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Friday, January 21, 2022

Oh, Director: Microeconomics staple enjoys anonymity

<p>Anthony Bouton, known to most as “The Director,” lounges at his control panel as he films professor Mark Rush’s microeconomics class Friday morning.</p>

Anthony Bouton, known to most as “The Director,” lounges at his control panel as he films professor Mark Rush’s microeconomics class Friday morning.

Thousands of students know Anthony Bouton’s voice.

They’ve heard him call a professor old and fat and listened to him interrupt lectures almost daily.

But they don’t know who he is. To many, he’s known by one name: The Director.

He has filmed professor Mark Rush’s microeconomics class for two decades. It’s a prerequisite for dozens of majors and minors.

When Rush calls, “Oh, Director,” students know to expect back-and-forth insults and jokes, even though no one actually sees him.

He works in a small room carved out of the Bryan 130 lecture hall behind a camera and a closed door.

“I think of myself more as an offensive lineman,” Bouton said. “Hopefully you don’t notice me unless I make a mistake.”

Though he’s behind the scenes, he’s been a UF staple for years.

He started his master’s degree in Educational Media and Instructional Design in 1985. He stayed at UF after that to film engineering classes, and he switched to UF’s business school — and Rush’s lectures — in Fall 1990.

When Bouton was younger, people mistook him for a student. Now, though, he looks like any other parent or visiting alumnus with his polo shirt, khaki shorts and thinning gray hair. When he’s with Rush, students sometimes figure out who he is. But that’s not the only way he’s been recognized.

Once, when he was going through a drive-thru line at a local Taco Bell, the voice on the other end of the speaker gasped after Bouton placed his order and said, “Are you The Director?”

When Bouton pulled up to the window, the student workers peeked out to see what he looked like.

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It was a rare break from his usual anonymity.

One of his daughters, a UF student, enjoys her dad’s secret identity.

Elizabeth Bouton, a 20-year-old anthropology sophomore, thinks her dad’s laugh could give him away.

But when she and Bouton grab Burrito Brothers for lunch, they’re never recognized.

She didn’t even exactly know what Bouton did until she mentioned to a friend in microeconomics that her dad filmed the class.

Now she’s “The Director’s daughter.”

They have a good relationship, she said.

He records her favorite comedies, so when she visits home they watch “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” together. If she’s lucky, he’ll make her favorite spaghetti sauce.

When her friends find out who he is, though, they’re interested in The Director.

Her resident assistant from Murphree Hall last year asked to meet Bouton, forgetting that they’d actually met when he was just another parent. Most people react similarly.

She helps her dad keep his secret, but she’ll answer questions about him.

No, Bouton isn’t obese, although Rush insists during lectures that he is. He’s “dad-sized.”

Yes, he and Rush really are friends. The families barbequed and attended soccer games together when their kids were younger.

The two men trade jokes off-screen as much as they do during lectures.

Bouton said not to address Rush as “doctor” — “he’s a teacher, not a soft drink” — and Rush joked he prefers not to say that he and Bouton work together.

During the lectures, though, Bouton lets Rush initiate the attacks, then comes back with a joke himself, so he isn’t stepping on the lecture too much.

But he’s not above pointing out Rush’s spelling errors, such as when he wrote “maintance” on the chalkboard. Bouton started that class by showing old clips of Rush.

They have been working together for about 20 years, but Bouton could not be Rush’s regular director this spring because the rooms didn’t match up right. They’ll be paired up again this summer.

Bouton’s home base is a small office filled with a few shelves, a desk, his bicycle and a wall of television screens and control panels.

Behind the chair is a row of labeled VHS tapes waiting to be digitally converted. Bouton said he always makes a backup and often makes two.

Most students rely on the videos Bouton films, and they watch lectures on their computers. Students can attend in person, but only 20 or so actually do.

Brian Jones, a 21-year-old industrial and systems engineering junior, is one of them. He said he thinks if he didn’t go to the 8:30 a.m. class in person, he’d procrastinate watching the online videos and never get to them. It’s also a funny start to his day.

Jones said the professor also calls the woman filming this semester “The Director,” so Jones didn’t realize she isn’t Rush’s usual partner until about halfway through the semester.

He likes the current director and looks forward to her knock-knock jokes with Rush, but he said Bouton as The Director is a UF staple that students look forward to.

In the meantime, though, Bouton still films nine classes each week. He still rides his bike to campus, and he’s still relatively unrecognized.

His daughter still visits him in his office, but she doesn’t plan to take microeconomics. It’s not a requirement for her major, and she bonds with her dad over other things.

People might not realize Elizabeth Bouton is The Director’s daughter.

She does hear, though, that she looks a lot like him.

Contact Clare Lennon at clennon@alligator.org.

Anthony Bouton, known to most as “The Director,” lounges at his control panel as he films professor Mark Rush’s microeconomics class Friday morning.

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