Interview with Dean Overturf, May 6, 1977

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Interview with Dean Overturf, May 6, 1977
Overturf, Dean ( Interviewee )
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History of Florida Education Oral History Collection ( local )


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

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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Sub: Dean Overtur
Int: Arthur White
Palatka chn
5-6-77 completed

Side 1

W: At the University of Florida interviewing C-. L. Overture Jr., Dean

of Students, St. Johns River Community College, May 6, 1977. Dean

Overturn is now going to remark on highlights of the history of the

college. He has been at this college sirce 1959.

0: When I first came to St. Johns River Junior College in 1959 we were

finishing the second year of operation. At the concluding of that

year we had a total graduating class of twenty-two students. The

college had just moved to its new campus which had approximately

eighty acres. And there were three small buildings at that time
around 4re cvap" s
that were just completed, and a number$ of small pondsAthat were

stocked with fish. We had some rustic bridges, and humus pine trees

everywhere you turned. The college moved along about what you would
say the normal growth for a small institution untilA1965. At which
time in '65 the college enrollAin the fall 2,383 students, and

likewise during that year we had an FTE figure of 1990. This was

the largest number of students that we had had, and the largest

number that we have had since that time. This was due to the fact

that a number of students were becoming interested in community

colleges recognizing the value of the community college. And likewise the


scarcity of community colleges a in a lot of the districts. St.

Johns comprised of Clay, Putnam, and St. Johns counties was one

of the only colleges at that time, community colleges. And for

that reason in 1965 we had about 800 students from Duval county that was

coming here. The college at Santa Fe had not been established, like-

wise the one in Sanford. So we were able to secure a number of students

and likewise help them in furthering their education. Then when

Florida Junior College came into existence and likewise Santa Fe, the

enrollment at our institution dropped drastically. The low point in

enrollment was in the year of 1973 when we only had a 1032 students

enrolled in the fall term. That years total was 829 FTE. So you

can see what a problem we had dropping from '65 to 1973 '74 a with

that kind of drop meant a lot of problems for us here at the college.

It meant problems with staffing. We had more student a more teachers

then we needed and this of course caused quite a bit of a problem

with the a a economic condition of the college. Soon after recognizing

the decline was going to be a pfmanent one we then we started

deciding which faculty members we would retain and which ones that we

would have to release. Along during the early part of the '70s we

were fortunate not to have any real student problems on our campus.

We were able to work with the students. We had no demonstrations of

any kind during the problems of the '70s. We tried to use everyone in

the student personnel department to work with the students to meet

their concerns and likewise to try to listen to the requests that they

had they made and a a working in that way we were able to overcome some

of the problems that some of the colleges and universities had that

were rather difficult to handle. Since a that low point in our enrollment


we've been able to go back up and it's been a constant rise.

This past year we had 1,406 total enrollment. And we feel that

we are able now to continue making progress. We do recognize

that there may be a slight drop because of the declining birth

rate and the number of high school graduates in our tri-county

area may drop some. But with strong recruiting, especially in

the older classification of students, we feel that we have the

chance to maintain our institution, have it on a solid ground.

And we do not anticipate any extreme enrollment decline like we

experienced in the the early part of the '60s as I mentioned.

W: Dean Overturf is now going to talk about the general type

of institution St. Johns River Community College is.

0: St. Johns has been know from the very beginning as being a

very strong academic institution. During some of the period

of time of our operation many of the colleges have gone into

innovative practices even to the point of a losing sight of some 4h_

standards that we believe should be maintained in education. We

have continued our academic program of probation.and suspension

during this time. We have been able to continue to serve our

students and in a way that has been very strong academically. We

have rated at the top of the rating scale a comparison of St.

