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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Professor Edward Clark
INTERVIEWER: Willie Henderson
DATE: September 22, 1982
Dr. Edward Clark
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWER: WILLIE HENDERSON
INTERVIEW: UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, COLLEGE OF EDUCATION
DATE OF INTERVIEW: September 22, 1982
Edward Clark is an assistant professor at the University of Florida,
College of Education. He was hired in 1966 and is in an advisory
/counselor capacity for education graduate students. In the interview,
Clark's past is discussed briefly.
Clark speaks about the national ranking of the education college. An
explanation is offered of how the graduate education program was alterred
after he arrived. University of Florida student protests and racial
tensions on campus in the 1960s are addressed.
H: I'm going to start the interview by asking you to state your full
C: Edward Clark.
H: And what is your adademic position? What is your rank?
C: Assistant professor of Education.
H: I want to get some general background. When and where were you
C: I was born is Irwin, Tennessee, March 15, 1924.
H: Did you graduate from high school in that city?
H: Did you go on to college immediately after that?
H: Did you work or get a job?
C: No, I went into the Navy in the 1940s, 1942.
H: How long were you in the Navy?
C: About four years.
H: Four years. Was that during any war period? Like the Korean
C: It was during World War II.
H: World War II. Did you see live combat or...
H: When did you decide to go to college?
C: It was in the fall of 1946, so the war had been over for a while.
I majored in English and Physical Education.
H: And what made you choose that particular major?
C: I had planned to teach and to coach.
H: Coach what?
C: Football primarily.
H: Were you active in football during high school?
H: I see. And you later lost interest in coaching?
C: Well, yes. I injured my knee in college and so I gave up football.
I still had the interest in teaching, but I did lose some of the
interest for coaching. But I was still interested in sports.
H: As an undergraduate, did you work part-time?
C: Yes, I did.
H: Even though you lived at home?
H: What did you do?
C: I worked in the local YMCA. I was sort of the director of activi-
H: During the summers, did you work full-time?
C: I worked in the afternoons and evenings.
H: Did you go to school during the summer?
C: I went to school year around.
H: When did you receive your bachelor's degree?
C: In June, 1949.
H: What degree did you receive? B.A.?
C: Yes, bachelor's degree. Bachelor's of Art degree.
H: Why did you decide to come to the University of Florida?
C: Well, that's a long period in between there...[laughter]
H: Let's fill in that period. What'd you do after you received your
C: I went to George Peabody College, and finished a master's degree,
Master of Education.
H: Where is George Peabody College?
C: It's in Nashville, Tennessee. At that time, that was in August of
1950. When I finished the degree, the Korean War had just gotten
underway, and the FBI had a drive on to recruit new agents.
H: For FBI?
C: Yes. I had a friend who was a resident agent in the city where
East Tennessee State University is, he approached me, and asked
me to apply; so I did.
H: For this FBI position?
C: Yes. I was in the FBI as a special agent for the next two years.
H: Can you reveal anything about the type of work you did there?
C: The FBI has jurisdiction over, for investigating violations of
specific federal laws, so we did...
H: What got you from that type of occupation and back into teaching?
C: I was in New York as an FBI agent. There was a new plant, a sub-
sidiary of Sperry Corporation, being built back in East Tennessee,
and it had some relationship to missiles. So, they had to have
security set up. I had the opportunity to go back to work in the
area of security while they were building this plant.
H: But how did you get from there to the University of Florida?
C: About that time, I decided to get married, and my wife is from
Florida, and we wanted to move to Florida. It was the opportunity
to get back into teaching, which is really what I wanted to do.
We moved to Sebring, Florida, which is in Highlands County. I
taught in the public schools there until 1963. The counselor in
the high school was leaving and they wanted me to be the counselor.
I was not certified, and I came up here to the University of
Florida in 1963 and attended the NDEA Guidance Institute for a
year, and then I went back to Sebring. This was a government
sponsored institute, and part of the stipulation was that you
return to the school that you came from for at least a year. And
I did that. Then I spent two years, or a year and a half, in St.
