Professor’s dedication remembered in scholarship
Ted Allen became known for his commitment to teaching during his 23 years as a professor of mechanical engineering at Arizona State University.
Sidney Allen remembers when her late husband Ted would run into former students, some of whom he hadn’t seen in as long as a decade, and “he would still remember everything about them.”
She recalls Ted’s “nine o’clock rule” during his teaching days at Arizona State University. “Ted would give out our home phone number to his students and they could call him anytime before 9 p.m.,” she says.
Students called frequently, and Sidney would often find her husband on the phone helping students with homework.
During his 23 years as a professor of mechanical engineering at ASU, from 1959 to 1982, Theodore Allen Jr. became known as an especially dedicated teacher who took personal interest in his students’ success. Sidney attributes his success as a teacher to his ability to “relate to people whether he met them working on a farm or studying at a university.”
Ted received the ASU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award for inspirational teaching and guidance in 1981.
To honor Ted’s exemplary dedication, Sidney and friends gave a gift to the university in 1993 to establish the Theodore Allen Memorial Scholarship for ASU engineering students, and she increased the original endowment with a planned gift in 2012. “This was something I really wanted to do because Ted was so passionate about teaching and about the engineering program,” she says.
One ASU engineering student receives the Theodore Allen Memorial Scholarship award each academic year. Meeting the winner at the annual scholarship reception and talking about Ted “is a big thing for me,” Sidney says.
Both she and Ted grew up in Texas. She was “a ranch girl” near the small town of Chillicothe and earned a degree in library science in 1945 from the Texas State College for Women, now Texas Woman’s University.
Ted grew up in San Antonio and earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University. After graduation, he was a faculty member at the University of Houston prior to coming to ASU, where he joined the dean of the engineering college at the time, Lee P. Thompson. Ted studied under Thompson at Texas A&M.
Ted’s college studies were interrupted while he served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II as a navigator of a B25 aircraft. He frequently flew over the Himalayan mountains and around China, Burma and India.
Those places remained special to him throughout his life, Sidney says. She recalls he formed close friendships with a number of students from the countries where he spent time during the war. He also became a collector of Asian and Tibetan books and coins and loved talking to students about the history and culture of that part of the world.
She and Ted met during the war, on a blind date in Roswell, New Mexico, where she worked as a high school librarian. They married in 1947.
Away from the classroom, her husband “wasn’t the typical mechanical engineer who liked to tinker with automobiles,” she says. “He liked to spend his free time shopping around at coin collector shops or bookstores.” After the move to Arizona, Sidney began spending her time becoming “a professional volunteer.”
An avid gardener, she has volunteered at Phoenix’s popular Desert Botanical Garden for more than four decades, logging about 8,000 service hours over the years.
She became the botanical garden’s “unofficial desert tortoise expert,” an interest reflected at her home where 17 tortoises and turtles roam amid her desert garden.
She also currently volunteers as a docent at the Scottsdale Historical Museum.
“I love working with plants, but more than anything else I love working with people,” she says.
Sidney believes Ted would have said the same about the reason he loved his profession. When asked what he would have wanted to be remembered for, she answers, simply “being a teacher.”
Among Ted’s close and long-time colleagues was Dan Jankowski, who taught engineering at ASU for 40 years. They first met in 1964 when Jankowski interviewed for a faculty position at the university. From that day on, Ted provided him “support, advice and friendship” for decades, Dan says.
When Ted suffered a heart attack, Dan took over one of his classes.
“That experience taught me a lot about how much his students cared for him and appreciated his approach to teaching engineering,” Dan recalls.
“He had an endless supply of stories to tell in class, and he was patient with his students,” he adds. “I remember one of his favorite wisdoms, ‘For a school to be successful, you need someone who wants to learn, someone who wants to teach, and a log to sit on.’”
The gift of the Allen scholarship, Sidney says, is a way Ted Allen can be remembered for the passion and commitment he brought to his profession, and a way for ASU to honor his legacy of sharing by giving the gift of opportunity to young aspiring engineers.
Joe Kullman, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering