The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

UTC Student Benefits from Teacher's Generosity

When you speak with December graduate Anthony Ray about his college career, you sense a feeling of disbelief when he considers where he was, what he has accomplished, and where he is going. With commencement upon him, Ray’s thoughts turn fondly to someone who inspired his success, a very special high school teacher.

Ray’s early memories of childhood are of life in the Chambliss Home, followed by years spent in foster care in Hamilton County. For a time he lived with his father, and then from age 15-18 he returned to the foster care program. With no family support, he decided to try college, but he had to drop out in 1992. As a reservist, he spent two years serving in the 1st Gulf War, and he then returned to Chattanooga, where he began another job. To accommodate the need for a more flexible schedule, Ray took a job waiting tables at Bennigan’s and began to save money to go back to college.

That’s when he saw Betty Rutherford, his Hixson High School trigonometry teacher. Rutherford had taken her parents out to dinner that night and caught up with her former student.

“She said it was ridiculous for me to be waiting tables, that I was too smart for that. She said if I wanted to go back to school, she would pay for my tuition and books,” Ray said.

Although Ray thought she was kidding, Rutherford made it clear she was not. She served as Ray’s benefactor at UTC for four years, asking only that he stay in college and someday, when his children were grown and through school, that he do the same for a student who needed financial help. Rutherford knew she was presenting quite a challenge to Ray.

“Besides going to school, he was working full time, and he had custody of two small children. He had to have extreme motivation within himself,” Rutherford said.

As Ray progressed, he decided to move into accounting. He spoke to Rutherford each semester.

“She placed complete faith in me that I would get where I was going. She gave me a lot of confidence when I really needed it,” Ray said.

Ray suspected and Rutherford confirmed that she has also helped other students.

“When I get old in the nursing home some day, I’ll have something to smile about,” Rutherford said with a laugh. “I don’t have children of my own, and this is a way I can help young people.”

Ray is graduating with a GPA to be proud of, and he has a wonderful job waiting for him with Hazlett, Lewis and Bieter.

“I can not put into words how much this help has meant to me. Ms. Rutherford’s support absolutely changed my life and the direction I took. I am very blessed,” Ray said.