John Quincy Adams told us that “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn
more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” No one more exemplifies that statement
than Teresa Dalle, who has been a leader in the Department of English by example, vision, and persistence
for 30 years. When Teresa was first approached to develop an M.A. in ESL in 1983 after
earning her Ph.D., she began her work and guidance that would influence generations
of teachers, students, and, indeed, our entire community.
Throughout the years, Teresa’s leadership was instrumental in founding SETESOL, the
largest geographical TESOL division in the United States; she was president and every
other kind of officer for TNTESOL; she hosted many, many local and regional conferences,
and was a major driving force for good in almost every initiative that involved immigrants
and refugees in the Memphis community.
Teresa and Emily Thrush are the only “PI Millionaires” in the Department of English
for the multi-year, multi-million dollar grant “Teachers Get It” that has literally
transformed the training of ESL teachers in the Memphis School District and directly
helped improved the status of ESL education for young immigrants and refugees. Through
her leadership, she has served as role model of both the effective leader and the
spectacular teacher. Of course, her abilities to lead in the classroom have twice
been recognized with her winning the University of Memphis’ “Distinguished Teaching
One of Teresa’s unique strengths is her ability to understand systems, rules, and
to know how bureaucracies can be managed in order to help meet the needs of students
and faculty. While co-director of graduate studies, she repeatedly found ways to work
within the university system to help our programs grow and flourish. As liaison with
the College of Education for teacher licensure in ESL, she is able to practice those
Like many born leaders, Teresa is never satisfied with the status quo: she is always
looking for ways to progress. She led the way for the creation the now widely acclaimed
Graduate Certificate in ESL, which made graduate education available to many new audiences.
Likewise, she helped create the first online courses in the Department. And, as ESL
coordinator, she was able to lead us to a completely online M.A. in ESL which now
provides many benefits to the students enrolled and the Department.
But her leadership extends beyond just the university; she has also received several
awards for community involvement and volunteerism. She has inspired many of her own
students, both graduate and undergraduate to make their academic work relevant to
improving the lives of others in the real world. It is this leadership through example
that will perhaps have the most far-reaching effects.
As a leader, Teresa draws from her own travels and experiences to guide students,
colleagues, and even institutions into a richer future. Teresa leads with diplomacy,
encouragement, and a belief in the value and dignity of the individual. And that is
why we are honoring her today because we often seem to think that the major projects
and activities that she enabled “just happened.” She serves not to bring honor to
herself: she serves because of her unflinching commitment to what is right. As Lao
Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know she exists, when her work is done,
her aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” And yes, we did it ourselves
but it was Teresa who believed in us and showed us the way.
Remarks presented by Dr. Eric Carl Link at the Department of English Fall 2012 Faculty