It may not be common knowledge that Candy Land’s most colorful stop lies tucked away in the corner of the history department. In his stately maroon chair, Stephen Carls, department chair and university professor of history, types away at his computer surrounded on all sides by an exotic collection of marshmallow Peeps.
Small figurines of civil war soldiers stand at attention on the shelf behind his desk, but are vastly outnumbered by the regiments of candies that line every surface of the small room, transforming the office into a splash of color visible from down the hall.
The Peeps candy was first manufactured in 1953, the same year in which the history honors chapter, Delta Psi, was founded. This gives the candy a sentimental value to Carls, and he has been an avid collector ever since.
The collection of Peeps ranges from tiny pink bunnies to massive yellow chicks to little Halloween cats to snowmen to Easter eggs to neon stuffed animals and even an impressive collection of Dino eggs. Carls knows the story behind every candy.
“This is the last edition of my collection,” he said, proudly holding up a pack of Peeps. “It was given to me by the History Honors Society. And here are orange cream Peeps, tropical Peeps, Peeps kabobs (did you ever hear of such a thing?) and even watermelon Peeps which sound absolutely delectable.”
A huge yellow chick with a monocle, bowtie and top hat perches pristinely on the coffee table in the middle of the room.
“This is my Austin Peep, given to me by Austin Peay State University,” Carls said.
“At home I have Peep minions,” Carls said, casually putting on a pair of pink Peep ears and grinning sheepishly. “I also have a Peep storybook, not that my wife reads it to me before bed, and pictures of me chillin’ in my Peep T-shirt.”
He begins to pull up pictures of himself at various conferences where the highlight of the events, according to Carls, was giving and receiving Peeps awards.
“Just look at that smile,” Carls said, signaling to a picture on his computer of himself handing a box of Peeps to an overjoyed young man. “Look how much joy peeps can bring people. I gave that boy a Peeps just for laughing at one of my Peeps jokes.”
Carls goes on to explain that around Union he is often known as the Peeps Professor.
“I love the sparkle and happiness provided by Peeps,” Carls said.
After a fist bump and casual goodbye, Carls sees to it that all of his Peeps are immaculately intact before sitting back down to work.
In the history department, Professor Terry Lindley proudly exhibits his limited but vibrant fandoms: Christian heavy metal, fighter planes and sports. Several Stryper posters are plastered on the door, featuring four long-haired, ferocious-looking individuals. Metal music blares unabashedly from his computer and can be heard from down the hall.
“I like to play their music in class,” Lindley said.
Across from the Stryper posters are some White Cross posters—another Christian metal band which Lindley acknowledges as a close second to Stryper.
“My colleague Steve Halla was saved at one of their concerts,” he said.
Huge posters of fighter planes cover the wall above his desk. None of the individual planes are especially meaningful to Lindley, “I just like them,” he said.
An old maroon briefcase lies on the floor next to his desk, and the three bookshelves tucked away in the corner each contain a shockingly thorough collection of books on baseball, basketball and football, respectively.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” a traditionally Roman Catholic quote, is delicately framed on the central bookcase, and across from it sits an equally small and faded picture of a mullet-haired, huge glasses and grinning history professor who had just gotten hired at Union University in the mid-1990s.
“Guess who this is?” Lindley said, and the same enthusiastic grin spread between the same huge glasses, perched on a face that has aged 20 years in time, but whose energy and earnestness had not aged a day.