Ayres Memories

by Torchbearer Staff July 20, 2010

Thanks to all of you who have shared your memories of Ayres Hall during the run-up to this fall’s unveiling of its major renovation, and please, keep them coming! Sharing your experiences is sparking the memories of your fellow alumni, reminding them of their own stories.

Ayres Hall

Updated October 2010

As a student in Ayres back in 1976, I particularly remember my Math 1550 teachers, Dr. Harvey Carruth and TA Libba Fine. Even after 35 years, their names stick in my mind for what I learned from them and what a great impression they made on me.??I also remember sliding down the hill in front of Ayres on snowy days aboard trays we had swiped from Smokey’s and/or Sophie’s. (Sorry, UT, I guess I owe you for a couple of trays.)  One time, I even shot into Cumberland and slid under a truck. It is a miracle I am still alive….??I also remember climbing up and sitting on top of the glass on the Xerox machines after “droppin’ trou” (as we called it) to copy our naked cheeks—and I don’t mean the cheeks on our faces! ??Ah, the good old days!
—Tim Arnold (’80)

Dr. Brown Ayres was my great grandfather, and I grew up hearing stories about how he had gotten his friend Alexander Graham Bell to help string up one of the first telephone wires so that he could court my great grandmother while she was attending Sophie Newcomb and he was attending Washington Lee. As a graduate student in library science at UT, I recorded my father Terrell Ayres telling this story along with other family stories for a storytelling class assignment. Hands down, this was the best homework assignment ever!

As an undergraduate majoring in psychology at the University of Tennessee, I was proud to attend many classes in the building named after my great grandfather, especially the many memorable and humorous lectures delivered by Dr. Howard Pollio. It was a personal pleasure to attend classes in a building where my family name was regularly spelled correctly. I also recall trudging up the seemingly endless steps to Ayres Hall while dreaming of voting for any candidate running for student government on the platform that he or she would install a ski lift to the top of the Hill for weary students suffering from heat stroke.
—Anne Ayres (’87, ’90)

My first quarter at UT in the fall of 1968 was pretty awful. I was barely 17 years old straight off a farm on the Cumberland Plateau. My advisor had signed me up for a heavy load of chemistry, German, English, zoology, and math. By the time I got to my math class in Ayres Hall, I was overwhelmed and discouraged. But the feeling that I got when I walked into Ayres Hall kept me from quitting college and running back to the farm. It’s impossible to describe this feeling, but I can say that it was one of warmness and belonging.
—Marjorie Bowling Plummer (’73)

While I remember spending lots of time in Ayres Hall (calculus with Dr. Barrett, time in the office of the computer science department getting materials as a TA, and visiting with Ethel Wittenberg), my fondest memory of Ayres Hall has to do with my father, who went to UT in the late ‘30s. He played his recording of the UT chorus singing the alma mater many times for me, and when I first saw Ayres Hall, the words “the stately walls of old UT” just burst into my head.
—Sigrid Levi-Baum (’75)

On a warm, breezy evening during the spring quarter of 1974, I met my college sweetheart. He was playing guitar with two other guys in the courtyard between Massey and Greve. I was too shy to talk to him, but a couple of days later, as I was coming back from class, he was sitting against the breezeway of Greve Hall, “studying” and started talking to me. (He later told me he was waiting for me to come by.) He asked me to a movie at the student center and, afterwards, we walked up to the Hill and sat out under a tree in front of Ayres Hall and talked.  It was there that we shared our first kiss. I had a couple of classes in Ayres and felt a sense of awe whenever I entered the stately building. But what I remember most was sitting outside with Ayres lit up against the night sky—a perfect backdrop for a special moment. Since I’ve moved back to the Knoxville area, I’ve driven by campus a few times for a taste of nostalgia. I’ve yet to pass by Ayres without thinking of that April night in 1974.
—S.D. Wells (’76)

From September 2010 eTorch

In my years at UT (1964-1968), coeds were allowed to wear pants to class only on snowy days. In those days, Ayres Hall was also called “The Hill”… for good reason. So one snowy day, I donned a pair of pants and off I went to attempt the icy climb to my class on the second floor. Back then I suppose it was thought if a young lady were to slip and fall on the ice, it would be very un-ladylike in a skirt or dress. Sure enough, I slipped and fell about halfway up and when I hit that cold ice, I was grateful the rules had been relaxed. I did not mind the fall too much since a handsome fellow scooped me up and walked the rest of the way with me.

Winter had its challenges, but summer in Ayres Hall was hot. I can remember sitting In French class trying to concentrate in the heat. Since the windows were open, in flew what I thought was a fly. Of course, I unsuspectingly swatted, and the wasp stung with all his might. A few seconds later, I had an intense sting on my leg and must have turned red in the face because my teacher asked if I was all right. Luckily she did not ask in French, nor could I have responded in French, due to the fact that expletives were not included in my French textbook.

