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New APSU Award Honors Legacy of Houston County Educator O.S. Uffelman

             CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On a lazy spring afternoon in 1965, Sandra Baggett and her future husband, L.C. “Doc” Baggett, were out fishing in Houston County when they ran into the high school’s basketball coach – O.S. Uffelman.

             CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On a lazy spring afternoon in 1965, Sandra Baggett and her future husband, L.C. “Doc” Baggett, were out fishing in Houston County when they ran into the high school’s basketball coach – O.S. Uffelman.

            It was an awkward encounter. L.C., after graduating high school, attended only one year of college at Austin Peay State University, before dropping out to serve in the Army. Ever since he’d returned to Houston County, Uffelman had been bugging him to go back and get his degree. That afternoon wasn’t any different.

            “Mr. (Uffelman) said, ‘Doc, when are going back to school,’” Sandra recalled.

L.C. told his old coach that he’d go to college as soon as Sandra graduated. She had one more year of high school left, but all she needed to take was her senior English class. When Uffelman heard this, he got an idea.

            “He said, ‘why don’t you take it this summer, and then go to APSU this fall?’” Sandra said. “So I took a summer class, got my senior English, and in the fall of 1965, we both started at Austin Peay.”

            Sandra went on to have a 40-year career as a kindergarten teacher in Houston County. L.C. worked for 38 years as a teacher and varsity basketball coach for the high school.

            “If it hadn’t been for (Uffelman) prodding him, I’m not sure he would have ever gone back to school,” she said.

            It’s a familiar story in the Houston and Montgomery County areas. Any time a young student encountered Uffelman, he or she was usually encouraged to pursue a college degree.

           “My dad spent his entire life in education, and he encouraged hundreds, if not thousands of students to get educations,” Dr. Minoa Uffelman, assistant professor of history at APSU, said.

            O.S. Uffelman passed away in 2000, following a long career as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent of Houston County Schools. Education was a way of life for him, and to honor this legacy, his daughter, Minoa, and her husband, Joel Evans, recently endowed the O.S. Uffelman Exemplary History Student Award at APSU. The $1,000 award will be awarded annually to a rising junior or senior history major, or a full-time student entering the APSU M.A. in military history program. The money will be credited to the student’s account, and can be used for tuition, housing, books, fees or study abroad opportunities.

            “We just want to continue his goal of education and helping students achieve their degrees,” Minoa Uffelman said. 

            O.S. Uffelman’s dedication to education started early, when he was only a young farmer’s son growing up in depression-era Houston County. As a boy, he walked a couple of miles every morning to attend the small Campground School, and later, the Yellow Creek School. After he graduated in 1936 from high school, he took a job in Michigan and worked until the U.S. Army drafted him into service during World War II.

            “He was an engineer. He detonated land mines,” Minoa said. “He was smart. He wrote letters home to the Houston County paper. He was like Houston County’s own Ernie Pyle.”

            When the war ended, Uffelman used the G.I. Bill to attend Austin Peay State College. He graduated in 1951 and went on to earn a master’s degree from Peabody College, one of the premiere graduate schools in education in the country.

        

            “After that, he taught in Humphreys County for about five yeas, and then in Houston County until he retired,” Minoa said. “He was a teacher, a coach, a principal and superintendent of schools.”

            Uffelman’s name still resonates in Houston County. In 1999, he was named “Lord High Mayor” for the community’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. And his portrait hangs in the local high school, a gift from the 1972 class of Houston County High School.

            “If you grew up in Houston County, you knew O.S. Uffelman,” Angie Judish, benefits manager with APSU Human Resources, said. Judish played basketball in middle school for Uffelman. “In addition to knowledge, he brought a quiet sense of humor to the classroom and to the basketball teams that he coached. As a history teacher and basketball coach, he gained respect from both students and parents. He made sure that his players knew what his expectations were, and I never heard him raise his voice. After giving instructions, he remained calm throughout the game. Whatever the results of the game, he always gave pats on the back and assured each player that she had played a good game.”

            Uffelman’s legacy of inspiring and encouraging students will continue at APSU through this new award.

“I think he’d love this,” Minoa said.

But, she pointed out, the award is only for serious students willing to put in the extra effort needed to succeed. The scholarship is open only to students who meet the following criteria:

• a full time APSU rising junior or senior who has declared a major in history or a full-time APSU student entering the APSU MA program in History.

• a member of the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society

• active in history department activities, maintain an outstanding GPA, display exemplary character and have a record of service to the local community.

For more information or to help contribute to it, contact the APSU Advancement Office, 221-7217.