Johns with other colleges, and we were proud of this thing. You

might think that St. Johns would be classified or is classified

as a very conservative institution, and a we believe that this is

a strong point for St. Johns. Therefore I think the highlight of

St. Johns River Junior College has been that of holding firm in its

academic standards, and for that we're extremely proud. In

reference to the admission policy at St. Johns we have open door


admission. And likewise with that we have a very strong counseling

program that determines basically where we're going to place

students. We have a student that enters St. Johns they are

assigned a counselor or a teacher advisor at the time that we

receive the application. There will then be one meeting held

with the student to determine what program of study that that

students decides or desires to enter. The counselor would then

go over the entire curriculum of the college at the first meeting

to show the student what is involved in the variousAthat the

student might decide to enter. After that initial meeting is

concluded then the student would be called for a registration

period. At the time the various classes of course are

scheduled. And a from that time on till the studenththat one

counselor will be the one to advise the student, and for the

student to go back to in case of problems during the semester.

We have these people the advisors selected on a referral basis

from the division chairman. And then upon a volunteer basis.

No person serves as an advisor in our system that does not want

to. Likewise any student that does not like the advisor or the

counselor can request a change in the program, and this is done

frequently. We hold the advisor or counselor a responsible for

the academic progress of the student. Any point that we have a

question concerning why the student was assigned a particular

course or why the student did not make a passing grade in a

course we feel that the advisor should have had some conrences to

know why this is the case. This gives us, we feel, a good feeling
that we're working with the students and that they'reAjust another


number, or just a person that happens to be in our institution

that we don't care anything about. I think this is one of the

strengths of St. Johns River Junior College is the one to one

relationship, the emphasis that's being placed upon counselling
thiee, S+vdePrnk
and guidingtthroughout a their college work. Then when we

think about the placement of students, one point we might make

here. We have had from the beginning what we call a guided

studies program. The guided studies program helping those students

that were not ready for the college deiivrnt- system went

into remedial courses. We stayed with this system for some time,

however we began to recognize that we were getting resistance to

it, resistance because of the fact that the student was not getting

credit for this work. We assigned students a guided studies

courses numbered below 100, therefore they did not receive college

credit. And a when they found out about this they did not exactly

appreciate a not rec4/ving credit for the course. And the resistance

to the program became so severe that we ceased to have it as an

organized e.esee-program. We were willing to admit the students
to our institution and theMthe student the choice to determine
whether they would take a guided studies course, or g theywanted

to go ahead and try a one of the freshman courses. Then they

would sign a statement stating that they assumed total responsibility

for this decision. And if they decided to do it then we would

give them an opportunity to go into this course1 at the freshman

level. The success rate has been rather mixed. We've had some that

started outAa guided studies courses that later graduated. We've

had some that did not make it. And a we felt that maybe it was unwise


that they did not try this other route. But nevertheless the

student has the opportunity to determine what they want to do.

W: Dean OverturA is now going to talk about the characteristics

of the students that are at St. Johns River Junior College,

and also about how these characteristics seems to affect their

choice of program.

0: St. Johns being in a rural community receives most of it students

from the tri-county area of Clay, Putnam, and St. Johns. Most

of the enrollment at our college will come from a homes a from

I would say the economic standard that would be a little bit

below the middle class. We have about 290 of a the 800 full
time students on financial aid programs. Therefore~this kind of

background they come to us with probably feeling they're the

only ones in their family that have had the opportunity to attend

the college. This makes their feelings being that if they can

get some kind of education and go back to a Hudson, Pulp, and

Paper or to one of the mills around that they've become extremely

successful. That seems to be about the educational level of the

majority of them, they've already accomplished more than the

families have. And therefore that they feel that this is the

outstanding part of education. One young man, to show you some-

times how the negative aspects work, came to us from St. Augustine.

He'd been out on a shrimp boat all of his life. He found that

there was another side of life, a side that he enjoyed, a side that

he liked. Because for the first time he'd put on a tie and a

suit. And he liked to be able to walk around on the campus with

some of the students dressAup. Well he went back to St. Augustine


and tried to find employment, and he wore his suit to the

shrimp boat. And they all got a big kick out of him--the

young man that had become an educated individual. The only

problem was the young man didn't make it in college, he failed.

