Hutchison to retire after 31 years at Tech

A grasshopper walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “We have drink named after you.”The grasshopper replies, “Oh, you have a drink named Charles?”

Earl Hutchison Sr. has been telling this joke (and changing the grasshopper’s name each time) to Tech journalism students for many years, but Spring 2011 marks his final semester at Tech. Hutchison will retire after 55 years of teaching, spending 31 of those years in Cookeville after becoming Tech faculty in 1980. His office, located beside WTTU radio station in the RUC, is accented by orange lamplight and wall-to-wall bookshelves dotted with his first-edition book collection.

“I’m going to read a lot,” Hutchison said, referring to his approaching retirement. “I haven’t been able to keep up with new books coming out or do all the writing I’ve wanted.”

Hutchison’s various short stories, essays and articles have been published in journals, magazines and newspapers across the United States. One of his works, “Tropic of Cancer on Trial”, was taken from his 622-page doctoral dissertation and adapted into a CBS radio play in the 60s. He even penned the textbooks for his Freelance Writing and Advanced Reporting courses.

While some professors may avoid playing favorites, Hutchison is quick to mention his Fall 2010 Advanced Reporting students and his current Freelance Writing students.

“I told them that I had to mix up a cocktail with Jack Daniels [after grading their work],” Hutchison said, grinning. “So they gave me a liter of Jack Daniels. And the Freelance Writing students this semester have turned in the best writing I’ve ever seen.”

Hutchison enjoys playing golf, chess and walking his dogs. He also encourages a strict hygiene regimen from Bailey, his cocker spaniel.

“Bailey likes to have his teeth brushed,” Hutchison said. But Hutchison has a history in animal care-he worked cattle for 10 years on a 130-acre farm 30 miles from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn. “Cows are nice creatures. They’re like 1,000-pound pets. They’d follow me around the farm,” he said.

During his career at Tech, Hutchison restructured courses taught within the journalism program and served as faculty adviser to WTTU.

“You have a great deal of independence [being a professor].” Hutchison said. “I like how you can live your life and control when you work and when you don’t. Journalism gave me horizontal and vertical direction in my career.

“I’d like to thank the students for making this a pleasant trip, and my colleagues for working with us to make really good students,” Hutchison said. “Under the direction of Drs. [Russ] Witcher and [Brenda] Wilson, the communications department will be even better than it is now.