Emeritus faculty member, Dr. James Crooks presented an oral history from interviews with our founding members in celebration of 35 years of service and upcoming retirement.
View video from the 12/12/07 presentation [ intro ] [ part one ] [ part two ]
Good evening. As many of you know I have been engaged in an oral history project here at UNF interviewing faculty, staff and others, particularly people retired or near retirement,who have played major roles in the 35-year history of this university. To date I have conducted 69 of a proposed 90 interviews. What I will share with you tonight about the history of UNF results from these interviews, plus a few of my own memories. This talk is a down payment on a longer piece I will be writing next year.
From these interviews I have divided UNF's history since it opened in 1972 into three stages: what I call the Carpenter era under our first president; the middle period under Robinson, McCray and McTar, largely the 1980s; and the Herbert-Hopkins era from 1989 onward. I will not be speaking about the Delaney era which really has only just begun. Perhaps in 10 or 15 years, another historian can describe that.
On October 2, 1972, at 7:30 AM, assistant professor Bill Slaughter met his first students in a small Building 3 classroom to begin a course called 'What is Existentialism?' It was an interdisciplinary combination of literature, philosophy and humanistic psychology and part of the Leonardo da Vinci Venture Studies program at this new university.
"My first impression of my students, there were 15 students in this class. Among us: a truck-driver from Sears, the manager of a Seven-eleven store, two housewives (self described), a night nurse at Baptist Hospital, a would-be radical Episcopal priest (self described), two Vietnam vets, a conscientious objector (complete with dishonorable discharge) and Conrad Weihnacht, the man who built the boathouse." [ listen to the audio ]
These students were not your average run-of-the mill undergraduates, but part of the 2000-plus men and women enrolled at UNF that first fall term under the quarter system, taught by 117 faculty. The average age of the students was 31 and faculty 29.
Faculty interviewed remembered them as mature, responsible and hard working. Their efforts compensated for sometimes less than optimum preparation, in part because so many were entering UNF after a long absence from the classroom.
The campus on opening day was physically unimposing. A library, administrative building (now Daniel Hall) and two classroom buildings including small science labs stood almost nakedly in an open space surrounded by a woodland of palmettos, scrub oaks and pine trees. Walkways were unpaved. Heavy rains had made much of the campus muddy. Landscaping had barely begun. Food service came from vending machines. Campus wildlife included wild pigs, deer, turkey, armadillos, snakes, bear, ospreys and the occasional alligator. In process of implementation was an imaginative village plan designed by Hilton Meadows for buildings, landscaping and paved covered walkways that would encourage students and faculty to leave their cars parked on the perimeter and walk to class, library or bookstore. But that was still to come. While the initial physical facilities were underwhelming, the people creating UNF were a fairly distinguished group. President Tom Carpenter, tall, slim, handsome, gracious and always perfectly groomed, looked like he was cast in the role of university president. He generally was the public face, oversaw the building of the physical facilities and made the final local decisions on university issues. In contrast was vice-president Roy Lassiter, of ruddy complexion, cigar chewing, cowboy boots perched on the desk top, amiable style, generously offering to enroll the visitor in the new UNF gun club. While Roy may not have looked like a stereotypical academic, behind his cracker veneer was one of the sharpest minds UNF has ever seen. Roy designed the academic program, established the colleges, wrote the by-laws and introduced a governing system inclusive of all employees including grounds keepers. Lassiter particularly wanted to make sure UNF had a racially integrated faculty and student population. One of his top aides was an African American, as were the associate dean of the College of Education and chair of the Department of Vocational and Technical Education. He encouraged department chairs to hire minorities in all disciplines with success in music, sociology, art, primary education and business. Sociology professor Eddie Collins remembered the early years:
"When I came here the white students were very open and welcoming, and that was the thing about the university. I think the university probably impacted the city in terms of racial climate more than anything that had happened in a hundred years [space] I think it was because of the projected stance of the university. For example, I think when President Carpenter and Dr. Robinson and those people who were chairs and people who developed the colleges, I think their plan was to make sure the college was an integrated, diverse population." [ listen to the audio ]
Women faculty remembered the reception somewhat differently. Dale Clifford:
"That doesn't mean there wasn't sexism here, but hey I was one of five women in the College of Arts and Sciences. I made it all the way through an undergraduate education and a graduate education without ever having a woman professor, not me. And I think most of who got our degrees back then could say pretty close to the same thing. So the mere fact that there were five girls for Roy Lassiter to insult, or five women for Will to suggest to wear dresses tells you that they were doing the right thing." [ listen to the audio ]
The other founding fathers, besides Carpenter and Lassiter, were of course the three deans: Jim Parrish at the College of Business Administration, Ellis White in the College of Education and Willard Ash in the College of Arts and Sciences. Ash looked like a distinguished academic tall, slim, well coiffed silver hair, a sly smile, quiet manner and a creative mind that introduced the Venture Studies program. Because UNF was an upper level university, Ash believed that students, many of them away from academe for many years, needed to pursue general education courses in the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences at the upper level in addition to their major programs. But UNF could not offer introductory lower division courses. Ash encouraged faculty to create upper level introductory courses which would explore interdisciplinary topics and stretch curious minds. Venture Studies provided a unique quality to UNF during these early years.
