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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Robert C. Hampton
Interviewee: Grant Thrall
Date: February 10, 1995
H: My name is Robert Hampton. This is February 10, 1995. It is approximately two
o'clock in the afternoon. We are in the office of Dr. Grant Thrall, with whom I am
doing this interview in the Department of Geography. Would you please state
your full name?
T: My name is Grant lan Thrall. I am professor of geography at the University of
H: When and where were you born?
T: I was born in San Gabriel, California, June 29, 1947. That is where I grew up. The
hospital was the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.
H: How long have your parents been living there?
T: My parents had emigrated from Ohio to California. I was born just a few months after
their arrival. They had been planning to move to California after World War II.
My father was superintendent of a school district in Ohio, Gambler (PLEASE
VERIFY SPELLING) Schools. Their goal was to move to California as soon as
they could. In 1947, the time seemed right. They moved out there. My family
goes back in Ohio to 1812 when they had been the people who initially formed (I
think) Grandville, Ohio, where Kenyon University is. They had done the land-
grant plotting there after the War of 1812.
H: So geography runs in your family.
T: Oh yes.
H: What were your parents names?
T: They are both still alive, and they still live in San Gabriel. The name of my father is
William Herman Thrall. The name of my mother is Carolyn Mae Brown Thrall.
Her parents were born in a brook on the moor in Austria. She was born in
Columbus in a German village, which was a ghetto of Austrians. She grew up in
a German-speaking household.
H: Did you learn German as you were growing up?
T: No. My mother tried to teach us but it did not sink in. I am sure that was probably a
component in the selection of my spouse because my wife speaks fluent
H: What [kind of] education [did] your parents [have]?
T: My father has a master of arts degree in English. He is very broadly educated. I
think this is one of the factors that influenced my own learning as a child and my
own desire to get a higher education degree. My father has a bachelor of
science degree in biology, a bachelor of arts degree in journalism, and a master
of arts degree in English. He has those degrees from Ohio State University.
When I was growing up in California, it seemed like he always was attending
night school and getting another degree of some type. The household always
was education oriented. My mother also took night school [courses], but she was
not degree oriented. She was information oriented. Both my parents are very
intelligent and very literate.
When I was born, my parents had no money. They had just migrated to California along
with thousands of other people in that era. My father drove out there in an
automobile over Route 66, along with all the other poor emigrants. My mother
flew out since she was pregnant. The first job of my father was a laundry truck
driver. He left the job as superintendent of schools in Gambier, Ohio to become
a laundry truck driver in California. After I was born, my mother went to work a
couple of years later. She was a counter person behind a chicken counter. She
chopped chickens at a chicken counter in a grocery store. She ultimately rose to
be in charge of three or four chicken counters. She did not have a license to
drive. She rode her bicycle from grocery store to grocery store checking out the
chicken counters. She kept that job because that is how the family ate. [It] was
on what she declared as surplus chicken. We were very poor.
Ultimately my father got a job teaching elementary school in the Dohorty (PLEASE
VERIFY SPELLING) School Systems. This is a suburb of Los Angeles. Then he
[got a job] as a high school teacher in the El Hambra (PLEASE VERIFY
SPELLING) High School System. He ultimately taught at San Gabriel High
School, the senior high school I [attended]. My mother had a variety of jobs,
including executive secretary for the Chrysler Corporation. She then had a
similar position at General Electric. This is back in an era when women were
very highly discriminated against. I believe that my mother became one of the
first, if not the first woman manager of General Electric with that title, and was
one of the highest paid women in General Electric. She acquired an executive
status which meant a lot to her.
H: How old were your parents when they moved to California?
T: I think my mother was about twenty-seven when I was born. My father would be
about thirty-two. We also made another migration. When I was a junior in high
school, the family took off for England for a year. My father took a year off from
teaching at San Gabriel High School. For me, it was very fortuitous. It meant for
me a tremendous change in my entire outlook on life. Growing up in southern
California, the only thing that meant a lot to me was sports cars, girls, and
H: Of course.
T: When I went to England, spending my junior year there, I became aware that there
were different kinds of cities than this continuing expansion of Los Angeles. I just
became fascinated with the differences. I just loved to explore London, England,
as I had done actually in California, too. One of the favorite things my family did
when I was there was that we would go out in the automobile. When I was born
there was only freeway, the Pasadena freeway, which had just been constructed.
So I grew up in an era of rapid freeway development.
That was one of our exciting things--to go out on the new freeways to the new
subdivisions [being] built and see how the whole landscape was evolving. That
was a hobby of my parents as they were getting to know their new home. For
me, that was just part of growing up. There was tremendous change when we
went to London, England. We were all out there exploring the London
environment and learning it. I think that is probably what shaped my future
education was to become an urban specialist, a specialist in cities.
H: You were exposed to two of the biggest changing cities in the world at the time.
T: London was changing tremendously, too. When I was there in 1964, there were still
large parts of London that had not been renovated since the blitz in World War II.
H: This was twenty years after the fact.
T: Twenty years afterwards there were still bomb craters there. There were still
buildings that were blown up.
H: So you went from a desert community on the fringes of Los Angeles to a city that had
been there over 1,000 years, but just had been reduced to rubble.
H: So you saw vast contrasts.
T: Yes. As I was growing up, the transportation medium of Los Angeles was the
freeway. I just thought it was tremendous that I could take a subway to
anywhere within the city. In Los Angeles, I was pretty well restricted to walking
or bicycling since I was not old enough to drive at the time.
H: Walking in Los Angeles?
T: Yes. You did not go very far. Los Angeles grew up as spatially dispersed because of
the old red car line system, which had over 2,000 miles of track. The person who
built the red car lines estate, which is now the Huntington Botanical Gardens,
was about six blocks from where I grew up. That area also has significant
transportation interest because that was the focus of the transportation empire of
H: Right. You went to elementary school in San Gabriel?
T: I went to San Gabriel Elementary School. [It was] an excellent school system. Of
course this was during the era when the only thing women could do was become
a secretary, nurse, or teacher. As a result, the teachers in that era in that
location were just excellent, quality people. For some reason, all the schools in
my city were named after presidents. So I went to kindergarten at McKinley
Elementary School. [I went] to first, second, and half of the third grade at
Jefferson School. From the middle of the third through the eighth grade, [I went]
to Coolidge Elementary School. Just off the top of my head, I think they were all
H: Of course. What position did your family have in the community of southern
California? Were they just local business people? Were they extremely involved
in the community?
T: They were very much involved. My father once ran for election, but did not win.
Apparently [he lost by] a close margin. His job in Gambier, Ohio, as
superintendent was a political job. It was not an elected job, but it was still a
political-appointee type job. In California, my parents always took a very active
role in the community. Today my mother probably is involved more in the politics
of the community behind the scenes than my father is today. They are both in
their eighties now. My mother is at least seventy-five, and my father is eighty or
eighty-two. They both have been very involved in the community. That is
something that was encouraged--to be involved in that community when I was a
kid there. Certainly it was understood in our household that that is what a
responsible person does. You are aware of your environment, community, and
you get involved in a leadership position in your community.
H: Your family moved to England in your junior year of high school. Was it the job of
your father that took him there?
T: I think it was a quest for adventure. They had lived in California for fifteen years.
H: It was arbitrary?
T: No. It was definitely because of the studies of my father in English. He wanted to go
to where Shakespeare was. I think it was that and also a quest for some place
very different. The family of my father originated from England, and they came
over to the Americas in 1600s. He wanted to do genealogical research. That put
England on the short list. They were also considering Australia. They had filled
out all the immigration forms to go to Australia. I do not know why they did not
decide to move to Australia because they had set up all the necessary
requirements for both Australia and England. Had they moved Australia, we
probably would not have come back.
H: How do you know that?
T: That is what they have told me. [Laughter] You do not know how the course of
events will go. The intention in England was to come back after a year. The
intention in Australia was not to come back.
H: Is it because people moved to Australia, and that is where immigrants went?
T: I think the program my father had applied for was a subsidized immigration program
with a guaranteed job at the end. [It was] to get teachers to move to Australia.
You had to sign a five-year contract to go. They do not have those anymore.
That was something that existed during the 1960s. In effect, my parents had a
high level of wanderlust and a great propensity for exploration. That was passed
on to me. Paradoxically perhaps, they will not consider moving out of California.
They live in a house they had paid $23,000 when we came back from England in
1965. That house today is worth about $500,000. I have said to them, "Sell your
house. You could buy a wonderful house in Gainesville, nicer than the house
you presently live in which is a very small, modest house. You could buy a
wonderful house for $200,000 in Gainesville and have the rest of the money to
live off the interest." But they like their neighborhood. It is an attractive,
charming neighborhood. It is a neighborhood that was built back in the 1920s
with southwestern, Spanish-motif architecture. It is a lovely little community.
H: You were mentioning a few minutes ago your impressions of England. Bomb craters
and the rubble was not the only thing that was quite different from your American
experience. There were things that were not available over there that were
available over here. There were different media. What do you remember or
what leaps out of your mind about that?
T: Well, very different television programs. The public broadcasting there. The
television show, I think it was called (PLEASE IDENTIFY), which is
sort of a puppet show. The developers of that became the Monty Python group.
That was one of our favorite shows. Certainly exploring the museums, old
castles, churches, and the type of architecture that was available was
fascinating. With my mother, I took up the hobby of brass rubbing, which is to
make paper representations of people who had died 1,000 years ago. These
were brass plaques laid down so that you could trace over. I think it was a time
where I was able to enjoy my family quite a bit. [It was a time] to reveal part of
my soul. I had never gotten along well with my father. In spite of admiring him a
lot, since I was a little kid there always has been a significant personality clash
between my father and myself. [Laughter] I do not view that as particularly
unusual. There was a significant personality clash.
When I went to college, I went to California State University at Los Angeles in part
because that was the nearest public university to where I was living. My parents
made the offer to me that they would pay for any university I cared to go to so
long as it was free. [Laughter] In other words, it was on me. They would provide
room and board, which was quite significant. There was not the availability of
student loans at the time. So I worked my way through school five years as an
undergraduate. I worked at least twenty hours, sometimes a full-time job all the
way through as an undergraduate.
H: Where did you work?
T: I worked at a variety of places, one which was longstanding off and on throughout
that five-year period. [I worked] at a custom furniture store. We made custom
furniture for the rich and famous of Los Angeles--for the Pasadena and San
Moreno areas which were very wealthy neighborhoods. That is where the old
power elite of Los Angeles lives. As a consequence of that, I got to know many
of the rich and powerful families of Los Angeles. It was also a nicely paying job.
That was very educational for me--getting to know these people and what kind of
people they were. I worked at California Institute of Technology which was also
nearby. It was six or seven blocks from the house of my parents. I could ride my
bicycle to [Cal Tech] quite easily. At Cal Tech I worked in the biology department
and the geology department as a menial student worker.
T: As a gopher, yes. That I think in term of higher education was worthwhile for me
because I got to meet people like Linus Pauling, the nobel laureate, and other
people that were tremendously prominent in their subject areas. That developed
in me the confidence that I could be just like these people if I wanted to.
H: Were your grades good enough in high school that you could have gone anywhere?
T: My grades were good. I would not say that I was a straight-A student, [but] I was not
a D student either. I was a good student. I had a variety of interests. I loved
sports. I lettered in a number of sports.
H: Like what?
T: Football, wrestling, and tennis. I loved surfing. I cannot say that when I was in
elementary school or high school education played a predominant role in my life.
That does not mean a quest for learning. They are very different things.
Because of the influence of my parents I was reading well beyond the level of
school. I was doing work well beyond the level of school. My idea of school was
social life. My idea of learning was the kind of materials that my parents were
subsidizing me with at home.
H: Sounds productive.
T: It was. There was never a stress on my household toward getting the grade. It was
always what kind of information you were aware of?
H: Results oriented.
T: Yes. What you know as opposed to what your grade is. I could have gotten into
many universities of a higher quality in terms on entry than where I went. It was
not my orientation. I knew where I was going to go, and I knew what I had to do
to get there. It was not a whole lot, so that is what I did. I went to Cal State L.A.,
and there I knew I wanted to go to graduate school.
H: In what years were you an undergraduate?
T: 1965 to 1970. That was during the Vietnam War. That probably had no effect in my
life in terms of student protest and so forth. California State University of Los
Angeles was a commuter school. The people there, including myself, were
oriented more toward having a job and paying their freight than the leisure time it
took to protest. I did not have that kind of leisure time. I was going to school and
getting good grades as a college student. There I became grade oriented
because I knew that was important for what my next rung of success would be.
What did I need to do in order to achieve the next level of success that I had set
out for myself? For my major of economics as an undergraduate I think I got
pretty much straight As. That got me financial aid to Ohio State University.
H: Why did you major in economics as an undergraduate?
T: It was easy. [Laughter].
H: It was easy.
T: I took more credits than required to graduate. I have the equivalent to a degree in
history. History was always a struggle for me. I just could not remember
H: But you could make it up in economics.
T: I found that I enjoyed history very much. Perhaps it was the handwriting on my blue
book exams. They did not have multiple choice back in that era in history
anyway. It was all blue book. I was advised by one of my history professors to
take economics. I had taken a lot of courses in African history, and particularly
the social and intellectual history of the United States, which I particularly
enjoyed. It was suggested that I take economics. I did so. [I took] the
introductory macroeconomics class. I found it absolutely fascinating. Then [I
took] microeconomics and got As in them. Other students were struggling,
finding it so difficult. I found that this stuff was just common sense to me.
H: Was this when you discovered you were a quantoid?
T: Yes. I found that I had a particular niche which allowed me to learn quantitative
applications. I always knew I was good in basic geometry. For me, it was
extremely intuitive. Geometry was imprinted in my mind when I was born. It was
just there. I always had done fabulously well in my mathematics classes. I
always had respected the liberal arts and the social sciences. In spite of working
at Cal Tech where I had access to the greatest minds in science in the world, I
felt that social sciences were the way to go. I found that economics was easy for
me, and I saw that the power of economics was so great as a paradigm. I got
involved with a number of philosophy students when I was in college. This also
differentiated me from the Vietnam War crowd, which tended to be liberal. I got
involved just by accident with a bunch of philosophy majors who were all Ayn
Randers. [Laughter]. From them I was encouraged to take philosophy courses,
which I [did], particularly from a scholar (I still remember his name), John
Hospers (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING). [He] was moonlighting at my
university. He was the chair of the philosophy department at the University of
Southern California. He was apparently one of the greatest, conservative
philosophers of the nation. I found him incredibly brilliant. I memorized all these
philosophy books he had written. That is not to say that the anti-Vietnam War
crowd was all liberal. The Ayn Randers were against the draft, very much so.
The group I was in tended to be workers and conservative intellectuals. That
was my orientation as an undergraduate.
H: Were you at all sympathetic to the anti-war movement?
T: Yes, I was. It was not a dominant thing. I had a student deferment. Under certain
circumstances, a student deferment was meaningless. It just so happened that
being in San Gabriel, there was a certain neighborhood that had a few middle-
income households where my parents lived and a great number of low-income
Mexican-Americans who were not going to college. As I understand it, it was a
quota that each draft board anted up the number of people.
H: So they started in the Mexican community.
T: If you had a lot of people who were in college, then I presume you were one of the
people that were going to be drawn still. It just made you lower priority. There
were so many non-college bound people in my city of San Gabriel that if you had
a 2-S deferment, it was a guarantee of not being drafted. That was not the
driving force for me to go to college, but it just was a spinoff. I did not pay a lot of
attention to the Vietnam War. I think if one were to ask me, I would have said I
was opposed to it. My orientation was more going to school, getting a body of
information, and working so that I could afford to continue to do that.
H: Most of your fellows were the same way.
T: Yes. They were all pretty much in the same boat. They were working and going to
school. The school typified a commuter school, so there was not a constituency
of students who were living there on campus or even nearby campus.
H: I see. Did you have a really active social life at the undergraduate campus?
T: I had pretty much long-term girlfriends, if you are asking about my girlfriends. People
whom I tended to date, I would date for a long period of time. I have not been
somebody who was going from girl to girl, or having a new girl every weekend. I
dated the same girl from my freshman [year in] college to my junior [year in]
H: Not your wife.
T: No, not my wife. I came very close to marrying her. She was a very nice girl.
H: What happened?
T: I started thinking about going to graduate school. I did not think it would work out as
a marriage if I was going to be a graduate student making no money, and
supporting a wife, too. Really, it came down to that choice.
H: So you had always planned to go straight through with your doctorate?
T: I think I had made up my mind while I was an undergraduate that I certainly was
going to go for a master of arts degree in economics. Ohio State University gave
me the most attractive offer financially.
H: Did the fact that your parents or father had gone there [influence you]?