Forty years later, when I picture the campus in my mind, it is the vision of Ayres Hall that always comes first. And it always leaves me nostalgic, and I wish to relive those days again. The words in our alma mater say it best: “On a hallowed hill in Tennessee like beacon shining bright, the stately walls of old UT rise glorious to the sight.” Those “stately walls” were Ayres Hall, and Ayres Hall was and still is the heart of the University of Tennessee… and I was lucky to be a part of it.
—Linda Ayers (I was asked all the time if I was that “Ayres”) Crumpton (’68)
P.S., I wasn’t.

As a 1952 graduate from the College of Home Economics at UT, one memory I had of Ayres Hall was the year that I had a retailing class on the third floor. The class prior to that one was on the third floor of the Home Ec building, then across the street at the bottom of the hill from Ayres Hall. The professor of the retailing class did not tolerate students being late for his classes, and when the bell rang, he locked the door. As I recall, we had only 10 minutes between classes, and I had to really make a run for it from the third floor of Home Ec to the third floor of Ayres Hall. Heaven help me if the traffic light to cross the street was red, but I never missed a class. Needless to say, I was really in great shape that quarter.
—Faye Johnson Lasky (’52)

The initial sight of Ayres Hall in September 1963 on a sunlit late summer morning was my first—and remains my most lasting—memory of my days at the University of Tennessee. Ayres Hall was then the center of the academic campus. I often had classes from morning to late afternoon in Ayres, and the first time I asked a girl for a date at UT was at the bottom of the steps on the first floor. After I met my future wife during my junior year, we met after classes outside of Ayres and then before lunch. Students unlucky enough to have Saturday classes can recall hearing the band and probably, like me, not hearing a word the professor was saying, itching to get back to change and pick up a date for the game.

I remember charging up the steps on a hot spring afternoon to avoid being late for a class after sitting out in the sun during prime tanning hours. And I can never forget sitting on the hill facing Cumberland Avenue with my then college sweetheart planning an uncertain future. Finally, after my graduation ceremony, I remember sitting on the Hill thinking the same thought of many a graduating senior: What do I do now? How can I leave this place I have come to love?

My wife and I come back as often as we can now, always in the fall when the campus is abuzz with football fever. But we never fail to climb the Hill and look across at the majesty of Ayres Hall, or sit on the steps, or just sit in the grass. The campus has expanded far from the Hill, but our hearts are never far from Ayres. May it regain its former glory.
—Jack Topchik (’67)

One of my most vivid memories of Ayres Hall is as a backdrop to the anti-war (Vietnam) demonstration of May 1970, if I remember the date correctly. I had just exited the building directly across “The Hill” from Ayres Hall after a class. At that moment, several campus policemen began moving from in front of Ayres Hall through the large crowd assembled on the Hill in front of the Administration Building. I’ll never forget the scene as the policemen parted a sea of demonstrators, moving through them in a V formation, wearing riot helmets with white batons extended in front of them, to the Administration Building. I returned to my dorm, Hess Hall, to later watch a newscast of the police dispersing the crowd and ending the demonstration.
—Marlon Yankee (’72, ’74)

From August 2010 eTorch

Ah, yes, the Hill! Many memories of the hill during my freshman & sophomore years at UT Knoxville: spring quarters and naps under the shade trees between classes (strategic scheduling/drop-add) are some of my favorite memories.

But the best one . . .

Math classes in Ayres were my main reason for being in that great building. Luckily, I enrolled the last quarter that business majors did not HAVE to take calculus!  But that did not relieve me from the freshman college algebra courses. My favorite memory of Ayres concerns 2nd quarter algebra. As it was for most freshmen, my class had a graduate assistant as the instructor. Our GA for that quarter was of Chinese descent, I believe. During class, he would get up and try to explain to us how to solve the problems that we were given for homework. He would turn to the chalkboard and begin working out an equation… while explaining it in Chinese! When he finished the equation, he would turn and say (in English), “And the answer is…” Of course, everyone in that room got all that! (Heavy sarcasm there, in case you missed it.) But we made it through his class and on to the cold, cruel world.  But memories of abacus-math class will stay with me for as long as I can still remember UT Knoxville.
—Bob Crawford (’77)

My first Ayres Hall memories are from my first quarter at the university in the fall of 1973. I had an algebra class on the third floor every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. The only problem was that I was in the Pride of the Southland, and we had band practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My day started with Dr. Julian on the practice field from 7:30 a.m. to 9:20 a.m.  Then I had a history class in humanities. Then I would walk back to Humes Hall to change clothes and get some lunch. Afternoon band practice was from 12:50 p.m. to 2:20 p.m. on the football field at Neyland Stadium, and then I ran up the steps to Ayres Hall. As a freshman female, I was trying to be “cool” and fit in, but with no air conditioning and running around all day, I was anything but “cool.”

