This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Michelle Busby
Interviewee: Edward Blue
UF 275 AB
April 20, 1995
Please note that since both last names begin with the letter B, I used the
interviewer's first initial instead of her last.
M: It is April 20, 1995. I am Michelle Busby. I am interviewing Edward G. Blue
[Assistant Director of Development, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences] for the
Oral History Program at the University of Florida. We are in a conference room
at the Reitz Union. You go by Ed generally?
M: Could you go ahead and give your full name, including your middle name.
B: Edward Gene Blue.
M: Why do we not start off with you telling me when and where you were born?
B: December 1, 1954 at Pompano Beach, Florida. I do not know which hospital and I
do not know the time. It amazes be that people know the exact time when they
were born, but I do not know that. It is Pompano Beach, where I grew up. My
family is still located in Pompano Beach. I am one of nine children--four brothers
and four sisters. I am the fourth oldest, not quite in the middle, but almost in the
middle. We are all basically in Florida. I did have a brother in North Carolina but
he is now visiting my parents down in south Florida, and may return to south
M: You had mentioned on the phone that you were interested in doing a family history.
Do you have any background you can use?
B: Unfortunately, we do not. In fact, I saw my mother last Thursday. We had dinner. I
mentioned to her that one of my volunteers in Jacksonville [upon] the first time
meeting this gentleman was curious about my last name. In fact, there was an
article in the Jacksonville newspaper, The Florida Times-Union, about a Blue
family--Christopher Blue. This Christopher Blue had written a book about his
family who was primarily in the south Jacksonville area. It talks about the family
being involved in lumber, being part of Indian tribe, and is fairly comprehensive.
So this contact thought that there must be some relationship because the name
was spelled the same. It is a very unusual name. I took the article and through
information in Jacksonville, got a number for this Christopher Blue. I called him
to see if there is in fact a connection. I have not heard from him. The book is like
$49 or $50, and I wanted to be sure it was worth the $50 to shell out to see if
indeed [it is true]. I mentioned to my mother, and she did not recognize the
Christopher Blue. We both kind of agreed that because [of where] my father and
his family are located (my father was born in Sanderson, Florida between Lake
City and Jacksonville) that there likely would be some connection because of the
proximity. I am curious about it because as it true with a lot of families, there is
no written history. You only get it through your relatives, grandparents, aunts,
and uncles talking about it. People try to remember what happened. My father is
dead. He died back in 1981. I currently have one more uncle on my father's side
and also an aunt.
M: Why did his family move to Pompano?
B: That is a good question. My father and two of his brothers started a taxi business in
south Florida and ran it there for many years. In fact, my uncle, who is still living,
I think he still has a part of the company which is still in operation. As far as I
knew, that is one of the things that my father did. My father was also very
interested in working in landscape design and architecture. He worked for a
nursery for some years in south Florida. He finished that and became involved
with his brother in the business. I do not know what prompted them to move
from north Florida to south Florida.
M: Maybe economic opportunities.
B: Very likely. South Florida is an interesting mixture of people who have relocated
from the northeast and the midwest to get away from the cold. They come down
for maybe a vacation and then decide this is really great--let us stay. We now
often tease each other about the fact that south Florida really is not the south. It
is more the northeast if anything. North Florida is in fact more southern and has
more southern traditions and what people tend to think about the south. It was
interesting growing up in high school because a lot of my friends and classmates
were exactly transplants. Their families were transplants from up north. We
really did not get a sense of the south until we traveled up to north Florida when I
relocated here. I started coming in contact with it regularly.
M: Was your mother from Pompano?
B: No, my mother is from a place called Ocilla, Georgia.
M: Where is that?
B: It is south of Atlanta. I guess the closest city that most people would recognize would
be Macon, I think. It is a very small community. I remember going to visit my
grandfather in Ocilla, or just outside of Ocilla. It was a late night. We had been
driving all day long. I just remember going into the house. There was a very tall
man with lots of hair. I do not remember how old I was. I just remember that
image. It was the first time we had really left Pompano in search of relatives.
We drove all the way up to Ocilla. I do not know if we got any farther north than
that. It was really interesting.
M: Growing up in Pompano was not a southern experience.
M: Did you have a happy childhood? [You grew up in a] huge family.
B: Yes, a very large family. We all became very independent, but at the same time
dependent. The older kids basically helped the younger kids grow up.
M: Were you classified as the older or the younger? Were you the helper or the
B: I was always in the middle. I was kind of like the helpee, to use your phrase. I was
always still very much independent. We all had responsibilities that we either
took on or that were assigned to us. We just basically ran the household. Both
my parents worked. As I mentioned my father worked for the company. My
mother made work out on the beach for a while. Then as we grew older, she got
a job working for the Board of Education for Broward County. I was still in high
school. So that changed that and improved it a little bit. Growing up was a lot of
fun. It was extremely crazy because there was all of us there at various ages.
We were very close knit. My mother was very protective as is the case with a lot
of African American mothers back then. We had curfews. We were disciplined
very severely for problems and getting into trouble, so we avoided those things. I
think it is interesting because there are two basic generations among my brothers
and sisters. My eldest brother is fifty or fifty-one. My youngest sister is in her
late twenties. We saw the different way that they were brought up by my
parents. It was extremely the opposite of what we were. In other words, we
were much more disciplined and much more structured in our attitude about
school, people, older folks, respect, and all of that. With my younger brothers
and sisters, there was a lot more leniency. As a result, they got into a lot more
trouble to than we did. I would say overall I had a good childhood. My parents
instilled in us the idea of education early on.
M: I was going to ask about that. You know your mother and father had their hands full
with each of them working and nine children. What were they able to do? You
have obviously come to the University of Florida and have been successful. How
were they able to manage all that?
B: They basically just really taught us or really hammered into us the value of an
education that in this day and age, in order to be successful as an individual or a
person, you have got to have an education. You have got to go through the
educational process. That is from the beginning all the way up through high
school certainly, but college was also very essential. I became very active in
high school. I had always been a good student because when you got your
report card, the report card was immediately given to your parents. If you got
bad grades, you were punished. It was not like oh well, let us try and do better
next time. You were punished if you did not do well. So we had an incentive to
do well in school. I did. I was a very good student I would say 95 percent of the
time. The time that was difficult for me was the transition between going from
eighth grade to ninth grade because that was back in the late 1960s (1968 and
1969) when desegregation took effect or was actually implemented. They
phased out the high school that we had all grown up with and had looked forward
to and getting our degrees from. It was a tremendous tradition. When they
closed that school and bused us to Deerfield Beach, about fifteen miles from our
home and neighborhood, there was a difficult transition time. Up until that point, I
had good grades. I was always on the dean's list the majority of the time. It is no
less than the honor roll. I was in advanced classes. Moving to Deerfield Beach
and just making that adjustment [[please finish thought]]. The one area that
has always been and is still an area that I have not excelled in was the math.
That was a very difficult road to try and get beyond. I did. I managed to get
through that. My tenth grade year was better. In eleven and twelve, I was very
successful. I was very active. I was president of both my junior class and senior
class. I was involved with student government.
Once the desegregation plan took effect, the administrators, the adults if you will, finally
realized that the problems that we were having were not being addressed
because they were not involving the students and not asking the students to give
their ideas or inputs on how could we make this thing work. It is here. We have
got to deal with it. How can we make it work? They developed human relations
committees that were comprised of students from different communities and
M: That you set up?
B: I was involved with that. I was involved with it in my high school. I became involved
with it on a county-wide level. It was called the Youth Advisory Council. It was
comprised of students from all the counties--Broward, Dade, and Monroe. [It]
was basically the south Florida area. The goal was to involve the students in this
process of how we could make relations between the races better, relations
between students, faculty, and administrators. At that point, we all said, "If we
could have done this before, we could have avoided some of the problems." The
basic fault of desegregation was every day, you bus the students from their
neighborhoods to another neighborhood. They are in that high school for four or
five hours. Then you bus them back to their communities. There is no
interaction after that point. That is where the fault was. There really was not an
opportunity during the school time to really get to learn about other people and
other things because you have got your structured classroom setting. There
were always the extracurricular activities which we were very successful at
getting a cross section of students involved in sports, music, drama, and all of
those. We made it very clear that you just cannot take students, put them
together for five hours, and expect for them to be the perfect citizens, they love
each other, and they have this warm and fuzzy feeling about each other. That is
a ridiculous expectation. Through the Youth Advisory Council and the human
relations committees at each of the different high schools, we saw a little bit
better relationship but never 100 percent. Unfortunately, a lot of my friends in
responding to desegregation really became rebellious. They rebelled against the
system. A lot of them developed really serious discipline problems. They
dropped out. They just really turned their back on the system. I had decided
early on that I had a very real interest in education. I wanted to further my
education. I wanted to go to college. In order to do that, you had to do certain
things. You had to do your homework. You had to perform. You had to come to
class. You had to do those things within the confines of the system. As a result
of that, I would say that not so much being shunned, but I was isolated on some
levels because I was not following the norm. I was not following what the
majority of my friends were doing. I still was not part of the other community as
well. They had their group and their situation. By the time I got to the twelfth
grade, some of that had changed. Some of the students started to realize this is
important and I need to get my act together.
