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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Harry Shaw
G: This interview is with professor Harry Shaw, Dean of the Minority Affairs Office
here at the University of Florida. He is also a member of the English
Department. I thought it might be interesting if we start from the beginning. I
noticed you were born in the Midwest.
G: That is kind of unique, I think. Sometimes people who were born in the Midwest
have a tendency to stay out there. Can you talk a little bit about your earlier
years there at Union, Missouri?
H: Union, Missouri is a very small town, it is not a city. When I was born I am sure it
was quite a bit less than 1,000 people. I would say it was located on Highway 50
about fifty miles southwest of St. Louis.
There were several black families there. I spent my first four years there and
then visited again every summer at my grandmother's house for a number of
years. So my earliest memories are of Union, Missouri and the countryside
around Union. I learned many things at an early age, of course. I learned who I
was, the difference between black and white, rich and poor, dead and alive. Lots
of things. My earliest impressions of the Second World War were from Union,
G: What were those impressions?
H: I suppose that before we entered the war there was a time when we were, as a
nation, doing things to prepare for a war or to help out our later European allies.
One of the things we did was to gather metals of all kinds--aluminum especially
was important. I can remember going around with my brothers and sisters and
some of the other children to collect pots and pans and other kinds of metals and
taking them to a big collection place as part of the war effort. Of course, I can
also remember songs from that era that reflected the war. During the war, and I
had to be very young, I can remember songs; When the Lights Go On Again All
Over the World was popular at that time. And of course I did not connect it really
to the war at that time. But I did have a mental picture of the world with the lights
all over it going on again. As I got older I realized the significance of it. There
were actual blackouts and bomb raids and general depression that the war
caused with the lights, of course going on, but it would have been the bringing
back of peace and that kind of thing.
G: You say you moved from Union, Missouri to where?
H: Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. It is in St. Louis County and
that was a young city. It is the second largest city in St. Louis County other than
St. Louis. One of the things about Union is that there was a small but very
visible community of black folk. Several families, all who have long, historical
roots in that part of the world. In Webster there was a large black community and
it was quite a different environment.
I can remember there again, however, having my sense of the differences
between blacks and whites reinforced. We had no swimming pool, no theater,
we swam in the creeks and as I remember, they were quite polluted creeks.
Around in the black neighborhoods, our movie was the gym floor of the
segregated school. That was the movie for black folk. I can remember, of
course, living in the black community and the very sharp division between the
black and the white community. The differences in the streets and the
differences in the fact that there were sidewalks in the white community and in
most of the black communities there were not any. There were curbs and
pavements and that kind of difference, physical differences.
G: Let us talk about the schools for a while. This is in Webster Groves and you
started elementary there?
H: Webster Groves. Kindergarten.
G: Can you think back to some memorable event in your elementary career,
something that stayed with you. Can you think of several things?
H: Lots and it is just a matter of where we would choose to cast our bucket. One of
the things I remember that I think had a profound effect on me, not necessarily
an unusual effect, but a profound effect on me, [was that] I had black teachers.
My kindergarten teacher was Miss Thomas. I do remember her very well. I did
what I guess many young males do at kindergarten--I fell in love with my
kindergarten teacher. And I fell in love with my first grade teacher who was a
little black woman and my second grade teacher as well. I did not fall in love with
my third grade teacher because she was an older lady whose name was Addie
Ashcraft. This was during the war and of course everyone called her Addie
Aircraft. She was a complete terror. I learned a lot from her; she was an
excellent teacher but she was from the old school and she did not tolerate any
nonsense at all.
Other than that, I can remember from a very early age--and I measure the
importance of it because I can remember the names and see the faces very
clearly of teachers that I have never had--the teachers that my older sisters and
brothers had. The principal was black. I can remember Mr. Thomas and Mr.
Graham and Mr. Gorins and Miss Clark and others. I can remember their faces;
they were extremely important people to me and they were, I suppose, what one
might call good role models. But at any rate, I suppose collectively they had the
world's knowledge as far as I knew. They were in authority, they were running
the school and this is the world I came into educationally. I can remember the
scrapes, fights on the school ground. I can remember the play on the school
ground. I can remember that the school was located in a black neighborhood
and just a wealth of memory there. We could go from there and talk about the
G: Let me ask you about your high school experience. That too was segregated?