T: That was a motivation for applying there. The financial reason was the actual
reason. My parents had told me flatly that there would be no subsidy from them
at all in graduate school. That was the case, in fact. I was entirely on my own.
But it worked out fine. I think in hindsight, I perhaps could have gotten married if
my wife was willing to work. I had also seen graduate students at Cal Tech in
those circumstances, and they wound up getting divorced. They had miserable
lives. Just based on my experience of seeing graduate students at Cal Tech, I
decided it was important for me to go to graduate school. I went to graduate
school. In my second year as a graduate student, I met my wife. I had friends
and [I was] casual dater. I was not involved with any women at all at Ohio State.
It was just study, study, study. My typical day from seven in the morning until 2
a.m. at night just studying economics. It was quite a brutal, intensive program.
H: Is this because you were so incredibly ambitious or because they made you do it?
T: If you did not do that, you would fail. It was an extremely intensive, very challenging,
very demanding program. I fell in with a very good study group. The study group
would work together from morning until night. There was not much time other
than university work--studying for the classes, learning econometrics, and
mathematical economics. There just was not much other time. During my
sophomore year, I had dated and was friends (more friends than a romantic
thing) with a girl who then was a roommate of the girl who became my wife.
H: In through the side door.
T: Yes, right. [Laughter] What is interesting is that is also one of the reasons that I
became a geographer. A series of circumstances all came together at the same
time. Like with an airplane crash, why did the plane crash? It was because more
than one thing happened at the same time. It just was not one thing. It was a
multiplicity of things that happened at Ohio State in the economics department.
One was that there was one urban economist in the Ohio State economics
department, which is typical. Most departments do not have more than one, if
they do have one. It is viewed as a fringe area not central to the discipline. I was
interested in urban economics, the economics of the city for the reasons I already
have explained. I had a very good adviser, a guy named John Wiker (PLEASE
VERIFY SPELLING), with whom I got along very well. John aspired to a
political-appointee career in Washington, D.C. He left Ohio State for that. He
was a Republican and very active in Republican politics. He was himself a
graduate of the University of Chicago. [He] had received a political appointment
doing something in Washington. So I was left there with either an adviser who
was away, which was not good for somebody in my stage of the program or I
could change advisors. There was nobody else in my program to [advise me].
H: You already had your master of arts degree?
T: I was finishing up my master arts degree. I began to shop around for other majors at
Ohio State. One future was computers, a brand new industry. I was doing a lot
of computer work. So I checked out the computer science department, and I did
not think that what I had to offer would interest them. They were doing other
things in that era. I considered myself a land economist all the time I was in the
graduate school. I checked out the Real Estate Department. The Real Estate
Department, which most departments are still today, was [basically] real estate
finance. I was interested in location analysis. I was becoming very interested in
the stuff. I had a chance encounter with a professor in the geography
department. How I encountered him was that I started dating the roommate of
Allison Kayhill (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING). I started dating Susan Elshaw
(PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING). Allison Kayhill was dating a fellow named
Reginald Galliage (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING), who is a very prominent
geographer. [He was] one of the founders of the subdiscipline of behavioral
H: He was at the time, or was he a student?
T: He was a full professor, very highly regarded. Allison was a doctoral student in art
history. Susan was a graduate student in German. So I started dating Susan.
Naturally, we would go out on double dates together--Allison, Reg, Susan, and
me. I was telling Reg one night about the problems in the economics department
and what I wanted to do. Reg, being a very opportunistic fellow, said, "I have got
a deal for you." [Laughter] Before I knew it, I had an assistantship and financial
aid in the geography department. I was in their program. He took me away from
economics. At the time, I thought the economics department was probably glad
to be rid of me. I was informed later that they viewed me as one of their best
H: But they had never told you.
T: They had never told me that. [They thought I was] somebody who was definitely
going to be successful, but that was never communicated to me. So I thought,
"My adviser has other interests. Nobody else in the economics department
knows who I am, so I will go the geography department." The geography
department viewed that as a real coup because the economics department at
that time considered me their best student. [Laughter] Or so I have been told
since then. Going into geography was very different. Geography as a discipline
was very different then than it is today. Geography was going through a
paradigm shift of from being more of a cultural, anthropological discipline, to
being one where what differentiated you as a discipline was how you approached
your study, your methodology. The methodology at Ohio State was quantitative
methods. What was revolutionary for the discipline was this quantitative
revolution they were going through. They were borrowing heavily from other
disciplines, particularly from economics at the time, which had a much more
rigorous, structured approach to the literature than geography. It still does today.
The geography department viewed me as student with the ideal training, with all
the quantitative methods courses that I had, the economic theory that I knew,
and I could read the economic literature very readily. Most geographers found
the academic economic literature inaccessible. So I had a comparative
advantage over my colleagues in geography, but I lacked the in-depth
background of geography and the appreciation of geography, which took me
years to acquire. I viewed myself as something as a culture apart from the other
geographers because I had no roots in geography. I had no courses ever in
geography. Then I was in a doctoral program in geography. [Laughter] Then I
tell my parents that I am getting a doctorate in geography. They [said,] "Well, if
that is what you want Grant." [Laughter] So I knew that there was not a lot of
enthusiasm on their part because geography did not and still does not have a
high- image, high-profile name. If you say "your son the economist," that is one
thing. "Your son the geographer" is an entirely different animal.
H: What is the capital of North Dakota?
T: I do not know. [Laughter] I am still a very different kind of geographer and somebody
who has a different intellectual heritage than all but two or three geographers in
the world. One thing that differentiates me from the discipline is that I still view
myself as somebody outside the discipline. That perhaps gives me the latitude to
criticize it, which I do very frequently in my philosophical writings on the
discipline. At the same time, I do not feel myself in any way central to the
discipline of economics. I still consider myself an economist of sorts. Other
economists also consider me, for the most part, one of their own, but certainly a
different animal. In terms of the social structure of the university, it is difficult for
a lot of people to deal with it. Somebody who is knowledgeable as the other
faculty in your department and your subject but not in your department is on the
one hand viewed as an opportunity. At other universities, for example, at the
State University of New York at Buffalo, the economics department viewed that
as an opportunity. I was an adjunct quasi cross-appointment with that
department. So they viewed that as an opportunity to enhance their own
offerings. Whenever I offered a course in geography, the economics department
put it on as their own number as well or allowed their students to take a full
credit. At SUNY Buffalo, I even taught their introductory microeconomics class
because they thought I did a better job than their own faculty. We had that
relationship, and it was beneficial to both departments.
H: Were there many people like you at Ohio State who were starting to make the
transition? Maybe undergraduates coming up after you were interested in
T: At the University of Florida, the departments are more like little fiefdoms. It is a
continual turf battle, perhaps because the University has been squeezed for
resources. The fear is that if this department teaches this class, we will never be
able to expand in that area. That will limit our ability to get resources. This
University, because it has been so squeezed financially over the decades, has
become a continual turf fight. The result is that you do not get the cooperation
among the departments. As a result, I have no relationship with the economics
department here at all. I do with individuals, for example Henry Tile (PLEASE
VERIFY SPELLING), who is one of our great world economists. Henry and I
have lunch regularly. Henry himself does not have much to do with the
economics department anymore either. I am not saying bad things about the
department, there is just no quest on their part.
H: Back when you were getting your master of arts degree and your doctorate at Ohio
State the computer age is beginning. They just were bringing computers onto the
campus. They were just letting students have access to them. What was your
early experience with these?
T: At Cal State in Los Angeles, I was hearing about computers and I inquired. There
was just no program at all at Cal State Los Angeles that I could find at that time.
Certainly I saw this was going to be big, important, and something I should know
about. When I got to Ohio State, one of the fortunate things about working with
John Wiker--who was my adviser and I was his research assistant for the first
year--was that there I had to get up to speed on computers very quickly.
Computers were very different than they are today. You used punch cards. The
programs were not very good. The turn around time [was not good]. I spent
many a night at our computer center submitting deck after deck of cards with
half-hour and one-hour turn around times just to run something which on a lap
top today would take a matter of seconds. It would take me hours back then. I
was doing all of the computer work and learning the languages for my adviser. I
have never had a computer class in my life. I am entirely self-taught in
computers. Of course I am dealing with a time period from 1970, when I began
graduate school, to the current Windows era of 1995. So I have been able to
train myself. I taught myself how to program. The language I began in was a
simple language. It was called Omnitab, which was sort of like SPSS or SAS. It
was a statistics package that did basic database manipulation. One can
command it to do simple statistical analysis.
H: This was back at Ohio State?
T: This was back at Ohio State. I started teaching myself Fortran in that era. In 1975, I
got a job offer from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a job offer from
McMaster University in Canada. Without a doubt, Madison, Wisconsin was the
better university. In terms of a sustained quality of department, Madison,
Wisconsin, is always in the top ten. McMaster University could be viewed as a
branch campus of Ohio State at that time. It was viewed as one of the absolute
top geography departments in the world in quantitative methods. If it had been
just on the basis of the enormity of the university, it would have been Wisconsin
no doubt. I thought McMaster would be a better career move for me because of
the concentration there in quantitative geography. Very few departments had
even a single quantitative geographer, let alone the entire department where you
are expected to be a quantitative geographer. That was revolutionary for the era.
I went to McMaster and was very comfortable. I just loved the department. It
was a great university but a small university. It had a very small campus. I liked
living in Hamilton, which is the Pittsburgh of Canada. Moving to Canada
represented a very major draw for me--an opportunity to explore a different kind
of city. That was part of the decision. The Canadian city is entirely different than
the American city.
H: What did you know about Canada at the time?
T: Absolutely nothing. To tell you what kind of geographer I was, I could not even tell
you what the capital of Canada was at the time. [Laughter] Eskimos and igloos.
What can I say? I knew absolutely nothing about Canada. Canada was a place
where people went during the Vietnam War to escape the draft. It was very cold.
That was about all that I knew about Canada. So I was invited up there on a job
interview. My impressions were very positive. Here was a very different kind of
city. In fact, it was the second time I had been to Canada. I had driven with my
girlfriend Susan to Toronto one weekend. I thought, "Wow, look at this place.
This is quite a different kind of city." Then a short time afterward I was invited up
there for a job interview. What a different place. I had never been to Hamilton
before. I only had been to Canada one time in my life, which was a short time
before in Toronto just for the weekend. I chose to go to Canada and live there
very happily for three years. At the end of the second year, my wife and I got
H: What year was that?
T: That would have been 1977.
H: A long courtship.
T: A long courtship--about a six-year courtship.
H: You both wanted to finish school?
T: I think so. I did not want marriage to be an impediment to graduate school for the
same reasons why I did not get married when I was an undergraduate. After two
years in Canada, I saw that I was going down to Columbus, where Susan lived,
quite a bit. My long-distance phone bills were quite high. It was cheaper to get
H: Sounds very rational.
T: Yes, it probably was. So we got married, and I am glad for it. We now have been
married for seventeen years. So I have not been somebody who has changed
girlfriends with any great frequency. It has been long and sustained, lazy
perhaps. I do not know.
H: So you have been married for [almost] eighteen years now.
T: It will be eighteen in July.
H: July what?
T: [Laughter] Good question. I think it is the fourteenth. That is right.
H: Bastille Day.
T: Is it? [Laughter] That is why I did not do very well in history. We got married. This
was during an era where the universities had gone in cycles of bad times, better
times. This was a bad time. It is a bad time that geography is a discipline that is
still affected by negatively three years with virtually no salary increase. I had a
contractual limited appointment master where they were not required to consider
me for tenure. It was a series of yearly appointments. That was also what had
been offered to me at Wisconsin, which was common for the era. I decided that
that was just not a desirable situation in which to be. I went out on the job
market. This was a period when a lot of extremely good people of my generation
with my kind of training left the university environment for the business
environment. I have an undergraduate degree in business economics. With my
orientation toward land economics, I myself was getting good offers, unsolicited,
from major corporations. One of which I probably should have taken in hindsight
was with Cadillac Fairview, which is one of the biggest industrial park developers
in North America. They pick and develop the sites, then attract the industry into
it. One of their vice-presidents and I became good friends. Harry Walters
(PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) owned the Hamilton Tigercats Football Teams.
He was one of the owners of that. Incidentally, I was living with his girlfriend, not
romantically. That is how I got to know him. Before Susan and I got married, I
was sharing a house in downtown Hamilton with four other people. It was a big,
old, gorgeous, Victorian house. One of the people who were in the house with
her own room was the girlfriend of Harry Walters.
H: You seem to be moving among very powerful people up there.
T: It seems to always fall like that. I cannot explain it.
H: Born under a lucky star?
T: I do not know, but the set that I fell in with in Hamilton turned out to be among the
power elite of Ontario. That was not the case in Buffalo, but that is the case here
in Gainesville later on in your story.
H: Your story. [Laughter]
T: My story, yes. [Laughter] I did some very good work at that time in computer
geography. I became very proficient in computer programming. The kind of
work I was doing computerwise required the development of mathematical
algorithms for the solution of problems, the operation of those algorithms used in
the computer. At that time we just called it computer geography. Through time,
others were acquiring such a large library of their own computer programs that
they, and I also, started assembling these libraries of computer programs
integrating them into a larger software program. That is basically where
Geographic Information Systems comes from. I was in on GIS from the ground
floor, but I did not call myself in any way a GIS person. I think my orientation was
very different than what ultimately became mainline GIS people. I was not part of
that crowd of people. I was part of the crowd of quantitative methods,
mathematical-modeling people. My orientation then and now was toward land
economics. In order to evaluate land markets, I had to invent part of the
technology for the better evaluation of land markets.
H: Theory that can be applied.
T: Yes. For me, that is where GIS came in.
H: This was why you were still at McMaster.
T: This was why I was at McMaster. I cannot say that the work at that time was
particularly appreciated at McMaster.
H: Despite the fact that you were among your fellow quantitative geographers?
T: They did not appreciate the use of computers. In fact, I would say they were anti-
H: Were they older than you?
T: When I was there, I was the youngest in the department. That may have reflected it.
I do not know. Their orientation was very different, where the quantitative
methods they were pursuing required only pencil and paper. It was that type of
orientation that I myself [had]. Perhaps [it was] to prove to myself that I could do
that, too. I ultimately wrote the book Land Use In Urban Form, which was very
intensively mathematical, and I think very pioneering. I think overall [it was] one
of my best works. It certainly does not require any computer stuff. It requires a
keen mind, a pencil, and a piece of paper. That was the tradition at that time at
that university. Remember I was using extremely primitive computer technology.
I had created a computer map of Canada. They had an open house.
Geography there was in the College of Sciences. We were not part of liberal
arts. We were not part of humanities. We were in the science college with
physics, chemistry, and so forth.
H: Was economics there as well?
T: Economics was in the business school. In fact, I taught joint courses in the
economics department. [I had] a good relationship with economics there, at
McMaster, and at SUNY Buffalo. Not so much here, as you will find. I wrote this
computer program. They said, "We want to have a science exhibit." So I
thought, "What will I do? I will make a computer map of Canada since this is an
open house primarily for elementary school kids. They have an orientation
toward going to McMaster when they grow up." That is my target market--
elementary school kids. What do they like to do? Let us have a computer printer
that will print out a map of Canada where the person at the terminal, the kids
themselves, could select what symbol with which they wanted to represent the
province. Today, I mean, so what? [Laughter] At that time, this was just
absolute pioneering, light-years technology to be able to even have a map done
with a computer, let alone pick the symbol.
H: This was before the Commodore 64 era.
T: That is right--before the Radio Shack, before the Apple. We were dealing with some
very primitive technology. I did have a computer printer there with a terminal. So
I wrote this program. The line just was going out the door for kids wanting to do
this because the response was fast. Kid were holding [it] up saying, "Look at
this! I made a map of Canada." It was quite a success. In fact, it was such a
success, people were ignoring all the other exhibits. Well, the word to me was
the vice-president of academics at the university, whose name was Lez King
(PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING), who wrote the book Central Place Theory in my
scientific geography series, was embarrassed totally.
T: That was the word. In fact, it was even stated during faculty meetings that he was
embarrassed about the computer map of Canada display. He did not want to
ever see anything like that again. [Laughter] I said, "Wait a minute!" The chair
said, "Quiet, Grant. That is Lez King's position, and therefore my position, too."
Mike Weber (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) who wrote Industrial Location in my
scientific geography series said that. I thought, "This is preposterous." This just
gives you the idea that there was no enthusiasm for this type of work.
H: Despite its success?
T: Despite its success.
H: Or perhaps because of its success?
T: Perhaps, yes. I was then, a short time later, informed that I yet again had received
another one-year appointment at McMaster going on from my four years there. I
had seven articles in stages of publication. I thought, "This is not the kind of
reward that one should be getting in a university environment." I really liked
being at McMaster. I thought I should throw my hat out in the job market. So I
applied for a bunch of jobs.
