John Paul Rowen SCAD

Dear Tik Biography Excerpts: Oh Moon of Alabama—Tales from an Academic Backwater

John Paul Rowen SCAD
Tik as a strapping young man

Exciting New Revelations about Dear Tik’s Business Education

A recent memoir by a celebrated business professor confirms Dear Tik’s talents as a college student in rural Alabama. He was only 20 years old, yet raised by a brilliant mother in the attic of a ramshackle house in The Landings, Tik was already a luminary when in college.

David Tennedide’s new memoir: Oh Moon of Alabama—Tales from an Academic Backwater documents how the seeds of Tik’s genius proved transformative for his classmates and even his professors.

“I spent my career at the University of Alabama-Wood-chuck-a-fuc, three hours north of Montgomery and decades away from the 20th century,” the memoir begins. “When I started teaching we had neither minorities nor electricity on the campus. Today, we have electricity and, in some buildings, the Internet,”

Although students and staff at UA-Wood-chuck-a-fuc are still all white, Tennedide remembers a handful of his students who stood out for their brilliance. And here, of course, is where Dear Tik enters the story.

“Back in his student days, he went by ‘J.P.’ and wore a Stetson,” Tennedide recalls.

“I have this enduring memory of him sitting in the back of the lecture hall spitting chew into a Dr. Pepper can. In one lecture during a business ethics course, I asked how the modern corporation might help the poor to move upward in society…and from the back to the hall, I heard J.P, I mean Tik, spit loudly and exclaimed, ‘Well they could invent a cure for laziness!’”

Tennedide pauses here, becoming teary before this reporter. “And all the students laughed. I felt so humiliated. But deep down I knew Tik was right…that my elite liberal views would never solve a thing.”

That epiphany was the first time that Tennedide realized that he might just have a student star on his hands. And, as the years passed, Oh Moon of Alabama recounts how this old radical came to embrace Supply Side economics, tax cuts for the rich, and educational vouchers. All because of Tik:

I knew that my old New Deal ways had to change…that the business of business was wealth. And here was this kid…who never turned in papers, who nearly flunked out f every course he took, and whose high school transcript was missing…here was this kid who saw through everything. Was he some kind of savant? A visionary?

One day after class, as we were all walking toward the student center, I asked J. P…I mean Tik, ‘How did you ever get in here? I mean you never seem to have gotten anything more than a C….’

And in his distinct way, I saw him straighten up (the Stetson made him taller) and clear his throat.

‘Whah, professor Sir, mah Mom is a Big Wheel in the for-profit art school world. She makes big money and her university makes big money. You got a lib-er-al problem with that?’

It was obvious that he didn’t even know my name even though we were now two months into the semester. But this young man who would eventually become Dear Tik showed a confidence that was unforgettable…

Tik also stood out in the Wood-chuck-a-fuc social scene. He was a founder of the elite fraternity of business majors known as Alpha Prepo Chucklo—informally known as “the Chucklets.”

Students and faculty recall some of the hilarious hi-jinks that young Tik and his polo-playing peers brought to campus in the late 1990s.

“They refused to let any class begin without a prayer,” Tennedide writes. “And then they started to make up their own prayers usually culminating in a homily in praise of ‘wealth creators’.”

With assistance from Dear Tik’s sister, the celebrated equestrienne, Kim Jul Tik, the Chucklets imported a string of polo ponies to the main quad of the Wood-chuck-a-fuc campus. “They paid for a miniature version of Churchill Downs and surrounded the campus with white picket fences and viewing tents…. It was screamingly funny for everyone except, of course, their parents when the credit card bills showed up!” Tennedide adds.

“Imagine having a polo team on our little campus when many of our surrounding farmers still used plow horses.”

From these early days, the roguish yet refined Chucklets fanned out to create wealth for themselves and investors. Most notable is Chick-Fil-a, the highly-respected and patriotic fast food chicken chain.

“The Chucklets found a business opportunity and they ran with it,” Tennedide says of his greatest alumni success story:

They found this struggling organic chicken stand in Middlebury, Vermont that made these just delicious breaded recipes. The only problem was that the owner was an old hippie who supported a raft of liberal causes and saw himself as the next Ben & Jerry. But, by using their parents’ capital for leverage, the Chucklets were able borrow heavily, rebrand Chick-fil-a as a force for right wing Christian causes, and substitute processed chicken parts for the original organic secret recipes. The rest is history…..

Tik as a young man John Paul Rowen
Tik as a strapping young man

The Chucklets also applied lessons from their Wood-chuck-a-fuc polo team experiment to help Dear Tik’s sister, the celebrated equestrienne, Kim Jul Tik, to fund and develop a new center for the study of horses at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Although a struggling and poor art college at the time, young Tik and his fraternity mates leveraged their business training to stabilize the college and to finally move Kim Jul and Dear Tik’s mother out of the ramshackle attic in The Landings where she had raised them.

“Tik told me several years later that the proudest moment of his life was when he was able to give his humble teacher mother a home with running water,” Tennedide recounted in a recent phone interview.

 Next week, in Part Two, we will learn how Dear Tik, his sister, and their intrepid mother, Dear Leader, built SCAD into the national treasure that it is today. We will also explore how Tik’s early business school connections with Chick-fil-a became the foundation for SCAD’s powerful design alliance with this global brand.

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