Interview with Jean P. Tison, September 10, 1979

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Interview with Jean P. Tison, September 10, 1979
Tison, Jean P. ( Interviewee )
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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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INTERVIEWEE: Jean Pieper Tison
DATE: September 10, 1979

M: Mrs. Tison, could you tell me where you were born?
T: I was born in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.
M: Your parents, were they from Pennsylvania?
T: Yes. My mother's family came from Monongahela, in 18:03.
M: Were their parents from the United States also?
T: My father's parents were from Germany and my mother's parents
were from Pennsylvania. They came with William Penn.
M: How would you characterize your home situation as a young child?
T: Very happy. Three girls and both parents.
M: How old were your sisters? Were you a middle child or. ...
T: No, I'm the oldest one.
M: You're the oldest. Did you have an idea that your parents wanted
you to get an education when you were young? Were they geared toward
education, everybody to school at that time?
T: Well, I never heard that you wouldn't go on to college. A part
of growing up was to go on to college.
M: What do you remember about elementary school? Was it all day long,
ninetionths out of the year at that time?
T: Nine months till 4:00 in the afternoon. A full day with an hour off
at noon for lunch.
M: Most of the kids stayed there at school?
T: No. Most of us went home for lunch.
M: You were in a small town than that. .
T: No, but you went to the school nearest your home.
M: Well, that's like they do now. Well, they're getting away from that,
I guess, with busing. It was like a neighborhood school?
T: Yes.
M: Everybody walked to school?

T: Uh huh.
M: And what was your favorite subject?
T: I hadn't thought that one was any better than another until I
got in high school and then I liked the social sciences.
M: Usually I guess when you're in grade school everybody likes
recess anyway. Recess and lunch. You went to high school in the
same town then? What was the school curriculum like? Was it
like today's? Was it more geared toward educaion classes or
toward vocational classes?
T: No, you selected what you wanted to take, and
M: You knew it then that you were going to go to
I took the college
college when you
T: Oh yes. Never heard of anything else.
M: What year did you graduate from high school?
T: In 1925.
M: And then you went right into college?
T: Uh huh.
M: Where did you go to college?
T: The University of Pittsburgh.
M: You went there for four years?
T: Three years, and then I taught, and then I finished.
M: You could get a certification to teach after three years?
T: Yes.
M: What courses did you have to take? What were the certification
requirements, do you remember those?
T: I took history for my major, or social studies, and english for my
minor. Nothing else made too much difference. I took freshman
biology my senior year, the very last course, because I had on
purpose neglected to take it.

M: You didn't like that subject, is that why?
T: :No.
M: You thought you could get away without taking it?
T: Yes.
M: I think most people do that with sciences anyway. Did you need
to take any education courses before you taught then? You got
your certification without taking any education courses anduthen
went back-and got it?
T: No, I was getting it in secondary and I think I had a course in
teaching of English but I can't remember that I did. And I did
student teaching.
M: Where did you teach then when you finished?
T: In Monongehela.
M: What grades did you teach?
T: Fifth, sixth, and seventh grade English, four classes, and four of
physical education.
M: You taught physical education along with your English courses.
T: Four English and four physical education.
M: You taught one year and went back and got your certification for
graduation. How did you decide on the University of Pittsburgh in
the first place? Was that near your hometown?
T: It was near home and, my father knew that's where he wanted us to
M: It that where your other two sisters went?
T: My sister next to me, but my youngest sister went to a girl's college
in southern Virginia because she wasn't a teacher.
M: Your other sister is also a teacher?
T: Uh huh.

