English professor will retire after over two decades teaching at FMU


Dr. John Sutton, professor of English, plans to retire at the end of the spring semester after 24 years of teaching. Sutton poses on his motorcycle with Joffrey the Gargoyle, the Gothic class mascot.

Rachel Baggett, Staff Writer

After 24 years as a professor of English at Francis Marion University, Dr. John Sutton will retire at the end of the spring semester.

Even though Sutton is ready to spend his time away from the classroom, relaxing at his home or working on his side interests, he said that he is going to miss being at FMU.

“The contact with the students is the one thing I’ll miss,” Sutton said. “I think if there is one thing that keeps you young, it is interacting with young people.”

Dr. Christopher Johnson, chair of the English Department, spoke highly of Sutton’s time and work and said those at FMU will miss Sutton as well.

“He’s a wonderful colleague and good friend to all of us, and he does a lot of informal mentoring for many of the younger faculty,” Johnson said. “He’s just a fantastic person, and we all wish him the very best in his retirement.”

Before he became an English professor, Sutton  had plans to be a medical doctor.

Sutton started college as a pre-med major and cites his freshman English professor as the one who originally got him interested in the field of English. However, Sutton remained as a pre-med major until the second semester of his junior year when he decided he did not want to do pre-med and switched majors.

Even though he was just one credit hour shy of finishing the pre-med program, Sutton said he does not regret his decision to switch, and he now uses his background in the pre-med major to work with English courses for nursing students.

Besides the title of doctor, Sutton also went by another title, Lieutenant Colonel Sutton. Sutton got drafted while he was in college and ended up spending 28 years as a commissioned officer in the Air Force.

Sutton was in Vietnam right at the end of the Vietnam War and from there spent time in Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Southeast Asia and  the Caribbean islands using radar to chase drug planes. Sutton said that his time in the Air Force really let him get to see the world.

Sutton was teaching at Arizona State when he was contacted by the head of the English department asking if he wanted to take a position at FMU. Sutton accepted and ended up staying at FMU for the next two decades. Sutton said he likes being able to connect with the students he teaches.

“What I like best about FMU is . . . it’s small enough that . . . you can watch the progression,” Sutton said. “I think that is the most satisfying thing you can see as a professor is that these students really do change over the four years, and sometimes it’s just an amazing change.”

When he is not teaching, Sutton can be found constructing and working with his hands. Coming from a family of builders, Sutton built not only his home, but he also builds his own musical instruments.

He often uses the instruments he makes to play music with some of the other professors in the English Department after classes end.

Besides construction, Sutton also writes screen-plays. His current piece is about a graduate student who starts to become Edgar Allen Poe.

Even though he is retiring, Sutton does not plan to cut out teaching entirely. He plans to teach an online course over the summer and possibly work with the English Department to teach more online courses in the future.