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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Dr. Mildred Mason Griffith
Dr. Stephen Kerber
DATE: February 5, 1979
Today is Monday, February 5, 1979. My name is Steve Kerber and I am
going to be conducting an oral history interview with Dr. Mildred
Griffith. This interview for the University of Florida's Oral History
Project will take place in the office of Dr. J. T. Milanich [Room 130]
in the Florida State Museum at 9:00 a.m.
K: Let me start/by asking you to tell me your full name?
G: I'm Mildred Mason Griffith.
K: Dr. Griffith, when did you retire from the University of Florida?
G: In October 1976.
K: What was your faculty status at that time, your rank?
K: In which department?
G: In the Department of Botany.
K: Would you tell us where you were born?
G: In Ardmore, Oklahoma.
K: Which part of the state is that?
G: It's south-central.
K: I see.
G: About forty miles from the Texas border.
K: What was your father's name?
G: Mark Mason Griffith.
K: And your mother's?
G: Nina Ethyl Smith was her maiden name.
K: I see. Was you father a farmer or...?
G: No, my father was a wholesale grocer.
K: So you lived in town, then, I...?
G: Yes, this was a town of about 25,000 people. It was on the edge
of one of the early oil fields in Oklahoma and it was a very
prosperous town. There were lots of cultural events, lots of
people were brought to town that normally wouldn't come to a
town of that size. I remember the famous singers of the day
came and famous entertainers, so that there was lots of activity
in the town because of the wealth of the town.
K: They hada chautauqua, then?
G: As a child, I attended chautauqua regularly in the summertime.
I heard Madame [Ernestine] Schumann-Heink when was a young girl
there. They frequently brought plays and dancers and that sort
of thing, so it was a town that was unusual in the cultural
opportunity in the town.
It had a Confederate soldiers home which has long ago
passed out of existence because of the death of all the inmates.
But it was for Confederate soldiers and I remember great groups
of Confederates, old Confederate soldiers. Of course, when I
was a young girl, why they were old at that time.
It also had a school for Indian girls that the government
supported. That was in the Choctaw Territory, originally, of
Oklahoma. So there were a lot of Indians there. Still some
of them with not native dress, but they had their hair long
and in braids. They lived somewhat of an isolated existence,
although they attended public school with the other children.
There was no segregation of those Indians at all. Many of them
became wealthy because of the oil on their land.
K: So the grade school that you attended did also have Indian
G: Yes, it had Indian children going to school.
K: Now I assume that the school you went to was in town? The
G: Yes, the regular public school in the town.
K: Was it a graded school or was it all grades in one room?
G: Oh sure.
K: It was?
G: Oh yes. They had grade schools, a number of them. They had
four different grade schools that they called wards at that
time, four different wards in town. Had a junior high school.
I went to a junior high school and then to a senior high school.
K: Now was that a seventh- and eighth-grade junior high?
G: No, it was seven, eight, and nine.
K: And then the last three years...?
G: The last three years were in a senior high school.
K: Was there just one high school?
G: Yes. It was pretty good size. I think when I graduated from
high school there were about 125 or 120 in the graduating class.
So, I would imagine there were 600 students probably. There was
somewhat of a difference in the population of schools at that
time because there wasn't this tendency just to pass 'em on.
There were a lot of dropouts. When boys or girls got to the
eighth or ninth grade they might drop out and go to work. There
wasn't the persistence like there is now, or the encouragement,
I guess, to stay in school.
K: So you spent your whole childhood in the same place?
G: Yes. I lived until I went to college in this town I was born in.
My parents had married there, and my grandparents, my mother's
people, lived in the town. It was not a time when people moved
around like they do now.
K: When did you receive your high school diploma?
G: In 1924.
K: Did you go off immediately to college?
G: Yes, I went that fall.
K: Where did...?
G: I went to Baylor University at Waco, Texas. My father and his
people--well my father didn't go there, he went to what is now
T.C.U. [Texas Christian University]. But most of my father's
people had been to this school and that's why I went there. It
was close to where he had grown up.
K: Had both of your parents had the opportunity to go to college?
G: Yes, my father was a college graduate and my mother had gone to
a school that was sort of a two-year school for girls, women.
K: I should ask you if you had any brothers and sisters.
G: I had one brother.
K: Did he also go on to college?
G: Yes, he went to Baylor, too, and graduated.
