Interview with Eugene Todd, 1984-03-01

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Interview with Eugene Todd, 1984-03-01
Todd, Eugene ( Interviewee )
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University of Florida Campus (General) Oral History Collection ( local )


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'University of Florida' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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UF 126 Eugene Todd 03-01-1984 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )


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Interviewee: Eugene Todd
Interviewer: Willie Henderson
Date: 3/1/84
Place: University of Florida Conference Room.
H: Would you state your full name?
T: Eugene Todd.
H: And what's your academic rank?
T: Professor of Education.
H: This will be general back ground information like when and where were you
T: Maracaibo, Venezuela.
H: When?
T: In 1929.
H: Did you graduate from high school there?
T: No.
H: Where did you attend high school?
T: Brownsville Texas.
H: And do you remember the year you graduated?
T: 1946.
H: Did you go to college immediately after graduation?
T: No, I went into the service.
H: How long a term?
T: Two years.
H: Which branch of the service?
T: Army.
H: Was it during any war period?
T: It was right at the end of World War II.
H: I see. You went in as an enlisted man? or...
T: Yes.
H: Okay.

Page 2
H: Uh, when did you decide to go into college?
T: When I was in high school.
H; Okay, which college did you choose?
T: University of Texas.
H: Why did you pick University of Texas?
T: Because it happened to be just like the University of Florida to the state of Texas.
H: Oh, I see. Pretty, oh, was it like the top school in Texas at the time?
T: Naturally.
H: Naturally. Um, so what was...
T: Still is.
H: Is it really. So what was your major, what was your undergraduate study?
T: Personnel management was the major and education was the minor.
H: Did you work part-time while you were in school, or did you just go
straight through full-time?
T: No, I went straight through full time.
H: You didn't even during the summers?
T: No, I worked in the summers.
H: What job did you do?
T: Worked in the copy business.
H: I didn't hear you.
T: I worked in the copy business.
H: You did that every summer, or just?
T: Every summer.
H: Just for extra cash? I see. When did you receive your bachelor's degree?
T: 1952.
H: Okay. And it was called a bachelor of
T: Business administration.
H: Business administration. Okay. Why did you decide to come to U.F.?
c ... tA'- t '(

Page 3
H: From there you got your bachelor's from Texas. Okay, did you pursue a master's
straight from...
T: No, I went into teaching.
H: You went into teaching? For how long? Since your bachelor's?
T: UmI've been in teaching ever since I graduated with a bachelor's.
H: Okay. I thought you meant that after you received your bachelor's, you started
teaching then.
T: I did.
H: Okay. And when did you decide to pursue a master's?
T: Um, I started pursuing a master's on a part-time basis while I was teaching.
H: At what university.
T: At the University of Houston.
H: Houston.. And that's where you, so you were teaching in ..
T: I was teaching in Brownsville, Texas, and working on a master's degree part-time.
H: At the University of Houston? Okay. Do you remember the year you received that
T: 1961. I was full-time at the University of Houston and received my doctorate in
H: Okay, from the University of Houston? Okay. Um, can you compare the University of
Houston to the University of Florida?
T: They are both outstanding institutions.
H: Both outstanding. Um, Okay, what made you decide to come to Florida?
T: When I was offered a job.
H: And how did you, uh...
T: I'd been a visiting professor here the summer before I came. I was visiting
professor here in 1965 in the summer, and I came here as a regular faculty member
in the fall of 1966.
H: :il see. And so, since you were a visiting professor, you met the dean of this,uh..
(Y,,$.t4 ^ )

Page 4
H: education college?
T: He was the one who brought me here as a visiting professor.
H: And at the time, did you have in mind that you'd later be working here as a...
T: No.
H: Okay. But the dean offered you a job from, after seeing your work as a visiting
T: I don't know if that was the reason or not, but the dean and Ralph Kimbro, who
was chairman of the administration department during the next year, offered me a job.
H: I see. Did you recJve your master's at the University of Houston... Okay, did you
have to write a thesis?
T: No.
H: You didn't write a thesis. Who was your supervisor like?
T: Where?
H: Uh, at the University of Houston.
T: Uh, Dr. Seville.
H: Was he hard to work for? Any problems, anything rememberable about him that...
T: He was also my doctoral chairman.
H: He was also... so, when you received your master's, he was still your supervisor to
get your Ph.D. ? Okay. After your Ph.D., you worked at the University of Florida
as a visiting professor?
T: Yes, but I was also in Niederland, Texas as an assistant superintendent for
instructional personnnel.
H: Okay...
T: For three years.
H: Okay, exactly when did you come to the University of Florida as a full-time..
T: In September, 1970.... 1966.
H: 1966. What was your first impression of the town of Gainesville?
T: I already had my impression from the summer before..

