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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Mickie Edwardson
Interviewee: Bill McKeen
April 20, 1992
M: This is Bill McKeen. I am in Weimer Hall [at the University of Florida]. Today is April
20, 1992. I am interviewing Dr. Mickie Edwardson, distinguished service professor
in the Department of Telecommunications.
For the record, would you spell your full name?
E: Mickie Newbill Edwardson. I came here and taught here for thirteen years as Mickie
Newbill, so there are people who still call me Newbill.
M: Do you have a middle name?
E: Do you need that?
M: I am just curious. We want to learn all about you.
E: OK. It is La Verne.
M: Is Mickie your given name?
M: Is there a story behind that?
E: Yes. My mother was sure I was going to be a boy, and I was going to be named
Wesley Earl. When I was born--she was only twenty-one--she had not picked out
any girls' names at all. My father had been a printer's devil when he was growing
up. There was a comic strip called "Mickie the Printer's Devil," so they had started
calling my father Mickie because he was a printer's devil. I looked very much like
my father when I was born, so in the speed of the moment they named me Mickie.
M: What was your father's given name?
E: Kirby Felix Newbill.
M: Where were you born?
E: Corpus Christi, Texas.
M: Right on the coast. Did you spend most of your early life there?
E: No. We moved away from there when I was about three. My father managed movie
theaters in Del Rio, Texas, during the [John R.] Brinkley era, so he had many stories
about [the "Brinkley Brat" and the radio station]. It was right after the Lindbergh
kidnapping, and the family was afraid that Brinkley's son might get kidnapped, so
they would bring the son to the movie theater with a bodyguard. [In 1932 the son of
Charles A. Lindbergh was kidnapped and killed. Bruno R. Hauptmann was arrested
in 1934, convicted the following year, and executed in 1936. Ed.] The [Brinkley] boy
was a mischievous brat, apparently. So my father spent some afternoons looking
through the backs of the theaters for the Brinkley son, who had gotten away from his
Then we went to Athens, Texas, when I was about six, and my mother opened a
beauty shop there. I grew up in Athens.
M: Did your father also manage theaters there?
E: Yes, briefly. That job did not work out, so he went to McPherson, Kansas. People
have forgotten that families got split up very often during the Depression because
you went to wherever you could get a job. So my mother stayed in Athens and ran
the beauty shop, and he went to Kansas. We would go up on the bus to see him
once or twice a year.
M: How long did you have that separation?
E: It ended in a divorce, so [it was] not terribly long.
M: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
M: So I gather you had a very close relationship with your mother.
E: I had a very close relationship with both parents. I adored my father.
M: I would have loved to have a dad who managed movie theaters. Was it fun?
E: Yes, [it was] paradise almost every summer, particularly when I would go to see
him. [I would] spend several weeks with him. [It was] heaven, because I would sit
in the balcony and see movies over and over again or sit in the projection booth.
Theaters had balconies then, and when they were cleaning theaters during the
morning, I could sail model airplanes off the balcony down into the theater. It was
heaven. I can still quote dialogue from those movies that I saw over and over and
over again. When they come back on television, I know what is coming.
M: How often did the picture change?
E: These were fairly small towns. They would usually have three to four movies a
week. There would be a movie say, Sunday and Monday, and then a new one for
Tuesday and Wednesday. Then maybe Thursday [and] Friday, and then a western
and a serial on Saturday. The pattern varied a bit. It was ten cents for children and
fifteen cents on bargain days in the middle of the week for adults, and a quarter [or
sometimes thirty-five cents] the rest of the time.
M: Was the theater air-conditioned?
E: Some of them were, and some of them just had fans. But they were relatively cool.
One of the theaters my father worked in was in Muleshoe, Texas, which was quite a
M: Spending the summers with your father and at the movie theaters, did you run with
the same group of friends when you were up in Kansas? Was there some continuity
E: No. I did not make a great many friends during the summers. When he was in
Kansas I was only about six, and he did not stay very long when he was in
Muleshoe or Levelland. He also ran a newspaper in Sundown, Texas, which was a
very tiny place. It was a weekly newspaper. It had not existed until they had
discovered oil close to it. It did not rain very much, and some of the houses were
made literally of cardboard boxes. They had wooden frames and cardboard boxes.
A few of them were regular houses. The oil field workers all drove Cadillacs and
lived in their Cadillacs. They had houses, of course, but they would have the
fanciest cars you could imagine. They did not spend any money on housing
because they would be in a place a short period of time. It was fascinating. It was a
M: For a brief period you lived in Del Rio, which is right on the Rio Grande.
M: Did you get to go to Mexico very often?
E: No. I personally do not remember anything about Del Rio. We were there when I
was three or four.
M: I am probably more interested in this than I should be. You saw all kinds of films--
bad ones, good ones. You loved bad movies. Why?
E: It is not that I have a passion for bad movies. I do not know why I enjoy bad movies
M: What is the quintessential bad movie from your youth that you remember liking,
even though you recognized it as bad?
E: I will tell you what I really adored. What I really loved was the Saturday afternoon
westerns done by the Three Musketeers. It was Ray Corrigan, Robert Livingston,
and Max Terhune. I have one of their most noted ones on videocassettet, which is
my favorite--Riders of the Whistling Skull. If you want to borrow it sometime, [you
may]. It is an awful movie, but I still love it.
M: There was a film called Freaks that came out in the 1930s [with] Tod Browning.
E: I did not see Freaks until about ten or twelve years ago. I saw it at the American
Film Institute Theater in Washington [DC]. I was not terribly conscious of movies
when that one came out, but I did see it as a "cult favorite" now.
M: You would be too young for the original Frankenstein/Dracula films, but did you see
them when they were replayed?
E: Yes, and I was very fond of them. I cried at Son of Kong. I recall very much one
summer seeing one of the later Frankenstein movies with [Boris] Karloff over and
over and over again.
M: I suppose we should move on to something more related to your position here. I
wanted to talk a little bit about your education. You went to school in Denton, at the
Texas Woman's University.
E: It was Texas State College for Women [TSCW] when I was there.
M: I am curious about the name. Why is it Texas Woman's University and not
E: I do not know that either, except, of course, it is using woman generically, sort of the
Texas woman's university. As a matter of fact, I thought it was Women's and was
corrected on it. I do not know why.
M: You earned a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science.
E: That is right.
M: In what areas?
E: Both in speech. You could do that if you satisfied the requirements for both and had
a minimum of 139 hours. So I got both.
M: Was [your] going to school a hardship on your family, or had the family recovered
from the Depression?
E: No, it was no hardship. My mother was doing quite well then. It was no hardship at
that time. Room and board was about $200 a semester.
