Borders brings energy to English department

Tue, 2007-09-04 10:18 -- univcomm
September 4, 2007

Dr. Scott Borders appears at first glance to be full of contradictions. Students who get to know him realize that in fact, he is. He is an Alabaman who has lived in Indiana for 30 years. He is a Southerner who speaks and walks faster than any Northerner. He is wonderfully unpredictable as a professor, but a very stable community member. He doesn’t write recreationally, but he is a talented storyteller. His past is influenced by Southern culture, his family, and past mentors, but Borders is an original who has a strong influence on all students and faculty who work with him. These seeming paradoxes come naturally to a balance in one unique member of the AU family.

Borders often entertains students with stories about Lanett, Alabama, the very small town in which he grew up. In fact, it was there he learned to tell stories. “As a kid in the South,” he says, “you just sit there and listen to everyone.” He also absorbed the Church of God tradition of his family which eventually led him to Anderson. “In those days, if you were Church of God it was more likely that you would go to a Church of God school,” he says, “and of the options, AU seemed the most like a real school.” The other CHOG schools available at the time were still in the forming stages. Borders’s older sister went to Anderson as well, and Borders became familiar with campus from attending Convention during his teen years. He says, “It felt like home.”

In 1977, Borders entered the school as a Bible and Religion major, but he quickly realized that the kinds of careers the major offered weren’t appealing to him. He knew that he wanted to teach, but what? “I always liked English in high school,” he says. “I liked reading. If there was a job that would pay you to read books, that seemed like a good idea.” He moved to the English department and loved it, developing his passion for British literature. During his four undergraduate years, Borders was very involved in the department, especially through Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society of which he was president.

After graduating with his BA in English, Borders entered the Master’s program at Purdue University, still pursuing his passion for stories, especially British literature. He especially remembers one course on George Eliot and Thomas Hardy; the latter became the subject of his doctoral dissertation. While Borders was working on his dissertation, a surprise retirement opened an English professor position at AU. Borders had wanted to teach at a university similar to AU, so the opportunity to return to his alma mater was welcome. In 1985, he was back in the English department. He finished his doctoral thesis over the next five summers and claims, “I still have bad dreams about that.” However, Borders didn’t let overexposure to Thomas Hardy dampen his affection. “We’re off and on with each other,” he says of the author. “I can always read his poetry.” Students in Borders’ classes learn to appreciate his knowledge of Hardy and British literature, even if they don’t enjoy it themselves.

Extensive knowledge of Hardy is not the only asset Borders has brought to the English department. He created and teaches the Professional Writing and Editing class in response to student need. “It’s important for a lot of the jobs our students go into,” he says. Sticking with some of his favorite stories, Borders also created and teaches the 20th Century British Literature class. That class used to be his favorite, he says, but it may be losing its place to British Novel, a course Borders began teaching in 2007. Students in this class read 9-10 novels in one semester. “This way, we get variety. You’re not stuck in a period; there are three centuries to choose the best from. It’s a lot of work for me and for the students, but it’s fun.” This year, Borders issued certificates of completion to the students in that class, congratulating them on their achievement in reading.

Full of other classroom quirks as well, Borders is lively, thoughtful, and often bursts into songs, impressions, bizarre stories, and theatrics, always ending in his distinct chuckle. Yet however unpredictable Borders may be in the classroom, he is a stable, comfortable member of the AU community and the Anderson community. He has attended Park Place Church of God for the 22 years he’s worked at AU, teaching Sunday School and working in the church office. At AU, he has sponsored Sigma Tau Delta since 1990, inviting students to his house for a Christmas book exchange, a “real Southern barbecue,” and the initiation dinner. The menus are always the same, and so are the cups they drink from, but the stories and jokes are always different. Borders has also been leading Tri-S trips to England for the last 10 years, focusing on literature-related sites such as Westminster Abbey and the homes of Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter, and William Wordsworth. The itinerary is almost the same each time, but the students change. “Seeing the places has become routine,” he says. “[The best part is] seeing the students see them for the first time. It reminds me of what it was like, seeing them for the first time.” Students who have been on this trip can all attest that Borders moves as fast as he talks, hiking through the streets of London and the Lake District. “There’s a lot to see!” he exclaims in his defense.

Also outside the classroom but still in the country, Borders has also served in official capacities on committees for curriculum, academic policies, and departmental accreditation. He also advises about half of the students in the English department. “The challenging part is putting the puzzle together,” he says. “The fun is watching the pieces fall into place, watching students move along. At the end of each semester, you think, ‘They’ve done it. They made it through.’”

Twenty-two years after he started teaching, Borders is more than happy with his position at AU. “We have delightful students, especially within the English department,” he says. These days, some of those students are children of his classmates from his undergraduate years. One is his own son, Eliot. He also enjoys working with his colleagues – again, especially the English department. However, there is another, bigger reason for Border’s long career at AU. “There’s a generation of us here who are here largely for what Reardon did,” Borders explains. “He showed us what the school could be, and we saw his vision.” When asked if he plans to move on, Borders replies, “No reason to leave. When I took the job, I felt like I could easily stay for life, and I’m at the Wellness Center as much as possible, trying to stay alive.” He chuckles, reflecting on his career, which will easily be forty years long. Hopefully, many generations of future AU students will continue to see the Alabaman telling his anecdotes, trekking around campus and England, and teaching his favorite stories.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.