Meanwhile, Ellis White, a dapper, veteran educator/administrator from NYU began building the COES by hiring Andrew Robinson as his associate dean. Robinson was probably the outstanding African American teacher/administrator in the Duval County Public Schools, with an education doctorate from Columbia University. Together they carefully selected a diverse faculty of mostly young men and women from across the country. Many had prior K-12 classroom experience as well as their doctorates to prepare future teachers on the First Coast. In this recruiting, Robinson often visited candidates in their homes to meet families and observe their lifestyles. White's mantra underlying the searches, faculty remembered, was, I want to hire only Apeople of good will.
In the College of Business Administration, Jim Parrish was the Alabaman par excellence. Hardly a class, meeting or conversation started without a Bear Bryant football story. Yet Parrish also was a shrewd administrator having taken two business colleges in the country through the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation. UNF's College of Business became the third, a record number in record time. He too recruited chairs and faculty nationally creating a collegial group who worked and partied well together.
The emphasis during these early years was on quality teaching enabling students to achieve their and their professors' goals by graduation. As Dean Ash told me and undoubtedly others, "Our students may not enter UNF as well prepared as their counterparts at other universities, but when they graduate we want them to be able to compete for jobs with graduates of Florida, Florida State or anywhere." I believe the record shows that we have accomplished that goal.
Providing this quality education was the faculty: a few veteran academics but mostly young men and women drawn from some of the best graduate schools across the nation. They came well prepared and with an enthusiasm to match in creating the new university. Jim Mittelstadt and Tom Healy remembered the curriculum planning efforts extending into the late evenings over pizzas and beers. Ray Bowman, among others, was attracted by the interdisciplinary nature of the Natural Sciences program designed by Ed Healy. Len Lipkin and Bill Caldwell liked the requirement of mathematics, statistics and computer science literacy for all majors in their department.
The early esprit d'corps among faculty was obvious. Part of it resulted from professors crammed neighbor to neighbor into the tiny offices of Building One. Part resulted from youthful enthusiasm in creating a university working together on curriculum and other committees.
Time tonight does not permit for reflections upon the extraordinary effort Andrew Farkas and his dedicated staff made in creating the university library in record time. Lassiter's egalitarian dream, the General Assembly, did not last when faculty discovered that the grounds keepers might take part in their promotion and tenure deliberations. When confronted, Lassiter gracefully retreated encouraging Tom Mongar and others to draft a Faculty Association constitution. Another notable event in the early years was the formation of the faculty union led by Steve deLue, Allen Tilley and others over the opposition of Carpenter and Lassiter.
There were at least two weak links in the early university. Number one was inadequate funding almost from the start. While UNF had start up funds, the time frame was too short. The student body was too small to provide adequate FTE support. For example, the campus police necessarily had to be a certain size regardless of enrollments, and in the early years they and other support staff took a disproportionate amount of university dollars. The state legislature also was notorious in underfunding higher education by national standards. During the early years when the first Arab oil embargo hit, state revenues declined and so did university allocations.
