This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Alan James Robertson
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
May 19, 1994
P: I am in Fort Myers [Florida] interviewing Alan James Robertson, and we are going
to do an oral history now. This is Sam Proctor and this is May 19, 1994. Alan, let
me start off by asking you the address and the name of the office that we are in now.
R: We are in the office of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation which is on
West First Street in downtown Fort Myers.
P: Alan, where were you born?
R: I was born in Barrow-in-Furness in England in 1921.
P: And what was the specific date of your birth in 1921?
R: September 17.
P: So you are now approaching?
P: Congratulations. You have almost caught up with me. How did it happen that you
were living in England? Was this home for your parents?
R: Yes. My mother was English. My father was a Scot who came to Barrow-in-
Furness and met my mother, and they married. I was born at an address, 27 Storey
Square. I love these British addresses. 27 Storey Square, Barrow-in-Furness,
P: I love that. What was your father's name?
R: James Bolton Robertson. That was a family name somewhere.
P: And what about your mother's name?
R: Her name was Elizabeth Gertrude Kirkham Robertson.
P: Now how did it happen that your father came from Scotland seeking your mother?
R: I do not understand a great deal about education over there. My father was not able
to go to one of the "public" schools, so he got some kind of technical training. I
know he often talked about how long he served his apprenticeship to be a master
machinist. He went to Barrow-in-Furness because apparently there was some major
shipbuilding close by there, although I am not really sure. I think Barrow-in Furness
was close to the Irish seacoast.
P: Where did he come from in Scotland?
R: A town called Johnstone.
P: So he came seeking employment?
P: Where is Barrow-in-Furness?
R: It is on the Irish seacoast side, north.
P: And they were married there and obviously lived there for at least five years before
you were born, perhaps longer than that.
R: Actually, Sam, I must have only been about two or three years old when they came
to America. The Great Depression hit England and most of Europe a lot sooner
than it did the United States and everything was just shutting down over there. I
guess a good many of the skilled craftsmen, both Scottish and English, came to
P: The date I picked up in your file was that they arrived in the United States in 1926.
So you would have been five years old?
R: No, they must have come earlier than that, I was already born, of course, but my
mother went back to England to have my brother born [there] because she did not
want her son born anywhere but in England, even though she was not a good
traveler. She had a little bit of inner ear problem. I do remember her being quite
sick on the boat going over and quite sick on the boat coming back.
P: Did you go back over with her?
R: Yes, she took me with her.
P: [You were] a little child.
R: Yes. So I suspect we must have come here maybe in 1923.
P: And maybe you came back in 1926?
R: For the final time we came back in 1926, right.
P: And your father came to Pittsburgh because of work?
R: Yes. Because, you know, all the great steel mills were there, plus, I guess, he might
have had some friends that had gone there earlier on.
P: So you went to elementary school in Pittsburgh, elementary school?
R: Actually, I lived in a suburb of Pittsburgh called Homestead where the famous
Homestead steelworks is.
P: And you father worked for those steelworks?
P: When you say a master machinist, what does that mean?
R: It is vague to me. The only thing that I can remember is that my father apparently
had an uncanny ability (and it must have come through his very fine training) to be
able to repair all these giant pieces of equipment. And during the height of the
Depression when things were totally shut down and nobody was working, my father
used to go in to the Homestead works two days a week. Now everything was shut
down. He would try to find things that he could work on and repair, but they told
him that they were doing this because they did not want him to leave. This made
a big difference for us.
P: I was going to say, it softened the blow a little bit.
R: Yes. And I can remember my mother, very quietly, packing up baskets of food and
supplies and stuff, and taking them to many of the families we were friends with.
[These were] very proud people. But if [she] did it in the proper way [they would
accept the gifts]. Just going in two days a week made all the difference in the world.
P: Try to remember back what growing up was like in that kind of a household in
Pittsburgh. Strict? Religious?
R: Well, I guess strict in a sense. Of course, my brother was four years younger than
I. I certainly did not stay out late at night. I came in when I was told. [My parents
were] concerned about friendships and encouraged [me] to bring people home. And
[there was] a real sense of being sure to be part of a church group and to be
concerned about education. There was not much money. It was not as easy to get
into trouble in those days, anyhow. I do know we did not have a car. In fact, as I
look back on it now, very, very few people I knew had a car. If any of our friends
had access to a car, he could not get in trouble either because he would have to take
all of us with him. It was an event to have a car.
P: I noted that you went to a Catholic elementary school.
R: Yes. Well, it is interesting. My mother was Catholic because one of her parents was
Irish. I am trying to remember which one. And my father, of course, was a Scot.
He was not a Catholic.
P: He was a Presbyterian?
R: Yes. He was a Presbyterian, but he became a Catholic when he married my mother.
So I was raised as a Catholic.
P: And you went to Catholic elementary school, but what about high school?
R: No, I went to public high school.
P: And when were you graduated from high school?
R: In 1939.
P: Just on the eve of the war.
R: That is right. Then I went to Carnegie Tech for a year, but the commuting was so
P: Where is Carnegie Tech?
R: It is in Oakland.
P: Where you were living?
R: No. We lived in Homestead, so it was a long commute to Oakland. Oakland was
just almost part of Pittsburgh, and the University of Pittsburgh was there, the
Cathedral of learning, etc., and Carnegie Tech was there.
P: Now what kind of a school was Carnegie Tech?
R: Well, it was, at that time, one of the premier engineering schools in the country and
I thought I wanted to be an engineer.
P: What is the title, what is the name of the school?
R: Carnegie-Mellon [University]. It was very difficult to get into Carnegie Tech, and
we had to go to Tech and take their entrance exams. I remember sitting in the
gymnasium with literally hundreds of people and taking these tests. I was admitted
to Tech as a freshman.
P: Why do you think you wanted to be an engineer?
R: I guess it has something to do with my dad, and, while he was not exactly an
engineer, you know, he was exceptionally skilled, and the idea of a big giant
manufacturing operations was all around us, and that sort of thing. But the
commuting was just [awful]. I had to transfer two or three times. So after the first
year I said, "Well, I am going to work and save some money." Of course, by that
time, the war had started in Europe, as we know, and I even thought once or twice
about maybe going up to Canada.
P: And joining up?
R: And joining up up there, because we were very concerned about the future of
England. My parents, though, really did not want we to do that. [They said]
"Probably a time will come when you need to go anyway."
P: What about your brother? What was his name?
R: His name was Arthur, Art.
P: Full name was Arthur?
R: His full name was Arthur Dale Robertson.
P: And what is there, three, four, or five years [difference]?
R: Four years difference.
P: Was there a close relationship between you and your brother or was the four year
[spread] a big difference?
R: Well, the four years was a big difference. Certainly, we did not have any problems,
but we did not buddy around. My group was considerably older than his group.
P: Where is he now?
R: He is in Little Rock, Arkansas.
P: What does he do?
R: He is retired now. I went to the University of Missouri after the war (we will get
to that later) but he came out to Missouri to go to school, and lived in the same
house that we did. [We were] a group of veterans [who] got together and rented
an old fraternity house from the University of Missouri and got ourselves a house
mother and lived there. Anyway, he came out there and went to school there, and
then he went to Little Rock and has been there until he retired.
P: And what business did you say he was in?
R: For most of his career he was in the advertising business, and then later on he got
involved with politics in Little Rock and worked on Winthrop Rockefeller's
campaign. When Winthrop was elected governor, he went on Winthrop Rockefeller's
staff [Governor of Arkansas, 1967-1971].
P: I see. Now, [in] 1939, you graduate [from] high school. You go to Carnegie for one
year. That takes you through 1940.
R: Summer of 1940.
P: Now, the war has not started yet. We are not into that, because that is December
1941. What happened to you after you dropped out of Carnegie?
R: Well, after I dropped out of Tech I talked with my parents and said, "You know, this
commuting [takes] just [too much time]."
P: This is streetcar commuting?
R: Yes, streetcar commuting. Of course, they really could not afford to send me off to
school. So I said, "I am going to go to work and save some money, and with what
I can save and what you can help me with, I can go somewhere to school where I
can just live."
P: So what was the work?
R: I worked in the Homestead steelworks. The particular branch of the Homestead
steelworks where my father worked and where, of course, I got the job because of
his influence, made axles for railroad cars. The men were paid piecework. My job
was to keep track of the number of axles produced by a group of men on these
particular machines. When they had a group ready to be picked up and taken off,
they would bang, and you would go down there and make the count as they were
hauled out. When you think about computers and all that thing, it was a pretty
strange way to keep track of production, but that was the way it was.
P: What did a young man like you do growing up in the Pittsburgh area, now working,
for fun? What was life like for you, a young bachelor? No car yet.
R: No car yet. Of' course, everything was within walking distance and there were
neighborhood delis, neighborhood taverns, neighborhood everything. You grew up
there, you knew everybody, you knew the young men, and of course the young girls.
So it was maybe a walk to the movie, walk somewhere for a sandwich afterwards,
and maybe arrange somehow to have a little sip of something even though we were
not quite old enough. Usually you wound up at someone's house. Parties at
somebody's house, you know, were the big thing, really.
P: But you had an active social life like anybody your age would have at that particular
time. How long did you work?
R: I guess about a year and a half, [until] right after Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was,
of course, in December.
P: December 1941.
R: Right after the holidays, in January , I went down and volunteered for the U.S.
Air Force air cadet program.
R: Well, I wanted to fly planes and make a contribution, and I thought that would be
an exciting way to do it. I passed all the tests, but then I ran into a peculiar piece
of red tape. I was not born a citizen here, and I have derivative citizenship because
my parents have become citizens sometime during the 1930s, but to be an officer,
you had to have been a citizen for at least ten years. So the air force, on my behalf,
submitted a petition to waive the ten-year requirement because I was "a citizen
through parents who were friendly aliens."
So here I am signed up and ready to go, I had this big send-off party and everything,
and I sit and I wait and I wait and I wait and I wait. In the meantime, here are
people being drafted and going and all that sort of stuff and I am beginning to feel
a little embarrassed. It took about four months to get that done. Finally, they
waived that requirement and I went off to cadet school in about April of 1942.
R: The first stop was Monroe, Louisiana. Oh, boy! [Laughter] It was in the winter,
and while the temperature never got very low, maybe down in the 20s, it was so
damp and so cold. Everybody was trying to find an extra blanket anywhere they
could find it.
P: And you were wondering why you had become patriotic in the first place.
R: It really was a terrible location for a camp in the wintertime. I do not know what
it must have been like in the summer, but that is where we went first.
P: Hot. Hot and humid. It seems to me they went out of their way to pick the most
attractive places to put these training camps during World War II.
P: Alright, from Monroe you go where?
R: Well, then I got a marvelous break.
P: You were commissioned?
R: No, not yet. We were air cadets which is a very special classification.
P: Neither officer nor enlisted?
R: That is right, we were somewhere in the middle there. We were all supposed to go
to pilot training first, and the way you got navigators and bombardiers was if for
some reason something went wrong during pilot training, then you were transferred
to training as a bombardier or a navigator. Well, when my group came through, they
were so short of navigators that we were all assigned directly to navigation school.
I was in the group that was sent to Coral Gables, Florida to be trained by Pan
American. It was not an army-run operation. This particular navigation school
trained navigators for over-water navigation to work with the air transport command
ferrying planes all over the world. Of course, Pan-Am then was the great airline that
flew all over the world, so their navigators ran this school and trained us to be over-
water navigators. Of course, being in Coral Gables [was fabulous].
P: Coral Gables made it very nice?
R: Yes. As a young man from Pittsburgh, I thought that this must be some marvelous
P: Okay. From there, trace your military career.
R: When we graduated, after a short leave, I went to Fort Wayne, Indiana where they
were manufacturing DC-3s, and as they came off the assembly line, then they would
assign a crew to fly them somewhere. Well, I was assigned to a crew that was taking
a plane to Australia. That was my first flight.
P: And that was certainly over water.
R: Oh, boy! But the difficult part was, once you got to Hawaii then you were doing just
little island hopping, these little bitty pieces of coral in the middle of nowhere, under
radio silence, because the Japanese were still [out there]. This was 1943 now, and
I am telling you, I think the good Lord navigated more than I did because we made
it to Australia. But, when we got there, all the navigators who were supposed to do
this as their contribution and not get into any shooting war, were all transferred to
New Guinea because there was such a shortage of navigators on the combat
bombers. So I made one flight for the air transport command, and then wound up
in New Guinea and flew fifty-seven combat missions, first on B-17s and then on B-
24s in that part of the Pacific Ocean.
P: Where were you at the end of the war?
R: At the end of the war, we had moved three times. We started in Port Moresby
[Papua, New Guinea], and then we moved to a temporary site somewhere, and I
think we wound up in a place called Dobadura. We lived in tents the whole time
and we would trade with the lumber plants the Aussies had. You had to produce
everything, almost, you needed out there, and we would go and trade something for
some lumber so we could at least build a floor up off the ground. Then [we] put in
mosquito netting and all that sort of thing. It was very primitive.
P: Should the record reflect any exciting events that involved Alan Robertson during
World War II?
R: There was nothing terribly heroic, but we did have a couple of missions that resulted
in a couple of air medals. I remember one time that we were on our way to bomb
Rabaul which was the principal target.
P: Rabaul is the name of a place?
R: Rabaul was the principal Japanese base [on the big island of New Britain, Papua,
New Guinea]. The weather was just absolutely foul, you just could not get through.
So we decided we would look for a target of opportunity and we dropped our bombs
on a Japanese airstrip a little up the coast, Finschafen [on New Guinea, due north
of Port Moresby]. [We] flew in very low and destroyed two or three planes on the
ground, so we all got a citation for that. Then we flew on the infamous Black
Sunday which had to be, I guess, in early 1944.
The biggest problem there was not so much the Japanese, although certainly they
were a problem, but the weather. The weather could change very rapidly and there
were no forward bases. We were as far forward as you could go, and so you had to
get back to where you started from. All the time I was there, my own group, and
other groups, we lost more planes to weather than we did to Japanese action. But
Black Sunday was a particularly bad day and we were on a maximum mission, I
think, to bomb Hollandia [Indonesia] or somewhere like that. [We] got up there and
the weather changed, and getting back was just horrendous. A substantial number
of planes were lost on that particular flight. It was written up in the Stars and Stripes
as Black Sunday. I can remember very well what it was like. Most of us in the big
four-engine bombers, by and large, got back okay, but the smaller bombers and the
fighter escorts did not. We probably lost seven or eight planes that day due to the
P: What about your rank?
R: First lieutenant.
P: Now this is when you arrive in Coral Gables?
R: No. We were still not commissioned. On graduation from cadets, we became
second lieutenants. Then overseas, during the time we were in action, we got
promoted to first lieutenant. Bombardiers and navigators generally could not
become captains unless they became squadron navigator or squadron bombardier,
and that meant staying on. But most of us had the good judgement to leave when
they told us we had flown enough missions.
P: When did you leave service?
R: I left service in August of 1945.
P: Just after Japan surrendered?
P: You had enough points by that time to get out?
P: Where were you at the end of the war?
R: Well, when I finished my tour in New Guinea, I had been there fifteen months. I
got there in the summer of 1943, I came home in the fall of 1944, and I was sent to
Tucson, Arizona to train navigators.
P: So when you returned from New Guinea you are stationed in the U.S.?
R: In Tucson, and stayed in Tucson until I was discharged.
P: You leave service now. You come back to Pittsburgh?
R: Well, I am ready now to go back to school, but all during the time I was in New
Guinea I thought about what I wanted to do. I studied and read, and I decided I
wanted to be a journalist.
P: Yes. I thought that was an interesting switch from engineering to journalism.
R: I tried to find out, when I came back, where the best schools of journalism were.
With everything that I could find out, three names kept surfacing. Columbia
[University] in New York, the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern
[University], and the University of Missouri.
P: Yes. I think that was and is [the best].
R: So when I got home, I wrote [to] all three of them. Columbia invited me to come
to New York to visit, and I did that. I had some friends in New York that had been
discharged when I was, so I had some people to visit. And I went and did all the
things Columbia asked me to do, and they said, "Okay, we will admit you, but not
until next September. We have such a backlog." Well, I had just been out of school
now for over four years and I did not want another year, so I said, "Well, thank you."
Then I wrote to Northwestern, second choice, and they wrote back and said, "Unless
you can tell us in advance you have a place to live, we cannot accept you because
we have absolutely no space, no nothing." Well, I could not answer that. Then I
wrote Missouri and they said, "Fine. Come to school." Now when I got to Missouri,
finding a place to live was not easy, but at least that was not a pre-condition."
P: That was true on any college campus town at that time. You were one of millions
under the GI Bill. You come into Missouri when?
R: I think, Sam, that must have been January.
P: Of 1946.
P: So there was just a short interval in which you were looking at schools, living at
home. Looking at schools was kind of readjusting yourself to civilian life. Okay.
You go off to Missouri, where is it?
R: Columbia, Missouri, right in the heart of the state, by train, of course.
P: Did you get credit for what you had done at Carnegie?
R: Yes, I transferred my credits from Carnegie, plus, Missouri evaluated our military
service, the military schools we went to, etc, and I remember getting about nine
hours of credit for the training I had as a navigator and then radar later on, and that
sort of thing. So I think I had, between what they accepted from Carnegie Tech and
that, almost thirty hours credit.
P: So you are almost a sophomore when you come in. Let us talk about your college
R: Well, they really were, you know, very good. I was delighted. I liked Columbia; I
liked the university. The University of Missouri was and is a very fine school. I
know [University of] Florida talked with great pride about being invited to join the
AAU [Association of American Universities]. Of course, Missouri was a member
of the AAU back even in those days.
P: Ralph Lowenstein [Dean of the College of Journalism and Communications,
University of Florida], comes to Gainesville from [The University of] Missouri.
R: As I say, the most difficult thing was finding a place to live. I got a room in a
rooming house with a nice old lady. But in the process of meeting people in class,
I found out that a group of veterans had negotiated with the university to rent an old
fraternity house. [It was] a very nice old house, sitting up on a little hill, and they
were still looking for a few more people to live [there]. So I switched to that house
and lived there until I got married, which is another part of the story. That was very
nice. We had a young couple who were like house parents, and a group of very fine
people. It really was a good situation, very inexpensive living. You know we pooled
our resources for everything, so the situation was very good. In the first semester
I was there, along with everything else I took a class in economics from Harry
Gunnison Brown, a very famous and well known economist who was a marvelous
lecturer. He was the kind of person who really did not much want anyone else to
teach the first course except him and his chief assistant, Pinckney Walker. [They had]
a great big lecture section.
P: What was Walker's first name?
R: Yes. A very interesting name. Pinckney Walker. So I have Harry Gunnison Brown
teaching the first half of the basic economics.
P: He was one of Missouri's stars at that time.
R: Yes, he was. And Pinckney Walker was the second. And I forgot about journalism
and majored in economics and political science.
P: Well, you certainly did switch, from engineering to journalism and now into the
something else, economics.
R: At Missouri, it was, and still is, the College of Business and Public Administration,
and the history of the school was that the dean was always a political scientist. I
think that has changed.
P: I notice you were also in political science, or took work in political science.
