Interview with Harold Riker

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Interview with Harold Riker
Riker, Harold ( Interviewee )


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University of Florida Campus (General) Oral History Collection ( local )


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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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Interviewee: Harold Riker
Interviewer: Willie Henderson
place: University of Florida
Date: --. /t /
H: Let me start by asking you to state your full name please.
R: My name is Harold Clark Riker.
H: And what is your academic rank or position?
R: My academic rank i$ Professor of Education in the Department of Counselor
H: Okay. We'll start, we'll get some background information. When and where were
you born?
R: I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in October, 1914.
H: And did you graduate from that area? From that City?
R: I came to Florida at a very early age and went to the school system and graduated,
got my B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Florida.
H: I'm sorry. I was referring to a high school degree then. My mistake. But you went
to high school in Cincinnati?
R: No, I came to Florida when I was seven years of age and went to the public school
system in St. Petersburg, and graduated from the St. Petersburg senior high school.
H: Oh, and did you go to college immediately after that?
R: Right. I first went to the St. Petersburg junior college for two years and then came
up here for two years to get my B.A. and two more to get my M.A.
H: So you got your B.A. and M.A. from the University of Florida?
R: Right.
H: Why'd you choose Florida?
R: I suppose because it was in the state of Florida and so was I and some of my friends
were coming here.
H: Oh. You know, there was no other university that appealed to you or, the state school

Page 2
R: No.
H: What was your major as an undergraduate?
R: As an undergraduate my major was in, was a dual major in english history and english
H: What made you choose that?
R: I suppose because these were the areas of my interest.
H: While you were an undergraduate, did you work part-time or did...
R: Um, I did not work part-time as an undergraduate. I was a student assistant in the,
um, what was known then as the Florida Union while I was working on my master's
H: Exactly what degree did you recwve as your bachelor's? A bachelor's in, or you
know, SAience or..
R: Bachelor of Arts.
H: Bachelor of Arts. Okay. Had you ever visited the university before you decided to
come here though?
R: Um, I think I was here and visited with friends.
H: Before, and it appealed to you? Okay, so you came here at a real early age and
this university weren't that old. Do you remember the exact year again?
That you came.
R: Yes. I came to the university in 1934.
H: 1934. Do you remember the opening of what's now called the Women's Gym?
R: No. It was already here.
H: It was already here. What did the students, like, do for entertainment when you first
R: Oh, I suppose many of the things they do now.
H: Football games, fraternities?
R: Right.
H: Okay. Where did um, ... okay, now you got your master's from Florida also. Okay.
And what was your major when yourwere receiving your master's?

Page 3
R: The same as undergraduate.
H: The same. Had, did you receive a graduate assistantship while you were working on
your master's?
R: It was a student assistantship in what was then the Florida Union which is now the
Reitz Union. It was the Student Uhion building.
H: Oh. I see. And what were your duties?
R: Well, I started out as a desk assistant at the information desk and then I became the
senior student assistant during which time I was responsible for making assignmentsA
work assignments for other people who worked at the desk.
H: So you didn't have a chance to teach while you were getting... you didn't?
You didn't have to write a thesis?
R: Yes.
H: Well, what was the subject of your thesis?
R: It was, the title of the thesis was "Imagery in Chaucer."
H: Can you give us a little explanation about it? Like what it was about, you know.
Did you enjoy doing it?
R: Oh, yes. Very much. I think the general idea is that reading through Chaucer's
Canterbury Tales, I was interested in picking up on some of his references to everyday
life which might give a better picture of him as a person.
H: Who was the professor that directed this, that directed the thesis?
R: A Dr. Clifford Lyons, who at that time was chairman of the english department.
H: What sort of person was he?
R: Well, he was a very capable person. He had a great sense of humor. At the same time
he was a real scholar.
H: Uh, was it difficult working for him?
R: No.
H: No problems at all. Okay. Did you, um, after you received your master's, did you
immediately work on your Ph.D.?