M: Apparently, you were well respected if you were student body president two years in
B: Yes, two years in a row. I represented a balance.
M: Did you enjoy that role or was it like why me, I am only seventeen?
B: It was a combination of [things]. I saw a need for it and I saw a real need for
dialogue, discussion, and for people coming together and just talking. There was
so many misconceptions about who we are. We all are different but we all are
very similar. You will not know that unless you take the time to talk to someone
or be involved with a person in a project or whatever. I was a very strong
advocate for discussion and meeting. Let us talk about this and come to some
harmonious ground. It was difficult because there were people who just did not
see it the same way that I did. I had some of the white students who would just
not have anything to do with me because of what I was trying to do--bring the
races together. I had some of the black students who said, "This is not going to
work. We do not want any part of it." I was never called an Uncle Tom. I forget
what it was that they called you.
B: That was a term. That was hard. That was difficult.
M: Especially at your age. You were a kid.
B: In addition to that, there was no support. The administration was almost on the same
level that we were, the students, in trying to come to terms with that as well.
They had the same situation with black administrators, teachers, and so forth.
Everybody was trying to deal with this race issue on so many different levels. I
think the consistency and persistence that I demonstrated by being involved with
student activities, being involved in the county, being visible, and being
successful really helped. I think it helped other students. I think it helped other
students see that you can get above all the nonsense and achieve the goals that
you set for yourself or what you think you can go after. There was very little
support. Having decided I was going to go to college, I knew that I had to do
certain things. My family could not afford it first, so what was the alternative?
Financial aid, scholarships, and the like. I was very lucky because I did get a
couple of scholarships from the high school. I was able to get a Florida Student
Assistant Grant, and in other words a full financial aid package from the
University of Florida. In fact, that was the deciding factor to come to Gainesville.
I applied to Morehouse and to Clarke, both in Atlanta, and Morris Browne. I had
been in touch with all of them. Florida was the only one that offered me a full
financial aid package that consisted of the Florida Student Assistant Grant,
National Direct Student Loan. I am surprised I can remember all of these. It was
such an important part of my life and career. I am not surprised in a way. That
was the beginning. I was fairly unique in that sense because the guidance
counselor in the high school, like everybody else, were overworked. They did not
have enough staff. They were poorly lacking. If the student did not have the
ambition and some sense of what they wanted to do, how they were going to
achieve, where they were going to go, and interest in the process, then the
guidance counselor was really trying to help them get through high school. Let
us take this one step at a time. In actuality, if you are going to college, that
process starts in actually the ninth grade with all the protesting.
Anyway, I got the information and I followed through on it. The guidance counselors
were of minimal help. They helped me in the direction. My point is that for other
students who did not have that kind of direction, you can imagine how lost they
were and really did not take advantage of some opportunities that were available
M: They probably did not even know about them.
B: They did not know. They did not know to ask the questions.
M: I am going to take you back to the ninth grade. You said that was a troubled year, a
year of transition. Did you develop personal coping skills that kind of carried you
through the rest of your high school years? What did you have to do personally
to deal with this situation?
B: I think mostly I would retreat. I would become the recluse depending on the
circumstances. At the same time, I was very active in chorus. I was the tenor in
the concert chorus. We did a lot of performances. We did a lot of traveling. That
was a great way to get away. That was a great release. I got along with that
group of students very well. So that was a fun release and a fun getaway. I
basically just would either retreat within myself and just focus on my education,
focus on studying and on what was at hand. There were a few friends who were
like mine who felt the same way. We would get together and do things. There
was some support. It got better as time went on and as more students showed
an interest in really wanting to make things work. I became friends with a lot of
the white students. We kind of created a little niche, a little group. The group
expanded as time went on. In the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth, it was so much. I
was so active and so involved trying to get into college. I had a lot of things to
distract me from some of the negative things that were happening.
M: What were your mom and dad counseling?
B: It was interesting. My parents really thought I really did not confide in them in some
of the petty things. I would handle it so well that they really did not know of any
real emotional problems. I do not think there really were any because I handled
it so well. I did not really talk to them about somebody called me an oreo. I
never talked to them about that. I was very lucky because I very early on got a
reputation for being a very good student, and not being a problem child. My
parents never had to come on campus and discipline me or come to a teacher's
meeting and be overwhelmed with all the problems. I was lucky in that sense. I
could really just do my thing, just continue as I had always continued and not
really attract any attention. I think that helped me cope because it gave me an
opportunity to deal with the problem to come up with the solution on whether to
confront somebody or not to confront somebody. I just really concentrated on the
things that I became involved with very actively. After that is an interesting
transition. Having been so involved in high school and having to deal with all of
those problems and solutions that a lot of times no one would really take you
seriously or implement them, I decided that once I was accepted to the University
of Florida, I was going to concentrate on that. I would not get involved in any
kind of student activities at that point.
M: How long did that last?
B: Well, that lasted through the freshman year anyway. It was interesting. I loved
coming to Gainesville. I came to Gainesville in the summer of 1973. It was an
early admission program. It was for minority students who did well on tests and
so forth and so on. The idea was to bring them up during that summer term
when it is not as crazy and hectic, and see how successful they would be. I was
again very lucky and fortunate that I came up and just got into it. I just learned
the system. I had pretty much decided that my area would be public relations,
journalism, communications--in that vein because it seemed to be an area that I
could do well in. I already had a goal when I first started. It was not like I will try
this, I will try that, or I will try this. I had a really clear direction. I immediately
learned the system. I learned the drop/add business. I learned the financial aid
pickup. I was very proud of myself. After that first semester, I did not stand in
M: That is quite a feat.
B: I did not stand in lines. I did early registration, preregistration. If the financial aid was
due, I would make calls to the Financial Aid Office and manage to get to the right
person to see what is the best way or is the money here. Do I go here? I really
was interested in learning the process. I saw the long lines, and I stood in them.
I am not saying I did not stand in them. I did in the learning process. When I
found out how you cannot stand in line, it was a piece of cake. It was nothing
that I did. It was the system, and my learning and understanding how it worked.
As a result of that, I am a big advocate of new freshman [coming to summer
term]. If you can come to summer term, that is your best bet. You can learn the
simplest thing as where my classroom [is].
M: I came here as a freshman and I was totally overwhelmed.
B: Yes. The campus is gigantic and it is getting larger because they are always
building. New buildings are popping up everywhere. So the simple logistics of
classrooms, financial aid, the libraries, how you go to the library and do research-
-those very basic things that you can learn during a summer term. Generally it is
a quieter term. You take a few hours or you can take a full load, but you can get
to things. There are not the masses that you have to get through. That was
another reason why I wanted to concentrate on that and not get involved with
student government. I really did not get involved in any student programming on
campus until probably late in my sophomore and junior years.
M: Did you just thoroughly enjoy your anonymity?
B: Exactly. That is exactly what is was that first term. It was anonymity in the sense
that I can just retreat into the sense of why I was here. I was involved too. I
have to say we were party animals too like everybody else in Gainesville at the
University of Florida. In fact, it was the demise of a lot of students because we
partied quite heavily. We were located in Tolbert and Weaver. Is it Weaver?
M: Weaver and then there is South Hall.
B: Yes, South Hall. We were in that area. Of course, the women' dorm was separate
from the men, so we were still segregated at that point. We would always go to
the women dorm in the basement and we would have little parties and jams. It
was every night. Frequently, people would show up as long as people stayed.
Again, I had a very clear mission in my mind. I did my studying and all that and
so was successful that summer term. I became involved with Sunland. My
roommate at the time...
M: Tell me about Sunland.
B: It is now called Tahachalee on Waldo Road. It is the mental health services
organization. I am not quite sure how my roommate at the time got involved with
it. One of his colleagues in information systems at the time were involved. She
was a psychologist. They got involved. What we did was we would go out [there
and say], "We are University of Florida students. We would like to volunteer to
help out and do whatever we can." We were assigned a house, a residence. We
would go on the weekend and have picnics, or do barbecues. We would cook.
We would buy all this food, cook, and prepare it and take it out to Sunland. The
kids would come out. We would go to a certain pavilion. We did that throughout
M: You keep saying we. Are these new friends, old friends, or both?
B: These are new friends. These are friends that I met here in Gainesville. My
roommate, who actually was from Ft. Lauderdale, and his friends from Miami and
Lauderdale. We all became a very close, tight, little group. We were totally
alienated from the campus. It was not anything deliberate, but we were just
separate. We had our own little community. We worked at Sunland. We did
volunteer work. We did not do it to get any recognition. We thought it was a
good thing. A lot of these kids did not have family, so it was nice thing. They
really loved it. So that was fun. I am trying to remember. I do not know the
exact time frame or the year. As I moved through my program, I was admitted
into journalism and communications. Once I started getting involved in public
relations, I got involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America.