R: Yes. In fact, I have a degree in public administration, and then got a graduate
degree in economics. Anyway, I enjoyed that economics class so much that I decided
to switch majors. Plus, I took a course in political parties [which was] taught by the
dean, William L. Bradshaw, a genuine character. I really enjoyed that very much,
so as I say, I got a degree in public administration.
P: Were you a good student?
R: I could have been better. I was okay. First of all I worked.
P: Doing what?
R: Columbia was dry. You could get a beer, but you could not get anything else unless
you belonged to a club, the American Legion or something like that. Well, you
know, we were all too young to join those old vet organizations, so I organized a
group. We got an Am-Vets chapter, and we opened an Am-Vets club, which I ran.
P: An Am-Vets club?
P: I have heard of the Am-Vets, but I had never heard of it organizing a club.
R: Well, we organized a club, which I ran, and it was the hang-out for a tremendous
number of the [veterans]. Whenever we had a profit, we would have free nights until
the profit was gone, and then we would start all over again. And I was president of
the chapter and manager of the club.
P: So that is how you worked?
P: Operating a saloon. [Laughter]
R: Well, we never got in any trouble. Nothing ever went wrong, and when I left, I guess
it was still operating, but I think it did not last very long.
P: Were you involved in any sports?
R: Intramurals. Intramural softball, as a matter of fact, and I broke my wrist trying to
slide into home plate one night. The University of Missouri had a medical school.
I remember going to the clinic to have the wrist repaired, and when I arrived there,
there were only a couple of interns on duty. They took x-rays and decided that, yes,
[the wrist] was broken. I will never forget this, they were going to cast my hand
something like this. Just about the time they were getting ready to do this, one of
the leading doctors came in to see what they were doing. He looked and he said,
"No. Just put a regular cast on him and that is it." I often wonder what would have
happened if these guys had [put the cast on me their way].
P: You would have been walking around like this. They may have a good journalism
school, but on the basis of that, I am not so sure about the medical school.
R: I played a lot of tennis just for fun.
P: Did they have fraternities there?
R: Oh, yes.
P: Did you get involved in one of the fraternities?
R: No. The living conditions and the camaraderie and the atmosphere at the house we
rented was so good, I never thought about that. In fact, Sam, those were the days
when fraternities and sororities ran everything, student government, et cetera. So
I decided we would organize an independent men's association, which they did not
have, and run a slate of candidates. We never won, but we really scared them to
death, and rumor has it that when I graduated, the "Greeks" had a big party.
P: What kind of a social life did you leave there? That is where you met Mary.
R: Yes. Well, as I say, living at the house (I think it was the old Kappa Sigma house,
as a matter of fact) was a very good start. I made good friends and played cards and
all that sort of thing. A lot of us went to church together. Of course, one met a lot
of nice people there. Plus Stephens College was in Columbia.
P: That was a very fine girls' school.
R: Hundreds of girls. And I wound up being selected for what they call the Burrall
Cabinet. I do not know what the name came [from]; it has something to do with
some gift they got to bring the two schools together. They would always pick a
group of young men from the university to serve on the Burrall Cabinet over at
P: So you were the bridge between the two schools?
R: You know, I am still vague about what the function was supposed to be.
P: Now, Missouri was co-educational.
R: Oh, yes. Missouri was fully co-ed. There was another women's school too, by the
way, Christian College, so there were a lot [of girls there].
P: So you went there because of the reputation of the school, but it sounds to me like
it had other attractions.
R: Columbia was a great college town. It reminds me so much of Gainesville.
P: You were graduated in 1948, so you were only there two years and you finished all
of your undergraduate work?
R: Yes, but it was a little over two years, 1946 and 1947 and one semester in 1948.
P: So you moved pretty rapidly. You went to summer school?
R: All the veterans did. You know, we were all anxious to get out so we just really
P: When you graduated in 1948, what was your degree in?
R: Public administration.
P: And was it a B.A. or a B.S.?
R: Bachelor of Science in Public Administration.
P: And then you stayed on for another year?
R: Yes. I was not sure what I was going to do, but I told you I had taken a class from
Dean Bradshaw, and somehow, I cannot remember how it happened because I did
not do any work for him, the dean and I hit it off. So I would see him sometimes
in the hallway. I was a good student when I wanted to be, and I loved his class, and
I was probably the best student in it. So he would see me and we would talk. Then
I said, well, maybe I would stay on for a master's degree, if I could get some
employment. I got a teaching assistantship to teach American Government. In fact,
Sam, looking through all of this stuff, I found the contract. I think I got paid $125.00
a month to teach ten hours.
P: Pretty good. [Laughter] For a man with no experience.
R: Big classes; I will never forget the first class I walked into, probably 120 people in
the room, all older than I was, maybe. But, in all due modesty, I did a good job.
I got along very well with the class. They had a lot of fun, worked hard, did a good
job. My students all did well.
P: So you taught and went to school at the same time, and you got your M.A. degree
in 1949 in Economics and Political Science. Did you have to write a master's thesis?
P: What was yours?
R: I was interested, at that time, in labor economics. I think I wrote something on the
impact of unions. As a matter of fact, I wound up getting a job offer. I wrote on
the impact of the teamsters' union on salaries in the St. Louis and Kansas City. The
teamsters' union was very powerful in St. Louis. In fact, they offered me a job.
P: To do what?
R: To be the economist for their St. Louis office.
P: Pretty good.
R: Yes. But even in those days, the Teamsters' union reputation] was a little
[questionable], and I figured that might not be the best way to start my career.
P: So you turned that down?
P: And how did it happen then that you came to Florida?
R: Well, obviously, I was looking for a job. We had had our first child. I never got to
how I [got married].
P: Let us start back and get some personal stuff in here. Tell me how you met Mary,
all of that.
R: Well, a group of friends from the house where we lived were going to Sacred Heart
Church. A couple of these fellows had somehow met Mary's mother, Mrs. Sibbie
Wehrmann. And she was a very nice and gracious lady, and she had invited them
to come by the house for hot chocolate, or something. So this one evening we had
gone to something at church, and they said, "Let us stop by and see Mrs. Wehrmann
on the way home." So we stopped, and of course we were invited in, and there were
five sisters who lived there.
P: Mary was one of the sisters?
R: Mary was the oldest one, the rest were younger.
P: Four younger than she.
R: So we visited, and pretty soon, one at a time, the girls would drift in to say hello.
Then, I guess, I maybe saw Mary at church after that.
P: And started going together.
R: Yes. [We] started dating.
P: Alright, give me some biography on Mary for the record. What is her full name?
R: Mary Elizabeth Wehrmann. Mary's family [resided and she] grew up in a small town
in northeastern Missouri, Lewistown. And Culver-Stockton College was located, I
think, in a little town next door, Canton, and Mary's older brother had started in
school there and then had gone to St. Louis. Mary went to school there for, I think,
P: What is Mary's birthday?
R: Mary's birthday is March 1. She was born in 1923. Then the war came along, and,
of course, [there were needs of] the big family, so she went to work.
P: She had four sisters and one brother.
R: Two brothers. Both brothers older.
P: Big family.
R: So after she had been in school for a year, she decided to take advantage of the
opportunity to make some money, so she worked somewhere in Missouri, and then,
in the spirit of adventure, she went to Miami [Florida] and worked for the
government, [for] the military in Miami for a couple of years.
P: During the war.
R: Yes. In the meantime, as all the family was getting older [they considered
P: Too bad you did not run into each other in Coral Gables [Florida]; you were there
at the same time.
R: Right. I guess the family decided they would move to Columbia where they could
all go to college and it would not cost so much. They would all live at home. They
moved to Columbia, and Mary, of course, [went] back in school.
P: What did she major in?
R: She majored in textiles and designs, in the School of Home Economics. It had
something to do with fashion designing and that kind of thing.
P: Later on she teaches elementary school, so did she have any courses in education?
R: She had to take some [additional] courses when she got around to doing that again.
P: When were you married?
R: We were married on September 2, 1947.
P: And children?
R: Barbara was born in November of 1948.
P: Barbara's full name?
R: Barbara Ann Robertson.
P: And where was she born?
R: She was born in Columbia.
P: Let me stop here and ask you, somewhere along the line I found a Boston
[Massachusetts] by her name. Is that incorrect?
R: Oh, no. She and her husband lived in Boston for about eighteen months here
P: But she was born in Columbia, where you went to school.
P: And what is her birthday?
R: November 6, 1948. And then Douglas was born in Gainesville on October 12, 1950.
P: What is his full name?
R: Douglas James. And Nancy Elizabeth was born in Gainesville on January 6, 1953.
P: So you have three children, two girls and one boy.
P: And Barbara is married. What is her [married] name?
R: Barbara Ann Robertson Howard. She is married to a very fine gentleman named
P: And they are living where now?
R: In Chicago [Illinois].
P: And they have one child, I think you said.
R: One marvelous grandson. His name is Douglas, and a very nice coincidence,
Barbara decided she would name him after her brother. Little Doug was born on
big Doug's birthday, October 12.
P: What year?
R: In 1990.
P: Little Doug is a marvelous child, brilliant, and so on.
R: All the earmarks of a genius, right.
P: Of course, my granddaughters are both going to be Nobel laureates, but maybe he
can be in the in between part.
R: That is alright.
P: The other two are not married? Douglas and Nancy?
R: No. They are not. We thought that one time Doug was about to get married, but
something happened. You cannot control those things.
P: Where is Doug now?
R: Douglas is here now, Sam. He is the building inspector for the city of Sanibel
P: And what about Nancy?
R: Nancy is in Tampa.
P: What does she do?
R: Well, Nancy got an A.A. [Associate in Arts] degree from Santa Fe Community
College, and then she got an A.S. [Associate in Science] degree from Santa Fe
Community College in environmental science. That has served her very well. She
has a nice job with a subsidiary of the Corning Glass [Company] in the
environmental field. She worked for the best known firm in that business in
Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] for about ten years. I forget their name. I will think of
it later. [Roy Weston Co., Inc.] Then she decided to come back to Florida, came
to Tampa, and based on that experience she had in Philadelphia, she very quickly
got a job and two or three nice promotions.
P: So you have at least two-thirds of your family relatively close by to visit and see.
R: And it easy to get to Chicago.
P: It is easy to get to Chicago from here. All right, let us get back to your career now.
You have your M.A. from the University of Missouri, and you are ready for a real
R: Based on the experience I had teaching those two classes, I thought I would like to
teach. So I looked at the journals, et cetera, and I wound up with three job offers:
a small, private college in Pennsylvania, Franklin and Marshall [College], the
University of Minnesota, Duluth branch, the coldest place in America, and the
University of Florida.
P: You thought about that Monroe, Louisiana.
R: So Mary made a very easy decision. She said, "Let us see what we can do about the
Florida job." I sent all my credentials in. So Walter [Jeffries] Matherly [dean of the
College of Business Administration at the University of Florida], then, said,"I am
going to be in Kansas City."
P: But you had never seen Gainesville?
R: No. I had never seen Gainesville. [Walter Matherly said], "I am going to be in
Kansas City on such and such dates, interviewing, and if you can arrange to be there,
I will interview you." Well, obviously, I arranged to be there. I remember going into
the lobby of the old Muelbach Hotel. You just looked around. You could see this
group of young men, and in those days it pretty much was all young men, all dressed
up, and you kind of knew that they were all waiting for what I was waiting for. What
would happen is, he would call down to the lobby and somebody would say, "Paging
so and so," and we would go up. So I went up and interviewed with Dean Matherly,
and we had a very good interview.
P: And you are meeting Matherly for the first time.
R: Could not help but like him, he was that kind of person. We talked about a lot of
things and he said, "Well, I will let you know." Well, in a short period of time, I got
a letter offering me a job to teach economics at the University of Florida.
P: How much were they offering you?
R: $3,500 to teach two semesters and one summer session.
P: They really paid well, even in those days.
R: I had written all of them and Franklin and Marshall [College] just wrote back and
said, "We offer you a job." I am sure they did not have the choices. Well, Franklin
and Marshall offered $2,700 for the two semesters. Duluth, Minnesota offered me
a job. Now, they offered $3,900 for two semesters.
P: But then you figure the cold.
R: Yes. That really was [the difference]. So we accepted the Florida offer and were
getting all organized to go when we got this telegram. The telegram said, "Do not
come. The legislature has adjourned without taking action on the University's
budget. Held up waiting approval of a sales tax. We will let you know something
as soon as possible."
P: This is the Fuller Warren [governor of Florida 1949-1953] administration now.
R: That is right, the Fuller Warren administration, which I believe had two major things
that were left undone. One was the sales tax and the other was ... I forget.
P: The cattle.
R: That is right, the fencing of cattle.
P: Cattle had been allowed to range free, and also this is the first time Florida is toying
with the sales tax. There was lots of opposition to it from the merchants and
R: But here I am, you know, broke anyhow, because I am no longer being paid by
P: And you have got a wife and a baby to take care of.
R: Yes. And I get this telegram. Oh, my Lord. Well, in about a week or ten days we
get the telegram, "The legislature has acted. Be here by such and such a date." So
I went down to the local bank and I remember borrowing $250 to cover getting to
P: In the meantime, I presume, you have a car?
R: No. That was still too much of a capital investment. We came to Gainesville.
P: Well, how did you get here?
R: [By] train.
P: You took a train from where to where?
R: Oh, God, Sam, I cannot remember. I just know that it was a long trip.
P: It was a long trip with changes along the way.
R: I came myself, originally, because we had to find a place to live.
P: Well, tell me about your arrival in Gainesville. Did you come down the middle of
Main Street on the train.
R: That is right, that is exactly right.
P: That is what I wanted you to tell me.
R: The train came right downtown Gainesville, and I got off with my bags, and no
transportation, of course.
P: You figured, "Where am I?"
P: Was this January?
R: No, this was August.
P: Oh, you came right at the right time. You thought you were back in Louisiana, did
you not, in the summer.
R: I stayed at... what was the old hotel downtown?
P: The Arlington Hotel?
R: That does not sound right. Was there a White House?
P: There was a White House Hotel right on Main Street.
R: I guess that is where [I stayed].
P: The old White House Hotel.
R: I think I stayed there for a night or two.
P: [Was it a] clapboard hotel with the big porch that ran from one block to the other?
R: I think that is where I stayed. It was costing a little bit of my shrinking money. So
I found a little house and rented it on a month to month to basis, and Mary and the
kids came. And Mary said, "Well, we cannot live here. It is too far from everything;
what are we going to do?" Well, about that time, the Kirkpatricks were building that
apartment complex at Second [Avenue] and Seventeenth [Street], right behind the
old College Inn, about two blocks, which then was the nicest, newest, best [rental]
place in Gainesville.
P: And, of course, it was within walking distance of the University.
R: Close to the University, to everything, right. They were renting them as they
finished. This is no exaggeration. Here they were building this thirty-two unit
[complex], which was enormous for Gainesville, and they were renting them as they
finished. Mary said, "Let us [rent there]."
P: "Let us get in line."
R: Yes, so we got in line. I remember that the Mautzes [Robert Barbeau Mautz,
assistant professor of law] lived there. I remember that the swimming coach, [John
Edward] Jack Ryan, lived there. They became our dearest friends. And a couple
of other professors [lived there]. We were about the seventh family to move in.
P: You remember what the rent was in those years?
R: Yes. I think I paid $75 [monthly] for this brand new apartment. I think that was
what it was.
P: Of course, you had to get some furniture too.
R: I will tell you what we had in the beginning. We had a bed for us, a bed for
Barbara, a card table, and four chairs.
P: Luxury living.
R: With the passage of time, [we] added a chair here and there. I remember when we
got a couch, that was a big deal. That is the way it was.
P: Of course, everybody was living exactly the same way. Okay, tell me about the things
you were doing on campus. What were you teaching?
R: I taught the micro and the macro economics, the two freshman courses in economics,
and I really did enjoy it.
P: Who was chair of the economics department?
R: Oscar [Edward] Heskin [professor of economics].
P: Who else was teaching economics at the time?
R: John [Wesley] Kennedy [assistant professor of economics], and a little fellow named
[Carl E.] Calahan [instructor in economics] who went on to the University of
Alabama; Tex [Clifton] Oliver [assistant professor of business organization and
operation], [Clement Harold] Clem Donovan [professor of public finance] was a
senior professor, but he was not chairman yet; Elmo [Louis] Jackson [associate
professor of economics]. They might have only taught one section of principles.
P: But it was a growing department, and it was a growing enrollment at the University.
R: In fact, we were all teaching in those barracks.
P: Those temporaries, as they called them, that they brought in from Camp Blanding
and other places. And I believe the building you would have taught in was just to
the east of Language Hall, or now Anderson Hall.
R: Yes. It was right there almost at the corner of the campus.
P: Near Library East. Because that [building] stood for many years. That has only
been demolished in the last ten or twelve years I guess.
R: And our offices, Sam, were in a house across University Avenue.
P: I know, those houses that belong to the University now. Tell me about the students.
R: Many students were veterans.
R: And I guess in 1949, Sam, it was, what, the second year of having girls or the first
P: They came in the fall of 1947.
R: Oh, did they?
P: So 1949 is the beginning of the second year of co-education.
R: Because there were two or three girls in each class, not many, but two or three.
Well, and the classes were principally veterans.
P: [Were the classes] large?
R: Actually, they were not unreasonably large. Obviously, the rooms were not very big,
and each room would be filled to capacity. My sense was that most of the classes
had thirty people. They did not teach economics at Florida like they did at Missouri,
you know, where the senior man lectured to 300 [students] and then everybody else
[the assistants] had what they called the quiz sections. At Florida we just taught the
class. I think we taught five sections. I think that was your load, fifteen hours.
P: And classes, you remember, also met on Saturday morning.
R: That is right. You had a Monday-Wednesday-Friday sequence and a Tuesday-
Thursday-Saturday sequence. I hated the early morning [classes]. I am not an
morning person; I am NOT a morning person!
P: And then the summer classes began at seven a.m.
R: Yes, at seven o'clock.
P: No air conditioning.
R: Oh, no, none.
P: [Did you have] good students?
R: Let me say that most of them were interested and anxious to do well.
P: And get out.
R: And get out. Now, there were kids who did not make it, kids who failed.
P: [J.] Hillis Miller [president of the University of Florida 1948-1954] is now president
when you arrive on campus?
R: That is correct.
P: [John J.] Tigert [president of the University of Florida 1928-1947] is gone.
R: Right. And, of course, Walter Matherly is the dean [of the College of Business
P: Tell me about Matherly.
R: Well, of course, I have a very warm spot in my heart for Walter Matherly because
he was a great help to me personally. First of all, as you know, he was a marvelous
speaker, very people oriented, very accessible; in my opinion, a very fine gentleman.
I also forgot to tell you that the contract was for two years, because that was the
days of the bi-annual budget. Well, when the second year rolled around, I went to
see the dean. I said, "Dean Matherly, I have a second child. I can hardly make both
ends meet with this salary." He said, "Alan, you know, there is nothing I can do until
the next budget rolls around, and then I will do the best I can." So I struggled
along, and then came the fall of 1951 and I got a $400 raise.
P: That was a big raise.
R: But still, in the total scheme of things, really not enough. So I went to see the dean
again. He said, "Well, Alan, that is really all I can do. I just do not have the money.
