What was going on in the world at the time?
The Vietnam War was going on and every now and then there were riots on Ohio State’s campus. I started my undergraduate the summer after Kent State shootings. I’d be walking across campus and people would be shot with knee knockers and smoke bombs would go off. I had a full scholarship, so I couldn’t participate in any anti-war protests—that was written into my scholarship. Not that I would’ve had the courage to do that. We had bomb scares in the hall where the English department was, and we were used to it. A sorority burned down, someone set it on fire. Various things like that happened during the war protests.
What kind of music did you listen to in undergrad?
Whatever was playing on the radio back then so I listened to Led Zeppelin, the Beatles—until they broke up—The Beach Boys, Motown, and Chicago.
What was your favorite class?
One of my very favorite classes in undergrad was folklore with Pat Mullen. We collected folklore and oral traditions. I attended a mission Baptist church back then, so for my study that is still in the Ohio archives, I collected stories preachers would tell right before the invitation. A lot of them had repeats that they claimed were theirs. But that’s part of folklore; preachers shared the same stories back then.
Pat Mullen, our really cool teacher—that I’m still in contact with and he’s such a cool, cool, hippy, bearded guy— he got grants to study people groups, so he studied fishermen in Louisiana, and fisherman folklore in Texas. I love stories and stuff, so that was really fun.
What was your least favorite class?
Journalism. I thought for a nanosecond God wanted me to be a journalism major, but he made it so crystal clear to me that I should never be a journalism major. Sorry, newspaper people! But I took this course on foreign newspapers and I still to this day don’t know what we were supposed to be doing in that course. I just remember sitting in the Ohio state library, because they get newspapers from all around the world, surrounded by all these newspapers I couldn’t read and I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. That was the only “D” I ever got in a course.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
Rosemary Sprague. I studied with her at Longwood, and I don’t even know how she got to that little college town in Virginia. She literally had an Ivy League degree, a PhD from Western Reserve in Ohio; she was a brilliant Shakespeare scholar, Browning scholar, and Chaucer scholar. She taught in England for years.
She was this tall stately lady who always wore silky dresses and came to class with her little Pekingese dog named Turandot. She smoked these long feminine cigarettes—people just smoked in class back then—and I can remember she put her silver hair up like the top of a Corinthian column.
She was so brilliant. I took a bunch of classes with her for my master’s degree. I hadn’t had many good women professors at Ohio State so I loved getting to know Rosemary. She wasn’t a screamy-meme feminist, and she was a Christian. She was such a bright, well-educated lady and a wonderful role model.
How did you decide to become a professor?
I went around as an undergraduate telling people “the one thing I won’t be is a teacher.” Looking back it’s really clear that’s what God always had in mind for me. I’d always taught: Sunday school when I was fifteen, piano lessons to neighborhood kids, and I used to have these pretend Bible classes in my basement and give them fruit stripe gum if they would come. It seemed like a natural, comfortable, exciting thing I was always supposed to do once I started doing it.
If you could go back and give yourself some advice in your undergraduate years, what would it be?
I was the first one to go to college from my family. There was another small college in Westerville I really wanted to go to and I should have followed my first instinct and gone there. I wish I had gone there instead of going to such a huge university. I didn’t quite have the gumption to do it, but I wish I had done that. My mom wanted me to stay home and my dad was dead at that point and I was an only child, so I commuted. I wish I had gone to a smaller school with more of a church affiliation.
Dr. Tennant has been at Corban for 19 years. She got her master’s degree at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, and returned to Ohio State for her PhD.