Inadequate funding resulted in UNF becoming an incomplete university. On the academic side, there were no physics programs, foreign languages or drama. Ancient history, anthropology and many other disciplines were not taught. The study of philosophy, historically at the heart of the university, had one professor and no major program. One could go on.
As students were commuters there were virtually no extra curricular programs, now recognized as an integral part of any undergraduate education. Upper level enrollments through the first decade rarely achieved goals further limiting financial support. Faculty hires were not matched by additional support dollars for professional meetings, travel or research resulting in faculty frustration. Yet quality teaching continued for the students.
Despite limited resources, individuals and small groups of faculty began building the university beyond the classroom. In the College of Business, Lowell Salter organized the Small Business Development Center, one of eight in the nation. In the early years, while small business owners still confused UNF with FCCJ or JU, and often could not find the campus in the woods, the SBDC expanded by word of mouth. Business owners who achieved profitability through UNF counseling passed the word to associates. Local banks with small business loans began recommending clients. Success bred success in the region and then beyond. Today the Small Business Development center counsels hundreds of small businesses each year and serves 18 Florida counties with satellite centers in Gainesville and Ocala.
Another innovator in the early 1970s was Betty Flinchum in the COE who had come to UNF to teach health and phys ed, but also had a passion for international education. In the summer of 1974 she took her first of several groups of graduate students to England to study the British Infant Schools with their open classrooms and peer instruction.
In the 1980s, Flinchum and Lou Woods developed a USIA affiliation with the newly independent Republic of Belize (1981). Out of the effort came the masters program in education for Belize students on the UNF campus and in Belize with UNF professors traveling to the republic on summer teaching assignments. Flinchum later became the first director of a new Center for International Education recruiting foreign students to UNF and facilitating a wide range of faculty/student research and study abroad programs in Europe, West Africa and Latin America.
Meanwhile in the COAS, political science assistant professor Jane Decker brought together students, faculty and staff to begin an ad hoc theater under the auspices of the Venture Studies Program. It began with Decker teaching venture courses on theater.
"There were a lot of people who were interested and a lot of people who were talented and we somehow got the idea that we could put on a play and celebrate the opening of what was then the building 9 auditorium...You probably remember the part about how the auditorium and building 9 wasn't ready so Tom Carpenter finally agreed to rent a big circus tent which we put up in the parking lot and that is where we did the play, 'The Visit.'" [ listen to the audio ]
The Venture Theater only lasted three or four years, but it created excitement on campus and helped create a sense of community where little existed.
About the same time Decker also became involved in founding the Center for Local Government. The Center did professional development training for public employees as well as contract survey research for JEA and other agencies. The Center's Government Fellows Program prepared a generation of department and division heads at city hall.
There were other innovations. Bob Loftin founded Sawmill Slough Conservation Club with support from Ray Bowman, Dave Porter and others. Sawmill Slough initiated the creation of the university nature trails, began Earth Day campus-community celebrations, raised campus consciousness about the natural beauty of UNF, and successfully challenged President McCray's efforts to build a nine-hole golf course in the preserve. In 1978, the U.S. Department of Interior designated the trails as a National Recreational Trail.
Thus despite enrollment and financial challenges confronting the fledgling UNF in the 1970s, students, faculty and staff established a foothold in the Jacksonville community.
The first phase of the university's history ended with the departure of the Founding Fathers. Vice President Lassiter left for the Tennessee State University System in 1977; President Carpenter became president of Memphis State University in 1980, and the deans, White, Ash and Parrish, retired in 1976, 1978 and 1984, respectively.
The second phase, largely but not entirely in the 1980s, was marked by what one might call administrative discontinuities. Three men served as presidents or interims between the departure of Carpenter in 1980 and the arrival of Adam Herbert in 1989. Ten men (with one repetition) led academic affairs in the 19 years following the departure of Lassiter in 1977 to the appointment of David Kline in 1996. The COAS had six deans in 15 years following Ash's departure in 1978. Some administrators faced faculty dissent in their sometimes abrupt, seemingly arbitrary, autocratic actions. Other found their jobs unrewarding due to excessive paper pushing and bureaucracy, inadequate funding and lack of support from above. Many of the more creative administrators moved on to other institutions where their leadership talents could be more properly used and appreciated.
