A Look Back: Janet Morford and Bill Sutton reflect on their years at Uni

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Bill Sutton relaxes in his office on his final day

Bill Sutton relaxes in his office on his final day

Bill Sutton relaxes in his office on his final day


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This year marked the end of the Uni careers of both Subfreshman Social Studies teacher Janet Morford and US History teacher William Sutton. Morford had been teaching since August of 2006 and Sutton since August of 1992. Below are their reflections on their time at Uni. Enjoy.

 

On what they were doing before Uni

 

MORFORD: So I was living in Connecticut and I was teaching at a public middle school in Central Connecticut. But I was teaching French before I came here, so this was an important change for me – to go back to my roots in the social sciences.

I studied both French and the social sciences. But I had been teaching French for a number of years and hoping that at some point I would get a chance to return to the social sciences. And Uni offered me that opportunity.

I grew up mostly in Indianapolis and then lived in lots of different places to go to school and then lived in the Philadelphia area and then in Connecticut with my family. Then my husband was hired by the university and that’s why we came here.

 

SUTTON: I was selling drugs to middle school students and–

 

MORFORD: [laughs]

 

SUTTON: [unintelligible] homeless drunks. And also going to grad school and procreating like wildfire. [He was studying] US History. Cultural and intellectual.

 

Morford on why she came to Uni

 

MORFORD: Well, I was already coming to Champaign-Urbana. I had read about Uni and it seemed like a really interesting school. Then particularly when I found out they were looking for someone to teach the younger students which I had been doing and discovered I really liked, because I’d been at this middle school for five years, I liked that age group. Then I also found out about the Oral History Project and that was the clincher.

 

SUTTON: So how’d you hear about Uni, though?

 

MORFORD: Actually, a parent… what’s his name? His son was named Rob.

 

SUTTON: Pearson?

 

MORFORD: No, no, the name will come to me. Anyway, a parent who was going to be a new colleague of my husband’s heard about the opening at Uni. It was kinda late in the year that the person that was in this position– Jenny Kim?

 

SUTTON: Yeah.

 

MORFORD: Her husband got a position, so she was leaving. So this parent passed on the word and I applied, thinking, “Oh, I’ll never get in there.”

 

SUTTON: [laugh]

 

MORFORD: I still remember Bill Sutton, sitting in the audience [during] the lunch meet-and-greet, when I did my talk. And I remember that Jenny Kim had told me in passing when I was getting ready for my interview, “Oh, Bill Sutton, he’s the nicest man ever!”

 

Both: [laugh, Sutton loud hearty laugh]

 

SUTTON: Man, see what kind of lies get spread around here?

 

Sutton on why he came to Uni

 

SUTTON: Well that’s a really interesting story […] I was finishing up my degree and I was looking for jobs and I was finding absolutely no one that was interested. I mean, I wasn’t done yet, so I was still what they call “ABD”, I was very close to being done but I wasn’t done.

I was pretty much freaking out, I just didn’t have a job, but I did have a family with three kids. So, one day, this professor comes by the house to pick up a meal because my wife had sort of developed this meal thing on the side. And he mentioned to me — he saw that I was distraught over these [lack of] future prospects — and he said, “Did you ever think about teaching at Uni High? They have a position open and I think you’d really be good for it.” Because this guy, you know, knew me.

And it was just the weirdest thing. I mean, I’ve lived here most of my life, I’ve always known about Uni, and never once did it dawn on me. They’d even called me like a year, half a year, earlier when I was working on my dissertation, when Joanne Wheeler walked out in the middle of the year, and said “We desperately need somebody just to fill in the half a year.” I had a fellowship at that point and I really couldn’t do it anyway. He mentioned it and it was just like, “Huh. That’s an idea.” And so, he wrote me a letter of recommendation before I even applied for the job. Once I got here, once I met the students, once I had a chance – as part of the interview – to interact with the classroom, I thought, “Oh, I could love this job.”

 

Sutton on what attracted him to Uni

 

SUTTON: The kids, the students. The pay.