But," he said, "there may be a job opening that I can recommend you for which will
pay some more." The battle on the medical school was, I think, just under way in
R: He said, "The Chamber of Commerce is going to support the University's efforts and
they want to hire a person at the chamber to do research as necessary for the
delegation, and to be fully available to support the effort to make sure the medical
school comes here." And he said, "I am going to recommend you for that job."
Well, he did, and I went down and interviewed and got hired. I took a one year
leave of absence and worked at the chamber, and got paid $5,200.
P: Boy! You were being paid as much as the president of the University.
R: And I bought a car, Sam. [Laughter] I bought a second hand Chevrolet for $750.
But, Walter Matherly, you know, did that, and for one year I worked there. The big
argument, as I remember, was "You cannot put a medical school in a little town like
Gainesville." There will not be anybody to go there, there will not be patients to see,
there will not be anything, [and] it needs to be in Jacksonville.
So we did the research on medical schools in small towns, in Iowa and here and
there, and how the total educational environment would add to the medical school.
Anyway, that was my job and I was going to Tallahassee all the time, and Ralph [D.
Turlington, member of the Florida House of Representatives from Alachua County
1950-1974] would say, "Here is what we need." And Senator [William] Shands
[member of the Florida State Senate] would say, "Check on this."
P: Who was Ralph?
R: Ralph Turlington. And there was also Cross.
P: Who is Cross?
R: "Red" Cross.
P: J. Emory "Red" Cross.
R: That is right.
P: He was our state senator.
R: No, not yet, Bill Shands was our state senator then.
P: Oh, that is right, William Shands was the senator.
R: Senator Shands was the power, as you know. Ralph [Turlington] had not yet gotten
power, although he was very influential in the House.
P: And "Red" Cross was the other representative from Alachua?
R: That is right. So every time somebody would come up with some argument, it would
be up to me to help them [to answer the argument]. Of course, the University was
working too, but I did all sorts of these types of things for them.
P: You were a lobbyist type of person?
R: I never really testified or anything. I really was trying to dig up the answers, refute
this, [decide] how we should respond to that, that sort of thing. In the process, also,
[I] did other things at the chamber which interested me and which I found to be fun.
P: So you [were] already moving out of the academic atmosphere for a while, [and]
moving into the larger community, in this case, Gainesville.
R: Right. And then, Sam, when the leave [of absence] was up, about that time, Ralph
[Turlington] got called back to active duty for the Korean War. They wanted
someone to manage his insurance [office]. Oh, he had a partner. I cannot
remember the partner's name, but there was some difficulty.
P: In the meantime, Ralph had left teaching, because he had been teaching on the
R: Yes. That is right. He was the State Farm insurance agent, and got called to active
duty, and he had a partner, and something happened. I do not know exactly what
[happened], but the partner suddenly was no longer on the scene and Ralph got an
emergency leave to come home. He was looking for someone to step in and so
[James Gilbert] Jim Richardson [assistant professor of finance] recommended me.
We had become friends with the Richardsons; they were perhaps our first friends.
P: Now, Jim is teaching, already, on campus?
R: Yes. Jim had been there, I guess, for a couple of years when I got there.
P: And he is teaching in finance.
R: He is teaching in finance, that is right. And [he] was a character even then.
P: And you and Jim hit it off?
R: Yes. He and Caroline, I guess, were our first and closest friends. They took us
under their wing.
P: Did you also have an office in Grove Hall?
P: You were never there?
P: Well, Richardson and Turlington shared an office for a while there.
R: I guess that is how they [became] close. So Ralph came home and was kind of
desperate. Jim arranged for us to meet and Ralph said he would like me to help
P: Do what?
R: Run his office until he got out of the service. What happened was that I decided
I would go ahead and start work on my doctorate, so I got the first fellowship from
the College of Business. That paid, I think, $125 a month, and then I ran Ralph's
office and made a little bit there, because the chamber appointment had run out.
So for that next year I had that combination, taking classes and running the
P: Now, we are in to about what? 1951?
R: Let us see. 1949, 1950 and 1951 I taught, 1950-1951 I am at the chamber, so this
is the fall of 1952.
P: Okay. Let me break in and ask you, the fact that you did not have the Ph.D. did not
interfere with Matherly hiring you?
P: Did you have to make a commitment that you would obtain the degree?
R: No. I guess in those days when they were looking for faculty, if you looked like you
could teach well [you did not yet need the Ph.D.]
P: And I am not sure that Matherly had a Ph.D. [He had an LL.D.]
R: Anyway, at the end of that year, Dean Matherly said to me, "Alan, I have just had
a call from Fort Myers. They are looking for a chamber executive, and" he said, "we
would love to have you come back here, but I still cannot pay you a whole lot more."
I think maybe by that time the salary might have gone up a couple hundred dollars.
P: But in the meantime, when you leave the University to take the job at the
Gainesville chamber, you have left teaching. You have come back to work on a
Ph.D., so you are a student once again.
P: Did you teach at all during that time?
P: You are working in Ralph's office and you are working as a student with the
fellowship you have received.
P: How long did that last?
R: That was for a full year, and then Ralph comes back. So now I am getting ready to
come back to teaching.
P: In the meantime, did you finish the Ph.D. program? You could not have done that
in one year.
R: No, although I had taken nearly all the hours required. But Dean Matherly said, "I
have got this call from Fort Myers, they asked me to recommend someone for the
chamber job, and I have recommended you."
P: This is directing the chamber?
R: Executive director of the Lee County Chamber of Commerce, as it was called. Dean
Matherly had so much influence, I found out much later, that although the
committee thought they knew whom they were going to hire, when Matherly
recommended me, they felt an obligation to interview Dean Matherly's candidate.
They owed that much to him.
P: They were probably former students.
R: I am sure some of them were [former students]. So I said to Mary, "Here is what
happened." Then a couple of days later I get this call [asking], "Will you come down
for an interview?" So we start driving down to Fort Myers, and we drive and we
drive and we drive. Mary says, "Where are we going?" We finally get here, and, of
course, the car was not air conditioned, nothing was air conditioned, and it was
hotter than Hades.
So I stopped at a little motel and ask them if they have a day rate. I went in and
took a shower and got dressed and went to the chamber office. I probably should
not make this part of the record, but I am going to. A fellow named Tony Dwyer
was the chamber executive officer, and I asked for him and I say, "How do you do?
I am Alan Robertson; I am here to be interviewed for the job." He said, "I do not
know what you are doing here, you are just wasting your time. They are going to
hire my good friend from Key West [Florida], and [Dwyer keeps talking] so on, and
P: What a welcome. [Laughter]
R: I said, "Well, all that may be true, all I know is the committee invited me down for
an interview and I am going to go to the interview." He said, "Well, they are waiting
for you up here at this address." I go up there and I have the interview with this
group of prominent, local citizens, and we have a very good interview. I say to them,
"You know, if you are looking for a kind of a hail fellow, well-met, slap-them-on-
the-back, big cigar type, you do not want to talk to me. If you are looking for
someone who will really research things, who will really try to work with people, who
will be involved in what you think you need for the community, then I would like
very much to leave the academic world and pursue a career." So we talked and
talked and talked, and they thanked me, and they had asked me where I was staying,
and I told them I had gotten this motel for the day rate and my wife was with me
because she wanted to see the community. So when I got back to the motel, the
hotel owner is waiting for me and he is all excited.
He said, "They just called back and said they want you to come back." So I went
back and they offered me the job. They offered me $5,800. Well, I gulped and said,
"That is not enough."
P: A brave man.
R: They said, "Well, we think that is [enough]." I said, "Well, the salary is okay, but I
need a car allowance. Most chambers pay a car allowance." They said, "Oh, what
should that be?" I said, "About $100 a month." They said, "Okay."
P: You now had more than the President of the University of Florida. It sounds to me
like you are making more than the governor of the state. So Mary was agreeable
to moving from Gainesville to here.
R: Yes. Mary was always a good sport. She was just marvelous.
P: She said, "Eventually it will cool off." So you leave Gainesville, go back up, tell your
friends there goodbye, take your couch, and now you have two children?
R: Three children.
P: Three children. And you bundle them up in the second hand car, and you arrive in
Fort Myers. And this becomes your home from 1953 to 1956?
R: Yes, to 1956, I think. The biggest thing that happened in that period, Sam, was
getting the Pittsburgh Pirates to come here and train. I spear-headed that, went to
Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania], knew Pittsburgh was looking, they had been moving
around, and out of that came one of the greatest experiences of my life and that was
getting to know [Wesley] Branch Rickey [1881-1965, American baseball manager and
owner, signed Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, breaking color barrier
in major league baseball, nicknamed "The Mahatma"].
If Mr. Rickey had not gone into baseball, God knows what he might have
accomplished. He just chose baseball. As you know, he was probably the most
inventive [manager] ever. First of all, he broke the color line as you know [by
signing] Jackie Robinson. He introduced the idea of helmets, and when his team
wore helmets everybody laughed and jeered and called them sissies, etc., but he did
so many things in baseball.
He was a graduate of University of Michigan law school [in] as he said "aught two"
. He was probably the most distinguished Methodist layman in American. [He]
could preach a sermon that would just [overwhelm you]. Of all the people I met in
my life, none were more impressive than Branch Rickey.
P: And he came and spent the summers here.
R: The winters. Spring training.
P: Did he have a house here?
R: He rented a house when he was here, and we had the pleasure of visiting his home
in Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh. And Mrs. Rickey was a lovely, marvelous lady, and so
that was really a neat experience.
P: And then you brought them here. That helped put Fort Myers on the map.
R: Yes, we brought them here.
P: Branch Rickey was the most distinguished citizen since Thomas Alva Edison [1847-
1931 American inventor].
R: Just about. And I also got the city and the county to work together on some things
when they were not even speaking to one another, and somewhere in here I think
there is an editorial about my leaving.
P: Did they already have the bridge to Sanibel [Island] when you arrived?
R: No. Oh, no.
P: No. That came much later. It had to, because even I remember the ferry across
R: This was a small town.
P: Now the Edison allure was still here, of course. Did members of the family come
R: No. I think, Sam, by that time, no. When I came here the city had already taken
that over and it was a tourist attraction.
P: That is what I really meant, that had already happened. You were not involved in
that transaction. And the Ford property was still in the hands of the Ford family
[William Clay Ford, American auto executive, brother of Henry Ford II, owner
R: That came later. Whether or not the city had it then, I cannot remember, but it was
not part of anything then.
P: What were yoir responsibilities as executive secretary of the chamber here?
R: I guess the principal one was to promote Fort Myers as a tourist [spot]. The biggest
industry was the tourist industry.
P: Because everything really focused on the east coast of Florida until that time.
R: Yes. The other things [I worked on] were a couple of projects that involved getting
federal money, and I went to Washington a number of times and helped prepare
P: Fort Myers was really out of the way. All you had was U. S. [Route] 19 getting
down, was it not?
R: U. S. [Route] 41.
P: I mean U. S. 41, which was a narrow, crowded road.
R: The other alternative was to come all the way down [U. S. Route] 27, turn off at
Palmdale [Glades County] and come through La Belle [Hendry County] and over on
[State Route] 80.
P: Which was also not an easy way to travel.
R: No. It was a long way to come.
P: If you got to Fort Myers then, it is because you wanted to get to Fort Myers. It just
did not happen. You were here three years?
R: Three years.
P: And during that time, your job always was with the chamber.
R: That is right.
P: Why did you leave?
R: This was not a big town, it did not have a big budget at the chamber, and so the
raises were very modest even though I was doing a fine job and all that. I thought,
I have really got to see if I cannot [improve my income, what with] three children,
you know. So I decided I would go into the private sector, totally private sector, and
responded to an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal from the Ryder System.
P: This is Ryder [Transportation]?
R: Yes. And they invited me to Jacksonville for an interview.
P: What is the Ryder System?
R: That is [a firm engaged in] truck leasing. But the leasing to individuals is a small
part of it. They really lease fleets of trucks, to businesses, on the theory that it is
cheaper in the end to lease the truck and the service rather than to buy all those
trucks and maintain them. They were just beginning to grow, just beginning to
spread, and they were looking for a manager.
P: So they invite you to an interview in Jacksonville.
R: Right. After they talked with me, they said, "Well, you have a lot of educational
background, while most of our people are bootstrap people. But we have a very fine
manager in Orlando who is also a college man, so we are going to assign you to him
for awhile to learn the business, and then we are going to give you an area to run.
P: So they have offered you a position?
R: They offered me a position. So I came back and talked to Mary, and again, she was
not too excited about moving, but it was an [opportunity].
P: It would have meant moving to Jacksonville?
R: Yes. And the salary was $7,500 plus a car. They gave you a car. Well, I accepted,
and I was getting ready to report, when I get a phone call. The man in Orlando has
had a heart attack and obviously cannot take on this responsibility, so they were
going to send me to Jacksonville, which was one of the big operations, to be trained
P: Well, they were going to send you to Jacksonville anyway. Was that not where you
were going to move from Fort Myers?
R: No. That is where I went for the interview. I was going to move to Orlando where
the college man was.
P: To be trained by him.
R: Right. Well, by this time I had announced that I was leaving, and all that sort of
P: You could not retract that.
R: I could not retract that, so I said, "Okay." We went to Jacksonville. Well, the fellow
there what was his name Stan somebody, greets me with, "Well, I do not
know what we are doing hiring silver-spoon guys like you. What we need are hard-
boiled, tough, up-by-their-bootstraps kind of people, but they told me I got to train
you, so I guess that is what I got to do."
P: What a welcome.
R: So I hung around Jacksonville, I think, for about six months working with Stan who
had his hair cut like a marine, big fat cigar, hard boiled.
P: [He fitted the] typical Hollywood image.
R: Yes. Then they sent me to Savannah [Georgia].
P: To live and work.
R: They had a small operation in Savannah. Well, we loved Savannah. Savannah is a
gorgeous town, [with a] wonderful mix of people. Everything about Savannah was
very pleasant. But Savannah is a genteel Southern town, and you could not do things
overnight. You do not pound on people's desks in Savannah, so in the way in which
I operate, I was working with people and talking with people. I picked up a couple
Well, Stan came up and said, "Well, by this time I could have had every truck in
town." Well, I realized then that there was just no way I am going to be able to deal
with this fellow. So I said to Mary, "You know, I guess I just made a mistake."
I called Clem [Clement Harold] Donovan [professor of economics and head of
department, Univeresity of Florida]. I said, "Clem, I am up here in Savannah. I am
in a job situation which just is not working out." I guess, Sam, this is the fall of 1957.
I said, "Do you need someone?" He said, "Oh, yes. We sure do. Glad to have you
come back." And then, he called me a day or two later and he said, "Listen.
Something has opened which you might really enjoy." He said that the dean's
assistant was leaving and that was Charlie [Charles Norman] Millican [assistant dean,
College of Business Administration]. Do you remember Charlie Millican?
P: Oh, sure. He went to Orlando.
R: He said, "The dean's assistant is leaving. I think you would be a natural for that job
and I have talked to the dean about you."
P: Matherly is still in place?
R: No. This is Don [Donald John] Hart [dean of the College of Business
Administration]. So I drove down and met with Don Hart, and, of course, Jim
Richardson was pushing for me. So he said, "Yes. [I] would like to have you come
back to be assistant dean." So, poor Mary packed up again, and we came back to
P: Lots of moves.
R: I thought I was settled back in at the University.
P: How much were they giving you?
R: That job was a cut. I think they paid me $6,800. That is what I remember, $6,800
for that job. Well, I was here almost a year when Harry Fagan, the leading citizen
of Fort Myers and a fellow who had been very gracious to Mary and me when we
were here before, the leading banker in town, called me at the University. He said,
"Alan, the fellow who succeeded you as chamber manager two years ago has become
very sick and is going to have to leave. We would like you to come back."
I said, "No, Mr. Fagan. I am back at the University now and I am just going to stay."
He said, "I tell you what. Why don't you and Mary come down for a long weekend
and use my cottage at the beach and let us just chat." So I said to Mary, "What do
you think?" She said, "Well, let us do that." So we came down, went to the beach,
spent three or four days at the beach, and I came in and visited with Harry.
He said, "Alan, we made a big mistake letting you get away. I was going to talk to
you about coming to work at the bank, but it just happened too quickly." He said,
"This is all confidential. We have great plans to build a new building, to expand the
bank, but it is not going to happen for a year or two." He said, "I would like you to
come work at the bank. If you will come back and run the chamber for a couple of
years, I will talk to the board, you will have my commitment to come to the bank."
I said, "Well, that is a different kettle of fish." I talked with Mary and back and
And I said, "Mr. Fagan, what would the chamber pay?" He said, "Well, what do you
think?" I said, "I think that I want to make more than I am making now at the
University, you know, moving in." He said, "Okay. Let us say $8,500." I am talking
about money here. You know, in those days, just a little bit more money made a
big difference. So we agreed on that salary plus the car allowance. So I went back
[to Gainesville] and left and came back down [to Fort Myers].
P: So you leave the University of Florida for the second time now. At this time, I am
going to go back to the University for a year. Before I do that, I want to ask you
if these things are too early. I have you here as Executive Vice President of the Fort
Myers/Lee County Chamber of Commerce. This is when you come back the second
R: Yes, and it was the same job I left.
P: Now, I also have you here as Vice President/Commercial Loan Officer for the First
National Bank of Fort Myers. That is later?
R: That was the job Harry said, "You are going to have, but you have to wait a year or
two until we are ready."
P: We are not ready for that then. And Administrative Vice President for Lehigh Acres
R: That comes later too.
P: I will ask you about those in just a minute. Let us go back to Gainesville now.
When you come from Savannah to Gainesville and you become Millican's successor,
what were your responsibilities as assistant to the dean?
R: I am trying to remember. I guess I spent a lot of my time advising students. The
hardest thing, Sam, was I had the job of making up faculty loads and faculty
assignments. Of course, we all know faculty.
P: Be a fall guy.
R: Someone had to teach a class at eight in the morning, someone had to teach a class
at three in the afternoon, someone had to teach the extra section, and, of course,
everybody had their favorites. Of course, the higher ranking the faculty member, the
more difficult it was for a young squirt like me to say, "No, this is what you have to
do, because there is no one else left to do it." I do not mean that it was ugly, but
that is when I had to use all the diplomacy I could muster. That was the single most
difficult thing, getting everybody [in line]. Of course, you work with the departments
P: Did you already have the new building?
R: Yes. Not this new, new one, but we were in a recent addition. Is that what they
had, because we were in a relatively new building.
P: You were in the building that the dean's office is in now.
R: That is right.
P: Which was then a new building. And you had an office in that building.
R: In the dean's suite. John [Berry] McFerrin [director of graduate studies, professor
of business organization and operation] was in there, he was the associate dean, and
Don Hart was the dean, and I was in the middle. I worked with the dean on the
P: So you really were an administrative person.
R: Yes. Principally. I did no teaching at all.
P: I was going to ask you if you did any teaching. You never did finish that Ph.D. that
you started. Did you finish it?
R: That is a long story which we will get to later. While I was there, Sam, the one thing
I did do was finish the last couple of class requirements for the Ph.D. You know,
I had that year off.
P: I remember you took that year. Well, you had the fellowship.
R: And then there were still a couple of classes I had to take, so I took them while I
was there. That meant I did finish the classwork.