Virtually all of the 69 faculty and staff interviewed agreed that the greatest change in UNF's 35-year history was adding freshmen and sophomores in 1984. Admitting first and second year students required the creation of a general education curriculum to introduce younger undergraduates to higher education. A faculty committee led by Len Lipkin developed a course of study strong in both the sciences and humanities. With the addition of general education and lower division, the College of Arts and Sciences began to assume its traditional role at the core of a university education, a role heretofore served by the more professionally oriented colleges of education and business.
Adding lower division meant hiring additional faculty and adjuncts to teach the new students. The abolition of the Venture Studies Program and an innovative advising system also freed faculty to teach introductory courses. The result added a more traditional character to this regional state university.
These years also saw a shift in faculty priorities with greater emphasis placed on scholarship and publication. This change was supported by most, but not all faculty, who recognized the importance of research in academic life.
While the curriculum grew, so too did the needs of students for housing on campus. Darwin Coy was dean of students at the time. He remembers:
"I felt bad for a long time. We had nothing for young people to do on campus. We really had nothing. We had nothing to do or see. We had no theater, although we had plays put on. We had no real theater. We had no place to put a big production....We had no athletic facility and no athletic teams. WE had nothing like that really going. We had a good place to run on campus. We had a nature trail that you could walk or run on. We had a road that was five miles out to the bridge and back. Other than that it wasn't a great place for young people to be for a long time." [ listen to the audio ]
Coy had overseen the development of the Academic Enrichment Skills Center, the child care center for children of students, staff and faculty, and the boathouse on the lake, the place for pizza, beer, weekend films and occasional rock bands.
Coy's successor, Sandy Hansford, spent the next three years developing the first student housing, a small student life center, the first fraternities and sororities (without houses), and the Aquatic Center. Progress was slow, however, due to limited funds.
One of the big successes in student life resulted from hiring Dusty Rhodes as baseball coach in 1986. Rhodes had been as assistant coach at the University of Florida and could have moved on to a head coach at many places. However, he chose UNF for the same reasons many others had come to this university. He saw the potential in building a baseball program literally from ground zero. The diamond had not even been laid out yet when he was hired.
From the beginning Rhodes learned that at UNF academics came first.
"When I came here, they basically said, look, there's no exceptions for athletes academics. When you go to recruit you've got to get a student who plays a sport. So for me, I thought, well, that's going to be tough. I recruited at Florida. I knew they had some great players, but they were kind of stupid. I felt like I was going to have to start off in a different way. But I found out it was a lot easier, because if you see a player play, and asked him about the grades and he didn't have them, I just forgot about him and went to the next guy. As of a sudden I started to realize, hey, there are a lot of guys out here that are really smart that can play. But I had to bring them on campus. We didn=t have a stadium; we just had a field, no fence around it. When I'd bring guys on there, I'd say, look, there's going to be a stadium here. This is going to be built here. I'd show them the drawings that we had at the time. Unbelievably, guys came." [ listen to the audio ]
And the program was a remarkable success.
Meanwhile on the academic side, Jacksonville philanthropist Ira Koger approached President McCray about endowing a jazz music program at the university. Both Gerson Yessin and Bill Prince remember a difficult transition. The existing faculty and chair had no input into the program's implementation. The endowment, matched by the state, generously funded jazz scholarships and jazz faculty salaries. Meanwhile the classical musicians looked on. For a few years there were hard feelings and low morale among the classicists. Conditions improved in the 1990s when Yessin successfully engaged in major fund raising to provide scholarships, recruit more traditional music students and create a reputable classical music program. Despite the tense beginning, the jazz program became one of the nation's finest and within the departmentBstudents and faculty came to appreciate and respect one another.
In 1988, UNF appointed Joan Farrell to establish the College of Health. A self described 'aggressive woman' (p. 16/17), Farrell came from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School as dean with graduate degrees in nursing and business administration. Her challenge was to combine and grow a small independent existing nursing program with an COES division of Allied Health into a major health care player in Jacksonville.