K: So this was something, you might say, that was simply expected
in your family?
G: Yes. All my father's people had generally gone to college, and
most of my mother's people had. My grandmother had gone to...gee,
I can't think of it right now. They came from Georgia and she'd gone
to a sort of a finishing school for young ladies. So it was sort
of a tradition in the family. There wasn't much question about
K: Did you have an idea, when you went off to Baylor, what you wanted
G: No. No, I was just sent to college. They never talked much
about it. Just go and graduate from college.
K: When did you finally make up your mind about a major?
G: Well, I guess I was about a sophomore. I liked chemistry when I
took it. And then I took botany and had zoology and I decided
I liked the biological sciences.
K: When did you finish with your degree at Baylor?
G: Well, I finished in three years. I went two summers and the
three full-year terms and I finished in 1927.
K: That would have been with a Bachelor of Science degree?
G: No, Bachelor of Arts. That's the only one that they had.
They just gave a Bachelor of Arts,
K: Did you go off then straight to graduate school?
G: No, I taught in high school in Ardmore. I came back there and
taught. Then I went up to the University of Oklahoma and did
a master's degree.
K: How long were you in Ardmore teaching?
G: Well, I was there for three years at that time. Then I went up
and got a degree. I got my master's in 1932 at the University
K: Was it just that you wanted to continue your education or was
there something special...?
G: I guess I just wanted to continue. I just got sort of tired
of teaching there, so I just went up there.
K: Who was the person that you worked with, your major professor,
G: It was Professor Adriance Foster.
K: What was the project or the thesis that you did?
G: I did a preliminary survey of the ferns of Oklahoma.
K: This was somthing that had not been done before?
G: No, not in that form, and put together. So I really went over
the state and collected ferns and made a key to them and that
sort of thing. That was the project that I had, and I had a
minor in zoology.
K: Did you have the opportunity to teach while you were in the
G: No, I didn't teach then, there.
K: You were just straight going to school?
G: Uh huh, yeah.
K: Were there any women teaching in your area at that time?
G: There was. There was a woman in the Zoology Department.
K: Did she have any particular influence on you?
G: No. I took a course from her, but I didn't think much about it.
K: After you finished at Oklahoma, did you go back to the high
G: I went back to Ardmore and I continued teaching there.
K: For about how long?
G: Well, let me see. I guess it was about 1943 or something like
that that I left there.
K: What made you decide that you wanted to get a doctorate?
G: Well, I didn't go right then to get a doctorate. I got a job
teaching in the meantime. I guess the main thing that made
me decide that, my father had been there. My mother had died
about 1933 and then my father lived on until about.... I guess
he died in '43, and in the following summer, in '44, why I
decided I'd kinda look around.
Teachers were fairly scarce at that time because the war
was on. I put my name in a teacher's employment agency and I
got an offer to teach at the Norfolk Division of the College
of William and Mary. I decided I'd go. It was different and
I though I'd enjoy it.
So I left Oklahoma and I stayed there three years. I
taught three years in Virginia. While I was there, that really
ties up with why I came to Florida. This was a small school. It
since has grown and become Old Dominion College in Virginia and
it's a very sizable school there. At the time I was there, it
was a state-supported school and it actually had almost nothing
to do with William and Mary in Williamsburg except the name.
The Board of Visitors was the same, but it was, in essence,
an independent school.
K: I see.
G: The student body came from the area of Norfolk and Newport News,
which is quite extensive, and Portsmouth, which is a quite
populous area in Virginia. It was two years, a two-year college.
So I met there Dr. E. [Edmund] Ruffin Jones, who came here in
about, I guess, '48. He told these people about me and I was
offered a position here. But in '47, I left and went to the
University of California to get my doctorate.
K: What was it that drew you all the way back to the West Coast?
G: Well, of course, the University of California is one of the
top graduate schools in the country. It had one of, still has
probably, the best Botany Department in the United States. But
one of the main reasons was, the man that I had worked with at
the University of Oklahoma was now at the University of California,
and so I wrote him and I was offered a teaching assistantship there.
So I went to Berkeley.
K: Now when did you start classes out there?
G: In 1947, in the fall of 1947.
K: Did you once again work with him for your dissertation?
G: Yes, I did.
K: What did you write about?
G: I wrote about the...you don't really want to know the title
of the thesis? [Laughter].
K: Well, not the exact title, but perhaps the topic?