M: What did you envision yourself doing? What was your career goal when you went to
E: You will not believe this because it is an occupation that almost does not exist
anymore and never did exist very much. This seems terribly uninteresting. When I
was in high school I started giving book reviews, and I made money giving book
reviews. You did this at a women's club or a Rotary Club or a fund raiser for the
church. You spent forty-five minutes to an hour summarizing and analyzing a
popular book of the time. There were women in the big Dallas stores who gave
book reviews. They would come to Athens from time to time and give a book review
as a fund raiser. I thought this would be terribly glamorous, and people seemed to
think that [I would be good at it]. They kept asking me to do it over and over again.
As I look back on it, mostly they were interested in my reviewing religious books,
such as popular religious novels, [like those by] Lloyd C. Douglas. The Robe was
one I reviewed over and over. That is why I majored in speech, basically.
I very quickly became interested in journalism. I had a teacher who got me
interested in radio. We had a ten-watt radio station there. Incidentally, he came to
the University of Florida and suggested to Rae Weimer that Rae hire me after I got
my master's. So that is what I wanted to do as an occupation. But I also got a
teaching certificate, as many people do, as insurance, and I minored in journalism.
M: You got a master of fine arts in drama.
E: [It was] in play writing.
M: Oh, it was in play writing. I wondered if it was in performance.
E: No. I was never terribly interested in performance. It was in playwriting. E. P.
Conkle was my chairman. He had a couple of plays on Broadway. Then he
suggested that I go to work writing scripts at Radio House at the University of Texas,
which sent radio programs around the state on 16", 33-1/3 rpm discs. I did that for a
year and a half until I came here.
M: So Radio House was a source for a lot of radio plays. I wondered what that was
when I saw it [on your vita].
E: [At Radio House were produced] a lot of educational radio programs. We did a
series called "Texas Heroes." Texans recycle their Texas history a great deal, and
we did dramatizations about great incidents in Texas history. I did the series called
"Magic with Manners" for grade school kids. Then I did the series called "Record
Hunter," which I loved very much. It was [about] all kinds of rare and unusual
recordings that we found from various places. We sent that around the state. We
had a half-hour series of highlights from operas and a big series on handicapped
children. I did not write it, but it was one of the major projects. Then when I was
finishing I was writing a series of programs about books published by the University
of Texas Press.
M: There were four years between getting your bachelor's degrees and getting your
master's. Did you work on your degree that whole time?
E: No. I taught one year in west Texas, at McCamey High School. Then I taught for
two years at the junior college in Athens, Texas, my hometown.
M: I saw that on your resume. How did teaching feel?
E: The first year was terrible. Well, I was directing plays, and that was fun. I had a
good time with that. The big problem was that in McCamey High School [I was
almost the same age as some of my students]. I was only twenty years old when I
went to work as a teacher, and some of the students were oil field workers who were
slow in getting out of high school, and they were older than I was. I did not have a
lot of sense. It was an unpleasant year. I had trouble maintaining discipline. At the
junior college I had a much better time. I was doing all kinds of things. I was head
of the yearbook and the college newspaper and I was directing plays and I was in
charge of Western Week and I was teaching journalism and radio broadcasting and
coaching students in Spanish. (The Spanish teacher had left.) The second year I
was also teaching freshman English. It was a very busy time.
M: It sounds like it. So a predecessor or a colleague from Radio House went to the
University of Florida?
E: No. It was a teacher at Texas State College for Women, [Jennings] Clark Weaver,
who came here [in 1949 as assistant professor of communications]. Then when
Rae Weimer needed somebody to do productions and teach radio production, Clark
suggested that Rae hire me.
M: Were you hired over the phone?
M: What expectations did you have of Gainesville? What had you heard about it?
E: I heard almost nothing about it; I knew very little about it. I was scared to death,
because I had been very happy at Radio House. My first year here  I was
miserable because I was away from [Austin]. Austin, Texas, is a wonderful place,
and I had been very close to the people at Radio House. But it was a $1,000 raise.
I got $4,000 as my first salary for twelve months. It seemed like such a good salary
and an opportunity for advancement. I was just going to be a writer there at Radio
House, and there was not much opportunity for advancement. So it seemed a
sensible thing to do. But I did not know anything about the new work I would be
doing. As far as search committees were concerned, nobody worried about such
things. Clark Weaver recommended me, Rae Weimer talked to me very briefly on
the phone, and I was hired. As I remember, I do not think he even asked me
anything about my views.
M: Was it hard to move halfway across the country from your mother?
E: It was not difficult. She drove down here with me and helped me get settled. But it
was not particularly difficult.
M: Did she stay in Texas, then?
E: She moved here in 1964 and spent a couple of years with me.
M: When you joined the faculty, you were the first full-time female faculty member in the
E: May Burton was getting her doctorate and had done some work over here, but she
was not a regular faculty member. She had done some production while she was
getting a doctorate over in the speech department. May Burton and I were in
college [TSCW] together, and Clark Weaver brought May Burton here. Then when I
went to Michigan State to get my doctorate Clark Weaver hired Audrey Tittle to
replace me. May and Audrey and I were the three people who did most of the
productions at TSCWwhen Clark was there. May did the recording on 16" discs for
programs, I operated the control panel, and Audrey was the narrator of most of the
programs that we did at TSCW. May was "rec.," I was "tech.," and Audrey was
M: When you came here there was apparently some controversy about the swearing at
E: Oh, no. That was kind of funny. [It was] a bunch of journalists and a bunch of men
getting together at a faculty meeting. They did not cuss much, actually, I think. But I
am told that they were concerned about the fact that now there was going to be a
woman [faculty member] and that faculty meetings would have to be a bit tamer.
The other problem that would never occur now [was that] they also went off on
fishing trips on weekends. They would never tell me that they were going, of
course, because they did not want me to go. I was a faculty member, but I did not
want to go, either. They would go, and they would not shave over the weekend. As
I understand it, it was kind of a rough fish camp they went to, but they had a good
time. I did not feel left out. There was no thought of any kind of protest. They
would just slip away on a Friday afternoon. All of a sudden, nobody would be
around. Then I would find out that they had gone on a fishing trip. I did not mind. I
did not feel discriminated against.
M: Approximately how many people were on the faculty?
E: I would say between fifteen and twenty or something like that. Elmer Emig was still
here. He was a very pleasant person.
Another thing that was very different was the whole procedure for gaining tenure
and promotion. After I had been here four years, I went to Mr. Weimer and said,
"Mr. Weimer, when might I get tenure?" He had already sent the papers over
without saying a word to me about it. [There was] no committee, no collection of
information, no nothing. And I got it. Then later I was in the hospital when they sent
over the paperwork for me to be promoted from assistant to associate professor,
and he phoned me in the hospital to tell me I had been promoted. It was done by
the boss then; the faculty had nothing to do with it.
