VC professor provides steely devotion to education for 48 years (Video)

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

May 18, 2013 at 12:18 a.m.
Updated May 20, 2013 at 12:20 a.m.

Michael Hummel began his relationship with Victoria College as a student in 1960, back when he worked part time for his family's blacksmith shop building wrought iron fences around the community.

For the next five decades, he became a stronger fixture on campus than even a wrought iron fence.

After 48 years of teaching at VC, Hummel said he's looking forward to spending more time with metal art around his home.

The 71-year-old history professor thumbed through his iPhone photo album and proudly showcased a pearl steel railing with a tropical floral design bordering a stair incline.

A grand send-off

Perfumed with the faint scent of wine, the college student center bubbled with conversation from a thickly packed crowd Tuesday evening.

Friends, former colleagues and family were gathered at Hummel's retirement "Roast and Toast," a fundraiser for the Victoria Symphony Society.

The professor was roasted by Melvin Lack, Penni Gietz, Karen Haynes, Jim Mickelson, Craig Hella Johnson, Darryl One and former Victoria College President Jimmy Goodson.

Heather Sneddon, 40, Hummel's youngest daughter, flew in from Arizona to be a part of her father's celebration.

"It's about time," Sneddon said. "He loves teaching, so I can see why he stayed in it for so long."

For the love of music

In his retirement, Hummel said he intends to continue his fundraising efforts for the Victoria Bach Festival and Victoria Symphony endowments.

"I play no musical instrument myself, but I love to listen to music," Hummel said. "An endowment offers an organization greater financial stability and security."

The history professor helped found both associations in the mid-70s. He serves as president of the board of the Bach Festival.

Former Bach Festival board member Sylvia Quilantan, 53, said she was pleased to hear Hummel would continue his participation in the arts.

"He's such a fun guy, and that's so important when you do fundraising," Quilantan said. "He is so great at public speaking and always knows exactly what to say."

Laughter erupted in the student center after Goodson joked about agreeing to be one of the celebration's presenters to get out of being asked to speak at Hummel's memorial.

"You served your profession with honor, dignity and genuine affection," Goodson said at the close of his roast. "I toast you for your service."

Walking history book

During Hummel's time as a history professor at Victoria College, he taught courses covering U.S. history and western civilization.

However, he said he considers the time period around which the American Revolution occurred as his favorite.

"It is a very fertile period that dealt with much of what we are experiencing now," Hummel said. "Today, we're still debating how to interpret the First Amendment."

In his lesson plans, Hummel said he attempted to include as many ties to current events as possible.

While the Bosnian war raged on, the professor placed an emphasis on the treaties following the first and second world wars.

"It was good for them to have some perspective on what was going on," Hummel said.

As the college continues to increase its technical training programs with the construction of a new Emerging Technology Center, the professor said he hopes there is a continued emphasis on academics.

"The better educated a person is, the more likely they'll enjoy a book they read or joke they hear," Hummel said. "A good education also makes you capable of thinking more critically."

A favorite among students

Victoria College student Ramona Flores, 22, said she was dismayed when she heard of her history professor's retirement.

"I was really upset and very sad," Flores said. "I've had almost 100 teachers since pre-K, and he's my favorite one of all time."

Flores said she recently named her new pet turtle "Dr. Hummel" in honor of the retiring professor.

"When I told him about it, he kind of squinted and said, 'OK,'" Flores said.

Flores said she and another classmate planned to stop by his office Friday to leave him three box sets of classical music records as a departing gift.

"I'm extremely lucky that I was able to take his class again before he retired," Flores said. "VC is losing one of the greatest educators to have walked the earth."

A lifelong connection

Cora Jo Hummel, 70, has known her husband for most of her life.

Their families were close friends, and they sang together in their church choir as children.

"We dated in high school on and off and again in college," Cora Jo Hummel said. "He proposed when I was a junior in college at Baylor."

After their winter wedding, Hummel was hired by his father-in-law, J.D. Moore, the founding president of Victoria College.

"We've been together for 48 years," Cora Jo Hummel said. "It's been wonderful."

Despite her husband's retirement, Cora Jo Hummel said she's not afraid of losing her connection with the college.

"We have so many friends still there," she said. "This is not goodbye."



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