Also, everyone who attended UT in the ‘70s would remember Bobby in the Snack Shop in the basement of Ayres Hall.  You could step in there and get a Coke, and he was always there, smiling and speaking to everyone
—Janet Sanderson Bailey (CBA, ’77)

From July 2010 eTorch

Oh—so many fond memories. To me Ayres Hall was always about Dr. Eaves and Dr. Schaefer. Starting as a freshman in 1963, I took five straight 7:50 am calculus courses under Dr. Eaves and loved every minute of it. After graduation I accepted a graduate assistantship in math and had an office on the first floor. During graduate school I worked primarily under Dr. Schaefer and was actually his first thesis candidate. I always deeply admired his dedication and work ethic. My daughter later followed my footsteps to Ayres Hall, earning her master’s degree in math at UT. The highlight of all of my numerous trips back to UT on football weekends was always going to Ayres Hall to visit Dr. Schaefer. Seriously, for 40 years neither of them ever changed. Ayres Hall will never be the same without Dr. Schaefer.
—Gary Thomasson (’67, ’70)

I recall being in a room on the north side of Ayres Hall for a political science class on a Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963, around 1 or 2 pm when word somehow got into the room that JFK had been shot. I think class was dismissed, and I—and it seemed like everyone else—began searching for a television to see the news. I saved a copy of the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Knoxville Journal, but haven’t seen them in probably 40+ years.
—Fred Sawyers (CEHHS ’64)

What I remember most about Ayres hall from 1969 to 1973 were the marble steps worn thin and shortened by all the students who came before. I always stuck to the handrails where the steps were nearly original size. However in the center the steps were at least 4 inches shallower and worn so thin you would expect them to break. I was so disappointed when I visited in 1993 and found that those wonderful marble staircases had been replaced by safer and more durable steps.

I always enjoyed classes in Ayres, even in spring when my notepaper would be soaked in sweat—Ayres was what you pictured in your mind when you thought of UT.

I also remember constantly climbing the hill to go between back-to-back classes to and from Ayres or the Geology Building through the valley to Humanities or Glocker. Boy were my legs in good shape my freshman year.
—Jim Hill (’72, ’73)

My memories of Ayres began my first fall at UT (’84). As a trumpeter in the “Pride of the Southland” Band, I would leave early morning band rehearsal, climb out of Neyland Stadium, race up the Hill, and climb the stairs to the third floor of Ayres Hall for calculus. I sweated through the whole class but the teacher, Gundlach, was great.

As a math and computer science major, I spent many hours in Ayres, but the best memory had to be CS 3180 where I met my future husband, Tad, who was my lab partner.
—Diane Beightol Stephens (’87)

For my final 3.5 years as a graduate student in psychology, working with Howard Pollio, our research lab was on the first floor in Ayres Hall. It was room 105, I think, or perhaps 106. We hung a sign on the door—Center for Applied Phenomenological Research—which was regularly misinterpreted in all sorts of ways and drew interesting visitors from the crowds passing between classes. My desk looked out on to the Hill facing toward Cumberland Avenue. It was great place for people- and squirrel-watching. The feel of that building and of that office certainly stays with me in many pleasant memories. I wrote a good bit of my dissertation in that office, met daily with many friends and colleagues in that office, and often hung out there, studying or having a power nap before going to class. It was a kind of second home. An interesting fact: one of my former lab mates had a strange experience in Ayres Hall one night after falling asleep while working on a paper. He insisted thereafter that the building was haunted. Hope the renovations don’t scare off the ghosts; after all, old buildings do, and should, hold some mystery.

Besides having all of my math and most of my psychology classes in Ayres, I have some nonacademic and more fun experiences. When it snowed the winter quarter of 1978, three of us from Humes Hall (Jane, Mindy, and me) would “borrow” a tray from Presidential Dining Services and take it to Ayres to slide down the front hill facing Cumberland. There were many other “tray-ers” there and some who would take a runner from the stairs inside Ayres to have multiple people sit on and ride down in the snow. We did it several times that quarter because it seemed to snow almost every weekend. We also explored the bell tower, as it was not locked.
—Patti Moyers Powell (’81)

I lost my father when I was 6 years old, and my mother went back to UT to finish her degree. During the summer quarter she took me with her and instructed me that I could go anywhere on campus as long as I stayed outside the buildings (so as not to disturb classes in session). She was taking one of Dr. Alwin Thaler’s Shakespeare classes on the ground floor at Ayres, and the tall windows were always opened wide to cool the hot, non–air conditioned classroom as much as possible. I was missing my mother and wanted to get a glance of her and perhaps a subtle acknowledgment from her as I tiptoed to one of the windows and peered in. While Dr. Thaler lectured, he slowly ambled toward the window, and terrified, I ran away. Then when he moved back to the front of the room, I returned to my vigil. He came over again, and I would flee. We continued this game for several minutes, and finally, he stopped lecturing, leaned out the window, and yelled, “Mistress Brown, you are welcome to come in and take a seat!” The students were laughing at this point and applauded when he made his invitation. After that, I accompanied Mother to her class where I sat at a desk in the back and quietly occupied myself with books and drawing. I can still remember how adult I felt! Years later, I sat in that very same classroom again, and once again Dr. Thaler was lecturing Shakespeare. But this time I was one of his lucky students.
—Elizabeth Brown Mynatt (’55)

On a warm winter’s night around Valentine’s Day 1984, a special friend, Brant Blackwood, and I ventured on top of Ayres Hall. Inspired by the awesome view atop this old building, we talked and sang praise songs while we enjoyed the quiet beauty and splendor of the winter’s night.

