Terry Fender

Terry Fender teaches physics at South Mountain Community College. He was hired by JD Mildrew in 1993.

Terry Fender was born on June 4, 1955 in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Mr. Fender grew up in a military family, finding himself in a variety of different homes and places as a child. Terry received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, and his Master’s in Physics from the University of Chicago. He served in the Peace Corps, leaving an impact in Honduras. There Terry helped organize the building of a new school, and worked with another Honduran physicist writing a low-cost physics experiment book for schools. He’s been happily married twice. His first wife, Karen, passed away of cancer in 2003. Fender is now married to Peggy, fourth grade teacher.

Potential Interview Clip *5:14 – 6:28 (building mom a house, and nice weather here)

After college and the Peace Corps, Terry moved to Phoenix to help his mother build a house. He came to be a teacher after realizing he had an affinity for it in the Peace Corps. Fender first came to teach at SMCC in 1993 after teaching physics for a few years at Apache Junction High School. He has fond memories of SMCC founding faculty JD Mildrew. Terry explained that the faculty and community hasn’t really changed since the 1990s, and people still care deeply for the students.

Recently, there are changes happening on campus that moved Terry out of the classroom he’s been teaching in since 2005. Mr. Fender was sad about the changes but hopeful for the future and how SMCC will continue to advance with technology. Terry realized later in life that he had an affinity for teaching, but his curiosity and passion for physics has persisted since childhood. Mr. Fender especially loves theoretical physics and studying the universe. He is a strong Christian and an active member of his church. Terry’s faith contributes to his love for theoretical physics and the universe. He finds the topics of physics intellectually challenging and enjoys seeing his students take genuine interest in his lessons.

*Archived photos of Terry at the old science building?*

Potential Interview Clip *7:31 – 8:11 (talking about JD)
Potential Interview Clip *16:53 – 18:13 (talking about passion to teach and love for physics!)
Potential Interview Clip *18:31 – 19:55 (why Terry chose to teach)


One of Terry’s biggest self-proclaimed accomplishments is running a class well and pushing the curiosity of his students. The COVID pandemic proved to be Terry’s biggest challenge yet in his teaching career, but he has adopted well after a couple difficult online semesters. As a lasting lesson, Terry hopes people know that hard times will pass. Even in the face of our greatest challenges, we can take comfort in knowing that we will get through them eventually. Terry defines legacy as the memories we leave behind and the influence we have on those around us. It is clear that Mr. Fender has had quite the influence on all the communities he has been a part of. From his work in Honduras to South Phoenix and SMCC, Terry’s legacy deserves to be honored in our South Phoenix Oral History Project.


Potential Interview Clip *23:02 – 24:33 (Terry’ definition of legacy)
Potential Interview Clip *35:45 – 37:28 (Terry’s advice to people — that time will pass)

NarratorTerry Fender
BirthdateJune 4, 1955
Place of OriginCampbell, Kentucky
Place of ResidencePhoenix, AZ
Role/OccupationPhysics Professor at SMCC
Years Active in South Phoenix1993 –
Recording Duration38:52
Interview Conducted (Date)Spring 2021
Interview LocationZoom
Interview Conducted byFaculty Researchers: Summer Cherland and Travis May
Story Written byStudent Researcher: Marissa Grijalva
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