June Montgomery: Friend to Alumni

June Montgomery: Friend to Alumni

“June was the first person I met when I arrived on campus.”
“He was the only friend I had my first year at Memphis.”
“What do you mean, he never forgot a name? He never forgot a face.”
“I would never have made it through school without June.”

Any of these comments might have come from any number of students at the University of Tennessee Medical Units, as UT Health Science Center was known between 1936 and 1973. June Montgomery, who served UTHSC for 37 years before retiring in 1973, passed away on February 25, 2007, at the age of 99. As director of the first UT alumni office in Memphis, he will be remembered for his style of stepping out from behind the desk and interacting with students.

Born in 1907 on a farm in Newbern, Tennessee, June attended UT Martin, then a junior college, and graduated from UT Knoxville. He coached football and taught high school at Gordonsville, Tennessee, for 3 years and at Kingsport, Tennessee, for 4 before coming to Memphis in 1936. Hired as an assistant director at UTHSC in what was then called the Department of Student Welfare, June helped manage the bookstore, checked out microscopes, started the first intramural sports activity (a pool tournament), and assisted with registration and managing the University Center. Before his career was over, at one time or another he held responsibility for managing the student center, the bookstore, dormitories, and just about everything in the area of student affairs.

In 1941, when he became director of student welfare, he discovered his real passion–alumni work–and began the alumni office on the UT Memphis campus. In an interview from 1997 in the archives of the UTHSC Oral History Program, June discussed his connection with the students: “I felt that I could sympathize with students when they had problems because I had experienced some of those same problems,” he recalled. “I’ve had many alumni tell me that I assured them when they were depressed and that I encouraged them because I’d tell them of some of my experiences before I came to Memphis. I’d advise them when they had scholastic or financial problems and encourage them along.”

Shortly thereafter, he decided to compile a list of graduates’ addresses, beginning the first alumni directory. At the same time, he started “The Centergram,” the first alumni newsletter for the Memphis campus. June recalled memories of “The Centergram” during the oral history interview: “In nineteen forty-one I started looking up addresses of graduates and kept a folder of correspondence and started the monthly newsletter. My secretary, Mrs. Bridgeforth, would run it off on the mimeograph machine, and we would mail it to everyone we could find an address for, starting with about four- or five-hundred people. We built up an impressive alumni directory within about three or four years. After the war years, a number of alumni who had finished before I came here stopped by to tell me they had enjoyed ‘The Centergram’ so much they just wanted to come by and meet me.”

During those early years, June mentored Russell Duncan as his assistant. Duncan eventually was appointed to a similar position at the UT Martin campus, where he served the rest of his career.
June’s oversight of student affairs work expanded in the ’50s and ’60s. Alumni will remember B.H. Garner, who had a long career as the manager of the University Center store, Jim Stockdale in student activities, and Bill Robinson, who eventually became the vice-chancellor for student affairs, all of whom were part of June’s staff. Robinson, who interviewed June for the 1997 archive project, said, “One of the most memorable things about him is that the alumni remember him so well. They felt like he was their support, guide, and spiritual leader while they were still in school and had a real affection for him.”

By 1970, June’s alumni work had grown such that he decided to devote his full attention to it. He helped start the alumni seminars that began in the ’60s, and attended alumni meetings throughout the South well into his retirement years.

Jim Stockdale, who was hired in 1955 as an assistant director of student welfare and went on to become director of student activities in 1962, remembered June fondly. “The thing that struck you about June at the start was he was the epitome of the kindly Southern gentleman. He really cared, and it came across.” Stockdale noted that June loved to attend alumni meetings, saying, “People would come up to him in droves to reminisce.”

June’s legacy of caring has reached even to the current administration in the Office of Alumni Affairs, as Barbara McAdams, associate vice-­chancellor, shared how she was affected by his presence. “I knew Mr. Montgomery after he retired from UTHSC. Our office invited him to alumni events, which he attended as long as he was physically able. He had an incredible memory and never forgot a name. He even knew the names of children of alumni. The alumni shared stories of how he helped them buy groceries in the early fifties when there wasn’t enough money to make ends meet.”

June is survived by a son, Frank J. Montgomery of Seattle and one granddaughter. His wife of many years, Mary Margaret Seat Montgomery, died several years ago.

In His Memory

The UT College of Medicine Alumni Council established the F. June Montgomery Endowed Loan and Scholarship in June’s honor in 1987. The fund was established to provide financial support for UT medical students needing short-term loans, as well as scholarship awards for deserving students. The family has asked that memorials be made to the scholarship fund at the following address:

UT Office of Development and
Alumni Affairs
62 S. Dunlap, Room 500
Memphis, TN 38163