After teaching together at Texas Wesleyan for more than 25 years, the Halls are moving on to their next chapter: retirement.
Dr. John Hall, professor of psychology, came to Texas Wesleyan from Houston in 1990 with his wife Kit Hall, professor of art, who joined him at the university in 1994 as a part-time instructor and a full-time instructor by 1995. They’ve been married more than 50 years.
“We’ve done a whole bunch of stuff together for a long time, so it’s (retiring together) not that scary. It might be scary to some couples, but we’re OK with it,” John said.
Kit agreed with him that retiring together wouldn’t be an issue because they’d still have their own spaces beside their house.
“We’ve had some friends say ‘Ya’ll are doing this at the same time?’ ‘Yeah, we’ve done everything else at the same time, why not?’” she said. “I do think it will be fine because we do like each other on top of love each other we like each other, so I don’t anticipate that this (retiring together) will be a problem.”
While at Wesleyan, the Halls have made some fun memories and connections, such as dealing with a potentially R-rated giant sculpture positioned to face the president’s office, students dressed in Speedos painted metallic gold and posing as statues for an awards day, witnessing and participating in harmless pranks like Wesleyan President Harold Jeffcoat’s portrait getting a temporary mustache, chilling on the roof of Dan Waggoner Hall, and assisting in staff resignations.
“Those were fun times,” Kit said. “This is the way things used to be, and nowadays it’s not so much fun as it used to be, so I do miss that part. I miss that a lot, and I think the students miss it, too. Students need to get out and cut loose every once in a while.
“(Exploration and pushing boundaries) that’s what it’s all about. We’ve all done it. You talk to any professor here, everybody’s pushed boundaries in their time. If not, they’ve missed something they should have experienced.”
John also misses the fun of the old days.
“When I got here in 1990 Wesleyan people that were already here always referred to it as a family and like most families it can be dysfunctional, but I don’t know that I ever liked the family metaphor, but people were closer,” he said. “I think we did as much education, but there was a little more social. I have a lot of fond memories from that.”
The Halls have both learned many lessons over their years in academia. Kit said her most important one was knowing when to fight.
“You don’t have to battle everything, but you do battle for what’s important,” she said. “It’s OK to accept that not everything is going to be perfect, but you’re trying.”
Kit said she learned how to be a fighter in academics from John. He mentioned several lessons. He jokingly said that if there’s a way to mess something up someone will find it. But he is sincere when he says that people will find a way to persevere and change their lives through academia.
“I’ve been involved in this for a long time,” he said. “It’ll be hard to list all the lessons. I guess career-wise the biggest lesson I’ve learned, and I’ve learned it several times over is be mindful of what you say because it can have an impact on you and you don’t know when and you don’t know where.”
The Halls have each left their own legacies around campus, Kit in the arts and John in psychology. They also spent some time in humanities.
“I’ve been thinking about fun things, the shenanigans some of the students did that were fun, the art majors and really how much I enjoyed getting to know some of the students,” Kit said. “I also think about the fight for the visual arts that continues, and I hope it never stops. I hope somebody sticks around and fights.
“I think probably the legacy would be with the few students I had special contact and relationships with. They kind of come back and we talk and have good conversations. That’s probably what it’s all about anyway.”
Kit also established the Bernice Coulter Templeton Art Studio, but said she doesn’t know who is replacing her yet. John played a part in creating different programs as well, and was heavily involved in an interdisciplinary program called AEGIS for a couple years.
“I was chair of this (psychology) department for a long time,” he said. “I hired Dr. (Marilyn) Pugh, for example. I don’t know if that’s a legacy or what, but I think a lot of things that have happened here got started under my time with my contribution. Very few people know this, but if it’s of value, the counseling program, the master’s of counseling started in this department and began with me from a conversation between me and Dr. Kurt Patrick.”
Pugh, associate professor of psychology, wrote that she was glad to have meet the Halls more than 20 years ago.
“I have loved John and Kit Hall for 25 years,” Pugh wrote in email. “I have learned a great deal about being a college professor from both of them, and I have very much enjoyed their friendship. Their many talents and sheer brilliance have added immeasurably to the Wesleyan experience for me and for literally thousands of students.”
One of those students is junior mass communication major Amanda Roach, who meet John in the fall 2017 in a general psychology class and Kit in the fall of 2018 for an interview for a mass communication class.
“I’ve taken classes with both of them,” Roach said. “Dr. Hall’s just a really engaging professor who teaches a lot through stories which made me really remember a lot of what he taught in class. Then Mrs. Hall’s really fun, and she’s just very knowledgeable about art. She’s kind of fun with just the way she’ll act in class, and with her she doesn’t really put a lot of stress on us.”
Roach says she’ll miss them and wishes them a good retirement, but she doesn’t see them completely walking away from teaching.
“I think they’re still going to find ways to teach people about art and horses and psychology and everything,” Roach said. “They both seem like natural teaching kind of people.”
In their retirement, the Halls plan to work on their own projects, travel, and spend more time with their family and animals.
“I have a studio on our property, so I plan on cleaning that out, organizing that and getting back into my own art,” Kit said. “Over the last couple of years, I’ve had mostly school stuff that I’ve been taking care of and this gallery has taken a lot of time and effort, so I’m looking forward to only looking at my own calendar, listening to my own messages and painting. Those are things I really look forward to.”
While they aren’t positive about what direction life will take them, John said he’s going to try to live the most interesting life he can in this next chapter.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to get bored and there’s always keeping up with the property and that’s a full-time job right there,” John said.
He said he most likely will miss being on a university campus since he can still keep up with his colleagues in retirement.
“I’ve always loved universities since I was a little kid,” he said. “I got to go on the UT campus when my dad was in graduate school. I think there’s just something about them.”
He said his time at Wesleyan has been important to him despite the ups and downs over the last 28 years.
“Whatever it’s been I’ll never regret coming here and doing it,” John said. “Coming to Wesleyan gave me lots of opportunities.”