Page 4
R: No. I received my master's in 1938 and it was 1953 before I started work on my
doctorate at Columbia University in New York.
H: So what did you do between those years, between your master's and yo4,Ph.D.?
R: When I finished my master's degree, I was invited to continue on at the Florida
Union building as assistant director to the then director, Billy Matthews. He later
became a congressman from this particular district.
H: But your job at that point, it had nothing to do with education really?
R: No.
H: And you stayed there the entire period between your master's and your Ph.D.?
R: I stayed there about a year and a half, and then I was asked by the president of
the university, Dr. Tigert, if I would be interested in becoming the acting Director
of Residence which I said I would be glad to do,so I was the acting Director of
Residence for a year and then I, uh, I joined the navy and went on active duty for
four and a half years between 1942 and '461and then returned to the university as
director of housing in 1946.
H: Did you have a rank in the navy or just enlisted...?
R: Yes, I retired as, well, I left active duty as lieutenant commander and was retired
from the navy as a commander.
H: I see. And so after you retired from the navy, it still was a brief period between
then and when you started work on your Ph.D.
R: Yes. I was Director of dousing from 1946..
H: For which university? This university?
R: In 1946 until 1951, when I was recalled back to duty with the navy in 1951 during
the Korean war and then I was on active duty in Washington for two years, and at
the end of that time I took, uh, academic leave of absence to get my doctorate at
H: What was the atmosphere on this campus, you know, during those war years? Were the)
cnlaerd seee
were the students really concerned about the war uh, feelings expressed

Page 5
H: through regular activity between professors and students?
R: Well, of course, I really wasn't here during the war years. I was on active duty in
the navy. The only thing that I can remember very distinctly is, on hearing the news
over the radio on Sunday the 7th of, when was it, September 7th was it, 1941?
H: I wish, I couldn't be sure myself.
R: Well, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, all the radios were on all over the
residence halls and everybody was listening to get the news and it was really a very,
kind of a tense moment I think. Everyone was wondering what their situation was going
to be.
H: And you were later called to active duty. Okay. You then went to Columbia University
to work on your Ph. D. Why'd you choose Columbia? You had been to Florida for your
master's and all. What made you choose Columbia for your Ph.D.?
R: Well, I decided I wanted to continue to work in student housing and specifically in
the general field of student personnel administration, and at that time, there was
an excellent person who headed that program at Columbia University whose name is
Dr. Astor Lloyd Jones, and I had met her on several previous occasions at different
national conferences and um, she was the one that really was the reason for my
going to Columbia.
H: Did you do any teaching while you were working on your Ph.D.?
R: Worked full-time as a student, as a graduate student.
H: Who was the professor that directed your dissertation?
R: Dr. Lloyd Jones.
H: And what type of person was he?
R: She.
H: She. Oh, I'm sorry....
R: Well, she was an excellent person. She um, in fact she is still living and a very
charming person who had, at that time, a national reputation as one of the leaders in
the field. So of course, it is nice to be associated with someone with that kind of
a ....

Page 6
H: And you didn't have any problems working with her?
R: No.
H: Yeah, okay. You, what was the subject of your dissertation?
R: Um,"A New View of College residence Halls."
H: "A New View of College Residence Halls." You are really dedicated to that area.
R: And the new view was that I saw student living as an important part of their learning
on college campuses. And so that's the point of view that I pursued and um, promulgated
for I suppose, um, oh, well, I have most of my life actually. I mean, that's where
my early writing wasinithin that field. And I was writing at a time when there was
nothing else that had been written on that subject.
H: So after that, how did you come back to the U.F. as a faculty member? How did you
hear about the job opportunity at the University of Florida, you know, after you
R: Well, I was just on leave of absence.
H: Oh, I see.
R: So I returned after I completed my doctorate.
H: And you had a job waiting for you with your PT All right, so you
didn't have to go through another interview or anything like that, so you had made
an agreement to leave and work on a master's?
R: A doctorate.
H: Would you talk with, you know, to arrange this? Who did you talk with to arrange
the fact that uh, you'd have a job waiting for you with your Ph.D. status when you
returned from Columbia? And if something would have happened, let's say, bizarre that
would occur and you wouldn't have gotten your Ph.D., what would have been the result?
R: (laughter) Well, that did not happen.
H: Yeah, I know, but...
R: Well, the person that I worked with/since student housing is a part of Student
Affairs at the university, the person I worked with was the vice -President for Student
Affair who at that time was a Dr. MaxWise, who was also a graduate of Columbia
University and had worked with Dr. Lloyd Jones.

