History professor's positive impact

Clive Hallman's best teaching tools were his sense of humor and generosity
By Tony Madsen ( '99)

Originally published in Fall 2008, this is just one of many stories from Madison magazine's award-winning Professors You Love series, written by JMU students and alumni, about the professors that have made the most impact on their lives — then, and now.

Theta Chi brother Ed Roth ('98), left, and Tony Madsen ('99) visit with history professor and Theta Chi adviser Clive Hallman

Theta Chi brother Ed Roth ('98), left, and Tony Madsen ('99) visit with history professor and Theta Chi adviser Clive Hallman in his home on April 1997

When I think about great JMU history professors who had a positive impact on my education, it is difficult to choose only one. However, Dr. Clive Hallman is the one who most stands out in my mind. My freshman and sophomore years were spent fulfilling lower-level history requirements as I only received a 3 on my AP exam. So, I enrolled in U.S. History to 1877. The professor had a master's degree but lacked the delivery skills for teaching a college course. He read his college notes to us, and — as we scrambled to write down important points — he would say, "Oh yeah, I forgot to mention …"

My friend, Steve Kirsch, told me that he was enrolled in another section of the class that met at a different time. The phone call I made to that professor led to my first conversation with Dr. Hallman. He told me the course was full, but he put me on the waiting list and told me to attend his next section in case the registrar waived me in.

I knew I had made the right choice after my first class with Dr. Hallman. He taught history without notes. It didn't feel like a course; it was more like your grandfather telling you a story about American history.

He told exciting tales about historic figures that both entertained and helped students remember personalities and events for upcoming tests.

I did well in his class and didn't want the adventure to end. I enrolled in his Colonial America and The Old South classes during subsequent semesters. As we focused on specific areas of American history, Dr. Hallman's stories became even more detailed. I didn't even mind when some stories were repeated.

I recall a time when Dr. Hallman called on me to share my research about the recently discovered Jamestown Fort and some of the theories surrounding North Carolina's Lost Colony. It was nice for such an esteemed teacher to rely on me — an undergraduate — to relay important information to the class, even if only for five minutes.

I also appreciate Dr. Hallman's great sense of humor. Once, a student joked with him that "because Georgia was originally established as a debtor's prison that all Georgia residents were descendants of criminals." Hallman, a Georgia native, smiled along with the rest of us. Another time Dr. Ha l lman referred to the American Civil War as the "War of Northern Aggression." As a New Jersey native, I couldn't help but chuckle. His sense of humor and tact with young people make him a superb classroom professor.

Dr. Hallman was a great resource to students, as well. When I came up short on resources while writing papers, I would visit his office, and he would pull personal books off his shelves and lend them to me.

As the longtime adviser for the Theta Chi fraternity, Dr. Hallman would frequently invite all the brothers and their dates to his home for cookouts. It saddens me that Dr. Hallman retired from full-time teaching about the same time that I graduated. Finding opportunities to visit with him has been challenging but so worth the effort.

I hope Dr. Hallman will read this article and know that he is a Madison professor for whom I have sincere admiration and fond memories.

Dr. Hallman, thank you for everything.

About the professor
Clive R. Hallman, professor emeritus of history and part-time faculty member, earned his Ph.D. in Colonial America from the University of Georgia. He teaches courses in Colonial America, Virginia History and the Old South. The Clive R. Hallman History Undergraduate Scholars Award is given to undergraduate history majors who need to travel to research collections to complete a senior honor's thesis or a conference paper for publication by a recognized undergraduate or professional journal.

About the author
Tony Madsen ('99) graduated summa cum laude with a major in history and minors in education and anthropology. He has been a middle- and high-school history teacher for nine years and lives in New Jersey. His interests include film (acting and writing), vinyl records and rock 'n' roll, antiques, classic cars, painting, and snowboarding.