Dale Clifford admits she loves starting things and it's clear the University of North Florida is a better place because of her unending energy. Clifford is not only a founding faculty member, she is also the founding director of the UNF Honors Program and helped bring freshmen and sophomores to campus as the first lower division director.
These positions, in addition to her current position as associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, have given Clifford an opportunity to be an integral part of the growth and development of the University. "I'm impressed with the remarkably good job of growing we have done. The University has kept its fundamental commitment to a high quality education and a high quality faculty," she says.
Clifford has always been a quick study. Entering Vanderbilt University at age 16, Clifford's career goal was not teaching. "I thought I was going to be a diplomat. I always wanted to go to France and I decided that I should pursue a career that enabled me, as a function of my job, to go to France," she says.
That career goal changed, however, when Clifford had a chance to substitute teach a high school history class for her mother, who had become ill. "I didn't think I was interested in being a teacher but I discovered after substituting that I loved teaching," she says.
Clifford went to graduate school at the University of Tennessee, still intent on using her interest in French history as background for a career in the foreign service. But she discovered that "diplomatic history bored me. I wanted to teach students about French revolutionary history -- and that was also a job that involved going to France, to do research." She went on to receive her master's degree and doctorate from the University of Tennessee.
She frankly admits she came to UNF because "they were willing to give me a job at a time when teaching jobs were extremely hard to come by." She recalls she was impressed then with the University's desire to hire a diverse faculty and to excel in quality undergraduate teaching.
The first years were challenging for a faculty member with no previous experience. "It's not often that a new faculty member gets a chance to help write the curriculum for an entire history program."
Opening a University brought with it a tremendous sense of excitement for Clifford and other founding faculty and staff. "The University was just barely finished, there were no sidewalks and they were shelving books in the library up until the last minute. There was no food service except for vending machines which the bears would occasionally get into," she recalls.
Clifford became the director of Freshman and Sophomore Programs in 1983 and assisted in what she describes as the most significant change in the life of the young University. "It was an absolutely necessary step for this University. The concept of having an upper division university was an idea whose time really never came."
After a stint as an interim associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, Clifford started the Honors Program and was its director from 1989 until 1992.
During her various roles at UNF, Clifford has maintained one constant, the necessity to teach. "You have to have your feet in the classroom, that's the real life of a University. It keeps you attuned to what's going on. You can administer all day and sometimes when you go home wonder if you've done anything that was really worth it. When you teach, something good always happens."
That kind of enthusiastic teaching commitment is part of Clifford's commitment to UNF. "I'm intensely proud of this University. We've had our ups and downs. We've had some hard times, but we've done damn well.