The offshoot of that was involvement with the national, professional group the
Public Relations Society of America. They had a chapter in Jacksonville. I went
to many conferences sponsored by PRSSA chapters throughout the southeast.
We had conferences here and workshops. I really started getting involved with
that. That was where my energy was focused, right within the college and
specifically in public relations. I was a historian one year for the program, for the
group. I also joined a service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. We ran the
information booth on campus. That attracted me because it was a service
fraternity, not a social fraternity. We did a lot of community work. We did the
information booth on campus. That was an interesting experience because you
have a group of guys working together really doing community work, really doing
work to support the University of Florida as opposed to the social fraternities. I
had a bias towards the social fraternities and the Athletic Association. I thought
from what I could see and what I remember experiencing, the social fraternities
were good for individuals that needed that kind of cultivating or attention because
the campus is so huge. It was huge then. There is a tendency for students to
get lost, and as a result, not really be as productive and get as much out of it as
they can. I remember maybe one African American in a fraternity. That said
something to me. I even actually went through RUSH one time with a friend of
mine. We were just curious. We went to a couple of the RUSH parties. We
went to Alpha Phi Omega and liked what we saw and heard. I think there was
still always that race relation question. Even now in the 1990s, we still have that
as you can clearly see in the media and so forth. Those were my initial activities.
The Public Relations Society of America and being involved with public relations
I really went into full steam.
M: Did you find race relations a little bit more smooth outside the social fraternities?
B: Not necessarily. In fact, it was almost very similar to high school in that you had
friends in both races or a variety of friends. On the campus as a whole, the
blacks still hung together and had their parties and activities. The whites did their
thing. Of course you had the majority, the fraternity group, and then the non-
fraternity or sorority group. Everybody found their niche within the limitations of
campus. There was a lot of discussion during my undergraduate time about
needing more minorities, not only just students, but faculty. We need
administrators. We need role models. We need to see people involved in other
areas other than physical plant. There are indeed people out there like us who
can achieve and are successful and who can come to the University of Florida. I
think that was very true then. We saw some changes. We saw new faces. I
think now it may be in the reverse. The numbers are declining. You see that
there is more of a Hispanic presence now as one of the minority groups. Outside
of the University, the Gainesville community itself is another area.
M: Is it ever.
B: You were either accepted there or you were not. I think one of the things I did in my
quest for anonymity was I just withdrew from everything. I was not even
interested in the outside community and had a very limited interest in the campus
community. I am still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do and what is
necessary for me to do that. I have to admit that it was difficult when I finished
my bachelors degree. I interviewed like everybody else. I sent out resumes. It
was a very difficult time. There were not positions coming from the interviews
that I had. It was very frustrating even with the involvement with the PRSSA and
having an internship. Ultimately all of that does help and it did help. Right at that
point, when you are graduating and you have got your resumes out there, it just
did not seem to be coming. I do not know if that necessarily has anything to do
with race, but I think it is part of the whole educational process--getting the
degree and then applying for a job that is going to let you apply that degree to
what you are doing. I do not want to ramble.
M: I am going to ask you a specific question. I do not even know if I am imposing my
own view here. You were talking about being at the University of Florida and
sometimes fading in and out. You were kind of grappling with this issue of race.
Do you ever resent that you have to fight for your own state supported school?
Did you ever have feelings of resentment?
B: I have never really thought of it in terms of resentment, but I guess I did. I did for a
long time because here you have done all the right things, just to be very
encompassing. You have gotten a degree which says that you have achieved
more than just the minimum requirements to get that degree, which qualifies you
for this, that, and the other. You would think that having done that, that when you
are in a job market, there should be some support and something that comes
from that. I remember being very frustrated even with the Career Resource
Center here. Going through that process was less than productive. It was
informative, but it was less than productive. I do not think the center at that time
was really serious about employment for students after they finished their
degree. They were for certain students. They were for the engineers.
M: Who were going to find a job anyway.
B: The accountants. There were certain niches that worked for the Career Resource
Center. The companies that came on campus were very successful at recruiting
those students. [For] a student with a public relations degree or a liberal arts and
sciences degree, it was going to be very difficult. There were few listings for job
openings that would say beginning entry level public relations job or entry level
history major or whatever. I think now that is changing and almost to a
disadvantage. They have become so broad and vague that depending on your
interview skills and your people relations skills, you could fit into it through the
interview process, and then get into the position, hopefully grow, and find
yourself, which would benefit the company. Back then, I remember everywhere
you looked there were engineers and accountants. I am going what is the
monopoly here. There was a tremendous amount of frustration having done all
the right things, followed the process, and still finding the difficulty in getting a
job. I guess the resentment falls in my mind on the counseling and the advising
that we did or did not get. I just assumed, I am sure a lot of students assumed
that if you are involved with a professional group or professional society like the
PRSSA, and you are involved in those activities and making those contacts,
something will come from that. I have to admit that they did open some
opportunities for interviews and contact that I would not have gotten otherwise. It
really did not produce a job. I am resentful in that fact. We spent all the time,
energy, and money going through and getting a college degree. Now what?
M: So graduate school. Was that intended or was that why do I not give myself a
couple more years?
B: It was intended, but it also fell into that same category as well. Give myself some
more time to develop my academic background and also give me a chance to
learn what I should have learned early on in my undergraduate. You start
thinking about employment your freshman year.
M: I think you are right.
B: You really start early on because by your junior and senior year, you are so
overwhelmed by what is required those two years that anything else is a
distraction. You are not going to be as successful with it. I think the students
should make some decision their freshman year and move toward that decision.
If they need to change, that is fine too. Change it, but keep your perspective in
tact. The closer you get to a degree, you do not do an internship during your
M: You should not.
B: It is too late almost by then.
M: I think you are right.
B: I think you do it as soon as you get an opportunity to do it. The earlier the better.
M: That is why people have job dissatisfaction and get out.
B: Absolutely. That is one of the things I experienced so I have a very clear idea of how
to change it and how a student can be successful. I did not know that early on. I
knew it going through the process my senior year and junior being in the job
market. I took some time off. I lived in California for a few months and worked
for a company for a friend of mine.
M: What part of California?
B: Santa Monica. A friend of mine owned a travel agency. I helped her with that. They
were going through a transition from manual reservations to computer. So I
helped during that transition but kept my sights on Florida and Gainesville. [I]
decided I would come back and pursue a masters degree. Mickie Edwardson
[Mickie N. Edwardson, Distinguished Service Professor of Journalism and
Communications] was my committee chair. I was very attracted to Mickie. My
interest started to go into broadcast. It has to do with race relations again. My
idea was do people perceive different newscasters differently. Do people
perceive a black newscaster less credible than a white newscaster and the
information that they deliver. If I say such and such, you would believe me more
than my colleague who is white. I went about researching that and getting it
down to a research concept. Mickie was very instrumental in helping me do that.
I wanted to find out if race did have an impact on the newscaster ability to
communicate with his audience. The results indicated that there is no difference.
The perceptions are almost the same. We defined it further by saying what
about does age, race, or sex make a difference. We did a semantic differential.
We pulled several words and then had a range of I agree or do not agree with the
word [to look at] credibility, believability, accurateness, and so forth. So that was
a very interesting experience. I have to admit that working on a masters degree
was the most rewarding and satisfying [experience]. [I had] less stress. It was
great. It was really wonderful. You were the person in charge. It is your project.
During my masters degree, I was offered a position as a graduate research assistant in
the graduate school. It sponsored research at the time. I accepted [it]. I worked
for the first black assistant dean for the graduate school for the University of
M: The name?
B: Her name is Mildred Hill-Lubin [Associate Professor of English]. Mildred is an
English professor. We were interested in recruiting minority graduate and
professional students to Florida, again trying to increase the numbers and bring
about a balance. My specific task was to travel throughout the southeast and
visit colleges all over the southeast. AT&T up in Greensville, University of North
Carolina, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Hampton Institute. Just
all over. Wherever we identified black students working toward a professional,
graduate degree. We applied for a grant through the Department of Higher
Education in Washington, and got the grant that was geared toward increasing
the number of graduate professionals and minority students. In fact, at the time,
it was called the Graduate Professional Organization--Graduate Professional
Opportunity Program, GPOP. It has now since been reincarnated to something
current. I do not know what the name of it is. It was a grant that we applied for
and got. This was back in 1979 and 1980. That was the time frame. I finished
my masters degree in 1981. That was again a learning experience because we
found what we knew to be true. There were a lot of black students out there who
have tremendous potential and capability of pursuing graduate professional
degrees at the University of Florida. If we just give them an incentive, the
financial aid, support system, then it will work. We were successful. I remember
one summer we brought in some graduate professional students from across the
southeast and enrolled them in different programs across campus. We were
basically the clearing house for the manual support system.
M: So you were not just funding graduate students fraternally, or within fraternities on
B: No, it was for all colleges.
M: It was campus-wide. Okay.