And he came back to tell us that he enjoyed tremendously the

opportunity that he had over here, and now he wasn't happy to

go back to the shrimp boat. So I think that we have to

recognize that we don't make people happy totally a after they

find the finer things and see that there are opportunities out

there but they're not able to get those opportunities, that we
don't make eveabody happy by having come. However many of the

students that we have been able to serve have gone on to be

very successful. And some of these young people have gotten

higher goals thgn what I mentioned earlier. The point that

we have some four lawyers in our town now that graduated from

St. Johns who did not come from wealthy families but came from

middle income families. So we feel that we are affecting the

community; we feel that we are assisting some of the young people

here to have higher goals in life. But the majority of them

when they come to us come only to better their living situation

around here, rather thkn becoming great professional people.

In reference to the choice that most of our young people make

in which plan that they will follow, whether in the general
education technical education, we have one problem here in that

St. Johns is not designated as a vocational school. The vocational

school is located in St. Augustine. This was a decision that was

made back during the Porkchop Gang when one of our senators was able


to secure the vocational center after he could not secure the

Junior college to be placed in St. Augustine. That's cause a
lot of problems with us since, as I said earlier, many of the

students do not have great goals in front of them. And for

that reason they come here to St. Johns and are not able to do

the kind of job academically and therefore have to transfer then

to the vocational school. I feel that it was a great mistake

when they put the vocational school some thirty miles from
the campus of St. Johns. Therefore we're not able to offerAto
op ou-r kde3n+S15
help the students, the majorityhI wouldn't say but a large number,

as we could if the vocational school were located here on the

campus. Now some go into technical education, and we do have a

very fine technical school. However, the number of students in

that institution or in that aspect of education now would only

be about fifty of our enrollment which means that we are not

able to serve a very large number. And therefore, we are serving

most of the students in general education, and some of these

are not as successful as we would like for them to be since they

do not have this vocational opportunity on our campus.

W: Dean Overtur; is now going to discuss the community impact on his

institution and the impact of his institution on the community.

0: I think that this is probably one of the most difficult problems

that we have had, and that is to get this community to recognize
the advantages of having a community collegeAin it. When we

first started here we felt that we had a great market with Hudson,

with Florida Furniture, and a other industries located around.

However we found that Hudson did not really respond to any great degree,


nor did the other groups. And because of that then the college

took a direction that we would go ahead and stress a transfer

education. We have had some community college offerings, but

due to the lack of response from the community we have not felt

to any great extent. We are now, however, trying to get the

community to recognize the resources that are here, and we're

trying to offer more courses that will meet community needs.

For instance, a group of people recently have requested that we

a try to initiate a nursing program and that's because of the

new hospital that we have just had constructed near the campus.

We have a couple of nursing homes that the county has placed

here, one about a mile from us and another one in town. We

now have plans to go to the nursing homes with a old folks homes

to give some courses of interest to that group of people. Basically

though I feel that this is one of the areas that we have not

accomplished as much in as we should have. It may be that the

community wasn't ready or hasn't accepted it, or it may be that

the college has felt like that we could get along with the way

we've been going. But according to the recent statistics a and

we've seen it here on our campus the average age of our older of

our student body now is twenty-five, where it used to be of

course much younger than-that. So we must get more involved with

our community if we are to really be a community centered institution.

W: Dean OverturP isAgoing to comment on the specific ways that St. Johns

River Community College is governed, both at the county level and

at the state level.

0: When St. Johns first started we were under the board of public instructions


of Putnam County. And then we had an advisory board composed

of three members from Putnam County, two from St. Johns, and

two from Clay. Our relationship there was that the advisory

board was really interested in our college while the Putnam

County Board of Public Instruction would pretty well agree to

whatever the advisory board recommended. Then about 1958 when

there was a change in the control the advisory board was

replaced by and the Putnam County School Board by the Board of

Trustees. Again the same number serving, three from Putnam,

two from St. Johns, two from Clay. The Board of Trustees ha/

taken a very direct interest in the college. This we feel is

a very fine point. They feel and they are certainly a legally

in charge they must a answer for their actions, and because of

this we feel that they are giving us a direction. Likewise

the young the people that make up our board are interested

individually in various aspects of the community college. We

have one man who has served as our chairman of the Board of

Trustees who will soon we think become the president of the

Trustees at the national level. Others that are serving various

committeeshat are of interest, Mr. Cotton who is now our

chairman that a is on the council that has recently been established

at the state level. He is interested in all aspects of the

community college, both here and likewise working with the legislature.