G: Well, it was a problem in plant anatomy, and it was concerned
with gymnosperms or cone-bearing trees. They're southern hemis-
phere trees, and Araucaria trees. We have some of them in Florida
called the Norfolk Island Pine and Monkey puzzles. The Norfolk
Island Pine is usually grown in pots inside in Florida. There
is one of these over in that area of McCarty [Hall] where people
come for mid-day lunch and that sort of thing; it's a sharp-leafed
K: Did your research for this take you outside of California at all?
G: No, there's quite a collection of these trees in California.
K: I should ask you again who, if any, women professors there were
who had any kind of influence on you?
G: No, there weren't any women in any departments which I was con-
cerned with in Berkeley at all.
K: Did you finish your dissertation and receive your degree before
you came here?
G: Well, I finished in the summer. My dissertation was all signed
up the late summer of 1950, and I came that fall. The University
of California at that time--I don't know what they do now--only
had one graduation. That was in the spring and there was no
requirement that you attend, but they didn't send you your dip-
loma until after that graduation. But my diploma is dated in the
summer of 1950. They dated it at the time that you completed
all the requirements.
K: Would you tell us a little bit about what you started to before,
about Professor Jones and how they contacted you from here?
G: Well Professor Jones in the meantime had come to the University
of Florida. He was in the Zoology Department here. He died in
September of 1976. I knew him very well and had worked with him,
taught with him there. This department was very small. There
were just three of us in it, so we knew each other very well and
worked very closely together. I also knew his family and we
had kept in touch in the years that I was in California.
He knew I was finishing. I had a leave of absence from the
school in Virginia, but when I was finishing, he told Dr. [Charles]
Francis Byers, who was then the chairman of the biological division
in the University College, about me. He wrote me a letter and
offered me a position here and I accepted and came.
K: I see. So he [Byers] offered you the job, sight unseen, on the
basis of Dr. Jones's recommendation.
G: Yes, on the basis of the recommendation of Dr. Jones.
K: Was this at all contingent on your finishing your Ph.D.?
G: Well, I had essentially finished, you see, when he offered it to
me, probably in the late spring or something. I was finishing
that summer. I had everything practically finished. If I hadn't
finished it, I don't what would have happened. That never came up.
It was assumed I would have my degree when I came, and I did.
K: Did you come out right before school started?
G: Yes, I came along about the tenth of September or something. It
was terribly hot. I thought, "Well, I'll just stay here one year
and be gone. This is such a terrible climate." But here I am.
K: Was the first time you had been in Florida?
G: Yes, I'd never been in the southeastern part of the United States
further south than Virginia, at that time.
K: What were your first impressions of Gainesville and the campus?
G: Not good at all.
K: Not good?
G: No, they were very poor. I had come from a very sophisticated
area, a cosmopolitan area, in California aroung San Francisco.
Berkeley's just across the bay from San Francisco. The place
looked better. It was a very cool place.
Gainesville had this little country-looking square. I'd
really never lived in a place that looked as primitive as Gaines-
ville did at that time. I grew up in a sort of sophisticated
small town, that had a much more polished look with all the
streets paved and everything. Here most of the streets weren't
even paved, just great beds of sand. It really looked to me
K: Did you consider staying on the train when you saw it?
G: Well, I was off the train before I realized what it was. [Laughter].
I realized that I was here at least for a year.
K: What did you do at first? Did you try to find a place to stay
or did you come out to school?
G: Well, I found a place. The Joneses met me when I came to town.
I stayed with them several days and I located an apartment. You
know the apartments that are just back [North] of the University
City Bank there?
K: The red brick?
G: Yes, the red brick.
G: They have removed some of those. There was an apartment about
where that drive-in is now, and that's where I lived.
K: Was that a private apartment building, or was that affiliated
with the university?
G: No, it was owned by McKinney-Green, or rented. I don't know who
owned it. I think it was McKinney-Green that handled the rental
part of, but I don't really know who owned that.
K: When you first came out here, who did you deal with as far as
becoming oriented? Who processed you? Who took you around and
K: No one?
G: No, I just kinda [laughter] found my way around. It was very
informal here. There wasn't anybody....
K: There was no welcoming committee? [Laughter],
G: [Laughter]. No, there was no welcoming committee. Ruffin Jones
took me up to the building and I met Dr. Byers. They found a place...
I didn't have a regular office. I just had a desk out in a room.
