Dr. Daryl Hale, associate professor in the Philosophy and Religion department, comes from humble beginnings.
Hale has been a professor in the Philosophy and Religion department since 1992, and has made a name for himself as possibly one of the most beloved teachers of Western Carolina University.
Before coming to WCU, Hale spent a good portion of his life being taught rather than teaching. Hale studied at three universities, earning four degrees along the way, learning philosophy and religion.
His background in religion comes from his upbringing. Brought up in a religious family that had a history in farming, Hale was determined to learn.
“I grew up [hearing] a lot of people explain to me what the Bible teaches. I found I questioned a lot of it. I wanted to look at the critical inquiry myself,” explained Hale.
Hale started out studying religion. After graduating college as an undergraduate, Hale went back to study philosophy.
“By that time, I was interested in looking at bigger questions, ethical questions,” said Hale.
Hale would go on to earn his doctorate in philosophy. However, in order to receive his degree, Hale would have to teach a class.
“I knew I’d chosen the right path,” Hale recalled, saying that he had known he wanted to teach since he was around 20-years-old.
Vanderbilt University, where Hale had received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, had a long-standing relationship with Western Carolina. Hale recalled several graduates of Vanderbilt teaching at WCU through the years.
After visiting the university, Hale said, “It just seemed like a good fit.”
Judging by his students’ reactions, Hale had indeed chosen the right career path as well as the right home.
The website Rate My Professor lets students leave reviews for their professors. Hale is reviewed as being funny, smart and kind.
One user wrote about Hale, saying, “One of the best and most intelligent teachers I have ever encountered.”
“He is so helpful and went out of his way several times to do a study session for the midterm and final exam,” said another user.
With over 17 positive reviews on the website, Hale’s recommendations speak for themselves.
But, Hale has a passion other than teaching-carpentry. Hale acts as a master carpenter over the summer, going so far as to build wheelchair ramps for the community and helping fellow professors.
He first discovered this love when the money from his teaching assistantship in graduate school ran out. After helping a friend work on a timber frame house for a summer, Hale was hooked.
“I find that after nine months of grading papers, that part of my brain is tired, so I enjoy the other parts of my brain: the science and hands-on part,” said Hale.
Even when the teacher side of his brain is resting, Hale still enjoys interacting with his students and former students alike. Hale maintains a relationship with former students, chatting by email and receiving pictures of their children. They also share their accomplishments, their highs and their lows.
“I feel like I’m kind of like their uncle,” Hale said with a laugh. “It’s not about prestige; it’s about seeing how well their lives have gone since they were here as students.”
Philosophy junky, professor, uncle to his students, master carpenter and farmer, Hale is a man of many talents. He is certainly a unique part of the Catamount family and is loved by his many students.