category: Faculty Emeriti - In Honor Of

Anthony ‘Tony’ F. Eastman

Professor Emeritus of History

Tony Eastman

Dr. Anthony (Tony) F. Eastman (1939-)was born to William Finley and Rachel Eastman in Laurel, Miss. His father served in the U.S. Army, retiring as an E9 master sergeant, and Eastman credits his father with opportunities that fostered a deep appreciation for his country and its history. “My two brothers and I were Mississippi boys with a cotton mill viewpoint,” Eastman offered. “Any time he picked us up and moved us, he opened up a whole new world for us. I got a good dose of nationalism and patriotism everywhere I went.”

As the son of a military serviceman, Eastman lived in Mississippi, Texas and then Germany as a young boy. He graduated from Frankfurt American High School in Frankfurt, Germany. Following high school, he worked in furniture repossession prior to attending Union University, a small Baptist and liberal arts college in Jackson, Tenn. He studied religion and English, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1962. While a student at Union, Eastman met his wife, Joetta. They married in 1962 and have two sons, Scott and Sean.

Eastman proceeded to Memphis State University, Tenn., where he earned his master’s degree in American history in 1964. He worked his way through graduate school with employment at Kroger supermarkets. He was promoted several times and had many advanced opportunities with the company, yet Eastman chose to pursue his dream of being an educator at a Christian school. After completing his graduate studies, he taught two years at Truett-McConnell Junior College, a Baptist school in Cleveland, Ga., before joining Gardner-Webb. “I wanted to teach in a Baptist Christian college,” Eastman reflected. “I had interviews with Belmont in Tennessee and at Gardner- Webb. At that time, Gardner- Webb was about to make the transition to a senior college, and I thought that was a good opportunity to enter on the ground floor and move up with the college.”

Eastman recalled that Lansford Jolley first interviewed him for a history professor position, followed by interviews with GWU Dean James Orville Terrell and GWU President Dr. Eugene Poston. “The first thing I remember is Lansford Jolley,” Eastman remembered. “Lansford was so much of a Christian gentleman that that in itself was impressive enough for me to take the job. Those who interviewed me made no bones about asking me about my Christian journey and my salvation. They asked those questions and then asked me questions about history. The most paramount thing was where I was in my Christian life. Because of that, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d take the job.”

Eastman taught one year at Gardner-Webb before pursuing his doctorate at the University of Southern Mississippi. He completed his degree in 1972, finishing his dissertation while also working at Gardner-Webb. “I stayed right here and dedicated myself to the classroom,” Eastman shared. “My doctorate professor wanted me to revise and publish my dissertation. That was not my interest. It was the classroom.”

American history material and the intellectual and spiritual growth of his students served as the two major driving forces behind his passion for teaching. “It’s not very often that a person gets to live out a dream, but I did,” Eastman declared. “From the time I got into college, I dreamed I’d teach at a Christian college. For 47 years, I lived that dream. Most mornings when I got out of bed I thought, ‘Golly, I get to teach today.’ That, to me, is what I loved. I had more academic freedom here than I would’ve had at a state college. I could go into my classes, and I could explore any topic I needed to whether it was controversial or not.”

Among major career accomplishments in which Eastman takes pride, he served on a faculty committee that helped develop the University’s first four-year liberal arts curriculum. He later helped revise that curriculum as the school developed professional schools in specific subject areas.

“The question in the development of our curriculum was, ‘What do we want our students to know when they leave?’” Eastman said. “That was our question as we became a four-year college. Building the curriculum was fun. There were a lot of good arguments and there was a lot of good philosophy.” Eastman also fondly recalls the creation of the University’s Greater Opportunities for Adult Learners (GOAL) program, now known as the Degree Completion Program. He taught one of the first-ever GOAL courses, a class based in Morganton, N.C., and he enjoyed the passion of the adult learners and non-traditional students who were working full time jobs, in addition to earning a degree.

In his final year of teaching, Eastman hosted an early morning pre-breakfast history study for students. He noted that there were about ten students who would come in every morning at 7 o’clock just to further connect on lessons of history … and lessons of life. It was that campus relationship that continued to engage Eastman for nearly five decades of teaching. “What kept me here at Gardner-Webb was the open door between professor and student. I kept my door open for students, always; that was the joy teaching. We really were family. We took care of each other on the campus and off the campus, through the good times and bad times. I have bailed them out of jail; I have walked young ladies down the aisle. That’s family, and you don’t turn your back on family.”

Eastman retired from Gardner-Webb in 2011, teaching a “final lecture” in the spring semester that was attended by students, colleagues, alumni and friends (and an online audience). “I appreciated that opportunity,” he offered. “People came not only to see me bow out, but to learn a little history. That was humbling.” He said he desired to be remembered for his teaching of American history and American heritage, and he hoped his teaching inspired his students to love the country.

Eastman continued to teach courses at the University as an adjunct for several years after retirement as always and appreciated the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in the greater community.

Joetta retired from Gardner-Webb in 2006 after serving as administrative assistant for the school’s physical education and wellness studies department. The Eastman have two sons, Scott and Sean.

The Eastmans live in Boiling Springs.


Personal interview (2016) — Matthew Tessnear

Personal interview (2022) Noel T. Manning II

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