Farrell saw her task as three-fold in creating the new college. She needed a building. McCray and provost John Bardo had promised her one and the state provided bare bones funding. Farrell oversaw its design and construction raising additional private dollars to adequately outfit classrooms, labs and faculty offices. Second, she needed to develop a curriculum that included now a School of Nursing within the college plus health care administration, physical therapy, athletic training, and community health. Not all of the programs came at once. Physical fitness, for example, was introduced in partnership with Jacksonville area hospitals over the next decade. In addition, masters programs were added and most recently two doctoral programs in physical therapy and nursing practice. Farrell's third task further developed relations with the Jacksonville health care community already begun by the nursing faculty. These efforts paid off handsomely with funding for physical therapy, nursing professorships, and the completion of the college's J. Brooks Brown Hall.
The departure of President McCray in 1988 followed by interim president Roy McTarnaghan for a year ended the second phase of the ongoing process of creating this university. UNF expanded over the decade with freshmen and sophomores, new programs and new buildings, but not as much as it might have. Faculty and staff remembered inadequate funding as a perennial problem. So was leadership. Faculty continued to teach well. Students learned. But in terms of making its mark on Jacksonville and beyond, UNF had only begun its journey.
In my interview with Adam Herbert, I asked him about his first impressions of UNF when he became president:
"I had worked in the system for ten years. So I had a chance to observe the campus. I thought that the campus had a very clear potential for further growth and development. It was regarded statewide as being sort of a sleepy institution. The campus was not very aggressive, at least that was the image within the state. The university was not asking for much with regard to new resources and had a very small freshman class." [ listen to the audio ]
Phase Three of UNF's development began with the arrival of President Herbert in 1989. Herbert came to the university with a plan. He wanted to double enrollment over a ten-year period from about 7000 to 14,000 students. A few hundred freshmen entering each year would not achieve that goal. Further, the pool of First Coast high school graduates was not that large. Herbert hired Lynda Lewis to lead the recruitment effort canvassing the state and beyond. To pay for expansion, Herbert sent Tom Healy to lobby in Tallahassee to secure legislative funding up front for enrollment growth, something FIU had done and UNF had never done.
Herbert also wanted UNF to become a more traditional residential institution, not to the exclusion of commuter students, but to build a reputation as one of the "three or four most selective public universities in the state." Quality undergraduate education, already in place, was to become the key attraction. Herbert saw UNF's comparatively smaller classes providing for greater student-faculty interaction. Students flourished in what he called "a nurturing environment," something he believed large state schools lacked. Herbert also saw the potential for student involvement in the city through internships, cooperative education, service learning or simply participating in the cultural amenities of Jacksonville. For students on campus Herbert wanted to expand athletic programs starting with men=s and women's basketball. He oversaw the construction of the arena and expanded the Robinson Center for student activities.
The curriculum also was important. Herbert wanted to add languages beyond Spanish and French, a physics major and develop the engineering program. Creating the international studies programs and expanding the honors programs also received support. New programs meant hiring more faculty and finding more dollars for faculty research.
A third thrust was brick and mortar: the arena, student housing, University Center and Coggin College of Business. He began planning to expand the College of Health, Carpenter Library; to build the Lazzara Fine Arts Building and the engineering/physics building. When Herbert arrived on campus he remembered there were no UNF items on the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) list. He wanted to make sure there were enough projects that never again would UNF not have some construction underway.
Knowing that the state no longer fully funded its public universities, Herbert turned to the private sector. Fred Schultz remembered Chancellor Charlie Reed asking him to introduce the new president around Jacksonville. Schultz took Herbert to the River Club for lunch and introduced him to the power brokers of Jacksonville. Not surprisingly, the tall, handsome, gracious Herbert, the first African American president of a predominantly white public university in the South made an excellent impression. He also became the first African American elected chair of the Greater Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, another networking achievement.
With the support of Pierre Allaire, Julia Taylor and the UNF Foundation, among others on campus, and Schultz, Ann and David Hicks, Luther Coggin, Delores Kesler and others in the community, Herbert pursued private dollars. He worked with the Hicks to provide scholarships for qualified young people living in public housing or Habijax homes. Kesler gave money for qualified Raines High School graduates. Herbert's goal, not achieved during his tenure, was to endow each inner city high school with scholarships for deserving students.