Page 5
H: Oh, yeah. Well, what was it?
T: Very favorable.~I wouldn't have moved.
H: And the campus was...
T: Smaller than it is now.
H: Much smaller. Was it, um, smaller than Texas, Houston?
T: Much smaller.
H: Much smaller than Houston. Uh, you know approximately how many students were
attending then?
T: At the University of Florida?
H: Yes, sir.
T: No.
H: Okay. What did you do for like, you came in '66 you said. Okay, were there many
like stores, or did you have to go long distance to do much of your shopping?
Was the town, you know, it wasn't as spiffed-up as...
T: I didn't do the shopping. My wife did.
H: Well, did she have to, you know, long distance like...
T: No.
H: She.... could take of everything in Gainesville. I see. Um, how were the students
when you, that you got here. How were their attitudes? Were they respectful,
disrespectful to the teachers or ...
T: The students at that time reflected the attitudes of the students who were opposed
to Vietnam. .
H: Yeah, I was about to ask you about that.
T: Mid-sixties.
H: Okay. So, did you, like, during that time I am told that there were walk-outs
and some students were taking over classrooms. Were you involved in any way in the

Page 6
T: Yes.
H: Okay. Could you elaborate on how you, how it affected you, and what you were doing.
T: One way that I was involved was that I was I was an elected faculty member on a
five-member committee that wrote the university policies on dissent, disruption
and student rights for the president and the faculty. I was also involved in
mediating disputes, working with groups of students... faculty, to have a peaceful
H: Can you tell me how was the problem eventually solved? What measures did this
university take and what did the students do in a compromise if there was any?
T: Well, the problem was basically worked through in a variety of ways because
of the many faculty members who worked with the students. President O'Connell
took a very strong position as president to the university that he wouldn't accept
that kind of behaviour, or wouldn't give in to it.
H: So what happened? Did it just die out eventually, or, any students expelled, or...?
T: I'm not aware of any students expelled. It, it ultimately passed away when President
Nixon agreed to make a decision that, uh, we would end the conflict in Vietnam.
Which was in the early seventies.
H: I see. You were here when the first minority students, I'm referring to blacks,
came to University of Florida, were you not?
T: One of the first large groups came.
H: Large group?
T: Cause I think there'd been one minority student many, many years before--- in the
law school that tried to get in and so forth. Yes, I was here when the minority
students came.
H: Do you, can you recall or can you tell us about the, uh, reaction to the the campus
and surround, uh the community when blacks came to this school? Was it a big problem
or did they just blend into the system without a large degree of difficulty?

T: It was not a problem in the community because Gainesville is a liberal community.
Uh, it was a problem for minority students to feel that they were a part of the
H: I see.
T: And also of the University of Florida.
H: Were you involved in any way in counseling like, in the..
T: Yes.
H: You were? Could you give, you know, elaborate a little on that, how you were
helping to make it an easy transition for blacks to come to a state university,
University of Florida?
T: Well, I didn't work with the freshmen. I worked with the juniors and seniors and
the graduate students.
H: Could you say a little about that?
T: Just simply a matter of telling them to hang in there.
H: I see. Uh, okay, when did you start, did you start actually teaching"at the
University of Florida?
T: Summer of 1965 when I was a visiting professor.
H: Okay, and what was your course load'then? I mean how many courses were you teaching?
T: A visiting professor in the summer doesn't have the same kind of faculty load as a
regular faculty member. That's one of the privileges of being a visiting faculty
H: Oh, well I don't completely understand how a visiting, how it works, you know, being
visiting professor.
T: Well, if a person is a visiting professor in the summer, they have no committee
responsibilities. They have no students to advise. They just simply teach a
lighter load than other faculty members so that they spend the rest of their time
visiting with colleagues, doing some of their research, and so forth, so they do not
have the normal assignments that regular faculty members have.