M: Is-that a teacher's college then? No, the University of Pittsburgh
isn't, is it?
T: No,.
M: So you went there because that's where your father wanted you to
go. Well, that's why I went to Stephens, because my mother
wanted me to go there.
T: I didn't know you went anywhere else.
M: Yes, that's about how it is. You don't know that. After you went
back for your year then, did you go back home to teach?
T: Went to Mount Lebanon in.Pittsburgh. Mount Lebanon is a
district in Pittsburgh.
M: Do you remember what your salary was when you started?
T: In Monongehela, my first year?
M: Yes.
T: It was 1000 dollars.
M: That was just for- nine months of teaching?
T: Uh huh.
M: What was it after you went back the next year to Mount Lebanon?
T: I think 1200 dollars. It was the highest tax evaluated district
in the state of Pennsylvania. You had ten months of school.
M: What year was that?
T: In 1931.
M: You taught at Mount Lebanon then for how many years?
T: Till I came down here in 1936.
M: Is that where you met your husband?
T: Down here.
M: You didn't know him then. How did you end up in Florida then?

T: Well, I went to Ohio University to graduate school. I::asked
Dr. Gross, my superintendent, about major fields and he
suggested supervision and administration. At that time,
Ohio University was the only large school in the East that
gave a degree in supervision.
M: You got a degree in education supervision?
T: Uh huh.
M: You picked Ohio University because of that?
T: Uh huh.
M: So you've been to Mount Lebanon, then you went to grad school,
and then you came to Florida.
T: Well,::I went to Ohio University in the summers. Then I came down
M: How did you come to Gainesville?
T: I came by train.
M: I don't know where the old train station would be since they don't
use it anymore.
T: Where the First National Bank is.
M: Oh, I know where that is. You got a teaching job here at the
University of Florida, or a supervision job right away?
T: I was teaching in P. K, Yonge Laboratory School. Dr. Simmons, who
was the assistant dean of the College of Education and in charge
of the Laboratory School, was a visiting professor at Ohio University
my first summer there. He asked me to come, and after my second
summer I decided to come.
M: 'To get away from the cold?
T: No. That had nothing to do with it all. I just came on
year's leave of absence just for a lark.
M: What grades did you teach at P. K. Yonge?
T: Fifth grade.

M: Who was president of the university when you came?
T: Dr. Tigert.
M: Who was the dean of eddcation then?
T: Dean Norman.
M: What made you decide that education was what you wanted? You said
your parents wanted you to go to college and you always knew
that, but .
T: Well, my mother taught school; my father was on the school board.
His sisters-two of them taught school and, you just .
M: You didn't know there was any other profession.
T: You just taught school.
M: At that time, most women were going into the education field, weren't
they? There were more women in education than any other professions.
T: Most of my friends were. My sister wasn't going into education.
M: What did she get her degree in?
T: Well, she got her degree in English, but her plans had not been to
be a teacher. She was accepted to the Carnegie Tech [Pittsburgh] School
of Drama. When they found out that she was only fifteen years old,
they told her that she would have to go someplace else three
years. At that time my father couldn't afford to send her somewhere
else three years and then start her over again as a freshman at eighteen.
M: She got in except for her age then at that school?
T: Uh huh.
M: My gosh, that's amazing.
T: They had accepted her and when she went to make arrangements for
her room,.theyIsaid they didn't take anybody under eighteen.
M: Was that.your youngest sister then?
T: No, the one next to me.
M: The one next to you that is a teacher, you said.

T: Well, she was until she decided that it was for the birds.
M: What did your younger sister do? You said she went to Virginia.
T: She's a secretary.
M: Well, that would be the other profession that women went into. I
read the other day that if you didnit' know how to type as a
woman you still could not make a go in the business world today.
You had to know how to type. What was the enrollment at the University
of Florida when you came?
T: I have no idea. Every year President Tigert and Mrs. Tigert had
a reception for the faculty in their home. Their home was where
Dr. and Mary Barrow live now. I think they had five children.
It's a big home over the:end of the duck pond. But the whole
faculty .
M: She's the antique lady in town. Is that it?
T: She does the houses for antique storage.
M: I had Angie, one of their children, last year when I was at Bishop.
What was that you were talking about when I talked with you the other
day? You had a picture taken that had "Student Enrollment is 1234.
T: No, 3456. I don't remember what year exactly that was. Mrs. Tillman,
who was the wife of the university physician, tried to start a women's
student club, and I think Eunice Nixon Camel is one of the people in
the picture. I'm not in the picture, and I can't remember who the
other two girls are, but they had this sign that says, "'3456."
M: Who was the name you mentioned?
T: Eunice Nixon Camel. She was the pharmacy. See, pharmacy girls could
go here because there wasn't one at FSU.
M: So, all the pharmacy girls came down here. That was a total student
enrollment picture?
T: Well, there were just there three girls holding the sign that had. .
M: Oh, the enrollment at that time.