B: It was for all colleges and all programs--IFAS, the medical school. Those were the
two most visible, and journalism. They were the two most visible colleges that
had really talked about wanting to have more minority students and would
support them. That was a real easy sell in a lot of cases. What happened in
some cases, as you can anticipate the problem, the financial aid becomes a real
issue. Even though we were getting the money from the government and from
other sources on campus, it is always not enough. You need supplements. The
departments are always grappling with that. How can we give them more? How
can we help give them that extra boost? Some departments were successful
with it and some were not. Again, that was an interesting relationship and
experience with the University of Florida within the context of African Americans
on campus, and the University being active in pursuing African Americans both
on the professional and graduate level. I could see a commitment in one sense
from the University toward this goal, but I also experienced some of the problems
and shortcomings in some of the problem areas that were facing the University
and the students.
M: Who were your greatest supporters and detractors for this program?
B: I guess I would say from a higher level, the president. The president was very
supportive of it. The detractors (I really would not say detractors), but the
problems became very individualistic when you got to the department level. The
departments, by the nature of the department, had limited funding. When the
issue came up, we had already allocated our funds for this. So there are no
more funds for student support scholarships, etc. There were no more
assistantships. That created a problem for a student who needed one. I do not
think it was necessarily an individual or a group. I think it was just the system
itself and the way it was designed. There was so much inflexibility in a lot of
cases, that when a student had a specific need, if the monies were not there,
then the department could not do anything about that. I know enough now that
some departments have greater flexibility with their funds, but they can go to
another fund that has nothing to do with student support scholarship and take
those dollars and give them to the students for support. When a department did
that and we were aware of it, that is an obvious commitment to us that we
thought was very visible and very strong. When a department would not support
the student, which meant that they were following the letter of the law in terms of
financial aid, budgeting, and so forth, then we would go to the president, the
Affirmative Action Office, or some of our resources to try and get support for the
students. The other issue, as far as financial aid is concerned, is if the student
was a good student, successful, and on track, then chances are 99 percent of the
time the department would find funding for that student because that is an asset
to the department. If the student was marginal, there is less of that support. We
found ourselves in a few situations on that level, that a student was not doing
well. How do you convince a department to continue to support the student?
Again, it is interesting to have been on both sides of the fence, to see the
workings as a student and to then go and see the workings as an administrator.
M: Now was this program the genesis of the program that is now in place at the College
of Journalism that Charles Harris [started]?
B: Yes it is Charles Harris [Charlie James Harris Jr., assistant instructor]. No, it is not
really. I would not say it is a direct genesis. I would say it had an impact
because when I remember when we started recruiting our students, there were
several in journalism and communications. Because that was my college, I could
go in and do some of the [things] behind the scenes and make sure the student
was being recognized as a student in our program or being recruited by our
program, and given every opportunity to be apply and be accepted. The dean of
College of Journalism and Communication early on made the commitment about
increasing the number of minorities in journalism and communication, and has
been very successful in getting scholarship support from the Gannett Foundation
and other communication, media type organizations across the country,
specifically to recruit and support minority students. We were part of that
original, campus-wide discussion [about] how to increase minority presence in all
of the different colleges. I guess you would say that we were the genesis of a lot
of programs because we were the ones doing it actively. I know medicine had a
person involved with minority recruitment. Some of the other colleges had offices
for minority recruitment. I know there is one for liberal arts and sciences. All of
them had had varying degrees of success. Under the umbrella of the graduate
school, we had more opportunities and more resources. We had a direct impact
on the numbers. It was good to see the growth. As you look at the numbers
now, they are declining for whatever reason.
M: There is no theory?
B: I think for the University of Florida, in spite of our efforts we would bring minority
people, African Americans, on campus, both students and administrator.
Depending on how that student or person develops their relationship with their
unit, department, or administrative area that they are working in, it determines the
success of that student. We found that a lot of times if a student did excel, or if
an administrator was very successful, they eventually would leave or be hired
from the University by other groups [with] more money, more prestige, and more
opportunity. That happened a lot. The tenure was very brief, a year or two years
in a lot of cases. That is good. The opposite is true that if a relationship was bad
or negative, the student would still leave because they were not being
successful, they were not making the minimum requirements, and would have
left anyone or been asked to leave because the program obviously was not
working out for them. The bottom line or my theory is that it goes back to
support, both financial support and a feeling of being a part of a welcomingness
to being on campus.
M: What kind of mentor program do you have?
B: A mentor program, and we do have those. That have been in existence for a while.
There is success, limited success. I do not know what the overall shortcoming is
because we have a lot of opportunities in place. There is the Association of
Black Faculty and Staff that I am a member [of] and other faculty and staff are
members [of]. That is in essence a support group where we get together and talk
about what is happening on campus, how we can make it better, and how we can
really get the most of our opportunities here. The students have their support
groups--the Black Student Union and the Affirmative Action Office. It is there for
support. When you look at it closely I think each area has shortcomings in the
overall success. It only seems that or appears that certain individuals take
advantage of it. There are a lot of people who are very confident and satisfied
with what they are doing and the way they are doing it. So they may not need a
support system per say. Those are individuals that we never hear [from], never
see, and never know about really. There are people who want to be a part, who
want to be role models if you will. So you get their involvement. You also have
students who are very successful, independent, and adventurous who do not see
a need for that kind of support. They have their goal and their mission, and they
just follow it. I think the University as a whole has made a commitment to
increasing minority presence, both faculty, staff, and student levels. When you
start to apply that commitment, it varies in each area that they go to. I think very
strongly it varies depending on the financial commitment. Philosophically, yes we
want this to happen. We want to have this diversity to use a buzz word. I even
have questions about that. There is a philosophical commitment. [[end of this
M: As you were saying.
B: A department's support was again very clear. You look at the numbers, and the
numbers were there. Their people were there, productive, producing, and so
forth. There are some areas that were not in any way near the potential, but I
know presently, currently whenever we (I am coming to the present time) were
working for the University of Florida Foundation, the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences, we do searches for positions. The minority issue is a very real issue,
and is one that is taken very seriously. It is advertised. We advertise in all of our
standard publications, plus we advertise in black, African American publications
making sure that minorities know that there are opportunities. We do get minority
candidates in the applicant pool. There is that canvas opportunity out there, if
you will, where we are doing all the right things. We are putting the face forward.
What happens in the final process is that each area will be different depending
on the candidate, the applicant pool, and so forth. On the faculty level, the
committee may be very clearly reduced to financial again. Am I getting a salary
commensurate with my skills, abilities, tenure, and what my colleagues are also
getting. If not, will the University be willing to improve or make good on that?
You find faculty who are being courted by other institutions and a counter offer
situation comes into play. I know of only a few situations where a black faculty
was being recruited, the University made a counter offer, and the faculty member
M: You have this program that you were involved in as a graduate student. It must have
laid a foundation for your thinking in these terms. Then there was about six or
seven years in which you were out of the university system completely. Maybe
you could talk about that and tell me what you learned in these jobs as account
B: At the same time I was finishing up my graduate degree, I was working with the
graduate school. The graduate school was going through some transition. Dean
Hill-Lubin decided to pursue her teaching career again. She was writing a book.
The dean of the graduate school changed. So there was a lot of transition. I had
asked to stay on board to continue some of the minority recruitment work, but
they decided to go a different direction. They hired somebody else. Actually, I
do not think they hired someone to replace me, but they hired another dean who
came in and did some work, and really turned the program around to a positive
level. So at that point I was back in the job market again. Having gone through
the market before, I knew what to expect and I knew the time frame. It would
take a long time.
M: Were you dreading it?
B: I was dreading it, absolutely. I had made some contacts. I was more mature. I knew
the process better. I knew that you use your network. In fact, I made contact
with the director of personnel. So I made a little bit more savvy moves in that
direction. However, it still did not produce anything. In the meantime, I was
getting anxious at that point. I cannot afford to be out of work for six, nine, or
twelve months. In the process of following up and going to the interviews, I
decided to move to Houston because the opportunities seemed greater and they
were greater. So I moved to Houston. My idea was to get experience in
marketing and sales and promotion in television because I had just finished that
area of broadcasting. It was really fascinating to me. I was thinking of going in
that direction, in other words going into television but going in as director of
marketing and promotion.
M: Did you know anyone in Houston or did you move there alone?
B: I had a very good friend who lived in Houston, who I lived with for a few months. I
then went through the application process again. That was also very grueling
because as far as the television market was concerned, at that point it was the
twelfth largest market in the country. The competition was going to be severe. I
knew that. I was very persistent. I made the rounds. I even made the rounds at
the University of Houston. This friend of mine suggested I apply or audition for a
television program that was being produced. It was very similar to what we have
here with UFT and public broadcasting. I thought that would be a good match. I
did an audition, but it was an in-house candidate who got the position. It was a
fun audition because it was a program where it was a community issues,
community affairs program for Houston. You had a live audience. You had your
guest speakers or panelists. You talk about some topic that was very important
or controversial at the time. It was fun to do that. I had done some other
television work as part of my internship with Information and Publication
Services, which is now called the Division of Information and Public Affairs. So I
had some familiarity with television.