Almost immediately, two universities responded--the State University of New York at
Buffalo and the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The University of Iowa was and
still has a very prominent geography department. Big Ten departments tended to
be very good in geography in this quantitative-revolution type stuff. In fact,
Reggie Galiage himself was a graduate of Iowa. SUNY Buffalo was a
department tied with the University of Florida as dead last of all doctorate-
granting geography departments in North America.
They just had hired an acquaintance of mine from the University of Toronto, a very
prominent, quantitative geographer as their chair. The commitment was that they
were going to completely turn around the department to become another
quantitative-orientation department with an emphasis in computers. So
McMaster was quantitative with an emphasis in mathematics. Buffalo was going
to have an emphasis in computers. We still did not call it GIS at the time. GIS
was just a term beginning to float around. This was 1978. So they gave me a
job offer with what amounted to about a 30 percent salary increase.
H: What were the numbers?
T: In the currency of today, it was not very much. I think I started out at McMaster in
1975 at $14,000.
H: Canadian or U.S.?
T: Canadian, of course. They pay in Canadian dollars. [Laughter] When I went to
Canada it was $1.10 Canadian. When I left Canada, it was $.85. So the
Canadian dollar had taken a real nosedive.
H: So your pay was going down?
T: My pay in real terms had gone down about 30 or 40 percent. This was also a period
of very high inflation. The attraction of Buffalo was that it was nearby. In fact, it
was about a one and one-hour drive from Hamilton. My wife had a very good
job. Her reasoning was that this would be a painless move. She would be able
to find a job within some period time in Buffalo. She had an excellent job in
Oakville, which is a suburb of Toronto. Our goal was that as soon as she found a
job in Buffalo, she would move down to Buffalo. She never found a job in
Buffalo, so for five years we were commuting back and forth across the border.
H: While you were teaching at McMaster she lived with you.
T: Right. We were married. She was in Columbus for two years, and then we got
married. We lived together for a year in Hamilton. Then I moved to Buffalo.
Perhaps our six-year courtship allowed us to have a sustained romance far away
from each other. That seemed to work out okay.
H: What did she do in Oakville?
T: She was teaching in a Catholic school system. It was a separate school. She herself
went to Catholic school. She is a Catholic, not a practicing Catholic in the terms
of going to church every Sunday. She had the credentials. There was a good
job. She worked well within that kind of setting. She was teaching social
sciences and humanities type stuff, including Canadian history, which she
became quite good at. Also, during the period I had moved to Canada, I was
encouraging Susan to take computer science courses. She began that at Ohio
State. Then we she moved to Canada, she continued taking computer science
and math classes all the time. She did this for the five years I was teaching at
SUNY Buffalo. During the summer she would take math courses and computer
sciences courses. She took classes at SUNY Buffalo and McMaster--whichever
country was offering the best topic at the appropriate time. We were jumping
back and forth between countries quite a bit.
H: So she was good at it?
T: She turned out to be very good. She had gone through all but her dissertation in
German. The job market then was just nothing. She, in fact, got the best job
going that year in German in academia. I went to McMaster. She went to a
college in northern Ohio for her academic appointment. I cannot think of the
name of it. It was a small liberal arts college in northern Ohio, which was quite a
good school for the things that they did. After doing that, we got married. She
decided it just was not worthwhile to finish her doctorate for a job like she had
teaching German in a small, northern Ohio college. Instead of finishing her
dissertation in German, she started taking math and computer science classes.
[She] did that all the time we were up there. We kept an apartment in Oakville,
and we built a house in Buffalo (I designed it) with the expectation that Susan
ultimately would move there.
A year turned into a year, and there were no jobs forthcoming for her. Her job in
Oakville was becoming better and better. Because of her computer training, she
was becoming more invaluable to them. My own reputation was taking off.
Buffalo went from being tied with the last department, Florida, in the country to a
National Academy of Sciences rating of being the eighth ranked department in
the United States. Our own internal evaluation was that it was because of one of
the image and publications from myself and one other faculty member.
Therefore, the department evaluated me as probably the tenth or eleventh
ranked department in the country myself.
H: [Laughter] All by yourself?
T: [Laughter] All by myself. This was a period of significant, disciplinary advances for
myself. I was doing very good work marching up the ranks of academia. After
five years of Buffalo, I just thought living apart from my wife was not a good thing.
I think living in the northeast, particularly in Buffalo, a very dismal, deteriorating
city, was very depressing. At the time [there was] tremendous economic blight.
H: Love canal.
T: Love canal. The typical news broadcast was how the houses were being [torched]
because of plummeting housing values. People could get more from insurance
for their houses than if they were to sell it. Bethlehem Steel, or some other big
company [was] laying off 10,000 workers permanently. It was a very depressing
city to be in at that time and a very polluted city as well.
H: Did you not do a study at the geography department about how long it would take ..
T: Right. We did that just for fun. Based upon the rate of the number of houses burning
down, we estimated that in fifteen years the entire city of Buffalo would burn
down and become a doughnut city. And also, there was tremendous suburban
development. Perhaps because of my knowledge of land economics, I bought in
a place that was incredibly underpriced at the time. During this period where
housing prices were plummeting in Buffalo, I bought my house and had it custom
built with my design. I think it was two-thirds of an acre. It was a gorgeous
setting. I think it cost me $65,000. Five years later, I sold it for $87,500. I did
okay in the currency of the era when everybody else, seemingly in Buffalo, was
losing money. In my particular area of Buffalo, prices were doing quite well. So I
threw my hat in the ring for jobs and applied for a job as chair of the geography
department at the University of Southern California. I was there being
interviewed over the Christmas holidays.
H: What year was this?
T: This was 1982, I think. I was out in the house of my parents visiting over the
Christmas holidays. This would be Christmas 1982. I was interviewing at the
University of Southern California for the position as chair. I received a phone call
from the chair of this department who is Stephen (M.) Golant (Professor of
geography, appointed 1984). He wanted me to apply for the job. I knew nothing
about the University of Florida. I only had been to Florida once before in my life,
and I was not impressed by it at all. I did not like Florida at all. The part of
Florida, which was southwest Florida, I viewed as an extremely ugly urban
environment. It was not an interesting urban environment. London was
interesting. Los Angeles was interesting. Toronto and Hamilton were interesting.
H: Buffalo was fascinating.
T: Buffalo was interesting. Buffalo was indeed interesting. The urban sprawl of south
Florida and the corridor-type development was not interesting. So I was very
uninterested in living in Florida. Golant was calling up twice a day when I was at
the house of my parents over the winter break. I was going over to the University
of Southern California department pretty much every day for a couple of hours.
That was going along very well. I became disenchanted at the negotiations with
the kind of money they were talking about, which was about the same money
they were talking about here at the University of Florida. I was not convinced
there would be enough funds for me to build a quality geography program. I
thought, "Well, it would be desirable to move back to Los Angeles because that is
where my family is. On the other hand, I do not want to go to a university and be
in a department going absolutely nowhere." [With] the amount of budget that
they were talking to me as chair, I thought this department was going absolutely
nowhere. I could not afford to hire anybody of any quality in the Los Angeles
housing market. Los Angeles, by that time, had become very expensive to live in
H: What was the budget?
T: I think, overall, it was about $100,000. They were talking about hiring me in at
$40,000 or $42,000, which was the salary I was offered here. I think I got
$43,500 here. Let us say that $43,000 was the salary they were talking about at
USC. It was about the same. Then I had $100,000 to hire myself, plus staff, and
three other faculty. I thought, "There is just not a chance on a $100,000 budget."
I believe the people they interviewed for chair afterward went down their learning
curve of what you can get. The view of the University of Southern California was
that geographers were very cheap, and they could build up a top-notch
department at bargain basement prices. I could have built a top ten department
but not with $100,000 budget. In fact, I probably could have built a department
that would have yielded a very tidy return to the investment of USC. They would
have gotten back more than they were getting. That shows you the orientations
I thought, "Let us try the University of Florida." So I flew out of Buffalo or Toronto,
wherever I happened to be at the moment. When I got back up north, I came
down here. It was about minus ten degrees from wherever I flew out. I got down
here. The azaleas were in full bloom. It was absolutely gorgeous. I knew
nobody in this department, absolutely nobody. It was not even a mediocre
department--it had no reputation at all. I inquired about the department.
The reputation of the department was that it was a very closed department very steeped
in nineteenth-century geography--not historically. The way they did things was
very much nineteenth century like. They were explorers. They were not rigorous
academics [that met] the criteria for the rigor of the era. University of Florida
graduates had not been particularly well regarded in the discipline. That does
not mean there were not good people here. There, in fact, had been a flow of
some extremely good people here who very seldom stayed for three or more
years until they got fed up with the political lock up the old-timers had on the
department. In my investigation, I was told by various people that they thought
these people were going to be retiring very soon. The department was ripe for a
I interviewed with Charles (F.) Sidman Sr. (dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,
appointed 1978). Charles Sidman Jr. ultimately became a student of mine, and
got his master of arts under my direction. He was a very good student. I
interviewed with Charles Sidman Sr. and was very impressed by him. Charles
Sidman Sr. was the dean at the time. He had a minor in geography from the
University of Wisconsin, and he was aware of the changes that the discipline was
going through. He gave me his personal assurances that he wanted to change
the department around to be a different type of department, to be the best.
The first step was to be the best quantitative methods department in the southeast, and
then to be in the top ten geography departments in the country focusing upon the
kinds of expertise that I had. He was aware of how I had been instrumental in
turning things around at SUNY Buffalo. That is why he wanted me here. That is
why they came up with a very attractive salary offer. So my salary offer here as
an associate professor was the same salary they were negotiating for me at the
University of Southern California as the chair of the department. The level of
enthusiasm was compared to the budget problems that I saw looming at
Southern California. I thought this was the place to be. This was going to be
another Buffalo. It is going to turn around and be a nice place to live.
H: The climate and the azaleas won you over.
T: Yes, the climate and the azaleas. I also had reservations about the job of my wife. I
did not want to get into a situation where my wife would be unable to find
employment. I had the personal assurance of the dean and the associate dean
that they were aware of the problems of the Gainesville job market. At their
request I sent them the resume of Susan. They told me there would be no
problem. They would guarantee that Susan would receive a job that would be
the equivalent of what she had or better in Ontario. They were aware of what
she was doing in Ontario.
So we got here. I would say things were very wonderful for me for a couple of years.
When Susan got here, she introduced herself to the dean. He remembered his
commitment. The associate dean, Ruth (0.) McQuown (associate dean, College
of Liberal Arts and Sciences, appointed 1974), who has passed away, also
remembered that. Ruth sent her on job interviews around the campus. For the
first job interview, they sent her to was the computer science department for her
to teach there and take over teaching introductory programming of some type as
an adjunct. They said, "What we will do is have you teach four or five classes
per semester. That is what you will be responsible for." The salary they offered
her was $5,000 per year.
H: That is considerably less, I take it?
T: She was making more than me in Ontario, even considering the exchange rate. She
gave up an extremely good job. She had become the computer coordinator for
her school district and also was working with the province of Ontario, the
equivalent of the State Board of Education, designing computer curricula to teach
computer teachers how to introduce computers into their curriculum. Susan had
written a book on that topic which was later published by Sage Publications.
H: Teachers' Guide to the Commodore Computer (PLEASE VERIFY TITLE).
T: Which was the rage at the time. That was the textbook that began with the contract
with the province of Ontario, to require all their teachers to use this as a guide to
introduce computers to their education curricula. The Commodore computer at
the time was the standard in Ontario. Sage Publications, one of the very
prominent publishers, published it. Here was Susan with a book in hand, having
achieved considerable success in her career in Ontario, and she was offered a
job at $5,000 per year.
H: Being overworked.
T: Yes. Susan said that was not acceptable. They sent her off to the math department.
The math department offered her basically the same thing. Susan was in tears.
The response of the office the dean was, "Well, when you get serious we can
get you a job." They then sent her to the German department because she was
indeed unique in that she not only was a whiz programmer, but also she was
ABD (all but dissertation) in German. The dean sent her over there. Her job
offer was, "Well, since you have nothing else to do, since you are an unemployed
housewife, we would love for you to computerize our entire German curricula for
free as a volunteer." That was what this University was doing to faculty.
I understand that that was not a unique incident. It was a standard ploy to get faculty to
come to the University of Florida. Staffing universities today are sort of like
staffing Noah's Ark. Most of the time university professors are married to people
who have equivalent educations to themselves. The job market in a small
university town is such that if they do not get a job at the University or
somewhere else, then they do not come here. So you are basically limited to
people who are single or divorced, or that pocket of university academics whose
spouses, male or female, are the house spouse.
H: So in your instance they ...
T: They lied.
H: They lied.
T: Right. In order to overcome what I thought was a raw deal for Susan, I told Susan
just to take a couple of years and get her doctorate since she had not finished
that before. In fact, in discussing this with the chair, the chair recommended that
she get a doctorate in geography since she knew so much about geography by
way of me. So Susan did that. She got her doctorate from the Department of
Geography here. In the meantime, she became a part-time teacher at Santa Fe
Community College in computer science.
A job opened up in typing at Lake City Community College. They wanted somebody to
teach business typing and calculators. I said to Susan, "Go and apply for that
job." She said, "This is typing. This is not what I do." [Laughter] I said, "Apply
for it anyway. Tell them that they are advertising for the wrong kind of position.
This is what they should be doing." So she went there, and they were
impressed. They hired her. Paywise it was still not what she was making in
She is now in her tenth year at Lake City Community College. She has been offered a
regular job at Santa Fe. She turned that job down. She teaches geographic
information systems and computer languages at Lake City Community College.
It is one of the only junior colleges in the country that has GIS offerings. Her
students do very well in the job market. There is an extreme amount of
enthusiasm from the offices of property appraisers to other people in the
business community for the work that she is doing. She has been there now for
ten years. In the meantime, she and I have spent weekends and evenings
building up a business, particularly with her programming skills. I would be the
front person bringing in business contacts that I have. Susan would do the work
of the actual kitchen-table programming evenings and weekends, doing very
H: More about that later. I understand that when you came down to Gainesville you
flew in for fifteen minutes.
T: Oh, my house search?
H: You looked around.
T: In my literature, one learns that there is more commonality to London and Los
Angeles than there are differences. There are market forces which creates the
way in which cities evolve. I know these things, as a medical doctor knows that
this is the way a baby grows to become an adult. Likewise, I know the set of
things which are involved in creating a city, much of which I have articulated in
my formal logic of my book Land, Use, and Urban Form. In other words, I can do
a very quick study of a city and understand how to apply the principles I have
come to learn and have written about to understand the makeup of a city.
Not only can I select good places to invest in property very readily, I also can select a
good sight for my house. I came into Gainesville. I had a Polaroid camera. I
gave photographs to the real estate agent of the kind of house I liked and had
picked out from Buffalo that would be representative of here. That would give the
realtor a clue of how to start sifting them out. I gave the realtor a very precise
description of square footage and price for which I was looking. By then it was
not so much an issue of what my income could afford, but what kind of price
range was I willing to buy in. I told my realtor that this is what I want to buy, the
square footage that I want to have with these attributes, and this kind of
architecture. Show me.
She arranged about forty interviews over a two-day period, many of which were pure
drivebys. I said, "Do not even bother to stop. Call them up and say thank you
very much." We went in others, for others I would take a Polaroid photograph. I
would communicate to my wife about our experience that day. At the end of the
second day I made an offer on a house. They countered and I accepted their
H: Flew home.
T: [Laughter] I have been quite happy there. We have been very, very happy there.
What has kept the two of us in Gainesville more than anything else is that we like
the city. We like the living environment. We like the amenities that come from
the University town.
H: You came to the University of Florida with a reputation. Particularly I have in mind
your starting a tax revolt in Ontario.
T: Oh yes. It was not intentional. It dates back to my course of study at Ohio State. My
interest was in land and land use. We call it land economics in the trade. That is
what I wanted to be, and that is what I had become. My dissertation was about
seventy-five pages long, a short dissertation. It was a pure mathematical
presentation, a mathematical abstraction. I always have tried to have a balance
between doing theory and empirical work. This is not common in my subject
area. People are normally either a theoretician or an empiricist. They are not
both. People do not cross over. There are reasons for that. You have benefits
from specializing. If you are doing work in both areas, you lose that benefit of
What you gain is better, I think. You get a better sense of problem and ultimately
relevancy--what are you doing and why. I had done this theoretical work as a
graduate student, so when I started at McMaster University in Canada, I
deliberately chose to work on an empirical project. At the stage of my career, it
probably was a bad decision. What I should have done instead was concentrate
on cranking out lots of articles in a very short period of time. That is the name of
the game. Instead I thought, "Here it is. I am on a university faculty
appointment. I am going to define my research agenda. My research agenda,
since I just finished a theoretical piece, is going to be empirical work."