Page 7
H: And apparently he had faith that you would succeed in this endeavor.
R: Right. I would think so.
H: Okay. So what type of contract did you sign you know, when you came back? What
I'm trying to say is, do you mind telling us the amount of money that was offered
you to start work with your Ph.D.?
R: I'm not sure I remember, but it was somewhere around, oh, I suppose, ten thousand
H: That seems sort of low,doesn't it?
R: Yeah. That was back in 1955.
H: Was that a typical salary for a Ph.D. professor in those days.
R: Yeah.
H: I see. And that was 1955. Were you married at the time?
R: No. I was married in 1957.
H: Oh. So you met your wife here in Florida?
R: Right.
H: I see. What were your, well, this is sort of like going backwards, but I would
like to ask you what were your impressions of the town of Gainesville, your first
impressions. I realize you had been here long before, after high school...
R: Well, of course, Gainesville was quite different than it is now in some respects and
the main respect is that it was much smaller than it is now. In other words, the
population of Gainesville back in 1934 when I first came was probably around twenty
H: People?
R: Um hmmm.
H: The entire population of Gainesville?
R: Right. And at that time, the enrollment of the university was around three thousand.
H: So uh, what were your first impressions of the campus, not Gainesville in general,
but the University of Florida campus ?

Page 8
R: Well, I think it was very favorable.
H: Very favorable. You mean you thought it was a beautiful campus? Did you consider
it big at that point? You know, from your point of view at that time, did you consider
it big?
R: I didn't have any, I don't recall any feeling one way or the other.
H: I see. And um, your initial job title here at the university was
R: Full-time?
H: Right.
R: 'Assistant director of the Florida Union.
H: Where was your department located?
R: It was located in the building that is now the Arts and sciences classroom building.
That was the original Florida Union.
H: Well, who was your immediate supervisor?
D. R
R: Um, 1 "'Billy"Matthews, who is the person I told you became a congressman from this
H: Okay. Who was the chairman of the department at that time?
R: Well, now you see actually for a good many years, I was in the administrative
structure of the university so that when you talk about the Florida Union for example
the director of the union was in charge of the union and I was the assistant
director and responsible to him. I was the only other full-time person on the
administrative staff at that time.
H: So when did you really start working with students, teaching students?
R: Well, of course I started working with students at the union because students are
the main reason why the union exists
H: But I mean..
R: But as far as actual teaching, I suppose I started teaching about 1966 when I was
invited to become faculty associate of the counselor Education Department.
H: I see. So what was your teaching load? What type of courses were you teaching?

Page '
R: I was teaching courses in student personnel work in higher education.
H: In what building?
R: In Norman Hall.
H: And what type of load did you start off carrying? I mean how many...
R: Well, I only carried one course.
H: One course?
R: Well, I was also Director of Housing.
H: I see. And later you increased the load?
R: Yes. Later as of 1971, I was invited to join the faculty of Counselor Education
full-time so that I shifted over as a full-time member of the college faculty as of
September 1971, and have been tenured in that position ever since.
H: So where were you, were was your first office located? As you said, the arts and
science building was the ..
R: My first office was in the arts and science building.
H: And how soon did you make a move from the arts and science building to, I guess it
was Norman Hall?
R: My next office as Director of Residence was in what is the, an apartment now in
et trc$iZ
Clutoea r Hall, which is a residence hall.
H: tr/A-& bAtI ~J?
R: Yeah, uh hmmm.
H: So that was, it was an apartment then?
R: Only it was used for an office at that time. It has been converted to an apartment
since then.
H: So you've seen most of the major changes in this university during your stay here, like
you know, the new building and things like that.
R: I guess as far as the college housing is concerned, I was responsible for providing
some leadership in the design and construction of all the residence halls on campus
other than the Hall area.
other than the M&Bckar Hall area.