H: No. There is an intervening step, just to make it chronological. I, at the age of
nine, moved to Edwardsville, Illinois. Edwardsville, Illinois was the home of my
father and his father. The Shaws are from Illinois. And the Aches--my mother
was was an Ache--were from Missouri. At the time that I was born, obviously, my
father and mother were living in Union, Missouri where my mother was born and
her mother and her grandmother. When we moved to Edwardsville, Illinois, I was
nine years old and the schools there were segregated also. I was in fourth grade
and I remember the teachers very well up there. Schools remained segregated
until the time that I was ready to go to high school then the schools became
G: So that was about 1950?
H: I went to high school in 1951. The schools were integrated in 1950. We were, to
some extent, well-prepared when we went to a high school. A few of us, at any
rate, were well-prepared to go to what we called the 'white' high school. Some of
us were not. It was kind of a mixed thing.
The Lincoln schools of course dot this country because many of the black
schools are called Lincoln or Douglass. Douglass was a school in Webster
Lincoln School had been a very fine school. Toward the end of that segregated
era, the quality of teachers diminished somewhat. But luckily, some of us were
able to learn from the good ones who remained and get a fairly good start into
the white high school. At any rate, my high school career was what one might
call an integrated situation.
I did not realize how small the black community was in Edwardsville but at the
time I was growing up there must have been about five or six hundred black
people in the town and I did not realize how tiny it was. The town itself is about
eight or nine thousand strong but there was no doubt that it was a predominantly
I can remember feeling that as I grew up, mainly with my black companions, as a
young boy and then into a young manhood, that we were completely, in one
sense, in control; nobody bothered us. We pretty much had the run of the
countryside. Literally, [we had] the run of the countryside with our dogs down
along the creek banks and through the fields and over the hills and raiding apple
orchards and pear orchards and peach trees and cherry trees and picking berries
and grapes and fishing, swimming. But it was not all play. We worked also
But never feeling really much oppression or much of the effects of segregation
and there was still segregation. Some of the lunch counters still were not open to
blacks. Some of the restaurants opened slowly. Historically that had not been
part of our lives. We did not miss it as children. We just went about our business
and basically were in a community where we did not feel destitute. When we got
older and looked back and saw really what we did not have compared to what
Another thing that I can remember very much from that Edwardsville era is that
among the poor, black families, we seemed to be among the poorest. It had to
do not only with low income but poor management of money and poor
management of resources. But that was what made it part of life in the Shaw
family. For us a kind of curious mixture of extremely pleasant and extremely
unpleasant memories. It seems that that part of our lives was a certain kind of
eternity--we would never get older.
We were wanting to grow up and get out of that because it was physically not
very comfortable. We were cold in the winter and hot in the summer, the way a
lot of people are. But the kind of see-through houses that you sometimes see [in
the] South, we had that in the North and it was cold. We had holes in the floor
and the walls and around the windows and so forth. Where we slept, in the
kitchen, for instance, water would freeze over night--where the three boys slept.
It was that cold. But alongside that it might just be a statement about children. I
do not know, but alongside of that we managed to have some very happy
memories and beside that we had each other. The family had each other.
G: How large was your family?
H: I had three sisters and two brothers; there were six of us. I was the fourth born.
An older sister and then an older brother and then another brother and then me
and then two younger sisters.
G: So we could say that you finished your high school career there in Illinois. Was
there anything that happened to you in high school that made you decide that
you were going to go on to college? Was it a goal in the family?
H: Frankly, I have thought about this. I do not know exactly where the idea of my
going to college came from. But as the time approached there was not any
doubt. It was not even a question as to whether or not I would go on to high
school. I never had the notion that I would work in a factory or do something
other than that.
G: What about the siblings older than you? Did they go on to college as well?
H: One did. My older sister did not go. She was not one of them. I mention her in
response to your question about who went on because, if anybody had potential
to go on it would have been Sophie. She had a very, very good mind, and still
does for that matter. She did what a lot of young black women did then. There
was no college possibility for her. She apparently did not have anything to send
her to college with and so she simply stayed around Edwardsville and worked
here and worked there and never did get to college.