 

MORFORD: [laughs]

 

SUTTON: They were engaged, they were involved, they laughed at my jokes, they acted like they wanted to learn things and they paid attention. But I also liked that they really didn’t seem to suffer fools easily. It wasn’t like they just wanted to be entertained, they really wanted to know what I knew and if I knew it well enough to challenge them and keep them entertained and it was just — that was totally it: The students.

 

On his impression of Uni as a child

 

SUTTON: You know, growing up in Urbana, we always referred dismissively to Uni as “Puny Uni”. Their sports teams just sucked. Which is really just hard to imagine now because their athletic teams are so routinely excellent.

 

MORFORD: They took a while to turn around, right?

 

SUTTON: Yeah. You know, they held the record for most consecutive losses for basketball. It was something like six years between losses. So we called them “Puny Uni” and it seemed like it was a school for professor’s kids, my dad was a professor, but professor’s kids that were just sort of really in the ozone, sort of really nerdy. It just never dawned on me to have anything to do with Uni. I knew a few kids in high school that were peripheral to the circle of friends I ran around with that went to Uni, but it was just sort of this weird place that was out there. Never dawned on me that it would be the place that I would find so absolutely great and wonderful.

 

Morford on her first impression of Uni

 

MORFORD: Well, there was this nice man named Bill Sutton.

 

SUTTON: [light chuckle]

 

MORFORD: The students really did seem to feel great ownership of the school. I’d actually toured the school before I knew that there was a job here, I had toured it when we were trying to figure out if this was a place that we’d encourage our son to apply to or not. And actually, Bill Sutton was a part of that memory also, because Sue Kovacs was giving me and my husband a tour of the school – she was Assistant Director when I was hired – so she was taking us on our tour and you [Sutton] were doing your seminar one floor up.

 

SUTTON: Oh!

 

MORFORD: In that little room there, when it had that table in it.

 

SUTTON: Oh yeah!

 

MORFORD: And you were sitting there with feet up on the desk and kids were sitting around talking with you and Sue comes along with us and flings open the door. You’re just sitting there unperturbed and the kids are like, “Who are you?”, you know, they were just like totally in their element.

Like Bill said also, from the first time I was here as a candidate being interviewed for the job, I think everybody was interesting and everybody was thinking. I’d read stuff about the school at that point and it seemed like a really intellectually vibrant place.

But also, it was secondary school and, like Mr. Sutton, I had a PhD and I had thought initially that I would be going to teach at the college level and it didn’t work out. I also started to realize that much more doing research and writing, what I really liked was the teaching, so I could get that satisfaction and I could get the privilege of being part of a community of people and really getting to know students by teaching at the secondary level.

 

On adjusting to the atmosphere

 

MORFORD: For me it was actually a little bit easier to adjust to than my– I had made the big adjustment in going from higher education to a middle school. An ordinary middle school, where every single moment of your day was counted and where you had fifteen minutes in the whole day where you don’t have to be in a particular place. So coming here, it was like, “Oh, okay! I have prep time! I have time– I can think! I can actually think!” You know, instead of constantly being in different places. So… no. I mean, it was nice. It was really nice. Of course, yeah, you have to teach new things and you have to get used to new things, but it’s a good place to go to.

 

 

SUTTON: Well, you know, it’s interesting, because Janet taught subbies.

 

MORFORD: That’s true.

 

SUTTON: So, they didn’t know what the school was. They were all new to each other. But I taught juniors and one of the things I was really taken aback by was that they felt like they owned the school and I was there at their sufferance. If I earned their respect, they would give it to me. If I didn’t, they wouldn’t. Like I said, they were not gonna suffer fools lightly.

I actually had a situation my first year where a number of my students went on strike. They just, they got up and they just walked in the back of the room and they just sat in the back of the room and they glared at me. The day before there was this class that had these three guys that were just obnoxious.

One of them, ten years later, I saw him in a restaurant somewhere and he actually got up and came over and said, “I’m really sorry I was such an asshole when I was your student.”

