared conversation in the "J."
Thornton said that one of his most memorable conversations involved one of his students confused about what to do after graduation.
After becoming involved in an intense conversation both Thornton and the student missed a class. Twenty-five years later, the student contacted Thornton to request a recommendation. She was seeking to become a children's book writer. Thornton was excited that this woman remembered her conversation with him and wanted his help after so many years.
"The things that have made my time here the most pleasant are my relationships and acquaintances with students," he said.
From the classroom to the dining hall, Thornton can be found conversing with students and colleagues alike.
Over the years Thornton learned that "assigned material is a springboard to talk about other things." Although it is important to discuss assigned readings and paper topics, Thornton is not shy to use class time to address issues that are important to both him and his students.
Thornton held the position of head of the English department for 16 of his years with the college. In recent years he passed the position to another member of the faculty, but he served as interim head during the current academic year.
Students recognize Thornton's dedication in the classroom. At the 2009 commencement ceremony, he received the "Lula and Alton Holley Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching."
Molly Thornton, his wife of 41 years, has been employed at Marion Military Institute for 23 years and will retire this year as well.
"Dan has served faithfully the cause of Christian higher education for women at Judson College for 41 years," said Judson president Dr. David Potts.
"His influence upon the lives of generations of students is immeasurable. Alumnae constantly speak of his effective teaching and counsel. We wish him well in retirement and hope that he returns often to campus."
* Article courtesy of the Judson College Public Relations Department.