So I started on this empirical work. It took me several years to complete. It started out
to be, I thought, very simple conceptualization. It got to be a increasingly
enlarged problem. I collected sales of houses within a time frame of several
months, so I had one market period. I recorded their assessed value. I recorded
their market value. I then digitized where all of those properties were on a map.
I then wrote a database management program. I think I dealt with all the
properties that sold in Hamilton, Ontario during this seasonal window. I digitized
where those properties were, which was an incredible task in the era.
H: What year was that?
T: I began this in 1975. It took me about two years to do this. I had to manually digitize
all the property, position it, and record where they were on the map. I then wrote
the programs in Fortran. It was probably a mixture of Fortran or Basic in the era.
[I programmed it] to manipulate the date spatially that was required and to
translate and create mathematical logarithms to produce contour maps. I did a
variety of things with this information.
One is that I created what I called in the literature the assessed value/market value
ratio. What is the property assessed at? That is the guess of the local property
assessor or appraiser. Market value--that is what the house actually sold for. If
properties are well assessed, they are all going to have roughly the same
assessed value to market value ratio. It all will not be exact because the
assessed value is a guess. The market value may change by the week. The
assessed value is given by the year or every three years. There is going to be
some difference, but you want it to be a distribution which is what we call
leptocurctic (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING), a very peaked distribution,
everybody having roughly the same ratio of assessed values to market values.
That was the state of the art and the literature with which I was familiar--public finance
and urban economics. It evaluated quality of local property assessment by
looking at the frequency distribution of the assessed value/market value ratio.
Being a geographer, I asked myself the question if there was a special
distribution for those properties which were in the central part of the distribution.
More importantly, was there a special distribution to the properties in the tail of
the distribution? That is, was there clustering by neighborhoods of overassessed
properties? Was there clustering by neighborhoods of underassessed
properties? I was the first one to ask that question. Then I was the first one to
come up with the technological development in order to analyze that. I wrote all
these computer programs to create a computer printout of the assessed
value/market value ratio on an overlay on top of a map of Hamilton, Ontario.
I mentioned the computer map of Canada that I had created that the vice-president of
the university was aghast at. Here I have a computer map of Hamilton, Ontario.
In terms of the themes, instead of shading in the provinces with a particular
character, the theme was to denote where the contours occurred as we went
from one assessed value/market value ratio to another category of values and
where that occurred on the map. Conceptually, it was quite simple. Putting the
thing into operation at that time was incredibly difficult. I accomplished it and I
published two articles on it.
I say with a great amount of pride that the procedure that I invented back in that era is
now the standard procedure for every county property appraiser in the United
States and North America as far as I know today. This is now what they now
use, including here in Alachua County, to evaluate the quality of local property
assessment--producing maps of the assessed value/market value ratio thereby
identifying whether or not these ratios are off by neighborhood. If so, they go in
and correct it.
H: And this caused quite a stir?
T: What I did then was I wrote up an article for publication in academic journals. My
reasoning for becoming a social scientist is that ultimately the criteria is [whether]
you have done something that has affected society in some manner.
H: Preferably for the good.
T: Well, I would hope so. Well, you know, good as a value. By using that criteria, I then
talked to the people at the newspaper there, the Hamilton Spectator, to see if
they were interested in that. They were very interested in my study. They asked
me if I would write it up for them because the newspaper reporters are persons
who are generalist writers. They are able to express themselves well, but they
get by by knowing really near nothing in a lot of respects, especially in a small
town newspaper. They cannot be expected to be property experts in property
taxation, for example.
So I wrote up the article, and then they made some modifications to it. They published
it. It took up an entire page top to bottom in the Hamilton Spectator. They even
published my maps in it. It caused an incredible stir. As I recall, there was a
treasurer for the conservative party. His name was Darcy McCoo (PLEASE
VERIFY SPELLING). He said that he wanted the conservative party to adopt the
agenda that I had outlined because clearly there was something amiss in terms
of how to effect the change of property tax inequities. His party said they did not
want to do that. They thought it was too controversial. As I recall, Darcy McCoo
resigned as treasurer. He ultimately came back. This became the topic for the
government. For years afterward, [it] was referred to generically as the
McMaster Study--not the Grant Thrall study, but the McMaster Study.
H: No credit at all.
T: No credit. No. No. There was a reason for it. I was in fact in the process of leaving
[Ontario at the time]. I am sure that a politician did not want to say that this was
done by an American now living in the United States. Canadians have a lot of
national pride and that just would not fly.
H: I imagine.
T: It is better to call it the McMaster Study politically. Even still my colleagues tell me
that they occasionally now, all these years later, refer to it as the McMaster
Study. Certainly for the next decade it was very intense. What I showed was in
fact clustering of overassessments and underassessments stalled a regular
spacial pattern. People in older, lower income housing, who at that time were
predominantly minorities, particularly French Canadian, tended to be
overassessed. People in that were in wealthy neighborhoods with the view over
the Inaggras Scartment (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) tended to be
underassessed. Properties going through transitions from single-family dwellings
to apartment buildings would be underassessed. Properties of the urban
perimeter that were subdivided and made into housing subdivisions or
townhouses tended to be underassessed. Regular spacial regularities too--the
overassessment and underassessment of properties that were affected by what
we call externalities, the nuisance of negative spillovers from adjoining
properties, particularly smoke from the Stelco and Delfasco (PLEASE VERIFY
SPELLINGS)Steel Mills. They tended to be overassessed because the
accountancy on determining what the guess of the market value was did not take
into effect negative impacts.
So this was quite a pioneering technology that I invented for the time. It took several
years to do. My colleagues in my department were outspoken very vocally
against the fact that I had appeared in the newspaper. One colleague in
particular, a guy named Papageorgio (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING), a very
well-regarded and theoretical Greek geographer, criticized me because he
thought it was demeaning to academia to have the results of academic research
appear in the newspaper. [He felt] that this discredited all of my good work. It
was an embarrassment to the geography department and to the university.
I think that this is something which still is prevalent in American universities, North
America, and probably universities all around the world today. Universities view
themselves as being very separate and aloof from the general population.
Research in universities, particularly the social sciences, is not done with respect
to whether you are a social scientist. You ask the question, "How am I affecting
the change in society or how am I adding to the body of knowledge that society
has itself?" Those kinds of questions are not asked by the researchers. Instead
the question is, "How can I publish seven articles to get tenure?"
H: Even if they do make a significant contribution to the body of knowledge, they do not
want to publicize.
T: Yes. I think that they themselves do not want to be the ones involved in the
publicization of it. The kudos come from the fact that seven other people
distributed around the world read your article, and are willing to write nice letters
of evaluation when your tenure and promotion comes up. It is a system which I
think has gotten out of sync with where our society is. I have very strong feelings
on academic freedom. This is exactly where academic freedom comes in. When
you are doing things that are going to effect social change, there are going to be
people that do not want society to change in some manner. There were a lot of
people upset about the study that I did on Hamilton, Ontario. They were upset
that I had done it. They were upset that I had publicized it. They were upset that
the results were as they were.
If I had not quit McMaster University, I would not have been surprised if there had been
attempts to fire me there, too. That is just the nature of academia. That is why
academic freedom is so important. If we are going to be relevant to society, then
you also have to be protected from that same society. There are going to be
individuals in society who do not like what you are doing. If you are producing to
better forecast development and that affects developers, then environmentalists
will be upset. If you do things which will give the edge to environmentalists, then
developers will be upset. You always are going to upset. I think some group of
society which will prefer the status quo.
H: That is what happened to you when you came to the University of Florida.
T: Yes, the same thing happened here. After I left Hamilton, I went to SUNY Buffalo. At
SUNY Buffalo, I was in no way in the press. I made no effort to get my
information out. Perhaps I listened to my colleagues at McMaster who said that it
was a horrible thing I had done by getting into the press. I had five very quiet
years at Buffalo. I did a lot of good academic publications. I did the foundations
for what would become my book, Land Use and Urban Form, which I think has
become somewhat of a classic in urban geography, certainly in land economics,
and geography as a whole.
H: Here at the University of Florida, there was a very poor reception.
T: Well, times changed. At SUNY Buffalo when I was there and teaching the material
which was compiled into my book, Land Use and Urban Form, I was becoming
oppressed. I started out with a class of five students, and when I left Buffalo five
years later, my class had eighty-five or ninety students in it.
H: Graduate students?
T: Students who were graduates and undergraduates. That was, frankly, just too much
for a class of that type. Grading ninety blue-book midterm, final exams, and term
papers is, frankly, a bit much. So the class got too popular and too large. [There
was] no ability for one on one. When I got here to the University of Florida, I had
gone to that curled curve for the enrollment of that class and the class here is a
fourth-year class. I would prefer that it stay in the sub-twenties. If you had ten or
twelve students, that is about what I think would be ideal, not forty, eighty, or
ninety-five students. In terms of receptivity, I think it has been reasonably well
Regrettably, there is a greater emphasis today that people now are oriented toward
wanting just the facts. They do not want to learn the reasoning. That is why I
think it is both important to know both the body of the theory and also have the
ability to do things empirically. It is the theory that puts boundaries on the
problem with which you are dealing. It gives you anticipation as to what the
results are going to be. It raises the questions. The empirical work gives you the
answer for the particular population or a sample. You cannot do, in my opinion,
good empirical work without having knowledge of the body of the theory.
The times have changed a lot. Just think of the productivity. I have written about this in
my computer column in the magazine Geo Info Systems. Back in the 1970s, it
took me two years to do this assessed value/market ratio study. It was an
important study, but still, two years is a long time to spend on one project. I
asked myself about a year ago how long it would take for me to duplicate an
analysis of that type. Of course, I did not have to conceptualize the whole thing,
so I had the advantage of having done it before. I did not know really where I
was going when I began the project back in the 1970s.
Knowing where I was going, and knowing that I had an end in sight, how long would it
actually take me to duplicate or crank out the results for another location? About
four hours later I was done. What that means today is that productivity has
changed so much that back in the 1970s and 1980s, the productivity advantage
was on the side of theory. Theory had the advantages.
I will give you an example. I have just written this up in an article in my shop talk
column that just has come out in the February 1995 issue of Geo Info Systems.
Let us say we take an example from economics. There is a freeze, and the
freeze kills orange trees. Then you ask an economist what is going to happen to
the price of orange juice. It is going to go up because they have a body of theory
to draw upon. What they have is a demand for oranges. They have a supply for
oranges that frees up the market price. The supply curve has shifted upward
along the demand curve or demand schedule because of the freeze. Therefore
the trajectory is for the price to go up. That is a pretty good trajectory. So we
have put boundaries on the problem. We know how to analyze it. That is human
capital. That is mentality at work right there.
I know what the trajectory is, but is it sufficient? Let us say it is not sufficient. I want to
know exactly how much oranges are going to go up for whatever reason. I want
to buy orange futures or such a thing as that. I want to know exactly. That kind
of theoretical economic reasoning is not going to give you the answer to that.
You have to go the empirical work. You have to do an empirical forecast. The
theory has put boundaries on the problem. Now you go to the empirical stuff, the
statistics, you gather the data, and you say, "Okay, the price of oranges is going
to up by 15 or 20 percent, or whatever happens." The theory component, when
we are dealing with geography, is equally important.
If you are going to put it in a shopping center, what is going to happen to land values?
[You have] to anticipate where new land values are going to be rising, let us say
ten years from now. What is the trajectory? My theory puts boundaries on the
problem. You want to know if it is going to go up by 10 percent, up by 15
percent, or down by 3 percent. Then you have to do empirical work. Back in the
1970s and 1980s, because of the productivity issue, the advantage was for the
theory. You got much greater impact just by doing cheap forecasts with your
theory, the trajectory. The personal computers totally have rearranged the
equation now. With the higher productivity and empirical work, the advantage is
now empirical work. In dealing with Geographic Information Systems, GIS, from
that assessed value/market value ratio study I did. GIS did not exist at the time,
but in order to do my study back then, I had to invent and create all the
technology that has become GIS today.
H: So your work was instrumental in the creation of GIS?
T: I would say that my work with others of my kind at the time was one of the reasons
why GIS came about. Certainly in my own case, I never had a goal to become a
GIS person. My goal was to be a land economist, but I was asking a body of
questions which dealt with spacial geographic components and analyzing
geographic information on a computer. The technology did not exist to do that. I
had to invent the technology to do that. After having done that for so many
years, I developed an assembly of computer libraries. This is also where my wife
comes in [because she] is a very proficient programmer. So she and I developed
this assembly of computer libraries. Ultimately, we recognized that we had
something nice. We could put all these little pieces together and put in an overall
grant program that links all these pieces together. Then we had a software
program. We could market the results of the software program.
H: When did you first come to this?
T: I think it was done initially for research. I had no desire to work outside of the
University at all certainly through the early and mid 1980s. Then in the middle of
the 1980s, I started thinking that this was something that has value. People were
willing to buy, not the software, the software was still very difficult to use at that
time. We did not have nice IBM, PC Windows environments, or Mclntoshes.
H: Right. Computers were not very powerful.
T: Computers were very limited in power. They were very abusive--user abusive.
There was not a market for software of this type at that time, the type that we
could produce anyway. We certainly could do analysis for others, and we did.
For example, here in town in the mid 1980s we started selling our skills to
process the data of people through the software programs. Gainesville Regional
Utilities was one client with whom we had worked. We did data analysis for them
using what was then becoming known as GIS. We were able to process their
data with a very quick turnaround time. The results of our analysis was used to
locate the Gainesville Regional Utilities Spring Hill facility out in the north part of
Gainesville on the west side of the freeway. That has become the second GRU
facility location, the first being the downtown Kelly Power Plant. We were doing
work of that type in the beginning of the middle 1980s. There also was a drive on
my part because the salary increases just were not coming at the University of
Florida. Bills continued to come. Inflation means that even at the current rate of
consumption, the cost of living goes up. The income is in no way keeping up
with that cost of living, so you have to start looking for alternative sources of
income. That is when I got into consulting.
H: Before you started your business, you had to fend off challenges to your position
here. When you first got here the business and economics departments
considered you a threat.
T: Yes. At the other universities I always had good relationships with the economics
departments in particular. I got my master of science degree in economics from
Ohio State. I was regarded, certainly at that time, as a fellow economist by many
economists, and certainly as a regional scientist. Regional science is an area
where geography and economics comes together as a formal discipline. At
SUNY Buffalo, I was teaching half-time geography, and half-time economics. In
fact, I was teaching the introductory microeconomics classes at SUNY Buffalo.
At McMaster University, my graduate classes were offered jointly in the
economics department. I always have had good relationships with economics
departments at the two other universities I taught at before I came here. I
expected that that would continue when I got here. I was surprised, in fact, that
right off on the ground floor [I encountered resistance]. I had not encountered a
situation [like this]. I was naive in terms of what a parochial university this was,
certainly in that era. The economics department viewed me as a threat. My
undergraduate degree is in economics, but it was from a College of Business, so
[my degree] could be more properly called business with an emphasis in
economics. The business school knew I had sent my resume over, which I
thought was the proper way to introduce myself. [It said,] "I am on campus, I
would like to meet you all and interact with you all." I sent a copy of my vita over
to the people in the economics department. Their response was, "Grant Thrall, a
well-known economist comes into town, starts bragging about his resume and
vita, and starts pushing himself around." All I did was send a nice letter of
introduction that said, "Here I am and I want to meet you all and this is who I am."
Instead, I had to get sign offs from them on the classes that I wanted to teach,
including my class Land Use and Urban Form. I was teaching my own material
that I had written--100 percent of that class was about articles I had written on
that subject. The book had not yet been published, but the articles were
assembled into a reading list. The economics department said, "This is great
stuff, but we want it as an economics class." I said, "Let us talk about that. That
will be fine. I would love to have your students. They can register any way that
they want. I do not care. I want to be able to teach this class." In other classes,
it was put in books that the economics department thought it was an infringement
on their turf. The Business College viewed me as an infringement on their
college. (Robert Franklin) Lanzillotti (American Economic Institutions Free
Enterprise Eminent Scholar, professor of economics, director of the Public Policy
Research Center, dean emeritus, appointed 1986) was the dean at the time.
Lanzillotti wrote a letter to the President (Robert Q.) Marston (president,
University of Florida, 1974-1984) that my presence at the University of Florida
was a threat to the mere existence of the business college here. So here I was,
a little associate professor without tenure who just had arrived on campus, and
now my existence on campus was a threat to the entire business college
establishment. I found that a bit preposterous.
H: And the school of economics as well.
