Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

June 9, 2014

History professor retiring

Familiar face has been teaching for 46 years

ASHLAND — The first hurdle in interviewing Ernie Tucker is finding a place to do it.

The Ashland Community and Technical College history professor’s tiny office is crammed with vintage tools and other eastern Kentucky artifacts so there’s no place for two people to sit down.

A sunny table outside the main college entrance provides room to stretch out, but half the passersby feel compelled to stop and expound on Tucker’s teaching prowess.

After 46 years at ACTC, Tucker has taught more than 13,000 students and most of them remember him as an inspiration and a role model and aren’t shy about saying so.

There is no second hurdle because an interview with Ernie Tucker consists mostly of asking brief questions and settling back for detailed stories — stories about his Baptist missionary parents, his early days as a junior high teacher, his first Ashland Community College office in a ramshackle former public school, his penchant for engaging people in grocery store lines to learn about folk medicine, and the teaching strategies he has honed over close to five decades.

Tucker, with his ever-present golf cap and easy smile, is among ACTC’s best-known professors; when not teaching he can be seen about town in his vintage Triumph sportscar.

He is retiring from ACTC at the end of June, leaving a big hole in the fine arts and humanities department, where his classes were among the most popular.

“We’ve had a running joke that he’s not allowed to retire until I do,” said department head Carol Greene. “When he told me he was retiring I said, Ernie, you can’t do this,” she said. “He will be hard to replace.”

Tucker came to what was then Ashland Community College in 1968 after teaching junior high school for five years. They were tough but formative years during which he developed his signature teaching approach that combines his sense of fun with high expectations. “I teach students how to learn, and they really get into it,” Tucker said.

An effective teacher’s main job, Tucker believes, is to inspire students. It is a belief he has carried since his own college days at the University of Louisville, where he admired professors who combined eccentricity with total mastery of their academic field. “They seemed to know everything, these professors with their wide range of knowledge. It was extremely impressive to me.”

Early on, Tucker assumed he would go into business, but history seemingly was in his blood. He traces it back to his mother, whose roots were in Virginia. “You can’t be related to a Virginian and not be interested in history. She was also a southerner, and southerners are genetically connected to history.”

He has taught European and American history, government, political science, economics, and tennis — he remains an avid player at 80 — but is mainly noted for Kentucky history, which to Tucker is as much an avocation as it is part of his profession.

When his students come to class at the beginning of the semester, their first assignment is simple: to find out where their name comes from and what it means, and put their findings into a concise report.

“That gets people started on something they never thought of in their lives, and it also shows them that I am interested in who they are,” Tucker said.

Students find his assignments pay unexpected dividends. “One of our assignments in one of the classes was to complete a family tree complete with family photos and information pertaining to our family,” wrote former student and ACTC career center coordinator Nancy Menshouse in an email. “I am so glad for this assignment, because I probably wouldn’t have done it if Ernie hadn’t assigned it.

“Before my mother died, I had the chance to go through old photos with her.  I really hadn’t looked through these old pictures before and didn’t know who a lot of these people were, but my mother knew them all and shared so much information with me about each one.

“The history class was at least 25 years ago and I still have my assigned folder.  I treasure it,” she said.

Tucker takes his personal approach to the community when he initiates impromptu interviews with people he encounters at flea markets or in the checkout line at the grocery store. For years he has studied folk medicine and old home remedies, and estimates he has interviewed more than 4,000 people, jotting down their comments on napkins or whatever scrap of paper presents itself.

“The first thing I ask them is where they are from, and then I say, what did you do when you cut yourself,” he said. That one question generally is sufficient; some of his interview subjects will keep going as long as Tucker will listen.

His colleagues call him a quintessential community-college instructor, a label Tucker is comfortable with. He likes the open-door admission policies, the wide range of students, and the student-first attitude that permeates the faculty. “We take care of people here at ACTC. That’s true of virtually everyone I know here. It’s a kind of support that pervades the place,” he said.

With the constant demands of class out of the picture, Tucker is looking forward to developing some writing and editing projects. He has a manuscript written by his uncle, who earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago, about growing up a sharecropper in the Shenandoah valley of Virginia. He has three books of his own he hopes to complete and publish.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

Text Only
Local News
  • Golden Corral sends children to camp

    Ashland’s Golden Corral teamed with other restaurants across nation this year to raise $1.5 million to send a total of 3,000 children to Camp Corral.

    July 24, 2014

  • Burglars steal golf gear

    A couple of golf enthusiasts might not make their tee times Saturday because burglars stole golf equipment from their garages.

    July 24, 2014

  • Music instructor claims age discrimination

    The Russell Independent School District is denying allegations of a former band director who claims in a lawsuit the district discriminated against him because of his age.

    July 24, 2014

  • Financial blunder leads to heated board discussion

    In a surprising turn of events, City Manager Ben Bitter’s supervision authority was challenged by the Board of Commissioners after Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs filed a motion to have legal and finance department heads also report to the board in light of a financial blunder by Bitter.
    Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles and City Attorney Richard “Sonny” Martin confirmed a new ordinance will be drafted so the department heads of finance and legal counsel will be checked by the board, in addition to Bitter’s current oversight.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stricter enforcement, diagonal spots endorsed to help downtown

    A group of business owners operating along Winchester Avenue — Ashland’s main thoroughfare — asked the Ashland Board of Commissioners to replace current parallel parking spots with diagonal ones, and also for more strick enforcement of a two-hour parking law.

    July 24, 2014

  • National act takes stage at Boyd County Fair

    The Building of Dreams erupted into screams Thursday night at the 2014 Boyd County Fair, as country music fans saw Bucky Covington take the stage.
    According to Ellen Keaton, fair board president, Covington was a favorite on season five of Fox’s talent competition series American Idol.

    July 24, 2014

  • Smoke-free advocates bound for Ashland

    Advocates for smoke-free public spaces are touring the state, starting in Ashland, to drum up support for anti-tobacco legislation they hope to pass next year.
    Smoke-Free Kentucky is a coalition of organizations and people who support a ban on smoking in all public and work places in Kentucky.

    July 24, 2014

  • Ohio State Band Direc_Mayn.jpg Ohio State marching band chief fired after probe

    Ohio State University fired the director of its celebrated marching band on Thursday after determining he ignored a "sexualized" culture of rituals including students being pressured to march in their underwear and participate in sexually themed stunts.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Grimes has pep rally before energetic Democrats

    Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was preaching to the Democratic choir Thursday night at the Wendell Ford Dinner attended by about 700 here.

    July 24, 2014

  • Commissioners challenge city manager’s authority

    In a surprising turn of events, City Manager Ben Bitter’s supervision authority was challenged by the Board of Commissioners after Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs filed a motion to have legal and finance department heads also report to the board in light of a financial blunder by Bitter.

    July 24, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP basketball
SEC Zone