To move forward, I applied for a position at all the t.v. stations, and had gone to some
interviews. In most cases, they were not hiring. They were hiring engineers.
M: And accountants.
B: I would have thought at that point that I should have become an accountant or an
engineer. Nothing was coming from my interviews. I hung in there. I was very
persistent, which is always the way to be. Finally, I had got an interview with a
television station, KRIB, which was at the time owned by Metromedia, a John
Klugey enterprise. It was an independent station. It was one of six television
stations and one of three independent [stations] in the market. I applied and
interviewed. They were looking for a log editor, and entry level position. That
person's responsibilities were to take the log from the television station, a twenty-
four hour log, make sure that the commercials were played or aired as they
should be, and public service announcements all had to total [to a] twenty-four
hour cycle. If Rhode's Furniture had a sixty second spot scheduled for 8: 28
a.m., I had to make sure that it was included on the log and that it was available
for air and so forth. In other words, it was a very entry level, very basic position
for someone with a masters degree. The thing I did to counter that was during
the interview process, I explained to the supervisor that I really was interested in
marketing and sales, and if an opportunity became available within the station, I
would like to pursue it. I just wanted to be sure you understood that and what
your feelings are. The person was very supportive and said go for it. Within a
three month time frame, an opportunity became available in sales. I got that
position as a sales trainee, and then moved up to an account executive and
became a full time account executive, which is a sales person who will go out in
the community, meet with clients, advertising agencies, and talk about airing
commercial time on our television network. I was able to go through the process.
M: And this was new. You had done nothing like this before.
B: This was new. It was a very large step. In fact, I was ten of ten. Harry was the last
on the totem poll, which actually prompted my decision to come back to
Gainesville, in that even though I was very successful, established my own
accounts, and really made the mark, it would be a long time coming before I
would get the kind of advertising and agency accounts that I wanted, and could
produce from. I was there for about almost two years (I think it was nineteen
months) with KRIB. I decided that I wanted to do something different. I decided
to come back to Gainesville, my love. Gainesville is really my home. [I wanted
to] try again and see what opportunities there were in Gainesville. I was able to
reestablish some of my contacts on campus, namely Dr. Pisani [Joseph R.
Pisani, Professor of Journalism and Communications, Chair] who is chairman of
the advertising department for the college. I met with him on several occasions.
He understood my employment situation. In fact, if I would think of a mentor for
the college, Dr. Pisani would be that. As I said, we talked a lot. He knew what
my background was. I then started thinking about teaching. He had an
advertising sales course that was being taught by adjuncts, people in the
community. He offered me that opportunity to be an adjunct professor, and I did.
It was very satisfying and rewarding. All of my sales experience from Houston
was a perfect tie-in. I explained to him that they way I would run the course
would be both academic but also more professional. Instead of me regurgitating
my experiences, why not bring in the professionals, and look at each media. For
the two semesters I taught, I would have the advertising director/manager from
TV20 come and talk about television advertising and some of the things the
students can be doing now to prepare for that. The advertising director from the
Gainesville Sun [came]. I brought in someone from Peterson's Billboard, that is
another major area for advertising. The guy who owns Harmon's Photo is nice.
His background is very extensive in photography with Kodak and some of the
major companies and projects. That was very important to have. I took a more
practical approach. It was a two hour class. The first hour we had a guest
lecturer. The second hour I would talk about specific advertising goals and
objectives. That gave me an opportunity to think about teaching. However, the
problem with teaching is in order to realistically pursue a teacher degree or
career, one has to have a Ph.D in Gainesville anyway or at the University of
Florida. I only had a masters, so the dilemma was do I go back and get a Ph.D.
M: Did you even want to?
B: At the time, I did not want to because my mind was not geared towards academics at
that point. I had spent too much time in the professional community that the idea
of studying for exams, taking the GRE, and all of that was not very appealing.
Again, I was persistent in looking for a position. This time more focused again in
marketing and promotion. That seemed to work out well because I managed to
get a position with CableRep. [[correct name--verified in phone book]]
Advertising which is the part of Cox Cable. It is the advertising for Cox Cable. I
worked there. Again, I was selling air time on the cable networks for the
Gainesville market. That was successful, but still not really what I wanted to do.
I wanted to not sell specifically. I liked the idea and the concepts and dealing
with that, rather than making appointments and meeting with clients. I did that for
a time. I also got involved with production. How do you produce commercials?
It was a process of getting them on the different networks. So that was another
learning experience for me. In the meantime, I had been approached by the
Education Credit Union. The president of the credit union was looking to hire a
marketing director. Apparently this was a new position that he was creating and
needed to get approval from the board. So it took some time for that to come
through. I was still with CableRep during that process. Finally, I did get a call
that the position was approved, and he wanted to hire me. He hired me for that
position. So now I am director of marketing for a financial institution. The
marketing was great because the credit union had done a lot of television and
cable advertising. They had a commercial. There were a lot of opportunities to
apply what I had learned for the credit union for promotion and enhancing the
image of the credit union in the community. During my time as the director, we
changed the name and the logo. We did a lot of things to change the credit
union, from not just an educational credit union but to a community credit union.
The membership was no longer restricted. Companies could apply and be
granted membership, and take advantage of the services. There were a lot of
new things that were being implemented during my tenure as a director that the
president had wanted to implement. Things were going well. I guess that always
in the back of my mind [[please finish thought]]. You know you have a certain
salary that you think is appropriate for your level of education and experience, a
certain type of responsibility that is commensurate with what you are really
capable of doing. A friend of mine said, "The Foundation is looking. They are
hiring," and encouraged me to submit a resume and cover letter, which I did. I
got an interview with the vice president at the time.
M: What was his name?
B: His name was Bob Lindgren. He was the vice president for the Office of
Development and Alumni Affairs. He is no longer here. He is resigned and is
now working at Johns Hopkins. We had an initial meeting and conversation. It
took almost a year from that initial conversation to get from that to the application
to the real interview and then the hiring process. Again, this is something I
learned early on. It could take a long time to finally get what you were looking for
and to be happy with it. If you have the patience and persistence, then it will
work for you.
M: And another job.
B: And another job. It is always helpful when you are employed. That worked out. I
was just ecstatic. Number one, Gainesville is my home. I love Gainesville. It
means so much to be in Gainesville and working for the University of Florida. It
had such a tremendous impact on my life as an undergraduate and graduate.
Understanding what the Foundation is about, which is fund raising for the
University and also alumni affairs for the University. So here is an opportunity to
become involved with an institution that has such a tremendous impact on your
life and to be an employee to promote the University and talk about the
University to its alumni, friends, and supporters and now fund raisers, to actually
go out and ask people to give money to support the University of Florida. It was
a wonderful and incredible opportunity. I have no regrets in six years now. In
fact, it is the longest career time frame I have to date, as you can see from my
resume. It has been wonderful. Again, I am seeing it from a different
perspective. The University of Florida is an incredible institution because the
resources are so vast and the support is so vast. We have had only one serious
fund raising campaign that ended in 1991.
M: This was with Criser [Marshall M. Criser, president, University of Florida, 1985-1989]
at the helm.
B: Correct. Criser was the president at the time. It was his campaign. It was the first
campaign the University had ever undertaken.
M: Why it that?
B: That is a good question. No one really knows the right answer. There had been fund
raising all along through the annual fund. The law school had a fund. Each
department and each area had some level of fund raising, but this was the first
time that the University as a complete, comprehensive unit brought all of the
colleges, departments, and centers together and put together a fund raising
campaign that would find or solicit monies that would then be distributed to the
different units based on their budgets and what their wish lists ended up being.
M: Could you just for the sake of the tape talk about Criser's role in that? We spoke
about that before and I turned it off.
B: I was not here when the whole program was developed. I came in at the end when
the program was ending. At that point, Criser was no longer president, but still
very active and involved with the campaign. I came in at the tail end of the
campaign, but the success of the campaign is very clear. The original goal was
for $200 million. This was for a five year period. They raised it. They increased
it to $250 million We ended up raising $392.8 million. This is for a public, land
grant institution. It was totally unexpected. It was overwhelming. It gave us
national rankings in terms of a public institution raising the funds that we did,
which increases our endowment, which is another ranking. It was a tremendous
boom for the University of Florida. We were able to successfully go out and sell
the story about the University of Florida. These are the reasons why we are a
member of the AAU, ranked in the top ten in caliber of students by way of the
Merit Scholars that we have on campus, the research dollars that we bring in to
the tune of over $200 million every year from research that our faculty are
undertaking and submitting to NIH (National Institute of Health), DOD
(Department of Defense), and many others. It really started to open the eyes of
our alumni and the nation as a whole actually. Again, there was this tremendous
story that was being kind of kept quiet in Gainesville. Through the campaign, we
were able to get out there and talk about it, and bring people on campus, let them
tour the different facilities, and say, "This is very impressive, and I would like to
support it." Criser basically was the engineer of all that. Lombardi [John
Lombardi, University of Florida, president, 1990-present] came in 1989 and 1990,
and took over. I started saying around the time...