P: It sounds like everything except the dissertation.
P: So being the assistant dean, did you carry the "Dean" title?
R: The title was Assistant to the Dean, rather than Assistant Dean. I did go to
meetings for Don from time to time and things like that. But most of the time I
spent working on administrative details which the dean's office has to deal with,
responding to requests for information and that sort of thing. And I did help
students where I could, talk to students where I could, tell them where to go to get
P: Did you want to get back into teaching? The fact that you did not, was this a result
of your own desire?
R: No. It was a result of Clem [Donovan] saying, "This job will pay more than I can
pay you if you come back." I think if I had gone back on the faculty it would have
been [a salary] $6,200 and [as] the assistant to the dean [I] was [making] $6,800.
P: I see.
R: That was how that came to pass, really.
P: But you had always enjoyed teaching.
R: Oh, yes, very much. I always enjoyed teaching. I really did.
P: Where did the Robertsons live now that you have returned to Gainesville?
R: We bought a little house, Sam, out about Thirty-Sixth Street, or Thirty-Eighth Street,
or Terrace, or something like that [North-West]. Somebody was very rapidly building
a lot of houses out there, and there were a number of faculty living out there
already, and we bought a little house out there.
P: You had reestablished your contacts with people like the Richardsons and so on?
P: So [with] your social life, you just moved back into that circuit once again.
P: Were you ever close to Ralph Turlington?
P: Of course, you worked with him.
R: Ralph and I remained very good friends over the years.
P: But not in the same way you were with the Richardsons, for instance?
P: When did Mary start teaching elementary school?
R: Much later.
P: So she is not working now with three little ones at home?
R: No. She did not work during any of that period.
P: Was it all work and no play?
R: No. There was a lot of modest play. We would usually try to go to Missouri so that
Sibbie (Mary's mother) could see the grandchildren. We would drive.
P: Your parents are still living?
R: My mother died early. My mother died in the late 1950s. She had leukemia.
P: Your father was still living?
R: My father was still living and he remarried after a while. So they would come down
and visit us.
P: Now, when you returned to the University from Savannah, [J. Wayne] Reitz is the
president, is he not?
R: Yes, he was. I believe he came in 1955 [J. Wayne Reitz, president, 1955-1967].
P: What else should we say about the University? I had asked you about the change
of presidents. Reitz comes in in 1955. Did you become a good friend of Reitz
during that short time?
R: Not a good friend, but I did have occasion to go to meetings, because quite often
there were meetings that the dean did not go to, but he sent someone and he always
sent me. I represented the college on the petitions committee, and things like that.
That was always fascinating work.
P: The reason I ask you that is because of the fact that he invited you back, and I was
wondering whether the relationship began during this period.
R: Well, it did begin a little then, but I think that there had developed during that
period of time, a very close relationship between the Reitzes and the Richardsons,
because of Caroline's interest in music and the arts, which were Mrs. Reitz's interests
P: And Mrs. Reitz's interest in music particularly.
R: Jim [Richardson], I think, had become well known to Dr. Reitz. I had met the
Reitzes a number of times socially so that he did know me, but I could not say at
that point we were what one would call friends.
P: Of course, by the time you are back in Gainesville, the battle for the medical school
had also been won.
R: Yes. That had been won.
P: And the medical school was in Gainesville.
P: And Senator Shands was off the scene.
R: Yes. I do remember during that time I was back for that year working for Don
Hart, that I had a chance to go over and meet Dean [George T.] Harrell [dean of
the College of Medicine] and visit with a number of people in the med school and
talk about the history of it, and so on.
P: And, of course, Ralph [Turlington] has moved on now. He is in Tallahassee.
R: In fact, was Ralph speaker those couple of years? When was Ralph speaker [of the
State House of Representatives]?
P: A little later on [in 1967], I think, Ralph becomes the speaker, but he is already
playing a very influential role, not only in Alachua County, but statewide.
R: And, of course, I renewed my friendship with Ralph. Among other things, [I] had
my insurance there. But I guess what I remember most during that period of time
was that I got to know John [Nye] Webb [professor of economics] very well in that
P: Who was John Webb?
R: John Webb was a professor of economics and, at that time, he ran the Bureau of
Business and Economic Research.
P: And was this a social relationship, or was it a professional relationship?
R: Well, it was both. I took courses from him that year, and he lived out in Melrose
[Florida]. He was really a country squire type of person, a kind of renaissance man.
P: But a really distinguished scholar.
R: As I say, he was one of the people who impressed me most during my entire career.
P: Talk to me a little bit about John Webb, because he has been almost lost to
University of Florida history.
R: Well, that is a shame because he was a marvelous teacher, I mean, really an exciting
teacher. He was interested in the students, very interested in his students. He ran
the Bureau when the Bureau was on a shoestring. He produced lots of good things.
I did get involved with some of the things he was doing in the Bureau at that time.
He would invite you out to his home.
Mary and I visited him out in Melrose a number of times; [he was] just a fascinating
person. He was a Columbia [University] Ph.D., a real scholar. Later on, he had a
grant to have workshops, seminars, around the state of Florida on where Florida was
going. I had gone back to Fort Myers when this all happened. He called me to help
organize the people from southwest Florida who should participate in the seminar
about south Florida which was going to be held in Fort Lauderdale [Florida]. I had
the pleasure of inviting Harry Fagan and other leaders over here to go to that
program that he ran.
P: Of course, Florida was beginning to boom at this time. LeRoy Collins is now the
governor [1955-1961]. [There was] growth everywhere.
R: Yes. Growth [took place] everywhere. And that was a marvelous experience. I
think somewhere in here there is something about that. John Webb, to me, was the
epitome of what a professor should be, a gentleman to his fingertips. He always just
said, "I am Mr. Webb." He was just a marvelous, very interesting person.
P: Tell me a little bit more about Clem Donovan. He is another one who played a
major role at the University and who might get lost.
R: Clement [Harold] Donovan [got his Ph.D. in North Carolina].
P: He just died a few months ago.
R: Yes. It was sad. Clem was a loner, as you know, kept to himself very much. But
he also was a very considerate and gracious guy, once you got to know him. He was
very nice to me, [and] helped me at a time when I really needed some help. He was
a good teacher.
P: Taught economics?
R: Yes, he was professor of economics. I think he was a finance man too.
P: He was.
R: I do not mean he was in the finance department, but he taught there, I guess. [He
was] a good athlete.
P: He played tennis?
R: You know, he played in all the faculty leagues, no matter what it was, he was there.
You name it, softball, tennis.
P: And an inveterate traveler.
R: Yes. And I guess he maintained his military connection. I think he was a reserve
P: In the navy.
R: And very active right up almost until he had to retire.
P: But an inveterate traveler.
R: Anywhere, anytime, at the drop of a hat.
P: He would take off for the most unlikely places in the world.
R: I guess he was wandering around in Africa when it was not always safe to do.
P: Or in Siberia, or in Albania, or someplace.
R: That is right. Clem was like that.
P: And then he had that great friendship with Alma Warren, Governor [Fuller]
Warren's sister, who continues to live in Gainesville.
R: And she is still alive.
P: Not well, but she is living in Gainesville.
R: Alma was a very nice, generous person, very warm, an interesting person to talk to.
P: What about Elmo [Louis] Jackson [professor of economics] and his wife Corinne?
I want to go over a few names with you.
R: They were a little more formal. Elmo was very proper, I would say "proper" would
be a good word for Elmo.
P: I think that would be a good way to describe him.
R: And he was a very brilliant man.
P: He never produced.
R: No. And he was difficult in the classroom, because he really, I think, assumed that
you knew, when you really did not know. I think he was more a mathematician than
he was an economist, in my opinion.
P: Remember he took that year he got the fellowship, or whatever it was, with the
R: One thing I did that year I was back, Sam, that reminds me, I got a fellowship from
the AFL-CIO and went to Washington.
P: You took a leave and went to Washington?
R: Yes, that summer, after I had been [in Gainesville and] before Mr. Fagan [of Fort
Myers] called. I think it was a two-week grant to come and spend some time at their
headquarters and meet with their economics people on the philosophy of unions and
where they were going, and that sort of thing. It was a very interesting two weeks.
P: Tell me about another guy who was active on campus and in the college, [Clifton]
Tex Oliver [associate professor of management and director of the Management
Center in the College of Business Administration].
R: Oh, yes. Good old Tex.
P: And his enthusiasm for the swimming team.
R: Tex ate, slept, and died Florida swimming. We were good friends. Tex would come
to our house quite often. The Ryans, as I have mentioned to you, lived next door
to us when we first came to Gainesville.
P: What Ryans?
R: The swimming coach, Jack Ryan, who went on to West Point and ended his career
at West Point. Jack and Marilyn were dear friends of ours, and of course Tex was
involved with swimming, so that augmented even more our relationship with Tex.
P: I think Tex is still living.
R: I think so. Yes he is.
P: Out in Texas or someplace.
R: I think he still visits Gainesville. Jim [Richardson] said that he was back recently.
But I traveled with the swimming team once in a while, and Tex would always be
there, and I went over and helped officiate at some meets sometimes. Jack and
Marilyn were marvelous friends, but I did not really have that much interest in
prancing around with the swimming team. So I did it a few times and that was it.
But Tex, that was his avocation.
P: That was his life. And after Corinne [Jackson] died, he and Elmo [Jackson] lived
R: If ever there was an odd couple it was Tex and Elmo.
P: Very different in personalities, and yet obviously they got along. And Tex took care
of Elmo when [Elmo] was dying.
R: Tex took marvelous care of him, yes he did. Tex was just a fine, good-hearted
person. He really was. Another interesting person in those days was the old
professor, who am I talking about? [Felix Muehler, associate research professor,
Bureau of Economics and Business Research].
P: I remember the person you are talking about who lived on Twenty-Second Street,
and I did an interview with him. I cannot recall his name right now. He was in the
diplomatic service or something before he [came to the University].
R: Yes. A very, very fine, lovely man, very interested in his students.
P: But I have his voice on tape.
R: A good friend of Jim and Caroline [Richardson].
P: Because then, they lived just down the road a piece.
R: And John Kennedy was a fine young member of the faculty.
P: How do you spell Kennedy's name?
R: Just like the president's. But then he got a job offer to go to one of the North
Carolina colleges and left. He was a good scholar too.
P: What about Alfred [A.] Ring [professor of real estate and head of the Department
of Real Estate and Urban Land Studies]?
R: I never got to know Al very well. I got to know him better after I came back and
was over in administration, because he was donating things to the University.
P: There was no such thing as a junior college in Alachua County at this time, the
1950s, was there? That had not yet been organized, although the program begins
R: I am trying to remember when the first college has started to open.
R: I think the program was finally approved by the legislature, 1954-1955, and they
began to allocate dollars as they could.
P: Now, you leave the University and you return to Fort Myers for the second time,
upon the invitation of Mr. Fagan.
R: Mr. Harry Fagan, without a doubt, the premier citizen of Fort Myers and Lee
P: Tell me a little bit about him since his name comes into the record here.
R: He was president of the First National Bank in Fort Myers, and probably, when it
came to community service and support of good things in the community, he was
without a doubt number one. The bank, of course, was locally owned in those days,
and was very successful, and Harry felt a major obligation to give things back. I will
give you a couple of examples.
When we were trying to bring the Pittsburgh Pirates here, the first time I was here,
Mr. Rickey said, "Well, I have been down, I have seen what you are going to do with
the field, everything is fine, but I just do not think Fort Myers is big enough to give
us any kind of a gate. The receipts are a small part of our budget, but they help."
He said, "If you can sell $30,000 worth of tickets for the year, we will come." Well,
that does not sound like much today, but that was a lot of seats in those days. So
we began a campaign to sell season tickets. I think the season tickets were eight or
nine or ten practice games. It might have been $30 or something like that. It was
not much. And we launched this campaign, but before we started I went to see Mr.
Fagan. I said, "Mr. Fagan, this is what Mr. Rickey has asked that we do." I said, "I
think we can do it, but I am not sure." He said, "Well, you go ahead, and what you
cannot sell, the bank will buy." When we needed a new hospital, the bank led the
campaign with a major gift. [Also with] the United Way, and the community concert
series, whatever, the bank was first.
P: As a result of Fagan's influence.
R: As a result of Fagan's personal influence.
P: So Mr. Fagan was a good friend. And you come back now to the chamber at the
increased salary. Any additional responsibilities?
P: Has the chamber grown during that interval?
R: Yes, the chamber has grown.
P: As a result of Fort Myers' growth. Where was it in terms of population and that
kind of thing.
R: I am guessing that probably the city [had] maybe 30,000 [inhabitants] and the county
[had] maybe just over 100,000.
P: You had compared it with Alachua County, and that is about the comparison now
we talking about.
P: Alachua County today has [a population of] over 100,000, but when you leave
Gainesville and Alachua County and come here [to Lee County], comparatively
speaking, it is about the same [size].
P: Were there any educational facilities here yet?
P: Edison [Community College at Fort Myers] has not yet started either?
P: What was your job as the director or executive secretary, whatever it was, of the
chamber when you come back on the scene?
R: Well, again, of course, Pittsburgh [baseball team] was training here.
P: It is already here?
R: Yes. They are here now and they have stayed. They have come to like it.
P: And you have reestablished your relationship with Mr. Rickey.
R: That is right. And then Mr. Rickey died and Joe Brown was the general manager
and we became very close to Joe Brown. That is the son of the famous comedian,
Joe E[van]. Brown [American actor, comedian, 1892-1973]. This is Joe L. Brown.
P: I have a wonderful picture, by the way. When the University of Florida played
California, I have a picture of Joe E. Brown, Governor [of Florida 1933-1937, David]
Scholtz, and Dr. [John J.] Tigert [president, University of Florida, 1928-1947].
R: By golly, that is a collector's item. I think we have a lot of pictures in here of Mr.
Rickey and things like that. Then, at that time, there was beginning to be more
activity and growth out on the islands. There was always some talk [that] "we need
to form our own chamber." So I spent a lot of time cementing relations and assuring
them that we would be sure that our advertising for tourists talked about the islands
and talked about the beaches.
P: Greater Fort Myers.
R: That is right, greater Fort Myers. They had a great deal of success with that. We
did not have any breaking off from the chamber at that period of time. Then there
was also work on the promotion of the [Thomas Alva] Edison festivities. All the
Florida tourist towns have some sort of a peak period. Here the peak period was
the two weeks when the Edison festival occurred.
P: What did they call it, the festival of lights or something?
R: That is right. That was a big thing.
P: Were you instrumental in organizing that or was it already in place?
R: That was in place, but we were constantly working to add to it, to improve it, that
sort of thing. We worked closely with that. It was really the typical kind of chamber
of commerce thing, that we needed to do to promote business, that we needed to do
for the good of the community, and that we needed to work on with the county and
the city, that sort of thing. I did that for two years, Sam.
P: Now we are talking about 1957?
P: 1958 and 1959?
R: And 1959 and 1960. Then toward the end of 1960, Mr. Fagan [hired me].
P: Made good on his [earlier promise].
R: The new bank is under construction, and he invited me to come work at the bank
as vice president.
P: And you were in charge of loans.
R: I was one of the senior loan officers at the bank.
P: Once again, is there an improvement in salary over the [salary at the] chamber?
R: Well, by that time, my chamber salary had reached the awesome amount of $10,000,
and Mr. Fagan matched that. But the bank had better fringe benefits and paid a
Christmas bonus and things like that, so there were advantages. Obviously, beyond
the fact that I felt like going to the bank would be a much more definitive career
move than coming back just to run the chamber. I would not have come back just
to run the chamber. I worked at the bank. It was a very enjoyable career.
P: Is this where we get into the Lehigh Acres with both of these going on at the same
R: How that came about is interesting. When Lehigh Acres first opened, it was when
I was here the first time in 1953.
P: How about explaining for the tape what Lehigh Acres [is].
R: To my knowledge, it was the first effort by a developer in Florida to sell land
through the mail, for $10 down and $10 a month, where there was nothing.
P: Of course, that had developed during the Florida boom of the 1920s.
R: That is true. I understand it had.
P: They had land offices in Grand Central Station in New York City.
R: I had forgotten about that, Sam. That is right. That did happen back then, did it
P: They were selling land by the gallon. Some of it was underwater.
R: This, to our knowledge, was the first major effort of the post-war [period].
P: Who was the developer?
R: A man named Lee Ratner who was out of Chicago. [His] family had some very
successful, big businesses in Chicago. He had bought this enormous ranch.
P: It is located where?
R: It is east of the city.
P: East of Fort Myers.
R: East of Fort Myers on [State] Route 80. I do not know how many acres he owned
P: Is it [located] toward the Everglades, east of here?
R: It is due east, a little too far north for the Everglades. It is [located as] you are
heading toward the sugar country. I guess that Ratner got the idea of maybe
developing a plan to sell land out there.
P: He was only a land seller, not a builder?
R: No. At that time, he had never done that before. He just decided he wanted to do
this. Well, he hired a very bright young fellow named Jerry Gould who was in the
advertising business in Miami. Jerry Gould's advertising firm had handled our
chamber's advertising account for a year or two, and I knew Jerry very well. I knew
his wife Lois, and he had a bunch of little kids; [he was] just a real nice, smart,
impressive guy. Well, he gets this job and comes over here and takes on the
responsibility of marketing Lehigh Acres development. He came to me and said,
"Alan, we are going to be doing this. Here is what our plans are and so and so
forth. And we would like the chamber to at least understand what we are and give
us a fair chance."
Well, there was not a very positive general reaction in the community. The feeling
was [that] this was a rip-off. [There was] just a kind of negative feeling about Lehigh
Acres. But I knew Jerry and I knew enough about Mr. Ratner and his backing, [to
realize] that he could do what he wanted to do. So I tried to be as neutral as I
could possibly be.
People would come to the chamber and ask us about [the development]. They would
show up on our doorstep from Buffalo [and say], "I have bought a piece of land out
here somewhere. I want to go see it." We never poor-mouthed them. I said to the
people that worked for me, "Look, we are going to stay totally neutral." I would say,
"Well, you really cannot get out there yet, there are not any roads. But the Lehigh
Acres people, if you call them, will be glad to come and pick you up in a jeep, take
you there, and will explain to you what they have going on and what they are doing,
and so on."
In other words, the Lehigh Acres people felt very good that the chamber was not
bad-mouthing them. Well, Lehigh Acres was enormously successful. They sold
thousands of lots. They began to build roads, they began to build houses, they
began to put in little 7-11 [convenience stores], they built a golf course, they built
a country club, [and] all of this is going on over a period of time. But that was the
beginning of my relationship with Lehigh Acres.
P: But you assume an administrative position with them?
R: I am now telling you how that happened. So, anyway, I am now at the bank and
have been at the bank for several years.
P: How did Mr. Fagan feel about the Lehigh development?
R: Well, I had talked with him a great deal about it, and Mr. Fagan was willing to
accept my judgement that these people probably would do the right thing.
P: And did not all of them think it was an economic boom to this area of the state?
R: Not at the time. They felt like it maybe would be something where the [developer's
staff] would all pack up and leave.
P: They still remembered the real estate boom of the 1920s.
R: Yes. And they could not imagine anybody buying land out there. They could not
imagine anybody living out there. Really!
P: So far away from everything.