Page 10
H: Why did you not work with the MP4rly Hall area?
R: Well, it was already built.
H: 0 yeah. Was that the only residence hall at first .....?
R: Um hmmm.
H: What was the, when you first came to the university as a student, did you stay in
a dorm?
R: Actually I lived off-campus.
H: Oh, I see. Was that um, for economical reasons or..?
R: Um hmmm.
H: It was cheaper to live off-campus in those days?
R: Um hmm.
H: That seems in the reversal from the way it is now.
R: That's right, but actually I lived in a rooming house.
H: Oh. That's just like one room or something?
R: Yeah.
H: What was the quality of the students that you first taught here at the university?
Remember you said that you started teaching.. here in '66, '67.
R: Well, I thought they were excellent. I had, I don't think there's been... I don't
recall any particular change. I think they've always been, there has always been a
high caliber of students here in the college and in.the department.
H: Um, could you compare to the type of students you met at Columbia? Were they
academically competitive?
R: I would say at Columbia, the students tended to be older.
H: Older?
R: Um hm.
H: For the same status...
R: This is at the graduate level.
H: Yes sir.

Page 11
R: This is at the graduate level, and many of the people that I seem to know at, from
the university had been on full-time jobs just as I had, and were coming back and
doing their doctoral work.
resT** l C .f*
H: While you were teaching the students, were they very I43 to the faculty or were
R: No particular problems.
H: No particular problems. Okay, there was a period, were you here during the period
at the university where there was like a lot of, I think,tension with the administratio:
and the students. I think some students were taking overf he classrooms and... do you
know the period I am referring to?
1 .
R: This was the late s-xteS and early s evct s.
H: Right. So you were here during that time.
R: At that time I was the Director of Housing.
H: Were you affected by the situation in any way?
R: Well, yes. I was very much involved because some of the student tensions were of
course taking place in the residence halls where students lived.
H: Oh, sure. And how was the problem eventually resolved, and what started it, do you
know? Could you briefly explain that period?
R: Well, of course, there was a supreme court decision in 1964 which stated that there
would be no discrimination on the basis of race and it was shortly after that time
that the first black student came to the University of Florida. As I recall, he was
in the College of Law. Then additional students came afterward and
H: At first there was only one black student?
R: Um hmm.
H: Just one? And this started, the commotion started as a result of him entering into
the law school?
R: I don't recall that there was any particular commotion actually there. It seems to
me that there was more, um, any commotion, as you say, that might have existed, I think
was as a result of the press wanting to find out 4i. what was going on and they would

Page 12
R: snap a lot of pictures and so forth. I was not involved in that so I don't really
know the details, but I, that's my impression.
H: Well what was the biggest extent that this affected the residence hall?
R: Um, well... there were several things going on. The issue of black students coming to
the campus really had nothing to do with the fact that um, I suppose it's a matter
of letting off steam. A number of students would come to the women's residence halls
some of the males would come to the women's halls and come in and go through them.
H: Black males? Or just regular...
R: No. No, I would say it'd be primarily white. And this caused a lot of consternation and
a tremendous amount of ..
H: It doesn't seem like it's racially ...
R: No, it was not. No, it was not. No. So I'm just saying that there were tensions and
a part of it was racial and a part of it was not. And I think the second part had to
do really with the feeling that students felt that they should have a greater part
to play in the administration of the university, particularly in terms of policies
and so forth. But keep separate the two items. I think they were really were separate.
H: Have you ever worked with minority students in depth1 lot particularly, .ji9 you
worked with any minority group like on committees or, not necessarily black but any
minority like Hispanic or Mexican-American?
R: Uh, you mean at any time?
H: At any time.
R: Oh, yes.
H: Could you elaborate on one of them? What you did and ..
R: Of course here in the department, we have two of our faculty members who are black.
As a matter of fact, I served as acting chairperson over the department for a couple
of years and assisted in the recruitment of Dr. -MacDavis, who is a member of our
department. So that would be one illustration.
H: And how do you feel this university handles the recruitment of minority students
in general?