M: He wanted to spend the money.
B: He got to spend the money.
M: Was it earmarked for buildings?
B: The way the budget or goal was established [was that] each college dean submitted
to the president and the vice president their budget or their wish lists, which
covered scholarships, research, buildings, or professorships. Those are the key
areas that everybody focused on. Of course, there were other areas that were
included. Those were the key areas that everybody had a focus on and
submitted their ideas to the president and vice president. From that, the budgets
were adjusted, changed, and brought into more realistic parameters. We went
out, and we got corporate support. We got a lot of pledges. We got a lot of
requests. We got some cash. It is interesting. You have to really understand
the process because you can say very clearly, "We raised $392.8 million for the
University of Florida." Someone on the street [might] say, "Why do you need
more money? What is the problem?" Indeed the problem is that a lot of that
money is not liquid. It is not available at that time. If someone is giving it through
a request, we do not get it until that person of the spouse or whatever the
parameters are for that request.
M: What proportion is liquid roughly speaking?
B: I do not want to venture a guess because there is a very specific number. I think the
key to the long term is the endowment that we support and that is established.
That is going to be the source of funding in the years to come. You never touch
the principal of the endowment. You only work with the interest on the
endowment. For some reason, 20 to 25 percent is in my mind, but I do not know
if that is correct. What I am leading up to is now we are talking about a second
campaign that we are all starting to plan for. We are doing a feasibility study with
a tremendous goal--another five year campaign. We will be following some of
the same strategies that we did for the first campaign. What happens is the rule
is that once you do a campaign, you do a campaign forever. You do not it behind
each other. You are always in the market for a campaign. What it does is it is a
great opportunity for a donor to support the University of Florida or the institution.
Through the campaign, the nature of that educational process, we were
identifying new people who did not support the first time around for whatever
reason. They did not hear about it or had different problems. We create the
excitement about the University of Florida. These are some great things that are
happening since the last campaign. The list goes forever in terms of what
accomplishments we have achieved since the last campaign. In my college
alone, we have a writing lab that was established by IBM. It is for beginning
English composition. It is a format that is unique. I think we are the only
institution in the company that is using it. Basically, the students have access to
computers (PCs),and that is how they are learning English composition--on the
computer. The response has been tremendous. IBM of course is excited
donated the equipment. I think the gift was just over $1 million total. We have it
housed in Rolf's Hall. I think there are about 200 or 300 students taking
advantage of it now. There is a waiting list. That is one thing that we are doing.
There are all kinds of centers that are being funded through various research
monies that are coming through. In other words, my basic point is that there is
so much going on on this campus that because of the numbers of programs and
the interdisciplinary nature of the University of Florida, we can go talk to any
donor who has any interest or anything that you can imagine. We like to use the
phrase in our college from A to Z, anthropology to zoology, everything in
between. We have people who are doing sea turtle research. We have people
who are interested in sea turtle research and therefore will give us dollars to
support that program. That is the fun part of the fund raising aspect. It really is
an educational campaign that I love to tell and enjoy telling. People enjoy
hearing it. Then you move to the next level, the giving level. Then they
understand why there is a need and how they can individually and personally
M: I get the sense, and you might as a former public relations major, that the University
of Florida is just now getting into gear in promoting itself.
M: Where is that coming from?
B: It is a wonderful thing. Again, it is giving us an opportunity to talk about the
University of Florida. Now before, let us say ten years ago, there were not the
concerns of the budget, for instance. It was enough for each department and
college to have their own little territory, interests, or own community. It was all
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or College of Engineering. Everybody had
their own little territory. They were all very successful in various degrees in terms
of getting additional support for their unit. There is a question--did the Division of
Information and Publications Services, which was the public relations for the
University of Florida [[please finish thought]]. The director was the press
secretary/public relations spokesman. All those words go together there. There
just was not any real serious promotion of the University of Florida. There were
some things, I mean the obvious like the student murders and things of that
nature. As far as other type of regular ongoing public relations, it did not exist on
as wide a scale as it does now. When Lombardi came on board, he saw that as
a tremendous problem and as a deficit, and hence reorganized the Division of
Information and Publication Services. It is now Public Affairs and
Communications. They do a much better job with keeping in touch with the
media, particularly around the state, but all over the world and the country.
Whenever something of significance happens on campus either research-wise,
or grant-wise, then there is going to be some publicity about that. They do a
better job of tracking. There is a publication that comes out called Dateline.
Someone in that office, public affairs, search hundreds of publications around the
country. If the University of Florida is mentioned, they pull it. We are getting
again a much wider scope of advertising and public relations because of what is
happening on campus--the Magnet Lab up in Tallahassee, the Brain Institute that
will be housed here on campus. I think the leadership has come in and said in
order for us to move to the next level as a national and international university,
we need to do these things. We need to promote ourselves. We need to start
talking about the fact that we are the only school in the southeastern United
States that is a member of the AAU, the American Association of Universities. [It
is] extremely prestigious. It is by invitation only. The institution is scrutinized and
only the best are asked to join the AAU. We are the only Florida school. I think
Vanderbilt is a member. I think we are the only other SEC school.
M: Vanderbilt is private.
B: People need to know that.
B: The student body is incredible. The grade point averages and SAT scores are
phenomenal. They are up there. We are seventh or eighth in the country in the
number of Merit Scholars that have enrolled in the University of Florida. These
are the brightest of all of our students. Everybody is competing for them--
Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. You name it. All of the big schools are recruiting
these students. They decide to come to the University of Florida. That is a coup.
That is a very important factor. We are obviously doing something right, or have
something that they want and feel that they can achieve on our campus. These
stories are tremendously important. It is interesting because as you alluded to,
the University of Florida has been around...the seal says 1853. It is not like we
are new. It is not like the Gulf Coast University in Naples that in fact will be new.
I do not think they have even broken ground for it. There has been a
tremendous lag in the University really promoting itself. I think a lot of it has to do
with Lombardi. I know when I worked for the Alumni Affairs Office before working
for liberal arts and sciences, I spent five years in alumni affairs. We were called
the friend raisers for the University. We were not asking for money. What we
wanted to do was go out and talk about the University of Florida and promote UF
through the Gator Clubs, which are also alumni clubs.
M: This has nothing to do with football.
B: Actually, they do.
M: They sort of blend.
B: Right. They were established originally for athletic booster clubs. Wayne McDaniel
who is the current director of alumni affairs (I think he is now vice president) saw
an opportunity to combine Gator Clubs as alumni clubs. Many of them had a lot
of alumni involved as officers and so forth. We came around and we talked a
different talk. Instead of just focusing on athletics, we said, "Let us talk about
Merit Scholars. Let us talk about academics. Let us bring speakers to your club
who are non-athletic speakers who can update you on what is going on,
speakers are entertaining, engaging, etc. Let us talk about getting the students
involved in your Gator Club. They are going to be the lifeblood of your Gator
Club as the elders retire and move on." The goal was to bring a different slant or
area to the Gator Club again for most of the University of Florida as an academic
institution. Most of the Gator Clubs have outreach programs were we bring
speakers into the community, whether to the club itself or a civic organization, or
recreate a special program. To take the athletic slant on a different direction.
Working for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we are doing the same
thing. I am in fact right in the midst of coordinating receptions for the dean where
we will take the dean to different communities. A good example is next week.
We will be in Tampa. We will do a program where the dean will be the host, and
he will give a presentation. We are taking Dr. Proctor [Dr. Samuel Proctor,
Distinguished Service Professor, Julien C. Yonge Professor of Florida History,
Curator of History, Florida State Museum, Director of Oral History Program]. He
will be the keynote speaker. We have invited all of our class alumni and
supporters in Tampa to come to this reception. Again, it is an opportunity for us
to create a presence in the community. This is what the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences is doing. It is your college. You have a vested interest in its
success. This is how we would like to involve you through these receptions.
That part is not necessarily new. We have been more active with it. It is
wonderful to see the alumni respond. They overall comment is, "This is great.
We would really like to see more of this. Can you come again? Can you come
more often?" I am going whew.
B: If there were five more of me, then we could probably [do it].
M: I honestly can see a difference because I graduated from Florida in 1983. I moved
away and have been away for ten or eleven years. I just moved back in August.
Just being back in Jacksonville, there is really more of a presence of the
University of Florida. It is just a little bit more sophisticated. It is not just that
Florida is a state school, and FSU is a state school. We can afford to go there. It
does have a greater status. In just that short time frame.
B: Yes. Again, it goes back to the campaign. It goes back to the lists. To look at the
lists of graduates from this University and where they are now is just
mindboggling. We have graduates who are CEO's of major Fortune 500
companies. We have a corporate leader's weekend in fact. We had one last
year that was billed as the most successful. We had the most corporate leaders,
as well as representatives, participate in it. Basically, we bring them on campus.