T: The Department of Economics as well.
H: Do you have these letters?
T: Oh yes. I have them in my files. If I am assured of their security, I will be glad to turn
them over to program of Samuel Proctor. It was resolved, but Marston basically
responded, saying, "Look I do not want to deal with this kind of stuff. This is
ridiculous." Also, I insisted that it be written into my contract of employment that I
be entitled to teach the courses in my subject area. That was ultimately a
contractual issue which allowed me to teach my courses. I do not know why,
frankly, I put that into the contract, but I insisted before I came here that I would
be entitled to teach the courses in my subject area. That turned out to be the
reason why I could teach the courses in my subject area. If it were not for that
contractual issue, I would not be surprised if I had not been able to teach the
courses in my subject area.
H: But that was not the only run-in you had with University officials.
T: That was the first run-in, and the fall out of that was that regrettably, I continue to
have no relationship with the economics department at all with one exception.
That is Henry Theil (Mckethan-Matherly Professor of Econometrics and Decision
Sciences, appointed 1981), a very well known, very wonderful person. He
himself recently is retired from the University. I do not think he likes the
economics department there very much either. I think it is indicative of some of
the problems that this University has. Perhaps it has been starved for resources
so long that individual departments turn very much into themselves and are more
concerned about turf battle about where the boundaries of their departments
legitimately are, than they are concerned about providing service to the students
and opportunities for the faculty to interact in a productive manner.
H: Is it the same way here in the geography department?
T: Yes. I would say that the geography department is just as guilty as any other
program, perhaps for the same reasons. But it is a turf battle at a level I did not
see. Perhaps I just was not aware that it was occurring at the other universities I
taught at. It certainly is the case here. Things died down for a couple of years. I
was focused on doing academic work. During the course of my first or second
year here, I was put up for promotion to full professor. I was promoted and got
the standard 8-percent salary increase. I thought, "I have received this wonderful
thing from society. I am now full professor. I am making a nice salary. I want to
give something more back to society than just publishing articles and academic
journals." A friend of mine and my wife Susan from Buffalo was president of the
League of Women Voters. They had moved down from Buffalo at the same time
we did--Norman Holland and his wife Jane Holland. We introduced ourselves to
the Hollands in Buffalo when we heard they were coming down to Gainesville the
same year. There was a mass exodus of faculty from Buffalo at that time. So we
knew them from Buffalo and had gone through all the moving pains together.
Jane had become part of the League of Women Voters. Jane had asked me if I
would give a talk at a League of Women Voters symposium on land use and
economic development, issues dealing with the environment, and quality of life.
So I did. I gave a presentation that lasted no more than three or four minutes.
Apparently a number of city commissioners were very impressed by what I had to
say. I was asked by several city commissioners if I would be on a task force the
city was in the process of assembling jointly with the county to propose a land-
use plan for the city and county. Since I recently had been promoted to full
professor, and I wanted to give something back to society, I said, "Yes, I will be
willing to do that voluntarily because the job of university professors is to teach,
research, and serve." This was a service. I could bring my skills to the
community, hopefully for the better. So I agreed to do that. I think we had one or
two meetings. I do not think we had more than three meetings of this task force.
The task force, in its first meeting, elected me to be their vice chair. The chair
who was elected was Courtland Collier (associate professor emeritus of civil
engineering), who was a long-term politician and who now is a retired
engineering professor from UF. He was one of the first academics to get
involved in local politics and not be fired from the University of Florida. I was the
vice-chair. Then The Gainesville Sun phoned and asked me if I was being
treated well at the University of Florida. I said, "Oh yes. Wonderfully well. I
came down here. They paid me a great salary. The department is a nice place
to be, and things are progressing and really wonderful. I could not be treated
better." Then the reporter from The Gainesville Sun said, "Well, I would like you
to listen to these tapes." I listened to the tapes. It was a tape of the meeting of
the chamber of commerce by John Stropher (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING),
who (I think) just recently had left the county commission as county
commissioner. He was a local stockbroker and president of the chamber of
commerce. John Stropher was detailing a pact he had made with the president
of the University who had just been brought in, Marshall (M.) Criser (1985-1989).
The deal was [about] Dwight Adams, a professor of physics [who] was very well
regarded apparently as a physicist. [He was] instrumental in bringing in the cold-
temperature physics lab here, which is one of the prides of the University of
Florida. Dwight Adams was also the president of the Sierra Club. Certain
members of the board of directors of the chamber of commerce did not like the
involvement of Dwight Adams in the local community. They wanted to get him.
In fact, they thought they would like to (as they said on the tapes) keep Dwight in
his lab and harass him to the extent that he would be afraid to come out of his
lab. The quid pro quo was that Marshall Criser wanted to get me.
H: How did you get involved?
T: I only can guess why I came up in this. I was involved in this task force. As the vice-
chair of this task force, I started speaking to other task forces on issues of land
use and development. The best we can gather is that there were several things
occurring at this time. The best that we can gather is that Marshall Criser had
some friends who were large land owners in the western part of the city out in the
unincorporated county. They did not like the proposals that were going to be
recommended by the task force on how their land use should be regulated and
zoned. The way to deal with that was to get rid of the task force members to
whom the others are looking for leadership. There was another issue, too. I,
prior to that event, had been interviewed by The Gainesville Sun and asked to
comment on the economic development potential for Progress Center, which is in
the city of Alachua. This was 1985. This was certainly an important
development for the University of Florida Foundation where they have a
significant percentage of their endowment invested in that property there. Do I lie
and say, "Oh yes it is a wonderful thing," when in fact, it is a real turkey? That is
what I said. It was regrettable, but it was not going to be an economic success.
The reason it was not going to be a success was because it was too far from the
University. Faculty would not hae been willing to drive thirty to forty-five minutes
from the University to Progress Center for their lab, come back to teach their
classes here, and go back to Progress Center to work in their lab. Their
graduate students [would have been] doing the same thing, back and forth, thirty
to forty-five minutes in each direction. They would have been taking classes and
going back to the lab. They would have been on the road three or four hours a
day. Did that make any sense? That itself right there was sufficient to kill that as
an effective industrial park which was a spinoff from the University. What about
as an industrial park that has no relationship to the University? Then we have to
evaluate its circumstances as an industrial park success by itself. There is no
labor base nearby that is significant enough to support it. Environmentally, the
place is a disaster. It is like Swiss cheese up there.
H: The land is like Swiss cheese.
T: The land is like Swiss cheese. It is full on sinkholes. If you have a chemical spill, it is
a six-hour flow for chemicals to go into the sinkhole and be sucked into the water
supply of the city of Alachua. As a business firm, do you feel that you are safe
from indemnity by locating there?
H: It had a host of other problems as well.
T: One of the other problems we dealt with was that they were trying to attract chemical
facilities out there. To do that you have to have chemical fire trucks. There were
no chemical fire trucks in the city ofAlachua. These are expensive. Gainesville
has one. By the time the firetruck would get from Gainesville to Progress Center,
I am sure the building would have burnt down, and the chemicals would have
spilled down into the water supply. It was a mistake then. The people who made
the decision made a bad decision and that was it. It also happened to be that
when I said this to The Gainesville Sun, there were so many problems with that
industrial park it was just not going to fly. Had the park situated closer to the
University, it certainly would have been more successful. It might have even
been phenomenal. They situated it in a location where it just was not going to
take off any time soon. Maybe someday, thirty years from then, but certainly not
in the next ten years.
H: Do you know why they had chosen that site?
T: Yes. I have pretty good ideas why they chose the site now. I did not at the time. I
just thought it was a dumb decision. Marston was one of the instigators who
chose that site. Coincidentally, several members of the Board of Regents
happened to own property there, or bought it shortly before it was announced
that that was going to be the home of Progress Center, including the current
Chancellor Charlie Reed. [He] owned a lot of land in his the married name of his
daughter near there [along] with other members of the Board of Regents. I have
been told--I have not verified the numbers--that once they had announced
Progress Center, and the steel came out of the ground to build that, they started
selling off parcels of the land they owned. They received a 2,000 percent return
on their investment.
H: A mini-land boom.
T: Yes, it was what we call a real estate bubble. In my opinion, Progress Center never
was intended to be a successful industrial park still even ten years after the fact
today. Almost ten years after I was saying these things in The Gainesville Sun it
was still a failure. Why? It was never intended to be a success. It was intended,
in my opinion, only to be a real estate bubble.
H: It was a success in that regard.
T: It was a success for several members of the Board of Regents. They have done very
H: Are they still on the Board of Regents?
T: Yes they are. Charlie Reed is the chancellor. I think another person is Dubose
Ausley, who is another member of the Board of Regents who did quite well.
There are others involved in these things. It is difficult to trace. Dwight Adams
has, in fact. Frankly, it is not my concern to trace them. I do not really care. In
terms of their particular personal gain, Dwight Adams has traced a lot of
investment up there. There are two members of the Board of Regents and they
certainly are entitled to make these kinds of investments. One could say it is
insider trading like the stock exchange. The location was made more to benefit
the Board of Regents than it was to have a good return for the University of
Florida Foundation. There you get into some very serious problems, which the
University should be concerned about.
H: As a result of this, you are speaking out about this.
T: Yes. I was not aggressively saying I was going to torpedo these people. I was asked
by The Gainesville Sun to comment on the industrial park, and this is one of my
subject areas. I have edited a book on industrial location. I teach the subject
matter. I think any competent geographer would know enough to evaluate that.
H: And they tried to get rid of you because of that.
T: In fact years later, the University hired a major national consulting firm, Deloitte and
Tushe, to evaluate Progress Center. They said exactly the same thing I did.
They said these are the reasons why it is not going to succeed. Those were
exactly the reasons that I gave. The University had gone through several
Progress Center directors. One of their directors came in for a year and left. He
had been director of a similar center in Columbus, Ohio. He came down here for
a year and asked me to have lunch with him. He was in the process of leaving.
He said, "I have read what you have said about Progress Center. Everything you
have said is true--so much so that I am not going to bother to have my career
here. I am moving to another place."
H: Who was this?
T: This was the director of the Progress Center. The problem was that this was a real
estate bubble. The bubble starts to burst. At that time, Marshall Criser was the
man on watch. He was the president of the University. He was left to pick up the
problems left from Marston. He was also obligated on his watch to take good
care of the investments of his regents, since he had been a member of the Board
of Regents himself for many years. These were the investments of his friends
[which] he was sent to watch over. He was hearing about Grant Thrall on this
land-use task force recommending zoning patterns for the county that his friends
did not like. Grant Thrall was in the newspaper commenting on the facility
location of the Progress Center and how it was not going to be a successful
industrial park any time soon. So what did he do? He said, "Let us make a deal
with the president of the chamber of commerce." This is my opinion. The
chamber said they did not like Dwight Adams. Marshall Criser said, "I do not like
Grant Thrall." That is there on tape.
Allegedly, Marshall Criser, when he came to town, picked his own newspaper publisher.
The previous one was promoted. I think his name was Johnson. He was more
concerned about the environment. He brought in Fitzwater, who at the time had
a reputation for being a real rough shot, cowboy developer. He also handpicked
a reporter to be his mouthpiece for The Gainesville Sun. I think his name was
Wheat. Criser controlled the press. Criser picked his own publisher. The rumor
was that Criser and a local developer, Phil Emmer, had contacted the New York
Times to get the publisher of their choice. On the last day, before Fitzwater took
over the brains of The Gainesville Sun, Johnson published the full tapes of the
report that John Stropher gave to the chamber of commerce. That was
published in The Gainesville Sun as the final act of the previous publisher. It was
that which was the ultimate undoing of both Stropher and Marshall Criser.
H: They had tried to fire you and ended up having to leave themselves.
T: Had the previous publisher not published those tapes, nothing would have happened.
Just a sequence of horrible things would have fallen on me. What happened
though was that things began to very quickly deteriorate for me here in the
geography department. Faculty, particularly at a provincial, small-time university
like this University certainly was at this time--this was not a Harvard, Princeton,
or a University of Chicago. This was a University with a good state reputation
and a good football team trying to become a regional or national player. The
adage here was that you should be sort of invisible, not rock the boat. "We just
do not do things like that here." Faculty would get their marching messages and
march to that tune. I think if we were at a national university like a Princeton,
MIT, or something like that, they would have marched on Tigert Hall, demanded
commentary by the president of the University. If [they were] not satisfied, [they
would] demand his resignation there on the spot. Instead there was no response
of the faculty at all. I mean, this was a horrible abridgement of academic
freedom. I believe the faculty should have marched on Tigert Hall, [but] there
was absolutely no response at all. The acting chair of the Department of
Geography at the time, Stephen Gallant, was on sabbatical leave for the
semester. [He] said to me, "Well, you are being flushed down the toilet. You are
dragging the department with you." The concern was not whether Criser really
did it or not, or whether I was somebody who was the victim. The response was
that I was, in fact, the evil person who was dragging the department down into
H: Making waves.
T: Making waves. And I was doing nothing. I was the victim. I do not think that should
ever be forgotten in this. I was the victim. The whole series of things then
started to unravel in the department for me. I think since that date, I have
consistently, year after year, gotten the lowest salary increase, percentagewise
that the department can give. That is there is no faculty member in this
department (I have traced the data) who has gotten consistently the lowest salary
increase in the department other than me. The fallout of Chambergate, this is
what it began to be called in the local press ...
H: Because of its involvement with the chamber of commerce.
T: Yes, because of its involvement with the chamber of commerce and John Stropher.
[It] was for me suddenly an unraveling of an academic career that I had been
oriented toward developing for a long time. There were no more salary
increases. I was shunned by the faculty in my department. Stephen Gallant, in
one of the faculty meetings, said, "I would like to ask for a vote to censor Grant
Thrall." This is censoring the victim. That is like saying to a girl, "Let us censor
the girl because she was raped." This starts to, of course, change my opinion of
the University of Florida.
H: I imagine.
T: I also became more sensitive to issues of academic freedom. The course of events
continued. Faculty would stop me in the hallway and say, "Why do you not get
another job and just leave here?" It still goes on today. Somebody put a job
advertisement Monday with a circle around it. The end result of Chambergate
was a complete shunning of the faculty in the department. It undermined my
authority, which the prestige that I have in the discipline normally would have
brought. It has prohibited me from developing the subject area I wanted to
develop, which was quantitative methods and what has become known as
Geographic Information Systems in the department. I think there has been a
deliberate design in the department, in fact, to not build up my side of the
department. One of the faculty members hired in my subject area (there has only
been one) since that instance is a fellow named (Timothy J.) Tim Fik (assistant
professor of geography). The reason why the faculty voted for Tim Fik, who had
been a student of mine at Buffalo, was the rumor that Tim Fik and I did not get
along. They deliberately hired a faculty member knowing that I did not personally
get along with him.
H: They were wrong, though.
T: I get along fine with Tim Fik. He is a very strange fellow. I get along with Tim Fik as
well as anybody else does. I would not say we are particularly close or
particularly far apart. We get along fine professionally. In fact, that is how I dealt
with that at the time. When Tim Fik was interviewed, I told Tim, "Do not let on
that you and I get along just fine because you will not get hired. In fact, if
anything, let on that you do not like me at all. I will play along with that, too. That
is a sure-fire way for you to get the job offer if you want it." I said, "I hope that if
you are given the offer from Florida you will come here." That is exactly how we
played it. So you can see the perversity here. In order for me to bring in faculty I
think would build up the side of the department, which the students would like to
see built up because that is where the jobs are, you have to pretend you do not
like the other person being hired. So I have suffered tremendously from
H: But you are still standing.
T: What I thought was that I have to make a stand on this. I knew this was going to
certainly not put me in good stead with my colleagues at the University of Florida.
Then again I figured I had nothing to lose here either. I had not been a union
member. In facet I had not a union member until Chambergate. Then I very
quickly joined the union because they had an attractive program for lawyers for
circumstances like this. I continue to be a union person for the same reason. At
every Board of Regents meeting the union is given fifteen minutes or one-half
hour in which they can present anything they want to the Board of Regents. I
made a deal with the union to I speak fifteen minutes. So they allocated to me
fifteen minutes. This was in Orlando. I gave a presentation in the statewide
union fifteen minutes they allocated to me as to what the problems were. I asked
for a full-scale investigation of this. I was not going to be satisfied until there was
a credible full-scale investigation. I would not tolerate a white washing, and I
summarized what the state of affairs were. The faculty in this department, like
the chairs, could read the newspaper just like everybody else. They would see
that an advantage would be gained by mistreating Grant Thrall. Disadvantage
would be gained by not mistreating Grant Thrall. They do not need to have a
direct order from Marshall Criser or ask this guy. I think it put a great tremendous
chill on this campus--what Criser had done. The faculty were scared to speak
out. There was no march on Tigert Hall. I think I did the right thing. By going to
the Board of Regents, stating what I had said there--demanding that there be an
investigation, changed things in terms of the academy here for the better. Not for
me personally--if there could have been another notch down for me personally, I
went there. The Gainesville Sun, of course, which was controlled by Marshall
Criser because he had hired Fitzwater, hired Jack Wheat, the newspaper
reporter. The Gainesville Sun, of course, smeared me. The front page of The
Gainesville Sun read Grant Thrall--evil doer, complaining to the Board of
Regents. The result was that a month later, Marshall Criser announced that he
was resigning as the president of the University. Marshall Criser claimed he was
not resigning because of Grant Thrall. During the remaining year he was here,
he was saying continually, "I am not resigning because of Grant Thrall, academic
freedom, and all these other challenges. I am resigning because of other
reasons." Let us say that that is true. But I do not think that is true.