R: And Sam, the truth of the matter is, you can understand it. I went out there a few
times with Jerry [Gould] in the jeep and said, "Jerry, you guys [sure this will work]?"
P: It [the development] still there?
R: Oh, it has 40,000 people.
P: Oh, okay. Maybe I can get a graduate student to write a history of it.
R: So now here we are, and I am at the bank, and Lehigh Acres is growing and
booming and developing. So one day Jerry called me up and said, "Let us go to
lunch." I have helped them a lot. When I got to the bank, we developed a banking
relationship with Lehigh, and did a lot of things with them. Mr. Fagan got to know
Jerry and liked him. The whole situation was very positive between us [at the bank]
and Lehigh Acres.
P: Does Ratner ever appear on the scene?
R: Well, Ratner really was a character. He was a wild man. The less you saw of him,
P: So [Jerry] Gould was the man.
R: Jerry Gould was the man, right. And Jerry, by this time, had four or five kids. We
used to go out and visit with them. We were good friends, Jerry Gould and I. So
Jerry called me up one day and said, "I want to talk to you." He said, "I have got
to have someone I can rely on, someone I can trust, someone to help me."
Well, let me stop a minute. About 1962, one day, Harry [Melvin] Philpott [vice
president, University of Florida] shows up at the bank to see me.
P: This is our Harry Philpott from University of Florida, Stephens College [at
Columbia, Missouri], and later Auburn University [Alabama]?
R: The vice president, yes. The good, right-hand man of Wayne Reitz, that Harry
Philpott shows up at the office.
P: In Fort Myers?
R: In Fort Myers, at First National Bank, in 1962, and said, "Alan, I would like to have
a chance to talk to you." We go to lunch and he said, "We are establishing a new
position, Dean for University Relations and Development. We are going to go into
private fundraising in a big way, and President Reitz has asked me to come down
and talk to you about coming back to take on that job." He said, "He [Reitz] has
talked to a lot of your friends and a lot of people who know you and think highly
of you, and with your background in economics and now finance, we would like you
to come up and do this job."
Well, I was very flattered and I talked to Mary, and talked with Mr. Fagan and
decided that I would not do it. So I said, "Well, you know, Dr. Philpott, I really am
honored, but I believe we are settled here. We have done a lot of moving. I think
I might stay." That is when the judge, Harold [Bryan] Crosby [professor of law at
University of Florida Law School], then assistant dean of the law school, [was asked
by] Dr. Reitz, so he did in fact become [Dean of University Relations and
P: He becomes head of the development office?
R: Yes. Then in the beginning of 1964, Jerry Gould and I have this lunch and he says,
"I really need someone to come out here and be my assistant." He said, "I would
like it to be you." I said, "Jerry, I am not sure. I am comfortable at the bank." He
said, "We are growing like crazy and we can pay a lot more money, and over the
years I am sure you will make a lot more money." He added, "We will give you a
car so you can get back and forth and everything."
P: What did he want you to do?
R: [He wanted me] to be his administrative vice president, to handle everything. In a
situation like that, there are millions of people complaining.
P: But he did not want you out there selling land?
R: No. I dealt with the people that were in charge of this. He had a bunch of people
assigned to report to me when I got there: the fellow who ran the country club, the
fellow who ran the [visitors' office].
P: So what made you make the decision to do this, other than the dollars? Was it a
R: I think there were two things. Mr. Fagan had gotten sick, not deathly ill, but he had
been sick. And he had around him mostly pretty young guys like me. He had Bill
Price who was his number one guy, and then there was Ted Evans, and myself. I
think when Harry got sick, he got a little worried about who would take over. So,
unbeknownst to any of us, he and [the] board decided to bring someone in, and
they brought in an executive vice president, and that was a blow to Bill and a blow
to me and a blow to Ted.
P: Because you saw your way blocked now.
R: Plus we did not know who this man was, or anything about him, or what he would
be like. In fact, the fellow did not stay very long, to be frank about it. So Jerry
Gould was pretty damn clever. When he saw that announcement, he was on me in
a minute. I think if he had asked me three months sooner or three months later,
I probably would not have done it. I think we all felt let down by Mr. Fagan, as
much as we loved him. In fact, Bill Price left too. Bill Price went down to
Immokalee [Florida]. It was the best thing that ever happened to Bill. He became
president of the bank in Immokalee and had a great career. So I went out to
P: Did Fagan encourage you to do that?
R: No. We talked. In fact, I talked with a couple of board members and they said,
"Really, do not be hasty. This thing is not over yet. You still cannot tell what might
happen." But, anyway, I went.
P: At more money.
R: Yes. But I still kept a good relationship with the bank, still represented Lehigh
Acres in their dealing with the bank, and that sort of thing. So it was not like
burning your bridges.
P: Were you changing your lifestyle at all as you were moving up the economic ladder?
R: Not a whole lot, because none of these were astronomical jumps, but a nicer house,
a bigger house. In fact, the last house we had in Fort Myers was a gorgeous house.
If we had time, I would like to run down and show it to you.
P: And even two cars maybe now.
R: Yes. Two cars.
P: And your children are eating regularly.
R: It is more comfortable. Each step is a little more comfortable.
P: Was the Lehigh activity a challenge to you? Was that one of the things?
R: Oh, my God! See, it was so different from anything I had ever done, and, Sam,
watching that operation was unbelievable. Some times I would go in where they
were working the phone, and just listen to the conversation, and then they were in
the business of bringing people over by the busload from the east coast, Miami
Beach. They would put out flyers; they would pay the bellman and the doorman
and all the people who worked the hotels to give everybody staying there these little
brochures [inviting people], "Have a free trip to see the real Florida."
P: And lunch?
R: "And lunch at no cost to you. Visit Lehigh Acres, a gorgeous new city in the
making." And they would bring these people in by the busload every day.
P: The Rosens [Julius Rosen and Leonard Rosen, Gulf American Corporation] used
that same tactic when they developed.
R: By air. They flew them in by the thousands from up north. But, you know, they sold
20 percent of those people. I could not believe it. Of course, all the way over they
are being hustled on the microphone by somebody. They bring them in, then they
get them out of the bus to let them stretch their legs, [and] then they drive them
around Lehigh. "See, here is our golf course. Here is a little shopping center being
built here. Here are forty-two homes being built." And so on and so forth.
P: And they could show them some things under construction.
R: Oh, yes. And the reason they built the golf course and the country club so quickly
and so early, because there really were not enough people there to really use it, was
to show it to these prospects. Then they would serve them lunch in the very nice
country club. Then they would break them up and put them one on one in a little
room with a sales person. And, as I say, they would sell about 20 percent of them.
Then one of the most interesting things they did out there was to get the first doctor
to come to Lehigh. They advertised in all sort of journals, and agreed to build an
office [for the doctor] and everything. That was my job, to get us a doctor, which
I did. A young doctor, who brought his family in.
P: You put him in a room and you pressured the guy?
R: No. But I gave him a house on almost nothing down, [and] built him an office to
his requirements [with] minimum rent.
P: I can see that it was a challenge. That was interesting.
R: Yes. It really was.
P: Did the developers make money out of Lehigh?
R: Oh, yes. In the end, Sam, they went public and were bought out and the economy
turned and they did not make it. Jerry Gould, at one time, was immensely wealthy,
but he wound up leaving Lehigh with very little. Now, he went on and did other
things, but they were very rich for a while. It was unfortunate that they allowed
themselves to be bought out by a much bigger outfit, and that went sour.
No, as I say, now they have 40,000 people living out there in Lehigh. They are just
getting their own high school under construction. They have had a K-6 school and
a middle school. Now they are getting their own high school.
P: Was this the last job you had in this area of Florida?
R: Yes. Then, what happened was that President Reitz's office called the bank to talk
P: This is the second invitation?
R: This is now the end of 1964, I guess. Of course, they tell him I am not at the bank,
I am up there. I think that was a jolt to Dr. Reitz. I think he talked to Mr. Fagan,
"Did something go wrong?" And Mr. Fagan said, "No, nothing went wrong, just Alan
went out there." So then he called me, and we talked, so I came up.
P: This is Reitz talking to you now?
R: Yes, so I went up to Gainesville and we had a good visit.
P: What did he say he wanted?
R: He told me that the job he had originally offered me in 1962 had become open again
because Judge Crosby had just been named president of the new University of West
Florida, and would I be willing to talk? I say yes I would, because while that was
quite an experience, I realized that was really not what I wanted to do.
P: Even though Gould had promised you a lot of money?
R: What he said was, "Certainly, you will make more money with us, you will get much
more rapid increases, and who knows where Lehigh Acres really goes, and what kind
of jobs might be opened up here. We might decide we need a city manager. We
do not know where we go." So I talked with Mary, and I said, "You know, this is the
second time. I am sure Dr. Reitz will never call me again. So we have to make a
big decision. Do we stay in Fort Myers and see what happens?"
P: Did you actually go physically to Gainesville to talk to Reitz?
R: Yes, I did. I went to Gainesville and visited with him, and we talked about the job
and he said that he would match my salary. I think I was making $19,000. He said,
"Here is what I want you to do."
P: What did he want you to do?
R: To take over that office. The main emphasis was to try and get us moving in the
direction of private support. Sam, it is funny. That office had alumni affairs,
sponsored research, the printing office, WRUF radio, and two or three other things
all reporting to it.
P: Where was it?
R: It was in Tigert Hall just around the corner from the president's office. When you
think about all that, it was quite a set-up.
P: Quite an array. I do not think Crosby had done very much. I do not really think
it had been a successful two years, had it?
R: I do not think so, to be truthful. There was not much evidence of any outward
P: You did not see any endowment or anything when you arrived on the scene. So he
is asking you to do the same thing he had asked you when he sent Philpott down?
R: That is exactly right.
P: This was to begin planning a program of private funding and alumni relations. We
had an alumni organization already in place.
R: Yes, and a pretty strong one, but it was raising peanuts, as you know.
P: And it was emphasizing the athletic program.
R: Totally. So I said to Mary, "This is a big decision." And it was tough for us too
because Barbara was going into her junior year in high school, a tough time to make
a move. For Doug and Nancy it did not really matter, but for Barb it was tough.
But then we decided, okay, this is probably the career decision, and we decided to
come back to Gainesville.
P: Now, let us see. How old were you?
R: How old was I? I guess I was forty-four.
P: You need to begin making some decisions now of where you are going to be.
R: That is right.
P: Nothing that you had done up until that time, either, gave you very much in the way
of fringe benefits.
R: No. Retirement. The only retirement I had was those three or four years I had
previously been at the University, but nothing at any chamber jobs, or at the bank,
although the bank had a kind of peanut plan. They developed a much better plan
P: But nothing [solid], really, and you are in your middle forties.
R: That is right. So I say, "Mary, if we go back now that means I commit myself to
education for the rest of my life." We agreed that that was not a bad thing to do,
and that is what we would do. So we gave up the lovely house we had only been
living in for about eighteen months, and moved to Gainesville.
P: Where did you live in Gainesville?
R: Suburban Heights was just being developed and we bought a real nice house from
the builder Mason.
P: Fred Mason.
R: Yes. A lovely house with a swimming pool and all that, so everybody was happy with
the living arrangements. [We] came back to Gainesville, and this was, I guess, about
September or October of 1964. A funny thing happened, you know how the poor
University is under the thumb of the Tallahassee red tape, the DOA [Department
of Administration] decides that $19,000 is too much, and I can only get $18,500, to
Wayne's terrible embarrassment.
P: So you get an office in Tigert Hall?
R: Yes. And began to work.
P: Let us talk about that. Tell me what you were doing, because this is the early history
of the University of Florida Foundation.
R: Yes it is. There were two things, Sam, which I felt were a problem. I do not say
this because I want to cause any ill-feeling, but the alumni association seemed to me
to have really all control over what they did and how they spent the little bit of
money they raised. The alumni association was raising very little money, and there
was little or no University influence on what they did and how they did it.
P: Was [Samuel] Ray Graves [head football coach and director of athletics], then,
running that situation since he was the athletic director?
R: No. Ray was still the coach. He had not become athletic director yet, or was he
P: He was both.
R: One thing I will say about Ray: to me Ray was as fine an example of what a coach
ought to be that we have ever had. Ray was cooperative. We got to know him and
Opal very well. If there were people that we were working with that we wanted to
maybe [entertain], if they were interested in athletics, Ray and Opal would say, "Fine,
we will include them in our weekend, whatever we are doing." It had nothing to do
with whether they were or were not giving to athletics only.
P: Now, had any attempt been made by the University when you come on to the scene
to find out who the alumni were, who the affluent alumni were? None of that basic
research had been done?
R: No. I do not think so. In fact, we had an endowment board at that time. That had
been organized, in other words, they had done that.
P: By Reitz?
R: And I guess Harold [Crosby]. And it was made up of a group of people from around
the state and a heavy Gainesville contingent.
P: Like Sam T. Dell [Gainesville lawyer]?
R: Yes, people like that. But nothing really had happened, as you read. You know, the
real commitment of people in those positions is to give themselves and get their
friends to give. There was nothing, really, that seemed to have happened.
P: So at that point, the University did not know where the money was, and who the
potential donors were.
P: Was that your major responsibility, then?
R: When I arrived on the scene, now, we had to figure out where we were going to go.
In the meantime, you understand, I am still worrying about WRUF and the
University printing operation.
P: Are those under your responsibility too? WRUF?
R: Everything I named to you.
P: Oh, I just thought they happened to have offices there.
R: No. They were all things I [was responsible for], and the alumni association.
P: Well, the alumni association was still part of the foundation. But WRUF?
R: Yes. There were five or six major things which reported to that office, and used up
a lot of time.
P: I can imagine.
R: And just about that time, there was talk about doing something to establish a real
museum. And build the [appropriate building].
P: The edifice we are now in?
R: The one that is presently on campus.
P: So that is where you begin your relationship with J. C. [Joshua Clifton] Dickinson
[director of the Florida State Museum].
R: That is right. And I [was talking] with Dr. Reitz and saying, "This might be
something that might appeal."
P: You were now advising Reitz?
R: Yes, I said this was something which might really "sell." We would have some very
attractive lay-outs, etc. I said, "You know, Dr. Reitz, it would be very hard for us
to go around the state asking for money if we do not first get some money out of
Gainesville. I am sure that is the first thing someone is going to ask you about."
P: [Other donors ask] "What are the local folk doing?"
R: So I [met] with S. T. Dell and a couple of other people and said, "We want to raise
$750,000." That was the goal.
P: That was an astronomical amount.
R: Oh, yes it was. I said, "We really think we ought to shoot to raise about a quarter
of it in Gainesville. I think we ought to have a $200,000 goal for Gainesville." My
P: Is that what they said?
R: No. That is what I said. And they really thought I was crazy.
P: So they said, "My God!" too.
R: Yes. Then they decided that they would take this on. I am trying to remember now
the other members of the committee.
P: Was M. M. Parrish [chairman of the board of Parrish and Associates] on the
R: You know, I want to say yes, but I cannot remember. The person I remember most
is S. T. [Dell] who really stepped forward.
P: And S. T. Dell was the son-in-law to Senator Shands, married to Elizabeth.
R: Right. And I think we got a few of the wives involved, but somewhere in the records
back there, there must be something about all of this. But I do remember, Sam, that
the way in which we went about doing it, I think, was to have this very nice dinner
gathering in support of the museum. I think we charged $200 a plate. Again, an
P: This was a fundraiser?
R: Yes, a fundraiser. And that was the kick-off, and then, of course, we worked to raise
[more] money. My memory is that we either made the $200,000 or came so close
P: You mention S. T. Dell, and I asked you about M. M. Parrish; can you think of any
of the local names that would be [included]? Ralph Cellon [land developer, rancher,
and Gainesville politician]?
R: I just cannot remember who the prime movers were now, I just cannot.
P: Now, the people that I am asking about were the people who were involved in the
fundraising for the museum. They would not have been the same group who made
up the initial foundation board?
R: Two or three of them, probably, because I think the board had three or four
Gainesville members, and I am sure all of them were involved.
P: If you can remember, talk a little bit about the activities of the foundation board.
You met, how did you communicate, what did you do?
R: Well, everybody used to come to Gainesville. It was strictly a business meeting,
there was nothing social about it. So I talked with Dr. Reitz to talk with some of
the people on the board. I think probably the one thing I did introduce was the idea
of meeting around the state, in a nice location, and that we would come in the night
before and have a social, a reception and a dinner. I talked with Dr. Reitz about
this. I said, "Dr. Reitz, we simply have to let people have a drink." Well, you know
how he felt about that, and [how] Mrs. Reitz [felt] particularly.
P: I was going to say, if he was not opposed to it, Mrs. Reitz certainly was.
R: I said, "Now we need to [do that], and we need to meet in Fort Lauderdale, we need
to meet in Tampa, we need to meet in Jacksonville, we need to have a nice setting.
We need to bring these people in the day before so they can get to know one
another, [and] we can get to know them." Well, that was a hard decision. Finally,
though, a couple of the board members [agreed], and we talked about it at the
meetings over a period of time, because we only met, I think, twice a year. Finally,
we agreed we would do that. I think the first [meeting] was held at the Pier 66 in
Fort Lauderdale, but, again, I am not absolutely sure about that. But there was a
very fine gentleman in Fort Lauderdale. He may have been named Judge English,
of a prominent family, and may have helped host the first one. Dr. and Mrs. Reitz
said, "Okay, that is fine, but we will not come down and join you until the cocktail
party is over and you are going into dinner." That is the way we did it. Now, of
course, they have these marvelous weekends, but that was the beginning of this.
P: And, of course, with the passage of time, Dr. Reitz changed his relationship to the
R: Yes. I guess it was maybe even 1966 before this started, for the couple of years that
I was still there after that.
P: And he [Reitz] is already beginning to think about leaving [Dr. Reitz retired in
R: That is right. He was beginning to think about retirement at that time. Well, the
museum campaign, Sam, which was the first capital campaign, was like pulling teeth.
We would get to these towns, we would meet with alumni clubs, we would meet with
a group of people invited by one of our board members and talk about the
importance of private support, and I would take all of these charts that show the
University of Michigan (which of course was raising millions of dollars before
anybody else, in the public sector) and what they do here and what they are doing
there. I have to lay all of this out. Here is Florida with this, and we cannot be a
great university without it, and here is this wonderful museum. We have all of these
marvelous collections and nowhere to put them, etc. The response was very, very
nominal. There was a gentlemen named Henry Tolliver in Tampa, a banker. He
really was probably, I would say, the one truly responsive guy.
P: Was he an alumnus?
R: I think he was. J.C. Dickinson would know. He had a wealthy client who in the end,
I think, said, "Okay, if you have not quite made it, I will advance the money so you
can reach your goal, and you can figure out some way to repay me." I guess in the
end he forgave the debt to the foundation. But, when I think about what they are
raising now, [the response then was nominal].
R: Yes. And there was a tremendous effort we put into the work. We went down to
Jupiter Island and tried to raise money down there. [We went] to all sorts of places.
P: But from little acorns ...
P: But you were successful with this campaign?
R: Yes. Through the efforts of Henry Tolliver we got this gentleman to put up the last
$50,000 or $60,000.
P: Put up until what time? You had raised money. If that was all you needed to bring
it to a successful conclusion.
