University of Tennessee

Finance Alum’s Memoir Aims to Help Youngsters Overcome Bullying

June 4, 2020

Bullying is a common issue that can have lasting, traumatic effects. One University of Tennessee, Knoxville alumnus is using his own experiences of dealing with bullies to help others who face similar problems.

Knoxville native Thad Cox (HCB, ’59) earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and went on to enjoy a successful career in banking (including being chairman of the board for Third National Bank of East Tennessee), operate several businesses and raise a family with Peggy, his wife of more than 60 years. It seems difficult to believe that as a child who struggled with stuttering, Cox was bullied so much that at age 11, he considered suicide. 

In his memoir, “Bullyblossom: A Tale of Overcoming Bullies and Embracing Stuttering to Live a Life of Achievement,” Cox details how his early experiences taught him valuable lessons about dealing with difficult people, taking risks and pushing through obstacles. Tricia Hedinger, clinical associate professor of speech-language pathology in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, provides clinical comments and insights throughout the book. The collaboration between Cox and Hedinger began after Cox had done several speaking engagements for students at UTHSC’s Hearing and Speech Center over the past few years. 

“They liked my stories about my childhood stuttering problems,” Cox said. “Someone suggested that I write a book about them, and I agreed to if someone from the center would add comments about what help was available to young people today.”

 “I have very much enjoyed the opportunity to help Thad tell his story, which we hope will resonate with young readers who struggle with similar issues and with their parents,” Hedinger writes in her foreword to the book. “He attributes his grand success to the challenges he was forced to face as a kid.”

With youngsters who stutter and their parents in mind, “Bullyblossom” is aimed at readers ages 12 to 20. Cox says he hopes special education teachers may find it helpful as well. 

“I hope that every school library in America will have this book on their shelves,” Cox said.

The book follows Cox from his childhood through his early career. Through those years, he finds various ways to deal with bullies–including challenging a playground tormentor to a boxing match and using his “command voice” to stand up to a bullying Army ROTC officer–and gains confidence at each step along the way.

Charlie Daniel, longtime editorial cartoonist for the Knoxville News Sentinel, provided illustrations for the book in his signature style. 

“Charlie had a lisp and was treated at the center in his youth,” Cox said. “He was very receptive to the idea of a book to help young people and their parents cope with speech problems.”

“Bullyblossom” is available through Amazon and Lulu.


Stacy Estep, business writer/publicist,