In the work with the legislature it's been our philosophy here

that the Board of Trustees and the citizens can do more asar as

the helping of the community college than any other aspect. We
have more faith in them then we do inYlobbying aspect. And several


times during the past legislature meetings a when it met that

some of our own trustees went at their own expense to Tallahassee

to discuss and to likewise make a testimonies at various hearings.

The community college system in Florida is likewise outstanding

not only because of the Board of Trustees the local input, but

likewise the wonderful job that the division of community college
does en- the diredon of Tr. onprCn. They are servicing the

community colleges in every way, and we give them a great deal
of applause for the work they do. Sometimes we feelhthey give

us a lot of reports that are unnecessary, but after all these

reports are to be put into the system and a on the statistical

ground and therefore we can understand the reason for some of

them. It would be our hope that we could cut down a little bit

on the reporting that we have, but that's true I suppose of

most things. The division of community colleges under Dr.

Henderson's leadership has contributed greatly to a the junior

college movement and giving it a goal. Back a few years ago

when Dr. Henderson and of course Dr. WOVfeinboLqrPr drew up a

plan for community college development of having community

colleges within thirty miles of all students. That leadership

has certainly had its effect upon the total picture of the

community college, and the aspect being that education's free

here for all students no matter where they were locate. After

Dr. io fnrerr-4 left, Dr. Henderson then continued this direction

of service. And a I think the greatest thing that they're doing
for the community college nowAthat they're dealing in programs, and

services that we at the local level could not possibly engagerin.
They're setting the tone for the development of a the Lceptance of
They're setting the tone for the development of a the vmceptance of


the community college. The one outstanding thing that I think

of ig the articulation agreement. Without the articulation

agreement with the many junior colleges that we have that we

probably would have gone in all directions and therefore it

would have been a one to one battle each time to get a student

into a university. As it is now ;with the articulation agreement

we can a feel sure that whenAreceive the Associate of Arts degree,

or Associate of Science degree with a general education stamp

on it that this institution can know that that student will be

one of the ones accepted at least into the general college if

not into the specific college based upon each colleges own

quota. But our students having the same opportunities that the

native student has to get into that particular college. This is

the kind of leadership that they have had and have given us.

Of course without their help in the legislative session we would

be without hope. The many hours that Dr. Q,-lrnp) spends working

on the many bills that they draft for us, sending these bills back

to us toilet us investigate them, make comments, refine them, and

then walk them through. I'd say this that we're no stronger as a
system thn what we have representing us in Tallahassee in the

division of community colleges, and they have secured some outstanding

people. And each division of a college, whether it be in the

business division or it be in curriculum or student affairs or

community services all of these are represented at the state level

by resource people who are willing to come down and help us, and in

turn for us to give them input into the changes that need to be



W: Dean Overtur$ now is going to comment on the a future situation

of St. Johns River Community College, specifically around the building

facilities and a the question of phasing in new courses a how it is

done in this community college.

0: We are unique in one sense of having facilities already constructed

on our campus that will house some 2,300 students. This means that

we will not be requesting very many more buildings ve-rymaey mcre
building, since we're not in a high growth area. The growthAfor

Putnam and St. Johns county is actually at stagnation point may be

even decreasing just a little bit. The only growth area that we have

in our service area is in the Clay County area. Now we do plan to

go into that area and to Orange Park and perhaps to have a campus

there to serve the students in that northern aspect of our service

area. The programs that we'll be developing on our campus will

possibly be those that will come into existence because of the needs

of this community rather thgn our just deciding that we want to

offer some programs that we can say that we're offering them. Having
then a complete we will probably only being be building for specific

needs rather than for any mass a future development.
W: Dean Overturf now is going to a comment on what has been happening

to the graduates of St. Johns River Community College.

0: Most of the graduates of our area due to the location of our

institution must go to other sections of the state or out of state

to secure employment. Therefore the majority of our students try

to go on to one of the senior institutions a because they are not able

to secure employment around our college nor in our present a tri-county

service area. We have a number of the students that move to Jacksonville


and some into the Orlando area. We have more students going

into finding jobs in the technical division a in these areas

than any other aspect. The majority of our students would be

going to the senior schools for additional training rather than

finding immediate employment in our area.

