STEPHENVILLE (November 19, 2017) – This is the fifth installment in our fall Tarleton State University Faculty Feature series. Twice a month The Flash Today will introduce a different faculty or staff member to the community.
Tarleton State University Honors College director and philosophy professor Dr. Craig Clifford can usually be found in the offices of the Honors Hall either teaching a special seminar or interacting with students. As Honors College director, Clifford works with “some of the best students on campus” and loves doing so.
Originally, Clifford had no plans of teaching philosophy or directing an honors college, but rather, he planned to study math. After taking an honors calculus course in college, he decided he did not “love it enough to spend eight hours a day on it.”
“So I switched to pre-law because I liked to argue,” Clifford said. “Then, my second year I had a philosophy course taught by John Silver. I was so impressed by that class that I switched to philosophy.
Clifford attended the University of Texas in Austin and was a member of the Plan Two Honors Program, which is the liberal arts honors program. He graduated with a Plan Two major and a concentration in philosophy. There Clifford met his future wife, Tarleton professor, Dr. Mallory Young.
“I think I was a junior, and she was a sophomore,” Clifford said. “We are both from Houston, but we met at the University of Texas.”
Clifford and Young both went on to attend the SUNY (State University of New York) at Buffalo. Clifford earned his PhD in philosophy.
“[Young] finished her dissertation first,” Clifford said. “She got a job at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. We moved there, and after we moved there I finished my dissertation.”
While in Annapolis, Maryland, Clifford was unable to find a teaching job but began writing for publications such as Texas Books in Review and the Texas Observer.
“I had started reading literature, partly because I was homesick,” Clifford said.
One summer Clifford and Young were visiting family in Texas and were looking around to see where they could find teaching jobs. They visited Tarleton professor Tom Pilkington, who taught English and started the Texas Books in Review publication.
“That led to [Young] getting a job in the English department,” Clifford said. “She got a job before I did, so basically I was a bum for several years.”
When they moved to Stephenville in 1983, Clifford had his first book published by the Texas A&M Press. He continued writing and performed as a solo folk singer. Then, under Tarleton President Barry Thompson, Clifford was hired as a scholar-in-residence, so he taught philosophy half-time and continued writing.
“At one point, I was the director of the Honors Degree program, and Pat Zelman was director of presidential honors,” Clifford said. “[In 1996] they combined those two positions and put me in charge.”
Now, Clifford teaches philosophy courses, such as logic, history of political thought and political theory.
“I enjoy going into the classroom and trying to get students excited about philosophy,” Clifford said. “I like the interaction in the classroom.”
As director of the Honors College, Clifford heads up the Honors Degree Program and the Presidential Honors Program. He teaches two of the three presidential honors seminars, recruits students, organizing events and honors schedules and raises funds among other duties. He also usually leads the month-long honors study abroad trip to Italy.
“I enjoy recruiting students,” Clifford said. “I also really enjoy fundraising. In both, you get to meet really interesting people.”
In his free time, Clifford continues to practice his music. He performs with his band, the Accidental Band, at local venues.
“I have no plan to retire [from teaching] anytime soon because I really enjoy what I am doing,” Clifford said.