My brother who is next in line did go to college. He went to college on a football
and basketball scholarship. He went to Illinois State University. He stayed there
two years and then went to the army and then graduated many, many years after
My next brother went to the army; he did not go to college. I went to college on
an academic scholarship although I played basketball and ran track. Again,
there was no real doubt. I went to the same university and I, probably, was
somewhat influenced in my choice of universities by my brother.
I went there and finished there as an undergraduate majoring in English
because there was nobody to advise me. As I was registering, someone said,
"Well, why do you not major in something that you were good in, in high school?"
Well, in high school I had been good in several things. I wanted to major in
political science, but they did not have a political science program. So I did not
have an advisor, I had done well in English so I took English as a major, I guess
in lieu of political science.
G: You stuck with that though, right through graduate school.
G: What made you decide to move on for a master's? You went to teach for a
H: I went to teach in Chicago.
G: How was that experience?
H: Interesting. Once again I was immersed in a predominantly black situation. A
predominantly black situation which, like the other predominantly black situations,
had evidence of control from the outside so to speak. As I grew older, the
evidence became more and more clear.
In Chicago, the south side, of course, is one of the largest black communities in
the country, if not the largest. There was, nevertheless, still the idea of control
from the outside. The school board was controlled by white folk and the schools
there basically were very bad, the black schools especially. One can look at a
number of reasons and we can get into that. On the south side and on the west
side, which is predominantly the black part of the west side, the schools were not
of very good quality and not a great deal of learning took place, or not the kind
we were trying to effect.
G: Late 1950s, early 1960s?
H: 1959 through 1964, I think. The high school situation was such that some
students learned, almost in spite of the system. There was a great deal of
difficulty with discipline.
G: So nothing much has changed in the last thirty years.
H: Well, maybe not. It was an urban school situation. Very tough, harsh, for some
people. A frightening environment in which to learn or teach and yet it was a way
G: Let me come back to that and talk about the difference between the urban
situation and a rural situation. And how in twenty years that migration from the
rural to the urban, what that must have done in terms of undermining families.
Let us talk about that in terms of schools and kids learning and that whole thing.
But I want to get back to your deciding to go back for a master's degree.
H: That, I suppose, had we had a different kind of environment in Chicago where
teachers were paid well and the environment was a very pleasant and rewarding
one, perhaps I would not have gone back. In other words, what I am saying is
that part of the decision to go back for a masters may have been, I am not sure,
a kind of realization that this was not going to do it. What I was in was not going
to be it for the rest of my life and that I did need to make change. There were
friends that I made in that short period of time who had been in the system for
years and were still there plodding along making it. There were people who were
my age and I could see no future for them, or for me, staying in that system like
I think my luck has been with me forever because I married my wife. She
realized too, that this was not what we wanted and partly my own realization,
partly her urging; let us move on to something bigger and better. The step to
doing that, of course, is to get a master's degree. So back to Illinois State I went.
Incidentally, I married my wife in 1960 and I had grown up with her. She had
grown up in Edwardsville, Illinois, too. So I went back to Illinois State and got a
master's degree in English and I finished up in 1965.
G: You were able to get past the Vietnam situation one way or another, some way.
H: Well, I got past the Vietnam situation; here is how. I guess it was Vietnam. I got
past the armed services. I went to Chicago and began to teach and I got a letter
from the local board there in Chicago asking me to come in and take a physical.
I wrote them back and explained what the situation was, that I was teaching and I
wanted to get a deferment. They wrote a letter back to me not to come and take
the physical but to report for immediate induction. So of course that alarmed me.
I did not want to go to the armed services. So I wrote home (talking about the
difference between rural and urban) I wrote back home to my own local board in
Edwardsville and explained to them what the situation was. [I] explained to them
that my family has no reservations about serving in the armed services, because
my father had served, my two brothers had served. But, that I would be, in a
way, throwing away everything that I had worked so hard for. Of course, in a
small town they knew that I had struggled, saved my money and what not, had
come from an extremely poor family, worked my way through college and now I
have a degree and now the army wanted to snatch me. They did something and
I got a letter back from them a short time later saying consider the previous
orders canceled. I have not heard from the army or the armed forces since then.
So that is how I got out of Vietnam or whatever.