M: Was that a good thing or a bad thing?
E: I think it probably depends partly on your boss. I would certainly not want to give
that power to bosses now. If you have a boss like Rae Weimer, you are going to be
rewarded appropriately. Maybe there were some injustices that were committed,
[but] I was never aware of them. I thought he was an extremely fair man. He was
the kind of man who could fire somebody, and then when the [fired] person came
back to town the person would still come by to see Rae Weimer. It happened. He
fired a man from Mississippi who was really sweet but incompetent, and the person
still liked Rae Weimer and came by to visit with him. Rae is a very special person.
M: Obviously, he was comfortable hiring you over the phone. You said some of the
other faculty members wondered how their lives would change, having a woman on
E: Let me say quickly [that] I was not aware that they disliked me. That was the only
protest that I ever heard about. Nobody said that to me. I tried to drop a few "hells"
and "damns" at faculty meetings to make them sort of comfortable.
We used to have coffee every morning. We had a coffee room that was on the
second floor in the [football] stadium, and we would have coffee, with [Horance G.]
"Buddy" Davis and Manning Seil, particularly, and I. I was not aware of people
disliking me at all. I was extremely fond of a lot of these people. I was extremely
fond of Manning Seil. I know some of the students thought he was an awfully rough
character, but [I did not]. Rae Weimer and Buddy and I adored Manning.
M: It was not anything to do with dislike. From what I read, they felt nervous. They had
to be on their best behavior.
E: [There was] something like that, probably.
M: How much longer [was it] until another woman was hired? Several years?
E: No, it was not that long. May Burton went to France on a Fulbright after she finished
her doctorate. She came back and was hired [in 1957]. She had been in television
production and teaching. I do not remember any other women other than May and
me. But May came back.
M: Do you remember your first class here?
E: Not really. No.
M: You were teaching primarily production courses, though.
M: And radio production. When was the television station [put on the air]?
E: When I came here the television station was not on the air, and it [the college] did
not have cameras. They were teaching students with little boxes that you rolled
around on a tripod. It had holes of varying sizes that you looked through to give you
an idea of what your field of vision would be. That, of course, did not last very long.
I went to Michigan in 1958 and came back in 1960, and while I was gone, the
television station went on the air. [WUFT began broadcasting November 10, 1958.
Ed.] There is a 16mm kinescope of the opening ceremony with May and Buddy
Davis and Ken Christiansen [director of educational TV and professor of journalism
and communications] and all the people, if you want to see it sometime.
M: It would be great for us to have a copy.
E: You really ought to, before something happens to it.
M: You talked of the faculty as a much more cohesive group.
E: It was.
M: Of course, it was smaller. Was it more interdisciplinary then?
E: Yes. Nobody talked much about departments, and there was much more
Another thing [was that] we had baccalaureates and commencements, and
everybody went, and everybody got gowns to go. Rae Weimer would take note of
who was there and who was not there. One day I skipped a baccalaureate to go to
a party at Clark Weaver's house. The next day Rae said he wanted to have coffee
with me. He asked me very gently about what I thought of baccalaureate the night
before. I told him I had not been, and he very gently said he thought we all ought to
go to those things. No boss would dream of doing such a thing now. I felt properly
chastised and did not miss any more baccalaureates until they discontinued them.
M: Which of your colleagues were most influential on you as a teacher?
E: Clark Weaver was very influential. I [also] tried to learn from Ken Small. I came
back and started teaching a course in programming, and I felt quite inadequate--this
was after I came back from Michigan--so I tried to get some advice from Ken Small,
who was general manager of WRUF then. It was a commercial station. I guess
those were the two that were most influential.
I learned quite a bit about television productions from May Burton. She did the most
elaborate productions that Channel 5 [WUFT TV] did then. They were done for
National Education Television [NET]. She got grants from NET to do a series on
Chinese art and the art of living, done with [associate professor of humanities] Didier
Graeffe. They would go down to the television studio at 7:00 on Saturday morning
and would stay there sometimes until midnight doing complicated productions. A
great deal of it was live. It was kinescoped. This was before we had videotape at
all. Then we got the two-inch videotape, which was difficult to manage. But she did
very complicated shows, and the students loved working on them because it was a
chance to really stretch their skills. I have a program guide [from those years]. We
had as many as fourteen live local shows that we did during the week.
I came back from Michigan, and I was doing two shows a week that brought
together a lot of community people. One was a show called "North Florida
Viewpoint" that I had a great deal of fun doing. It was a half-hour magazine show.
The moderator was [Benjamin Montmorency] "Benmont" Tench, the [circuit] judge
who just retired here. Nobody called it "North Florida Viewpoint"--everybody called it
"Benmont's Show." He is quite a charming character. Because it was Benmont's
show, we could get lots of people as guests. Then I was doing this show called
"Exposition," which was about the arts in Gainesville.
I was doing a fourth-grade Spanish program. We videotaped one of those programs
the afternoon [John F.] Kennedy was shot. We were supposed to do two, but Rosa
Rabell, the teacher, kept spoiling her mascara with tears, so we did only one show
that afternoon. We did an awful lot of things for the public schools, and some of it
was good stuff.
M: [Was it for] the statewide school systems?
E: No, it was for this sixteen-county area. Marjorie Bingham, who is still alive, did a
science program and drove us all crazy because she wanted so many different
visuals. [Mrs. Bingham is the wife of UF professor of education N. Eldred Bingham.]
She had seventy-five visuals for a half-hour of television lecture. But if you went to
one of the classrooms while the program was being broadcast, [you would see that]
she kept asking the kids questions. The kids got so much into the programs that
they would answer in the classroom. "What do you do if grease starts burning [in a
pot] on a stove? Do you put the lid on? Do you run with it and get outside the
house?" So the kids would answer. She would encourage them to write her about
their projects, and she would answer every letter. It was a terrific burden on her,
answering kids' letters from all these counties, but she was a marvelous teacher. I
got one of her programs to show to a graduate writing class once just to show how
you can raise questions and get kids to think and then answer the questions. She is
M: Did you feel divided between being a teacher and a producer? It sounds like an
unbelievable workload compared with what a faculty member has to do now.
E: Yes. This was one of my great mistakes at that time. I was so wrapped up in
production. We were sending [radio] programs out around the state to well over 100
radio stations--closer to 150. We were producing radio programs to go out around
the state. Then, in addition to that, I was producing two television programs and
teaching. I was not doing any research at the time. I think my teaching suffered.
M: Teachers are always, it seems, so critical of themselves and their performance. But
there is a certain moment, I think, when you feel that you have "got it." When did
you feel that you were really good at teaching? When did you discover that?