H: Did he not admit to that in his exit interview?
T: He admitted to having done it. Let us say that it is true that resigning and that it had
nothing to do with Grant Thrall. That was something he thought he could
weather, and I do not think he could have. Let us say he was resigning for other
reasons. Those other reasons were never clearly articulated. What I did was a
good thing. It established a precedent that there is a correct way faculty should
be treated, and there is an issue of academic freedom. You do not use an office
within the University to harass faculty members because of the positions that
they have taken in their area of expertise. Had that gone unannounced,
unchallenged, it would have been a very dismal period for the University of
Florida. I think during that period when this was published in The Gainesville Sun
and until I went to the Board of Regents, it was a very dismal period for the
University of Florida. Perhaps the coldest it had been for some time, since at
least the 1950s, perhaps always. Once I had gone to the Board of Regents, a
huge lid let off the University of Florida. There were plays that were done in my
honor. There was one Galileo that was done. So there was a nice response by
people--largely outside of the University context. Within the University, there was
a great sigh of relief. The geography department, of course, had a very difficult
time dealing with that, and still does. I would say that I certainly have not been
treated as a hero. I have not been treated as a martyr. I am treated as a person
who is being flushed down the toilet dragging the department with them. That
has continued to be the state of affairs since. Dwight Adams, coming from a
much better department than the one here, was, in fact, treated very well by his
colleagues. His colleagues wrote a letter of support to The Gainesville Sun
supporting Dwight Adams. There was no such letter of support from my
H: Did anyone stand with you here?
H: I mean not just within the department, but anybody at the University?
T: One person--Hernon Vera (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING), who was the president of
the local chapter of the union at the time. He was wonderful. Other than that,
there was absolutely nobody. Everybody else, as we say, headed for the tall
grass on that. After I went to the Board of Regents, I had a number of people
coming to me saying, "That is a wonderful thing, what you did."
H: Where were they before?
T: Yes. Where were you when you were needed? Would you like to form a parade?
"Oh, no no. We just wanted to let you know that we liked what you did." That is
probably the state of affairs for what may be called whistle blowers. That is what
I have been called. I am not a whistle blower in the sense that I was not seeing
something that I wanted to go out and reveal, certainly in the case of being
attacked by Marshall Criser. I am not whistle blowing that he attacked me. He
attacked me. I just was defending myself in the only way that I could.
H: Do you think this had anything to do with your wife not being welcome here as even
an adjunct faculty member?
T: Right. My wife, during the course of all this, was able to get her doctorate from this
department. I was not involved in her committee. She wrote a very fine
dissertation, a geographic information software-type dissertation. It was very
pioneering for its day, and it anticipated what ultimately became a very popular
computer program for geographers, planners, and for people as a whole. [It was]
called Sim City. Her program was very much like Sim City, and she tested it
within an educational environment to see whether computer education really
effected learning. Indeed, it did. Today the University of Florida is just now
talking about going into computer learning. The stuff Susan did was ten years
ago. Susan wrote a book that I mentioned earlier on computers in education.
She got a doctorate in geography. She has a publication list that is the equal if
not better than virtually all of the associate professors in the department, save
H: But still.
T: But still. I approached the department saying, "I think it would be appropriate if
Susan become an adjunct faculty member."
H: No cost to the University.
T: At no cost to the University. Here you have one of the most prominent women in the
world in the subject area living in this town. This is an area that is not well
represented by women. You have access to this tremendous labor skill. Here is
a resource that you can draw upon. The response was, "We do not want her
involved in the program."
H: Did they say why?
T: The explanation of (Edward J.) Ed Malecki (professor and chairman of geography,
appointed 1988), the chair at the time, was that it was against University policy to
have two [married] faculty members in the same department, even if one is an
adjunct faculty member.
H: Is that true?
T: I read a short time later that Dean (David Richard) Colburn (associate dean of the
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, appointed 1983) was bragging about a
faculty pair in biology who were splitting the appointment. The husband has one-
half of the appointment, and the wife has the other half of the appointment. Dean
Colburn is the associate dean of liberal arts and sciences underneath Dean
(Willard W.) Harrison (appointed 1988). Should I pursue this and insist that this
be reopened? Well, who loses? Does Susan lose? No. She does not lose.
She has her own life and her own involvement in things. This would just add a
burden of responsibility to her, which she would be willing to do if invited. Other
than that, if they do not want her, fine. Does it benefit me personally? It is very
difficult for me to form graduate committees in my subject area because of the
lack of faculty resources in my particular niche of geographic information
systems. It happens to be in the top twenty-five careers now in the United
States, but I do not have a cadre of faculty that I can put on committees.
H: You also do not have very good resources available to help you do your research
here, like computers.
T: No, I have all of that at home. I provide everything I have for my education
environment and my research environment. I provide for myself. The University
provides nothing. I think that also is a fallout of Chambergate--a deliberate
withholding of sources in the subject area.
H: So there are no computers and no software. You provide for your [needs].
T: No computers. I fend for myself, and I provide for my graduate students and my
graduate seminar. I offered that my wife become an adjunct faculty member.
The response was resoundingly "No, we do not want her." The chair even wrote
a letter to me to that effect.
H: Did they not also write you a letter saying they were not interested in your research?
T: Yes. I had forgotten about that. [Laughter] For some reason the chair wrote a letter
to the dean saying that the department had made a conscious decision not to
invest in the subject area of Grant Thrall, they did not want the subject area of
Grant Thrall, and will not be pursuing the subject area of Grant Thrall. I do not
know any other faculty member in the University that has ever had such a letter
written about their subject area. Incidentally, in geography, if you do not have at
least a minor expertise in the subject area, in academia you are not going to get
a job. So Chambergate continues to have ripples. So what do I do? I could get
another job, and I could certainly get another. I make $62,000 a year now. That
is a salary that I would be willing to take at pretty much every other university. It
is pretty much near the average for U.S. faculty in general, but not for people in
my subject area. For people in my particular subject area, that is vastly
underpaid. The salary range for people in my subject area that would have
national and international prominence would be more in the area of $85,000 to
110,000. I am much underpaid for the prominence [of my field] and my peer
H: Within your peer group of geographers around the world who do GIS and economic
geography, how well are you regarded?
T: I would say that I would certainly be in the top dozen around the world.
H: Out of?
T: Not a huge number. [Laughter] Thirteen.
H: So the top twelve out of thirteen.
T: I would certainly say I would be one of the leading people in my subject area in the
H: The lack of University support has sort of worked out for you, has it not?
T: Yes. For me, how does it effect me personally. Well, at the beginning I had a lot of
trouble with it. I was developing more and more contacts in the community.
Paradoxically, this press, was devastating. I just hated to read the paper in the
morning. There were horrible articles about me done by Jack Wheat. They
painted me as a wild-eyed environmentalist. It was justified even if it was true. It
is not true. But even if it was true, it was justified because I was just a wild-eyed
environmentalist. I am very sensitive to issues of the environment.
H: Would you classify yourself as "environmentalist?"
T: In some respects, yes. I think that to have a quality urban-built environment, you also
have to have a quality natural environment.
H: But you are not against development?
T: No. That is my subject area. I never would have gotten into my subject area if I
hated it. You normally do things you love.
H: So you are not a radical?
T: Well, that depends on your perspective. Some people call me a radical and others
do not. How does it effect me personally? It certainly has required that I do
things in a manner I had not anticipated. Looking back on it, it was fortuitous. As
things started negatively befalling me at this University, my response was to
become more and more isolated from the University environment. A number of
my colleagues did not support me in Chambergate, other than Hernon Bura. I
am closed off from the geography department. People think that I am certainly
persona non grata then and now. So I developed a different orientation. In the
meantime I am finding that this press I had in the community--some people loved
it and thought that this was good. They did not like Marshall Criser either. When
he resigned, they were dancing in the streets.
H: It also has turned your focus more outward from the academic community.
T: Absolutely. It has turned me off on academia. So why did I not leave the University
of Florida? In part, because I started reevaluating myself and my attraction to
academia. Yes, I could take my salary and get an equal job somewhere else.
Then I asked myself why.
H: Why would anybody be an university professor?
T: Somebody just stuck an ad about a job at the University of California at Irvine in my
mailbox. I probably could get it. That would be nice, but why do I want to go to
the University of California at Irvine? There are certain collegial environments
that one could be happy about, but I have reoriented my life. Beginning with
Chambergate, I started to reevaluate my relationship to the University instead of
the relationship the University has to me. I was in a mode where the University
was just part of my larger extended family. It was a very important part of my
nuclear family, in fact. Now I started to change, and I developed a life separate
and apart from the University. Much of that life includes components of the local
community. Instead of being less involved and being scared of "Oh my
goodness, look how upset I have made Marshall Criser. I better not do that
again." I thought the best protection for myself was to do more of the same
H: A lot of your work outside, both in getting involved in private business now, work in
the community of Gainesville, and also work for St. Lucie County, which sort of
blends your community work with your private interests, you have turned that into
T: Yes. Paradoxically, this has been a turning point for me in my life. Emotionally it
really upset me. I was devastated for a long period of time. You make do with
what you got. What I got was the bad end of the stick. So how do you turn that
around in order to be to your advantage? The University does not want to have
anything to do with me. The department does not want to have anything to do
with me. How do I turn that around to my advantage? I have done so.
H: Is this when you started working for St. Lucie County?
T: Yes. I was going through a period of such great emotional disruption. This was a life
path change. I presume it was probably equivalent to getting divorced, though I
have never been divorced. It is probably something like that. I started looking for
other things. I had a sabbatical coming up in 1989. I thought, "Here it is I have
been years without a salary increase. This will not change." I complained to the
Board of Regents. Things did not change except Marshall Criser left, which I
thought was good. By the way, I should mention Professor (David Mark)
Chalmers (professor of history, retired 1994) in the history department stated to
me that he was on the exit committee that Marshall Criser reported to when he
left the University of Florida. Chalmers told me that Marshall Criser said with
great pride, "Yes, everything in those tapes in those tapes that was expressed
was true, and I am proud of it." I have no doubt the tapes represented a true
state of affairs.
In 1989, I went to work with the Homer Hoit Institute. They gave me a resident scholar
status. That is what it was called. It had never been done before. This was
founded by Homer Hoit, who was a professor of real estate, who really founded
the whole discipline of real estate in American academia. He made a fortune
during his life. He left eight million dollars to provide the seed of what ultimately
became known as the Homer Hoit Institute, which is an organization of academic
scholars who are the top people in the real estate discipline. They in doing their
review said, "What we need is geographer in this milieu of people. We have no
geographers." I went to work with the Homer Hoit Institute, which was basically a
real estate academia think tank in Washington D.C. I wanted to get out of town.
I could not have afforded to have my wife to take the year off. In retrospect, I
probably should have done so.
By this time, she had gotten a job at Lake City Community College teaching computer
science. She was not able, and I think because of Chambergate, to get a job
here in Gainesville. So she was working at Lake City Community College which
she likes other than the hour commute each way. People in Los Angeles
commute that far. I have offered to move to Lake City, but Susan would prefer to
remain here in Gainesville.
So I went to Washington D.C., and now we have another distance marriage. I am flying
home about every other weekend from Washington. That begins my jet-setter
lifestyle in 1989. I went to work for the Homer Hoit Institute because they offered
me the money so that I could do it. Secondly, it is in my subject area of land
economics. Homer Hoit in my area is a giant. I started thinking as I am changing
my orientation toward academia, "What is an academic anyway?" I started
thinking more about other career paths and wanting to train myself in other
career paths. Maintaining the career path I had [and] developing another career
path on the side was my goal. The Homer Hoit Institute was the vehicle for that.
They have deliberately created themselves as an organization to bridge the gap
between academia and the business sector. So I worked with the Homer Hoit
Institute during the fall of 1989. During the spring of 1990, I was a distinguished
professor at San Diego State University. They have only about four endowed
chairs across the country, and that was one of them. It was very nice that they
invited me out there in the spring term of 1990. That job became permanently
available later on, and they asked me to apply for it. I chose not to. So I have
had other employment opportunities, very nice ones, in fact. I decided that I was
going to have another career path. That was not going to be one that would lock
me into academia.
T: Entrepreneurship. So I decided to learn about how to be an entrepreneur, using the
skills I had developed from the 1970s in computer technology and my skills in
land economics. Now I needed to bring that together with the business
community. I left San Diego State University early in the summer and went back
to work with the Homer Hoit Institute. The Homer Hoit Institute bought my
teaching time for several years after, so I was getting quite deep with these
people. I think it was in 1992 that I thought I had learned what I was after with
the Homer Hoit Institute. They went their direction and I went mine. I am still
associated with them. They run what is called the Homer Hoit Advanced Studies
Institute. In fact, it is thought to be the highest accolade in real estate academia
to be a fellow of that institute. Specifically, it is called a fellow of the Weimer
School for advanced studies in real estate and land economics. I think there is
about thirty-five fellows, and I am one of them. So you ask me how I stand on all
of these things.
I am a fellow of the Weimer School, the highest academic accolade in real estate. I am
also coeditor of the Journal of Real Estate Literature. I am associate editor of the
Journal of Computer Environment Urban Systems. I am only one of three
academics on the editorial board of Geo Info Systems. The rest of them are
industry people. My goal beginning in 1989 was to bridge this gap between
academia and industry with the possible ultimate objective of going to work in
industry if I so chose. I had other opportunities to work in industry. I had been
offered a job when I was living in Canada to go to work for Cadillac Fairview,
which is one of the largest development companies in North America. At that
time I really was totally committed to being an academic. That was just my
family. Parallel to that, instead of running with my tails between my legs as
Marshall Criser hoped would happen, I was getting more involved in the
community. I actually was trying to get less involved with the community.
One reason why I went on sabbatical leave was to try to separate myself from the
community because it was getting too oppressive for me. I came back and told
people, "No, I do not want to get involved with this and that." Before long I got
sucked into being on the board of directors of Gainesville Downtown
Redevelopment Agency. I thought I would be on the board of directors once a
month and that would be it. That was a meeting once a month. Then they made
me their vice chair. [Laughter] Oh my goodness, it is the same thing! Now I am
the chair of the Downtown Gainesville Redevelopment Agency.
H: When did you start with them?
T: Oh gee. I think it was in 1991, circa that time period. I have been on for about three
or four years. Now I am the chair. In that period, instead of developing other
collegial relationships with other faculty on campus, I found that I virtually know
no faculty on this campus.
H: That does not overly concern you it seems.
T: No. I am fine in that I can be a scholar. Perhaps in my subject area the highest state
of affairs is to be a scholar and a business person, too. I am finding that in my
involvement with the community with the Downtown Redevelopment Agency and
also this earlier land use task force has made me deal with things on an outside
world level better than I could have before. So it has been a tremendous
H: When did you start your business?
T: When I left the Homer Hoit Institute, I figured I had learned all that they could teach
me. There is really not a whole lot of advantage for me. I went to work with them
with the intention that I was going to learn how to be an entrepreneur. I had
learned all that they had to teach, which was quite a bit. I then formed a
company with my wife, still doing my obligations to the University. I used my
evenings and weekends with my wife Susan building up a business. When I left
Homer Hoit Institute, one of the problems when you are in this area is how do
you gain recognition. I did not need recognition as an academic. I had that. The
Homer Hoit Institute had contacts in the business sector which I now shared. But
how do you gain imagability in the business community as a whole? I took on
the challenge of writing a column for the magazine Geo Info Systems, which I
think it is representative of the kind of future that academics have--journals that
bridge the gap between the pure university environment, where only other
university professors are reading it, versus journals that are read by university
faculty and practitioners. I would say Geo Info Systems is read by everybody in
geographic information systems who are faculty members on this campus, every
student, and every person that works in GIS out in the community. It has
H: And they pay you for your articles?
T: Yes, they do pay me for my articles. So that is good, and that is nice positive
feedback. Since I am not getting salary increases from the University of Florida, I
am getting my money elsewhere.
