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Eric Hendrix: English Instructor and Entrepreneur

By Colinda Petrus

Fresh fish

Eric Hendrix answers my questions about his experiences at Western Carolina University while portioning a fresh piece of salmon for his customers. Most of my inquiries are generic in nature, but Eric does not give bland answers. He is eloquent in his descriptions, even when I ask about the origins of the beautiful filet on his chopping block.

Hendrix owns Eric’s Fresh Fish Market in downtown Sylva, opened two days a week. It has become a welcome addition to the community, since fresh fish was hard to find locally before Hendrix opened his store. In addition to operating his fish market, Hendrix is also an English professor at Western Carolina University.

Hendrix majored in English here at Western Carolina University and now teaches four English 102 classes. When he first began attending Western Carolina University in 2001, at the age of 47, he wanted to obtain a degree in Middle School Education, with a minor in Spanish. His desire was to spend time with students and help guide them in the right direction.

Writing is the most important skill in the workplace

After much consideration, Hendrix eventually decided to change his major. The reason was that he was a non-traditional student. Hendrix found communicating with his classmates to be difficult. Adapting to the atmosphere of the education program, where most of the other students were the same age as his children, was not as rewarding as he had hoped.

Hendrix’s response when I asked what drove him to major in English: “T.S. Elliot, T.S. Elliot.” Hendrix also mentions how important an English major or minor is: “Students should look into English as a major if they are undecided. It is fundamental to every discipline. Writing is the most important skill in the workplace. Whoever takes writing into an interview will get the job.”

Continue to strive

When you speak with Hendrix, it is apparent that he is eager to remain flexible and to adapt accordingly. For example, he told me that he served in the United States Army for four years, where he was stationed in Germany. He owned and operated the four original Mi Casa Mexican restaurants in Franklin, North Carolina, worked as an interior painter, and was a news director for KWKI Radio in Kansas City, Missouri.

Hendrix’s previous work experiences make him a role model for those of us who may become unhappy or complacent with our current situation. We can use his life examples to continue to strive for whatever we wish to do with our lives, even when it requires going back to college at a non-traditional age.

Note: As of Fall 2009, Eric Hendrix has resigned his teaching position to devote himself to his fresh fish market.

These profiles were created by the Karen Greenstone's English 303 class (spring 2009)
and edited for the web by Mary Adams's English 303 class (summer 2009).

Students in Mary Adams's English 303 class (fall 2009) wrote additional profiles.