I always had my office with the Botany Department. I had a joint
appointment with the Botany Department.
K: Your appointment from the very beginning all the way through...?
G: Always joint with the Botany Department and the University College.
I taught some University College courses, but I was always supposed
to be half-time in the Botany Department and I was. There was
never any time that I wasn't affiliated with the Botany Department,
which was then in the College of Agriculture. That was before
the name IFAS [Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences]
came into being. I was sort of an active participant in the
affairs of the department. [Dr. Clarence Vernon] Noble was the
dean at that time, and he's deceased now. Wayne Reitz was the
provost of the College of Agriculture.
K: How long did botany remain in agriculture?
G: I don't remember the exact date, but it must have been about 1969
or '70, when they moved to the College of Arts and Sciences. It's
a fairly recent thing, ten years ago, maybe even less than that.
I don't remember the exact date.
K: Was there one course that you taught that was a comprehensive
sciences course, and another course that was called a botany
course, throughout your career? How were the courses that you
were teaching listed?
G: In the early days, I taught in the elementary botany course.
Then I would also have some teaching in the comprehensive course
the same time. The teaching load was considerably heavier for
most people than it is now. Then I always taught, after the
first year or second year that I was here, one of the advanced
courses in the Botany Department. I taught plant anatomy once
a year. That was a course that was largely graduate students
in the plant sciences, particularly departments like fruit crops
and plant pathology and agronomy, those agricultural plant sciences.
K: I think you said a moment ago that your own office was always
with the Botany Department?
G: Always with the Botany Department.
K: Where has the Botany Department been physically located since
you've been with the university?
G: Well, when I first came, it was in Flint Hall. Flint was called
"Science Building" then. When I came, that building had been
condemned and needed to be structurally repaired. The people
there were in the process of moving out, or making plans to
move out, when I arrived. During the first or second year, I
guess, I can't remember exactly when we moved, but most of the
zoologists had moved out of there into various temporary places
around the campus. They were scattered around mostly in temporary
buildings. The Botany Department moved over to what used to be
the old Florida Union.
K: They call it the Arts and Sciences Building.
G: The north end of that building at that time was only semi-finished.
The partitions didn't come all the way up to the ceiling. It had
a large room which we used for a lecture room. We used some of
the smaller ones for labs, and we had some office space in there.
It had just temporary partitions put in there. That was where
the Botany Department mostly moved. The physiologist who was
with the department at that time had a little Quonset hut over
close to where the present Florida Union [J. Wayne Reitz Union]
is. He had an office and a lab in that Quonset hut. Otherwise,
everybody in the Botany Department was at the north end of
K: How long did it remain there?
G: Well, I believe it was 1956 that McCarty Hall was completed and
that first section of McCarty, the one on the north, botany moved
in there then.
K: Now that's where your office remained until you retired?
G: Yes, that's right.
K: Could you give me the names of the people who were your chairmen
during your time?
G: Well, when I first came in botany, there was a man by the name
of [Dr. William Burleigh] Tisdale. Tisdale was a plant patholo-
gist and he was chairman of a department that included botany,
plant pathology and bacteriology. He had done one very important
piece of work, and that was to discover the way to handle a
tobacco disease. He was a very mild sort of person, and he was
not too far from retirement and he did not take a very active
part. He was a very nice person, but not very active in any of
the affairs; it just managed itself.
K: I see.
G: Actually, one of the faculty members just arranged things for
botany. People just went to him with any of the problems that
came up. He's one of the people you might like to talk with.
He was here before I was. That's Dr. Ernest S. Ford.
K: He still lives here in Gainesville?
G: Yes, he's still here in Gainesville. He knows a lot about
those days and what happened. He's very alert.
Actually, he's the only one of that faculty that's left here.
There was a man by the name of [Madison Derrell] Cody who had not
ever received a Ph.D. He had a master's degree and he'd been in
that department teaching since about 1920 or something like that,
when the university was extremely small. He retired about 1956;
he since has died. The other one was Dr. John Henry Davis who
died about a year or so ago. Dr. [Robert Delafield] Powell left here
and went to Texas A&M. He's still out there. But those were the
ones that made up the department.
K: Can you tell me anything about Cody? I think his name was M. D.?
G: M. D. Cody, yes.
K: Anything about his personality or his character?
G: He was the nicest person you'd ever want to know. He was just
a southern gentleman from the old school. He was just as courtly
and fine as he could be.