Page 8
H: I see. So after you started working here full-time, I mean you weren't on visiting
status, visiting professor, where was your first office located?
T: Norman Hall.
H: That's the old building, right?
T: That's the building we're in now.
H: Right, and um...
T: It was on the second floor in the administration department, and also at Lakeshore
H: Okay. Academically speaking, the students at the University of Florida, are they
very competitive with the students at your previous university? Or any other university
you know? They're uh, -
T: I find the students at the University of Florida bte--t: n L
H: Um, compared to like the University of Houston and Texas, do you feel they are
better qualified, or they are a better caliber of students at the University of
Florida, or just about the same?
T: I would say that they are all good students. I really can't make that judgment
today because I'm not familiar with the kinds of students that are at Houston or
$n at Texas now.
H: Okay. Have you dealt, we've talked about minorities, but have you dealt with other
minorities at the University of Florida, such as hispanic, Mexican-American...?
T: Oh, yes, and many of them. In class, many as advisees, uh, had some different
minority students work for me as graduate assistants cause I'm department chairman
H: Have you also dealt with, so you've also dealt/international students? Do you
find that the minority students, in general, are they, do they have a, a disadvantage,
or is-it, is it more difficult for them to make it in this type of university than
their white counterparts?
T: Well...

Page 9
H: Or you think there's no really big difference, that they really...
T: Well, you really can't categorize all minority students as minority students.
/ black students are minority students and they have one point of view.
Students from Saudi Arabia are minority students but they come from an entirely
different culture. Hispanic students come from a different culture.
H: So you're saying culture differences are enough to hinder the progress, the normal
progress..? Il's not? It's not a big culture shock?
T: No, I.... It may be a culture shock, but I didn't say that it hindered. I simply
said/that you can't lump all minority students in one category and talk about them.
I was also going to say that I think you're making a mistake in saying all whites
are the same. Whites that come from Mayo, Florida are just as culturally different
as those who come from Miami, Florida or Orlando, Florida. They come from different
high schools, um... Students from some rural areas in the state, white, are just
as culturally deprived as black students.
H: So you're saying that you really have to take each student as an individual and
their, the background that they came from.
T: That's right. The point I'm trying to make is that too many people automatically
assume that all blacks come from one culture, and all whites, because the whites
come from another culture, and that's not correct. They represent different backgrounds
uh, different economic backgrounds and so forth.
H: So you can't group minorities in a group and compare their progress to, uh, ..
T: People do, but I don't.
H: You don't. You have, you've seen no digfehence in the progress of whites and blacks
at this university?
T: It depends on which groups of whites you are talking about.
H: And which group of blacks.
T: In other words, I've had many white students apply for admission that have been

Page 10
H: I see.
T: Just like I've had black students that have been denied. And I've had students from
Taiwan who have been denied.
H: But have you been involved in any minority recruitment program?
T: Yes. Fact I've had three black doctoral student swith Ph.D.'s. Some of them worked
for me also.
H: Okay. So the University of Florida, it's as good a prospect for minorities, blacks
hispanics, cl_ as any other university and they can make it here with, you
know, no more degree of difficulty than any other state university.
T: Well, I really can't speak for the other state universities, cause I don't know
what problems that, that black students have at Florida International University or
the University of Miami. I'm not familiar with those. Uh, black students who are
committed students as well as white students who are committed, as far as I'm
concerned, can make it at the University of Florida. And have made it.
H: I see.
there are
T: Now, o black students who are lazy like there are white students who are lazy..
they're not going to make it.
H: I see.
H: I see. So you're not really putting forth any special programs for minority students.
I don't mean like black students.... any minorities whether they are hispanic or uh...
T: Well, generally speaking, in our college of education on the graduate level, when
we get students who are already juniors, see freshmen and sophomores don't come
into this college as you know, so, uh,
H; So coming in as juniors, they're pretty much over any ...
T: No, I'm not sure of that. Um, it just depends on the kind of background they come
from. If they come from a background, and it's true of whites, where people have
succeeded and so forth, they feel more secure, Uh, if they *AL to be the first one

