Dr. David Coffey

Professor and Chair, History and Philosophy


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Dr. David Coffey has joined select company in the world of teaching.


As a recent recipient of the Cunningham Outstanding Teacher/Scholar Award, Coffey joins the ranks of top faculty members honored by UT Martin. The history professor and chair of the Department of History and Philosophy is in good company with his wife, Dr. Julie Hill, an associate professor of music and director of percussion studies, and five others within his department along with other colleagues.


“You don’t just throw your name in a hat and expected to be chosen,” said Coffey, who was nominated for the annual award once before.


The visionary behind the accolade, the late James R. Cunningham, recognized what a financial hand up could do, as a student, he is received $100 award. It changed his life. Cunningham attended UT Martin, then UT Junior College, before graduating from UT Knoxville in 1941. After a stint in the military, he continued his education in Knoxville and earned a law degree in 1947. He flourished as the leader of litigation for the legal division of Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati.


Cunningham’s legacy is helping build other legacies “and making it possible for professors to refine their craft and continue to build their credibility beyond the classroom,” said Coffey, adding, “The award is confirmation of what I am doing and encouragement for me to continue what I am doing.”


His latest work, the editing of a multi-volume encyclopedia on the Civil War, will appear later this year. Coffey’s contributions to the publishing world are numerous and includes authorship of John Bell Hood and the Struggle for Atlanta; Soldier Princess: The Life and Legend of Agnes Salm-Salm in North America, 1861-1867; and Sheridan’s Lieutenants: Phil Sheridan, His Generals, and the Final Year of the Civil War.


“I can become a better historian. I am not simply teaching from a textbook, but I am researching and writing my own books, which directly enhances the learning environment of every student I teach.”


He fans the history flames of many students like Adam Wilson, who began his collegiate journey at UT Martin in math, but, after his first encounter with Coffey in a U.S. history course, he was convinced to follow his passion. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in history from UT Martin in 2005, Wilson went on to the University of Mississippi where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American History. Like Coffey, who remains a mentor, he is in the classroom teaching at the UT Martin Jackson Center.


“I strive to be as welcoming and attentive to my students as Dr. Coffey was to me,” Wilson said. “Since I teach U. S. history, I sometimes feel a weird, déjà vu moment in my lectures and have to wonder if I am repeating the same lecture points from my notes or from memory from one of Dr. Coffey’s lectures.
“He has an immense influence on my life.”

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