So, these three guys, just really obnoxious, but I was just as obnoxious when I was their age so it wasn’t that big a deal, you know, to me. But one day, one of them just wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop, and finally another one, a different one, made some sort of comment I didn’t hear. But the way the kids were reacting it was clear that it was really inappropriate. I was just fed up, I said, “Okay, you, out of here.” So I kicked him out and they were pissed because I’d put up with this other guy the whole hour and then I’d singled this guy out to throw him out of class. He wasn’t doing anything bad. When I asked him the next day, I said, “What’d you say?” and he said, “I’m not gonna tell you.” And I said, “Was it that bad?” and he said, “Yeah! I don’t blame you for throwing me out. You should’ve.” But they [the other students] were mad because the whole thing didn’t seem fair to them and they owned the school, right? So they went out on strike. And they glared at me.

 

MORFORD: Is that when Abby and David–?

 

SUTTON: [chuckle] Yeah. So it was a class of juniors but I had these two seniors in there. […] One of them was paying attention, the other one wasn’t paying attention at all.

 

MORFORD: Well, he was paying attention to her.

 

SUTTON: Yeah, right.

 

MORFORD: [laugh]

 

SUTTON: And catching up on his sleep. But they were seniors, so they were above the juniors, right? SO they saw this display by the juniors and they were like, “Screw that, we’re gonna be on his side.” They came up to the front of the class and they answered all my questions and at least Abby stayed there the rest of the year. […] The rest of them got over it by the next day.

 

MORFORD: When you mention that dynamic with the juniors, my first year and a half I also taught one section of 9th grade World History. And there was a similar sort of, “Who do you think you are?”, but they were only 9th graders. And it was just that first year, by the next year, even though I had 9th graders again, I had had them as subbies the year before.

I agree with you, I think that does make a difference. It’s sort of the ugly side of the sense of connection that Uni students feel. They can be a little standoffish with new people.

 

SUTTON: They put people through the ringer. I’ve seen them make life pretty miserable for some first-year teachers. It used to be worse. Abby was telling me at one point they had a teacher that burst into teachers and threw chalk at the students and walked out and quit. This was a fairly unbalanced English teacher but, you know. But, yeah, I kinda like that idea that kids feel like they have some ownership of the school.

 

On independence and sense of ownership of the school today

 

SUTTON: I mean, I think there’s somewhat of it, but what I’m sensing [in] students today is that you all kinda do whatever people tell you to do, at least in school. […] Sometimes I find that a little . . . scary is not too strong a word . . . but bothersome. I would be interested in seeing a little bit more spark and kickback. My sense of it is that everybody’s scared to death that they’re not gonna get into the good, perfect college that they have to get into and that their life is going to be completely ruined by the time they’re 17. I just think that’s, I think that’s terrible. To have to live your young lives [that way].

 

MORFORD: I don’t know, I don’t know, because I have mostly worked with subbies. I’ve worked with older students but in the context of things like the WILL intern program and Habitat and things [like that]. This semester is the first time I’ve actually taught juniors and seniors with [Interdisciplinary Thinking]. So that’s been eye opening, to get a sense for the rhythms of life for juniors and seniors in that sense. I do think that today they’re certainly under a lot more pressure than I was when I was in high school.

 

SUTTON: Oh, yeah.

 

MORFORD: I think the whole college thing has gotten so ramped up it’s pretty crazy. I don’t know that I could say in the time that I’ve been here though.

 

On what has changed the most

 

MORFORD: Uni has always gotten by on a shoestring, but there has definitely been a sense of tightening of possibilities. Losing the two houses and having everybody moving here, there’s just less of a sense of carefreeness. I think it’s unfortunate, I think it comes from the broader budget situation that the state of Illinois is in and a lot of belt-tightening that’s been going on at Uni.

I think that definitely there are things that Uni has improved upon. I think that making sure that every single student has access to a laptop is a good thing. It took a long time for it to happen. There are parts of that that we’re still learning how to deal with, but I think that that has really been a very good thing.

At the same time, I know that in order to make that happen there were some pots of money that got eaten away and it’s too bad now that there aren’t funds to support students who want to go on school-related travel or things like that. It feels like we used to have more of a cushion that we could work with. I think things have been lost because of that.