_ _
Page 11
From their family, whether it's a white family or a black family, who is the first
one to attend college, they feel a\ot more pressure than if they've had some brothers
and sisters and cousins go on before them.
H: Okay, um, in this department, who makes final departmental decisions? Or, what
I'm asking is, does the department run sort of like a dictatorship or a democracy?
T: Uh, I think the question really is not stated appropriately.
H: Well, uh, that's the best I.... you know, I'm trying to..
T: I know. But since you are going to have this for the oral history tape I want to
be sure it's done in a certain way. ii
H: Yes, sir.
T: Uh, there are many decisions in a university community that-are collectively made
by the faculty under the rules of the constitution of the University of Florida.
There are other decisions that can only be made by an administrator under the
collective bargaining contract. t1e toeIfL Wbargaining contract specifies
as well as the university constitution, very clearly what are the responsibilities
of the faculty and what the responsibilities are of the administrators.
H: I see. You can't recall any, uh, departmental controversies that have occurred
that you wish to elaborate on? Nothing significant?
T: Well, I can recall through the years, areas of disagreement among the faculty as
to what should be the curriculum and what should be, uh, procedures for evaluating
faculty.evaluating student performance. Um, I don't like to attach the word
controversial, because when people work with each other, and they have dialogue,
they have professional disagreements. So, because people have professional disagreements
doesn't necessarily mean that it's a controversial area.
H: Your research interests, have you did any research interests, are you planning on
doing any research?
T: I continue to do research on the change-process in the secondary schools.

Page 12
H: Okay, could you briefly explain like what's involved, what you're doing, any
discoveries that have been made, or you're zeroing in on?
T: Well, I'm just continuing my research on how people change things, how they work
together, continuing my research as to what should be an effective high school,
for example.
H: Okay. Uh, do you have much support from um, your superiors or the people in the
department. Or, like some people get, you know, grants and all, and some people
just have to pull it out of their own pocket for their research interests. Is the
department really backing your research, are you getting any help?
T: Well, I get all the help I need.
H: You never try to do research on something that you finance your, from your own
T: Oh, I've done some of that. Yes.
H: At the University of Florida.?
T: Yes. But all faculty members in the United States do, or are expected to do, research
that is not completely financed by other sources. That'-s just part of-the .professional
obligation that a faculty member has. In the university.
H: I see. But the college_ of education, their research programs, they use, they don't
suffer any more than any other department on this particular campus-- this research?
T: Well, I don't know if they suffer any more. Colleges of education do not always have
the research funds available. Uh,
H: Why is this?
T: Well, because certain collegesoo-a l areas that are given higher
national priority, such as engineering, the sciences, chemistry, physics,so forth
and computer sciences and things of those types, so education as one of the
humanities, is historically been underfunded in the United States.
H: But you feel this should, if there was more money put into research in education,
the nation would benefit you think the money is dispersed ....

Page 13
T: Oh, I think that if there was more money put into educational research, and the
research was carried out, uh, in a logical structured way, I think that education
would benefit. There has been money for research in all areas of life that sometimes
has been wasted.
H: Yes, sir. Uh, the community, have you been involved in any community or programs or
any doing any community service?
T: Yes, I was a school board member in Alachua County, ,
H: Okay.
T:,, uring the years that we desegregated the schools.
H: I see. Like what was ,hum, you just made decisions and voted on policies to
govern how the schools would be desegregated and...
e'wa af/ < SC j,^3 bol<- aCnSy yy-L?
T: This was the
H: I see. Um...
T: We desegregated the schools much faster than most places.
H: I see.
T: Peacefully.
H: Peacefully? Oh, okay.
T: That was quite an accomplishment in those years.
H: Well, were most places going through,like conflicts in desegregating other areas.
T: Yes, that was characteristic of the south in those days, and it's characteristic
today in the north.
H: Exactly what years were these?
T: Uh, primarily from 1968 through 1975.
H: So you were working at the university and also serving on this, this board.
T: On the Alachua County School Board.
H: Okay. Your children, they go to school in this area? Right?
T: My children did go to school in this area, yes/
H: They've, they are graduated from high school or..

Page 14
T: Yes.
H: I see. So you later served on a PTA program and things like that?
T: Oh, numerous others.
H: I see. Um, politics. Did you have any political interests or are you thinking about
T: Well, obviously I have political interests because you had to get elected to among
the school board.
H: Well, okay. Anything beyond that?
T: Well, one time I was considered to be a viable candidate as state commissioner of
education, and I chose not to pursue that.
H: You chose not to pursue it? Can I ask was it because the workload here or
T: No, I think it was because I didn't want to get involved in the state politics and
I didn't want to move my family from Gainesville.
H: Okay, before we close, I'd like to ask you, um, it's been said that in the bill of
education, is not a good prospect, at least as, with today's economy cause you know
there's not enough jobs, or you know, you can't get a job, what is your point-of-view
on education. Is it a good pursuit for an incoming student or graduate student?
T: Well, let me correct the myth. The myth is that there are too many teachers. That's
not the truth. What the truth is, there are too many teachers who only want to teach
in certain places.
H: Oh, I see.
T: Anyone who is willing to move where the job is V get employed as a teacher,
Many of our students for example do not want to teach in Trenton, Florida.
You know where Trenton is?
H: I've heard about it.
T: Okay, as I say, it's not for them. Many teachers don't want to teach in Jacksonville
because they say they don't want to teach in the inner-city schools. Many teachers

