From Torchbearer to Faculty Scholar

Ted Shelton (’93) was one of only four College of Architecture and Design students to be named a Torchbearer. Now, he’s a faculty member and the first James Johnson Dudley Architecture Scholar.

What is it like working for your alma mater?

It was a very interesting transition at first. There are still professors here that were my professors. It’s a difficult transition—from being someone’s student to being their colleague. It’s also an honor in a way. It’s a validation of the quality of education students receive at the University of Tennessee.

Did you always want to be an architect?

Nothing as serious as architecture. At one time I had been interested in Native American studies. Many people that come to study architecture don’t really understand what it is. If you’re good at art, people say you should be an architect. There is some chance involved as well whether or not you’re going to click with it. I was lucky in that sense. I was a junior in high school, and architecture had been in my mind. I saw a magazine article on (architect) Frank Gehry. He was building giant fish sculptures out of chain link and had an interesting way of thinking about space and materials. There was a playfulness and seriousness about it. He was trying to push the field and explore what’s possible.

What is your favorite memory from when you were a student at UT?

I don’t know that I have a favorite memory, but the intensity of being in architecture—you’re in a demanding major and have few electives. You get to know your peers very well. Fondest memories are of the people I was in classes with. I had a great deal of fun with peers and continuing the bonds that formed at that time.

Tell me about being a Torchbearer at UT.

It’s one of the greatest honors of my life. There have only been four Torchbearers from the College of Architecture and Design, and it makes it even more special. I am honored to be among the group. It was a shock when I found out I received it.

What did it mean to you to be a Dudley Scholar?

I am the first Dudley Scholar. It’s a new fellowship in our college. It’s an honor to be the first one, and it’s really in support of my research and has meant a lot to me to continue researching. It runs through beginning of summer and will continue to impact my work.

I would say that my education at the College of Architecture and Design prepared me very, very well to do anything I wanted to do in the field of architecture. I was able to work for one of the best firms in architecture, and the quality of education prepared me. We have students coming out of this college and going to the most competitive graduate schools and best architecture firms in the country, and that is a testimony about the quality of the education.

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