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TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2007

Mac Fleming, 83, has taught at the Indian Springs School since 1952 and currently teaches history.
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Mac Fleming, 83, has taught at the Indian Springs School since 1952 and currently teaches history.

Indian Springs teacher still going after 55 years

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Mac Fleming put his goal of becoming a college professor on hold to spend a year teaching history at a new private boarding school for boys.

That was 1952. Fleming made a bit of history himself at Indian Springs School in Shelby County, where he is still teaching at 83.

"I realized that I fit in very nicely here I became very at home," he said.

Fleming is the last original faculty member still at Indian Springs. He has been teaching part-time since 1997 and plans to finally leave the classroom next year.

"I hope the legacy is that I worked very hard at what I did and was fairly successful at it," he said.

Former students say his legacy from 55 years of teaching goes beyond that. They praise his enthusiasm, personal touch and expansive knowledge of history.

"He had a big impact on me," said 1960 graduate Kip Porter, executive vice president of Porter, White and Co., a Birmingham-based investment advisory firm. "I remember he had great patience with us and tolerated interruptions and any questions we had. He could connect with us."

Fleming taught both Porter and the company's founder, James H. White III, at Indian Springs.

And he could even make 17th century tax law interesting, former student Rusty Rushton said.

"He personalized it in a way that amused us, and himself," said Rushton, now assistant director of the honors program at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Fleming's own history is interesting, too. He was an aviation radio man third class in the Navy during World II, based in Guam in 1944.

Fleming planned to use his G.I. bill money to become a college professor. He was working on a doctorate in education at Tennessee's Peabody College for Teachers when Louis Armstrong, Indian Spring School's first director, offered him a job.

Armstrong, one of Fleming's former professors, asked him to give the school a chance and sign on for one year.

"I was a little hesitant. There were all these rumors that Indian Springs was highly experimental, and I was more of a traditionalist," he said.

The 350-acre campus was a working farm at the time, and Armstrong's original idea was to have the students learn while doing farm work.

That method was short-lived, but the philosophy behind it took root, Fleming said. And so did he.

His plan is to retire soon and spend that time with his three children and three grandchildren. Then again...

"I've committed to one more year, but I know what happens every time I say just one more year," Fleming said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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