E: To be perfectly honest, I do not know. I do not think I am a really great teacher.
M: You have won a lot of awards.
E: I have won awards, and I try. As far as saying, "I think I've got it,"...
M: That does not mean that you have achieved perfection, but just that you have an
ability to communicate information.
E: This is going to sound corny, but I am always scared that I have not. We do not
need to go into my beliefs about my abilities, but I am quite critical of myself, and I
am more critical now than I used to be in some respects. We can talk about that
some other time.
M: Jo Anne Smith [professor, College of Journalism and Communications] said at the
time of her retirement [in 1988] that in the years she had been at the college (and I
said, "That is about thirty-five years") that never at a faculty meeting could she recall
any conversation about teaching. I thought that was kind of interesting, because it is
one of the things that everyone has in common. It is kind of mystical that no one
talks about it.
What sticks out in your mind about the University in those days when you came here
with your vantage point?
E: I was thinking about this. This was right at the end of the [Senator Joseph]
McCarthy era. We do not think about this very much, but one of the things that has
happened to faculty members--and one of the very good things that has happened
at this University--is a greater willingness to speak out. Soon after I came here
there had been a great deal of fuss and feathers about Communism and socialism
and democracy. My idea was that people did not really have much meaning for the
terms. Communism was bad and socialism was bad and democracy was great. So
I called somebody with the College of Business Administration and said, "Let's do a
radio program and really discuss the meanings of Communism, socialism, and
democracy and send it around the state." He said, "I would not touch that with a
ten-foot pole." We had a course in high school--I think it was called Communism
against Democracy or Democracy against Communism; [it was] one or the other--
that all students were required to take. There was a great fear of speaking out that
faculty members would not tolerate now. I remember I took part in some of that
M: So the faculty members were afraid, not just the students.
E: Yes. Surely you have heard about the great firing of gays that was done. You have
not heard about that?
M: No. Tell me.
E: That took place when I was in Michigan. [When] I came back [I discovered that] a
number of faculty members had been accused of being gay. It was done [with] no
court hearings, no nothing. The faculty members were simply called in and were
asked if they were gay. (I was not present here. Someone told me about it.) Then
they left [the University]. As I understand it, [they left] without notice. You could
argue that this was very much against [the rights of employees]. Well, this would
never happen now, fortunately.
M: They were called in by whom?
E: By the Charley Johns committee. He was the governor of Florida, and he was
proclaiming against gays. As I said, this happened while I was in Michigan. I came
back, and all these people were just suddenly gone. I was told that this was how it
was done. But I know that it was not done with due attention to people's
constitutional rights. As I understand it, it was a case of here today, gone tomorrow.
The committee called you in and asked you and accused you, and you left.
When there was a dissenter on campus, the faculty was very much afraid to speak
out in favor of him. If we had a faculty member who spoke out against the Vietnam
war, he would not be part of a large group, and there would not be faculty members
who would cluster around to defend him. That is one of the things that has passed.
In addition, I was the only woman on the student discipline committee. It is now a
student conduct committee. We would suspend students; we would suspend a lot of
students. If on a University Choir field trip a male and female student who were not
married spent the night in the same motel room, this discipline committee would go
into all the details, and we would suspend them.
We won I think it was a football game with Mississippi that created something of a
student riot, and when the police tried to stop it, students called the police very bad
names. So we called the students in and [asked], "Did you call this policeman
[such-and-such]?" I was the only woman on the faculty who was a member of this
committee. I was the only woman. There were no students on the committee. My
shell-pink ears were not supposed to be offended by such words, so on the
transcripts they had written: "M----- F---." [laughter] I really felt that if we were going
to throw somebody out of school for using this term to a policeman, I ought to know
what it was. I pretended I did not. So I asked this very proper mathematician what it
meant, and he said, "It means someone who cohabits with his mother." That is an
That was in the 1960s; that was not all that long ago. We have come a long way.
We do not worry about a lot of things that students do that we used to worry about
very seriously and very much.
M: You were talking about the period after McCarthyism, the 1950s. How did you feel
you fit in in the University community of Gainesville?
E: That is the thing about it. I felt I fit in very well. After the first year of homesickness I
loved this place very much, and at that time, as I said, almost nobody spoke out.
The difference in the way faculty members behave is just incredible.
We had one man who came before a committee who had spoken out against the
Vietnam war. I remember he was a witness, but nobody would even speak to him.
His name was Marshall Jones [assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology and
political activist], as I remember. You had better check that, because I am not
[sure]. Even at the recesses in the committee meeting, none of the other faculty
members would talk to him. The University has gotten a lot better since then.
M: So once they were engraved with a scarlet letter, they were [persona] non grata?
M: Did you want to speak out?
E: At the time I was not overwhelmingly sensitized to this. I became sensitized to it. I
got on the academic freedom and tenure committee, and we had a long series of
hearings about a woman who was denied tenure. It turned out that her department
chair had behaved very badly. We had a whole summer of hearings, and the
committee unanimously decided that the woman's department chair had behaved
badly and that she had not been given sufficient warnings. She deserved tenure
very much. We were unanimous. We could not accomplish anything. So we made
our recommendation to the vice-president, and the woman did not get her tenure. It
sort of made me realize what a paper tiger the academic freedom and tenure
That was why as soon as the union came I quickly joined. We worked so hard on
that [woman's case]. We interviewed so many people. It was so obvious that the
administration had behaved badly and [that] the administration was not concerned.
The academic freedom and tenure committee went through all these rules and
regulations that were supposed to protect faculty rights, and they did not. See, I
was becoming sensitized to this and coming to be aware of what was going on. My
first year here I was not really [aware].
We sent out a lot of radio programs from faculty members in business
administration. We did lots of radio programs. As I look back on it [I realize that]
most of them represented the businessman's point of view rather than the
consumer's point of view. If I were doing those programs today, I would represent
the consumer's viewpoint much more. We would do programs on insurance, and it
was always, as I look back on it, a fairly biased set of programs. Not biased. It was
done representing the viewpoint of the businessman rather than the consumer. If I
were doing the programs today I would have taken a somewhat different viewpoint.
M: I do want to talk about the United Faculty of Florida and the credit union, but I was
going to ask if you saw any similarities between that area when you joined the
University and today in terms of a lot of concern from outside the University about
the accountability of the faculty there. It is more of a political accountability now. [It
is like a] work/time study--[we are] more interested in the way we spend our time. In
your time on the faculty, how do you think the rest of the world has perceived faculty
E: I think a great many people think that we are lazy, and I think some of us are. I think
that faculty members, like everything else, vary a great deal. It is very hard for
somebody on the outside to realize how hard some of us work. It is hard for them to
understand the value of the research. Sometimes it is hard for me to understand the
value of some of our research. So I think that a good many of us do a better job
than the outside world thinks we do. Some of us, I think, are kind of lazy. I think it is
possible to be kind of lazy. I think it is harder nowadays to be lazy than it used to
M: Considering the work schedule you have described, it did not appear there was any
time to be lazy. Do you see any change in the political accountability you described
in the 1950s today?
