They weren’t actually professors, but I was able to participate in workshops that had addresses by Alice Walker (who is… well… interesting in her opinions) and E.O. Wilson (U of AL grad/Harvard prof of great renown for his works on biological diversity and Consilience). The topic of the week-long conference (the above two were the only speakers you’d have heard of and each spoke for about an hour on separate days) was diversity (the big buzz word in academia at the time).
Wilson spoke of his views of race, how he subscribed unthinkingly to the racial separatism of the Alabama he grew up in and did not really change his views until he was far along in college and graduate school. Since Alabama’s public universities were segregated he was up north before he met a black professor and said he’s still shocked and embarassed at how surprised he was that “this guy’s really smart! You don’t have to talk down to him… in fact, he knows a hell of a lot more than me or any white person I’ve ever met on this academic subject!”. Ironically, he became the victim of “profiling” himself fter he realized what a load of crap his racial views of his youth were, he became the target of similar profiling because of his Alabama background. At first it was assumed he wasn’t that intelligent or well-educated when compared to other students and faculty, then when it was discovered that he was and his credentials came to speak for themselves, he was rumored to be a racist, again due to his Alabamian childhood. (He didn’t mention Stephen Jay Gould as one of the perpetrators of “Wilson is a racist” statements when I heard him speak, but I’ve read other articles where he names him specifically- though they were two of the wunderkinds of Ivy League Biology, they loathed each other.)
Walker spoke a lot about Cuba and happened to arrive on a day of a gay students protest against a proposed amendment to ban homosexual friendly literature (books by gay authors or about anything gay or gay-ish- proposed by a pandering ass of a politician who’s as big of a joke-butt here as he was outside of Alabama, and the amendment never even got beyond news bytes) so that took up some of her talk. That part was great because it led to a lot of stammering and nervous coughs among administration attendees, who love to preach diversity but will not extend same-sex partner benefits or even add sexual-orientation to the non-discrimination policy and Walker called them on it, getting a huge “YOU GO GIRL!” by many audience members, me included. Unfortunately she also made some Castro friendly comments that were almost ludicrous— I don’t dispute the man has probably done some good things in Cuba, at least compared to Batista, but when she talked about how happy the people are and how well provided for they are and how much Castro cares I wanted so badly to ask “How do you account for the fact that all the innertubes and rafts and illegal flotillas only seem to come from Cuba to Florida rather than the other way?”, but instead I asked a question about Uncle Remus/Joel Chandler Harris (Walker grew up a mile from where Harris did and, I learned, loathes Harris and the Uncle Remus stories).
Otherwise I’ve had some professors who were famous in their field (Melville scholars and an English prof who’s a renowned authority on wrestling history, for example) but not to the outside world.
A friend of mine has a son who attended a workshop at Johns Hopkins taught by John Astin (theatre writing, IIRC). The son described him as one of the nicest, coolest, neatest people you could ever want to know.