H: Do you still publish eight to ten articles a year?
T: I publish about that, eight to ten a year. The University is getting their moneys worth.
I have been maintaining anywhere from four to eight graduate students on soft
money. I teach the regular battery of classes. In fact, I am the only faculty
member presently here in the Department of Geography to have ever received a
Teacher of the Year award from the University, which the tape cannot see. I
have it proudly displayed here on my wall.
H: Teacher of the Year Award--semifinalist.
T: It does not even have the year. That shows you how unclear that plaque is. It was
somewhere around 1986. I have other awards here. I am developing an
orientation that is equal within the University environment to outside. I think in
my subject area of land economics it makes sense. I consider by often guessing
how things are, but I can also go out and learn how people do things, and then
combine the two. So I think that overall my own academic work has improved
tremendously by my involvement, for example my involvement on the Downtown
Redevelopment Agency, as a consultant in the business community. The
relevance of what I am doing is much better.
The spinoffof me writing for Geo Info Systems, when I decided to leave the Homer Hoit
Institute, I took a longstanding offer to become a regular writer for Geo Info
Systems, which is an academic publication. How it is a new wave is that its
freight weight is carried by advertising. That shows you also how big a business
GIS is today when the advertising carries the cost of the magazine. It is also the
only geography publication that is an academic-type publication that is published
in full color. When you are going to do a map and the kinds of stuff that I am
doing, to do it in black and white is extremely difficult. I had one paper accepted
to a journal, but the journal would not publish it because it was in color. I had to
put it in black and white. I could not put the maps in black and white because of
the variety of information that I was displaying on the map, which the analysis
required. So I published that in Geo Info Systems. Instead of publishing it in the
Journal of Real Estate Research, it went into Geo Info Systems. My own work
has been better.
Along the way, I met a colleague of mine, Alan Marks. He is the assistant professor of
real estate at American University. He will be leaving there this June to work full
time for my company. Two and one-half years ago we incorporated. We found
ourselves doing a lot of work together. I was bringing in consulting contracts.
Alan Marks was bringing in consulting contracts. We found that we both have
compatible expertise, that is I had shortcomings where he had strengths. Susan
had strengths where Alan Marks had shortcomings. So the three of us decided
then to incorporate two and one-half or three years ago now. Alan is hoping he
has his image on Fortune 500 or Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest high-
revenue firms in the country pretty soon.
H: And only three of you?
T: There are three of us, right.
H: What is the name of your company?
T: The name of the company is Spacial Decisions and Analysis. We are incorporated in
H: Naturally. [Laughter]
T: [Laughter] Well, I actually have heard that recently Nevada has become a better
place to incorporate. That is beside the point. We are incorporated in Delaware.
We have a post office box there, I understand. I do not know what it is.
[Laughter] We also have a post office box in Gathersburg, Maryland, which is
our corporate headquarters. It is 444 Frederick Avenue, Suite L, Box 323, which
is at something like Mailboxes Are Us. Some place like that. The firm is
comprised of Dr. Alan Marks, who for fifteen years had been a hospital
administrator. He started managing the investment portfolio of medical doctors
at his hospitals. Along the way, he thought he should learn a bit about finance
since he was doing this kind of stuff. He wound up with a doctorate at Georgia
State University. Lo and behold somebody offered him a faculty [position]
somewhere. He said, "Well, gee. I have been making a six-figure salary for so
long. I have a little daughter. This will give me more time to spend with my
baby." So he to work as an academic.
H: In through the back door.
T: In through the back door, yes. So he was a nontraditional academic. He has had his
fling. He is one of the few people in real estate who really understands GIS,
geography, and the value that location analysis has. Practitioners know the
value of location. If you ask somebody what is real estate, they will say location,
location, location. Real estate departments teach real estate finance. That is
what he teaches, real estate finance. He and I met in 1989 when I was in
Washington, D.C. He was going through a training program in SPANS, which is
a geographic information system software program marketed by a company
Tydac, which has since pulled out of the United States. They had invited me to
also go through their training program. So Alan Marks and I were both learning
this GIS software. I had not used commercial GIS software because we had our
own software. For everything we needed to do we had a library of programs, or
we would write more programs. That is what the GIS software is, just a
compilation of a bunch of programs. We really did not need it. The programs
were mainly for university mainframes. As soon as the Radio Shack TRS80
Model 1 came out back in 1979, 1 got the first one sold in western New York. I
just had moved to Buffalo and bought my first Trash 80. I have not looked back.
I have not used University research facilities since. My orientation has been,
since I left McMaster, that the start-up cost when you change universities is so
great because of the different computer systems. Every couple of months, it
seems like they change the operating system. They change everything on the
computer. Everything you knew before now becomes worthless, and you have to
learn it all over again. As soon as I saw that PCs were available, I bought one. I
geared my own research output to the microcomputer environment as opposed
to the mainframe. That was different than other faculty. Other faculty were
wedded to the big stuff of the University mainframe. I thought, "Well, this is the
future. I got in on the future at ground floor." I have never had a course in
computer programming. I never have had a course in computers, or in anything
dealing with that. I was totally self-taught from the ground floor of the
microcomputer revolution and living with it as the microcomputer revolution has
evolved. Now I write a computer column in a high-tech magazine, Geo Info
Systems. I never have had a course in GIS. GIS did not exist when I was a
student. Now it does. When we teach classes we provide a large amount of
information in an efficient compact manner. I could do that. I think for somebody
today, it would be very difficult to self-teach yourself up to the knowledge level
that I have in the subject area. So Alan Marks and I started working together.
We got along well in 1989. We incorporated three years ago. Among our clients
have been Coopers and Lybrand, which is a big-six accounting firm; and Wyland
Homes, which is one of the biggest home builders in the nation. We now have
Dunn and Bradstreet and Donally (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) Data as a
strategic partners. We are in the process of buying into a company which looks
like is going to become the dominant multiple-listing service software vendor in
the United States.
H: This is all on the verge right now. Nothing actually has come to fruition.
T: We have zero revenues. For a while, we were selling time. We were doing stuff like
data analysis for banks for a while. We just had no end of little jobs selling hours
for a good rate, selling hours for $200 per hour. That is not bad. There is a
ceiling on what you can make, especially if I am working forty hours a week at
the University. How many other hours do I have per week that I can sell? What
time do I have left? There is a ceiling on that. Plus I do not want to have a life
where I am working eighty hours a week selling hours. That is not attractive to
H: So you have gone from selling hours to ...
T: Selling hours was a necessary component. That was my learning curve for learning
more about business. This also spills over into improving my own writing. I think
my writing for Geo Info Systems is among the best that I have ever written in my
entire academic career. The insight for those articles virtually all come from my
knowledge that is gained from involvement with the business community.
H: So you have moved from the academic center, turned your back on the academic
community primarily because it has turned its back on you.
H: You have moved out into the business community, not only because of your
experiences here at the University, but also because that is where your research
would lead you naturally anyway.
T: With my own background in economics, for an economist not to be involved in the
economy--what kind of economist is that anyway? [Laughter] You must practice
your skills. You must have an avenue for learning about what is going on if you
are going to be worthwhile in your subject area. We are doing fabulously well in
our business. What does that bode now for the University? Not just the
University of Florida, but universities of the future. What do they bring to the
table? We are going into an information age where information is no longer the
privileged domain of the scholars. I still consider myself a scholar first and
foremost. In the past, at least since World War II, scholars have been part of a
university environment. I think that era is coming to an end.
While I suffered greatly beginning with Chambergate, what that did was put me at the
forefront of scholars. I still am affiliated with the University and hope to be for
some time, at least the next ten minutes. It has put me at the forefront of
scholars who really do not need the university. I intend to remain a scholar.
What does a university bring to the table? Does it bring research facilities? All of
my research facilities are provided by me. I even have a letter from my chair
saying, "We do not provide research facilities for you, and we never will provide
research facilities for you." Okay, well, that is pretty clear and unambiguous
there. So working at the University does not bring research facilities. The
University does not bring space. Right now, for you listening to this on a tape,
we are in an area about four feet by three feet. My cheek is about a foot and one
half from the tennis shoe of Robert. [Laughter]
H: [Laughter] But it is comfortable.
T: It is comfortable, yes. [Laughter] The University really has chosen to provide minimal
office space, thereby placing the burden of providing the square footage on the
faculty members themselves. The University should not be surprised if the
faculty members spend a large portion of their time doing University work at their
homes. In effect, the University has put the cost of maintaining office space onto
the faculty members themselves. That is okay. I am willing to accept that, but
the University has a cost. The cost is the faculty then have a lower commitment
to the University because they just are not there for the number of hours. It does
not mean that they are not working on University-type stuff, things which benefit
the University like scholarship and so forth. I have many students who come to
my house, and I meet with them there. [These are] my graduate students who
are part of my gaggle of advises. I regularly meet at my home office. So what
does the University bring to the table? Contacts? The contacts are mine and not
the [contacts of] the University. Resources? The resources are mine, not the
[resources of] University.
H: Do you anticipate large changes in the University structure?
T: I think that when you start looking at what the University is bringing to the table, the
University brings to the table a guaranteed, steady income. That is important. It
is not much compared to what one can make in the private sector. I received a
phone call just several weeks ago from a firm who said they would like to hire a
junior Grant Thrall. What they wanted ideally was one of my students who had
been out in the business world for three years, who has weaned themselves so
that they know how to operate within the business environment, and have
expertise of the kind that they thought only I could teach their students. There
are not very many people in my subject area in universities in the United States.
What they were willing to pay this person was $85,000 a year, plus 3 percent of
the gross from any products with which they are involved. That means inside of
five years this person could be a millionaire.
H: You have cut down on the number of graduate students.
T: I receive phone calls regularly, sometimes two a week. Maybe three weeks will go by
and I do not have a phone call. It is in that regularity of businesses inquiring, the
private sector, to employ one of my students. I sent one of my students to
Blockbuster Video, a master of science student. Three weeks later, I was able to
arrange for him a better offer--a 30 percent salary increase. So he quit
Blockbuster and went to First Union Bank in their headquarters up in the
Carolinas. I regularly receive phone calls. My students in academia are hired
away from the University of Florida before they even complete their doctorates.
One went down to Florida Atlantic University. She does not have her doctorates
yet. She left about a year and one-half ago. Another student left last summer.
She is in her first year at Florida State University in the Department of
Geography. She does not have her doctorate yet.
H: Why are these people going into academia when they could go into industry?
T: I think it was the same reason I went in. There was just nothing else that you would
want to do at that time in your life.
H: Is it a particular calling?
T: Yes, it is a calling I think. It has to be a strong commitment. It is not a rational thing.
It is a strong commitment. It is a personal thing that you need to do for yourself.
Certainly the University takes advantage of such obsessed individuals. It would
be crazy not to take advantage of them.
H: As you have proven, it does not necessarily preclude working in the private sector as
T: You can ultimately grow up. [Laughter] I say that mockingly but also seriously. To
become a better academic, the University has to matter increasingly less to you.
I would say I am a better academic today than I was back when I was at Buffalo
where I was working fifteen hours a day for the University. That is, the kind of
work that I do today is of better quality. It was good. It gave me international
fame back then. Let us say that I have a greater level of comfort with my work
today than I did back then. I did good work. It was good work. It is going to be
considered a classic in geography. I am not in any way denigrating that work. I
would say I feel more comfortable with my contributions today, myself personally.
With my contributions today--we will see what kind of lasting power it has. It
certainly is having an impact for the moment.
H: What is your best work? Can you give titles of some articles?
T: That is tough. That is like saying which kid is your favorite. [Laughter]
H: We will come to that later.
T: Just to put my finger on it, my book Land Use and Urban Form was very important.
The article that I mentioned on the Hamilton, Ontario, assessed value to market
value ratio study. A paper that I published recently titled "Cascade GIS Diffusion
Model" published in the Journal of Real Estate Research. It was a very good
study. The ten-volume set titled The Scientific Geography Series--A Collection of
Ten Small Books. I was the author of only one of the books. I was the conductor
who assembled this, conceptualized it, and put it together. It is a conglomeration
of my work, just as a conductor who conducts a symphony. That is part of their
work, too. When (PLEASE IDENTIFY) conducted the symphony,
that was, in part, his work even though it may have been a Mozart symphony.
This was more than a Mozart symphony. These were topics I had
conceptualized. I had thought of who the best people would be, and I held them
by the hand telling them exactly what I wanted to have done each step of the
way. I got pretty much exactly what I wanted.
H: When was that published?
T: The series started in 1984. The last books were published in 1987.
H: That is while you are here at the University of Florida.
T: That is right, but the contract was made at SUNY Buffalo. When I came here, one of
the things they got was the Scientific Geography Series name on those books.
My chair said it was a great embarrassment, but it is thought of as one of the
great intellectual compilations of the discipline. There is no end to denigration
here, so you just learn to live with it and do it kind of jokingly.
H: You have moved beyond that.
T: As a scholar, you have to move beyond the pettiness of any little fiefdom that you
have to be in and move beyond your university. Be bigger than your department
and bigger than your university. I think the problems with Chambergate certainly
propelled me to, I think, become better than what I would have become.
H: Adversity breeding strength.
T: I think so. That does not mean I am treated well here. I do not want to say things
have turned out good in context of the department and good in terms of the
University. I want to say unequivocally they are horrible here. The working
conditions are appalling. My treatment is appalling. Then again, that works to
my advantage. So why do I not jump to Irvine or Santa Barbara? Santa Barbara
has offered me many times if I am willing to go there at their standard pay salary,
which would be a department intellectually more to my liking. This place at this
time is good for me. That is why I do not leave.
H: Another thing academics are judged on is their genealogy of graduate students who
go out and make names for themselves also. You are part of a long line, and
you are creating a line. You have recently cut down your student load to one
T: I have a father and a mother in academia. They are both male. [Laughter]
H: [Laughter] Let us not go into that ...
T: [Laughter]... in this new age of openness. My geography father is Emilio Casetti,
who is one of the great world leaders in quantitative geographer. He is one of
the giants in the discipline. His advisor at Northwestern University was William
Garrison, who is accredited with having founded the entire subdiscipline of
quantitative geography. On the geography side, I am very proud to say it goes
from Garrison, to Casetti, to me. So I have a very wonderful lineage there. On
my other side I am also an economist. My lineage on the economics side is John
Wiker, who was my advisor. I did my master of arts degree under his direction.
He continued on my committee for my doctorate. John Wiker was an academic
who jumped out of academia. He, in fact, led the way for me intellectually
saying, "You can be a scholar, but you do not always have to work inside the
context of the university system." John stayed at Ohio State University long
enough to prove that he could become tenured and promoted. He left for a
political and scholarly career in Washington D.C. think tanks. [He is] a
conservative person, a University of Chicago graduate. He is one of the most
highly regarded and revered urban economists today. His advisor was George
Tully (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING), a professor who is still on the faculty and
not yet retired at the University of Chicago. I met George just last January at the
annual Weimer School meetings because George was being vested as an
honorary fellow of the Weimer School. I introduced myself saying, "I am your
grandson." [Laughter] I am blessed with having two lineages which are very
respectable. That is only something which is personal in terms of how things
work. It certainly indicates the kind of intellectual orientation that I have.
H: But your proteges since .. you have cut down to one.
T: Tim Fik is one of my students who is now on the faculty here. He is doing very well.
He certainly will be one of the most renown of my students. I started advising
him when he was an undergraduate at Buffalo and mapped out his entire
educational career for him. At this University, I have had some good students.
There were not a whole lot of students that graduated. I will have three students
who will go into academia. Paradoxically, they all seem to be leaving this spring.
David Paget (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) will be the first, I believe, African-
American to get a doctorate from this department. Earlier I had the first master of
arts degree African-American to graduate from this department, a person named
Eugene Hall, who had been a mayor of Monticello, Florida. Among my doctorate
students this spring, Marilyn Norweise (PLEASE VERIFY SPELLING) has gone
to Florida State. She has not finished yet. Judy Fandrich has gone to Florida
Atlantic University. David Paget is right now at Austin Pay (PLEASE VERIFY
SPELLING) University. He probably will be leaving for another job very shortly.
None of them have doctorates, but all of them are getting attractive job offers in
an era of academia where the jobs are drying out. Other students are having to
compile a publication list of ten articles and their doctorates, having suffered two
or three years without a job, then getting a job in academia. My students are
getting the best jobs on the market without even having their doctorates. I think
that is indicative of the quality of the students I have been able to attract and also
the image that I seem to have in the discipline.
H: Is this your last student you have now?
