Students visiting professor Timothy Allen's office are greeted with the quote: ""Pride and vanity are greater obstructions to learning than stupidity."" From cooking bananas foster for his students to calling Christianity a myth during lecture, Allen brings this attitude to each of his classes.
Allen, professor of the infamous ""Botany 240: Plants and Man,"" known to most students as the ""beer course,"" is retiring at the end of this semester.
After teaching at UW-Madison for 40 years, Allen said at 68 he's ready to retire from the demanding life of a professor. He plans to begin a lecture circuit where he can speak to various businesses.
""I have an exciting new life waiting for me,"" Allen said. ""So I'm enthusiastic to do that. It'll be nice not to have the grinding pressure of being a professor.""
Originally from Great Britain, Allen attended the University College of North Wales. He taught in Africa before coming to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970.
Allen, despite his self-proclaimed aggressive teaching style, is a favorite among many students.
Jonah Egermeier, one of Allen's former students, said, ""Somehow he makes a big lecture room feel like a 20-person classroom … It's a phenomenal class, probably the best class that this campus has ever had.""
Allen said he is not only assertive but works to challenge his students' worldview in an attempt to get past their pride and vanity.
""I mock them in the first lecture … I have to get past that self-importance,"" Allen said. ""And so I joke. I challenge. I upset. I make angry. I get people on an emotional front one way or another.""
Through Allen's unique teaching approach, he attempts to apply real-world skills to his course. He often cooks for his class and discusses the science and history behind what he is doing as he works.
Most noted by students is Allen's project that gives them the option between baking bread, making a meal for the TAs or brewing beer. This assignment teaches students how to perform tasks their ancestors have been performing for years, according to Egermeier.
Allen said not only does he get applause after each Plants and Man lecture, but also students will repeatedly praise him on his interesting lectures, sometimes even years after they have graduated.
""I'm going to miss the absolutely, totally brilliant undergraduates who I have worked with over the years,"" Allen said. ""And there's always a new class in there and they're always absolutely marvelous.""