Page 13
R: Well, I think the university has made an adequate beginning, but I think it needs
to keep on and do more.
H: What other things could they do that they are not doing now that you think might
be helpful on more beneficial?
R: Well, I think we need to look at the general environment of the university in terms
of a black students reaction to the environment. Um, we have several doctoral
dissertations that deal with minority students at the University of Florida, one
of which came up with the conclusion that the environment seemed to be satisfactory,
H: I see.
R: And uh, there are others that I'm not sure are quite that positive so I think we a-
)p keep looking at the situation to see how we can make the general environment of the
university one that is um, one in which a minority person can feel comfortable.
H: How do students at the university compare with the quality of students that come in
from other countries that you've had contact with, that you've taught? How do the
Americans compare? Are they as competitive, is there an advantage or disadvantage
given to the foreign students. I don't mean given, but is, do the foreign students have
an advantage or a disadvantage?
R: Well, I think that in general students, international students from other countries
tend to be at a disadvantage because they are coming into a new culture and um, I
think that many people coming from one culture to another experience what we knowaas
culture shock and the, a certain amount of time I think has to be devoted to learning
to live in a different culture, so I would think that that situation...
H: But have you had any difficulty working with them any foreign international...
R: Oh, no. We have a number of international students in our department..
H: No language block or anything.. no language barrier?
R: Well, not from my point of view although -I have talked with some international
students who say that language has been a problem for them, but um, my impression is
that they have made a remarkable adjustment. I often wonder how difficult for me to

Page 14
R: be in..
H: Another foreign country..
R: In another foreign, in a foreign country, and how would I be able to conduct myself,
so I think I'm, on that basis, very sympathetic.
H: I want to touch on your research interests before we finish. Did you have any, and
what were they?
R: Well, I
H: Interest in research.
R: I would say that my most recent interest has been in the area of ferontology
which means the study of aging and older people/and I've worked4En counselor
iducation epartment to develop three courses on counseling older persons. They have
different titles.
H: Have you made any interesting discoveries?
R: Well, um, I would say that among the interesting items of information that I have
discovered have been the need for a greater acceptance of older people by the society
and by young eople.
H: What are you considering "older people."
R: Anybody who is sixty-five and older.
H: And they are not accepted by younger society as they should be?
R: Well, by society as a whole, whether it is younger or older.
H: In doing this research and any other research that you've done, were you encouraged
by your superiors, or was theS opposition in their...
R: Oh, I would say strong encouragement.
H: Did you teach doing research during the summers or do you research full-time during
the summer?
R: No. I've always taught and done some research at the same time.
H: Oh, I see. Did your research um, require you to leave the area at any time?
R: No. I've been pretty much in the Gainesville area. I've made short trips but, pretty
much in the Gainesville area.

Page 15
H: Okay. The people in your department, were there any very outstanding personalities
like, that worked in your department?
R: We have uh, a number of outstanding personalities in counselor education. It is a very
I think unique department in that we have, we have had and continue to have a number
of leaders in their particular, um,
H: Fields?
R: Field within counselor education.
H: Who makes the departmental decisions? Like was it a dictatorship or a democracy?
R: Oh, I'd say it was a democracy.
H: But who makes the final decision?
R: I think the department is a voting unit.
H: Oh. I see. Uh, were there any departmental controversies that you remember or you
wish to speak about?
R: Well, I think there's a continuing problem of developing the best possible evaluation
procedures. How do, how does the department evaluate members of, individual members
of the department. I think that's a continuing issue that we need to work with
in order to get, to be sure that we give the most impartial and fairest consideration
to everybody.
H: Who were the evaluations given to? After you evaluate them, who benefits by reading
the evaluation of this individual?
R: Well, it's used by the dean of the college and by, who all, by the dean of the college
in determining such issues as promotion tenure and salary increases.
H: Oh. And I
R: That's true of every department.
H: Okay. Have you served on any particular committees? Other than what you've already
told m. like you worked for the housing...
R: Well, I've been a member of the faculty senate as a representative of the college
of education and I've been on several committees within the department, um, for
example, the committee on selection of candidates for admission to the department.

