A UM ‘institute and icon’ passes away

Published 5:45 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

Sarah Palmer taught at the University of Montevallo for 32 years.

BY CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Shelby County Reporter

Former Chilton County High School English teacher Sarah Palmer taught classes from 1944-1968 before teaching at the University of Montevallo for 32 years. Palmer passed away Aug. 8 at her home in Catawba, N.C., surrounded by her family.

“I was lucky enough to have Ms. Palmer for 11th grade English at CCHS,” former student Carl McDowell said in an email. “She taught things that have given texture to my life. ‘Starry Night’ is still my favorite painting. I had never seen it before she introduced our class to impressionism.”

McDowell wrote that Palmer inspired for him a 40-year passion of Wedgwood ceramics.

“The biggest thing she did for me was to introduce me to Wedgwood ceramics. I have collected ever since,” McDowell wrote. “I’ve been to England for classes, and I’m a member of Wedgwood International Seminar and Wedgwood Society of New York.

“(I’ve had) 40 years of collecting, traveling, making friendships and studying because one great lady took one hour of class time to show English ceramics to a class in Clanton, Alabama,” he added. “I will forever be in her debt.”

Brenda Godbold attended Palmer’s CCHS English class from 1965-1966 during her ninth grade year. She then chose to attend summer school for her 11th grade English class in order to have Palmer teach her again.

“She was a good teacher who taught her subject matter well, but also made learning fun and brought in classical music and art history into the classroom,” Godbold wrote in an email. “These I never would have learned to appreciate so well without her influence.”

Godbold wrote that Palmer taught the works of artists from early times to the Renaissance period to modern day, and how she still has art books she made in Palmer’s class.

“I can still see her peering over her glasses, cutting her eyes at me and then glancing back to my paper to give me feedback on my assignments,” she wrote. “She encouraged good writing by using good subject matter, as well as good mechanics. She also stressed good character and used teachable moments to build us up and motivate us to do better.”

A memorial service was held on Aug. 12 in Newton, N.C. Palmer’s obituary concluded with the following instructions: “For those unable to attend, please read a book, visit a museum or listen to classical music in memory of Sarah.”