ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY
The title on Dr. David Key's business card is Assistant Professor of History, but that status was not his lifetime goal. The Florida native, son of a Rayoneer chemist and a mother who stayed home to raise four kids, says he more or less drifted into the field of history. His childhood wish was to grow up to be a writer, but by his own assessment he was not sufficiently imaginative to pull that off. That, ironically, is one of the things that led him toward history. History brims with stories that can be enjoyed in much the same way fictional stories can, but also has a fixedness and structure that spares the historian the necessity of dreaming everything up from whole cloth.
David made his passage into the world of history a long way from Florida. He found his way to the University of New Mexico and there studied U.S. history and U.S. West history, earning first a B.A., then staying on at the same university all the way through his Ph.D. studies. His master's program was directed by noted American West historian Dr. Paul Hutton, a man who may hold the record for most appearances on the History Channel as a "talking head" on American history, particularly that of the ever-westering frontier of the 18th and 18th centuries.
Upon completing his Ph.D., David began teaching New Mexico history at his alma mater. From there he made his first move toward becoming a Tennessean, going to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where was a "lecturer," a position he describes as in the "minor leagues" of the academic world.
While at UT, he met another member of the history department, Dr. Joel Van Amberg. Dr. Van Amberg taught at UT about a year, then headed off to Greeneville to join the history faculty at Tusculum College. Shortly after Dr. Van Amberg arrived, he learned that the Tusculum History Department was about to shrink considerably with the departure of Dr. Jennifer Brooks and Dr. John Ellisor. Unless he wanted to be a one-man department, Dr. Van Amberg needed help, and contacted the UT history department. Soon David Key found himself coming to Tusculum College as a visiting professor during the 2006-2007 year. This academic year, that "visiting" status turned into a permanent teaching position.
David, who is single, now has a home in Greeneville. When he's not teaching or doing other tasks that go with being a faculty member, he enjoys pursuing his life-long hobby of baseball card collecting. He has about 5,000 cards in total, about 2,000 of them individual cards, and is in the process of sorting his collection.
He hopes to serve as a volunteer at museums in the area, putting to use both his historical capacities and the organizational skills that help him keep track of 5,000 baseball cards.
Does David miss anything about his life in New Mexico? He readily admits he misses the food. New Mexico cuisine has a distinctive quality (David mentions "green chili" frequently when talking about it) and is not quite like food in any other area of the country, in David's experience. In some ways it is most comparable to Cajun cooking, he says.
David's office is in the COG complex.
MOVIES: Dr. Key doesn't claim to have a favorite movie, but does like the you-are-there approach to history employed in the movie "Forrest Gump," which he considers a very well-made film.
BOOKS: One of Dr. Keys most recently completed recreational reads was the final Harry Potter novel.
DINNER GUESTS: If he had the opportunity to have a dinner with historical figures from the past, David would particularly enjoy dining with the two most famous Roosevelts, Theodore and Franklin.