Former president of The University of Alabama Guy Bailey said the two English professors he had his freshman year at the Capstone changed his life.
“It’s really unbelievable the effects teachers have on the lives of their students,” Bailey said during a discussion of his linguistics research Tuesday afternoon in Room 205 of Gorgas Library.
Bailey will have the chance to fill the shoes of those two professors he had in 1968 when he returns to Morgan Hall this fall to teach two courses, Intro to Linguistics and History of the English Language.
“For four years everything I knew about linguistics I learned in Morgan Hall and Gorgas Library,” Bailey said.
Bailey said in some cases he even taught when he served as president and provost. He did post-doctoral studies and taught classes at Emory University after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. He served as provost of University of Texas at San Antonio, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and president of Texas Tech University before accepting the presidency at The University of Alabama last fall.
“I’ve never really gotten out of the classroom, and I’ve always kept a hand in both teaching and research,” he said. “I’m ready to be back.”
Bailey stepped down as president on Oct. 31, 2012, just two months after he was hired. He cited his wife’s health issues as his primary reason for resigning.
“What I’ve done since Nov. 1 is focus on Jan’s health,” Bailey said. “Helping her gain the weight she lost in the fall and my preparing to go back to the classroom.”
Bailey said when he discussed giving up the presidency with Chancellor Robert Witt, they also talked about him going back into the classroom.
“With my wife’s health problem it would not be a problem for me to teach at all,” he said. “I mean at some point in the future, it may not be a problem for me to do administrative work either.”
Bailey said he will have more flexibility as a professor than as an administrator. He also said the two positions, administration and linguistics, are more alike than one would think.
“If you look at what I was doing, I was solving problems, problems of research. I was interviewing people. If you interview people and do field work with people, those are really the two key things for administration – solving problems and interacting with people,” he said.
Tuesday, Bailey gave a lecture titled, “Demography and Linguistic Destiny,” in which he discussed his research on linguistics.
Bailey has published more than 100 articles and books on the subject of linguistics. Some of his major studies that he discussed in the lecture included a two-decade long-term study of the language of a small tenant farming town in Texas, with a population of 150, and a large scale linguistics survey he did in Oklahoma.
“There are a lot of great things you can do with linguistics,” Bailey said. “Linguistics also lends itself to collaboration. It gives insight into many different subjects.”
Bailey has studied everything from the transformation and spread of the word “y’all” to the effects the Great Migration after the Civil War had on language across the country.
“How language is changing is a good index of how the culture is changing,” Bailey said.
Jane Stanfield, associated provost for international education and global outreach, worked with Bailey while they were getting their graduate degrees at the University of Tennessee.
“He was an outstanding teacher, and his abilities only increased outside of grad school,” Stanfield said.
She said she would not be surprised if many of the students who attended Tuesday’s lecture signed up for Bailey’s courses next fall.
“They seemed truly interested in the subject matter,” she said.
Jake Boyd, an English and French major, is from Dayton, Ohio, and said a lot of what Bailey said about speech in the South resonated with conversations he has had since living in Alabama.
“His work is impressive,” Boyd said.
Boyd also said he would be interested in taking Bailey’s courses in the fall.
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