R: And Gainesville did its job marvelously.
P: You took small contributions and large contributions.
R: Oh, yes. Lots of small contributions. The museum, as you know, was built, and did
open, and served the University very well. That was the first, really, major effort at
private fundraising, I think, in the history of the University of Florida.
P: And you sat in as the director throughout this period.
R: That entire period.
P: What kind of a relationship did you have with J. C. Dickinson? He is not an easy
person to relate to.
R: I would say to you that it was rocky.
P: How about explaining that rockiness.
R: First of all, J.C. was very impatient. He wanted to push really hard, and he felt that
there should be more [efforts expended on our part]. It was almost as if in his mind
that was all we had to do in the office. It took a while, but I think after about a
year the relationship smoothed out and we could travel together and do things
together and work together very well.
P: He got on the road with you to promote?
R: Yes he did. I am trying to think what triggered all of this, whether or not there was
some sort of an opportunity for some matching money somewhere. Obviously, I
think the museum cost more than that.
P: Oh, it cost a lot more than $750,000.
R: I think that was the gap. We got some state money, and some federal money, and
this is what was left. I think that was what it was.
P: You had no input, no involvement in the selection of an architect, or the design, or
any of that kind of activity related to the museum?
R: No. I was strictly working to raise the money so that we could have the museum.
Now, one of the battles that we were involved in was where it should be located, and
I did not want it to be located there. I said, "Now, we have said that this is going
to be something for the people and we are putting it where (a) you cannot get to it,
and (b) there is no place to park." But we lost that battle.
P: Where did you want it?
R: I wanted it somewhere on Thirteenth Street.
P: So it would be more accessible.
R: That is right. And where there would be parking.
P: Where there is no such place.
R: Well, we discussed a number of sites in those days, and there were a couple of others
that seemed to me to be a lot more [appropriate]. But it had to do with the idea
of the "academic function." It had to be closer to the libraries, and this thing, and
that thing, and the students and faculty, and so on and so forth. I am not sure that
was all wrong.
P: It is very accessible to school children, [but] I do not see many students wandering
R: We were telling everybody we are going to build this, and to come to Gainesville and
see it. The whole idea was that this will be where the people of the state of Florida
can come and see what great history the state has and all of the things we have got.
P: How long did you remain in this position as director of development?
R: I think five years.
P: You were responsible to and you reported to the president?
R: Yes, directly to the president. And, in fact, Wayne retired and [Stephen C.] Steve
O'Connell [president, University of Florida, 1968-1974] came on while I was still on
the job. I guess that I worked with Steve for about a year. When did Steve come,
P: He first [arrived] in 1967.
R: Well, I was there, then, at least another year, year and a half.
P: You got along well with O'Connell?
R: Yes, but not as well as with Wayne.
R: I do not know. I think part of it was that I wanted more control of the alumni
association and Steve did not see it that way. He said, "No." You know, he had a
great relationship with all of those people.
P: Did he take power away from you then when he came in?
P: He just was not willing to enlarge it?
R: I think that he did not agree with me. I said, "They are raising $250,000 where it
was, and it all gets piddled away. We need to have more control." The alumni
association knew how I felt. They were not too happy about that.
P: Now, by this time, did you have a cordial array of friends, wealthy alumni, in Florida,
who you could depend upon, or had it not yet come to that point?
R: No, I could not say that. There were a few. There was John [W.] Donahoo in
P: He was connected to the Swisher Cigar people.
R: You could talk to him very straightforwardly and he understood. There was Judge
English. I think he was a judge in Fort Lauderdale, I forget now. There were a
number of people like that who did understand the need to [raise funds privately].
Now, with the alumni association, there was not any hostility, but they sure did not
want to lose any control, any power, any authority. There was a little friction there.
P: Well, the battle of development control must have come fairly early because the
alumni association still remains under its jurisdiction.
R: Yes. But even though they were under our office [development control], the control
of the alumni association was with a group of elected directors, all of whom had one
interest and that was how the football team was doing. There was no emphasis on
raising money for the University.
P: [There was no emphasis] on the educational part of the University, and the library?
R: No. And as you know, for a long time, the alumni association of the University of
Florida produced very small numbers.
P: How large a staff did you have as development officer?
R: I had an assistant, [Arthur I.] Buddy Jacobs [director, Division of Development
P: From Fernandina.
R: Yes. And then George Corrick.
P: George lives in Jacksonville.
R: I think George may have just retired, in fact.
P: He has.
R: Right. So there was an assistant and then I think there were one or two clerical
P: Now, who is Buddy Jacobs?
R: Buddy Jacobs, you remember, was president of the student body, distinguished law
school graduate, and this was Buddy's first job out of law school.
P: And he is where today?
R: He now has a major practice in Jacksonville, and in Fernandina Beach.
P: He lives in Fernandina.
R: Yes, in a beautiful, old, restored house. Or has he moved to Amelia Island now?
P: No. I guess he still lives in the restored house in Fernandina.
R: And he had a lovely wife and two or three nice daughters, I remember.
P: And [he was] very much interested in art.
R: Yes. He has been a great friend and supporter of the University through his entire
career. That was his first job, and Buddy was really good. He really understood,
too, the need to get out there and get money for the University.
P: And George Corrick was a good supporter.
R: Yes. George was very good too. George always wanted to do more. He [said] "I
am not getting enough done!"
P: Now, did Corrick leave to go to [University of] North Florida before or after you
R: You know, I am trying to remember whether George left before I did, or not. I
think that he was still there when I left, but I am not sure. Then Fred [H.] Cantrell
[dean of University Relations and Development, 1968] came into that job. I think
George might have still been there.
P: Now, [about] Fred's job, and I wondered if this compared with your job, Fred was
really also an organizer and a planner of social events, [when] important people were
coming to the University, and at graduation time.
R: No. I was not involved.
P: You did not have any of that kind of thing?
R: No. I think, too, maybe after I left, a lot of the things like WRUF, etc., moved to
where they perhaps should have been.
P: I think it became a more specialized position after you left.
P: And Fred, I think, maybe moved off the scene at that point and took on these other
R: One of the big things, and again I could not believe it, but I remember one of the
big things that we had to deal with was the print shop. You know the University
Publications and Printing. That was a major operation, and people were always
complaining about not getting stuff on time.
P: Well, was the news bureau [under your supervision]?
R: Yes. The news bureau, and, what was his name, Hoke Kerns, [who was] there for
R: Yes. That reported to us.
P: But also, we were calling the Chipola [Junior] College [Marianna, Florida] president,
Kenneth Scaggs. His brother, you remember, was also on campus in charge of the
R: Yes. And he reported to me.
P: I wondered if those agencies were under your responsibility there.
R: Yes, yes. So that was a lot to say grace over, if you can imagine.
P: All of those have been moved off, now.
R: Yes. That is right.
P: The University has its own individual PR [public relations] office.
R: And he moved on to another university, and had a very good career.
P: Now, after the offices leave Tigert Hall, do they move to the Reitz Union before
they move to their present building?
R: Oh, the one move we made was instead of being around the corner, before I left,
we moved into the president's suite.
P: That is it. Of course, that is where [Fred] Cantrell's office was too. You moved into
the suite, down two offices.
R: We had that one end.
P: The south end. I know where that is.
R: We had two or three offices.
P: And I remember now that you have reminded me exactly where your office was.
You could get to it either down that corridor, or you had an outside door too.
R: Yes. That is right. There was a lot of advantages in being in Tigert Hall, because,
first of all, your relationship with the business office. I got to know Bill [William
Earl] Elmore [vice president for Business Affairs] very well. [I] really just thought
the world of Bill.
P: And, of course, you were right there with the president if you needed him.
R: Yes. And then around the corner was the chief academic officer.
P: And Mrs. Durell was in charge.
R: Phyllis Durell.
P: Edith [Patti] Pitts was gone by that time.
R: Yes. She was gone by that time.
P: She had left and was living in Tampa with her sister.
R: Right. And you remember that was the period, too, when the big rile with Governor
[Haydon] Burns [governor of Florida, 1965-1967] occurred.
P: What was the big rile?
R: I am trying to remember exactly what happened.
P: Was this the conflict over the appointments of the first Board of Regents that Farris
Bryant [governor of Florida, 1961-1965] made?
R: No, I do not think so, Sam.
P: No, we are talking about Haydon Burns.
R: I think that Haydon wanted to have the president make some appointments. I
cannot quite remember what it was, but I do know that it was a very difficult time.
I do remember that I think it had a lot of do with Harry Philpott not waiting a little
bit longer. It was the expectation he might succeed.
P: I have not caught that. I do know that when the Board of Regents was created by
the legislature to supersede the Board of Control, there was the question of who
could appoint the Board of Regents, and they would, of course, have to be approved
by the Senate.
In January of 1965, just before he was ready to leave office, Farris Bryant appointed
a group which included, among others, Marshall [M.] Criser [President of the
University of Florida, 1985-1989]. They had not yet been approved by the
legislature, because the legislature was not in session, and then Haydon Burns came
in as the new governor and refused to accept that Board, and received a Supreme
Court ruling that they had not really been approved until the legislature approved
them. He was then able to create a completely new Board.
R: As I say, I do not remember what it was, but there was a major, major hassle. I
think an awful lot of pressure was being placed on Dr. Reitz about something.
P: This is the one [big event] that I remember in that period of 1965, and you are back
in Gainesville by then.
R: That is right. I remember Harry Philpott coming from a meeting between Governor
Burns and Wayne [Reitz] and himself, and he was white. He was white. I remember
him saying that he did not think he wanted to stay in Florida. It was shortly after
that, you recall, that he went to Auburn [University].
P: And he is living in Auburn [Alabama] now.
R: Yes. I guess he had a fine career up there.
R: But, as I say, I do not know what the circumstances were, I just know that there was
P: Did you get into any hassles at all, as the development officer? Were you personally
involved in anything?
P: No great conflicts that need to be made part of the historical record?
R: No. I really cannot [think of any conflicts]. The only thing I would say is that I felt
at that period of time that the University needed to have a little more emphasis and
a little more control on, particularly, the fundraising efforts and the use of the funds
coming through the alumni association.
P: Were you getting any feedback from alumni and potential donors, and donors as a
result of the integration? The 1960s saw the integration of the University.
R: No. I never heard that mentioned.
P: By comparison with other universities, the University of Florida was peaceably
R: Yes. Never heard that mentioned.
P: The big hassle in the 1950s of Virgil [D.] Hawkins's attempt to come into the law
school had been resolved by court order. [Federal District] Judge [Dozier] DeVane
had said in 1958 that the University would have to integrate, and we accepted our
first black [George H. Starke Jr.] into the College of Law. Then by 1959, a black
student [Ester M. Langstan] was enrolled in the College of Medicine, [and by] 1962
you get the first real undergraduates and the integration of activities including the
P: So when you came back, that was already a fact of life. [There were] just a handful
of blacks on campus, but they were there.
R: I remember that just about the time I came back, [coach Samuel] Ray [Graves]
recruited his first black players [Leonard George and Willie B. Jackson], the father
of the current Willie Jackson.
P: And the first track stars.
R: Yes. That is right.
P: Actually, the first black that came into the athletic program [Johnnie Brown] was in
the track program, but Ray [Graves] had worked with that. But, were there
discussions about how this was going to be explained to the folks out in West Florida
from whom you were trying to get $100,000?
R: Never. Never came up in internal discussions or external discussions. That was not
an issue at any time that I can remember.
P: Because integration came relatively smoothly, but not because everybody in the state
was happy with it.
R: No. I agree with that. No, that was a problem for the community college when it
opened down here in Fort Myers.
P: What was the official title of your operation on campus?
R: Dean for University Relations and Development.
P: And you carried the title of dean? So you had to go to the deans' meetings and all
of that kind of business.
R: Right. You know, one of the things, Sam, which I always felt good about is that I
worked very hard to be sure all the various academic departments knew that we
wanted to help in any way we could. Faculty would drop in to the office and I would
try my best to let them know we were there to serve. I think we helped the Business
College when they first began a little program to raise money, when they established
I think what they called Business Associates, and that sort of thing. I traveled with
Dean [Donald John] Hart [dean of the College of Business Administration] a few
P: Now you stay on that job until 1969?
R: I am trying to remember exactly when I moved to Santa Fe [Community College at
Gainesville]. It was either the very end of 1968 or the very beginning of 1969.
P: Let us talk about the move now. What prompted that?
R: That was really an interesting move, because I have to say that no one understood
it, including my wife. But I had my first contact with community colleges when I was
down here in Fort Myers. When I came back that last time down here, and I was
at the bank, the [Edison] Community College was authorized.
P: You know, instead of answering the question I just asked you about the move to
Santa Fe, I want you to go back and tell me about your role here and what went on
here with Edison [Community College].
R: Well, I came back here and went to work at the bank. Of course, everybody knew
me from my two different tenures at the Chamber of Commerce. So when the
community college was authorized here and the citizens' board was being appointed,
I was appointed to it, on the recommendation of the local superintendent and the
Someone had to be chairman. Now, one of the legislators was appointed to the
board and he wanted to be chairman. But a couple of the more thoughtful members
did not think that would probably be wise. So at the first meeting of the board,
there were two nominations for chairman, the legislator and me. And I won by a
vote of four to three, which was less than well received by the legislator.
But we had a very good board, and one thing that I feel that I did with them was to
convince them that we really wanted someone to be the president who knew what
a college was, not someone who would see it as a continuation from grade twelve,
grades thirteen and fourteen.
In the first search, in my opinion, there was no such candidate. So I invited [James
L.] Jim Wattenbarger [professor of education at University of Florida] to come
down and talk to us, and Jim came down. When I invited him down, I laid out what
the situation was. We did not seem to have really what I thought were the right kind
of candidates, and there was maybe some interest in just going ahead and picking
a local person and not worrying about it. So Jim came down and did a very good
job of talking about the need for someone with some experience and background in
what a community college was.
He said, "I will help you find some good candidates if you will reopen the search."
So the board then agreed to immediately reopen the search. And we did. Jim did,
in fact, get us a number of good candidates that came down and talked to us. We
hired a fellow from Pennsylvania, Charles Rollins, who turned out to be a marvelous
The second person he hired was David Robinson, and I was very much involved in
the planning for the college. [I] tried to help Charles and David be welcomed to the
community and meet people, etc. Really, Charles was very, very committed to what
the community college was trying to do.
P: Where was the college located?
R: It opened originally in downtown in a former public school building called the
Gwynn Institute. It is still standing. It is used now by the school board for
administrative offices, but it had been closed as a school and was sitting there. So
it was a natural.
P: When did it open?
R: It opened in 1962.
P: What kind of an enrollment did you have to begin with?
R: I want to say 700 or 800, but I am not sure. But, Sam, those were the days when you
had segregated campuses. So they also offered a few classes over in the Dunbar
community, I think in the Dunbar High School.
I remember when we were going to have our first graduation in 1964. The president
wanted to have a single graduation and we the board supported that. But when that
was announced, there was a bit of an uproar. I got threatening phonecalls. So did
the president. But, again, Mr. Fagan had a lot to do with selling that. We said we
did not have a place to hold graduation so he said, "You can have it at the First
Baptist Church. Let me talk with the minister." The fact that the graduation was
going to be held at the Baptist Church, finally settled down everything and we had
P: A mixed graduation? You had two different campuses but an integrated graduation?
R: Yes, that is right.
P: Now, did you teach the traditional courses? Literature? History?
R: Yes. This college, I think, for most of its early history was a liberal arts college.
Then, when they built their new campus, they began to move into nursing and some
other kinds of things.
P: The vocational courses?
R: They are not an area vo-tech school like Santa Fe, but they do have a number of
very good A. S. [Associate in Science] degree technical programs and vocational
P: An A. S. degree, what is that?
R: Associate in Science, A. S., versus the traditional A. A., Associate in Arts degree
where you are planning to move on. Most Associate in Science students are not
planning to go on; now some do.
P: They are terminal?
R: They are terminal degrees where they have been trained as an environmental
technician, or as a registered nurse, or as a radiologic technologist, or as whatever.
P: What term did you use to say that it [Edison in Fort Myers] was unlike Santa Fe [in
R: Some community colleges in the state were designated as the vocational-technical
P: And Santa Fe is one of those.
R: Yes. So we started out offering vocational-technical programs almost the day we
P: But Edison did not?
P: But it grew into that?
R: 'Yes. But, you see, the public school system runs the vocational-technical school
P: Well, in the old schools, the ones I grew up in, you had vocational arts programs,
such as carpentry, women had cooking, sewing, that sort of thing. Now, those moved
out of the schools into the community colleges?
R: Pretty much in those areas that were designated as that. Now, the school system
may have still had a few. They still did some of the business of training.
P: Typing, shorthand, that type of thing. I guess, today, instruction in [the use of]
R: Yes, but the automotive training is at the community college. It was at Santa Fe.
P: Would that have been part of Edison's curriculum to begin with?
R: No. Only if [Edison] had been named the area vo-tech school.
P: Who did the naming?
R: Well, I think it had a lot of do with how the public school system felt about it. In
Gainesville, as a university town, there never was, truthfully, any real emphasis on
vo-tech in the Alachua County School System, so they did not bat an eye over
[naming the community college to be vo-tech]. To them [the Alachua Public School
System] it was more of a nuisance than anything else.
P: So if Edison had wanted to do it from the beginning, they could have.
R: Only if the school board would have been agreeable, I think.
P: And that meant whether they were willing to spend the dollars to do what was
necessary. Did Edison also start with a program of offering courses for the general
R: Yes. They do some of that.
P: Did they do it back in the 1960s when they first [opened]?
R: I think they did. But, again, here the public school system does that in a big way,
so Edison, I think, just grew into that.
P: I see.
R: Whereas, as you know, in Gainesville that has been recognized as the best program
in the state and in the nation.
P: Where did Edison's first faculty come from?
R: David [Robinson] had come from Manatee [Junior] College [Bradenton, Florida],
so he had some connections.
P: So Edison was not among the first of the community colleges?
R: I do not think so. It was fairly early, but not amongst the first. I think between
Chuck Rollins's own connections, and David [Robinson's] connections, and doing
some advertising and getting help from the universities, etc., they were able to attract
a faculty without too much trouble.
P: And if they only had 600 or 700 students, they really did not need a huge faculty.
R: No. A small faculty.
P: I want to ask you about the whole operation of the community colleges, as they
operated in Florida. I have a little bit of the history of it from [James]
Wattenberger. It comes out of the Minimum Foundation Law of 1947, it is
reorganized and so on in 1955, Wattenberger becomes the executive secretary
director, and twenty-eight colleges are authorized. They are not created overnight.
P: Who runs the community colleges of Florida?
R: The Florida system is truly unique. We are 100 percent state funded, yet we are not
considered state agencies, which means we are not under the DOA.
P: What is the DOA?
R: The Department of Administration, which has a throttle on the universities. We do
have a state board, and we do have a state office.
P: Now is that the State Board of Education or is it a separate board?
R: A separate board, the State Board of Community Colleges.
P: And who appoints those members?
R: They are appointed by the governor.
P: With the approval of the senate?
R: Yes. With the approval of the senate.
P: They operate, then, in terms of appointment, like the Board of Control.