Page 15
T: don't want to teach in Valdosta, Georgia because they say they can't accept the
rural southern attitude. So, if the, if persona who want to teach go where the
jobs are, cause there are thousands of teachers in this country, and in the south,
for example, -ilAft not certified, icause certified teachers don't want to teach
in those communities. And generally speaking, most people happen to love Gainesville,
Tallahassee and so forth, Lo the truth is, anyone who graduates with a teaching
degree)and is willing to move where the jgb is, can have a job. That's not true
of a lot of arts and science majors who are willing to move anywhere.
H: And what you say is true for the bachelor's degree and also the master's.
T: Yes.
H: I see.
T: We could place everyone of our students if they wanted to move. But what happens
is, if they can't teach in the school that's right across from their apartment
in Gainesville, and still have a girlfriend or boy^friend in college, or husband
or a wife, uh then they become a bartender or they work somewhere else, and when
people ask them did you get a job, and they say no, that's not the truth. They
couldn't get a job in Gainesville because everybody wans to teach in Gainesville,
including all the wives of university professors. Have I clarified that for you
well tmog1 ? W i\X-
H: Yes.
T: Now your other question was, should they go into teaching? Uh, if they are committed
to working with human beings, they should go into teaching9 /f they understand
that they'll never get rich. In other words, if they want to work with young
people, and they want exciting times, and they want to make decisions about human
beings everyday, that's what teachers do. They decide if a student passes, student
s fails, student, whether to send the student to the office for discipline problems..
if they like making decisions about human beings, teaching is the profession for

Page 16
H: But money is not one of the...
T: If you go into teaching to get rich, you gonna get out.
H: But you can make a decent living?
T: Oh, I think you can. It's just like going into the ministry. Ministers never get
rich, but they've got other kinds of satisfaction.
H: Okay. Finally, what advice, or rather, what attitude would you suggest that a student
have who'd want to pursue a career in education coming the University of
Florida. What type of attitude should a student have that would be most likely to
be successful at it?
T: Several attitudes. The first attitude is the care for other human beings.
The second attitude..
H: Particularly at the University of Florida.. I'm referring tolthough..
T: I know, but if they're going to go through a program that is designed to do that
for them, if they don't care about other human beings when they have the field
experiences in this program, they won't succeed.
H: What do you vmean exactly "care about other human beings"-- they have to have a
deep, personal concern for....?
T: Well, some people care about other human beings, they just don't want to work with
H: Oh, I understand now.
T: Okay. In other words, uh, some people, if you're in a restaurant/for example, they
don't like to have alot of little noisy kids sitting at the next table. Others say
well, that's just the way kids are, you see. So/first is they have to care about
human beings at the age level's they are going to work with. Some people, for example
prefer just to work with older kids in high school. Others say no, I don't want to
work with high school kids, I want to work with first grade children, second grade,
third grade,'. So the first thing y6u gotta do is care about children. The second
things is, besides caring, they have to want to work with them. You can care about

Page 7
T: human beings without wanting to work with them. For example, I care about
prisoners in prisons, but I would not want to be a prison guard, or a teacher.
Are you following me, Willie?
H: Yeah, yeah. I understand completely.
T: Okay. Third thing they have to do is they have to realize that at the University
of Florida in the college of education, that the curriculum ismrigorous curriculum,
and they have to be intellectually capable. So many times people feel that, well,
they can't make it in math or science they'll go teach. That's not true. Cause our
students, in this department, if they are majoring in mathematics, they take the
same mathematics courses, as you know, as they would if they were majoring in
mathematics. Uh, then when they come over here, they have hard, mathematics education
courses. So they have to be intellectually capable of succeeding just as in any other
H: So you wouldn't discourage anybody from pursuing a degree in education at the
University of Florida?
T: Well, if I felt that, I.shouldn't be here, should I?
H: Okay, so we've concluded University of Florida offers a quality education in this
particular field...
T: It offers a quality educational program, but that's not to say that it can't be
improved. Everything can be improved.
H: Is there anything else you'd wish to add.?
T: No.
H: Okay, I'd like to thank you Dr. Todd. And as I said, this won't be released until
you sign a release form.
T: That'll be fine.