Petersburg, Florida. This was with the Pinellas County School
Board, I was working as a counselor in the Job Corps. In the
spring of 1966, well, actually late winter, the Job Corps center
was going to be dismantled, phased out. I heard from a friend that
there was an opening up here, an interim position, and I wanted to
come back to finish a doctoral degree.
H: You heard from a friend?
C: Yes. A friend whose father was on the faculty up here.
H: What opening?
C: This was in 1966, this office that we're in now, was the Office of
Graduate Studies in Education. It's now known as Student Services
in Education. And at that time we had an assistant dean for under-
graduate studies, and an assistant dean for graduate studies. And
this was his office. We had a person who had been working as a
counselor in this office for many years, who was on sick leave and
they didn't really anticipate his coming back. So I took the
position on an interim basis and studied part time.
H: I don't understand. You said you took it on an interim basis?
C: Yes. That means it's not permanent.
C: At that time.
H: But you had come, you already had your master's, you had gotten
that from Tennessee.
C: I had the master's degree. My intentions were to finish a degree
here. Course I did, I did finish the specialist's degree in 1968.
H: You finished the specialists's degree here. That's beyond your
C: Right. It's a six year degree. Education Specialists's degree.
H: When you were in Tennessee, did you have a graduate assistantship?
H: You didn't?
C: No, I was on the GI Bill.
H: So you didn't teach or anything.
H: You went straight through school.
C: That's how I finished as early as I did.
H: Then you went through that period with the FBI and when you came
here, you said you had pursued a specialist degree. Did you have
an assistantship when you were doing that?
C: No, I was a full-time employee.
H: So you got that degree and worked full time.
C: Right. When I got that degree then I got a permanent position and
a promotion to assistant professor. So I've been in this office
H: I see. So you didn't have to do any special project like a thesis
or anything, for your specialist's degree. But you did do a
thesis for your master's, did you not?
C: This was a master's of Education, a non-thesis.
H: I see. Who was your main supervisor while you were pursuing your
C: The assistant dean, Melvin Baker.
C: Let me tell you a little about when I came here in 1966 up until
1976. This was the Office of Graduate Studies in Education.
There was a separate office for Unidergraduate Studies in Education.
This was a central office for the assistant deans responsible for
administrating the policy of the graduate committee of the college,
and the graduate school. All programs and admissions, came through
this office and were ultimately approved in this office. The dissertations
came through this office. It was the central office for
the graduate program, all graduate programs in Education. But in
1976, the college decided to decentralize the graduate programs
and moved all the responsibilities. The assistant dean had already
retired, so they were not going to replace him. They moved all
the responsibilities that this office has had to the departments.
The departments made their own decisions within the policy of the
H: Who was the person who actually hired you?
C: Well, this was Melvin Baker (professor of Education and assistant
dean, 1952-1978), the assistant dean at that time.
H: Is he retired?
C: He's dead now. He did retire. He has been dead about three years.
At that time, he was the one who recommended me to the dean. The
dean at that time was Kimble Wiles.
H: On what basis did he recommend you? Did he know you, had he
already interviewed you?
C: I came up and talked to him. I had an appointment and an interview.
H: And from the basis of the interview he recommended you to the dean?
C: I had been here for a year, remember, at the Institute. He appar-
ently had already talked with the faculty of that department, and
had checked my records. The dean was Kimble Wiles. He's no longer
living. He was killed in an automobile accident I think about
1968 or late '67.
H: Do you remember him as being very strict?
C: He was a well-known person, an educator with a national reputation.
He did a lot of traveling. So my personal contact with the dean,
Kimble Wiles, was limited. But I had daily contact with Dr. Baker.
H: Do you mind telling how much money they offered you to start here?
C: At that time I made ninety-five hundred dollars a year.
H: Is that typical...
C: We were on a different kind of pay structure then than we are now.
H: Was that a typical salary for...
