UT Chattanooga, ’15
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus’ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.
“Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. What’s going on here?”
Chattanooga native Dennis Haskins may be America’s best-loved high school principal. Or, more specifically, Haskins’s portrayal of Mr. Richard Belding at Bayside High School may be.
Haskins played the character for more than a decade on Saved By The Bell and its spin-offs. The only adult regular cast member in an otherwise cast of teenagers, the actor had lots of opportunities to use his catchphrase every episode.
So when the initial groundbreaking show ended its four-year run, it was most fitting that the final episode saw Belding leaving Bayside High to become dean of students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Leaving UTC just short of graduation requirements in the 1970s, Haskins worked as a manager, agent and promoter in the music business before beginning his acting with a role on the first episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. He has performed in television, film, and stage, but it is the role of Mr. Belding that brought him into millions of homes around the world.
“So many people recognize me as Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell, a show that started out on Saturday mornings and eventually went to over 87 countries,” says Haskins. “It’s a phenomenon that has not been matched by any other Saturday morning TV show. For many years it’s been the show of a generation, and I am proud to have been there from the very first episode to the last.”
Haskins has never forgotten his hometown or alma mater. In December 2015, he fulfilled a life-long dream of completing his bachelor’s degree from UT Chattanooga. He had been named the campus’s Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient in 2000. He donated his personal working script collection from every episode of the beloved sitcom to the UTC library. Highlights from the scripts, along with memorabilia from Haskins’ personal collection, were on exhibit in spring 2016.