Another big thing that I think has changed, in the time that I’ve been here is that these are the years when habitat club was created and Spring Club. Initially, the connection with the Delta was kinda [Sutton’s] thing, Then, gradually, [Sutton] got me very deeply involved and Ben [Leff] has been involved in the past couple years. For me, that has grown to feel like something that is an extension of our department in a sense, and that has been very very cool. Since you’ve been here, there’s been a Habitat and a Spring club, and they’re really thriving groups and that happened because of students. It’s been very very exciting to see that happen and to see that continue to happen, particularly in the context of the University being concerned about money and penny-pinching, to have this kind of expression of generosity and authenticity and ongoing concern with what really matters.

 

On the History department

 

SUTTON: There’s no doubt that [the tightening of possibilities] is true. At the same time, I think that particularly as a faculty I think that we have been able to transcend a lot of that and continue to do what we do well and what we do best and I think that that is particularly true in the Social studies department. […] This has been an unbelievably supportive and enriching place for me to work for 25 years. Every single person that’s in the history department just brings so much energy . . . [and] love. This is a really fun place to go to in the morning and be anytime.

When I got here 25 years ago, Chris Butler could very well have gotten alpha male about the new man in the [school]. And here I am with my degree, and none of that! From the moment I walked in he was completely supportive. [Quoting Butler:] “If you need anything, if you need material to get through Western Cave, here you go, here’s mine, I’ve prepared it.” It was just unbelievable.

When Janet gets here, we say, “Sorry but you’re going to have to be the executive teacher.” So Janet takes on that role on top of the teaching role. You know, we’re not the most easy people to herd and she’s just done it with such grace. I mean, I may have probably irritated you, but I’ve never felt that you have irritated me with what you have to do, which is, you have to take care of these things. There are just a few things we have to take care of, like go to meetings, get your grades in and stuff. We got all this collaboration and support.

And since Ben’s been here, it’s just been more of the same with sort of this added feature of “God, it’s really fun to see a young person with energy do that stuff!” Not that Janet’s that old, it’s just for me and Chris, it’s like, “That’s what we used to be, we used to do that! I used to coach baseball and teach and do whatever else!” I can’t even imagine that now. This particular department has just been a godsend and that’s gonna be one of the really hard parts, for me, about leaving. Thankfully, Janet’s leaving too so I don’t have to worry about that. But it’s really been special. So we get the kids who we love and then we get this on top of it.

And I was around the university enough, I was a professor at the University for a year, I was around that scene, and it was like being in junior high again. It was so petty, I don’t know if it still is, but it was just so disappointing. These are highly intelligent adults and it’s like being back at junior high school with the sort of pettiness. As grad students, we decided that we were gonna be supportive of each other and they were mad about that. So to come here, it’s just a breath of fresh air from the beginning. It’s really never stopped, but it has gotten progressively better and better – we’ve had good colleagues the whole time, but now we have fantastic colleagues.

 

Bill Sutton smiles before his final US History class

 

Sutton on Habitat and Spring

 

SUTTON: I’d say that they are the most fulfilling and happiest. And the fact that they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, knowing that Janet and I will be in Clarksdale together sometime, and that Ben continue to bring kids down – at some point kids that I don’t even know – it is most definitely [fulfilling]. It’s even better than hosting baseball

 

 

Morford on WILL

 

MORFORD: WILL has been very important for me and been very gratifying to be able to develop it. Frustrating, at times, when WILL’s situations and funds and stuff have changed and being able to adapt to that. But it’s been a really wonderful way to get to know this community, to do all these projects. With each project, you meet new people and you learn new stories, and that’s been really amazing. I’ve loved working with the students and learning things from the. They’re the ones that taught me Google Drive and all this collaborative stuff I might not know about otherwise. And seeing their dedication. I feel very good about that and leaving that in the hands of someone who’s very enthusiastic and wants that to continue.

 

Morford on other fulfilling things

 

MORFORD: If I just think of this long, long stream of students that I’ve been able to interact with and to help grow in various ways and get to know, that’s, for me, much more gratifying than having a publication or being invited to a conference. And, again, I think we both come out of this academic background where people measure their worth in terms of these marks of recognition by the discipline. I think just having had the opportunity to work with colleagues in this department and in the subbie team […] things like that I’m really grateful to have been a part of.

