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After her death, sports information director’s mother touched life of one more student

by Bill Porter as told to Brian Hendrickson

Mom never wanted to stop teaching, even after 41 years.

When she retired, she was so worn out from cancer treatments, she just was like, “I can’t go back to work. I’m so tired.” But the next year, she told me, “I wish I hadn’t retired. I would go back. I’d go in a heartbeat.” Betsy Porter, my mom, repeated that regret right before she died, 15 years later.

Mom thought teaching was really important. She grew up in the Depression, in a really poor family. They were farmers — mainly tobacco. Most people from that area get their high school degree, but didn’t go on. She might be the first from her area to go to college. Definitely the first in her family.

She went to Lincoln Memorial and got her elementary education degree and taught everything from first to fifth grade at one time or another, but mainly second and third. She just loved kids. She would always listen to them, take time out for every kid. Even the bad ones, misbehaving, she would be patient with them.

For years, we’d go to the grocery store, and we’d always run into her kids. They’d go, “Hi, Mrs. Porter!” She was their favorite teacher. She made them feel like a person. She didn’t talk down to them. She made learning fun — I heard that a lot.

Her students have called her a friend for life. An inspirational person who only saw the good in any situation. They talk about how she could light up a room with the amount of knowledge she had. Even though she taught in elementary school, her students have said she inspired them to become teachers when they got older.

Her students never forgot her. When Mom went into the hospital with a stroke, one of her old schools — it sat empty for years — was being converted into an assisted-living facility. The person who was running it was a former student. They found out that Mom was in the hospital after the stroke, and this woman said, “If she wants to come here, we’ll give her her old classroom.” They’d converted them to apartments. It opened six months after she died.

When she died, rather than have people send flowers for her funeral, I suggested they make a donation for a scholarship at Lincoln Memorial. It was only a few hundred dollars, but the school asked if I would present it. Last spring, it was given to Erica Whiteaker, one of our volleyball players. This year, she became the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American of the Year for Division II volleyball.

I was really honored and touched to present the scholarship to her. I did cry a little bit. It was a little overwhelming. I kept thinking, because of this, my mom was able to directly impact one more student.

Bill Porter is the director for athletics statistics and publications for Lincoln Memorial.

 

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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