Page 16
R: and the committee that is responsible for setting up qualifying exams for
doctoral students.
H: So you've been pretty busy your stay here. Have you published any publications?
R: Yes. Um, a number of chapters for books on the subject of Gerontology in recent
years and I've just Finished a chapter for a book on fraternities.
H: Oh, really? You've finished a chapter on a book? So it's not your particular
R: Not the entire book.
H: Work. Yeah, I see.
R: Just the chapter. And I've also worked on journal articles.
H: Have you had much work in directing graduate students?
R: Yes.
H: Do you find it most enjoyable or are they hard to work with or...?
R: Oh, yes. I learn and I think they learn to.
H: Have you had any graduate students that went on to be.. I don't want to say became
a success, but um, got an outstanding job as the result of someone you've worked with?
R: Well, I guess maybe I might first start with the housing division staff. People whom
I was responsible for employing and who served on the staff when I was director of
Housing have gone on to be leaders in their particular professions. Um, two former
staff members have become and been president of the American College Personnel
H: So you've had a good degree of success with graduate students?
R: I think so.
H: Were you involved much in community affairs?
R: Quite a bit.
H: Could you elaborate on some of that?
R: Well, I have been and am a member of the Gainesville Housing Authority.
H: Still are?
R: I have been chairperson of that. I am a member of the Advisory Council for the
Area Agency on Aging and I am serving as the chairman of that.

Page 17
H: Okay.
R: So those are two things. I am a member of the local Rotary Club which is a city
H: Now, uh, in closing could you give us your evaluation of this particular university
compared with other universities in the state of Floridaand any advice to incoming
students pursuing a degree not only undergraduate, but after a bachelor's, graduate
R: Well, let's take each one of those in turn. First of all, let me say that I have
had an opportunity to travel considerably around the country visitinglcolleges and
universities, part of the time as a consultanttfor various kinds of projects and um,
I have had opportunities
H: Projects for these universities...
R: Pardon?
H: Projects mainly for this university?
R: No, no. As a consultant, and that means that other universities have asked me to
come there to help them with a particular problem, and I've had a few opportunities
to move to other universities and have always felt that I would prefer to stay here.
H: So this school does provide a quality education for students?
R: I think it does. And I think it also, well, I suppose I've been here long enough that
I feel a particular affection for it because I've grown with it in some respects, e
so I feel pretty good about being a resident of Gainesville which I think is an
exceptionally fine community. I might say by the way, that I have a number of my
friends who've gone to other places and they r askF me what would be the
chances of coming back to Gainesville. Now in connection with your second question,
what would I say to students who are what? Considering coming to the University
of Florida?
H: Right, or and what type of student would most likely succeed be, beyond a bachelor
degree and to a graduate study. At this particular university, what type of student
would you encourage to come to Florida and what type would you discourage?

Page 18
R: Well, I would encourage students to come here who are willing to work hard, and who
feel that the particular graduate course that they have, can find here, the particular
graduate course that will help them in whatever their life work is going to be.
H: But can you, and do you recommend the College of Education in this, at this point,
you know how the economy is and many people say that in education there is not as
many jobs.... Can you recommend the college of education as a
R: Yes, I can
H: A course of study for incoming students.
R: I can recommend the allege of Education as a source of study because as a matter
of actual fact, contrary to popular opinion, there exists in Florida at the present
time a shortage of teachers.
. And many of the teachers who are employed, and this would include counselors,
first teachers are employed who've actually done their work outside of the state,
who've done their graduate or undergraduate education and a number of individuals who
are serving as counselors have really had no special training as counselors, so I
think that, I'm trying to indicate to you in the first place that there are positions
available in the state of Florida and then in the second place it seems to me that
the College of Education not only has a leadership role in this state, but that
to the dean of the college, Dean Smith, we are in a process of developing a new
look at, uh, at education which goes by the title of "Pro-teach." I don't know
whether you've heard that discussed or not, but anyhow, it represents an insightful
view of what training should be given to people who are going into the field of
education, and I think that once that that plan is implemented, it should make this
college even more significant as a place for graduate and undergraduate training.
H: Even in futune years?
R: And in future years.

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H: So you don't think the future looks dim for education? Not in the immediate future?
R: Well, I think that there always problems of finance. I think that higher education
is having difficultSM to find the sufficient number of dollars to meet the needs for
operation and development.
H: Even more so than other colleges.
R: I was speaking about higher education as a whole.
H: Oh, I see.
R: And I think that as a result of that, that the College of Education will have
difficulty like some other colleges do.
H: Before I close, I'd like to ask you if there is anything else that you wish to add
to close out the interview?
R: No, I don't think so.
H: Okay.
R: I feel very strongly about University of Florida. I think it's a great university
with a great future.
H: Okay, Dr. Riker. We appreciate you giving us the interview and as I said, you
will have a release form for you to sign in the future.
R: Fine. Okay.