We were talking about the master's degree. I did that in a year and a summer
and worked pretty hard at it. I lost lots of sleep and what not working and
working and working. I finished that degree and I had a choice. I was going to
go back into teaching, a master's degree for going back into teaching. One of my
white colleagues said he was going to go into college teaching. For some reason
I was thinking that would not be open to me. I asked the question, what did you
have to do to do that, because he was taking the same courses as I was. He
said, "Just sign up for it." So I said, "Well, I think I will sign up for it too." I waited
to hear something fall on me, a tree, a wall fall in, and it did not fall in. So I said,
"I think I will." So I did sign up and lo and behold, it was fine.
I took the requisite courses and when I graduated, I applied for a job there at
Illinois State. Illinois State had never had a black professor before. What they
had always said is that the town is not ready for it yet, or the university system is
not ready for it yet or something--somebody was not ready. Then Watts
happened. Overnight they got ready.
They hired a lady by the name of Nell Jackson. She stayed for one year; she
had difficulty with physical education. They made it rather unpleasant for her.
She went on to the University of Illinois which is a bigger and better place and
taught there. The next year I went in as the second black professor that the
university had ever hired. There was much concern as to whether or not I could
make it. Because after all, Nell Jackson had tried it and could not make it. About
that I did not have any real doubts. Most doubts were about whether or not I
could sign up to be [a college teacher], it had not occurred to me to be a college
teacher. But I did not have any doubts about whether or not I could do the job,
just whether or not somebody would let me.
I took that job and had no difficulty at all. I called that my Watts job. The same
thing happened around the country, incidentally, as you might know. Black
professors were hired in universities where there had never been any blacks
before. Blacks in other high visibility jobs were hired because of Watts, then
because of Detroit, Newark. Because of these different riots, people got jobs.
The people who were rioting and the people who were poor and in the streets, of
course, were pretty much where they were but they were high visibility jobs that
blacks got as a result of that around the country.
Things went pretty well like that. I taught there for several years, but again my
wife and I decided, since the University of Illinois was so close, "You probably
should go on to get a Ph.D. The time is going by, you may as well make good
use of it and get your Ph.D." I said, "Okay, I will take some courses." So I
started taking courses and got into the program and said yes, I will do that and
indeed I did. This is still 1967, I think, when I enrolled in the program. I did not
finish until 1972 because I was still working.
Then in 1967 we moved to Champaign-Urbana and one of the big miracles in my
life was getting married in 1960 to my wife. Another big miracle happened when
my son was born in 1967. In earnest, I went for the degree. I was working
full-time at Illinois State, but still in their program over there. I finished in 1972.
But in 1968, in the meantime, Martin Luther King [Jr.] was killed. So another big
wave of hirings around the country happened. I was ensconced in my Ph.D.
program over there and probably would have finished in 1969 or so. But they
came back out, because I was not in school full-time then. I had dropped out of
Illinois State as a full-time employee to work full-time in the Ph.D. program just
for that short period of time. But when King was killed, they came for me and
said, "Would you like to be an administrator?" I said no. In fact, I did not want to
talk to any white folk at all at that time.
You might be too young to remember, but I was devastated when King was
killed. I grew a beard, I did a lot of strange things. I went up to Chicago and
came very close to taking part in the riots. As a matter of fact, I was driving
around with my friends during the riots and seeing what was happening and
could have gotten out and done something. At any rate, they came and asked
me that and my first reaction was no. Then I said why not. So I took a job as
assistant director of research services and grants. I later because the director of
research services and grants there. That was in 1968.
Between 1968 and 1972 I worked as either the assistant director or the director
of research services and grants. In 1972 I got my degree. A friend of mine
whom I knew at Illinois State University had moved to Florida and he came here
in 1970. In 1972, in November as a matter of fact, I decided we would come
down and visit and we did.
S: Dr. Foreman?
H: Dr. Ronald C. Foreman. And we did visit him and the four of us (there were four
of us then and Deana, my daughter, was on the way) had a good time in
November. Frolicing, among other places, in the ocean, in November and being
amazed because when we left Illinois it was cold and gray. We had not seen the
sun for at least two weeks. Had not seen it, just the gray had come in and was
there. We got here and lo and behold blue skies the way it is now and warm. So
we got to thinking, "Why does God not like us? What did we do?"
