Terry Sullivan felt like a kid walking into Infinity Skateshop to buy a new skateboard. Sullivan headed for the top level of Webster’s parking garage the next day to prove he still had what it takes to do a handstand while riding his brand new board.
The 53-year-old Webster professor usually shows off his skateboard skills once a year on his birthday. This year, he got some early practice.
Sullivan said he saw his neighbor do the handstand trick when he was 10 years old. That inspired his inner Tony Hawk to get out and give it a try without second-guessing himself.
“Whatever the motivation of a 10-year-old kid is at that time,” Sullivan said. “It just looked awesome, so I wanted to do it.”
One day before class, a group of Sullivan’s students pulled up a Facebook video of Sullivan doing his handstand trick. He said the video made him a little embarrassed, but the students thought differently.
“They all think it’s hilarious,” Sullivan said. “I like that.”
Sullivan started teaching full-time in the school of communications at Webster in 2015 after being an adjunct professor. Sullivan impacts his students with his skateboard and in the classroom according to students Gina Reeves and Tony Bottini.
Bottini declared a media communications major before having a class with Sullivan. Bottini said he was unsure what he wanted to do for his career, but Sullivan helped him get to the right place.
Bottini decided to change his major to advertising and marketing communications after taking an advertising class with Sullivan three years ago.
“He meets you where you’re at,” Bottini said. “He knows everybody’s strengths and weaknesses and how to make sure you’re going to do the best with what you have.”
Bottini said Sullivan shows how much he cares about his students through the energy he brings to class. The skateboarding skills, Bottini said, just add a little extra pizzazz to Sullivan’s character.
Reeves met Sullivan last semester. She had three classes with him.
“Terry Sullivan, to me, is what a teacher should be,” Reeves said. “He goes above and beyond what his call of duty is.”
Reeves said Sullivan motivated her to be a better student as her adviser. Reeves had six different advisers over the past three years before meeting Sullivan.
Reeves said Sullivan helped her make strides toward her future career in advertising and marketing. Reeves and Bottini, now seniors, agreed that Sullivan is a jokester but also makes the most out of all the classes he teaches.
Sullivan brought his suit to school the same day he brought his skateboard. The suit was for helping a class film a commercial, but the board was for handstands only.
Sullivan said his wife thought the combination was a little odd.
“She’s like, ‘Do you hear how that sounds? You have your suit and your skateboard,’” Sullivan said. “I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s awesome.’”
Sullivan described the handstand trick as a calculated risk. The falls hurt more now than they used to, but Sullivan said that will not stop him.
Sullivan said he visited the orthopedist recently and may have a tear in his left shoulder rotator cuff. Doing the handstand was painful, but that did not stop Sullivan from attempting the trick more than 10 times.
“I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t,” Sullivan said. “Knock on wood. I can still do it for awhile.”