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Daniel Butler

Professor of Marketing
College of Business

He's been a clown, an assistant cruise ship director, a tomato picker and a chicken vaccinator. But since 1989, Daniel Butler has worked as a professor of marketing in the College of Business. Known for fun and flair in the classroom, Butler is best known for "the contract." At the beginning of each semester, his students are required to sign the class syllabus stating they acknowledge Butler's class rules. Butler, who grew up in Miami, said his class gives students the tools to be able to survive in the business world once they leave Auburn.

Recently, Butler was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Specialists assignment and was given the opportunity to share his expertise to students and educators in Serbia and Croatia. He is no stranger to Croatia and has a special feeling for the students in Eastern Europe. He has served there as a visiting professor five times, most recently in 2012.

1. What made you want to become a university professor?

I wanted to make a difference and I figured I could do it one student at a time. How do I know I made a difference? Receiving a letter from a former student 15 years later saying that what they learned in class is still helpful. This past spring, I received a letter from a student I had when I was an instructor at the University of Central Florida in 1983 saying his son is coming to Auburn, and he talked about the things that he still uses every day running his business that I presented in class. That's how you know. But the bottom line is, it's like the little Dutch boy in the fable - You never know who the one is that's going to be able to plug up the hole in the dike, so you have to treat them all that way. You only need to have one … I just never know which one it is.

2. What keeps you motivated to teach?

I had a lot of professors who weren't motivated to teach and just didn't care. I try to keep in mind that everybody in front of me is somebody's son or daughter and they all want to do better. They may not know it yet, but they want to do better. Therefore, I have a responsibility to give back to the people who went out of the way to help me.

3. Why do you put fun in the classroom?

Why not? My mother was a kindergarten teacher and my father was a clown. So what does that make me? A university professor! But the bottom line is … my mother was very good at communicating. As I grew up at the dinner table we would have the dinner conversations and the conversation was, "How do kids learn?" So why do we have to make learning a difficult chore? I know that if learning is fun, people will come to class even if they haven't read to see what's going to happen next. My goal every day is to leave someone with a little "nugget" so that they can say "it was worth going to class."

4. What types of skills or knowledge do you hope your students will take from your classes and apply toward their careers?

Most importantly, I want them to know that they can make a difference. They don't have to be a straight-A student and they don't have to be perfect. But everybody has a talent and everybody has a gift - I want them to find that gift.

5. What are some of the jobs you have held pre-academia?

I was a chicken-vaccinator. No, seriously I worked in a chicken hatchery and we hatched out about two million chickens a week. This was a high school job and I did it for two years. I vaccinated 10,000 chickens every Sunday by hand. It paid great money. (I got paid in eight hours what most of my friends were getting paid to work 30 hours in fast food restaurants).

When I was younger than that, I paid my mom to take me down to tomato fields and I would pick tomatoes and sell them door-to-door. Then I worked in carnivals when I was 12. I handled all the tickets and all of the money with the James E. Straight show. I also began working as a clown when I was 12. When my father was busy, I would do the shows that he was not able to do. He was "Windy the Clown" and I was "Little Breeze!" I even worked on a cruise ship right out of college. I went to work for Norwegian Cruise Lines as assistant cruise director where I was in charge of setting up all of the tours in the Caribbean base. I paid my way through high school, and college, part-time.

July 1, 2013