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Physics chair emulates mentor, embraces “students first” motto

1/22/2001

January 22, 2001

He walks with the exuberance of youth and talks with the enthusiasm of one who loves his work. What isn’t obvious is the humility Dr. Jaime Taylor feels to be following in the footsteps of his mentor, the late Dr. Bob Sears.

With a doctorate in engineering, Taylor, associate professor of physics, pretty much had his pick of jobs after he completed a doctoral degree. At colleges less than an hour away, he could make significantly more than at APSU.
January 22, 2001

He walks with the exuberance of youth and talks with the enthusiasm of one who loves his work. What isn't obvious is the humility Dr. Jaime Taylor feels to be following in the footsteps of his mentor, the late Dr. Bob Sears.

With a doctorate in engineering, Taylor, associate professor of physics, pretty much had his pick of jobs after he completed a doctoral degree. At colleges less than an hour away, he could make significantly more than at APSU.

But like Sears, who was chair of the department until April 14, 1999--the day of his untimely death--money means less to Taylor than daily opportunities for one-on-one interaction with students. “Students-first” is a Sears' characteristic Taylor emulates.

It seems fitting that Taylor is department chair. Almost a legacy. He is trying to live up to what he feels would be Sears' expectations. In addition to work as department chair and teacher, Taylor helped create a partnership between APSU and UT-Knoxville that resulted in a dual-degree program in physics and engineering. APSU's physics department is working on similar programs with TSU, TTU and the University of Memphis.

During his career, Sears received many professional honors such as being president-elect of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), recipient of the AAPT Distinguished Service Award and of APSU's 1992 Distinguished Professor Award.

In 1999 Sears posthumously received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor APSU can confer, joining a small cadre of recipients that include newly elected Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

But Taylor says such honors were not his friend's primary source of happiness. “Dr. Sears' real joy came from working with students,” says Taylor. “He always put his students first, enthusiastically answered their questions and helped them with their problems, whether they were school-related or personal.

“I cannot remember a time Dr. Sears was not smiling or laughing and doing ‘stuff' (as he would say) to help out those around him. It was clear he enjoyed his work.”

In 1995 when Taylor was completing his doctorate, Sears asked if he was interested in returning to APSU as a member of the faculty. Taylor jumped at the opportunity. “My thoughts were there could be no higher calling than to be a faculty member at Austin Peay,” Taylor says.

“If I can do half as much for the students that pass my way as Austin Peay faculty members did for me, my life will have been worthwhile.”