 

On their favorite memories

 

[At this point, Sutton and Morford traded jokes and references in sentence fragments about Clarksdale that I had no context for and that were largely drowned out by laughing. But it sounded adorable.]

 

MORFORD: Here’s one, there was a spirit rally – the year that one of the soccer teams went to state – and in front of the entire school I kicked a ball and it went into a goal. It was the only time I’d ever done it and the only school was watching! It was awesome!

 

SUTTON: Being at basketball games and discovering they need somebody to lead cheers and discovering that I could go with the normal Uni cheers and twist them in inappropriate ways that people seem to enjoy, do you know what I’m talking about? I don’t need to give you one of those?

 

[Both laugh]

 

SUTTON: That’s been an awful lot of fun. Walking down one of my former students down the aisle at her wedding, because her parents wouldn’t come to her wedding, that’s one of the major memories that I’ll always cherish. Watching some of these students do what they do in Clarksdale and knowing that I was part of the start of that has just been incredibly rewarding. None of that was on my to-do list, I didn’t plan any of that.

Just being able to laugh and have fun and yet do what we do in a serious way. Just day-in and day-out. I get up in the morning and still, I think, “I get to go to school, I get to be in the classroom.” That’s gonna be rugged to do without that. I’m not gonna miss the grading and I’m not gonna miss the whining and I’m not gonna miss people screwing around on their computers. But the actual interactions in the classrooms, I am gonna miss that. That’s just every day for us.

 

MORFORD: Here’s a classic Uni moment for me. It was when we were in our office over there at lunch and there was the usual hubbub in the hallway. This was before we had this Plexiglas, you really see well through the doors. Chris and I were in there in lunchtime and we’re talking, then out of the corner of my eye I see kids swinging at each other and I’m like, “Chris, Chris, they’re fighting!” Of course, I’m not gonna jump in the middle, I’ve learned that, but I’m like “We’ve got to do something!” So I jump up, open the door, and I’m like, “Stop it!” Click. It was one of those theatre fighting things and yearbook was there and they took a photo. God, only at Uni would the fighting be just for the theater.

 

On the “good, serious” side of Uni

 

SUTTON: When you know that a student has sort of made the connection between some of the stuff that’s gone on and that’s really bad and really wrong and the way in which they realize, “Oh, I can do something about that” or “I am doing something about that.”

 

MORFORD: One week, when we were in Mississippi, on the last night when we have this big debriefing discussion and it was in the context of this discussion, and I think it was George Gunther, he said, “There’s all this oppression and it wasn’t my doing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do something about it.” We kinda looked at each other and my hair was standing up. It was such a mature perspective for someone his age and I knew that that was the product of lots and lots of education on all sorts of levels.

 

SUTTON: Yeah, that’s a perfect example. He was talking about privilege and how he understands that he’s benefited from privilege but it really wasn’t his fault – and it really wasn’t! So now, what he could do with that is he could sit back and do nothing or he could use that to see what he can do to change things. I’ve never heard anything like that come out of a kid.

There was another kid, who said “I’ve learned more in five days down here than I’ve learned in five years at Uni.” And he wasn’t denigrating what he’d learned at Uni, because this was a kid who’d really took advantage of the opportunities, just that there was something else going on there that really opened his mind.

 

On disappointments at Uni

 

SUTTON: [chuckles] Dangerous ground… I very rarely, very rarely, have been disappointed in students. Once in a great while, I will be frustrated by what it seems to me, the inattention to the seriousness of what we might be talking about. It’s very rare, but it does happen.

 

MORFORD: And it can be really tricky because you can’t always pinpoint who is paying attention and who is taking something seriously and who isn’t. But this certainly was not a big deal. My first group of subbies – at that time the science teacher, Pat Morris had organized a field trip to go to the field museum in Chicago – we were studying Ancient Egypt and I wanted them to go see the Egyptian exhibit and they had questions they had to answer and everything. They took it like most eighth-graders on a field trip, you know, blowing it off. I remember being, like,” Wait, but you’re Uni students! Why did you blow this off?” I didn’t exactly chew them out but I sort of expressed my frustration to them, then I felt embarrassed for them, then I felt embarrassed for myself. Then, the next day a parent came and said, “I’m so glad you told them that, because you’re right!” I think disappointment, is just a matter of not having communicated things well and not having understood all of the dynamics of a situation. That’s a situation I should have understood better, I should have understood how excited they were and how for them it was as much about getting things from the gift shop and avoiding the nasty guard as it was about learning about how a shaduf works. But I think much, much more often, I’ve been just wowed by the creativity and the devotion and dedication of students and the things they can do and the things they can come up with.