R: Yes. But their authority and their power is quite limited. It is not at all like the
power of the chancellor and the power of the Board of Control [Board of Regents
P: Can they set policy?
R: Sam, in my experience, they did very little true setting of policy.
P: Where are their offices located in Tallahassee?
R: They are in the Department of Education building and Clark Maxwell [Jr.] is the
executive director of the Division of Community College, but they really are a hands-
off operation. They, obviously, want to make sure you follow the legislative
mandates, that you follow the proviso language and all that sort of thing, but I think
the entire history of the community college movement in Florida is that the office
in Tallahassee is there to help, [the office] is there to make sure you do not make
any mistakes, it is there to step in if you are doing something which is not proper,
but principally they are there to leave you alone and let you do the best job you can.
P: Now, where is the hands-on? That is the hands-off. What agency is the hands-on
that does set policy?
R: That is the local board of the college.
P: The school board?
R: No. The Board of Trustees of the college.
P: Does the county school board have any authority over the community college?
R: Originally, it had full authority until about 1970, I guess.
P: It became too unwieldy?
R: In 1970, there was a total separation.
R: Well, I think there were two reasons. First of all, the school board had more to say
grace over than it could manage, and secondly, there was a feeling that the idea of
the superintendent and the school board having control of the college about which
they really did not know a great deal and had no experience in dealing with, was
[unreasonable]. It would be much better if this was separated and a board for the
college was [created] locally.
P: So each college has its own Board of Trustees, is that what it is called?
R: Yes. But they are not elected. They are appointed by the governor.
P: So the people on the Santa Fe [Board of Trustees] and earlier on Edison's [Board
of Trustees] you dealt with were appointees?
R: This was true after 1970.
P: What about before 1970 when you first become involved at Edison? Who appointed
you, for instance?
R: The superintendent, through his board, recommended us to Tallahassee.
P: Okay. And so Governor [Farris] Bryant then appointed you.
R: Yes. That is right.
P: And all of them were appointed by Bryant. And then you were approved by the
R: Yes. I am sure that is [how] it was.
P: And then you became a member of the board. Then, at Edison, before 1970, you
are a member of the Board of Trustees?
R: We were called advisory boards then. It was a citizens' advisory board.
P: Did you do more than advise?
R: We really did. The school board, truly, did not want to [do more than advise]. Our
experience was that the school board and the superintendent, having chosen us, really
pretty much left us alone. All key decisions had to wind up being approved by them;
for example, the choice of site. After we had done all the preliminary work and
picked the site we felt was the best, the school board concurred in that.
P: Now, after 1970 that was no longer true.
R: No longer the case, that is right.
P: After 1970 this advisory board then becomes the directing board for the college.
R: That is correct, and you can check the date with Jim [Wattenbarger], but I am sure
it was in 1970.
P: Let us go back to Edison once again. Did you call the [head person] a president of
P: And a vice president of the school. Were there deans of the various areas?
R: Not that early. In fact, when David Robinson was hired, he was not called vice
president, he was dean of the college. He literally was kind of dean of everything:
dean of students, dean of academics.
P: But it was mainly an academic office?
R: He was the chief academic officer, really.
P: The president was the overall administrator.
R: That is correct.
P: They divided their responsibilities.
R: Then they grew from there.
P: But everybody reported to the local school board through this advisory [board].
R: That is right.
P: Did the president deal directly with the school board or did he go through you as
the chairman of the advisory board?
R: That is correct, [he went through me].
P: And you met regularly with the school board?
R: With the superintendent, principally. The superintendent was the key person and
the superintendent at that time was someone that we were able to relate to.
P: Where did the dollars come from that supported the school?
R: Every penny [came] from the state. This is very unusual. Most of the big successful
community college operations in the country get most of their money from local ad
valorem taxes, [as in] California, for example.
P: Florida does not [get community college money from a specific tax]?
R: Not one penny, ever.
P: That is true today too, in 1994?
P: So everything comes from the state?
R: [And that includes] not only operating money, but building money too. [It is] really
a very unique situation.
P: Well, you do not hear very much controversy about the budget for the community
colleges in the same way as you do about the university budgets.
R: I really think that has happened for a couple of reasons. One is the effort on the
part of the community college system to operate as a system, and not to have school
"x" getting all of its legislators together and saying, "Boy, we have to have more
money," and school "y" doing the same thing. I am not going to say that that never
happened, but by and large, most of us sort of took a blood oath that we would do
our best to fight out our battles internally, and if we thought that funding was unfair
we would lay it on the table and try to work it out. And if we did not get it worked
out this time, we would try again next time.
P: So there was no competition [between specific community colleges]?
R: I would say, by and large, that was true. Now, there were occasional exceptions.
There certainly were. There would be occasions when someone had a legislator who
was speaker of the House or who was president of the Senate, and they might get
something. But generally speaking, Sam, that would occur more on the capital outlay
side than on the operating budget side.
P: [When trying to get money for] buildings?
R: Yes. Usually, with the operating budget, that was pretty much based on enrollment
and that sort of thing. It was pretty hard to mess with that.
P: What about the office of the commissioner of education? Does that office have any
control over these [budgets]?
R: Well, technically, everything is [subject to] the commissioner of education, but in my
long experience, I guess I can never remember a commissioner of education getting
P: [The commissioner was not] telling you what to do and how to do it?
R: Now, once in a while, a commissioner would come to one of our meetings and say,
"Let me tell you what I think you are doing that may be causing you some trouble.
You may be spending too much money on administration and there is beginning to
be some grumbling up here. You need to take a look at that." Or, "There is not
going to be any money to continue to fund community education classes, or adult
education, and even though we know that is important, you have to face reality. The
state budget is getting tighter and tighter and there is not a great deal of support for
that." Something like that. But in terms of telling you how to run the school or
anything like that, I never remember a commissioner ever doing anything like that.
P: There has been a lot of publicity in the papers recently about this big salary increase
for [John V.] Lombardi [President, University of Florida, 1990-]. Who determines
the community college presidents' salaries?
R: The local boards. And by and large they use very good judgement, I would think,
on the conservative side. We obviously would exchange information amongst the
state board published for everybody to see, reports on community college budgets,
community college salaries, community college everything. And so a board could see
whether or not they were paying their president way more than someone else, or
way less than someone else.
P: But you would expect the president of Miami-Dade [Community College] to be paid
more than the president of Chipola Junior College.
R: Exactly. And these are the kinds of things which would surface in these reports.
P: Now, like with the University, the decision or determination of salaries within the
college is determined by the president and his administrative persons? The board
does not get involved and say, "This is how much you should be paying Joe Blow in
the history department." That is not their responsibility.
R: No. What generally does happen with the community college board is that the
president goes to the board and says, "Here is our current faculty salary schedule.
Based on the amount of money we have received from the legislature, based on
inflation, based on this, that, and the other thing, I recommend that we increase the
salary schedule by this much. In addition to that, you allow us to give a longevity
stipend and a merit stipend, but the total raise will not exceed 6 percent or 4,
percent," or whatever.
P: What about tenure? Do faculty community college professors have tenure?
R: Yes. We have the tenure system the same as the university.
P: And so the protection is there.
R: Yes, it is.
P: Let us go back now to your move from the University of Florida to Santa Fe. You
said that was an interesting transition there.
R: When I came back to the University at the end of 1964, the community college for
Gainesville had just been authorized and they were getting ready to name the
citizens' advisory committee up here. Well, when I got back everybody knew that
I had been chairman of the advisory committee in Fort Myers, so Tiny Talbot
[Alachua County school superintendent] asked me to serve on the committee. This
was a joint committee, because it was a two county district.
P: Bradford County and Alachua [County]?
R: That is right. I think we had maybe an eight or nine member group of which
perhaps five or six were from Alachua county and three or four from Bradford.
P: Why was it a two-county operation?
R: Sam, I guess that was part of the master plan. With the twenty-eight districts,
supposedly nobody would be more than fifty miles driving distance away. That was
a general rule of thumb that I think was in the master plan.
P: So Starke was about that distance, a little bit less. I wonder, now, Miami-Dade
never shared responsibility with another county.
R: No, not as big as they are. I guess the expectation was the really big districts would
have more than one campus, and, of course, that is what has happened.
P: And they, perhaps, never envisioned that Santa Fe would grow.
R: Not as much as it has.
P: So you were asked to serve on the board. Now, the college is already in existence,
or it is just being set up? You are on the first board?
R: It was just being set up. That is right, the first board. This is just starting. In other
words, I was founding chairman of the advisory board for Edison, and I was on the
founding board here for Santa Fe.
P: Well, before you get on, Tiny has just appointed you to the board, or he has asked
the governor to.
R: Yes. He has recommended [me], that is right.
P: How large was the board?
R: I think it [consisted] of eight or nine [people].
P: You said it was a shared Alachua-Bradford county board. Do you remember some
of the names of some of the other people?
R: Yes. I think Ralph Cellon, Milton Brownlee [Gainesville businessman], Guy
Andrews [land developer] from Starke, and maybe Steve Denmark were on the
P: Eugene Matthews from the paper [Starke publisher and newspaper editor]?
R: Might have been, I cannot remember.
P: Were there any women on the board at that early time?
R: Oh, yes there was too, a Mrs. William Pierson, I believe.
P: And certainly no blacks yet.
R: No. I do not believe so.
P: Are we talking about 1965 or a little bit after that?
R: Yes, 1965. They elected me chairman because I had had the experience.
P: No four to three [split vote]?
R: No. [Laughter] Again, we had a very good committee, and the first job was to pick
a president. There was a very, very strong sentiment, Sam, for the college that was
going to be created in Gainesville to be heavily vo-tech. The idea being that you did
not need the other because the University was there. And the school board felt that
way and some of our members felt that way, so there was a lot of interesting
discussion about the fact that a community college, in fact, was a community college.
Yes, we had been given the assignment to be the vo-tech school, and that was very
P: Although, I had thought that in the original, as Wattenbarger talked about it in here,
that it had three responsibilities: one, to offer the classical subjects; two, to offer the
vocational-technical subjects; and, three, to offer a program for the bigger
R: Yes. But [that does not apply] where a school board was already doing a major job
in community education, like here [in Fort Myers]. The principal community
education effort here is with the Lee County School Board. Now, Edison certainly
P: But that was not true in Gainesville.
R: No. That was not true in Gainesville. That is why we went to them and said, "Look,
why do we not have this joint program."
P: But I am really asking, first of all, about the classical education leading up to the
A.A. degree. Santa Fe realized that it had that responsibility even though the
University was there.
R: That is correct, and we tried to point that out. I do not think anyone had the idea
we should not do that.
P: The emphasis was on vo-tech.
R: That is right! There is really no vo-tech in Alachua County and, by God, we had to
P: Right. [The school board] understood all three responsibilities, but this [vocational
technical part] was the major emphasis area.
R: The school board made it very clear that is what they expected and Tiny Talbot
made it very clear that is what was expected. And so, in the search for a president,
we did some interviewing, and [interviewed] a very fine gentlemen from Daytona
Beach who was a former university professor. I have forgotten his name just now.
I knew him very well. Jim [Wattenbarger] will know. [He was] a tall, distinguished
looking gentlemen, I can see him. Daytona Beach had a very big and very successful
vo-tech program along with everything else.
P: As part of its community college?
R: Yes. And even though that was a big, established school, there was some thinking
that maybe he and his wife would like to return to Gainesville. So he came and we
interviewed him. Everybody liked him. I think [we] would have offered him the job,
but then he went back to Daytona and looked at his boat sitting out there in the
water, and he and his wife changed their mind. So he withdrew. Then we decided
we would like to hire the president of Ocala [Central Florida] Community College,
Dr. Joseph Fordyce. Well, Joe was also being courted by Jacksonville which was
going to open in the same year. He had been a professor at the University of
P: In the College of Education.
R: And had gone to Ocala as president of the college, and Jacksonville was after him
too. We, of course, were figuring we could not compete with Jacksonville.
P: Is he the first president of the Ocala school?
R: No. He was the second president down there.
P: You say you did not think you could compete with Jacksonville?
R: That is right. In terms of money, and the opportunity for growth up there and a big
city and all that sort of thing. Well, there was a superintendent up there, an old
jock, I now forget his name. I think that the college advisory board wanted to hire
Joe [Fordyce], but he [this superintendent] talked to Joe and said, "No." I think Joe
was a little too erudite, a little too independent, a lot of things.
P: The superintendent talked to Joe and Joe scared him off?
R: That is right.
P: Even though their board liked Joe?
R: Yes, even though their board like Joe. Because, again, all of this had to be approved
by the superintendent of the school board. Then, we, of course, immediately offered
the job to Joe.
P: You had already interviewed Joe here?
P: Had he indicated any preference?
R: No. Joe was too gracious a guy to do that. So we interviewed him and he said, yes,
he would like to come to Gainesville. Then we set up a meeting between him and
Tiny Talbot. If ever there were two people who were different on God's green earth,
it was Joe Fordyce and Tiny Talbot. But Tiny, to his credit, said, "If this is the man
you want, it is all right with me."
P: I wonder why he was willing to leave Ocala, which is a faster growing community
R: I do not know whether it had something to do [with Grace Fordyce]. I am trying to
remember if Grace was in business then or not. She had a real estate business.
P: Grace Fordyce?
R: It may have been that she was operating up here at that time.
P: I see.
R: I am not sure about that. It may just have been that Gainesville, they felt, would be
more satisfactory. You know, he had a lot of friends at the University, etc. So Joe
P: So he became the founding president.
R: That is right.
P: When did you say Santa Fe opened, 1965?
P: That had to get things in place.
R: We opened in August of 1966.
R: We opened in the old [F. W.] Buchholz Junior-Senior High School on West
P: Just beyond the railroad tracks about Seventh or Eighth Street?
R: Right. We had administrative offices in the old post office.
P: First of all, let me make sure we get Buchholz straightened out. It was no longer
being used as a public school?
R: That is right.
P: So the county school board turned it over to you?
R: That is correct. And we had to fix it up and all that sort of thing.
P: It then became the classroom building?
P: Two stories, [was there] plenty of room?
R: You know, we got off to a good start in that building.
P: The [building] had an auditorium?
R: Yes, it had an auditorium; it had a lot of things.
P: And it was conveniently located.
P: And your administrative offices were where?
R: Well, until Buchholz was remodeled, they were in the old post office building. The
county made that available.
P: And the old post office building is what?
R: It is still standing. It is off the square, down at the foot of Main Street.
P: It is where the Hippodrome [State Theater] is now.
R: Yes, where the Hippodrome is now. That is it.
P: I just wanted to identify it. I know where it is.
R: You are right, Sam. That is where it is, at the Hippodrome Theater.
P: It is on SE 1st Street.
R: Right. You dead end into it, as a matter of fact.
P: We will use the Hippodrome as our identification point, and the administrative
offices were there.
R: [This is where] we were planning, and getting ready, and hiring, and getting off the
ground. The minute we knew we were going to be in operation and going, then the
school board made Bucholz available to us and we rushed to get it remodeled and
P: Okay, Buchholz is the classroom building. When it was ready and open for classes,
did the administrative offices move there?
P: You left the Hippodrome?
R: Exactly. And almost immediately, we were too small.
P: So the Hippodrome really was the first facility.
P: Because you had the administrative offices long before you had the classes.
R: About a year and half, I would guess, maybe two [years].
P: That is two campuses, or two [facilities].
R: Then, about that time, I was too busy and I resigned from the board.
P: Oh, you did?
R: Now this was after we were up and running and started and everything was going
P: And when you left the board, they just had the one campus, the Buchholz campus?
R: I think so. We might have been in negotiation for the Hotel Thomas during that
P: Which is now the Thomas Center in northeast Gainesville.
R: That is right. I think that this [arrangement] might have been either under way, or
just consummated, or something like that. That was the next move, into that facility.
P: What other sites has it [Santa Fe Community College] had before it moved out to
where it is now?
R: We then leased a major warehouse out on 23rd Avenue.
P: Now, you use the word "we," were you not off the board by this time?
R: Sam, that is just habit, [but] yes, I was.
P: So that comes after you leave?
R: In fact, I am not sure that that might have come after I came back. [It was] in 1967
when I stepped down.
P: Now, tell me where it is, the warehouse.
R: It was on 23rd Avenue. It was an old Koppers [warehouse]. Koppers had had an
P: Oh, I know where that is. It is in the northeastern end of town, too.
R: When the college opened, we opened without any vo-tech, because we had nowhere
to put vo-tech. You can open [a classroom] and teach English and math and history
and geometry, but you cannot open an automotive shop or a welding shop, and we
had no money, no facilities, no nothing. While we were in operation, here is the
school board and Tiny [Talbot] saying, "Where is your vo-tech?"
P: You should have come back and said, "Where are your dollars?"
R: So we said, "Well, we made that commitment to you." So we went out there and
rented that old place, and we ran three programs out there. We ran automotive,
carpentry, and welding, I think. It was a tough operation.
P: Now, what were the sites the college used? It did get the Thomas Hotel.
R: Yes. It did get the Thomas Hotel and everybody loved the Thomas. Then the
school board of Alachua county was ordered to integrate. Sam, you realize how late
some of this was; I guess that must have been around 1970.
P: Well, 1969 and 1970 was when the public schools began integrating.
R: All right. I am back [with the college] now. So when they were ordered to
integrate, we took over the old Abraham Lincoln High School.
P: Now is that where A. Quinn Jones [School] is now on NW 7th [Street]?
P: That was the original Lincoln High.
R: But this was the one that was truly way down in the south-eastern section.
P: That was the one that was built in the 1950s in an effort to try to prevent integration
of the schools in Alachua County. So it is the second Lincoln [High School].
R: I think that was probably one of the most significant things we did. We said we
would take that over and offer a full college program there, because the black
community was up in arms at the thought of losing their high school and getting
nothing back. We had meetings over there, we went down there, and everyone said,
"No one will go. You are wasting your time." In fact, some of our board members]
thought this was just a mistake; no one will go there; it was not safe.
What we did, we moved all of our science courses over there because they had good
labs, and that way you had no choice. You could not get science if you did not go
to Lincoln. We worked real hard with the community and we had security, and
truly, we had no incidents, Sam. We really did not. We had no incidents to speak
P: Did you not also use the Farm Bureau in some way?
R: Oh, no, that came a year or two later. But I resigned in 1967, and just was too busy.
P: Too busy with your responsibilities on campus?
R: I just said, "I just cannot take the time that this is taking, if you are going to do it
right." I am trying to remember who became chairman; maybe Milton Brownlee,
maybe Ralph Cellon. But, anyway, about a year later, Jim Wattenbarger called me
up one day and said, "Joe [Fordyce] and I want to have lunch with you." Of course,
Jim and I had become good friends during all this period of my interest in the
community colleges. So we went to lunch, and Joe [Fordyce] said, "I have just been
named president-elect of AACJC."
P: And that is what?
R: The American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
P: That is a national organization?
R: And that is the most prestigious thing that a community college president could ever
be elected to. He said, "I have just been named president-elect, which means I am
going to be gone a lot this year and even more next year when I am president."
P: Now, Jim [Wattenbarger] is on the faculty, at this point, of the College of Education?
R: That is right. And [he] is running the program to produce faculty [and]
administrators for the community colleges. Of course, [he] was a friend of mine and
a friend of Joe's, so he was at this luncheon. Joe said, "I wonder if you would
consider coming to the college and working as sort of my right hand man."