K: What was it that he taught?
G: Well, at one time he was all there was in the Botany Department.
So he taught just everything in his day. At the time that I came
here, he was really ill. His health was not good from the time
I knew him. In fact, when I first came, I was teaching some labs
in botany and teaching a comprehensive course. He became ill
pretty soon after I came, a month or so afterwards, and he was
out a year. I taught his courses that time.
We all just doubled up. There was a considerably greater
spirit of helpfulness, I think, at that time than there is now.
I look at so many people, and they're so afraid they're going to
take on any extra duty. But we thought nothing of it and so we
just divided his load among ourselves and taught them.
He came back and then there was kind of a reorganization
of the department. That was about 1955, I guess. Bacteriology
and plant pathology were separated and botany really became....
Tisdale retired, and it was a time of reorganization. They brought
a man here from Chicago by the name of [Dr.] Norbert [John] Scully.
Scully decided--he was an extremely capable, nice person,
but he looked at the department, and he decided that it needed
some unification. For instance, there were about four different
elementary courses being offered. Everybody went in there and
offered their own course, and it wasn't much the same course.
He decided that the way to offer botany course was for people,
different ones, to give a few of the lectures. Kind of divide
the lecture work so that all the students would have the same
I think that was very upsetting to Professor Cody. He
wasn't well, anyway. So he retired early in 1955. He just
became ill and I've said that he wanted to retire. It was a
little bit better point for him to retire as of July the first.
That was the end of that...
K: Fiscal year?
G: ...fiscal year. So again the rest of us sort of taught his share
of the courses. I remember that he called one morning when he
was supposed to start his section lectures that he wasn't able
to do it. It was a mixture of his health and the emotional impact
of things being done differently than had been done for over
thirty years that he'd been in the department. Dr. Scully
called me about fifteen minutes before class time and said that
Cody had called him and said he couldn't come up and give his
lectures. So I rushed up there to do that. After that, he never
did come around the department at all. I saw him several times
afterwards. He was one of the nicest people you ever saw, ever
knew, just a genuine person. But he'd been so long with just
himself deciding what was done, it was hard for him to change.
K: He just couldn't make the adjustment?
G: Couldn't make the adjustment. He wasn't really physically well,
you see, at the time. He was sixty-four or sixty-five years old
at that time.
K: Now who came after Scully?
G: After Scully left, why Dr. Ford filled in for a year or so.
They hired, he's up at North Carolina State now, [Dr. Glenn]
K: Was he there when you retired?
G: No, no. I guess Noggle left in about '64. Noggle came in about
'57, and he left in about '64. I guess Noggle did some things
that were very good for the department. He got the Ph.D. degree
for the department, and enlarged. It was a time, of course, of
enlargement. It would have enlarged under anybody. He was quite
active in getting grants. He was a respected plant physiologist.
He was really a good scientist, and he did quite a bit of teach-
ing. He was a very haid worker.
K: Did he go on to another chairmanship?
G: Yes, he went up to North Carolina State to be chairman up there.
K: Then who followed him?
G: Well, again Dr. Ford stepped in for a year or so as a temporary
chairman. If you talk with Dr. Ford, you'll see he's somewhat
of a retiring, reserved sort of person. Quiet, you know. Chair-
men are mainly very aggressive. Well, he's just not by nature
that kind of person. He is an extremely knowledgeable person.
Of course, he's been retired a number of years, kind of gotten
out of botany. But he had his degree from the University of
Chicago and he's very knowledgeable. But not an administrative
type--I think he would agree himself.
Then, by that time George [K.] Davis had become director
of biology. We had looked around at several chairmen and hired
[Dr.] Lee [Leland] Shanor, who stayed here until about five or
six years ago, I guess. He's still here; he resigned from the
K: Could you run over, if you would, the chairmen in the biological
G: You mean in the comprehensive courses?
G: Well, after Byers, then there was uh Berner.
K: Lewis Berner?
G: Lewis Berner, yes. After Lewis Berner, there was never any
other chairman. By that time, the biological part of CBS or
of the University College withdrew from the University College.
The faculty became only affiliated with either botany or zoology.
I guess there were two who were with entomology who went into
K: About what time did that change take place?
G: That took place about 1971, I guess. '70 or '71.
K: What was the reasoning behind?