T: Yes, now I have deliberately cut down. At one point, I had a staple of eight students I
was fending for in one way or another. I thought,"Well, this is ridiculous. The
University clearly does not care." In fact, I talked to my chair about it. Ed
Malecki said, "The department in no way benefits by you having graduate
students." I said, "You know I am just going to have to come back if I do not get
some help in some way, like release-time teaching. I cannot advise eight
students and also have three undergraduate classes and one graduate lecture. I
have to have a cutback somehow." Malecki said, "I do not care. Cut your
graduate students." So that is what I have done.
H: So no more.
T: I get normally five to six students who apply to me directly per year to go to graduate
school here under my supervision. I turn them all down now. In terms of
students in residence, I now have one. I may agree to be the advisor to a
second, but my goal is to have no more than two. I will be happy with one.
H: How long will you stay at the University?
T: I think that is pretty much up to the University. I do have outside business interests.
In no way does this deal with the University. These are mainly investments I
made, investments in human capital in the form of my wife, investment of money
from refinancing my house, and things like that. Financially, the steady $62,000-
a-year income is very attractive. In the long run, it is not the reason why I am
staying at the University. In the long run, it just depends on how much of a
nuisance the University wants to make of itself. I think I do a good service to this
community and to this University. I also recognize that this University has a
grudge. The grudge was that I was a victim and I did not die.
H: That could be inconvenient.
T: Yes. [Laughter]
H: Speaking again of your service to the community, through your work in the local
community, the Downtown Redevelopment Agency, you have met some very
important people, including Ken and Linda McGern (PLEASE VERIFY
T: This has had a great influence on me in my writing and just on me personally--the
people I have met in the community with the kickoff being the publication of the
Chambergate tapes. I gradually, over a period of years, have gotten to know
Ken and Linda McGern. I cannot say that we were friends at first sight. They
invited us over to their house. I called up a couple of persons I had met and said,
"Who are these people? Are these persons with whom I even want to be
associated?" They said, "Oh yes, they are nice people." So Susan and I went
over there. It was a friendship very long in the making. We have been here now
for thirteen years, so we started doing more and more things together. Susan
and I do not have children. Ken and Linda do not have children. Both of them
are well educated, and both my wife and I are well educated. Ken has a
doctorate in real estate, and Linda has a CPA and a doctorate of juris prudence.
H: Birds of a feather.
T: Yes. We are about the same age. We are all four quite athletic, even though I am
approaching fifty now. I know I do not look it. [Laughter]
H: You hardly look a day over forty-eight. [Laughter]
T: Yes. [Laughter] We are all athletic. We enjoy doing the same things. We have
gotten to be very good friends. We vacation together. I have a second home in
Vail, Colorado. They always come out to our place at Thanksgiving. Susan and
I spend our summers there. The McGerns will come out and visit us during the
summertime. We vacation together down in the Caribbean. Last summer we
went scuba diving down at Turks and Caicos Islands together. We are planning
to do the same next summer at another scuba resort down there somewhere.
H: How do you rate them as community leaders?
T: Let us get the criteria. Do they benefit the community? I think tremendously so. Just
like I benefit the University.
H: Are they as appreciated?
T: I would say that they have supporters and people who do not like them. It has been
challenged that they have the city commission in their pocketbook. They wish
they had. [Laughter] They do not. They wish they had that kind of power
perhaps, but they do not. The decisions they make are decisions to benefit the
McGerns. They are not making decisions to benefit the community at the
expense of Ken and Linda McGern. They make smart business decisions, and
those smart business decisions also serve to improve the quality of the urban-
built environment. I think that is important. I think they are very positive
community leaders, and they are benefitting the community.
H: This is because they concentrate their development ideas downtown?
T: Yes, downtown. With their skills and abilities, they, I am sure, could make more
money if they were concentrating out near Haile Plantation. But they do not.
They seem to be happy making an 8 percent rate of return in downtown
Gainesville versus making a 14 percent rate of return out on Tower Road. They
still are making a good rate of return--not the highest. I think they also get
tremendous personal satisfaction. What is marginally a difference of 4 percent is
personal satisfaction, and also that they know the downtown environment
because that is where they began their investments. They also have
investments in Houston. They have gotten bigger than Gainesville. They have
grown larger than the city. Perhaps we have known each other for so long now
that as they have grown, I have grown too, but in different ways. I think I have
grown bigger than the department, bigger than the University, and bigger than
being an academic. Likewise, the McGerns were small downtown developers
during the same period I was going through this tremendous change and
orientation. Then they became big downtown developers. Then they grew to be
bigger than what this community could offer, or what their bankers were willing to
make loans on. They started buying office buildings in Houston and New
Orleans. They have grown tremendously during that period.
I have been able to use my contacts in the community for my students here at UF. For
example, I have a class where the first speaker was Chief of Police Wayland
Clifton. I have a speaker every Tuesday for the entire double period. Wayland
Clifton was the first speaker. Mayor Paula Delaney was the second speaker.
The third speaker was Nathan Collier, who owns College Park Apartments and is
the son of Courtland Collier. I had Ed Crapo, who is the Alachua County
Property Appraiser. He talked about Geographic Information Systems in his line
work, which I am very close to as I mentioned my assessed value to market
value ratio studies. Today I had Howard Freeman, who owns Freeman Realty.
Freeman Commercial Realty has just become Freeman Realty. [He] is a very
prominent commercial real estate broker, perhaps the most prominent in the
community. Next week, I will have Linda McGern.
H: Not Ken McGern?
T: No. I wanted to keep a mix of women and men. It was a deliberate decision to have
women in as opposed to having all men. I think it is one of the most exciting
classes I have ever offered. I do not know if I will ever offer it again because it is
a tremendous amount of organizational work. I have had students just praise the
class. I like praise from my students. My students often will praise my classes. I
do not know if this class would get more praise if I was just a lecturer. I certainly
am getting more enjoyment out of it. It is more work on my part. It is less work
for me to teach something that I have taught for twenty years. It is more work for
me organizationally. The actual classroom time is where I am just sitting there,
and the guest speaker is speaking. My familiarity with the people I am bringing in
as speakers is one where the class itself is better. Students get to see what the
community leadership is. Geography majors get to see how geography is used
by each of these people in their efforts, from police chief, to mayor, to apartment
developer, to commercial real estate person. Geography folds over into all their
areas of expertise.
H: You have had dealings with other developers besides the McGerns and Colliers.
Apparently not all of them are the brightest people.
T: Yes. I would say Howard Freeman has a doctorate from the University of Florida.
Ken McGern has a doctorate from the University of Florida. That is very rare for
a developer. You cannot be a stupid developer and not be bankrupt. You
certainly can be an uneducated developer and not be bankrupt on the basis of
H: Do you think these people do damage to the environment and to the community?
T: Yes, I think they do. What will happen is that many of them make bad decisions.
Then they will put pressure on the local politicians to do things in such a way as
to have them bail out of their bad decision. I think that is probably where some of
the most harm comes from in the development community. When a bad decision
is made by a developer, and the developer, to get out of that bad decision, puts
pressure on a politician to steer things in such a way as the developer can get
out of it without going bankrupt. With the kind of development that Ken and
Linda McGern do, or the development that I know Howard Freeman is involved
in, is stuff where they have done their homework. They really do not need to put
a lot of pressure on politicians to get them out of the hole. Some other developer
may buy a tract of land of 100 acres, or some member of the Board of Regents
may buy a large parcel of property, and the only way they can increase the value
of that land and make a profit is to steer public investment in their direction,
which is not good necessarily for the public sector.
H: So it does not make good policy and in the long run it really does not bode well for
the environment, does it?
T: No. The environment can be harmed very significantly by dumb development
decisions. You normally will not see the smart developers doing that. The smart
developers do not have to do that.
H: There is enough sprawl to know that there are a lot of desperate developers or
people hungry for profits.
T: I would not say that the McGerns are not hungry for profits. What is the next
question on your list?
H: You mentioned earlier that you like to have women as speakers. You like to invite
women in as opposed to just men, even though if you wanted to you could make
it all men.
T: Today there is much said about latchkey kids. I was a latchkey kids. All the time I
was growing up my mother was working and my father was working. I would say
that between my mother and my father, my mother is probably smarter than my
dad. She ultimately became very successful in business. I saw the fight she had
to fight being a woman of her generation trying to make it in the business world.
She is now seventy-five years old. I encourage women to do well. I have
encouraged my wife to be a career person and to do well in her career. One way
women can get these role models is by seeing other women in successful
positions. So I deliberately chose to have Linda McGern as a speaker as
opposed to Ken McGern because Linda is a very successful woman and is a
good role model for my students. The same with Paula Delaney--I could have
had somebody else on the city commission, but I chose to have Paula speak. I
think these kinds of role models are important for somebody to see, not
necessarily on a daily basis, but to have some time during a part of your
education where you can be influenced and see a role model like that and think,
"I can do that, too. I see how successful Linda McGern is. I can be like that,
too." Or I could say to myself when I am a menial worker at California State of
Technology, "There is Linus Pauling. I can be like that, too." So were the other
giants that I was able to come across at Cal Tech. Having role models are
important, so I deliberately brought in students that the students can look to as a
role model. One of the problems that we have in the University environment is
that I do not think University professors are good role models.
H: By and large?
T: What we represent is that the norm within the University is somebody who is often
not a strong touch on the outside community.
H: Could not make it in industry and that sort of thing?
T: It used to really make me angry when people would say, "It is just academic." That
was a term that just drove me through the ceiling. I do not like to think what I am
doing is irrelevant. "Oh, that is just academic," or, "that is just irrelevant." I think
the nature of the job is going to be successful particularly in your inefficient early
years as you are an assistant and an associate professor. You become much
more efficient in terms of research as you age, as I did. In the beginning, if you
are so split between the business world, government world, and academia, you
are not going to be a good academic. On the other hand, if, once you become a
full professor and you are in the social sciences (I cannot say for the physical
sciences at all), business college, or in the planning schools like architecture, you
do not become bigger than your department and university by branching out and
becoming part of your professional community outside of the university, then you
are going to fall short. The role models the students see are primarily their
teachers, people on television, and sports people. They do not have a chance to
see with clarity the kind of individuals they themselves may want to become.
They may not have any opportunity. In this particular class I have given them an
opportunity to meet the kind of people who would benefit from having a
H: You said you like to encourage women to achieve and provide role models. Is this at
all reflective of a particular political philosophy that you have?
T: No. [Laughter] How is that for an answer? [Laughter] No, I think it is just a function
of the environment in which I was brought up. I was brought up to expect equal if
not superior from my mother than my father.
H: So it has nothing to do with political agenda?
T: No, not at all. It is just a happenstance of birth.
H: What are your politics?
T: Very middle-of-the-road probably. I think one of my favorite songs is by the Beatles:
"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the rights of me, and I'm stuck in the middle
with you." Last night when I was watching the city commission meeting about the
possible inclusion of the College Park neighborhood into the domain of the
Downtown Redevelopment Agency, that song was going through my mind. I, the
chair of the Downtown Redevelopment Agency, was seeing the two groups battle
it out, [and] that song was playing prominently in my mind.
H: Are they going to redevelop the ghetto?
T: In time, yes, the market is going to be there. Cities change over a long period of
time. They do not change quickly. Once they do, because they do not change
quickly, the effect is very long lasting. Once you have made a development
decision, the city benefits or pays the price of that developmental decision for a
very long period of time.
H: Your wife is also involved in the community.
T: She was a secretary of the board of directors of Planned Parenthood. She has told
them she will not accept a higher office. In fact, she has stepped down as
secretary, but is still of the board of directors of Planned Parenthood. That is a
cause she very firmly believes in even though she is a Catholic. She still is very
supportive of Planned Parenthood.
H: Is she a devout Catholic?
T: Not to me, anyway. She was raised as a Catholic. I was raised pretty much as
H: You were not raised in a religious household?
T: No. I did go to church. I was baptized as a Lutheran. I do not recall ever going to a
Lutheran church. [Laughter] Then my father taught Sunday school in a Lutheran
church. He had stopped that before my memory switched on.
H: Do you know why?
T: Yes. They wanted him to be the principal of their Lutheran school at a significant
salary reduction. This was back when I was a baby in California. My parents
were having a hard enough time as it was with the salary of my father and my
mother working behind a chicken counter. My father said, "No, I will not be the
principal of your Lutheran school because we can barely get by with what we
have now, let alone a significant salary reduction." The minister of the Lutheran
church said, "Well, if you do not become principal, then you will not be welcome
in our church anymore." My father said, "Okay." [Laughter] I do not recall ever
going to a Lutheran church.
H: And you do not go to church now?
T: No. We went to a Mormon church for awhile. My father would drive me there and
drop me off at the Mormon Thursday and Sunday school. That lasted for a
couple of years. That did not stick with me. I started going to an Episcopal
church, and went through the confirmation ceremonies as an Episcopalian. I
think I chose the church more on the basis of location. It was convenient to my
H: Location, location, location.
T: Exactly. They had a lot of cute girls there. For me it was more of a social thing. It
was never an intellectual thing for me at all.
H: How old were you?
T: I started going to the Episcopalian church I think when I was in fifth grade. In fact, I
eventually had become an acolyte. I think my network of girls became larger
than the church, so I stopped going to the church. This incidentally was the
church that was run by the George Patton family. It is the Church of Our Savior,
to which my parents house is situated right next door.
H: This is George S. Patton?
T: Yes, the general. He was a local boy ...
H: ... who made good.
T: He was a local boy who made good. My parents house is effectively right next door
to the church. It was convenient for me. [Laughter] I did not notice these things,
but the stained glass windows of the church were in all commemorative battle
scenes to George Patton. You go in this church and there are these stained
glass windows of the army tank. It is the oldest Episcopal church in southern
California. They have redone the stained glass windows to represent George
Patton. There is now a big bronze statue of George in his full regalia of his fancy
outfit that he designed for himself that is standing right at the entrance of the
H: St. George of Europe.
T: George is buried in Arlington Cemetery. The Patton family and the allied Wilson
family have a burial plot in the burial lot of my parents, where I will be buried
someday. It is a short distance away from the Patton family. That is my church
background. It is not religious at all. It is totally social. The universe is more
mystical and amazing than even I can imagine. That is about the depth of my
H: Your pursuit is wealth, not spirituality.
T: I think I have a quest, as all people do, for happiness. I think I am becoming
increasingly happy with myself. I think every year that goes by I am happier with
myself than the previous year.
H: Getting fitter and younger as every year passes.
T: Yes. I am in better physical condition now than I have been for a long time. I jog five
miles pretty much every other day. I eat bananas for lunch, as you saw. I am
quite happy. These are investments. I am not selling time anymore. Selling
time allowed for the accumulation of capital to make investments. I did not have
to use state resources to buy a Progress Center to create a real estate bubble.
These are very legitimate investments that return quite significant triple digits. I
am quite happy. Of course, they could all collapse, too.
H: We will have to talk about that after the tape is off. All of this money, but no children.
T: No. I like kids. I would say that I would have to admit that my orientation earlier in
my career leaves me now saying, "Oops, I did not have kids." I think that is the
orientation of my wife, too. Gee, it would have been nice if we had children when
we got married. We were both thirty years old when we got married, which at the
time was old. Most people were getting married in their early twenties in that era.
So for that era, we got married when we were old. Today it is becoming more
and more frequent when people marry later like that. Susan and I are the same
age. We are both forty-seven, not forty-eight, like you said.
H: I thought you said that.
T: No. I will be forty-eight June 29, some months from now. We never sat down and
deliberately said, "Let us have a baby." I think it is, "Whoops, we should have
had some," and I think that both of us wish we had. Now that we are forty-eight,
do we have the child living with us for twenty years, do we want to be sixty-eight
years old when the child is leaving the nest?
H: So there is no going back.
T: I would say that it is possible. I wish we did have children. I am not moping around.
It is not playing heavily on my mind. It would have been nice. I view children
also as a consumer good. I certainly have enough wealth today that I could
afford to ...
H: ... buy a few. [Laughter]
T: Yes, buy a few. This might be a component, too. My parents were horribly poor
when I was a kid. I did not want to have kids when I was horribly poor and a
graduate student. I think that was certainly a reason why I held off getting
married and why I held off having children. My feeling is that if you are going to
have children, you should be financially responsible for those kids. The
circumstances were such that I could not have been a responsible parent for the
children. There was a colleague of mine at McMaster--a guy named Peter
Jones. Peter was hired the same time I was hired at McMaster University. He
had two children. He was on public assistance. He made the same income I
made. I felt sorry for Peter. Peter ultimately left academia for that reason. But
my feeling was that if you are on public assistance, you make a choice to have
children or not. I do not choose to have children and then go on public
assistance. Today I could afford to raise a child in the way that I think would
make a child very happy, but now I am forty-eight years old. I do not know if that
is in the cards now.
H: It is ironic that poverty is with youth and wealth comes with age.