By Ala Kaymaram
Thornton Perkins, a professor of history, has been teaching at WCC for 15 years. He teaches United States history Since 1877, twentieth century history, African-American history, and Michigan history.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Did you grow up in Michigan?
A: I grew up in Detroit. I went to Roosevelt Elementary School. I liked sports; I used to go to a lot of baseball and football games. We had a nice group in our community, so I had a good time in high school. I was very active in high school too. I had a great social life. Sports and music were my interests.
Q: Where did you go to college and what did you study?
A: First, I went to Tennessee State College in Nashville, a historically black college and university, then I went to Wayne State University. I majored in history and minored in political science.
Q: Is there a period in history that is your favorite?
A: In my master’s, I took recent American history and African history.
Q: Have you taught any other subjects besides history?
A: I have briefly taught English and physical education as well.
Q: Have you taught at any other colleges or universities?
A: I have taught at Irvine Community College, DeVry University, Oakland County Community college, and Wayne County Community college.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to major in history before you entered college, or did you start taking classes and then discovered that history should be your major?
A: When I was a kid, I used to read the encyclopedia all the time. It had a lot of maps and a lot of history about different people. I was always interested in the geography of different countries, different groups of people, finding out about them, and how they live. That was very important to me.
Q: How did you decide to pursue a career in teaching?
A: Teaching is a very rewarding profession. You get a chance to instill positivism within the people that you are around. I have been doing this for 42 years. It is a long time, right? That’s way before you were born [laughs]. I have been doing it all my life, and I enjoy it. Incidentally, WCC is a good place to work. This is a good place to teach.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: Meeting new students and becoming acquainted with them, and seeing students learn the things that they didn’t know before.
Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned as a teacher?
A: To bring the best out of every student by encouraging students to reach within themselves and find a good performance.