So we went back and a short time later, the same friend wrote to me and said,
"Look, there is a position down here in administration." I said, "Well, visiting
Florida is one thing, living in the South is something else." So I told him no. He
said, "Well look, why don't you come down and take a look at it anyway." I said,
"Well, okay." So I did. This was the following year in 1973. I came down and I
looked at the position and looked around and I liked it. My wife and I said we
would make a commitment for two years; we thought we could stick it out for two
years. So that is what we did. We came down and went through the interview
process with a number of other candidates and I was chosen. I took the position
as assistant dean in University College and I have been here in one capacity or
another ever since, although I was only planning to stay two years. That was in
G: I am going to stop you right there and I want to spend our next hour talking about
the past twenty years or so you spent here at the University of Florida in one
capacity or another. You came here in the early 1970s, first for a visit and then
you decided to come back down and accept a position. What were your first
impressions on the job?
H: Mixed. One was a kind of mixed reception by the faculty in University College.
Some were, I think, happy to see me come, some were not. I think part of it had
to do with the resistance people have to change in general. For others I think it
was racial because the person whose place I took was black. I think some
people saw this, "Well, this must be a minority position." I do not believe it was.
However, I dealt with that for a while.
I said it was mixed and by that I mean there were people who, without any kind of
prompting, went out of their way to make me feel very welcome. These were
white faculty members. Some of them helped me to become acclimated to the
situation, not only locally, but also here at the university and in particular, some of
the details of my responsibilities. So my first impression was a mixed one.
I have to say that the situation that I was in was new to me academically. My
responsibilities were new, and as a result it took me a while to learn all of the
aspects of my responsibilities. Some of them I took to immediately and others I
My main responsibility was to deal with the general education program. I must
say that was the major responsibility of the whole college because University
College was separate and apart from the rest of the university; it was a separate
college that had as its main responsibility supervision of the general education
program. There were, I think, two other assistant deans and one associate dean
and we all had our separates parts of that operation.
G: So the reception being mixed and a learning a new job, how did your family take
H: Fine. My wife, at the time, was not working outside the home. She was working
but inside the home. At that time my daughter was about six months old and one
son was three and another five or six. So she had three small children and I
think one son was in the first or second grade and the other was in nursery
We located in a northwest neighborhood, a predominantly white neighborhood
with a few black families in it. But my children had no trouble in their growing up.
They went to schools in that area. My wife and I encountered no difficulties in
finding housing and that was quite a contrast from what we had experienced in
Illinois, on numerous occasions. In fact, when we came to Florida, we were
primed and ready for all kinds of difficulty but we encountered none. That did not
mean that we were naive and thought that nothing existed here, but the fact that
we did not encounter any indicated that the frequency of it was not nearly so high
as it had been, for instance, in Illinois. So I must say in terms of the community
and our experience with the community, it compared favorably to any place we
G: Returning back to the 1970s on campus, I understand that was a time of some
flux. There were some different kinds of concerns on campus. Could you talk
about those for a few minutes.
H: Yes. Most of the big turmoil--students walking out of classes and quitting the
university, sitting in the president's office, taking over buildings and that kind of
thing, most of that--had already happened when I came here. I came here in
1973 and that happened in 1970 and 1971. I understand too, I do not want to get
away from campus, but I understand too that a number of corners had been
turned on as well as off campus. The equal housing policies had been fought
over for quite a while. When it became clear fair housing was going to be the
practice, they simply did it. Had I gotten here a year or two sooner, I could have
had all the difficulty I would want.
The same thing, I understand, happened with busing. They fought and fought
over that but once they decided that it was law and policy, they went ahead and
did it without incident. I understand the same kind of corners were turned on
campus. They fought about certain kinds of policies and once they were won,
they just went ahead and did it. But I did notice that there were still some big
corners to be turned.
G: What corners were they? Can you talk about them?
H: Yes, I can. For instance, as an assistant dean, I went to my first college
assembly meeting and noticed that there was only one black professor. After the
assembly I inquired of the dean, "Where were all the black faculty?" He said,
"Well, that is it." And I said, "That is it in the college into which freshmen and
sophomores enter into the university. We have only one, or perhaps two black
G: Out of how many faculty would you say?
