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John Metz with Hillary Duff2
John Metz talks with Hillary Duff about her ancestors for an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

As a deputy state librarian at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, John Metz is surrounded by history. For one episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, he informed pop star Hilary Duff that she is descended from Virginia’s pre-Revolutionary Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood, who himself traced his roots to King Robert the Bruce of Scotland (1274–1329).

After years as a deputy state librarian, Metz, 54, decided that to ascend to the level of state librarian or to direct a museum or large library, he needed to add an information sciences degree to his PhD in American studies, his MA in anthropology, and his BA in history and anthropology. “While I’ve learned a lot through experience in 10 years,” says Metz, “I knew I really needed the theoretical underpinnings. I needed to really get that down.”

As he looked at remote learning programs, he was drawn to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Information Sciences program, especially the digital and curation curriculum of Assistant Professor Carolyn Hank. “Since this was my first distance-education experience, I was anxious about that,” he says. “But it has worked so well, in part because the professors are so trained and engaged in their online teaching. Early on I found it kind of cool to be working on a project with a fellow student in Roanoke, Virginia, and another in Arkansas. Every week we met, and it was like we were in the same room.”

John Metz at a podium
John Metz

This week Metz receives his master’s in information sciences. “It’s really added a dimension to my background that I did not have,” he says. “Being able to focus on the digital curation piece was critical, and I’ve really gotten so much out of that.”

Metz was born in St. Louis, Missouri, where his family has hundreds of years of history. His paternal great grandfather came from Germany in 1900 and his maternal great grandmother’s family has been in Missouri since 1810. Metz got a foundation in Virginia history in his undergraduate years at Washington and Lee University and earned his master’s studies at the College of William and Mary, where he met his wife, Cara, a preservation archaeologist who works for the US Federal Emergency Management Agency in Puerto Rico. They have 22-year-old twin boys.

“I’m grateful to UT for this program. I had a great classroom experience up and down the board, and it has made me a better, more well-rounded information professional.” John Metz, master’s in information sciences graduate

Metz grew up in Florissant, Missouri, which was the last town where Lewis and Clark stayed before they set out into the wilderness. After completing his master’s, Metz was a field archaeologist for 10 years for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Monticello, and then the Bermuda National Trust. At Jefferson’s home Metz researched the home of Sally Hemings’s mother, just down the mountain from Monticello itself. “It seems it was her home late in life,” says Metz, “indicating her significant position in the family.” After Metz’s PhD at Boston University, he moved into historical research, managing collections for the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, before joining the Library of Virginia in 2008.

“I’m grateful to UT for this program,” says Metz. “I had a great classroom experience up and down the board, and it has made me a better, more well-rounded information professional. But it’s the last degree that I hope to go for—my education far exceeds my intellect at this point.”

In total, the university will award 1,220 undergraduate degrees, 583 graduate degrees and certificates, and three law degrees this fall. Two Air Force ROTC cadets will be commissioned along with nine Army ROTC cadets. Ceremonies are grouped by spring and summer graduates or fall graduates. They will include both those receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees.


Brooks Clark (865-310-1277,