Finally, Herbert wanted to make UNF an intellectual and cultural center for the First Coast. He introduced the presidential lecture series bringing notables like Elie Weisel and Maya Angelou to campus, both to meet with students in smaller groups and offer public lectures free and open to the community. He supported Gerson Yessin's efforts to expand the classical music program and the continued excellence of the jazz program. Following his resignation as chancellor of the Florida State University System, he established at UNF the Florida Center for Public Policy and Leadership, an institute he hoped would contribute to the future development of the region and state.
Charles Galloway worked closely with Herbert as interim vice president for academic affairs and remembered:
"If he walked into a room, everybody turned that way. When he spoke, everybody listened. There was never any small talk going around the table or anybody whispering anything when he was talking or he was in the committee. He had total 100 percent presence and credibility. He was the kind of person, even if you disagreed with him, or you wanted to make a point, he was so personally powerful that you didn't bring it up" [ listen to the audio ]
While Herbert often appeared larger than life working a reception or graduation with hugs or handshakes, and small talk that always seemed to personalize and compliment the recipient, he clearly recognized that UNF's progress was a team effort and gave credit in his oral history interview to staff, deans, faculty and students.
Meanwhile in the College of Business, Earle Traynham's deanship stood out during these years. Traynham came to UNF in 1973 as an academic advisor, worked his way up the professorial ranks, and became assistant, then associate dean in the mid-1980s. In 1993 he became interim and then dean for the next ten years. His soft spoken Southern demeanor belied a leader who learned to raise millions of dollars to furnish the new Coggin College of Business building with the latest equipment and technology. Traynham also successfully introduced an international business major over the initial objections of half his faculty.
The curriculum change resulted from his increasing awareness of the globalization of business and the need to prepare UNF students for it. Betty Flinchum played a role as catalyst. She had arranged for Traynham's predecessor Ed Johnson to establish the first agreement with two French schools to send students to UNF. She then nudged Traynham. The dean asked Jeff Steagall to draft a major program for Board of Regents approval. He told a not entirely sympathetic faculty that all future hires must have at least an international business minor. He sweetened the change by subsidizing a half dozen faculty to spend a spring break in France to learn about the possibilities in international education. Further, he arranged and encouraged both students and faculty to begin learning about both American and foreign businesses operating abroad.
The program began small but grew rapidly to become the second largest major in the college. Agreements were established with institutions in a half dozen European countries, Latin America, New Zealand and China.
Traynham remembers student feedback on the program as positive:
"Yeah, I think it made it a much more exciting undergraduate program. Our students, a large number of them now go abroad as part of their undergraduate educational experience. In addition to the twenty or so exchange agreements that we have where we exchange faculty and students, by the way, we run eight to ten short term study abroad courses every year. It has introduced a very exciting element into our undergraduate curriculum." [ listen to the audio ]
In the College of Arts and Sciences during these years, Dick Bizot created a different kind of program, bringing Irish Studies to UNF. In his early years, Bizot had introduced African American studies to the Language and Literature curriculum focusing broadly on history, culture and art as well as literature. When the department hired faculty who specialized in that field, Bizot looked to his own heritage (on his mother's side) to introduce courses that broadly combined the history, drama, art, culture and literature of Ireland.
Irish Studies was not a natural fit for UNF and Jacksonville as it might have been in Savannah, Boston or some other large city with a strong Irish heritage. But with Bizot's enthusiasm combined with financial support from Fred and Nancy Riley Schultz, the program grew. Bizot took students and faculty to Ireland during summer term. He brought poets and musicians to Jacksonville piggybacking with other southeastern colleges and universities to share costs. With grants he encouraged other faculty to develop courses in Irish history, politics and art. Concerts drew fans from Ocala, Gainesville and Brunswick, Georgia. With eight or ten events a year and dozens of students, UNF's Irish Studies became the fastest growing and perhaps most significant program of its kind in the South. It also became well known among writers and scholars in Ireland.