H: At that time I am not sure but there were eighty-some faculty members in
University College. So what I did was begin to talk to him right away about the
possibility of turning another corner. That is, he and I, in our conversation, both
came to realize that something had to be done drastically to change that kind of
imbalance. Indeed, it ended up with my being put in charge of recruiting black
faculty to the University of Florida, mainly through University College.
In 1974, the next year, we were fortunate enough to be able to hire fourteen
black faculty members and some we recruited from as far away as Detroit. You
have heard of professor Jerrie Scot, the chair of the English Department in
University College. I went to Detroit and recruited her. We went also to
Champagne-Urbanna to recruit Dr. [Mildred] Hill-Lubin [Assistant Professor of
English]. This was for 1974.
G: So they have been here a good while.
H: Oh, yes. And a number of other people. As I say, that year we recruited
fourteen, which was a good year. So that was a major change in the history of
the University of Florida. We established a vitae bank and I was in charge of
that. In 1977 we recruited and hired twenty black faculty members. So that was
one of the important corners that we turned. From that base, the number of
black faculty has steadily increased. It is not where it should be but certainly that
was a base.
G: What was the philosophy, as you understand it, at this University College,
because that does not exist any more.
H: Well, as I said, it was primarily responsible for the administration and supervision
of the general education program. It was a two year program and all students
who entered the university as freshmen or sophomores came into the University
College. Students would graduate from University College into engineering, or
arts and sciences, or education, or any one of the two-year upper division
colleges. University College has a long history, it goes back to 1935 or so. It
was one of the oldest general education programs in the country, maybe second
to the University of Chicago.
Its philosophy was to teach the students; basically to place an emphasis on
teaching as opposed to research. The instructors were people who were trained
in a variety of fields, but usually fields that paralleled those in arts and
science--English, history, sociology and psychology. I think there were seven
main areas. Those were English, math, social sciences, behavioral studies,
humanities, biological sciences and physical sciences.
There were several courses in each one of those areas. The difference between
that situation and what we have today [is that] there were relatively few courses
across the spectrum of general education. As a result, in order to teach all the
students who needed general education, there had to be multiple sections of a
given course. Students could pick and choose, they could say, "Well, since there
are so many sections of this course I may want to take this or I may want to take
something else," and have a reasonable chance of planning his or her program.
But the program was built so that whatever students took made a coherent
That was as opposed to what some of the other universities were doing and
indeed what we are doing now--having many, many more courses so that it
appears that students have a lot of choice. But because of the fact that there are
so many courses, there are very, very few sections of each course. Therefore,
students have very little choice. They have to take what they can get, in other
So in answer to your question, the philosophy was different. The emphasis was
placed mainly on teaching. It was placed mainly on giving the students choice up
to a point and it was placed on providing a coherent general education program.
Students who went through that program, of course, had something in common
with other students who went through because most of them took courses in
common. They would be able to talk about a certain body of knowledge. It
would not be possible for students to go through that old program without having
American history, without being exposed to Plato and Aristotle, without being
exposed to some of what were considered essential readings.
Today, however, there is no one segment of information that a student would
have to get. It would be quite possible to go through without having any
American history, without ever knowing who Shakespeare was, without ever
having any contact with any of the philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle. So
we have what has been called the cafeteria type of general education program.
It is quite a contrast from what we had before.
G: It certainly is. Did the school abandon the University College concept because
times had changed, or did the students not want it?
H: It was partly a political situation and it was also partly an effort to make
improvements and I think there were gains that were made. I think there were
some losses too. Who knows what the balance is. But the effort was, for
instance, to remove certain vestiges of second-class citizenship on the faculty.
Faculty who are mainly interested in teaching become second class citizens at a
large, research oriented university. Because the principal of publish or perish
became more and more dominant at this university. As it did, those people who
had joint responsibilities, say in the history department, partly in University
College and partly in arts and sciences, would suffer in comparison to their
colleagues who were in a unit that valued and encouraged research.
So teaching roles were different and expectations were different and rewards are
different. So that kind of schism grew and grew. Politically it became untenable.
As a result, the issue came to a head and there were several instances when
votes were taken. At no time did University College lose the vote. University
College was voting to remain as University College. At no time did it lose a vote.
