One might assume that a career military man would be a little stiff and formal as a professor in the classroom.
But that stereotype doesn’t fit Dr. Sheldon Downes, who taught rehabilitation counseling in ECU’s College of Allied Health Sciences for 32 years while also serving in the Marines Reserves.
He once dressed up as a caveman to enliven a lecture on the history of medicine. As a professor he would spend hours behind the wheel each semester driving students to regional conferences. He and his wife, the late Meta Downes, who taught for 35 years in ECU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, frequently opened their home for student events. He said he loved spending time with young people, which is why he also served as a Scoutmaster for several years.
Downes, who accepted emeritus status in 1999, entered active duty in the Marines after completing an undergraduate in psychology at Bethany College in West Virginia. After his hitch was up, he remained in the Marine Reserves while completing a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at West Virginia University and a doctorate at Penn State.
He joined the East Carolina faculty in 1967 and continued spending a few weeks each year on duty at Camp Lejeune, Parris Island and other Marine Corps bases. He retired as a colonel in 1994. Downes and eight others will be inducted as the Class of 2012 of the ECU Distinguished Military Service Society on Oct. 26.
Downes proudly flies the Marine flag at his home, which is filled with a lifetime’s worth of military treasures. But it’s his new hobby—landscape painting—that occupies much of his time these days.
Still trim and ramrod straight at 78, Downes said military service enriched his life. “You get to really love the Marine Corps. It becomes part of you. My son was a Marine--and still is--and my son-in-law was a Marine. My youngest daughter worked for the Marine Corps as a recreation specialist, which is where she met her husband. The whole family is a Marine Corps family.”
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