On another night, Brant and I were talking in his car in the parking lot behind Ayres. At some point, we both fell asleep, only to be rudely awakened by UT Police knocking on the car window and shining a bright flashlight in our eyes.

Another fun memory of Ayres is when some friends of mine from the Christian Student Center and I went sledding in the snow down the hill in the front of the building on a cold winter’s day.
—Susan Thurman Houchin (C&I ’86)

One of UT’s best kept secrets is the view of campus from the top of the Ayres Hall bell tower. I was very fortunate to attend several meetings there, both day and nighttime, and I still remember being surprised at how beautiful the campus looked from that perspective. I now keep a painting of Ayres Hall in my home office as a reminder.
—J. Scott Rose (’81, ’84)

As a UT student from 1954 to 1957, my most vivid memory of Ayres Hall is rushing (running, literally) to get between classes on the third floor of Ayres Hall to the second floor of the Business Administration building within the 10 minutes that we were allowed to change classes. That’s when we had to run down the long set of steps down from the Hill and up the smaller hill where the BA building sat, and then up the steps in that building to our classroom. No wonder we stayed in such good shape back then. The standing joke among the boys on campus was to remark on what good calves the UT coeds had from running and walking up and down those hills for classes on a daily basis.
—Allen Elkins (’57)

[Ed. note: In the late ’60s, the phenomenon Allen Elkins refers to was called “sophomore leg.” Great for women with thin legs; not so much for their stockier sisters . . . ]

In 1968 I took first-quarter calculus three times in Ayres Hall!
—John J. Sheridan (’72)

[Ed. note: Third time must have been the charm—John Sheridan is now UT Medical Center’s vice-president for community and government relations.]

From June 2010 eTorch

“Before there was a pedestrian overpass over Cumberland to the Hill, from the [Jessie Harris] Home Economics building, I had 10 minutes to walk—no, run—to the second floor of Ayres Hall. After class, I had another 10 minutes to get to the second floor of Glocker. I developed calves that I still have, some 56 years later. I have even been told that they are pretty. Without elevators, we climbed every step.” [Nobody needed a stair-climber to stay in shape in those days!]
—Joan Forrester Ricks, ’56, ’60 (Ed.D. Home Economics)

“I have two fond memories of Ayres Hall and the Hill. In September 1985, I met a very special young man, my future husband, Craig T. Phelps, for the first time. We had biology class together and became fast friends, and we have never been apart since then! My second memory of the Hill was in January 1986 when Craig, my husband, came running up to tell me the space shuttle had just blown up! We were trying to get to a TV to confirm the story, and we could see the looks on the other students’ faces as the news spread. Devastating!

“Thanks for letting me share my memories! My husband and I have been loyal fans of UT for 20 years! Go Vols!”
—Aurora Murry Phelps, ’91 (master’s)

“I was a student at UT during the early ’90s, and I had two or three classes in Ayres Hall during that period. One of my favorite memories of Ayres actually occurred outside the classroom. I actually have been on the roof of Ayres Hall (twice!) and was able to observe the beauty of the UT campus, Knoxville, and the Tennessee River! Getting to the top of a 90-year-old building was a little scary and challenging to say the least, but the view made it all worthwhile! Ayres Hall is a UT icon, and I could not imagine the campus without it.”
—Gregory E. Cox Jr., ’95, ’96

“I am a 1968 graduate of UT Knoxville, and I have very vivid memories of Ayres Hall. My language lab for French was on the fourth floor, just under the bell tower. Running up the Hill from Cumberland Avenue—sometimes late to class—was no easy feat, but then I had to face the trek up three more flights of stairs to the fourth floor. Arriving huffing and puffing my way through the door of the lab, I then had to stand in line to check out a pair of headphones. Once in my assigned seat, I began the activities to complete the lab requirement for modern languages. The bells would chime once at the quarter and three-quarters hour; at the half hour, they chimed long enough to make the floor vibrate. At the hour, the chimes would cause the floors and the desks to vibrate, and it even seemed that the walls did, as well. All hope of hearing the language tapes was lost because of the chiming bells that were a bit reminiscent of Quasimodo’s gleeful spree through Notre Dame Cathedral’s bell tower. I sometimes sit in church on Sunday mornings and think back to my language labs when the power of our Aolian pipe organ vibrates the wooden floor of our own cathedral when the organist plays a composition that is heavy on bass.