Each unit would have a program. We would have a program where they would
tour the teaching lab. We would feature our key areas. Our college has kind of
expanded on that example. Chemistry has been extremely successful raising
money. Our Ph.D's graduate and go to Shell or Exxon. They become directors
of their research and development, very high significant positions. Of course,
they are very interested in other Ph.D's coming into the system with the new
knowledge and potential that is always going to keep their company on that
competitive level. To see the corporate leaders that are University of Florida
graduates out in the world and the country, is impressive. That has also helped
our cause because then people say we are more than just a public institution.
We are more than just a land grant institution. We are one of only three
universities in the country with the number of academic disciplines. You can
come to the University of Florida and get any degree, any major, with the
exception of divinity.
M: What are the other two?
B: The other two are Ohio State and Michigan. When we talk to parents about the
University of Florida and there are students are applying, we very clearly explain
to them that once your child has decided what to do, whatever they want to
pursue, nine times out of ten they are going to come to Florida. We will have the
best program in that area for the student, with a few exceptions. That is also
indicative by the number of Merit Scholars. Here is a student that can go
anywhere in the world and pursue an academic career. They choose the
University of Florida because our programs are the best. They are the premier in
the country and certainly in the southeast. That is not to belittle any of the
others, Florida State, or Central Florida. They all have very specific offerings that
their students can pursue and take advantage of that we may not have on a
certain level. It is a wonderful story. If you are ever involved in sales, it is
wonderful to have a product that actually sales itself. You get an opportunity to
talk to somebody about the University of Florida, they can not help but come
away thinking, "Wow. That is fascinating. That is interesting." The other part
that makes this so wonderful is the cultivating aspect. You do not go in and hit
somebody up for money and then you are gone. You build these relationships
because you want the relationship to be ongoing. We are told that the best
donor is the one who is giving. Once they give, it is very important that you
continue to encourage their giving. Generally, they will. If you cultivate, you
keep that relationship ongoing. That is one of the things that attracted me to this
is that cultivating aspect. During that cultivation, you talk about the University of
Florida, and then you learn specifically what that person might be interested in.
There is another conversation. By the way, we have a director at the Archie Carr
Sea Turtle Research Program. We can set up a meeting with that person if you
want to, or take you on a site visit. There are any number of strategies that can
be used to get people excited about the University of Florida, specifically on the
college level, program level, or center level. I will give you an example of a
center level. I arranged a program for a retired village in Naples. The residents
of this retirement community are in the top 1 percent in the country and very
impressive. You just cannot in and say, "Can you give me a lesson. I will just do
a canvas of your community." The community and the director for resident
services were interested in programs. The community residents are varied. If
they are active, they are still very sharp. They play tennis and golf. They are still
very viable individuals. Through the outreach program, we said, "We can bring a
speaker down and talk about any topic that they would be interested in." It just
so happened that they wanted to have a program on hearing loss. Of course, we
have a Department of Communicative Disorders on campus, and indeed were
able to get one of the faculty members to go down and talk about hearing loss.
We had a great attendance and people were very interested and asked
questions. As a result of that, one lady came up and introduced me. She is the
mother of David Challoner, who is in charge of the Medical Center in Gainesville.
Another gentleman came up and had gotten some information about our Brain
Institute, that we had won a grant through the Department of Defense. He is a
retired psychologist from Boston University. He was still practicing at the time
and very interested in the Brain Institute because the approach that we are taking
is interdisciplinary where we are involving many different areas on campus--
electrical engineering, the arts and sciences, psychology, a lot of different areas
that up until now have never really been involved with the Brain Institute or the
spinal cord situation of the central nervous system. He remembered that
literature, came up to me, and said he was still interested in learning more about
it. He is interested in the consciousness and how that impacts that brain and
nervous system. From that I came back and made my contacts. The chairman
of the psychology was very interested. They have talked. He is interested in
establishing a kind of consortion that would involve psychology, the Brain
Institute, and a cross section of different departments. That conversation has
now started to produce some interests. Who knows where that may lead? From
a dollar level, we do not know yet. We do not know what the capabilities are of
this gentleman or even if he is interested. There is that potential of looking at his
resume and vita. It is very impressive. He may also be able to add something to
what we are doing. So we went.
M: And you are filling a need.
M: You were wrong when you said you were not a student. It sounds like you are a
student every day on this job.
B: Absolutely. I am a student and also an educator. Both come because I am learning
something new every day. I come in contact with new people with new ideas,
new needs, or different needs. It is a constant process of adapting and trying to
meet those needs or find out where we can help out. We have not even talked
money. I think that will come. Of course, any good salesperson is going to ask
for the money. I think you do that when you have determined the time is right.
After a period of cultivation, helping that person with their needs and interests,
then the financial part is right there. It will happen. It may not happen on the
level that you would like it to or are expected to. Our history and experience tells
us it could have far reaching and long term effects. There is a good story to
illustrate that. We had a gift of over $1 million to the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences from someone who was not a graduate, and had never even been to
Gainesville. A friend of his, who is a graduate and big supporter, had asked him
what can I do with this money. He just simply said, "You should consider giving
this money to the University of Florida for scholarships for liberal arts and
sciences." My point is that it is far reaching.
M: And you do not always have to ask.
B: You do not always have to ask. Sometimes, it comes when you least expect it or
when you do not expect. That is always very welcome to have as well. We know
that when you follow the plan and strategies that you know work, they are also
very productive as well.
M: You sound so satisfied. I am sure you have not reached your pinnacle. Where do
you go from here?
B: You are right. I am very satisfied. I am very happy. I still have ambitions. I would
like to run my own program. In other words, I would like to be director of
M: Here of course.
B: Here at the University of Florida preferably, and ideally for the College of Journalism
and Communications. That would be the next level. That would be the next step
for me. It would be to move into a director's position and have a specific unit that
I am totally responsible for. That will come. That will happen because of my
commitment to what I am doing, and the success that I will have with the
position. The only thing is that they key and also the problem is trying to achieve
that in Gainesville. It is very limited. There are hundreds of people like myself
who just love Gainesville and prefer to be in Gainesville, and will stay in
Gainesville as long as they can. That means the competition will be keen as
well. I think there are a lot of advantages that I have that when the opportunity
comes, they will come into play.
M: I think we will end on that. Thank you for sharing your very interesting life.
B: As I said, I love the University of Florida. Having gone through the system, both the
good and the bad have come into play. I think it all makes you a better person.
It makes you very appreciative too.
M: I guess we have concluded the interview, but just ending on your success and
satisfaction with your career and life in Gainesville, I guess you must feel some
validation for all that hard work and the frustrations when you first graduated with
a bachelors [degree].
B: I do. I feel some validation, although there are some problems. There are some of
the same problems. They may be different. They may be on a different
magnitude. We still have a situation where our minority, African American,
population is declining. I mentioned some of the reasons why that happens. I
think again if you have an opportunity to address those concerns, you will find
that the administration is very supportive of those philosophical concerns, and in
a lot of cases have gone to bat, if you will. The numbers have not significantly
increased in spite of that.
M: Do you feel a responsibility as a very successful black man? Personally, your battles
are behind you.
B: Yes, that is true. I strongly feel that, and I do feel that there is a responsibility for me
also to work with the groups on campus. I did not mention it, but I have been
involved with the Association of Black Faculty and Staff. I have also been
involved with the Association of Black Alumni through the National Alumni
Association. In other words, establishing an alumni association for blacks, for
African American graduates of the University of Florida. That total comes close
to 4,000 now.
M: Why did you feel the need to do that?
B: I felt that having worked with alumni affairs, I would go to a function and be the only
African American in the room. There could be 500 to 700 people in the room. It
is a situation where a lot of African Americans do not feel comfortable there.
They do not feel welcome in that environment. It can be a perception that may or
may not be founded, but that is the reality. By establishing the Association of
Black Alumni, this is an organization that is supported by the National Alumni
Association. It is supported by the University of Florida, but it focuses on the
specific needs of African American graduates, which is basically the idea to come
together as a group, talk about the concerns, supports, and needs of the
University of Florida, specifically African American students on campus, to
provide a network, support, or mentoring situation for African Americans. I have
been working the last five years to get that established. We have had a few
successful meetings where African Americans have come back to campus. [We
have] great programs. The president has been involved. Some key
administrators have been involved. We are now planning a meeting down in
Miami for the group. We are all over. We are all over the country. We are trying
to create an organization that can be a conduit, if you will, of support for the
University of Florida that we can take on the road and go to the various
communities, and get African American, black graduates out and say, "You may
have had a bad time, or you may have had to struggle, but look at what has
happened now. Look at the impact you can make. Look how you can be
involved to make it to further the improvement and the advances. Also they have
the current student population of African Americans having a successful career
as you did. There are people out there, it is not limited to whites, but there are
graduates out there that if you say the University of Florida, they will have
nothing to do with it. They do not want even want to mention it. There are a lot
who have had very positive relationship. I have had a positive relationship
overall. I want to support the University of Florida. There are other African
Americans who want to support the University of Florida. This is again
something new. There were chapters in various levels in different cities a few
years ago. That has somewhat declined. Now we are trying to revitalize that.
