Formidable. Intimidating. Tough. Demanding.
Former students of Dr. Elizabeth Hope Jackson don’t have to put their thinking caps on to figure out which legend is being honored now. Dr. Jackson was a force to be reckoned with.
But for those students, colleagues and family members who knew her best, these adjectives aren’t surprising, either: Quick-witted. Devoted. Caring. Even huggable.
A native of Connecticut and a 1930 graduate of Smith College, she came to Maryville in 1935 from the G&C Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. Her job there was Editorial Assistant for the 1934 edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary – then recognized as the last word on proper usage of the English language.
A versatile teacher who would go on to chair Maryville’s English department from 1961 until 1975, she more than ably taught composition and literature – Chaucer was her favorite – but linguistics was her expertise. Her doctorate from the University of Colorado, earned in 1958, was in linguistics, and her dissertation incorporated dialect mapping of the United States and Canada. Later, she would offer an Interim course in Appalachian speech patterns.
Back in 1983, Diane Humphreys-Barlow ’70 was asked to write about her former professor for a FOCUS article entitled “Decade ’60 remembers.” In it, Humphreys-Barlow described Dr. Jackson as “the epitome of the old-fashioned, classical professor who prepared formal lectures and was exacting in her expectations of her students. One exception to this image was her including in her lectures information found on all sizes and colors of scraps of paper.”
Here’s the rest of what she wrote:
“Dr. Jackson was quite proper – she could read the raunchiest selections of Canterbury Tales and tell us the etymology of many of our most forbidden words as if she were speaking in chapel. Yet we noticed another side of Dr. Jackson, especially in Romantic Literature classes – a soft, warm, sensual side. Perhaps this class stands out as richer and more memorable because the subject matter seemed inspirational to her. Her students were her responsibility in and out of the classroom. How humbled I was when she scolded me for eating a Tootsie Pop in an All-College meeting, saying I was setting a bad example. Though the administration eventually loosened restrictions on wearing jeans, I doubt if she ever got used to it. In those rebellious days, there were many of her rules and regulations to challenge. Yet her influence was profound and long-lasting. Her high expectations encouraged us to work harder and learn more thoroughly so that literary ideas – pearls from her scraps of paper – have remained with us for a lifetime.”