“I had many classes in Ayres Hall because I was an English major and speech minor. I remember long hallways of mosaic tile floors, beautiful old woodwork, and the smell of freshly mown grass when the windows were open in the spring. I also remember the huge old magnolia tree that stood just outside one of my classrooms. I sincerely hope that Ayres Hall provides as many warm memories for others as it does for me.”
—Clanci Brown Miller, ’68

“During the winter, I had gone to a class in Ayres Hall, and during the class, there was an ice storm. One could not walk down the steps of the Hill, so the only option was to slide down the Hill on the grass and gingerly walk across the pavement at the bottom. It took a while, but I finally made it back to Hess Hall.”

“Calculus in Ayres Hall—and it was a 7:50 am class. No self-respecting 19-year-old was up for calculus at? 7:50 am. And to think I put myself through it twice! Didn’t get it the first time around.”
—Peter Nielsen, ’75 (Architecture and Design)

“Ayres memories: Fighting to stay awake in the heat of a post-lunch calculus class in the pre–air-conditioning days at Ayres.”
—Bob Caudill, ’80

“In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Ayres had to have the hottest classrooms on campus. I remember the old-school blackboards and chalk dust on the wooden floors like it was yesterday. Taking calculus in the middle of the afternoon on a hot April or September day was a challenge both physically (staying awake) and academically.”
—Jeff Hunt, ’92 (Agricultural Economics)

“The lawn in front of Ayres is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places on earth. What I’ll always remember is the rambunctious squirrels that, in the fall, loved to toss acorns down from those huge white oaks if you happened to be studying too close to their tree!”
—Jeff Abbott, ’93

“I vaguely remember taking a psychology course in Ayres, possibly with Howard Pollio, in 1974 or 1975. The more profound memory is that of proctoring many tests there. My wife and I were graduate students? (1974–76), and I had an assistantship at the counseling center. A colleague there was in charge of testing (ACT, TOEFL, grad school tests) and always “hired” the hungry grad students he knew from the center. Regardless of the test, the angst was always felt in the air. I do remember, though, that one could actually get a parking spot on the Hill, since the tests were most often on Saturdays. I do hope that we get a chance to see the “new” Ayres next time we are on campus.”
—Brian Clifford, ’76 (Ed.D.); Debora Clifford, ’76 (Ed.D.)

“I remember climbing the Hill to take calculus and using UT’s first DEC ?computer systems.”
—Eugene (Geno) Bailey

“I remember well the many days I spent sitting in classes in the venerable Ayres Hall, starting my freshman year in fall 1977. My first class of the day was Algebra 1520. I was already hot from huffing and puffing my way up all those stairs from the lower campus. Then I had to hike up a few more flights of stairs to sit in a crowded, stuffy classroom. The open windows helped only slightly to ventilate the sunny classroom. It was hard to focus on theorems and equations in the heat of the early autumn day!

“Once I completed the math requirement for my nursing major, I figured I would never again sit in Ayres Hall, but I was wrong. In summer 1979, I found myself once again hiking and sweating my way through a course, abnormal psychology, in a third-floor classroom. The enormous trees that stand in front of Ayres hall offered some relief from the heat of summer, but once again, I found it difficult to think about schizophrenia and personality disorders in the archaic environment.

“Despite its challenges, I always felt a special kind of affinity for Ayres Hall and the history it represents. That deep love continues to this day. Every time I hear the Alma Mater sung at a football game, I see Ayres Hall in my mind’s eye, and I get a catch in my throat. Ayres Hall, to me, represents everything that is honorable and good about the University of Tennessee. I’m grateful that today’s students are the beneficiaries and that the modern updates that make it possible for Ayres Hall to remain the “Hallmark of our Hallowed Hill” for many generations of Tennessee students yet to come. Ayres Hall is our Rocky Top.”
—Kristina M. Plaas (Ph.D., RN?–BSN)

“I remember speech class in Ayres Hall. What a terror! We were always seated, lined up in the order in which we would speak. The big catch, however, was that if you had seven ahead of you and you thought that their speeches would take at least one class period to complete, if NONE of them SHOWED, then you were UP! Of course, one could always be prepared, but—let’s face it: we were college students and most always on the edge, at least as far as regular homework assignments, projects, and even SPEECHES were concerned!?? But Ayres Hall was UT, actually, when I think of landmarks and the campus. No matter how late I was leaving lab and trudging wearily home or how early I had to get to one of Dr. Bull’s chemistry lectures on the Hill, it was always there, above me, a beacon for us all. It’s comforting to me that it still is!”
—Steve Cates

“Ayres Hall was the location of many of my math classes, especially calculus, and even a philosophy class. I spent many long hours in a corner classroom on the second floor of the wing that faces across Kingston Pike to the [Hoskins] library. Besides memories of sitting for endless hours of instruction, I remember leaning out of the window overlooking the sidewalk in front of the building. This is when I learned how funny people look walking when they are seen from directly above. ? Although I have forgotten all the philosophy and probably most of the math, I still remember the sight of those legs swinging back and forth while the rest of the body was only the top of the head gliding along. Perhaps that memory is worth all the hours in that room.”
Bob Kuhlo, ’67 (Math)

“I remember hearing the Chi Omega–donated chimes every hour over my head—the run to class from the ROTC field was a killer.”
—Hugh S. Unger, ’51 (M.D., ?B.S.)

