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Getting to know...A.K. Anderson

It was good fortune that brought A.K. Anderson to Wofford the first time. It was even better fortune that Wofford got him back years later.

Anderson, who teaches Religion, grew up in the northeast corner of Tennessee in the small town of Jonesborough. His high school was so small that his graduating class consisted of 32 people. Through chance, he received an invitation to Wofford Hospitality Day in the mail before he had ever started considering any other schools.

ak180“My father made the decision to go,” says Anderson. “After Hospitality Day, I told him ‘This is where I want to go.’”

And so it was that Anderson became a rarity at Wofford, someone who was overwhelmed by how BIG the college is.

“Some of my students today talk about how small Wofford is compared to their high school,” says Anderson. “I was the exact opposite. It was overwhelming to me in a number of ways my first year or so. But it turned out to be the perfect transition for me.”

Anderson graduated from Wofford in 1990, then obtained his Master’s degree at Yale Divinity School and his doctorate at The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.

“From Jonesborough, which just has a couple of thousand people, to Spartanburg, which has 40,000 people, to New Haven, Conn., which has 100,000, to the Bay Area (population in the millions), I took a gradual step each time,” says Anderson. “I’m not sure I could have gone from Jonesborough to the Bay Area.”

Anderson was still in Berkeley when an opportunity to return to the South came knocking, as Wofford’s Christian Theology professor retired in 1998. They didn’t have to ask Anderson twice.

“I came back because I had such a great experience here as a student,” he says. “I was a big fan of the class size and of being in a liberal arts school where I had the chance to think about all these things I’d never had the chance to think about before.”

And so in February of 2000, he returned to campus. Only this time it’s been nine years and counting. He teaches Christian theology and history, and loves the fact that the classes vary from year to year.

“We have the freedom to try new things, which is nice,” he says. “The assumption is that we know our field and there is this trust not only to develop the curriculum within our classes, but the classes themselves. The level of freedom is really appealing. But that comes with responsibility, of course.

“I get to do one of my hobbies as my job. I get to read the kind of stuff I like to read and watch the kinds of movies I like to watch and talk about them. This is what I really love to do. To be able to do is as a job is a pretty sweet deal.”

He has many additional hobbies outside of his job, too. Though with he and wife Elizabeth raising son Ezra, 4, and daughter Naomi, 1, the time to fully enjoy them isn’t there.

For starters, there is music, which Anderson himself finds ironic.

“I have zero musical ability,” he laughs. “I guess that’s part of why I appreciate it so much. I listen to alternative rock, groups like The Black Keys, TV on the Radio, Drive By Truckers and The Killers.”

Then there is television. Unlike most people, Anderson wouldn’t mind so much if his TV picked up only one channel, as long as that channel was FX.

“I’m still having withdrawals from The Shield,” he says of the recently cancelled series. “I’m getting counseling on that one. I also love Rescue Me and Damages.”

Speaking of TV, it’s marquee event, the Super Bowl, takes place this weekend. While most people know of at least one Pittsburgh Steelers fan, very few know a fan of the Arizona Cardinals. Now you do.

“It’s funny because I was a Miami Dolphins fan as a kid,” says Anderson. “My parents bought me all of this Dolphins stuff for Christmas one year, but they lost in the playoffs and I was so distraught I swore I would never cheer for them again. So they told me to pick a team and stick with it, and I ended up picking the Cardinals because of their logo.”

As much suffering as he has endured as a Cardinals fan, he figures he’s one up on his father, a lifelong Cubs fan. But Anderson’s recent frustration with his Oakland A’s may put him over the top in that category. At least he gets to see one A’s home game every year when he visits his wife’s family in the Bay Area.

Two other things about Anderson you probably didn’t know….he designs t-shirts whenever he can, and he drinks Dr. Enuf, a soft drink bottled in Johnson City, Tenn.