P: He is talking to you now.
R: Yes. And I am saying, "You know, Joe, that is not very feasible."
P: Had this been set up, do you think, between Joe [Fordyce] and [Jim] Wattenbarger?
R: I think that Joe probably had talked to Wattenbarger about what he should do, and
I am sure Wattenbarger said, "You have got to have a good person you can rely on."
Now whether or not Joe said, "I will talk to Alan," or whether Jim said, "Talk to
Alan," I do not know.
P: He had not yet appointed an assistant or anything?
P: This came shortly after you have resigned from the board?
R: About a year later. When he had just been elected to this office.
P: I am just trying to get the chronology squared away here.
R: Jim said to me, "Look, you know you have a great interest in community college, you
know what we are tying to do, you know that it is the outreach to help everybody,
it is just natural for you to become involved now, fully. You have been involved
twice as a volunteer. This is what you ought to be doing."
P: So he is advising you to leave your job at the University.
R: Yes. He is encouraging me to make the move.
P: And Fordyce is pushing you too.
R: Well, I go home and talk to Mary, and she looks at me like I have rocks in my head.
You know, I am going to leave this very fine and very good position at the University
P: And you are a dean.
R: Yes. And, you know, we are going to travel around the state and meet and talk with
significant people. [As an] important part of the university, [I] have lots of friends
there, I gain benefits and contributions, not the least of which is going to the
president's box for the football games.
P: All the good things that you should not jeopardize.
R: Plus, [I] really do not know what is going to happen to Santa Fe. It is still operating
in all these little bits and pieces, and so on and so forth.
P: But were you bestirred by the challenge?
R: Yes. So I go back and have another talk with Joe, a long talk.
P: Mary did not convince you totally.
R: No, although I had not made up my mind yet. I said, "Joe, I know you cannot match
salary. You are not paying those kinds of salaries, so what can you do?" So he
poked around and fiddled around, and he said, "Well, I am going to bring on a
person for research and development too," he expanded, "there will be these two new
positions and I am going to pay as much as I can." We talked back and forth and
it turned out that it was going to be about a $4000 salary cut.
P: Which was a big percentage.
R: Oh, my God, Sam. That was major. So I told Mary.
P: Mary said, "I am not giving up the dollars and the president's box." [Laughter] Wise
R: Anyway, after a lot of thinking and a lot of soul searching I said to Mary, "You
know, hopefully, this step would lead to a college presidency. I really believe that
I have had a lot of experience now and a lot of exposure, and I really have a feeling
for what a community college ought to be, and I think that this would be my life's
P: Of course, you had said that when you came back to Gainesville.
R: Well, she was really very good about it. It was not just Mary. My friends down here
in Fort Myers used to come up and visit us, and they and all my friends in
Gainesville said, "Alan, you are crazy." But, this is when Mary's teaching came up.
We said, "Well, we do not want to take that kind of a cut, so what can we do?"
Mary said, "Well, I have always wanted to think about teaching, so maybe [now is
the time]. I can [do it]."
Well, Mary had a very good degree, a very good background, everybody knew her,
but she did not have the credentials that you have to have to satisfy the state. She
had some friends at a couple of schools, so they recommended her to the principals,
and to make a long story short, she was invited to teach at one of these schools in
Gainesville. I think it was at Stephen Foster [Elementary School], but I am not sure.
But the understanding was she would immediately enroll at the University and she
would get a temporary certificate and she would have whatever they [usually] give
you, six months or a year, to take the three or four courses you had to take and pass
some kind of an exam.
P: She was willing to do it?
R: So Mary said, "Okay, I will do that." And that made up the difference. So I took
P: You resigned from the University?
P: Did they try to talk you out of it? Stephen O'Connell now is in charge.
R: No. I went and talked to Steve and told him I thought this was what I wanted to do
and he said, "Well, if that is what you want to do, you ought to do it." There was
no "You cannot leave. We cannot do without you."
P: But, they were already in the campaign to raise the funds for the museum.
R: That was over. This was after that.
P: So you left no unfinished business.
R: No. That was done. Joe [Fordyce] took these two appointments to the board, then
they went over to Tiny and the school board. Well, my God, these salaries were
pretty high by school board standards, and they raised a big fuss. But, in the end,
they were not going to go so far as to say, "You cannot hire them." There were a
couple of stories in the newspaper about all of this.
P: How much was the salary?
R: $17,400 for the two appointments.
R: Yes, for each. So I was breathing a little uneasily.
P: How much was [Joe] Fordyce getting as president?
R: I am guessing maybe $24,000. Anyway, it happened and I made the move. Then,
Joe did his thing and became president of AACJC the second year. That lead to his
being invited to the community college in St. Louis [Missouri].
P: The community college is in where?
R: St. Louis. He had met several of their board members at all these national meetings,
and Joe was marvelously charming and well spoken, and here he was in this top
office in the country. When Joe Cosand, who was one of the famous names in the
community college movement in America, left St. Louis to go be a professor at
Michigan, they had this opening.
They interviewed a number of people, including Joe, and Joe turned them down and
talked with me about it. Joe and I were friends. Well, he thought it was over with.
Then he got a call in his office on a rainy, Friday afternoon. He came out and said,
"Alan, they have just called me from St. Louis. They want Grace and I to come up
and talk one more time, but they are wasting their time. You know I am not going
to go." Well, they flew out, went up there, and came back Monday or Tuesday. He
came in and said, "I have taken the job."
P: And you wondered where that left you.
R: Yes. This was not quite two years later.
P: You had cut your ties to the University of Florida, and now you are wondering what
your future is going to be here. This appointment gave you no tenure, so you were
on a year to year contract, were you not?
R: That is right.
P: So a new president might come in and want to bring his own man.
R: Well, fortunately for me, during that two years Joe was literally gone all the time.
And truthfully, I was running the college for him.
P: You ran the college.
R: Right. And [I] dealt with the Board on everything but the official board meeting
P: But from a practical point of view, this would not guarantee your future.
R: The thing that really saved the day, Sam, was that I had served on the Board with
all of these men, knew them well. They knew me well. So when Joe left, of course,
they looked for a president and they had a lot of applicants, etc., but they decided
that they would go with me, which was a very nice and fortuitous thing.
P: Oh, of course.
R: But you asked me about the Farm Bureau. Well, the Farm Bureau wanted to build
that big, gorgeous headquarters or whatever you want to call it. I am being
P: I understand. On 1-75.
R: They wanted to sell the facility they had, so they approached us.
P: Where was the facility? I have forgotten the old location.
R: It is south on [U. S. Route] 441 and the extension of Main Street. Here was this
pretty nice building and they were willing to sell it for what we thought was a very
good price. We were beginning to burst at the seams and we wanted to get into the
health related programs in a big way. Our nursing program was growing and it was
being housed in a little corner of Buchholz, so we thought this was a godsend. Well,
Joe, [laughter] Joe was something else. He put this on the board agenda without
sending out anything in advance to the Board. I said, "Joe, this is really too big of
a deal to do it this way." He [answered], "Oh, that is all right." Well, we went to
the board meeting, and the Board was progressing along, and then here came this
item: "purchase of the Farm Bureau [building] for $800,000." Well, you could have
heard a pin drop.
So the Board [resisted], "Well, wait a minute. First of all, do we have the power [to
make this capital purchase]?" Other questions arose. Well, about halfway through
the conversation, Joe stood up and said, "Well, I am sorry. I have to catch a plane.
Alan will take over the meeting." And he scooted. [Laughter]
P: And the issue has not been resolved?
R: No. We were right in the middle of it. Obviously, we were about to be told, "No
way." So I said, "Mr. Chairman, may I make a suggestion. May we adjourn pro
tempore and move this meeting to the Farm Bureau building, because we have
thought about this a great deal. We are desperately in need of space, and we think
this is an absolute steal. It has forty acres. So we adjourn the meeting and went to
the Farm Bureau building and [I] walked them through it, showed them this, showed
them that. Well, by the time we were finished with all of that, they calmed down
and they realized it was a good buy for us.
P: Who had you planned this maneuver with?
R: No one.
P: You [decided on the trip] just out of the [blue]? It was not just on the spur of the
R: I was sitting there saying, "I have got to do something." Because I did sympathize
[with members of the Board]. I said to Joe, "Joe, you cannot [do this without
P: And he just [passed it off], "Okay, alright."
R: He was a marvelous guy, but he was a true dreamer and he never thought about
P: So by the time you got through the excursion [the Board was more sympathetic]?
R: Yes. We sat down again and reconvened the meeting, and everybody said it really
was something we needed to do. So they voted to proceed with negotiations, etc.
We acquired the [building]. Now, there was some grumbling. I remember that our
Senator, [Bob] Saunders [Florida State Senator for the 7th District, including
Alachua County, Democrat] did not go along at first.
P: Bob Saunders.
R: He thought we were just simply bailing out the Farm Bureau. No. We said that is
the last thing we were interested in doing. So he backed off his opposition, and we
acquired that building. Of course, it served us marvelously well, and we sold it for
more than we paid for it.
P: So you had Buchholz, you had the Thomas Center, you had this facility, and you had
that warehouse. So there were four campuses.
R: There might have been five when we finally moved. There was the warehouse, and
I guess there was maybe Lincoln still, and Buchholz, and the Thomas, and the Farm
P: I forgot to mention Lincoln. Now, get back to [Joe] Fordyce leaving and you coming
in. The Board decides on you.
P: And they recommend you.
R: To the state Junior College Board, which then went to the state Board of Education.
P: And then to the governor.
R: Yes. I think the state Board of Education was the last.
P: Okay. You need to be appointed.
R: Floyd [T.] Christian was the commissioner of education. He had known me and I
P: He was on the state Board of Education, which was made up of the governor and
members of the cabinet.
R: Yes. So he recommended the appointment, and I became president of Santa Fe.
P: One thing we have not brought into this is this state Board of Education. You told
me that there was no state agency [involved].
R: There was then. But not after the 1970 legislation.
P: So up until that time, it was the state Board of Education which was the final
authority in Tallahassee. That is no longer true today?
R: Well, I guess it is. I guess in the end, the state Board of Education [was] probably
[the ultimate authority].
P: The final [decision maker].
R: Yes, but that never happens.
P: It seems to me there were so many levels here.
R: But, you see, by and large, it all ends at the [local Board of Trustees of the
individual] Community College office.
P: I can understand that. The local school board does not even have any say so.
R: Not anymore. All that phased out in 1970, when we really had the independent
advisory board for community colleges set up and got a director of the community
college system. Before that, this had been like an office under the commissioner of
P: So it is the local Boards [of Trustees] that really have the power.
R: That is the real power. Absolutely. They are the ones that can buy the land, they
are the ones that pick the architects, they are the ones that approve the buildings,
they are the ones that pick the president, they are the ones that do everything. The
local Board of Trustees runs the college.
P: So it [the local Board of Trustees] has the same kind of authority over the individual
college that the [state] Board of Control [now Board of Regents] has over the
R: Yes. Maybe even more than that, because we do not have this business of the DOA
[Department of Agriculture] and all those other state agencies [influencing decisions],
because the universities are [also] state agencies. We [community colleges] are not
P: That is interesting. I had never heard of that.
R: Oh, and it is a vital difference. You know, [at] the University of Florida, John
Lombardi cannot promote his own secretary without sending it to Tallahassee. You
guys do not get paid for travel for months on end because it all goes up there to be
paid. None of that happens with community colleges.
P: See, I do not have any idea how much my secretary gets. I have no control over her.
R: That is right. I know, it is the strangest system.
P: Joe leaves when? When do you take over?
R: Joe [Fordyce] left in December of 1971. I became president in December of 1971.
P: Do you go through an inauguration and that sort of thing?
R: Not until several years later when we are out in the new campus. We have a nice
P: So you just automatically moved into his office.
R: That is right.
P: And you were still in Buchholz?
R: But we have just begun work on the new campus when Joe left.
P: Now, you took over at the end of 1971 or the beginning of 1972?
R: Really, to all intents and purposes, my administration begins January 1, 1972. I took
over, officially, December 1, 1971. However, this period (when I became president
of a college) was marred for Mary and me because this was a period of great worry
about our son, Douglas, who was serving in the Army in Vietnam. He had two
combat tours of duty in Nam with the 173rd Airborne Infantry. This was in 1968-
1971. He was discharged in April 1971 with the rank of Sergeant.
P: Was he wounded?
R: Thank God he was not. He had many difficult experiences but came home whole.
P: A great relief to you both.
R: Amen to that.
P: These are the statistics I have on the makeup of the school in 1971, and I presume
it is the end of Fordyce, the beginning of you. About 1,600 students.
R: I would say a little more than that.
P: Ninety-four instructors and four buildings.
R: Well, I would think we probably had 3,000 or 4,000 students, Sam.
P: You think that many when you took over.
R: Of course, now, [there is a difference] in terms of part-time or full-time faculty, I
think 150 full-time would be more likely. I am just trying to remember.
P: I have the statistics that I picked up. These are from the newspaper, so they just
estimate things. 1990--the time that you were leaving--10,000 students, 253
instructors, and the campus of 125 acres.
R: That might be right.
P: This does not count adjuncts. These are full-time instructors.
R: That could be right.
P: In both cases, the statistics are from the newspapers.
R: But I think the first one is too low.
P: All right. Let us talk now about your activities out at Santa Fe, because that is the
major focus from here on in. Let us first of all talk about the physical growth of the
campus. Where did the 125 acres come from?
R: There was the 100 acre gift from the [Ernest] Haufler [plus two other brothers]
P: We need to get that information.
R: Oh, yes. I will think of that.
P: Was that in this history?
R: The Haufler brothers.
P: Were they in the cattle business?
R: Cattle, farming, yes.
P: And they owned all of that property.
R: Tremendous amounts of property out there.
P: Which had been in the family for awhile.
R: I think so. The Hauflers gave us 100 acres of land.
P: And then that increased the value of the land around it.
R: It did more than that. It got them utilities. See, we worked out a deal with John
P: He was with the GRU [Gainesville Regional Utilities].
R: He was the utilities guy. And, of course, with the city too. But Kelly said, yes, it
could be done and it would be worthwhile.
P: Now, what did that mean? What were they going to do?
R: Sewer, water, and electricity, and the Hauflers knew it could be done. So the deal
with the Hauflers was, "We will give you the land, but your deal is you have to get
a road and you have to get utilities." So we worked out all of that with the county
and the city, [these were] very complicated negotiations.
P: And the city agreed to put the road in.
R: The county put the road in.
P: The county put in the road that faces the college?
R: Yes, NW 83rd Street. Then the city agreed to put in the sewer, water, and electricity
on the theory that they needed to move in that direction anyhow. They did not want
us to hook up with Florida Power. They wanted the growth in that region. They
went ahead and did that, and that was the quid pro quo for the Hauflers.
P: What was the advantage of accepting that gift?
R: First of all, the community colleges had to get free land. The state did not give any
money to buy land, just like the universities. All the new universities got free land.
P: So you have to go hat-in-hand to a philanthropist.
R: I guess we had about three choices, as I remember. We had one about where
Ironwood [golf course] is, then we had one up Waldo Road, which would put us, of
course, closer to Bradford County, but it was still in Alachua County. And then
there was this Haufler piece, which was a beautiful piece of rolling property.
P: And adjacent to the interstate.
R: At 1-75. So Joe [Fordyce] and I, and of course, I am on the Board then, although
I am not yet president [presented the project]. We concurred with Joe's
recommendation that that was the best site. There was some criticism. Some people
thought we should have gone ahead and put it on NW 39th Street.
P: It seemed to be a little bit far out.
R: It really was.
P: And anybody who went there had to have transportation.
R: Yes, yes, but as we pointed out, if we had been out on Thirty-ninth Street, everybody
would have had to have transportation. If we were on Waldo Road, everybody
would have to have transportation. We did not get an alternative that [placed the
college] downtown, we did not have this alternative, because the state requirement
was [that there be] at least 100 acres. Anyway, we concurred with Joe that that was
a very attractive site. It would be on 1-75, so people would know about the college,
etc. So that decision was made.
P: What is the difference between the 100 acres that you are talking about, and the 125
acres that I read about?
R: We purchased that twenty-five [acres] from somewhere along the way.
P: From money appropriated by the state?
P: But not at this beginning?
R: No. We did not buy that until ten or fifteen years later.
P: Is there plenty of room for expansion now?
R: No. When I left we were negotiating to buy some land north of us, but it did not
happen. But since that time they have bought fifty or one hundred acres north of
the college. Now, I think the college is in pretty good shape.
P: Is it now close to 200 acres?
R: I think they bought an additional fifty acres. I think there are 175 acres now. We
bought the twenty-five acres south of us which cemented our property right down to
NW 23rd [Street]. Then on the other side of our last entry road, we bought fifty
acres. But that was after I left. [Lawrence] Larry [W. Tyree, Santa Fe Community
College president who succeeded Alan Robertson] did that.
P: What about the buildings, now? You give up all of these other building around
town, the Thomas Center and all of these other places, except the Farm Bureau
[building], which you own.
R: And we may have stayed in that Koppers [warehouse] for awhile. Actually, I give
Joe Fordyce a tremendous amount of credit. Building money came in bits and
pieces, and many community colleges, if they got $500,000, they would build a
$500,000 building, if they got $600,000, they would build a $600,000 building. Joe,
with the Board's approval, said we need to have a master plan so our campus will
be a real showplace. [At this time] I go back to being on the Board.
So we hired a top-notch firm of architects from Houston, Caudell, Rawlett & Scott,
that Joe had heard so much about during his two years with AACJC and traveling
around and seeing things. We hired this firm of architects to develop a master plan
and a building plan for that entire campus, which was adopted by the Board, and I
am very happy to say, we followed it.
Also, Joe thought we should let our money accumulate until we had a pretty good
amount of money to start with. When we finally let the first contract just before he
left, it was for $4,000,000, which permitted a pretty good beginning on some of the
general features on the campus. Plus we built four buildings. So we moved out
there. I guess we actually moved out there, Sam, in the fall of 1972, as I remember.
P: The master plan determined the style of the architecture and the kind of brickwork
and all of those things?
R: Exactly, all of that. Plus where the student services would be, where vo-tech would
P: Where roads would be.
R: Right. All of that was done.
P: So it would not be haphazard but a planned campus.
R: That is right. And, as you know, our campus is a very attractive campus. We also
decided early on that there is no way we would make the vo-tech people feel second
class. So all the buildings from the outside look the same, and they are all tied
together. There is no road, and then on the other side of the road is vo-tech. Our
campus is not like that. It is one contiguous flow of buildings in a quadrangle.
P: And you can travel from one to the other under cover?
R: Yes. Well, not totally, because the health sciences building, which came much later,
was so big and so specialized, and we wanted easy access to that because those kids
go back and forth.
P: But the original buildings were all, tied and conformed?
R: All the other [buildings on] campus, right. To this day, we are very proud of the fact
that the vo-tech buildings, on the exterior, look just like every other building.
P: So you moved in, you say, in 1972.
R: Fall of 1972, with four buildings on the campus. I think that we were able to have
everything out there except the health related programs which were in the old Farm
Bureau building, and the vo-tech programs which were still on Twenty-third street.