“I think the things I remember most about Ayres Hall besides the multitude of math classes I took in that building for my engineering degree, were the chalk dust and the temperature. Dr. Schaeffer would often stand so close to the chalkboard that when he turned around to talk to us and then back to the board, there would be this very wide chalk streak across his backside. Everyone would start laughing when he turned back around to write on the board again, but he always acted as if he had no idea it was there!

“I also remember the winters and summers being brutally hot in the building—the wintertime because the radiators were on full blast, and the summertime because there was no air conditioning. The windows in the classroom remained open almost all the time to try to make it tolerable in the classrooms. I would always wear a T-shirt under all my other clothing in the winter so I could strip down to it if necessary!”
—Meredith (Reeves) Werley, ’03

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Jerry Mershon June 16, 2010 at 9:54 am

Oh how I remember going to the Hill to take Calculus in Ayers. I took it in the Fall qtr so the changing of the leaves were amazing up there. I can remember sometimes getting there after class started and walking down the hallway on the hardwood floors, listening to the creaks and cracks echo thoughout the building! I would often reflect on what it must have been like 20, 30 40 years before I arrived in 76′. A place I will never forget!

Bob Swann June 16, 2010 at 11:04 am

As an engineering student, I had many Math classes in Ayres Hall – my sharpest memory is that some of them were very hard! I had few recollections of the building itself until I dropped in on the pre-renovation Ayres a couple of years ago. Good grief! It looked just as it had in 1972 – I think some of the same notices were on the bulletin boards. I’m really looking forward to seeing the new, improved version of a clssic Vol symbol.

Tom Leuze June 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I was a math major in the mid-70’s and all my major classes were in Ayres (I think I may have even chosen math as my major because it was in Ayres!) One of my favorite memories was a seminar class with Dr. Randall Cline. It met in one of the rooms on the north side of the building with the old black chalkboards on the east, south, and west walls. At least in my memory, the room was huge and there must have been at least 15 or more panels for those chalkboards. After standing nervously at the board and trying to complete a mathematical proof, I finished with a proof that covered only one panel of the board on the west wall. Dr. Cline then said, that’s not what I wanted you to do. He proceeded to the board and filled each panel of the chalkboard on each wall but left my proof intact. After covering every panel, he returned to the front of the room and began erasing panels as he continued his proof. When he finished, he tossed the chalk in the tray and said, “That’s what I expected you to do.” Then he smiled and said, “I like your proof better!” He was pleased that I had found a shorter proof and wasn’t threatened at all by a student doing good work. That was, by the way, the high point in my brief career in mathematics but I learned a lot about teaching from him in that episode.

Tom Leuze June 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I was a math major in the mid-70’s and all my major classes were in Ayres (I think I may have even chosen math as my major because it was in Ayres!) One of my favorite memories was a seminar class with Dr. Randall Cline. It met in one of the rooms on the north side of the building with the old black chalkboards on the east, south, and west walls. At least in my memory, the room was huge and there must have been at least 15 or more panels for those chalkboards. After standing nervously at the board and trying to complete a mathematical proof, I finished with a proof that covered only one panel of the board on the west wall. Dr. Cline then said, that’s not what I wanted you to do. He proceeded to the board and filled each panel of the chalkboard on each wall but left my proof intact. After covering every panel, he returned to the front of the room and began erasing panels as he continued his proof. When he finished, he tossed the chalk in the tray and said, “That’s what I expected you to do.” Then he smiled and said, “I like your proof better!” He was pleased that I had found a shorter proof and wasn’t threatened at all by a student doing good work. That was, by the way, the high point in my brief career in mathematics but I learned a lot about teaching from him in that episode.

Tom Leuze, College of Liberal Arts, 1978

Jim Hill June 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm

What I remember most about Ayres hall from 1969 – 1973 were the marble steps worn thin and shortened by all the students who came before. I always stuck to the handrails where the steps were nearly original size. However in the center the steps were at least 4 inches shallower and worn so thin you would expect them to break. I was so disappointed when I visited in 1993 and found that those wonderful marble staircases had been replaced by safer and more durable steps. I always enjoyed classed in Ayres, even in spring when my note paper would be soaked in sweat – Ayres was what you pictured in your mind when you thought of UT.