E: You mean unwillingness to speak out?
M: No. [I mean] more the concern that everyone in the University is a "pinko" and that
sort of attitude.
E: The question you are asking is, "Do the people outside consider us pinkos?"
E: I think there is much more of a liberal bent within the University, and I think the
people outside do feel that we are more liberal than they are. I think in a lot of cases
they are right. I think we are. I think that the faculty is much more willing to speak
out. It is a matter of group norms. When you are living in a society in which nobody
speaks out, you do not, or fewer will. When you have a great deal of group support
for speaking out, as we do now with the union and with other groups also, then you
are more willing to speak out.
M: Also in your time period you have seen UF go from basically a state college to
something with aspirations of being a major public university. I just wanted you to
comment on that shift. There is obviously a lot more emphasis on research today
than there had been before.
E: Yes, there is much more emphasis on that. Also, there is much more striving for
improvement in general. We work harder at teaching students. [There is] the
accountability. The students evaluate us. I think that has good points and bad
points. I think we sometimes are not as rough on students as we ought to be
because we know that we are going to be evaluated by them. At the same time,
before there were student evaluations of teachers, some terrible things were done to
M: Can you give examples?
E: Yes. This is just one example. Many long years ago there was a student who was
trying to register. He had a faculty member [as a teacher], who was later let go, who
had a problem with alcohol. The student had been given a grade that the student
said was unjust. Whether that grade was unjust or not, I do not know, but that one
grade was keeping the student from registering for the next term. The faculty
member had supposedly promised to change the grade and had not changed the
grade. [The student] phoned the faculty member, and he was sleeping it off. He
would not come up to change the grade. This went on for most of the morning.
That was a terribly unjust thing. He had promised to change the grade, and since
this teacher had problems with booze, I think that probably the grade was unjust. I
would think so. But anyway, whether it was or not, the student deserved a straight
answer if the grade was not going to be changed. Eventually, I do not remember
who it was, but we got somebody to change the grade after talking with the teacher.
Normally, you cannot change somebody else's grade, but this seemed to be a
Then there was an instance in which a faculty member said, "This student will never
graduate." This one faculty member was the only person who taught a required
course, and so this one faculty member, all by himself, could keep a student from
graduating. Now, the faculty as a whole, I think, overruled the faculty member.
But I do not think that kind of thing would happen now. I think the student would
bring some kind of suit or something. But you just will not do that kind of thing
anymore. Those are two injustices that spring to mind. In both cases, that I can
recall, somebody adjusted the situation. But those are situations that should not
have occurred. They would not occur now, I think.
M: You said that the journalism faculty, after being a little concerned about not being
able to swear as much at faculty meetings, made you feel comfortable.
E: That was not a big deal.
M: I just read about it and thought it was funny. [They] made you feel at home. Did the
University as a whole make you feel that way, or were there some problems [or]
some examples of discrimination in your first few years here?
E: I was not aware of it. I will tell you that Mr. Weimer expected me to work hard, and I
did work hard. I enjoyed my work very much. He called me "the mother of the
journalism school." Somebody might consider this discrimination in a sense, but I
had a good time with it. I was always the one who planned the Christmas parties as
the only woman for a while. I did not mind. I enjoyed it. I think I planned kind of
stodgy Christmas parties.
M: What was wrong with them?
E: Some faculty members eventually said that they wanted booze at the parties. We
had dinners, but not with booze. Nowadays, of course, we have a luncheon, and we
do not have an old-fashioned kind of party. I did not consider that discrimination. It
was kind of fun.
I got invited to be the only female member of a lot of committees because everybody
wanted a woman on a committee. Somehow, I was the woman who got picked a
[Let me tell you another story.] It has nothing much to do with the University of
Florida, but nobody would believe it now. Clark Weaver suggested that I apply to
three schools for assistantships when I started my doctorate. I got offers for
assistantships at Northwestern and Michigan State. I picked Michigan State. But
the third one was one of the two [state] universities in Ohio, and I cannot remember
which one it was. They both teach broadcasting. But I got a letter that nobody
would believe now. I wish I had kept it. [The letter said] that at the university in
Ohio they did not think that a woman would contribute much to the future of
broadcasting in this country, that broadcasting was primarily a male field, and
therefore they felt that they should not give assistantships to women. That was in
1958, which was really not all that long ago. I wish I had kept that letter. Obviously,
I did not go to Ohio. But that was probably one of the big instances of
M: Back then, from what I understand, there was a dress code for female students with
regard to Bermuda shorts. [Being able to wear] Bermuda shorts was considered a
big victory. Did female students regard you as their role model? Did you listen to a
lot of their problems with regard to the way they were being treated, or did they,
perhaps, not complain?
E: As I remember, there were not a great many complaints. Students were much more
docile in those days than they are now. Sometimes I would get complaints about
strange things. You have to understand that one of the bad things about me back
then, too, was that when I first came here I was not a great deal older than the
students. I was not terribly bright. I was not as approachable then as I am now. I
thought that I had to demand more discipline. This was one of the lessons that I
learned. I used to be much tougher on students and much less approachable than I
am now. But students did come to me sometimes for help and for advice.
I remember one young woman came to me and said she very much wanted to go
into television news. At that time there were not any women on television news in
Florida except the woman on Channel 4 in Jacksonville who on Saturday night gave
the church calendar and Pauline Frederick at NBC. Otherwise, it was a male
business. So I had to tell her at the time, "Your chances of getting into television
news are pretty slim." I had students who came to me. But I was not the world's
great role model because ... I am a nicer person now.
M: You think it was by virtue of age? You felt you had to establish a distance?
E: Partly that. Clark Weaver told me that he feared that if I got too close to the
students they would not respect me and I would have trouble in classes. I took his
advice pretty seriously--probably, as I look back on it, too seriously. It was my
M: Why did you decide in 1958 to go to Michigan State [to work on your doctorate]?
E: Two reasons. First of all, it was a better assistantship than Northwestern offered
me. Also--Clark Weaver advised me on this--they were doing something new. They
were going into the social scientific aspects, which was quite new then, and which,
as it happens, has pretty much taken over the field. As a result, he thought it would
be good for me to be in with this new thing, a social scientific approach to
communication, rather than the more traditional approach, which is what was still
going on at Northwestern. He was very wise, I think.