In the College of Education, Dean Carl Ashbaugh in the late 1980s hired Kathe Kasten to develop UNF's first doctoral program. Kasten and her colleagues believed its primary mission would be to serve public school principals and administrators in the First Coast region. That had been her experience with a similar program in Omaha. To her surprise, only a few Duval principals responded to the opportunity. Instead community college instructors with masters degrees applied as did heads of nonprofit organizations. Bill Mason, former CEO of Baptist Medical Center completed the program as did Barbara Darby, president of FCCJ's North Campus and Rick Ferrin, executive director of the Jacksonville Port Authority.
In response to the more diverse student body, Kasten and the faculty shifted focus from educational leadership to a broader study of leadership. Bob Loftin taught a course on philosophy in the program. Steve Paulson from the College of Business taught organizational theory and management. Pritchy Smith and Carolyn Williams taught multicultural courses. Ten years into the program, Kasten believes that while there is room for improvement, the program has served the First Coast communities well.
As UNF began ably under its original leadership, the institution matured substantially under the leadership of Adam Herbert, his provosts and five college deans. The curriculum expanded as did the number of faculty and faculty support. Enrollments almost doubled with a strengthening of the extra-curriculum under vice-presidents for student affairs. Endowments increased and construction cranes were daily evidence of continuing physical growth.
Before concluding however, I need to share a few responses to the question that the committee supervising this oral history directed me to ask of each interviewee: who were the two or three most colorful characters you have known at UNF?
Steve Shapiro on Ken Jennings:
"He was probably one of the most interesting people I've ever met. He was all over the board. He could play the piano, and he was a jazz enthusiast, and he was probably the most prolific, good scholar that I knew. Ken really was a scholar and a prolific writer, and he did a hell of a job. Ken was very good in class. One thing that he would do in the classroom would be he would challenge the institution's side....He knew more about baseball than anybody I ever met. He had baseball cards that wouldn't quit. You walked into his office at home and he had grandstand seats from Wrigley Field. It was just his taste was over the top..... There's not a day that doesn't go by that I don't think of him. He was a great guy." [ listen to the audio ]
Tom Healy on Andrew Robinson:
"If you needed something, you call Andy Robinson. He would do whatever he could, give you whatever he had, to help get through whatever the crisis was you're in. That was the kind of person he was. Very astute, very practical kind of guy. He talked to me about how he couldn't go to graduate school in the South. He actually got his doctoral degree through NYU and once a month he had to ride the train to New York City and take classes. Then in the summertime, he went to New York full-time until he earned his doctorate. He had fought in the war in Korea, in the trenches and everything. So his background had prepared him for a life of dealing with all of the heavy, heavy issues that he had to deal with. He was just taken from us too early was all." [ listen to the audio ]
Andrew Farkas on Jack Funkhouser and Bill Brown:
"Colorful was, first of all I would say Jack Funkhouser. Jack was brought in by Roy Lassiter who saw him create at the University of Florida a department that never existed before, that filled a vacuum that everybody desperately needed. Instructional Communications. That's why he came, that's why he was brought here. Jack created Instructional Communications from scratch that worked extremely well. Jack himself would never hesitate to, by himself, push the equipment to a classroom at eight in the evening so the professor would have it. Jack lived this university. The other colorful character was of course our inimitable Bill Brown. He was a one man show when he walked down the street. He had exuberance, ebullience, an acto's acting ability, a socialite's social ability, he was playing in life a character called Bill Brown." [ listen to the audio ]
Allen Tilley on Bob Loftin:
"Bob Loftin was a craggy undergraduate philosophy teacher and he was passionate about his undergraduate teaching. He asked to have a four-course load assignment rather than three because he said I'm not going to publish. I love teaching. That's what I want to do." [ listen to the audio ]
Gary Harmon on Bob Loftin:
"Living close to nature, he was a bird watcher and an ornithologist. He was just a very close observer of bird nature, but I think human beings as well, which made him an interesting philosopher to the students. He was a person unlike some of the more recent graduates from the departments of philosophy. Not our department, but in the universe of American universities and foreign universities, in that you could never mistake what it was he was trying to say. You might not have agreed with him, but he was very plain spoken and folksy spoken. Some of his speech, his philosophical statements were couched in the vernacular. He, too, preferred a beard. Those tennis shoes, honest to goodness, I've never seen such a variety of red, white and blue and every other color of tennis shoes. That's what you just expect to see. I think he was a person of great integrity." [ listen to the audio ]
