Double Duty

He splits his time between two offices. He manages demands from two jobs, both at TCU. In one, he gets chalk on his hands and loves it. In the other, he pores over applications and helps prospective students make one of the most important decisions of their lives.

Then, he goes home to 8-year-old twins.

Jim Atwood, 59, is both a religion instructor and assistant to the dean of admissions, as well as chairman of the freshman admissions committee, something that may seem an unlikely combination.

“He is marvelous at being able to balance an academic post with a demanding administrative role at TCU,” said Ray Brown, dean of admissions.

Atwood first became interested in religion while completing his undergraduate work at TCU. He planned on being a political science major, but, after taking a religion course, he changed his mind.

“I’d never encountered the academic practice of studying religion,” Atwood said.

Atwood graduated from TCU in 1970 near the top of his class, with the highest GPA of all the male graduates. From there, he went on to receive his master’s and doctorate degrees from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

After moving back to Fort Worth, Atwood became an adjunct professor of religion in 1978.

“When I got the opportunity to teach,” Atwood said, “that was more than I ever hoped for.”

Atwood said he became exceptionally close to a few professors while a student at TCU. One of them was Ron Flowers, a now retired religion professor and a man Atwood said has been one of the most inspirational people in his life.

“We became not just professor and student but friends,” Flowers said.

Flowers said the relationship developed as Atwood frequently dropped by his office to ask questions and discuss issues from class.

“I found him to have a high level of intellectual curiosity,” Flowers said.

Flowers said he was delighted when Atwood joined the faculty and said it was a natural fit.

“I have always thought of him as being a peer and an equal, a valued colleague,” Flowers said.

Atwood said being a faculty member with some of his former professors was a strange, yet surprising experience.

“They were so nice to treat me like one of them,” Atwood said.

Atwood not only has a good relationship with his colleagues but also with his students.

Senior English and religion major Ryan Motter said he met Atwood through church more than four years ago and is currently in his class. Motter said Atwood truly cares about his students, unlike many professors.

“He deals with incredibly fascinating subject matter that’s difficult to wrestle,” Motter said. “It’s hard to teach and keep an open mind, but he’s definitely capable of it.”

While he was teaching, Atwood said, the admissions office had a newly created position for someone to handle a large donation that had been given to TCU and designated specifically for students affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. Because of his strong ties to the Christian Church, Atwood was the perfect candidate for the job.

“I decided I would try it,” Atwood said. “That was 24 years ago.”

A large portion of Atwood’s job in admissions is working with parents and students who are Disciples of Christ.

“Remember the Church Lady from ‘Saturday Night Live’?” Atwood said. “I’m a church man.”

In admissions, Atwood said, he enjoys working with the staff, as well as the prospective students. He said he knows they’re about to make an important decision, and it is his job to help them.

Atwood is able to look back on his own TCU experience as a student and compare and contrast it to what TCU is like today. Though he said TCU has changed a lot, some things never change.

“TCU had good people then and has good people now,” he said.

Atwood has a unique perspective on college.

“You go to college to learn how to learn,” he said. “As a teacher, you’re also a student.”

Atwood also has a life outside of TCU. He is married to Kris, his wife of 13 years, and they have twin boys, Christian and Jeffrey.

“I’m an old man with young blessings,” Atwood said.

Atwood said Kris also graduated from TCU and works in education.

“We’re a frog family,” he said.

Atwood and his wife enjoy theater and traveling, especially London, he said.

While Flowers said he has the impression that Atwood is a devoted husband and father, he said Atwood embodies so many other qualities. Flowers described him as bright, humble and a gentleman. Motter described Atwood’s sense of humor and personable nature.

“I’ve been really proud,” Flowers said. “Proud of what he’s done and proud that I’ve had some small part in getting him to where he is.