T: That was probably around 1938, because I think Mrs. Tillman had
left a year before World War II.
M: How big was P. K. Yonge when you came?
T: One room of each elementary grade, to eighth.
M: And it would have been in what is now Norman Hall?
T: So were the college parts.
M: They had education classes and P. K. Yonge at the same place. Well,
that was because they had the students helping with the classes?
T: No, because there were, I think, just three or four college instructors
at that time.
M: Do you remember who they were?
T: Dean [James William] Norman, Dr. [Glenn Ballard] Simmons, Dr.
[Joseph Richard] Fulk, Dr. [Edward Walter] Garris.
M: How long did you teach then until you moved up to your. .
T: Oh, I kind of think it was 1948, but I don't remember.
M: And you became what in 1948?
T: An instructor.
M: Then you were an instructor until you retired, or. ...
T: Assistant professor.
M: In 1948, what did you.start teaching? What was the class that
you taught when you quit teaching at P. K. Yonge?
T: I think it was a curriculum class and worked with students in the
school. Most of us worked with students in the schools.
M: You just taught that one course then.
T: I don't remember.
M: Students back then, were they any different than they are today?
Of course, there are a lot more women going to college in general
today, but what were the students like back then?
T: They came to class.

M: They came to class? Don't do that anymore. Were they more
serious or were they about the same?
T: They're writing skills were better, composition.
M: They've said that they've lost that now, and they're trying to
get back to teaching basics.
T: They had to write a paper, either they took more pride in it,
or they had better skills in doing it, or they felt they'd
better do it better.
M: Were students really involved in activities outside the classroom,
like on-campus activities?
T: My girls were just beginning to come around that time and more
of the girls were involved in sororities than in a lot of other
things. Many of the girls who were active were involved in the
sorority activities.
M: What do you mean by "my girls"?
T: Well, the girls that I got to know.
M: You got to know your advisees and people like that?
T: At that time still you see, in the 40,s, iFlorida was just going
to requiring a degree. There were a lot of older teachers,
who. .
M: What do you mean, requiring a degree? You could teach at Florida
without a degree?
T: For two years. Most of them were teaching on two years.
M: So sometimes the students had more education than the teachers.
Did it work out that way?
T: No, not at the university, but in the public schools.
M: Oh, I see.
T: A lot of the teachers had only two years and during the '40's
and early '50's they were completing their degrees. I had a
class for years on Saturday. It was a four credit course,
nine to one, and. .

M: Was it a curriculum course?
T: Uh huh. And most of the people in it were in-service teachers.
M: That would go on at night and on Saturday to finish their
T: Uh huh.
M: They don't do that anymore, do they?
T: No.
M: Probably wouldn't get any professors to teach on Saturday.
T: Wouldn't get the students to come either, I'm afraid.
M: You said Dr. Simmons was in your department, and Dr. Norman,
and who else?
T: Dr. Garris.
M: You were the only woman?
T: Oh no. I wasn't in that, you see.
M: Well, when you got into teaching,'
T: Oh no, there were a lot of women in by that time.
M: That would have been 1940 when you were. .
T: About 1948 I started to teach college classes, I think. Grace
Adams Stevens, oh, I can't remember who they were.
M: Did Dr. Tigert kind of tell you how to run your class or your
department, or was it more left up to Dr. Norman?
T: It was left up to the individual
M: To you, yourself, as to what you thought. What were the
certification requirments? Do you remember what they were
at that time?
T: Practically the same as they are now in terms of reading and either
a course in materials or library, children's literature, math,
social studies, science, art, music, health or physical education.
We required both here, but the state required one or the other.