Betty Flinchum on Andrew Farkas:
"Again, you think of Andrew, you think of his glasses hanging off his ear. And Andrew was a straight shooter, I thought. He would tell you. It didn't matter if you weren't going to like what he was going to say. It was his opinion and it was usually a pretty learned opinion, because he had a great wealth of knowledge that he was very happy to share, I thought. He was extremely cooperative. We had library tours for every international group that I had. Andrew would always try to make a point of coming out, and he wanted to know what groups were coming, and he would have something to say either in their language or about their country that he would use. Very learned, I thought, in terms of his knowledge about the countries, his passion for music, his uniqueness there I thought was interesting. But I loved his insightfulness in meetings. I loved it when Andrew was in a meeting or on a committee or whatever because he didn't say very much, but when he said it, it was always straight to the point" [ listen to the audio ]
I also asked faculty and staff in my interviews: what characterizes UNF? Are we any more than a generic regional university? How do we know we are as good as we like to think we are? Responses varied. UNF's jazz program, College of Health programs, urban internships, international business majors stood out, but graduate programs remain relatively undeveloped and faculty research, while increasing, does not match that of sister institutions in Orlando, Boca Raton or Miami. The emphasis on faculty-student interaction and the quality of instruction has continued from the beginning, resulting in many successful and satisfied alumni, clearly an asset to the university. A number of faculty mentioned their experiences with Florida, FSU and undergraduates from other colleges and universities taking summer courses at UNF. Across the board, these transfer students felt UNF challenged them in the classroom and they particularly appreciated their access to UNF faculty.
Faculty collegiality and enthusiasm, however, appear less than in the early years. Yet according to senior faculty, creative teaching and increased scholarship of younger faculty speak well for UNF's future. The discontinuities of administration in the 1980s stabilized in the 1990s, and though Ann Hopkins tenure was brief, due in part to health issues, the current administration in the minds of those interviewed, appears capable.
What particularly stood out for a number of people interviewed was the growing relationship of the university to the larger Jacksonville community. From the beginning individual faculty like Lowell Salter, Chris Rasche, Jane Decker, George Corrick and Earle Traynham became involved working with local governments, businesses and non profits. The Small Business Development Center and Center for Local Government played significant roles in the region. The relationship with the Duval County Public Schools might depend upon a particular superintendent's response, but outlying counties welcomed student interns and graduate courses offered in St. Johns, Putnam, Clay or Nassau counties. The Division of Nursing worked closely with local hospitals and the College of Health expanded these partnerships. Clearly UNF's presence contributed to a better prepared work force. But its impact was greater than that.
UNF improved the quality of lives and the quality of life in the Jacksonville community with music, art, prominent speakers, conferences and facilities like the University Center available for the public to use. Its Women's Center laid the groundwork for the Jacksonville Women's Center. Its Earth Day became a catalyst for larger environmental concerns. A recent JCCI report on the future of Jacksonville described the important role for UNF if the city is to achieve its greater goals.
Thirty five years is not a long time in anyone's history, which makes the development of UNF so significant. There is still a long way to go to become a mature institution, but the Founding Faculty, staff and students created UNF in 1972, and the current faculty, staff and students will continue building into the future. The creative process goes on, and hopefully will never end.
Betty Flinchum's reflections perhaps best offer some final words:
For example, you make a contribution to something, a monetary contribution once. But if you make that contribution every year for thirty years, it's a significant contribution. It may be up in the $100,000s by the time you finish it, you've contributed to your school or church or whatever. So if you contribute something to an institution every day since 1972, you should be considered a significant person it seems to me. Does that make sense?....You see, Jim, that to me, it's our lives we've given....the knowledge we've given to the community. So I would single out all of the founding faculty that have stayed with it, stayed with UNF because of the cumulative contribution. [ listen to the audio ]
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