W: Dean Overtur now is going to comment on student impressions

of St. Johns River Community College.

0: In some of the materials that we have given students to evaluate

the college we have been extremely pleased with the impressions

that we have gotten from our students concerning what they have

gotten from St. Johns. We have teachers that are ranked in the

very top on theirArating that we have given from the very beginning

of our institution. In 1960 we started teacher evaluation, and
we have teacher evaluation two times a year,Vfirst semester and

second semester. After we give the evaluation we then a discuss

the results with the division chairman and likewise we have a

confence with the teacher to follow up on the comments that the

in have been received from the students. We have found a number

of our professors that have made great improvement because of this

a input that a the students have given. We likewise appreciated

the many comments that were affirmative in nature for a the a

curriculum that we offer. It's been positive from the very

beginning. I can only recall about four teachers at the last

a evaluation that scored under a 75 percent which we feel is indicative

of some excellent instruction. The a attitudes of the students have

been positive, a number have come back to tell us that they only

wish that St. Johns would become a senior school rather than just a


community college, because their feeling of emceptance here and

a interest in their own a well-being was evident and for that
reason we're proud of the rating that the studentsAtowards 4he

St. Johns.

W: Dean Overtur) is now going to discuss some of the unique aspects

of a St. Johns River Community College's program.

0: The most unique program that we have now is the Florida School of

the Arts which opened in September of this year. We had fifty

students that enrolled for this beginning. The Florida School of

the Arts came into existence in the minds of the Mr. Neil Mooney

at the State Department of Education some three years ago when a

he felt that the state of Florida needed to meet the needs of the

fine arts students, and a came to our campus a visited with our

administrative group and later the administrative staff and made

a trip to North Carolina to investigate one .of the outstanding CQooh5

there. After rtoe- investigating the school we came back and drew the

proposals for the Florida School of the Arts located on the campus

of St. Johns. We now have some a eighty students that are already

or have applied for next year. And we'll hope to have approximately

100 for this next year. The growth of the Florida School of the

Arts is anticipated to be around 300 students. Now at the present

time we have a little problem with the Florida School of the Arts

in that a the state and the legislature did appropriate some

65,000 dollars for the operating of the opening of the Florida

School of the Arts. However, we did not receive any money from the
e I+
a division of community colleges to opperateA. Therefore no FTE
money has been received, arid.this/put a financial strain to some degree


upon the college operation since the monies come from the general

funds of the college. Now that of course has created another

little problem, and that is St. Johns is about the lowest in the

state as far as salary schedule is concerned for its faculty. This

has not created a lot of enthusiasm for the Florida School of the

Arts on our campus, because the instructors have felt that this

money could have been used for faculty salaries. It is hoped

that we will be able to secure funds for the Florida School of

the Arts and a direct appropriation again from the legislature

and likewise FTE appppriated for it. The picture of the Florida

School of the Arts bright. We have a tremendously interested

group of students. The productions that they have given have been

fine. And they are likewise going to be on tour a has started

this coming week for tour in St. Petersburg a and the Tampa area

and around other aspects of the state. This we feel will give

more identity to the program and likewise will show what can be

accomplished witQthe Florida School of the Arts- Another program

that we've had for some time is our police science program. And

again the tri-county area that we serve the law enforcement people

from that from the three counties have been a assigned work here

at the college. And they must complete these various courses in

police science if they're to continue in the with their present

employment. We've had two outstanding men brought in. One's an

ex-FBI man that was in Washington, another in New York that has

headed up the program. And the service that a the police training

that has been given has been superior in its nature and complimented

by all of the law enforcement agencies in the tri-county area.


W: Returning to the question of the Florida School of the Arts

Dean Overturp is going to comment on why StARiver Community

College was chosen to have this program.