M: Then they went out and student taught or did any internship,
for how many weeks?
T: Well, originally, when lwas teaching fifth grade, I think
they got eight credits. That would be half their credits for
the quarter. There were some who had taught who could do it
with four credits, but we tried to encourage them to take
the eight credits. Then around 1947-48, we started the full
term. That was sixteen weeks, full semester of student teaching
all day, and students went to different centers.
M: They didn't have to teach at P. K. Yonge then at that time.
T: Oh no.
M: They went out and taught like in the schools in Gainesville?
T: Jacksonville, Orlando. .
M: That's right. You said you had to supervise, didn't you? So
you spent part of your time driving.
T: Uh huh.
M: Supervising these students out. .
T: In Waldo, Archer. .
M: How many students did you supervise?
T: Well, when you do it for a number of terms, like I think three
terms I went to Archer. Generally, if that were your full assignment
for the quarter or-for the semester, it was at that time,
we had eighteen to twenty-one, and you visited them every other
M: Did you do this in addition to teaching your course?
T: No.
M: You just supervised.
T: If you had eighteen to twenty-one, that was your full load. Now
you might have five or six and teach two classes, or have ten
or twelve and teach one class. You didn't question, you did
just what you were told.
M: Who told you to do that then?

T: The head of your department.
M: Head of your department? Who was it then?
T: Dr. Katei:[Vixion] Wofford.
M: I've heard her name before. So the teachers that went out usually
had two year degrees until 19 ...
T: Oh, some of them had their degrees, but I mean there were a lot .
M: When did it move to four-year?
T: The university was always four-year.
M: But after you had your AA or something like that you couldn't go
out and teach with it. I think they just changed that last year
where you couldn't do that anymore.
T: I don't know when they ..
M: Or you could substitute with an AA but you couldn't teach. You
could still use your AA then to substitute.
T: Yes. But you couldn't have gotten a job last year.
M: No, you had to have more than your two. Well, we've got so many
four-year teachers that need jobs anyway. You met your husband in
Gainesville then?
T: Uh huh.
M: How did you meet him?
T: At church. Which I think is a joke.
M: Why do you think that's a joke?
T: Well, that was probably where you met men back then, at church
dances or church socials,,,wasn't it?
M: How long did you know him before you got married?
T: Seven years.
M: You dated seven years before-you got married?
T: Yes.
M: That's a long time.

T: Oh, I dated one a lot longer than that.
M: Oh really? Your husband, is he from Gainesville originally?
T: Yes.
M: And his family is all from around Gainesville?
T: Uh huh.
M: So that's why you're still in Gainesville, I guess?
T: Uh huh.
T: She was thirty in August.
M: What is she doing?
T: She is a nurse in the surgical intensive care unit at the
VA hospital.
M: What influence, if any, would you say the College of Education
has on the university? Do you consider it to be one of the
strongest in the university? This would be as you've looked
as it through the years.
T: I think I'm going to pass on that one.
M: You were here since the early '30s then and went through: the
traumas of the '60s, I guess, and saw how that changed with the
Vietnam War. Were there any problems here at Florida, do you
remember, admitting blacks to the College of Education?
T: I cannot say that there were in terms of the College of Education.
I had one girl, early, who, I don't recall her grade in the
couse. It evidently wasn't very high because she said that I
recognized her answers because she was black.
M: You recognized her answers because she was black. That was the only
reason why?
T: The only reason I could find fault with hers over some other students.
M: What year was that, do you remember?
T: Oh, I have no idea. And I don't remember the girl, I can just
remember her sitting back there.