G: Well, the biological sciences in the University College always
functioned a little differently. You see, the people were more
closely aligned with the departments than they were actually
with the University College. Most people wanted to do that. I
think that was the main reason that it happened. It just
emerged that way gradually. There was no sudden decision.
K: Was this a result of their identification as scientists?
G: Yes, and the fact that they were identified so closely with these
departments. But they continued to have the responsibility, or
the departments did,for teaching the comprehensive course. They
do today, of course.
K: Let me ask you, just as an opinion, how you feel about the phasing
out of University College and that concept?
G: I view that with some regret. I don't know what the result will
finally be. I thought, in the main, those were good courses.
They were taught by people who were mainly concerned with teaching
students. I don't know whether it will assume kind of a secondary
role in the departments now or not. But you see, it [teaching]
was the major function of those departments, and I think, in the
main, they did a good job. I think the University College func-
There was a lot of difference of opinion about that. It
was a very emotional subject to most people. Many people had
no use for the University College at all, but I think that the
University College did a pretty good job, considering what they
were expected to do. I think it was sort of abused by the uni-
versity. It wasn't supported financially to the extent that
some of the other departments.... As long as Wayne Reitz was
president, he was a firm believer in the University College.
But when he left the presidency, why immediately there was an
attempt on some of the people in administration to eliminate
the University College, which they finally did.
K: Stephen O'Connell didn't have much use for it, did he?
G: Well, I don't think he really knew much about it, so I think he
was easily influenced. He had other problems, too, so I don't
think he really entered into it very much. I think [Dr. Harold
P.] Hanson and [Dr. Robert A.] Bryan were very opposed to it
and they were the ones. They tried, of course, to eliminate the
University College with asenate vote at one time, which failed.
Then they finally did do it, but by other methods.
K: Where have you physically taught? Where were your classes meeting
during your career?
G: Well, we taught in Flint, mostly. But when we had small sections,
I used to give the lectures over in the big teaching auditorium.
G: Carleton, that was in Carleton at that time. Over a period of
years, when we had a big lecture system, I used to give lectures
at least once a year over there. Then we had discussion sections
in Flint. Then we went to small sections, everything went back
and forth, mostly in Flint. There was a temporary building there
just west of Flint that we had some classes in. I taught some
in zoology lab, or lab that they had that went with CBS in the
early days. They had no elementary zoology course yet. They
used a lab that was over where nuclear science is now. It was
a temporary building over in there.
Then, of course, we had classrooms in McCarty Hall, so
that I taught there. The labs were there. I always taught my
advanced course in McCarty Hall in a lab. I have given lectures
in Leigh Hall in that lecture room there. Then, in recent years,
we've taught over at Little Hall.
K: Let me ask you about committee service now. Did you serve on
any one or two committees for a very long time?
G: Well, I served for a number of years, I guess about six years,
on the university discipline committee, which was a different
type of thing than I think exists now. That was back when they
had an active dean of men, [Dr.] Les [Lester Leonard] Hale was
dean of men, and [Dr.] Frank [Thompson] Adams was his assistant.
I guess Frank Adams came as early as I did, or maybe earlier.
You might want to talk to Frank Adams. He works down at this
Chesnut's in Westgate. He's retired and he works down there in
Chesnut's at Westgate Shopping Center.
It was in the late fifties and early sixties. When they
got problems with these students--mostly, I don't remember
very many problems with girls, mostly they were boys--why they'd
bring 'em in there. We'd meet about every Friday afternoon, and
decide the fate of these boys. There were various types of things.
Some of them were thefts, and some of them were things like ignor-
ing parking regulations continuously. I remember one of the
cases was the brother of Pat Boone. He'd just drive up and park
anywhere. [Laughter]. It didn't matter what they gave him, he
just ignored that. The student came and appeared. Sometimes it
was a scuffle or fight that boys got in, and sometimes it was
selling liquor in the dorms.
I guess the standards have somewhat changed. I think even
at the time, late part of the time that I was there, why students
were trying to get on that committee. There were no students on
it at the time.
K: Did Dean Hale...?
G: I spent time on the university library committee, too. I was
K: I was going to ask you if Dean Hale allowed this committee to
function and decide as a group...
G: Uh huh, yeah.
K: ...or whether he rode herd over...?
G: No, I don't think he ever....
K: He always took the recommendation...?