C: I don't really know. I think it was, for someone in my position,
an instructor or an interim appointment.
H: And you were married at the time you took the job.
H: What is your wife's name?
H: Do you have children?
C: Yes, four.
H: Exactly what was your first impression of the town of Gainesville
when you got here? The town in general.
C: 1963 was the first time I was up here, and I fell in love with
Gainesville right from the first.
C: I'd been in south central Florida for a number of years and of
course, I grew up in the mountains.
H: In Tennessee?
C: In Tennessee. I like the rolling terrain here, the variety of
trees, something other than just palms and pine trees. I like the
town, the school system...
H: And that year, how did you do your shopping because Gainesville was
not as built up as it is now?
C: That's right. We used to have to travel three or four miles really
to get to, I think, the only public supermarket, and it was built
after we moved up here. Gainesville's grown a good bit since then,
but essentially the town has expanded downtown, all the shopping
centers and so forth which you really didn't have. Same as the
university. When I first came here, there was around twelve to
fourteen thousand students.
H: When you first came?
H: So it was about half the size it is now?
C: Less then half.
H: Less than half. You've seen this university grow a great deal.
What was your first impression of the university? The campus in
general, not the town.
C: The campus, well, I was quite impressed with it. It was the first
university I'd ever seen that was complete in itself, on one
campus. Other universities tend to house medical school maybe in
another city, dental school somewhere else, law school maybe some-
where else. Here, everything's right on this campus.
H: And you think that makes a more complete or more convenient uni-
versity for the students?
C: In a lot of respects, yes. Particularly for graduate students,
they not only have their own college, but all kinds of resources.
Any area you can think of.
H: And you started working here, and your department was located in
C: Yes, this was the only building, this older building here was the
College of Education.
H: Norman Hall?
C: Norman Hall. We didn't have the new addition, until three or four
H: Could you specifically tell us what were your duties at:first, when
you first came here. You didn't immediately start teaching, did
C: No, no. I was full time in this office working as a counselor in
graduate studies. The duties involved talking with prospective
students as well as current, students getting information about
H: Did you ever do any actual teaching in a classrom?
H: But you did come in contact with students a great deal? Mainly
the incoming freshmen?
C: No, I worked at that time with graduate students.
H: Oh, I see, graduate students. And you did all that from this
C: From this office, right.
H: What was the quality of the students that you came in contact
with, compared to other university students? What is the quality
of graduate students, that come to Florida as compared to other
universities, in your opinion?
C: I think the typical graduate student at the University of Florida
is above average, well above the average, well let's say, at least
H: In this state?
C: Any state university.
H: Is this your honest opinion?
C: Well, I should qualify that statement. With other state universi-
ties with which I am familiar and that leaves out quite a few.
The quality of the students I have found has been good.
H: So you have enjoyed working with the graduate students here?
H: Have you had any research interests while you've been here, or do
you have any research interests you would like to pursue in the
C: I've been as part of the job here, doing research of one sort or
another, follow-up studies, studies on admissions, things of this
H: What's been your most rewarding work you've done here? The work
you've done here that you enjoyed doing the most, or you felt was
the most beneficial?
C: I think that the thing I've probably enjoyed the most was when I
first came here. There was a lot of confusion in trying to get
special programs started, workshops, other special programs, gov-
ernment sponsored and so forth; and it involved working with the
registrar's office. Sometimes special procedures for admissions
and registration, and with the Graduate School. I drifted into the
coordinator's role for this office, working with the different
people in the registrar's office, the admissions office and the
graduate school, I developed a good rapport with the people.
H: So, since you've been here, you've seen the establishment of many
degree programs in this department, especially graduate programs?
C: I've seen what now? I didn't understand the question.
H: The establishment of many degree programs, like more degrees
offered in the College of Education?
H: And even on the graduate level in the graduate program. Exactly
who made the departmental decisions here? Was it a dictatorship,
or more like democracy?
C: Oh, no. The cha men of different departments, there are seven
departments at the graduate level here, and each department has a
H: And they voted in general?