 

Janet Morford smiles before her final Intro to Social Studies class

 

On relations with U of I

 

MORFORD: I guess for me, if there’s any disappointment, it’s with respect to the university. Uni continues to do wonderful things and to help incredible young people hone their skills as student and I have been surprised by the lack of appreciation for that from the university.

 

SUTTON: And it’s not just appreciation, like, tell us that they appreciate us, they just devalue us. It’s not that they should be telling us what a great job we do, just that they don’t pay any attention to it. If they do, it’s just like “Psh, whatever.”

 

MORFORD: It’s not like we want kudos or anything, but…

 

SUTTON: There’s great stuff going on, and they act like there isn’t. They’re just oblivious, and that’s frustrating. It’s just really frustrating.

 

On what they would say to the U of I

 

SUTTON: “Tell me the truth, why do you think educating young people is important. Just tell me, don’t give me any of that bullcrap. Tell me why you think educating young people is important. If you can tell me that then I can tell you what’s happening at Uni High and if you’re honest about it, you will embrace what goes on at Uni High without any question. And if you’re not honest about that, why don’t you go get a job somewhere else?” But, that’s the nature of large academic institutions, they don’t at all about actually educating young people. It’s a big, freaking business and it’s like every other big freaking business. It attracts ambitious, power-hungry, amoral individuals, so that’s what we end up with. That may be a little too strong.

 

MORFORD: I think there are a few moral individuals.

 

SUTTON: But, I mean, that’s what I would like to say to them. “Who are you? Where do you line up in this?”

 

MORFORD: [She’d want them] to kind of put Uni in perspective and see all that Uni does with a very limited budget and start supporting Uni and start giving Uni what it needs to be better. I think Uni can be better, I’m not saying Uni is perfect, I think Uni does need to continue and evolve and change and up its game, but I feel like there’s been a kind of cheapness on the part of the University, just a desire to see how much they can get from us.

 

SUTTON: [laughs] Yeah, to see how much they can get for nothing.

 

On areas they would like to see Uni improve

 

MORFORD: I do think that some of the discourse about active learning leads to parody and so on. Because it’s not a matter of a particular kind of classroom. I do think that that is really important. I’ve learned a great deal by co-teaching with Ben Leff. He’s a master of it. And I think that there are a number of people on the staff who really are good at it. And I think it’s important for the staff not to be complacent and just used to doing things a certain way.

 

SUTTON: It’s hard to talk about “the staff”. Because, on the hand, you’ve got Ben [Leff], you’ve got Dave Stone, you’ve got Sharlene [Denos], you’ve got people who are just pouring themselves into this. Then you’ve got some other folks who are good, but they haven’t changed anything in a long time, and that’s god enough, but you know.

 

On the incoming teachers

 

SUTTON: I’m very very excited about the people who are gonna be replacing us. I think they’ve, somehow – well, you were on the search committee, Janet- managed to really find the kind of people that Uni’s gonna need. I know that taking the pay cuts they’re going to have to take is going to be an issue for their families, because it is. That’s the way it is. The University could step that up. I understand that they need to put their name on that or whatever, but again, if they’re serious about what they say they’re supposed to be doing, it’s not rocket science.

 

MORFORD: Again, I think that people at Uni, both students and faculty, aren’t expecting a sparkling brand new facility or anything like that. I think we’re pretty happy with being able to do our thing, it’s not like we’re asking for a lot. But I think that having signs of the University’s investment in us and willingness to help the school move to where it needs to be, I think that would go a long way.