M: Where she sat.
T: But other than that, my associations with the Black students I've
had have been very fine. They have attended all of the social functions
that my seminar has had, and all .
M: What seminar is that that you taught?
T: Well, I had a seminar in the CEP program ever since Team 4 started,
and I think that was around 1974.
M: You'llhave to tell me what Team 4 is because Idon't know.
T: Well, the preparation program for elementary teachers that we have
is the Childhood Education Program, commonly known as CEP. It
started out in 1959 with Dr. [Arthur Wright] Combs--a dream of
his. It had ninety and then it had 120 then 150 students selected
at random who would be in this experimental program, and at
that time it was known as the New Elementary Program. It's quite
well-known throughout the United States and Canada. A couple of
colleges in Canada have copied it, and then shortly we added
Team 2, then Team 3 and Team 4.
M: Because it grew so much.
T: It became the total program for the preparation of elementary
teachers, and I taught the social studies in Team 1 from the
time it started. Then when Team 4 became a reality, I-had three
assignments. I had social studies in Team 1 and Team 4 and a
seminar in Team 4. A seminar is considered thirty students and
you meet half of them in the afternoon and half at night once
a week. Part of it is to become well-adjusted individuals and get
to know each other well, and we have at least one social function
a quarter.
M: So everybody got to know each other on a really friendly basis?
T: Hopefully, yes. I still hear from my very first ones who
graduated. .
M: Really?
T: Dana had a baby last winter and I can tell you just all of them.
M: So you still hear from all your students in that program. Do they
still use the program at the university?
T: Yes. Because of the decrease in the program, there are now just teams--
Team 2 and Team 4. They eliminated 1 and 3. There are five
seminars now in each team, and just two teams.

M: What do you think of the literacy tests? They have it now
when you're a junior in high school. And last year at the
university, after your sophomore year, you were-having
to take a test similar to the literacy test in hopes of fielding
out people that aren't qualified to go on in education. What
do you feel about that?
T: Well, I approve of it.
M: You think it will help to kind of weed out those that
may be should't be teaching?
T: It isn't the only thing that should be used as a test in
weeding out teachers, but it is one choice they have trying
to help teachers become better in communication. And certainly
we need to have people who are rather proficient in communication
skills to work with our children.
M: There is complaint about the quality of teachers, so I guess they
could fall back on that.
T: But that wouldn't be the only scale I would want to use.
M: What else would you use?
T: I think first of all you have to look at the people who really want
to teach, who aren't doing this just till something better opens up
or they'll try it a while or don't have particular skills. .
M: Well, it used to be the profession that you, if you're a woman, went
into till you found a husband. ."But I think that today that's
changed, don't you?
T: Well, there are very few families can be supported on one salary.
M: That's true.
T: Why are you teaching?
M: I like it. I like the kids.
T: I do think more of them are staying in longer.
M: Well, it's funny thatnow that I look back on my friends that went to
college that majored in education and none of them are teaching
anymore. One's an airline stewardess, one's got a business that she's
working in and one's at home as a mother. I'm the only one that didn't
go into education and thats where I am, is in education. So I guess
you also change by the time you graduate from college and what you
might want to be when you started it, you change.

T: Well, it isn't only that more women, I wouldn't say they were
were staying in teaching, but in any line of work. When you look
at the labor market .
M: More women are in it now than ever before.
T: And my statement that more families needed two people working.
M: That's true. Gainesville utilizes the middle school-concept. Were
you at the university when that came about? Transferring a
junior high then to the concept of middle school?
T: Yes.
M: Did you have anything to do with starting that?
T: I had nothing to do with it.
M: What do you feel about the middle school?
T: I'm going to pass on that one too.
M: Better watch what I say, I might say something that I shouldn't
T: I don't know enough about it. I respect Dr. Paul George who is
in middle school in the College of Education. I respect him in his
ideas, but I really don't know enough. .
M: That much about it.
T: Uh huh.
M: So what year did you retire from-the university?
T: June 8, 1978.
M: That was just three months ago. You haven't even been retired that
long. You still hear from a lot of your students though.
T: Oh, yes.
M: From the ones you've had way back in the beginning.
T: I've had a stack of letters even this summer. One from a
girl in Japan
M: Well, then you've been busy. You haven't really retired.

T: I haven't written them either. I'll get around to it sometime.
M: Do you think you left any impression or anything behind on the
university now that you're not there?
T: I don't think they miss me.
M: That's about all, unless you have anything else that you
want to add to the interview.
T: No. I hopeI didn't answer anything that could cause any trouble.