In Update we are profiling the deans of our colleges and schools. In this issue, we feature
Dr. Tom Nenon, interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, a professor of philosophy
and a soccer aficionado.
Dr. Tom Nenon
How did you come to the U of M?
Philosophy professors usually do not have a lot of choice, so there is a sense in
which I can say I chose the University because they chose me out of the hundreds of
people who applied for the job. Having said that, it was also my first choice since
this is my home town, I appreciate the mission of a comprehensive metropolitan research
university, I have had great colleagues in the philosophy department and the University
has provided me with professional opportunities in academic administration that I
never thought would be as significant a part of my career as they turned out to be.
What life lessons do you try to instill in students?
In my introductory courses, I try to help them better understand some of the key intellectual
shifts in human thinking and the factors that shape our thinking more than we usually
know. Even more importantly, though, I try to help students reflect more mindfully
on their basic priorities in life, to learn to read more carefully and critically,
and to express themselves clearly.
What do you enjoy most about being dean?
The most enjoyable part of any administrative position is being involved in initiatives
that lead to positive results for our students, faculty, staff members and our community.
Helping departments figure out better ways to do that, and, when the resources are
available, helping provide the support for them to accomplish their goals, is an important
part of that job. Of course, other kinds of support than financial resources alone
are important in accomplishing those goals.
What is the most challenging part of your position?
The hardest part of being a dean is that there are always more good initiatives and
opportunities than there are financial resources to support them all. In years where
the funding is going down instead of up, that problem is hardest.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to a student?
Find something you are good at and love to do, and then work hard to become as good
as you can be at doing that.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and who was it from?
I’ve received so much good advice over the years from so many people, that’s very
hard to say. Several people I have had the privilege of working with over the years
have taught me that leaders need to stay positive and that integrity is one of a leader’s
most important assets.
Are there any hobbies you have time to enjoy?
I still try to play soccer a couple of times a week and I enjoy cooking and sharing
good meals with my family and friends.
Tell us about your family
I am blessed to have been married for 27 years to Monika Nenon, whom I met during
a seminar on German literature many years ago in Freiburg, Germany, and who accompanied
me back to the U.S. and Memphis, where she is on our faculty as a professor of German in
the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. I am also very proud of our daughter
Christina, who is now in her third year of medical school at University of Tennessee
Health Science Center doing her clinical rotations. She has always been very generous
in allowing my wife and I to be a big part of her life.