 

On the future of Uni

 

SUTTON: Well I do [have worries], because it belongs to the University of Illinois. Watching the University of Illinois my entire life and watching the way it treated my father and other people, I have zero respect for it as an institution. This is what runs our show, so yeah, I worry. But, however it’s been working, it continues to work, it’s continued to work. Whatever the essence of Uni is, is still the essence of Uni, that beautiful part of that hasn’t changed. SO, in that sense, maybe I don’t worry so much. I don’t know how that came about but it does seem to be pretty persistent

 

MORFORD: And I think that change can be really good for institutions. I don’t know if people are just being nice, but people are going “Oh, it’s going to be so sad when you go,” and yeah, it is sad, but on the other hand, it’s also exciting! There’s someone new coming in, and they’re going to bring new things. I mean, we wouldn’t want that to happen all the time, but I mean, I’ve been here for a while and I’ve been able to do certain things but a new person is going to do other things. I guess I would mostly want for Uni students not to be afraid. That things can be different and still be really interesting and really great.

 

On advice to incoming teachers

 

MORFORD: Just be yourself.

 

SUTTON: Be supportive, look out for each other. The way that we have. The way that we’ve done. Just recognize the strengths of what goes on here and benefit from them. I mean, I’ve benefited enormously from being able to teach these students. SO let that happen. Just resist the nonsense, identify at nonsense and keep it at arms-length. Embrace all the good that the students and the faculty and the traditions of the school [bring to the school].

 

On what they’ve taken away from the school

 

SUTTON: You know when you’re young you don’t know how your life’s gonna work out and one of the things you might think is “When I get old, what am I gonna think about?” And I’m old. And I’m thinking about, “How did this ever happen to me? How did I win the freaking lottery, you know?” That’s what I’m taking away from this

 

MORFORD: This was a great place to work, to learn, to grow, to do lots of things. I’m not retiring but I also don’t know what I’m gonna do next, so I’m kind of in this limbo situation. But I think that being at Uni has definitely reminded me that some of the most rewarding, gratifying things that you can do in life might come in some surprising packages. They might not be what you expect of them, but just keep your eyes open and keep engaging. Like Bill was saying, there’s great people here. There’s things that are annoying, but that’s true in any place. Just take advantage of knowing the people that you’re with and doing things together. Getting into platitudes now.

 

SUTTON: [chuckles]

I am so grateful that this was the major share, the major portion of my life as an adult. When I look back on my life, besides raising my kids and being a husband to my wife for 38 years, this was a major part of what my life was. And it’s just fun to sit there and say, “Wow. Who knew that was gonna happen?” And I don’t think there were a lot of people who get to do that. Maybe there are. But I don’t think that that’s a given. I could have easily been one of those that sit around like, “Shoot, I really missed the boat on that.” I mean, that was definitely the direction I was headed.

 

On what they want to leave behind and tell the students

 

MORFORD: The adults around here realize the pressure cooker you live in, but we also want each of you to just be yourself. Just to have confidence that none of us knew exactly how things were going to develop. Really listen to yourself and you’ll find your way

 

SUTTON: For me it always comes back to these short little Bible verses: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.” That’s what I would leave with the students. And as Jan would say, “Love yourself.” It’s hard to love other people when you haven’t figured out how to love yourself. And you’re worth it. That’s the other thing I would say to all of you, that you’re eminently totally worth it. There are forces telling you constantly that you’re not, so resist those.

 

On what they look forward to in their futures

 

MORFORD: Actually being with my husband is the number one thing, because we’ve been commuting this year and that’s not easy to do. I’m really looking forward to making a new home with my husband and starting a new chapter together.

 

SUTTON: I’m looking forward to continuing to build on the communities that we’ve been privileged to build on. I have no interest whatsoever in losing touch with my students. So I’m looking forward to building that community, I hope that we’re somehow able to do that in Michigan as well. See what we can do.

 

 

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “A Look Back: Janet Morford and Bill Sutton reflect on their years at Uni”

  1. Ellen Rispoli on June 1st, 2017 5:40 pm

    First I want to extend the most sincere thank you to these incredible teachers and mentors I had to privilege to learn from. But secondly, how can we keep in touch and continue to see what lies in store for them after Uni?

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A Look Back: Janet Morford and Bill Sutton reflect on their years at Uni