Steve Cubine June 16, 2010 at 7:24 pm

I distinctly remember “visiting” (okay, we broke in!) the tower of Ayres Hall along with my best friend, Joe, and our girlfriends one spring night. There was a rickety old door that led to the tower, but it was locked. Just as I was ready to give up, my buddy’s girlfriend, Karen, was able to pop it open MacGyver-style with a credit card or hair pin or something. Inside the base of the tower was like something straight out of a Scooby Doo episode. It was dark, dank and creepy but wonderful. I think there may have even been bats. There was a set of very steep stairs that led to the roof. Of course, we’d come this far, so we had to go on the roof. The sky was clear that night and a warm wind was whipping around. It was quite magical, I remember. I felt on top of the world that night. The memory of looking out over the campus from such a unique vantage point has never left me. It still makes me smile. I don’t break into buildings anymore, however, so don’t worry.

Mike Collins June 22, 2010 at 10:02 am

I just read Clanci Brown Miller’s memories of Ayres Hall and it brought back many for me. I was a fellow English major and knew Clanci, and the language lab memories (German for me) made me laugh. I also recall that climb, and since I lived in Stadium Hall for my 4 years, I developed strong legs especially with all those stairs in Ayres Hall. I remember those tiled hallways and the lovely views out the windows toward Cumberland. I remember sitting in Billie Harris’ tiny office where you could get tickets for Carousel. I have many good memories of Ayres, and it will always be my favorite symbol of UT. I have a signed etching of Ayres in my office as a constant reminder of my time at UTK and how much it still means to me! Mike Collins UT Class of 1968

Mike Harrell June 24, 2010 at 7:57 pm

A previous post called Ayres “a beacon for us all”. I first entered the university in the fall of ’71 and yes the heat could be overwhelming in the 2nd floor math classes. The eroded steps with scooped terrazzo depressions bore decades of volunteers trudging up the identical places I traveled. Outside the rear west entrance at ground level was a northern maple directly opposite the door. That fall several of my high school classmates would congregate not by design, but shear happenstance. The tree provided the needed respite from the heat, but even more we few recent high school graduates would connect and for one quarter the 30,000 plus student enrollment wasn’t a daunting, freighting statistic.
I live in Florida and visit the property I own in Knoxville several times a year. I just returned and while there I drove to the hill. The renovations’ digging around the base of the tree is taking a toll on the health of the ol’ maple; I hope it can be salvaged. Just a few thoughts and memories from a ’79 UT grad. Warm Regards… Mike

Robert Stephens, MA '49 July 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Gosh, Ayres was much younger when I was there as a grad student in English Lit in 1948-49. Seems to me that the entire department was on the first floor. Glad I’m not the only one to remember Dr. Thaler’s Shakespeare. Dr. John Hodges was head of the Department, and I had classes under Dr. Roscoe Parker, Dr. John Lievsay who directed my thesis work, and Dr. Paul Soper for Speech and Drama. Only later did Drama become a separate department. My first assistantship was for Dr. Jim Rice, and then I moved to Dr. Soper. Security at Ayres must have been minimal, for I remember doing all-nighters in the office, using Dr. Rice’s typewriter to prepare most of my papers. As someone else said, for me Ayres was the University plus, of course, the all-important Library.

Frank Tighe July 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm

This Octogenarian’s first quarter at UT was the winter quarter of 1949. Most of my classes were in AYERS HALL. Next to the entrance was kiosh operated by a wonderful sightless gentleman who remembered many students by name and their preferences. As a ‘GI BILLER’ I returned for the winter Quarter of 1953 – graduating in 55′ AYERS is symbolic of THE HILL and in looking at the start of the University in Knoxville until today is astonishing. My high school math teacher was an Depression ERA graduate who prepared me well enough that mu math requirement tests were sufficient to get me into graduate school – He told of flagging cars on Cumberland Avenue to reach classes at the AG campus from AYERS!

Dottie Hodges ('93) August 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I remember trekking across the Hill in front of Ayers and often stopping among some of the Hill’s glorious trees – pausing – then climbing up in them to sit. A friend once asked me, why do you do that??? I said – why not!? I would later write my own degree program in Environmental Studies – a testament to how even as a large university UT always encouraged and supported true individuals. Thank you.

Ruth Anne Cochran Blakely August 19, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I took classes in Ayers during 1941-1945. I had most of my classes in Ayers Hall including math, English, all of the College of Business Administration classes, & I also tried out for plays in Ayers. One memory is climbing up all the stairs from the gym to classes on the 4th floor. Another vivid memory is of the political science professor getting mad when no one could answer his questions. He turned out the lights, walked out of the class, & we didn’t see him until the class met again!