However, President [Robert Qert Q.] Marston [president, University of Florida,
1974-1984] at one point simply indicated that University College would be
merged with arts and sciences to form liberal arts and sciences. That actually
came about in 1978.
G: I wanted to ask about your experience with the English Department. I know that
you have been mostly engaged in administrative kinds of things, but if you could
give me some perceptions that you have had over the years of the department
with which you have been associated.
H: Well, it has been my academic home. I have had an administrative home and
my academic home has been quite rewarding as well. I have been able to do
some publishing. Not nearly so much as I have wanted to, but enough to get my
associate professorship in 1977. I have made some progress toward my full
professorship. A major obstacle, of course, is my full-time status as an
administrator. But the English Department has been the place where I have
made a number of academic friends and I feel it is a place of great colleagueship
G: Have you had an opportunity to teach out of the English Department and if so,
could you talk about some of those experiences?
H: Early on I taught the composition courses. I also taught ethnic literature, and
Afro-American literature, American literature and I have taught a course in
honors English. I believe it had to do with tragedy. I keyed on tragedy, I
remember. Other than that, that has been about the limit of my teaching for the
department and I usually teach about one course a year.
G: I noticed that one of your books was on Gwendolyn Brooks [1917-, American
poet and novelist, Gwendolyn Brooks, Boston, 1980].
H: That is exactly right. My only book is on Gwendolyn Brooks and that was a book
that came out in 1980 and grew out of a revision and expansion of my
dissertation on Gwendolyn Brooks.
G: You mentioned earlier that the ranking, whether it is assistant, associate or full
professor, had to do with publishing. I do not know what made me think it had to
do with some other thing.
H: Well, It has to do with publishing. It also has to do with service and it has to do
with teaching. However, although the policy manual of the Board of Regents
indicates that these are three equal areas, in practice they are not. By far
publishing and scholarly research is the most important of the three, then
teaching and then service.
One, of course, does not want to be conspicuously poor in any of them because
that would make it difficult for a person to get tenure or to be promoted.
However, certainly a person who has a very strong research effort will have a
much better chance, if the other two are average, than if a person is very strong
in one of the other areas with an average or mediocre research effort.
G: Let us talk about this office that you are administratively handling now, the
Minority Affairs office. How do you find that? What are some of its challenges?
H: Well, it is new for one thing. It is a new kind of effort by the college to consolidate
some separate efforts on behalf of minority students. It combines the old special
services and upward bound program, a program that is called AERS, Academic
Enrichment and Recruitment Services, and another program called PACT,
Program of Academic Counseling and Tutoring. All three of those components
are put together under the Office of Minority Affairs which I supervise. The
directors of those three units are still present and functioning.
In addition, the Office of Minority Affairs has responsibility for recruitment and
retention of minority faculty. So in a way it is quite an expansion when you go
from minority students, which meant mainly black students, to minority faculty
and students and the term minority is interpreted not to mean merely black but
black and Hispanic and native American and Asian.
So it is an expanded and new role so therein lies some of the challenge.
Additionally, we have to manage with what I would consider limited resources.
Possibly, for right now, for what we want to do, inadequate resources. We are
hoping that as our ability to handle those situations improves, so will the
resources to handle them. What we are doing now, partly, is getting used to
what we have to do and that has taken a while.
G: Yes, I can see that. Well then, when you think back over your years here, which
are approaching twenty ...
H: Seventeen years.
G: ... how would you sum up those seventeen years?
H: I would say this--like any experience over that time, there are bound to be some
peaks and valleys and certainly in my experience here that has been the case. I
think there have been more peaks than valleys. It has afforded me an
opportunity to raise my family. My children have grown up here. It also has
afforded me an opportunity to grow professionally. I sometimes wonder about
the road not taken. I wonder about had I taken opportunities that were presented
earlier, where would I be and what would I be doing? I think about that. But
overall I have no real regrets and I feel very good about the overall experience.
G: You had mentioned about your childhood, that your family was the poorest of the
poor. You went on to mention the idea of poor money management. When you
say poorest of the poor, did it have to do with the kind of professions your
parents were engaged in, or outside of the fact that they were poor money
managers, what other kinds of things were they?
H: The effects of poverty, in other words, not necessarily of income, but what we
were able to do with it. For much of my life, for instance, as a child, we did not
have running water, nor did we have electricity for a long time. We used
kerosene lamps and we had coal and wood stoves. We never lived in a house
where there was a furnace.