At first I hated it. David Berlo was the new department chair, and they had a lot of
famous names there, as I look back on it. Gordon Sabine was the dean. Paul
Deutschmann was there, [and] Malcolm Lean; Leo Martin, who wrote a book [with
Ward L. Quaal called] Broadcast Management [: Radio, Television]; Colby Lewis,
who wrote a big book on television production [called The TV Director/Interpreter];
Walter Emory was good on broadcast regulation and was my chairman; and
Frederick Siebert, who was one of the first analysts to classify the four theories of
Are you running out of questions to ask me?
M: No, but I will keep you only about another half hour, so you will have plenty of time.
Was there any pressure on you here to earn a Ph.D.?
E: Not really. The pressure came solely from Clark Weaver.
M: What did he say to you?
E: He sat me down one night and said that he thought I would stay in this field and that
I should start thinking about a doctorate. I had always said I did not really want one.
He suggested that I start applying for an assistantship, and I took his advice. Then
Rae Weimer was extremely supportive and fought to get me a second year's leave
of absence. Then [he] got me a third year leave of absence after I came back here
for a while so I could go up and write the dissertation and get it over with. Rae
Weimer was very supportive.
M: Were there people on the faculty who then had doctorates?
E: Not a great many. Ken Christiansen did [Ed.D.]. I am not sure Glenn Butler was
here back then. [Butler came to UF in 1966 with an Ed.D.] Mr. [Elmer J.] Emig did
not. Buddy Davis did not. Rae Weimer did not. Manning Seil did not.
M: Did any of the faculty say it is not really worth it? Were there any people who were
M: What was Michigan State like after Texas and Kansas and Florida?
E: For the most part it was an awful lot of hard work. All of a sudden I was out of the
speech and drama field [and] into cognitive dissonance and semantic differentials
and things of that nature. In addition to that, it was a very cold place, not just
because of the snow. People move fast and treat you in a very businesslike
fashion. When I had been in school before, I had been wrapped in a cocoon of
affection, both from students and from teachers. It was an unpleasant experience.
M: Were there any teachers there that were influential?
E: Oh, yes. Lots. Dave Berlo was one of the best teachers I have ever had. As I look
back on it, I had lots of very good teachers. Dave Berlo made us use what he called
"creative tension" in class. You really suffer. He liked to make you suffer. But you
learned from him. Colby Lewis was extremely helpful as a person. And Walter
Emery. The research I am doing right now, a biography of James Lawrence [former
FCC chairman], is something that Dr. Emery suggested way back in 1958. Dr.
Seibert was fun in class.
M: When you came back after your two-year absence, did it change the course of your
E: Yes, very much. These ideas were percolating and not sufficiently developed. I
knew just enough about these new techniques to think that I had found a holy grail
or a holy testament that I had to pass on to everybody. I did not know enough to
know how to do it, and I was a pretty awful teacher. I had learned some of the new
techniques of teaching up there without the wisdom to know how to apply them.
M: For example?
E: I would turn students loose to do reports, which they did at Michigan State a lot.
They would just say, "Go do a report on this topic," without giving the students the
basis or the understanding or the groundwork that you need in order to do it. I was
pretty bad about that.
M: Did you begin teaching more theory courses and television production courses
E: Not immediately, no. I was given this course in programming, and I included some
communication theory that I thought would be practical. I felt very inadequate about
teaching. I was teaching basic writing courses for a while. I was teaching a
television production course for a while, but not mass communication theory. I
started teaching an advanced writing course, too, sometime in the 1960s.
M: When did you begin teaching more film courses, the scriptwriting as well as the film
appreciation and theory courses?
E: That was the film course. I went to Stanford for six months in 1969. Out there they
were doing a lot on film, and I became very interested--I had always been
interested--in film. I came back, and they let me start a course that was an analysis
of film. Basically it was more an analysis of film production, because the English
department's film studies were concerned that we would be swiping their stuff. We
moved it more--and wisely--into a course in analysis of documentary films.
We would have an important filmmaker come down each time. The students would
see and analyze about twenty-eight different documentaries. Then we would have
somebody like Peter Watkins or Don Pennebaker, and Frederic Wiseman came
down twice. We got a lot of good filmmakers to come down and talk to these kids.
But it was an outgrowth of going to Stanford.
M: I have a list of some of your articles here. You have published a lot of research, but
the one that landed you on the front of USA Today was your "Oscar's Law." I
wondered how you came up with that idea. Was this something that came out of
watching the Oscars one night?
E: No. I was reviewing films for the Gainesville Sun then, and they wanted an advance
article on the Oscars. There were two of us reviewing films, so neither of us saw all
the films. Some of the films that were nominated did not come here in advance, so
there was no way that I could write an article and say, "I think this ought to win." So
I started looking for regularities in what people had voted for before. I was amazed
by the rigidity of this. You cannot always pick the exact winner, but you can sure
narrow the field. And you can pick some almost-certain losers. These patterns
have stayed in effect for more than sixty years.
So then I started writing these articles. After a couple of years, I decided to make it
into an article for the Journal of Popular Film and Television and then for another
article for the Journal of Popular Film and Television. And it has been fun.
M: What are some of the staples of "Oscar's Law"? The best film always wins?
E: The two basic ones are [that] you are more likely to win if you are nominated for
work on a picture that is a best-picture nominee. The reason is pure common
sense. Out of the twenty-eight or thirty films that get nominated, these will be the
five films that people see, and they prefer to vote for a film that they have seen.
Also, I think there is a kind of halo effect. You figure that when you see the editing,
you do not analyze the film and how well it is edited. With this list, you saw some of
the films months before, and you do not remember the editing very much. But you
sort of figure that if it is a best-picture nominee, it probably has better editing. The
main thing is, as Ernest Laszlo, who won an Oscar, said when he was here (I asked
him to speak with my class), "Why is it that most of the winners come from best-
picture nominees? People see them."
Then, the other big rule is that the best-picture winner is likely to be a nomination
hog. It has the greatest number of [total] nominations [of any best-picture nominee].
[This is] not always [the case], but it is [usually] way up there in the top. [I
discussed this whole issue in detail in my article, so I will not go into it here.]
M: Let us talk about a few more [of your] contributions to the University. Of course, that
includes UFF [United Faculty of Florida] and the credit union. But also, you were on
or may have formed a committee to conserve the University's beauty.
E: Not just the University's beauty. That was one of my big contributions. I am glad
you brought that up. That is one of the things that I am proudest of.
M: It is a gorgeous campus, but you do see it being paved.
E: I was put on the Campus Planning and Land Use Committee. It no longer exists,
really. Then I became chairman of the Campus Planning and Land Use Committee.