C: I'm not sure I'm following you. You're talking about now or
before we decentralized it?
H: Yes. When you first came, how did they make decisions? What I'm
saying, did all the chairmen get together and vote before a major
decision that affected the entire college was made?
C: We had a graduate committee. This was a committee composed of
faculty from each department, directors of institutes, and also
those elected at large. Any major policy change decision about the
graduate program went through our graduate committee.
H: Is it still done that way?
C: It still exists. The graduate committee does. There is also an
H: Do you remember or do you recall any departmental controversies or
feuds since your stay at this university?
H: Or controversies that occurred in this department.
C: Nothing major. There's always, I guess, differences of opinions,
minor to somewhat major things between them. Even within depart-
ments, for that matter.
H: You said you came here really in 1963, so you were here in the
sixties. There was a period at the university where there was, I
won't say racial tension, but there were walk-outs, students were
taking over classrooms, you were here during that period?
H: Were you affected in any way by this? Was this department affec-
ted in any way by the situation that was happening then?
C: The college?
H: Yes, sir.
C: No more than any one else in the university.
H: Well, we say no more than anyone else, how were the teachers or
professors affected by the situation that was occurring? What I'm
asking, how was the College of Education, from your point of view,
affected by the commotion that developed between the racial tension
or the students going against the establishment?
C: Most of the, whatever you want to call it, hostility or anger or
whatever, was directed more at what you said was the establishment.
There was no direct confrontation as far as the College of Educa-
tion was concerned, that I know of.
H: You were a graduate student. You didn't see any, through that
period, tensions or hostilities with your work involving them?
C: Yes. I worked with graduate students, and at that time, many of
them were actively involved in student protests.
H: So at that time, you feel this department was putting out not its
best quality students because of this?
C: Well, I can't say that.
H: Just as good quality as ever? I mean, did the quality of students
suffer because of this period?
C: I don't know.
H: So what happened? This period just died down? Didn't the univer-
sity take measures to solve it? Did this college do anything
active to solve this commotion? Or did it just die out with time?
C: I think, primarily, the tensions and so forth, did more or less
phase out over a period of time. Most of it was related to the
H: Have you done a great deal of work with minority students, and
especially graduate students in general? Not particularly blacks
but minorities in general, Spanish or Mexican-American? Did you
just work with all students?
C: No special programs. I have not been involved personally.
H: Well, you do feel that students you work for, minority or not,
that this university admits them on the same standards of quali-
fications? I mean, when they go through your office, they're as
equally qualified as their counterparts even though they are mi-
nority students or foreign students?
C: Whether you're talking about minority students or foreign stu-
dents or we'll say the white Americans, you're going to have your
range of students. I mean, in ability and performance, from poor
to excellent in all groups, I don't see a greater, a lesser per-
centage in one group.
H: Do you feel the minority students are qualified to come here? Do
you feel they are very well prepared to pursue an education in the
College of Education at the University of Florida?
C: There again you have a wide range, and this is true with any group.
Some are not adequately prepared.
H: Do they have a high degree of success when they come here? Are
there many graduates compared to the number that initially enrolled?
C: In the College of Education?
C: I think it's a very good percentage on the graduate level. Many of
our programs are for people in education, all of them are. And we
have a large number of, since I've been here, blacks who have fin-
ished their doctorate and who have been quite successful profession-
ally since then.
C: Is that what you're asking?
H: Have you worked with many international students?
C: We have, yes.
H: And they are as equally motivated as their counterparts; the Ameri-
cans that go here, or do they have any advantages or disadvantages,
as compared to the other students, the international students you
have worked with?
C: Probably the language is a big problem, and culture. And there
again, it differs within a group.
H: But what's their degree of success? Do most graduate or transfer?
C: I think most, course you have to remember, at the graduate level
many don't finish for reasons other than lack of ability. They may
have financial reasons, or sometimes they get involved in a full
time job away from where they were going to school. But those who
remain in the program have a high degree of graduates.
