Mike Moss: A Heart for the Homeless

Mike Moss: A Heart for the Homeless

By Diane Ballard

Since he retired, Mike Moss has devoted himself to volunteer work in his hometown of Memphis. Now he’s set to volunteer on a larger scale as president of the UT Alumni Association.

The former teacher is now the association’s president-elect, but he’ll move up to president in June when the alumni Board of Governors meets in Knoxville. UT has been a part of his life since he enrolled at UT Martin as a freshman in 1959.

“I attended Martin when it was called UT Martin Branch to play football for the Baby Vols. I loved the small town atmosphere and met lots of wonderful people.”

He later earned master’s and education specialist degrees at the University of Memphis and UT Knoxville. After several years teaching and coaching in Memphis City Schools, he went to work at the University of Memphis and then at the UT Health Science Center.

“I was fortunate to work with Dr. Pat Wall [longtime UTHSC faculty member and administrator] and the admissions committee for the College of Medicine for six years.” Later Moss chose to return to the classroom, teaching in the Shelby County School System for 17 years, “the most enjoyable and rewarding period of my career. There was never a day that I did not look forward to teaching,” he says.

Being at ease in front of a class will be a useful skill as Moss begins a year as the voice of the 300,000–member UT Alumni Association. He’ll speak at alumni events throughout the country and preside at alumni board meetings.

Moss’s year as UTAA president will come as the association works through the recommendations of a study that promise to alter its strategies for funding, communications, and programming.

“Change is the one thing that’s always with us,” he says. “If we aren’t changing, we’re going backward. The UTAA has always reached out to alumni with good programs, and now it’s time for us to look forward to the next decade and make a difference with more alumni.”

Moss began his involvement in alumni work with a term on the UT Martin Alumni Council. Later he worked with the Memphis–Shelby County UT alumni chapter and served two terms as its president.

“I’m extremely proud of this chapter. I think we have taken the lead in providing a variety of events to attract as many alumni and friends as possible. We recently endowed a scholarship in the chapter’s name that will go to a Shelby County student, rotating around to each of the four major campuses.”

He says living in Shelby County and being a UT Martin graduate give him a statewide perspective of “the uniqueness and the contributions of all of the four [UT] campuses. It allows me to see the big picture.”

Moss has a passion for volunteer work. His wife, Carolyn (Martin ’65), says her husband has a “heart for the homeless.”

“There’s no question I’ve been very fortunate during my life,” he says. “Volunteering gives me an opportunity to give back to people who haven’t shared the same good fortune.”

For years Moss helped organize special Christmas projects and soup kitchen workdays. Since he retired, he’s expanded his volunteer work to include helping homeless clients obtain birth certificates, coordinating with a restaurant to pick up and deliver excess food to missions, ordering food from the Memphis Food Bank for the soup kitchen, and teaching a class for an addiction recovery program.

Fortunately Moss’s volunteer zeal extends to the university. He says the fact that UT gave him a good education and entrée to a solid career makes him willing to dedicate his time and energy.

“I feel that I owe UT, and the volunteer work is one way of repaying and saying ‘thank you.’ ”

When Moss takes some time for himself, it’s often on a quiet beach in the British Virgin Islands.

“For several years Carolyn and I have run away from home to spend time on Anegada, a quiet island with a population of two hundred. It has no high-rise developments, very few TVs, and very few paved roads. Our idea of relaxation is a good book and lots of walking on beautiful deserted beaches.”