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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Linda Lyle

Dr. Linda Lyle’s facebook profile declares, “If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.” She firmly believes that if you don’t push yourself to the precipice, you’ll never know how far you can go.

Linda LyleAs a communication specialist for the UT College of Business Administration and a core faculty member of the full-time MBA and the Physician Executive MBA programs, Lyle designs and delivers both programs’ communication instruction, ranging from written and oral skills development to interpersonal and organizational communication strategy. Having begun her career in 1974 as a high school English teacher, Lyle’s professional experience includes being a nationally recognized forensics coach; a public relations executive for an international travel consortium; a newspaper columnist; and teaching students of all ages. Although she has academic training and professional experience in all aspects of her discipline, she is especially interested in studying how communication impacts organizations and in fostering interpersonal skills development. However, Lyle says that her first love is “just plain teaching” – and these days that’s where the proverbial edge comes into play. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2003, Lyle reveals that her first thought was, “Now I have to ‘walk all that edge talk’, or my students will think I’m an idiot.” 

Lyle and her husband, Kerry Roehr (UT College of Business Administration’s chief audio-visual engineer), along with their daughter, Madison Lyleroehr (a recent graduate of Brandeis University), became activists for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. In 2006, the family teamed up to produce a benefit CD featuring Madison, a gifted vocalist, singing classic Christmas carols accompanied by Anne Jackson’s Celtic harp. Since then, CD sales and related benefit events have raised roughly $20,000 for Fox’s foundation. One of these recent events featured the college’s own faculty rock band, “Air Supply Chain,”which teamed up with Lyleroehr for a coffeehouse-style concert. Lyle’s activism won her aTeam Fox VIP Award in 2007, and both she and her daughter recently were named awardrecipients for 2009. “This is Madison’s fourth consecutive award from Team Fox, so I’m really the slacker,” Lyle laughs.

The disease itself is no laughing matter, however. Having no known cure, its symptoms typically progress from mild muscle dysfunction to complete incapacitation. Current medications only delay the inevitable -- which is why Lyle and her family joined up with Fox. The New York Times describes Fox’s foundation as “the most credible voice for Parkinson’s Disease worldwide” as well as the most prolific private funding source for studies aimed to better treat and ultimately cure the disease. 86 percent of the foundation’s revenues – well over $100 million since 2000 – are funneled into research. “And Michael J. Fox is the driving force behind it all,” says Lyle. “The man will never give up or give in, and I am honored to be his friend and compatriot. The war against Parkinson’s Disease is winnable. Like Michael, I plan to celebrate that victory in person.”

While fighting Parkinson’s Disease, Lyle has continued teaching – and she fully credits the College of Business Administration’s “unwavering support” for her ability to do so, describing the college as a “model workplace, from the dean’s office on down.”  The MBA class of 2008 named Lyle its Most Outstanding First-Year Faculty Member. She was selected as one of three finalists for the Knoxville YWCA’s Tribute to Women in Education Award in 2008 and has served both as executive director [1997-2000] and as president [2002] of the Tennessee Communication Association, which named her Tennessee’s Outstanding Communication Educator in 2005. She is TCA’s president-elect for 2009-10, and she remains determined to live on the edge, wherever it is.

“In earlier lives, I flew planes; directed theatre; appeared on Jeopardy!, spent whole summers in Europe, helped raise our daughter, and was even a disco queen,” she grins. These days, Lyle admits that “living on the edge” can be as simple as making herself get up in the morning. Even so, students and colleagues alike often find Lyle emailing them before 5:00 a.m.

“Everyone’s life is just like my friend Michael [Fox] says it is,” she declares. “You can either pull the covers over your head and give in, or you can get up each day and find out what’s going to happen. Me, I get up to see what’s gonna happen -- ‘cause there’s a 50/50 chance it’s gonna be good. And if I can be a part of what’s good, then that’s the edge I’m looking for.”

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