Professor branches out – with a return to Radford roots
Matthew Turner is convinced his great-grandmother changed his family’s dynamic more than a century ago.
It took only one decision.
When Ellen Nora Hubble heard of a new college opening nearly 80 miles east in Radford, the young woman from tiny Nebo, Virginia, chose to enroll. Nora, as she was known, wanted to be a teacher.
That was in 1913.
“I don’t know what made her go and make a change in her life, but she did,” said Turner, a professor in Radford’s School of Communication, looking through his grandmother’s college transcripts. “She was in the first class here at Radford.”
Nora’s student ID number was 87.
One hundred and ten years after Nora journeyed from her Smyth County, Virginia, home to Radford, her great-grandson, Turner, completed courses for an MBA in business analytics, placing him, along with his two sisters and brother, among four generations of Radford graduates.
Wait! Business analytics?
Turner, whose bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. are in the arts and humanities, sought to prove to himself he could do something outside his realm of expertise. “This is completely different from what I do,” he said, “so I said, ‘Let’s see what I can do.’”
Plus, “an MBA is always going to be marketable,” the communication professor noted.
Turner has no plans to leave his position teaching in the School of Communication, but when he first enrolled in the MBA program in 2020, he viewed the degree as an opportunity to expand on his leadership prowess – at the time, he was interim chair of Radford’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures – and his business knowledge. He already manages rental properties, plus he has a few business ideas churning.
The business analytics courses were challenging but rewarding, and classes in programming and statistics kept him awake at night. Turner finished the coursework for an MBA in business analytics last summer and was hooded at Radford’s Graduate Commencement and Hooding ceremony on Friday, Dec. 8.
There was another reason Turner was driven to complete the degree.
“I just love to learn,” he said.
That’s a trait he got from his great-grandmother and other family members who pursued higher education at Radford.
Nora Hubble did not finish her degree right away. She paused her education for a while, married, had children and returned to Radford as an adult to complete her degree. She then served many years as a school teacher in Smyth County.
Eleanor Hubble Turner, Nora’s daughter and Turner’s grandmother, made her way to Radford in 1941 and soon established an impressive career for herself. After graduating with a degree in chemistry, Eleanor worked on developing the atomic bomb in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
“She didn’t know it at the time; it was very hush-hush,” Turner explained, relaying the story he heard from his father and Eleanor’s son, Robert Turner, years ago. One day, Eleanor and others who worked on the project were called into a room to watch a film of an explosion over Japan.
“This is what you were working on,” the group was told.
In 1985, when Matthew Turner was 10 years old, his father took a position at the university’s McConnell Library. During their time in Radford, his mother, Denise Turner, earned a Master of Science in reading education, continuing the family legacy.
As Turner looks through the physical and electronic family documents he used in a presentation on campus years ago during Women’s History Month, he paused and pointed toward campus, looking through the window of his Hemphill Hall office and reflected on the fact that his great-grandmother and grandmother once strolled the same paths across campus that he now walks.
“When I think about it, it’s really cool that my family has a legacy here at Radford,” Turner said, “a legacy of the importance of education.”