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Ted Shelton: Architect, Runner, Gatsby Fan, Tennessee State Guard Major

Ted SheltonAt UT: Ted Shelton is an associate professor in the School of Architecture, where he has been on the faculty since 2004. He holds degrees from UT, the University of Oklahoma, and Cambridge University. His professional experience includes work for firms in Philadelphia and Seattle. In 2002 he was a Fulbright Fellow in Estonia.

“It’s both an honor and a bit of a strange situation to be on the faculty at one’s alma mater,” he said. “Although there are very few members of the faculty who were here when I was a student, there are still some from my early days as a faculty member. It took me a while to consider myself one of their colleagues, even longer to feel comfortable using their first names.”

Why architecture? “As a kid, I was both artistic and a strong math student. ‘You should be an architect’ is something that kids with that combination of skills are often told,” he said. In his junior year of high school, he read an article about the renowned architect Frank Gehry. “At the time Gehry was making wooden fish-shaped lamps and giant fish sculptures out of chain link, and it gave me an inkling that there was something more to the profession than I had ever imagined. Luckily, I was right.”

Outside interests: Shelton is an avid runner who finished his first marathon last year—the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. He is registered for two more marathons this year and hopes to bring his time down under four hours. “I don’t listen to music or podcasts when I run, and I often run the same routes repeatedly. For me, it’s a very internal activity. It’s as much about getting lost in my head as it is about physical improvement,” he said. He also enjoys camping, hiking, and backpacking, though he admits he doesn’t make time for them often enough.

Favorite reads: On his bedside table is Jon Meacham’s American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. “I’ve been reading a lot of history lately … and am committed to reading more fiction this year,” he said. Some of his favorites: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. “I periodically reread The Great Gatsby and find it to be a different book each time.”

Favorite tunes: His musical tastes run toward blues, old-time country, and contemporary artists that reinterpret those styles such as the Drive-By Truckers. He is a longtime fan of R.E.M. and also finds himself listening to more classical these days. “When I’m designing, I’m not able to listen to music with lyrics, so classical is ideal.”

If I didn’t do this, I’d: “Still do something involving art and design, perhaps graphic design or photography. Design involves a particular, complex and interconnected way of looking at the world, and I can’t imagine not exercising those skills.”

One last thing: He is a major in the Tennessee State Guard, the all-volunteer force that supports the National Guard and civilian authorities with disaster relief, humanitarian causes, ceremonial service, and religious and medical support. “It’s perhaps an unexpected adjunct to my work as a designer, but I find that I’m able to bring a lot of my skills to bear in the service of my community,” he said.

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