Graduation Chances Improve With 5 A.M. Class (475)

MARTIN, Tenn. — What self-respecting college student would enroll in a class scheduled at 5 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

At the University of Tennessee-Martin, Dr. Henry Parker believes he knows enough interested students to fill such a class.

Philosophy 130, the name of Parker’s course, this fall will offer students the chance to earn three hours credit, while learning how to succeed in college.

Parker’s confidence is based in part on the class’s popularity when it was given a trial run this semester as a non-credit course — also at 5 a.m.

The early start time is fundamental to the course, Parker said.

“It’s the discipline,” he said. “It’s learning the time management skills you need to take a class at that time of the day.

“In class the students also learn how to plan all the other hours of the day and of the week.”

Although Parker rises at 3:45 a.m. to meet the class, rigor and discipline are nothing new to the former aide to civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.

At age 18, when many of Parker’s friends were beginning to explore the freedoms of college, he spent the year in a Benedictine monastery leading a life of poverty, celibacy, prayer and meditation.

Philosophy 130 is the latest evolution of a project started several years ago by Parker and his wife, Marilyn Crist, a former academic advisor in the School of Arts and Sciences at UT-Martin.

Named the Graduation Club, Parker and Crist began the project to help students learn how to stay in school and persist through graduation.

Parker said retention of club members began low, but has risen to about 85 percent. Retention at UT undergraduate campuses averages approximately 50 percent.

Parker and Crist describe the lessons students learn through the Graduation Club in a book titled “Apollo vs. Dionysus: A Philosophy to Increase College Success by 85 Percent,” published by Kendall-Hunt in 1997.

The book also is the text used in the course, Parker said.

This fall the course will emphasize time management, tips for making better grades, personal relationships, cultural diversity, and how to make college graduation a certainty.

“It’s a labor of love,” Parker said, describing the course. “The character of our students is beautiful and invigorating.”

Parker recently was selected UT-Martin’s Cunningham Outstanding Teacher-Scholar for 1998.

The award is annually given to a faculty member who has demonstrated strength in teaching and who has made a contribution to the profession through extracurricular achievement, leadership and scholarship.

“The award is also a compliment to an unseen partner, my wife, who makes me what I am,” Parker said. “She is a coach. She is a role model and my toughest critic. I’m just the front man.”

Parker, who has been at UT-Martin since 1990, earned the doctoral degree in Latin and Greek from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

Contact: Joe Lofaro (901-587-7615)