G: Yeah, I think he did. I don't remember any...I think we had
that feeling that whatever we decided, that would be. That
was the way it would be followed. As I remember, that was the
feeling I had.
K: Did you ever have any instances of student cheating come before
you, or was that always handled by students?
G: That was handled by the student honor court. No, we didn't
have that type of thing. The student came. Occasionally, maybe
their parents might make a plea for them, or maybe somebody that
knew them. We would decide things like suspending them or repri-
manding them, something of that sort.
K: Did you encounter very much resentment, that you were aware of,
during your first year or two, as a woman at what had been an
all male school.
G: No, I didn't. I never did, really, personal resentment.
I always had the feeling that I never was paid as well as
I would have been paid if I had been a man. But the men that
I associated with, I think, respected me. They treated me well.
I couldn't have asked to have been...I wouldn't ever:have'ex-
pected--oh, there were exceptions, but I don't think it was
because I was a woman. There were people, naturally, that I
didn't get along with especially well. But just like there would
be in any case. There are a lot of men don't get along with other
men. There were people we had, for instance, chairmen, that I
had no respect for. But it wasn't because they were a man. It
could've been a woman the same way.
K: It was just that person and their performance?
G: It was just that. But I, personally, I never was put down or had
I think they did fail to remunerate me as well as I would
have been if I'd been a man. And I don't think I ever got the
opportunities--not that I ever wanted to be in administration--
but I don't think they would have ever put a woman, they still
haven't put a woman in any real policy-making administrative
position at this university. All of them that have been, have
been in some little sidelight that never mattered. Kind of a
"made" position. So they've never done that yet.
K: That's true.
G: I did as much work as any of them did. I was promoted. I had
no quarrel with the way I was promoted, because actually, I
was promoted ahead of numbers of men that were here when I came.
I became an associate professor sooner, and was promoted to full
professor sooner, than many of the men that were here when I came.
K: Are you aware at all, did anyone ever mention to you at all,
whether the fact that you were a woman with a Ph.D. in botany had
anything to do with your being chosen? In other words, were they
looking at that time for a woman?
K: They just wanted a good botany...?
G: Uh huh, yeah. I don't think...because that was in 1950. That was
before the days of them trying to.... This had been a men's school
up until about three years before I came, and there may have been
some thought: "Well, now we ought to get some women in, since
the girls are here." But there was no pressure like there is to-
day, and I don't think people had that much of an idea about it.
K: How did the male students treat you at first? I imagine a lot
of them were slightly older and possibly veterans.
G: Well, when I came, yes, there were veterans. I never had any....
K: Nobody caused you any problems?
G: I never really encountered any problems. They didn't show that
to me. I don't know whether they tried to get in other sections
and out of mine. I never heard about it if they did.
K: How do you feel that the faculty treated the women students as
against the men students in the early fifties? Did they demand
the same kind of academic performance?
G: Oh, sure.
K: They did?
G: I don't think there was any difference. I never had any feeling
that there was any difference. After all, the girls that were
here, they were just as good students. It's not the same situa-
tion that you find with blacks and these minorities. The girls
had the same background the boys had. Some of them were extremely
good, and some of them weren't. They were just varied.
The blacks that I taught, I had a few good ones, but in the
main they were poor students. I think that's mainly due to their
background. They grew up in homes without much cultural advan-
tages, whereas most whites had some, or many of them did. The
affluence of the family affects that a lot, where they have books
and magazines in their home. Then the schools, some of these
are still coming out of segregated schools, and they were not
up to the standards. But I don't think [white] girls [in the
fifties] ever had that problem, 'cause they had the same educa-
tional advantages that the boys had.
K: Do you feel that the caliber of women students at the university
changed at all during the years that you were teaching here?
G: Not particularly.
K: It's pretty much the same?
G: The caliber of the students changed some because they didn't admit
everybody like they did at one time. You see, when I first came
here, they were admitting anybody who graduated from high school,
which is meaningless essentially. Some of them just couldn't
handle the work at all, both boys and girls. Of course, there
were a lot more boys here when I came than there were girls.
K: Were you ever involved in career counseling for women students?
G: No, no.
K: Did you have any particular duties as an academic advisor?
G: Off and on, I did at times.
K: But no more than anyone else in your department?
G: No, no more than anyone else.
K: Who were some of the people that you worked with here at the
university who you feel have made a particular contribution?
Is there anyone you haven't alluded to so far?