Bill Elmore, for whom I had quite a bit of fondness, was the business manager of
the University. One problem with the Campus Planning and Land Use Committee
was that Bill Elmore, as a vice-president, was a member. He was a 600-pound
gorilla. Nobody disagreed with Bill Elmore.
People started being very worried about what was happening to the trees and the
looks of this campus. A lot of people were getting very upset, and a lot of trees were
coming down. So one summer we made a proposal about reorganizing the Campus
Planning and Land Use Committee and turning it into the Campus Planning
Assembly, which would make it more representative. I was chairman of the
committee, so it was an interesting day.
When I submitted our proposal, it died for lack of a second. But it seemed to be a
good idea. The [executive] vice-president [of the University of Florida] at that time
[about 1979], Dr. [John A.] Nattress, rescued the proposal. There was a group of us
who had worked very hard on that proposal to divide it into different subcommittees
and have a representative from each college. [We said] that there could be no vice-
presidents on it. Bill Elmore was not happy about that. It did not make a heck of a
lot of difference. He put Gerry Schaffer, his assistant, on it. So it really did not quite
make a difference, except that before that whatever Bill Elmore said we
automatically voted for. It was good to have a separate committee that was the
Committee on Lakes, Vegetation, and Landscaping.
After I could no longer be chairman of the [Campus Planning and Land Use]
Committee, I was chairman of the Lakes, Vegetation, and Landscaping Committee
for a while. I was proud of that. I was pleased that Dr. Nattress did accept this
proposal that a number of us had gotten together and hammered out over a
summer, although the Campus Planning and Land Use Committee itself really did
not want it at the time.
M: Parking is such a concern on campus. I think Buddy Davis says that brought on his
heart attack, the stress over parking. The University has been criticized constantly
by people who want more parking, more parking, more parking. Was it really
difficult to raise consciousness about the University's aesthetic points? Did you lose
E: Yes, we lost some battles. I am told that the committee now does not do what we
used to do. It was a nuisance for everybody, including the members of the
committee. We used to go out and examine each site before we would decide
whether [to give approval] when they wanted to cut down a tree or put in a new
parking area or put up new fences or do something to the tennis courts. We would
go there and look at the site. I am told they do not do that anymore, that they simply
get reports from people and sit in air-conditioned offices. It was hard to get people
to go to these different sites, and it was awkward to meet them in these places and
look them over, but I think it was better when we did it that way.
M: I am thinking of how to phrase this question. What are the worst monstrosities on
the campus, as far as you are concerned, from an aesthetic point of view? You
have seen the campus now for nearly forty years. What makes you cringe every
time you see it?
E: One of the personal battles that I lost, and that I am very sorry that I lost, [was that]
the Fisher School of Accounting took away a lovely green space right on the front of
the campus. It is pretty ugly and cluttered now. It is a pretty building inside, but that
was a nice green space [outside it], and I am sorry we lost it. We fought hard on
that. I recognize there needed to be a Fisher School of Accounting, and it needed
the building. I understand that. I guess it was built pretty close to Matherly Hall. I
am not saying that everybody is a devil who voted for it, but, at the same time, that
was a pretty green area right in the front of campus, across from Tigert Hall. It is
gone now, and it is pretty cluttered and looks pretty awful when you walk through.
M: You live in a gorgeous neighborhood right near campus, [in] Golfview, by the golf
course, and so what happens on campus affects your home in a way, too. If the
University expands more--and, of course, that is not going to happen in this budget
year or probably the next--where do you think it will go, and what do you think will
happen at this school with further construction?
E: I would bet that there will be a new route toward 34th [Street].
Let me tell you one of my favorite stories, now that we are talking about stories and
the Campus Planning and Land Use Committee. It was in the 1970s when we were
having the big energy crisis.
M: 1972 or 1973.
E: Yes. The big energy crisis.
M: [People were encouraged to] turn their thermostats down to fifty [degrees].
E: Yes, and we had the long lines trying to get gas, and everybody was supposed to
conserve energy. Well, we had a meeting of the Campus Planning and Land Use
Committee, and there was a proposal. The interesting thing was, Bill Elmore had
just come from a meeting of the Energy Conservation Committee. He marched from
the Energy Conservation Committee to the Campus Planning and Land Use
Committee. And I sat there and listened. What they wanted was a four-story-high
electronic score board for the stadium. These people were going to put it in (and
pay for it) provided that they could sell advertising. It would be on this big,
electronic, humongous scoreboard during football games. The University would pay
for the electricity. It would violate zoning ordinances. Of course, the University, on
its own property, does not have to worry about zoning ordinances, but the height of
this scoreboard would not have been permitted for any building off-campus around
I sat there [and listened]. At that time, I was young and relatively docile. This really
woke me up. I could not believe Bill Elmore, who was talking about how wonderful
this electronic scoreboard was. As I said, this was during the big energy crisis, and
he has just come from a meeting trying to conserve energy. I said, "How much
electricity is this going to use?" They all sort of pooh-poohed the idea and said: "Not
very much. Not as much as you would think." But it was all terribly, terribly vague.
[The argument was that] our football games would get on television more if we had a
big, good-looking scoreboard. I was the only one who voted against it. Everybody
else voted for this. I just could not believe it.
I went home and did something that I do not often do: I phoned the Gainesville Sun.
I said, "This is what has just been voted on." So the Sun ran a huge article about
this electronic scoreboard that would be visible for such a long area. Then Buddy
was writing editorials on it, and he wrote an editorial shredding it.
At the next meeting of the Campus Planning and Land Use Committee, the vote was
rescinded. I felt very proud of myself then. Bill Elmore did not like me. He said,
"Ladies do not do things like that."
M: It is a different University, is it not?
E: I was really proud of that. We have approximately that kind of scoreboard right now,
but we got it twenty years later.
M: I would like to get you to say something on the record about the United Faculty of
Florida [UFF]. Were you instrumental in getting the chapter started here?
E: No, not really. I joined as soon as it came, but I do not think you could say I was
instrumental in bringing it here. [On March 2 and 3, 1976, the faculty members of
the Florida Statewide University System voted in favor of allowing the United Faculty
of Florida to represent them in collective bargaining agreements. Contract
negotiations began at UF on April 19, 1976. Ed.]
M: You have been a leader in it, an office-holder, for some years. Yet, if a faculty
member comes here, that person does not have to join the union in order to get the
benefits. Is that unique to this [campus]?
E: No, I do not think so. I do not think it is unique to us.
M: There are not a lot of faculty unions. Is it somewhat unique in the Southeast for
having faculty members in the state unionized?
E: I honestly do not know.
M: Obviously, there would be a lot of opposition to having a union.
M: Has the University acknowledged it sufficiently?
