Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor
After 46 years in education, Professor of English, Rhetoric and Writing and English Department Chair Tom Dasher is retiring at the end of this semester. Dasher has worked at Berry since 2000, when he was hired as provost under former president Scott Colley. He served in that position for seven years, after which he became a professor in the English department. When he entered the department, Associate Professor of English Jim Watkins was the department chair. According to Watkins, Dasher’s specialty is in Southern literature, but that specialization was duplicated in the department at the time.
“At that point, he was very flexible about the kind of classes he would cover,” Watkins said. “He became a model departmental citizen, teaching classes that we needed covered.”
Dasher’s colleagues and students describe him as supportive. Associate Professor of English Christina Bucher, who will serve the next term as English department chair, said that Dasher has always supported her within the department and in her personal scholarly pursuits. She also praised his support of students within the English department.
“He’s very interested in highlighting the accomplishments of our majors, and in finding ways to build the major,” Bucher said.
Senior Meredith Walker said she has found Dasher to be a wonderful mentor in her time at Berry. One of Dasher’s advisees, Walker said that he has encouraged her in her English and education majors and supported her in the classes she has taken with him.
“Hearing about the impact he’s had on past students and continues to have on students really inspires me for my teaching career,” Walker said. “I want to be that teacher for someone someday, that will inspire them in that way.”
Walker has taken four classes with Dasher and enjoys learning from him.
“He is a tough grader, but you don’t learn anything if you don’t challenge yourself,” Walker said. “
As provost, Dasher was instrumental in the formation of the Interfaith Council.
“I think that it has been a force for creating greater religious diversity and awareness in the whole campus of other religions,” Dasher said.
Watkins stressed that Dasher has always been supportive of diversity at Berry.
“He’s been a tireless advocate for inclusion and diversity in the college,” Watkins said.
Before coming to Berry, Dasher received his bachelor’s degree from Davidson College, his master’s degree from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and his doctorate from the University of South Carolina. He taught developmental English at Georgia Southern University, then served at Valdosta State University as head of the English department for 11 years and Dean of Arts and Sciences for six years.
“I never thought that I would spend 40 years teaching, but you know, teaching isn’t bad,” Dasher said with a smile. “In fact, it’s been a great joy. There’s nothing better than loving something passionately and then working with young people to help them to perhaps develop the same passion.”
Upon retirement, Dasher plans to continue to live in Rome and has many ideas for how to spend his time. He hopes to travel, read a lot, audit classes and possibly pick up the piano again.
“You have to recognize when it’s time to see what comes next,” Dasher said. “I’ve always believed that whatever you did, whether you were in your 20s, your 40s or your 60s, should matter, so I’m sure that I will get involved in volunteer activities. They’re things that I care passionately about and I would certainly welcome the opportunity to use what I’ve learned over this year and this life to serve others.”
Though he looks forward to his retirement, Dasher said he will miss Berry and teaching.
“It’s bittersweet,” Dasher said. “There are not a lot of people who can retire and say ‘I retired doing what I love’.”