Upon first meeting religion professor Darren Middleton, it took no longer than that to understand why students regard him so highly.
Sixteen years have passed since Middleton first hobbled his way onto TCU’s campus and began to impact the lives of many.
Yes, hobbled. There is a story behind the word choice.
Flashback to fall 1997. It was funny, he said.
About a week before he was asked to come to campus to interview for his current position, he ran a marathon.
“Successfully,” he added.
A couple days after the marathon, Middleton said he went for a run. It was around December, and the trees had shed their leaves, which deceitfully carpeted the ground.
“The leaves had covered up this hole, and I put one foot in front of another, and I felt my legs buckle underneath me,” Middleton said. ”I had a fifth degree tear of a ligament, so I was on crutches for four months.”
Middleton said, in a lighthearted manner, his interview experience at TCU on crutches was humorous.
“I literally had to hobble over,” Middleton said. “I joke with my colleagues that I got the sympathy vote that day. They must have hired me because I look so pathetic trying to teach on crutches.”
Students who know him said they are glad TCU is where his crutches carried him.
Drew Curd, a senior mathematics major, said Middleton is the epitome of what a professor should be.
“He’s incredibly knowledgeable, but he’s also extremely personable,” Curd said. “You just want to sit and listen to him all day long.”
Brian Mason, a junior journalism major, agreed, and said it’s rare to find a class that you wake up and look forward to.
“He speaks in a manner that makes you want to invest your time in the material, and in him, so you don’t disappoint him, which is a strange dynamic,” Mason said. “A lot of professors don’t really invoke that in you.”
Mason said that Middleton changed the way he thought about TCU and its academics.
“You can see the passion, the real interest that he has, and it’s contagious” Mason said.