David Copeland takes sinewy route to academiaApril 7, 2010
Ask David Copeland to describe himself and he will respond, “David Copeland is just a guy who loves to teach and has been doing it for a long time.”
With that statement, Copeland does not cover a fraction of what he has accomplished in his time as a historian, an educator, a journalist and a musician. He dug an outhouse in historic Williamsburg, did freelance archaeology in his hometown, lucked into the position of sports editor at a local daily newspaper, played trumpet with The Temptations and wrote nine books.
When he applied for his position as sports editor, he was asked about his journalism background.
“‘I don’t have any,’” Copeland told them. “‘But,’ I said, ‘I can write.’ And they said, ‘Go home tonight and watch the World Series.’”
Copeland was told to not read anything and to not watch any reports on it. His task was simply to write it up and turn it in the next day. He was hired and his hands-on journalism education began.
He has earned two master’s degrees – one in divinity and the other in theology. Copeland served as a music minister from 1987 to 2001 in addition to working as a journalist and earning his doctorate degree.
One of the facts Copeland likes to share when first introducing himself to his students is that he once played with The Temptations. What his students don’t realize – judging by the chuckle that runs through the room when he says it – is that he really did play with The Temptations. They had a show band with a complement of trumpets, saxophones and guitarists, and one night, a trumpet player was sick. The band called Wake Forest, where Copeland was an undergraduate student at the time, and he was asked to fill in for show. The only thing he needed to do to prepare was to find a white tie to fit in with the navy and white attire.
“I kind of took them aback when they looked back there and saw me sitting there,” Copeland said, “because they didn’t exactly expect me to be there. So, it was pretty fun. What was really fun was I had a lot of friends who had gone to the concert and had really up-close seats and they were going, ‘What are you doing there!? I can’t figure this out!’”
Copeland principally teaches Media History now in addition to serving as director of the Interactive Media graduate program.
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