With this wave of progress and improvement that the people have now seen and
are hearing about at the University of Florida, they are trying to be a part of that
as well. That is my contribution. That is my involvement back to the African
American community and the University of Florida--making sure that this
organization is as successful as it can be with the support of the University of
M: Philosophically, do you think many views on integration have changed? You are not
talking about integrating alumni. You are talking someone having a segregated
base from which to operate. Do you see that as the key to success? This has
been part of the project of the Oral History Program is to interview former African
American leaders on campus. They seem to be saying they want desegregation.
We want integration that is natural but we need a base. You throw us out there,
and we are 6 percent of the student population. You cannot just send us out
willie nillie. We need a base in which to operate from.
B: I think that is very true. The problem is the perception. People will look at that and
say they want to be integrated, but then they do not want to be integrated. Which
is it? Which is it going to be? I think it is going to be all of that. Having an ABA
does not mean that we will not be a part of the larger community of Alumni
Affairs. I think if the individual groups create that foundation and are successful
with that foundation, then it is going to be a natural process. They will get
involved on a much more broadly integrated level. As it stands now in 1995, that
is not true. That is not where we are right now. What we are trying to do is get
our group together and solid in terms of what can I do to support the University of
Florida? What impact can I have that will make a difference at the University of
Florida. Let us talk about that and create a plan. Let us create some strategies
and see how we can do that with the support all the time of both the president of
the University of Florida, the Alumni Affairs Office, the Office of Development,
and so forth. That is the beginning. That has always been true. We are not
doing it isolated from what is going on with the whole. I think there have been
some instances where African American graduates have gone to functions of the
Gator Club and have been less than happy or satisfied with that, whether it was
just not being comfortable. The race issue is one that is going to be with us for a
long time. I do not see that disappearing. I think the dynamics of it will change.
As you see more and more of us being involved, being active and proactive, that
is going to change the perception. That is what we are hoping to do with the
ABA. First we want to get the foundation established, and then go to the
University and say as a group we want to support scholarships for African
American students because that is a need and for graduate students that is a
need, and move forward from that perspective. That can be said also for the
Hispanic group as well. They are mobilizing in the same way for the same
reasons that we are. As far as the Association of Black Staff is concerned, there
is a plan to have a meeting with the Hispanic Faculty and Staff group so that we
are not just being isolated and concerned with one, but we are looking at the total
picture and how we can as a group impact that overall situation. As I said, the
administration is always aware and has always been aware and supportive of
what we are trying to accomplish. Going back to high school and junior high
school, it is that sense of identification of self and who you are and what your
goals are, how you match and integrate that with the rest of the community.
M: Do you think some of that was lost with integration as it occurred?
B: Oh yes. I mentioned that one of the problems with integration was that they did not
talk to the students. They did not talk to the students or people that would be
most effected. It was a dictation of law coming down from Washington, and by
God we are going to follow it. When they closed down our high school [[end of
B: Along with the church and the school. Those were the two most vital centers for our
neighborhood, for black neighborhoods. That is where it all happened--church
and school. The school was named after Blanche General Elie. It was
incredible. I know this in retrospect. She would go to the schoolboard of
Broward County and have to fight tooth and nail to get funding for our school
because we were a black school. We established traditions that were critical to
the community. Everybody went to the same school. The teachers knew the
parents. The parents knew the teachers. I will never forget my brother and sister
would get involved with programs like plays and ring circus. There were so
many things that we as children looked forward to. We said, "Oh we cannot wait
to go to the big school." We had all of these traditions. As I say, it was such a
vital part of the community that when the law came down that said that school
would have to be closed and you are going to be bused here, there was a very
negative response to that, as you would imagine. As a result of that, the
communities were really in a kind of disarray. There was no longer that family
closeness, unity, or familiarity. Rather than send us all to the same school, we all
were just split up throughout the county.
M: I address that indirectly in my masters thesis. Just through a class assignment, I did
an Oral History Project with former African American leaders of the YWCA during
segregation. I have to tell you this whole world opened up to me. I was like thirty
or thirty-one. Things that I had no idea. The more I delved into it, I thought,
"Why did I not know this? I grew up in Jacksonville. I am a southerner. We
have a sizable African American community." This was a total surprise to me.
As I started researching, I found that in Charlotte at least (this is when I was in
Charlotte, North Carolina), if you compared the white to the black teachers, the
black teachers had a higher educational level. They had more years towards
graduate school than their white counterparts. I was curious if I might ask you
this. When you went to the integrated school, was the change in the teaching
methods and attitudes were really topsy turvy for you?
B: It did, but not really as bad as an extent as you would think. There were some very
good teachers, white teachers. I remember at least three or four that I thought
were excellent. The reason that I was successful was because they did not
seem to care whether you were black, white, or whatever. You were a student.
They had a mission. They had a job. They had a goal and that was to be the
best teacher they could be. You had some teachers who were just not good
teachers. I do not care what you were doing. I do not know that I could say that
there was any kind of prejudice that I could determine or [if any] were prejudiced.
I am sure there must have been because we are all only human. To go back to
the black community again, being a teacher was a pedestal, a worthy goal. You
became a teacher because of the influence, control, and impact you would then
exert in the community. You were respected. You got your due as a teacher. It
was a noble profession. Now it is just the opposite.
M: I know.
B: It is just the opposite. It is a shame because growing up, it sends a very different
message to me. We were taught and we were instilled [with] education is the
key. Even now, education is the key to a better life, successful career, and all of
those good things of the American dream, if you will. When you look at the
educational system and process in this country, it is the worst it has ever been.
There is some hope because communities are now taking back control and
saying, "Let us try this format." I know they are talking about charter schools in
Alachua County and people are up in arms about that. People are bringing back
uniforms in school. They are taking different tactics on how to deal with inner-city
schools compared to schools in the suburbs. There are some things happening.
I think it sends a different message to a group of people where education was
taught to be as the way out--that is how you are going to rise above it all, the
poverty, prejudice, racism, etc. This is how this is going to happen. Then our
education is being taken from us in the form of integration. The profession itself
is less than what it was when we were growing up. We constantly hear the
teachers are bad. They are bad because they are not being paid enough, and
not trained properly. There are all these different causations that you hear. So
that is sending a different message. Then you have this employment situation
where you do all the right things, but you still cannot get a job. Those are mixed
signals. When you do not have a support system there to help you, you can
really feel lost and throw your hands up and say for what reason. Why should I
suffer more when I am going to suffer anyway. I see some things that are
happening that are good indicators. I love talking to Rod McDavis [Roderick
McDavis] who is the new dean for education. He has got an extremely
innovative approach to education and producing teachers. If he stays here, we
are going to see some very dramatic things happen within the state of Florida,
within the system that we have now. They talk about the uniforms in high school.
People think why do you want to do that? It is so regimental, so military. I
happen to be one of the students when I was going to school that was dressed.
Even in junior high school, I would wear a sport coat. To me, that was something
that was important to me. That was something that I wanted to portray. We had
dress codes. You just could not come on campus any way you wanted to come
on campus. The dean of boys and women would be standing right there
watching as you got off the bus. If you were not properly dressed, you went back
home and got dressed properly. That was just a sense of discipline that they
were trying to instill. Most of us had no problems with that. When you look at the
economic differential where their families cannot afford the fancy clothing, you
have that disparity. What problem can wearing a uniform cause?
M: Kids have enough to worry about. They can handle that when they are grown.
B: Exactly. I am laughing now because I laughed then. We dealt with dress codes
every spring or whenever we started school. That was always an issue--dress
code. Your parents were sent this list of things that you can and cannot wear. It
was an issue, but an issue that people understood, addressed, and moved on. It
was nothing you dwelled on the whole term. You got it and you move on. Those
are all like a screen because it really is not an issue. The issue is the quality of
education and whether or not the system is prepared to handle the student load
that they have. That is another package right there. I think that the system is a
good system. I would like to be more proactive and try to find a way to help us all
deal with it more effectively. It is never going to be perfect. I do not think it was
meant to be perfect. There are a lot more positive things that we can be doing
that we are not doing.
M: Let us end in an unorthodox way. Maybe you cannot even respond to this. What
would your mother think of all these changes, your life included?
B: It would not be a surprise to her. As I said earlier, I was always fortunate. I had the
image of being a good student. We laugh because when we are in our family
gatherings, my sisters and brothers would talk about all these little mean, devious
thing I would do, had done, or been accused of doing. My mom would always be
so surprised because she would never imagine me to be that kind of person.
She is great. She is very proud and happy. I never complained. That was one
thing too. Any specific intimate problems, she would not be aware of. She would
know of some overall problems, like my involvement with the school and the
system. The things I talked about today, she would be aware of most of them,
but some of them maybe not so much. It would tie in very much with her idea of
the person that I am and the success that I have been able to achieve.
M: And her view of progress.
B: And her view of progress.
B: She always will throw my name up and say, "Look what Ed was able to do and how
he was able to do it." [She] uses it as an example.
M: It has been so nice talking to you. I have enjoyed this.
B: I hope we have gotten something out of this.
M: Oh yes, we have.