Danny Spencer August 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I remember having a math class in Ayers around 1980. It was taught by a T.A. who wasn’t much older than us students. He would write the problems on the chalk board, then go over them with us. He would turn back and forth facing the board, then facing us. Each time he turned around, he seemed to graze the chalkboard. By the time we were through discussing the problems, the chalk was almost erased from the board. It was all over him!…his arms, his hand, his face, his shirt, in his mustache, hair, everywhere!

Mary Oliver Morris August 24, 2010 at 3:21 pm

As an English major, Ayres Hall was my life from 1959 to 1964. I absolutely loved the place, but I remember how long it took to recover from the sprint from Dr. Cleaver’s art history classes in McCllung Museum to my next class in Ayres Hall. No wonder we were so fit! I think I fell down the beautiful marble steps at least twice, slipping on my leather-soled Bass Wejuns, scattering books everywhere. I suppose they did need replacing. I, too, remember that day, November 22, 1963, standing outside Dr. Rapp’s Latin Archaeology class, waiting for the terrible news. Of good times and bad, I’ll never forget it, and still love Ayres Hall

Harriet Clack Burt August 27, 2010 at 8:49 pm

I have a piece of Old College in my home: my mother and dad, who had both attended U-T, married in 1919. Dad had gotten some wood from Old College when it was torn down and had had it made into a hope chest for my mother. The chest was still iin their home when they became Golden Grads (neither actually graduated) and came to my house when my widowed mother moved here to Clemson in 1976.

Harriet Burt, BS in Journalism, 1954

I had a class in South College in 1950, and many classes in Ayres. My first journalism classes were in Ayres (and Orange and White offices were in a temp. WWII bldg. on the Hill.) Much later I told my kids about the delicious ‘electrocuted’ hot dogs at Richard’s snack stand on Ayres’ first floor.

Anne Looney Cook (Home Econ. BS60,MS63,PhD77) September 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm

In a family of multiple UT graduates the earliest oral history about Ayres Hall was the following incident.
My father, C. Evans Looney (B.S. Ag. 1932) traveled by train and enrolled at UT in fall 1928. Arrived from the delta-like flats in West Tennessee, he had limited off-the-farm experiences beyond infrequent trips to Memphis. In his day, a few structures dotted the Knoxville campus but none other than Ayres Hall defined his new environment. On the first day of instruction he sweated in his climb to reach basic math and English classes on The Hill. On the second day he raced on foot to meet animal husbandry and soils classes on the Ag. Campus. By the third day, however, he decided that he wasn’t the dumbest guy who had arrived when a fellow student rushed up and, standing on the base pathway, asked, “Where’s Ayres Hall?”

Carole Fowler September 16, 2010 at 5:21 am

[Ed. note: In the late ’60s, the phenomenon Allen Elkins refers to was called “sophomore leg.” Great for women with thin legs; not so much for their stockier sisters . . . ]

And Forbes magazine, in an article about the riot police storming the Hill in the 1970s, referred to UT co-eds as “corn-fed Barbie dolls!”

Carole Fowler, ’71

Bruce Whitaker (72) October 8, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I just read and thoroughly enjoyed the article on Ayres Hall in the Fall Torchbearer, plus the additional responses posted. This brings back lots of memories of walking to the hill from my dorm, sitting in class in Ayres Hall on pretty fall and spring days and looking out the open windows at the campus and daily campus activities.

The filming of “A Walk in the Spring Rain” with Ingrid Bergman and Fritz Weaver doing a scene from the movie in front of Ayres Hall is certainly one of those memories.

I wasn’t on the hill the afternoon when the police stormed the anti-war protesters, but many events related to the Vietnam War and protests had a key role on campus in those days.

Ed Ayres October 13, 2010 at 11:27 am

I think it would be apropos that I tell a story about my great-grandfathers building on a rainy day that I was late to a math class on the second floor. It had just started to rain on THE HILL and I was running down from a parking spot on 14th street, (even with THE NAME, I couldn’t get a parking spot on campus) as I sprinted across Cumberland Ave to head up the hill, I Slipped (stepped) on a pop-top ( kudos to Jimmy Buffet) and bust my flip flops , all my books and papers crashing down in the middle of Cumberland Ave. looking up at Ayres Hall on my back and thinking, what would Dr Ayres be thinking, looking down on his great grand son right now…Ed A. Ayres (81)

Bill Gregory October 15, 2010 at 5:29 pm

As an engineering major, I spent many hours in Ayres Hall taking calculus classes. In fact, I took 1st quarter 3 times and ended up with an F, an F, and an A. Once in a while, I’ll wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of a recurring nightmare where I’m crossing the stage to receive my diploma and Dr. Andy Holt stops the procession and says “son we’re sorry, but you never completed 1st quarter calculus so we’re not going to be able to award you this diploma”. Luckily, this is only a dream, whereas in reality, I graduated and then worked for one of the top companies in the world for 35 years and retired as a corporate director. Thank God, I was never asked to work a calculus problem throughout my entire career…


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