H: Okay. When you started work here, who was the existing president
of the university.at that time? Was it, I'm sure it wasn't
C: No, it was Dr. Reitz, J. Wayne Reitz.
H: Oh, he was. Was that when Coach Graves was the coach of the football
H: Can you compare President Marston to Dr. Reitz? Does it seem like
they are making-the, I won't say the same decisions, but President
Marston seems like he has more problems and more headaches to face
now than Dr. Reitz did? Were they both very competent presidents,
in your opinion?
H: You don't see any big significant difference?
C: Different personalities.
H: From the way they ran the university?
C: I, in my position, I am not directly associated with the president.
H: You've been here a number of years, and you have experienced both
C: Well, Dr. O'Connell, Stephen O'Connell was president after Dr.
H: Okay, well. You haven't published any written works though, have
C: Beg your pardon?
H: You don't have any publications?
H: How about community affairs? Have you been involved in any commu-
nity affairs? Yourchildren, they went to school here, did you serve
on any city committees, maybe PTA or anything of the sort?
C: I've been involved in PTA.
H: But politics never interested you or anything like that?
H: Since you came here, you never again were involved in athletics?
H: You never did. Who made the greatest contribution to the department
over the years in your opinion? I mean, the Department of
C: College of Education.
H: Yes, sir.
C: Pretty hard to single out any one per X We just had an evaluation
from NCATE (National Council for Accreditation Teacher Education).
One of the areas that they reported that's outstanding was the faculty
in the College of Education. And we do have, each department
in the college has, faculty members who have national reputations.
Many of them have made important contributions to education. So I
couldn't single out any one person.
H: But the department is a well qualified department, in your opinion?
C: In my opinion, and apparently in the opinion of the evaluation team
that completed the NCATE report.
H: Rumor has it that in today's economy, education is maybe not an area
of study that one should wish to go into on the college level. Do
you feel that pursuing a degree in the College of Education is re-
warding or worth taking the risk of going into now?
C: At this time, I do. When I first came here, it was a period where
it seemed that there would never be enough teachers. Our student
population in education was doubled what it is now, and when we
reached the early seventies, and the public schools' populations
leveled off, there was a period there where many people were not
finding jobs. Many of them thought it was because they were place
H: They couldn't relocate or something?
C: Yes. Since the early seventies, our student enrollment has declined,
people have opted for other areas and stayed away from education.
But there are indications that in Florida we are going to be facing
a shortage of teachers. We already are in some areas. There is a
critical shortage of math teachers, science teachers, particularly
in an area like physics.
H: So education, in your opinion, still is a good prospect for the
C: For a person who chooses education as a profession for the satis-
faction that they'll get, in rewards other than monetary, the pay
is still not the best. It's improving and probably will be better
in the future.
H: Would it be most beneficial for a person to go past his bachelor's
in education? Or can a person make a living with just a bachelor's
degree in this day and age? If he went to the University of
Florida and went to work with his bachelor's, could he...
C: Many have.
H: Many have? But you recommend to go further?
C: If possible. And if the individual has the interest.
H: What type of student would you recommend?
C: We have to close pretty soon.
H: What type of student would you think would be most successful here
at the University of Florida? When I say type of student, what type
of attitude should he have, and background?
C: Do you mean a student coming here as an undergraduate?
H: As an undergraduate.
C: As a freshman, beginning freshman?
H: Yes, sir. And then, what type would you think would be most likely
to complete the graduate program. What type of attitude should they
have to be successful in the University of Florida?
C: I think they would have to have the attitude that academics should
be first priority, regardless of their ability. Because beginning
freshmen in particular, get so caught up in extra curricular activi-
ties, they have difficulty adjusting to the difference in university
structure and high school structure where they fail to organize
their time properly or don't keep their priorities in the right
H: I see.
C: Some may have difficulty, but I think the student that really wants
a good education, and is willing to work for it, this is a good
place to get it.
H: Well, I thank you, Professor Clark.