G: No, I don't remember.
K: Do you remember if there were, or are you aware that there were,
any other women faculty at the time that you came here?
G: I didn't know anybody, any other. There were some other women
here. But they were not in any department that I was concerned
with. I think there were a number of women in things like English,
particularly that taught in the comprehensive course. Some of
those, and I think probably the bulk of them, were women without
a Ph.D. They taught beginning English and that sort of thing.
But I don't remember outside of physical ed, education, I don't
remember any women that were permanent faculty members. I'm
sure there were a few.
I have a feeling that I was the first woman that was ever
made full professor at the University of Florida.
K: I believe that's entirely possible, but I just don't know.
G: I think it is, but I don't know.
K: There were no other women Ph.D.'s in the sciences that you knew
K: Could you give me any idea when they started to acquire a few more
or who they would have been in the fifties? I'd really like to
talk with some others.
G: Well, I know. That's pretty hard. [Dr.] Irmgard Johnson, who's
over in, was in the University College, you might look and see.
She's been here quite a while. [Dr.] Winifred [Loesch] Frazer
has been here, who's now in the English Department. She's probably
getting up pretty close to retirement. You might look her up
and see when she came. But I don't think they were here when I
came. They came in the fifties, I think. Have you thought about
talking to Dorothy [M.] Smith, who was the first dean of the College
K: She still lives here?
G: Yes, she was the first, and she lives here in town. She might tell
you a good deal about the establishment of that college, too.
K: You are an exception, in that we have usually tried to work with
the earlier people. In fact, Im still, believe it not, doing
people from the 1920s. But I did want to talk with you since I
found out that you were still living here.
G: Well, actually, I guess the university was on its way to becoming
what it is now, when I came. There were just under 8,000 students
when I came, but it was expanding rapidly. But I guess there are
not too many people who are still active now. Lewis Berner is,
and [Dr.] Pierce Brodkorb was on the faculty when I came.
K: And Dr. [Archie Fairly] Carr was...
G: Yes, Dr. C.rr was on the faculty when I came.
K: Was Dr. [Howard K.] Wallace here?
G: Yes, Dr. Wallace was here. They're, in a sense, you see, more
old-timers than I am, because they're natives of this area. They
went to school here and that sort of thing. So they probably see
it in a different light than I do.
K: Well, that's all the prepared questions I have for you.
G: Well, that's fine.
K: Is there anything that we haven't covered that you'd like to
G: I'll tell you another person you might be interested in talking
with. I don't when he came, but actually I think he made quite
a contribution here in the area of ornamental horticulture. That's
Dr. Herbert Wolfe.
K: He still lves here?
G: He still lives here in Gainesville, and he's a co-author of one
of the best known books on Florida plants, ornamental plants.
He's really an old-timer in what was the old College of Agriculture.
You might be interested in talking with him.
K: We'll definately put him on the list, too.
G: But it's pretty hard for me to suggest women to you, because there
just weren't....I'm sure there were women over in the College of
Education, but I didn't know those people.
K: Of course, and the library...
G: Oh yes, the library.
K: Traditional areas.
G: Oh yes, the library always, and physical ed, There was no push
to employ women, of course. I know when I finished my Ph.D., I
think that it was more difficult, I know it was, for women to
get jobs. There were almost no women on larger university faculties.
Most of the women were in girls' schools.
K: Did you have any other "hot" opportunities awaiting you during
the time that you took the job here?
G: Well, I had a firm offer of a job in a community college in
the area of Berkeley. I had some communication with I guess
it was the University of Mississippi. Then there was a school
which is up in the northeast, which was a girls' school, too.
K: Of course, you could have gone back to Virginia.
G: And I could have gone back. They wrote me and wanted me to come
back. After I came down here, they approached me about coming
up there. So I could've gone back up there.
But, I sort of settle into a place. I would have left with
an extrememly attractive offer, but those were not the days when
there were very many opportunities. It's about like now. Really,
jobs were just about the same in 1950 that they are now--not many.
The people that I graduated with at Berkeley, they didn't have
a lot of opportunities. Although the people I graduated with have
become, numbers of them, outstanding botanists.
K: It's still a very strong program, you said?
G: Oh yeah, it's strong, yeah. Because Berkeley itself, that university
has always ranked among the top in the United States.
K: Well, I want to thank you very much...
G: You're very welcome.
K: ...for taking the time to talk with us.