E: For many years the Gainesville Sun never printed anything about the union that was
not snide. One of its [UFF's] founders was Ken MacGill, and when they printed his
name in the Gainesville Sun it was always as though his first name was "Marxist," as
in "Marxist Ken MacGill." He had been a profound dissenter, and he worked very
hard at getting the union. A lot of people who did not want to join the union would
say, "I would not belong to any organization that has Ken MacGill in it." It is not that
he was the devil, but a lot of people used that as a reason for not joining. There
were a lot of people who said that they did not think as faculty members they wanted
to be associated with a union. There are lots of people who feel that way.
We have gotten better faculty raises since we have had a union. There were years
before the union when we did not get raises at all. The nice thing is that you have a
contract. You can go to a boss, as I have done, and say, "This does not fit the
contract." The boss will simply back down. Before the union, we just did not have
that kind of thing.
The union is weaker than I would like. It was great a few weeks ago to see the
union president and the [Faculty] Senate steering committee head and [UF
President John] Lombardi all sitting together on the same stage. Now the
Gainesville Sun calls the president of the union for comments on all kinds of things.
We are becoming respectable. We must be careful not to become too respectable.
M: That tableau that you just described, would that have occurred with Marshall Criser
E: No, it would not. Marshall Criser treated the union representatives very badly.
[Criser was chairman of the Board of Regents when the union election took place,
and he and the board were opposed to unionization. Ed.] No, it would not have
M: Would any other president have been as open as Lombardi? Do you think he is sort
of a New Age university president?
E: In a sense, I think he is a New Age [university president]. That is surprising,
because as I understand it he has never worked with a union before. At first he
expressed reservations about a faculty union, and he may still have reservations
about a faculty union. But I believe that was really something that would not have
happened with Criser. When we had [one of] our regular consultations with him and
I was vice-president of UFF, he sat with his knee up on the table, and we would
make a point and he would not respond. We would pause, and then he would say,
"Go on. If I have anything I want to say, I will say it." We would go on to the next
point, and there [would be] no response at all.
Then, when we had a committee and a national convention on academic freedom
here, we asked Criser to come and open it. He did not. He sent a very minor
person to replace him. This was, after all, a national convention on academic
freedom sponsored by the University. We asked the president to come, and he did
not. He sent a little two-paragraph statement. Some minor faculty member from the
law school who was Criser's associate [came in his stead]. So I think we would not
have had much support from Criser.
M: Let me ask you about the credit union. You were one of the founders of that.
E: No, I was not one of the founders. I was the first woman president, and I was the
president while they built the new building out here. I was on the board for seven
M: How did that come into being? Were you involved at all in the founding of the credit
E: No. The [Gainesville Florida Campus Federal] Credit Union was here either before I
came or got here at the same time. I got a car loan from the credit union about the
first year I was here. Louise Hinton just asked me to be a member of the board, and
the election was sort of pro forma. I had no opposition. I was on the board for
seven years, and I enjoyed it. I think that it calls for more expertise to be a member
of the board of directors of that credit union now than [it did then, since] it has well
above $100 million in assets. [I recently discovered that the assets now total $119
million.] It calls for more expertise than I feel that I have.
M: All these boards and committees must have been a tremendous drain on your time.
Did you ever feel that teaching and so on was being pushed further and further
aside because of all your other obligations?
E: No. I have an extremely tolerant husband who lets me work at night. I try not to
take too much advantage of him. He has been somebody who has liked for me to
do things. Lots of husbands would not be as tolerant as mine has been.
M: How did you meet him, by the way? Is he also on the faculty?
E: Yes. He [John Richard Edwardson, professor of agronomy] came to the University
of Florida in 1953, before I came. I met him and his first wife the first week I was
here. They were close friends with Clark Weaver, who brought me here. She [like
me] was a graduate of the speech department at Texas State College for Women.
She and I had both played Joseph in the Christmas pageant. We both had been in
plays a lot, and since she was tall and I was tall, we both played a lot of men. At
TSCW, in the plays, women used to play men a great deal. So John and she and I
were very, very good friends.
M: You are the first female distinguished service professor at the University. [Dr.
Edwardson was promoted to Distinguished Professor of Journalism and
Communications in 1985. Ed.] Whose idea was this? Is this something Ralph
Lowenstein [dean, College of Journalism and Communications] started?
M: Were you aware of it, or did it come as a surprise?
E: It was pretty much done as a surprise. I had nothing to do with the preparation of
the documents. I do not think I had anything to do with the documents. I knew that I
was being proposed, but I did not appear in any place. I may have done something
with the documents in preparation, but I would never have even thought of it. Then
Ralph called me at 8:15 one morning and said, "Am I speaking to Distinguished
Service Professor Mickie Edwardson?"
Nowadays it is done very differently. It has to go through the promotion and tenure
committee. I think that the University was trying to show that it could be fair to both
genders, and I think that I happened to come along at the right time. I do not really
think that is false modesty. I think it was time for there to be a woman, and I
happened to be around. And Ralph happened to suggest it. He is nice, and he likes
to further women because of it.
M: What did you do to celebrate?
E: As I remember, we did what John and I always did when we celebrated. He gets a
bottle of Glen Fiddich, which is my favorite single-malt Scotch. I do not know
whether that should go on the tape. Anyway, I think that is how we celebrated.
M: Then a couple of years later you were named a distinguished alumna of Texas
Woman's College. What was it like going back there? Had you been back there
E: No. I had not been back in a long time. It was the same auditorium. When I was
there, it had only about 2,000 students, but this was the same auditorium. It was
very nice. Hubbard Hall was opened just before I left. I am sorry they had sort of
dismantled the speech department that was so vibrant when I was there.
M: Is there anything you would want to say by way of closing on the tape about your
career at the University of Florida? It is definitely a broad question. If you were a
tree . [laughter]
E: I cannot think of anything. It has been fun.
M: And it has gone very fast.
E: Yes, it has gone very fast.
Let me mention one more thing about the McCarthy era that I think was one of the
illustrations [of the time]. Thaxton Springfield used to be a minister over at the
[University United] Methodist Church. He is dead now. He was one of the great
people. He told me, in talking about the McCarthy era, that he preached a sermon
called "If Christ came before McCarthy." He said, "There are members of my church
that have never shaken hands with me since then." It was a bad time. It left scars
on the University for a long time. The University is a lot better place now that people
have become much freer about speaking.
M: What do you think about the people that make comparisons between that and the
other side, the political correctness?
E: I have some hope that political correctness will pass. This is a strange kind of
aberration. I am a great semanticist, and I believe that words do not have
meanings; people do. I am not big on this political correctness. I hope it will pass
M: Well, thank you.