This year, Trinity University’s most prestigious faculty award—the Z.T. Scott award—was given to history professor Carey Latimore, Ph.D. Latimore was recognized not only for his consistent contributions to the University, but also for his enduring enthusiasm and success as a mentor and educator.
The Z.T. Scott Fellowship is the most prestigious faculty award the University bestows and includes a cash award to be used for professional development and research. Trinity University Trustee Richard M. Kleberg III established the Fellowship in 1984 in honor of his grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott.
Latimore began teaching at Trinity in the fall of 2004. During his time at Trinity, Latimore has been involved in many aspects of campus, including advising the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, chairing the history department, serving as co-director of African American Studies, assisting with the Trinity University Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture Committee and the Black Student Union, and much more. But above all, Latimore says his favorite thing about teaching is working with students.
“I love advising students. I love listening to students. I love interacting with students. And doing projects with students as well,” Latimore says. “Now, last year was a little bit different, but in the previous years I had the opportunity to do some really good research with a couple of students on my larger research project.”
As well as mentoring and advising, Latimore has also been conducting research examining the history of African Americans in San Antonio. He has tentatively titled the project “Neither Southern Nor Western: African Americans in San Antonio,” describing how the nature of San Antonio race relations doesn’t doesn’t really match that of traditionally southern or traditionally western states. His main resource for this research is conducting oral history interviews, where he speaks to people about their experiences.
“To have that diversity of people talking about race relationships and talking about them in different kinds of ways because they have different backgrounds, really helps to flush out the distinctiveness of San Antonio,” Latimore says.
It’s not always easy, either. Latimore describes the process of transcribing the interviews—which can be forty minutes to an hour long—and having to hold follow-up interviews because of the amount of information the interviewer provided. And while many people come to Trinity for the interviews, sometimes Latimore and his team will travel to the interviewee to make them more comfortable
The students who help with this project assist in conducting those interviews, as well as helping Latimore transcribe them.
“That was a tremendous resource for me,” Latimore says, “but when students assist you with your research, you’re also learning.”
Together, they have interviewed all kinds of people, including some people from World War II and people born in the 1920s. They’ve talked with people from a variety of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as military veterans and people in retirement communities.
The Trinity students also help generate questions to guide the interviews. Before they conduct an interview, they plan out the interview, developing specific questions depending on the person’s background.
“And yet,” Latimore says, “we try to be flexible. Sometimes we go into an interview and we don't get the answers we expected. So we go in a different way, and so we have to be flexible enough to let that person take the interview in a different direction. I think that’s a good experience for the students, too.”
Researching and working closely with students is important to Latimore. His motivation for pursuing teaching and academia comes from the mentors he had as an undergraduate student, who were among the first to tell him they believed in him and that they thought he could succeed as a professor.
“I had the opportunity of doing a summer research program with one of them,” Latimore says. “In that summer research program he helped me work on my own stuff, and in doing that, I saw what he was doing. He inspired me because he told me that I could do this. And sometimes, not all students hear throughout their lives about the things they can do from people they see as mentors.”
Latimore has had a profound impact on many students, including one of those student researchers, Nina Nevill ’19, who is now working on a Ph.D. at Rice University. Latimore’s own professors also continue to have an impact on his advising today. He describes his professor as “the kind of mentor who kind of let me decide on my own what I wanted to do and didn’t try to shape it. He just helped plant the seeds there.”
Latimore’s professors were absolutely right, and all the work he has done since coming to Trinity is just the proof.
Jennifer Mathews, a professor from the sociology and anthropology department and fellow Z.T. Scott award winner from 2019, shared what makes Latimore so deserving of the award. “His students love his classes,” Mathews says, “and he is often mentioned to me by students as a mentor that has had a big impact on them. He has been instrumental in supporting the African American studies major, bringing the Claude Black papers to campus, getting the Roots Commission up and running, and is one of the most sought-after faculty members for media requests. He gives a lot of himself to the campus and community and is an excellent representative of the campus community to the outside world. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and I am proud to call him my friend and colleague.”
That idea of quiet support and planting seeds is still very important to Latimore as a mentor, and he tries to emulate that idea in the way he mentors young students. Whatever a student decides to pursue, Latimore’s goal is just to try to guide them in the way his mentor and advisor did for him.
“Dr. Latimore deserves all the accolades and many more,” says professor Lauren Turek, Latimore’s colleague in the history department. “In addition to his exceptional public history mentoring, Carey is also a dedicated advisor and informal mentor to many students, especially students from underrepresented groups on campus. In non-COVID times, anytime I would walk past his office, he would invariably have his door open and be sitting with a student (if not multiple students) talking about their classes, their experiences on campus, and their future goals.”
“The thing I want students to take away from my class is that African American History is American History,” Latimore says. “Also, I want them to learn how to have difficult conversations, but do it in empathetic ways and do it with an open mind. To me, it’s important that we have a variety of different conversations on African American history and that students are able to ask questions that they want to ask, and to not be afraid to ask those questions.”
“In the period that we’re living in, I think those things are important. Looking at different perspectives sometimes, challenging students to really press in their engagement with the African-American experience, it’s something I look forward to, and I hope it’s something that students learn from, to learn the complexity and diversity of the African-American experience,” Latimore says.
The Z.T. Scott award recognizes how much Latimore has done for the University, but perhaps the most telling thing about Latimore’s character is how he responded to the recognition: with great humility and a hopeful anticipation of what’s to come.