“Not only is Vaughn Grisham among the most outstanding teachers, but he developed and maintained relationships with hundreds, even thousands of students,” said Billy Crews, former student, CEO of Journal Publishing Co. and publisher of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo. “Thirty-five years after class with him, we still have a relationship. His classroom has no walls.”
The retired sociology professor received his B.A. and M.A. from Mississippi State University and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is director emeritus of the McLean Institute for Community Development.
Grisham is known for his exceptional connection with students, and he stays in touch. He recently traveled around the world, visiting former students.
“When I look at the list of my students and their success, working everywhere including the White House, I’m just so proud,” he said. “Those are the highlights—the students, particularly the ones you’ve helped discover their talents and abilities to go and do neat things.”
Teaching is of the utmost importance to Grisham.
“First and foremost, teaching is, without a doubt, the highest profession,” Grisham said. “It’s the finest profession. Think about it — teaching makes all other professions possible. This is an incredible opportunity. There is a lot of talent out there, and it’s a wonderful thing. It is very rewarding to see these students blossom and mature.”
Grisham’s colleagues appreciate his knowledge and skill in the classroom.
“Vaughn Grisham knows how to integrate the theoretical and the practical, the high ideals of a virtuous citizen with the tough, almost calloused character of today’s politician,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the Honors College. “He simply has the knack for understanding what makes effective citizenry work, and he instills that vision in each of his students. His classroom activity changes lives each semester, and students rave about the direction their life calling took after studying with Vaughn Grisham. Vaughn is a leader and a teacher, [and] knows how to get the heart and mind of the student to focus on pressing questions confronting our communities.”
Grisham retired from UM in 2006 after more than 40 years of teaching leadership and urban sociology, social work, introductory criminology and junior delinquency, and now shares his passion for education with a larger student body.
“Now I teach people all over the United States,” he said. “I change classrooms in the sense that my participants are those working to improve their communities and trying to make adjustments to the changing economy.”