Now, for most of the poor folk, in the town where I grew up, they did have running
water. They may or may not have had indoor toilets or bathrooms, but they had
running water and they certainly had electricity. Many of them even lived on
paved streets, believe it or not.
We were sort of off on the fringe of the town, the edge of town and they did not
have those things much of the time. We did not own a car and so the outside
traffic of being reasonably comfortable we did not have. We seemed to lack
those more than other families.
G: What kind of work were your parents engaged in?
H: My father worked as a laborer at a local brick yard. I guess by the standards for
that time, his pay much of the time, in my later childhood, was not bad. It was
not great; we still would be poor. But there were other poor families who were
doing better or I would say the same or less.
My mother had been a school teacher but she did not work as a school teacher
during most of my childhood. She instead worked as a domestic--as a maid.
Much of the time when she was not working as a maid, she did some substitute
teaching occasionally, but most of the time she was, I guess the polite term
would be housewife.
G: Now let us bring you back up here to Gainesville. What kinds of things, outside
of work, do you and your family do for social activities, church?
H: Presently we are members at Greater Bethel AME (African Methodist Episcopal)
Church. I am probably and undoubtedly the most active one in my family
attending and I am a steward at Greater Bethel.
Socially, I guess the university itself provides a lot of outlets and obligations as
far as that is concerned. As far as attending receptions and parties and the like.
Beyond that there are friends who we have and we visit. Together the kinds of
social activity that is involved with the university and that which we engage in with
our friends makes up the bulk of our socializing. We occasionally attend some of
the civic and cultural activities in the community--plays and concerts and the like.
We rarely go to movies but we do try to see the ones that we think are very
good. Our kids started to scatter; there are two of them in college right now.
G: What are the children's names?
H: My first born is Gregory Bernard Christopher Shaw and he is a senior now,
getting ready to graduate at Georgia Tech in architecture. Steven, my second
born, is a junior here at the University of Florida in building construction. And
Deana, the baby, is seventeen and a junior at Buchholz High School. She does
not know where she wants to go to college but she will be going somewhere. We
have always been (and I hear more and more families talk about how close they
are) a close-knit family. We have all along engaged in lots of activity with our
children. Indeed, the church and the Sunday School, when they were growing
up, were the center of their activities. They were giving speeches, or playing
their musical instruments, or singing or whatever but in later years they have
gotten away from that.
G: The church?
G: I do not think we got your wife's name either, for the record.
H: My wife's name is Christiana Frances.
G: So you came here to the University of Florida, started your position in the
University of College, then subsequently moved here to the minority affairs office.
You mentioned there were several kinds of centralizing things that your office
was going to do and was in the process of representing as far as minority affairs
was concerned. You mentioned the fact there was a budgeting question. You
did not know if there was enough money to do all the things you intended to do.
How do you see that affecting the future of your office here and the function that
it is supposed to serve?
H: Well, if we do not have enough money, we simply will not be able to do
everything that we have envisioned.
G: Do you find it curious that they have set up this office, but have not been inclined
to fund it appropriately?
H: I did not say that. I did not say that they did not fund it appropriately. I think they
have funded it as much as the college thinks it can afford to. After all, any of the
academic departments could and do say the same things. We could do more.
There are a number of things that we want to do that would be good for the
students if we had more money. The academic programs say the same things
and my office, of course, if no different in that regard. There are a number of
activities that we could engage in, I think, which would be beneficial to minority
students that we cannot do now, if we had more money.
Indeed, If I am not mistaken, that is the rallying cry of the university and the
educational system. If we had more money, on and on and on, there is so much
more that we could do. In that regard, I am saying I think the dean is well
I think also that one of the things he is looking at, in terms of the new office, and
this is in effect a new office, is that for projects that are desired it is probably best
to build up a track record of success on the projects that are being funded. That
will lend some credence to requests for new ventures. That seems to be a pretty
common way of approaching this kind of situation.
There are a number of projects and activities that I would like to get into and
indeed have requested and I think if I were the central administrator, I would
have some caution too and say, "Well, let's try some of them first. We cannot try
all of those just yet."
G: Okay, thank you.