It’s 1986. The classroom walls are covered with classic movie posters, the students are reviewing for an upcoming test with a round of Hollywood Squares on the chalkboard and the teacher is dressed as a vampire. It’s a typical day in Mr. Ullom’s senior English class.
David Ullom, a quiet man who understood the importance of literature and good movies, taught English and Bible on Mustang Mountain from 1982 – 1990. With a mixture of wit and humor, Mr. U (as he was sometimes affectionately called) brought stories to life in the minds of his students while teaching them to create their own through writing.
“He was very interested in his classes learning, but he wasn’t so much interested in us just vomiting it up on a test,” Mark Hodges (’86) said. “Don’t get me wrong, he gave tests, but he made most of us actually want to be interested in what he was teaching – no matter what it was. The thing is, he actually got me to feel comfortable about writing. Up until his class, some of the English teachers I had were only focused on diagraming sentences and all of the different grammar exercises. I felt like everything I would write was going to be heavily scrutinized so I didn’t involve myself in writing that much. Mr. Ullom made it okay to write.”
For the eight years he worked at CAC, Mr. Ullom rented a garage apartment located an hour away from campus in Searcy, Arkansas. Each morning he’d make the trek to Mustang Mountain and, instead of heading home at the end of the day, it wasn’t unusual to find him going the extra mile to build relationships with his students in the evenings.
“He took me to the UA150, which was the big dome theatre, to see Gone with the Wind for the first time,” Koy Butler (’86) said. “It was the mecca of theatres and he took me to go see it. I’ll always remember that, and I know I’m not the only kid he did something special like that for.”
If there was a costume day, Mr. Ullom participated. If he was teaching a relatively short book of the Bible, he dove deep and spoke to the importance of each word. He very rarely lost his cool.
“You really had to do something to get him riled up,” Kevin Lloyd (’83) said. “Now, I heard him get riled up a few times and it might have been my fault, but most of the time he was very quiet.”
For many students, Mr. Ullom’s influence didn’t stop after graduation. His garage apartment quickly became a hangout spot for freshman college students who needed a place to feel welcomed when things got tough. Friday and Saturday nights were reserved for movie-watching on his prized projector TV. Anywhere from 20 to 30 students would cram into the space, order pizza and watch whatever film Mr. Ullom wanted to introduce them to – no matter how strange.
“I remember one time we watched Night of the Living Tomatoes,” Butler said. “It was just slap-stick stupid, but he loved it. And normally I wouldn’t have liked it, but I liked it because we were all there together. Movies I never would’ve watched I watched because of him.”
According to Butler, having a relationship with Mr. Ullom was having not only a teacher who cared about you academically but a friend who cared about you personally. He was a walking example of the phrase “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
“He was not the sharpest dresser or the best-looking guy in the world,” Butler chuckled. “But he was well-liked and well-received. Material things to him were just about zero on his priority list, except for the projector TV, and even that he bought used. In a place like this, where sometimes physical things can seem so important, he was happy having almost nothing.”
Mr. David Ullom passed away in May of 2018. He was a man whose love for cinematography, his students and Central Arkansas Christian’s mission was plainly evident and widely adored. He will be missed by many.
A memorial fund has been set up in Mr. Ullom’s honor by a group of his former students. All money given under his name will be used by the school to continue creating a space for students to feel welcomed and loved.
If you would like to give to CAC in Mr. Ullom’s honor, please contact Terri Dodd at firstname.lastname@example.org or (501) 758-3160 ext. 201.