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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
CM: This is Carol MacDonald interviewing Robert Q. Marston. Today is January 20,
1993. This is for the Harn Museum Oral History Project. First of all, what does the
Q stand for?
CM: Is that a family name?
CM: Where were you born?
RM: In Toano, Virginia, just outside of Williamsburg.
CM: Tell me about your family. Do you have brothers and sisters?
RM: I have one brother and three sisters.
CM: Are you the oldest?
RM: No, I am the youngest.
CM: Where did you go to school when you were growing up?
RM: Let me go through all of that at once. I went to undergraduate at Virginia Military
Institute and from there [I went] to the Medical College of Virginia, where I got my
M.D. degree. Following that, I had a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where I got
another B.S.E. working with [Dr.] Howard [W.] Florey and the penicillin team. From
there, I went to [Johns] Hopkins and Vanderbilt and the Medical College of Virginia
for postgraduate education. I taught as an assistant and then an associate
professor at the Medical College of Virginia. I spent a year at the University of
Minnesota as an assistant professor of bacteriology and immunology. Then, from
there, I returned to teaching at the Medical College of Virginia and then became
dean of medicine and vice-chancellor for health affairs at the University of
Mississippi. From there I went to Washington, D.C., as associate director of NIH
and then as director of the National Institutes of Health. I spent a year after that at
the University of Virginia as a visiting professor. Then I came here in 1974 as
president of the University of Florida. I was here for ten years and have been in the
area doing various types of work since then.
CM: Did you have a relative who was influential in showing you the way to go through
your education and so forth?
RM: Oh, I do not know. The family was very education-oriented. All of my sisters and
my brother went to college. My mother and father had thirteen grandchildren, and
all of them have gone to college, and many of them [went on] to postgraduate
education. So it has been sort of a family tradition for a couple of generations.
CM: When you were president of the University, how did you first hear about the idea of
an art museum for the campus?
RM: Well, I think my wife [Ann] was really more involved in that than I was, initially. I
remember Bill Chandler raising the question of where his collection would go, and
Caroline Richardson and Ann talking. David Cofrin was involved in it, as were
various people in the art department. The need on the campus had been
recognized for many years [as evidenced by] the art department and the leadership
role that it had in many areas, the artists on the faculty, and the shows, and she was
very interested in that.
When we were in Washington, she worked in museums as a volunteer. Then she
made a contribution to the Marston Lectureship in the art department. So she was
involved in it, and there were a lot of discussions in the president's house and
elsewhere about the need for a museum, as I recall. When David began to talk
more seriously about the possibility of some challenge funding, then a lot of people
got behind it at that time.
CM: You had some ideas that were brought up by [professor of art] Dr. [Roy] Craven
when I interviewed him about fund raising for the museum. [See UF207, University
of Florida Oral History Archives. Ed.] Do you remember what these were?
RM: What did he say?
CM: He said that you wanted to take some of the collection that the [University] Gallery
had and sell it to try to raise money for the museum. Do you recall that?
RM: I do not remember that. Was that his idea or mine?
CM: That was yours.
RM: No, I do not remember that.
CM: Did you have any plans of your own or desires of your own to see the museum as it
was being built?
RM: No, I was not involved in the architectural part of that.
CM: Were you involved in the fund-raising at all?
RM: From the beginning, just to encourage it, but I had left the presidency by the time it
really got underway full force.
CM: I see. Did you have any trouble selling the idea of a museum to the rest of the
RM: No, I do not think so. There have been needs in the arts area, not only in art itself
but in the other areas as well. Performing arts was one of the first things that came
up in 1974 when we were building the O'Connell Center. At that time, we tried to
find out about student activity funds-- money that would be used for performing arts
and the O'Connell Center. Actually, at that time if we put all of the funds in for a
theater of performing arts there would not have been enough to do that, so the
needs of the art component, broadly defined, had been evident for many, many
years before I was president, but certainly during the time that I was president.
There were a number of specific things. The carillon bells at that time was a big
cost item. Redoing the organ in the University auditorium [was another]. As you go
across from the departments of art and music, those needs for a theater had been
recognized for many years here, and thank goodness the facilities are here now.
CM: What do you think of the facility itself?
RM: Oh, fine. I like it.
CM: Do you like the architecture style?
CM: Do you think it fits well? I guess it is far away from the campus, so it does not
necessarily have to be the same. I have heard some different opinions about the
RM: Do you like it?
CM: Oh, yes, I love it. I think it looks like one of the more-famous museums. As you
walk in, it almost looks like the Whitney or something.
So when you were president of the University, what were your projects at the time?
What was the most important thing that was going on?
RM: Do you mean in general at the University?
RM: Well, it is a large, complex, fine university. A single major focus was to improve the
quality of the University, to build on the strengths of the past. It was an interesting
and very rewarding ten years; essentially, our full time was on the development and
growth of the University in every area--academics to private fund-raising to
construction. It was a good time for all of that. We had no major distractions; we
had no confrontation with faculty or students of any major impact during that time,
and it was a time in which the University moved forward, along with many others in
the Sunbelt, but not all of us in the Sunbelt. They were great years.
CM: What does your wife think of the Ham? What is her opinion?
RM: She likes it. Of course, she was very much a part of all of the arts. I think when we
first came, people looked at me and said, "He is science and medicine," and they
looked at her, and [did not know that] she had a greater role as a wife [than they
might have guessed]. A wife does not always have the role that she had. She used
the president's house in any way that would be helpful in art, from having small
concerts in the president's house to having meetings and other things.
CM: Do you see that the museum has changed the community in any way?
RM: I could not judge that broadly. I am sure it has. Anything of this importance, that
brings in the riches that this does, is bound to enhance the community.
CM: Who were some of the people that you worked with concerning the Harn when you
RM: Well, I have named some of the key ones: Bill Chandler, Caroline Richardson,
David Cofrin, and people in the department. A portrait by Howard Williams from his
Texas Road period hung in the president's office. I had all of my pictures taken, I
guess, in front of that. The whole movement of the combination of the camera and
art that has been so important in this University was a part. The deans and the
directors--you mentioned Roy Craven--were among the many people who kept their
interest during the time I was president.