Wayland celebrates career of Emmitt Tipton

May 8, 2013

PLAINVIEW — Shayla Whalen describes her father, Emmitt Tipton, as a people person who has the unique ability to be friends with everyone he meets. So, it was no surprise when students, faculty and staff from Wayland Baptist University were joined by people from around the community who crammed into the parlor of the McClung University Center to wish their friend a happy retirement.

After 38 years of service to the university, the man whom many still refer to as Dean Tipton will retire, primarily for health reasons.

Tipton regularly undergoes dialysis and that has kept him out of the classroom and away from the campus and that has been hard for him. But, you couldn’t tell it on Wednesday morning as he spent about two hours sharing laughs and stories with longtime friends.

Tipton spent a lot of his time at Wayland in the classroom teaching business courses, although that time was split by a 12-year stint as the Dean of Students, from 1997-2009. During the earlier of the two teaching periods he served as the faculty athletic representative and even served as interim athletic director for a semester.

Throughout those years, his passion was the students and he particularly enjoyed education. In fact, when asked what his favorite thing about being involved with the university was he was quick with his answer: “I think probably being in the classroom and seeing the light come on in a student’s eyes and realizing that I was teaching them something. My philosophy has always been that you create an environment in which they learn rather than you unscrew their head and pour a bunch of facts into it and screw their head back on.”

Tipton began his time at Wayland as a student and graduated in 1969 with a degree in business administration, specializing in accounting. Six years later he was approached by a friend who suggested that he consider teaching an accounting class for South Plains College which had just opened a program in Plainview and was using part of the Wayland campus. He laughed as he recalled the meeting he had with a representative from South Plains.

“I asked, ‘How long do I have to decide?’” Tipton said with a chuckle. “He looked at me and he said, ‘The class starts in 10 minutes.’”

Tipton took the job and headed to the campus.

“I walked into Flores Bible Building, room 204 up on the second floor, there were 40 adults sitting and waiting on me and I started teaching accounting that night. That was 38 ½ years ago.”

Almost four decades later, Wayland Baptist University Executive Vice President/Provost Dr. Bobby Hall welcomed the crowd to Tipton’s retirement reception. Hall pointed out that it is a challenge for many to think of Wayland and not think of the longtime educator and dean, “because he is the best of what Wayland represents.”

Whalen said the connection between the university and her father has always been strong.

“He lives and breathes Wayland,” she said, adding that he routinely takes his granddaughters, Marley and McKinley, to sporting activities on the campus.

As the crowd finally thinned out on Wednesday morning, Tipton took a moment to reflect on the past four decades, right up to and including the past two hours — and it brought mixed emotions.

“I’ve done so many things here on campus,” he said. “I see all of these young people, many of them that were in here this morning have been in my classes in the past or are current students and it’s very humbling to see how much I’m loved.”

He knows the days ahead will be challenging as he works to regain his health, but even in that he said he is grateful for the way God has taken care of him and continues to do so.

“This is certainly not the way I wanted to go out, being on dialysis, but it’s a good thing as well because it allows my light to shine when I go to dialysis for four hours and there is somebody setting in the chair beside me that hasn’t been there before because there are 19 of us in there at one time and we get moved all around. It gives me a chance to talk to those people and witness to those people.”

That is exactly the approach to life that Whalen talked about as she took in the crowd that filled the room.

“My dad, I mean, he knows no strangers. With him there are no social boundaries. He loves everybody and everybody loves him.”