0: We had completed a new facility in the fine arts auditorium and

a new fine arts area. And when the state saw the beautiful

facility that we had and that it was not being used a to any

to great degree they felt that this would be a marvelous

opportunity to a use this facility. And likewise that there

would be an advantage in having the Florida School of the

Arts located in the community of the Palatka area since it was 0-0`

from the hus le and bustle of a large cities and that this would

give the students a lot of time for them to work in in the

drama aspect, a the music, the dance, and the art area. And the

quietness of the weekends has likewise given them plenty of

time to come back to the campus to remain late each evening,

and be away from much of the things that might disturb them or

at least causeAto use their time in other things rather

improving in the arts. And so because of the facilities and

because of the location with the administration totally behind it

a they were able to award the Florida School of the Arts to the

campus at St. Johns.

W: Dean OverturA is going to now comment on the impact of minority -e

politics on the St. Johns River Community College.

0: From the very beginning of about 19 well from the beginning about

1965 we had a college Gllier-&oaQAer that was a black college in

our community. And they decided that there were not enough students Lhre

for it to be continued. And so we took the 0Co1ie-\ocVlter student


nature for discrimination against women on our campus.

W: Dean Overtur will now comment on the financing of St. Johns

River Community College Colleges, and the financial a a requests

made on students.

0: We at the present time are charging only ten dollars an hour for

our college work which means that a student can attend St. Johns

for 160 dollars or 320 dollars in a year. We're only I think the

second maybe the third in the state that's now charging the minimum

as far as tuition is concerned. We have a number of HEW programs,

college work study a'st program, the basic opportunity grant, the

su Mental grant, we are able to help with the students getting

money for tuition. We likewise give from the college budget 100

scholarships each year, each semester I should say. These are

given for the following, service to school, they're given from a

need basis, and likewise they're given from the standpoint of what'C we

a feel would be enhancing the development of other aspects of

curriculum. We give 100 of these each year and that gives the

academic superior student an opportunity to come, it gives the

needy students, and the one that's servicing the institution usually

through athletics, debate, or the humanities.

W: Dean Overtur is now going to comment on full state control versus

the continuation of the present system.

0: I feel that the present system gives the people more feeling

concerning the...



body into the family of St. Johns River Junior College. From

that time until now there has not been any problem a in relation

to racial situations on our campus. The people have a the blacks

have served in our student government organization, they have

constituted most all of our basketball team and have played in

many of the other sports. We have had a survey made of their

feelings of St. Johns and from that a we've developed a committee

that gives us input both into the studentnorganization and into

the administration of the campus from the view of the minority

student. And this committee has functioned for the last two
oncn CnpX
years and have changed some of our a activitiesAbecause of their

input we have had a on the campus totally a black bands, we've

had one evening that was a given totally to the blacks a for

their own type of production. So the racial situation has not
been a problem here at St. Johns. As farVthe changes that have

occurred recently with a jitleie and women's activities we are

beginning next year a tennis team for the women and the next year

we'll be going into volleyball or softball. Now it is not our

philosophy in going into this program that we're doing it just to

meet title aine. But we are doing it because we.feel that there is

a need to give the opportunities for women:: to participate in

activities as we have with the men. We have a good working relationship
then withY-the minority students on our campus and likewise we trust

in making a better situation for women to be able to do what they

want to do as far as activities are concerned. We have had from some

time women on our faculty. They are paid at the same level that the

men are. And at this pkent we have had no law suits or anything of that



Q: Questions concerning stateAversus local control is one that I feel has some great

advantages when you recognize that with the local interest and with the input that the

college will be servicing more the: community in its needs rather than simply worrying

about what do the people at the state level want us to do. There are some of these

states that are usinglstate controls specifically -Tnn&5see. i an -excu pile, OF-A5

where these local people have no control at all nor do they really care who's in contrd

All of the action is taken from the state level and because of this you're O)UJOXnr

to the state. The same is true in Georgia. Some of my friends say; that they do know

the people in the community but the people don't know them and for tfho Creln m -fe

A-e, Pi'd cF worK 4Wot iO houe her c-
who-beeee few-in our Florida system which

the Board of Trustees answering to the people and |ie)ISte

are answering to the division of community colleges and to the commissioner of education

is a much more unified process than the state only which becomes mostly political

W: This completes the interview with Dean Overture for St. Johns River Community College.