Dr. Charles O. Burgess came to the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary in 1955 as an Instructor in the English Department. In addition to becoming Full Professor in 1966, he also served as Director of Freshman English, Graduate Program Director, and was appointed the University's first Dean of Graduate Studies in 1970. By 1972, he became Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs. In 1980, Dr. Burgess returned to the English Department to teach, and by 1985 he was again in an administrative role as Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. He retired from that position in 1995, but continues to teach part-time in the English Department.
Part 2 discusses his tenure as Provost, the growth and expansion of ODU, affirmative action, budgets and budget crises, and the development of international programs.
ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW
Dr. CHARLES O. BURGESS
Digital Services Center, Perry Library
Old Dominion University,
Part 2: July 9, 2010
by Karen Vaughan, Old Dominion University Libraries
Vaughan: This is Karen Vaughan. It’s July 9, 2010 and I’m continuing my interview with Chuck Burgess about the history of ODU, and we were just talking about the ‘60s and what was happening… different events, especially administrative, and you were just about to tell me about John Johnson who came in 1964.
Burgess: Yes, that was I think again one of the not particularly well remembered major events in the development of the institution. John was the first person who had real experience in national regular higher education. Before that there was Lewis Webb and Vernon Peele and the business side, Hugh Sisson. And they were all people from relatively small institutions – well, Lewis was from VPI, but with administrative experience only in very small institutions in the region. And John had been president of a small college in Wisconsin which was all male and had been merged with a women’s college and the woman who was president of the women’s college became president of the joint institution and so he was on the job market again. And Lewis managed to convince him to come here. I think it was one of Lewis’s best moves. I didn’t give him any credit for any intelligence at the time at all, but he was… I think he realized that the institution had grown to the point where he needed a seasoned academic administrator to help pull things together, and help to build the college as it was then. And John did just that. He brought national standards of academic life to the campus. I think he was one who was instrumental in, as I mentioned before, getting tenure established here. As the graduate programs developed, he took a particular interest in those. And that’s when I got to know him best – when I was graduate program director in English. And he met regularly with the graduate program directors, sort of indoctrinated us into how to run such a program. And he was also a delightful and gentle person who was just a pleasure to be with. We didn’t know at the time that he had had a history… a personal history of depression which came back later to haunt us, but that’ll come up later. So I consider him really my first real mentor in administration. He taught me a great deal, and I think he did a great deal for this institution to help prepare it for the changes that took place in the Bugg administration.
Vaughan: How did the faculty respond to the Webb administration as it came to an end in 1969?
Burgess: Well I have to divide the faculty really into two sections, as I often will. The arts and science faculty -- arts and letters and science faculty -- were increasingly restive; found the Webb administration unresponsive to what they considered to be proper academic priorities. The people in the professional schools were mostly -- particularly in engineering and a couple of the health sciences and so forth -- they were I don’t think as unhappy with the president. The University’s Faculty Senate was really pretty divided at that point. And often you’d have votes that would split right down the middle between the two which made it interesting. They didn’t care about free speech matters. They didn’t care about other things that we thought were really important. And it… the atmosphere got pretty tense at various times. I remember one informal meeting -- I can’t remember what group it was, but it was at a restaurant. And Lewis and Virginia Webb were at the head table and there was a lot of faculty upset being voiced, and as one of the faculty members said that he had actually taken a job at another institution, Virginia made a reference to rats leaving sinking ships. That didn’t go down terribly well. [Laughter] And the atmosphere was not good. And in the arts and science faculty and some of the more... newer people in the other colleges as well -- schools as they were then as well -- there was some rejoicing when Lewis retired. It was not… I frankly regret that I was among those in that camp at that time, because I was too far away to see as much as I think I see now about what Lewis did do for the institution.
Vaughan: Okay. You’ve always been involved in the arts, especially theater. When you first moved to Norfolk what was the atmosphere for the arts and how did you get involved?
Burgess: Well there wasn’t much atmosphere for the arts. I think I mentioned before there was the Little Theater, which was absolutely a totally amateur organization and prided itself in that. There was the Virginia Symphony I think which was then the Norfolk Symphony, which was very close to being an amateur organization. I remember when I first came to town I went to the barber shop at the Monticello Hotel which was reputedly the best one around here, and the barber that I went to there played the cello in the Norfolk Symphony. So… and there was a little museum which was a combined art and science museum in the present location of the Chrysler Museum but nowhere near what it is. And that was about it in town at the time.
I had always been involved in theater and I’ve got to drop back and do a little family history on this one. My father had a brother named Maynard who was totally devoted to the theater. In fact, in the early 20s he studied at the Theater Guild School. He was in New York of course and determined to break into the theater. He didn’t do very well. You will find his name way at the bottom of cast lists every now and then from the 1920s. And when the recession hit in ’29 he hung on for awhile in New York City with sort of odd jobs, but finally my father got him a job at the Union Carbide in Niagara Falls where he was, and Maynard came to Niagara Falls and lived with us. Well of course as soon as he got to Niagara Falls he got active in every theater group in western New York. And every time he was in a play or directing a play that needed children he would obviously get me or my sister or my brother because he knew he could get us, that we’d get to rehearsal on time and we’d know our lines. And so all of us got very much involved in theater, and I have… every place I’ve been… had been before that I had -- well not so much when I was in New York City, because there wasn’t enough opportunities -- but every place else I’ve been, I’ve been very much involved with theater – at Johns Hopkins, at Ohio State.
Vaughan: So that was sort of where it all started....
Burgess: And that’s where it all started with my uncle. And sometime when I’m not doing university history, I can talk about him because he was a character too. So obviously one of the first things I did after I got to town was to seek out the Little Theater and became active on stage at the Little Theater. Then as time went on I founded an experimental wing for the Little Theater because I didn’t think much of the plays that they were producing. And we did a lot of plays, sometimes with me in them and sometimes not which got in some cases more attention than the main stage production which annoyed the old hands down there to no end. And gradually it developed in the theater there until a group of us brought in a director full time – a paid director for the theater named Stan Fedyszyn who really annoyed the old hands down there because he wasn’t a very politic person anyway. And he… and he insisted on doing things his own way and doing things with a lot of avant-garde, modern stuff that they really didn’t approve of at all. So finally he was forced out. And he and a group of us left the Little Theater and founded a theater company downtown called the Norfolk Theater Center, performed in the old public library and as a matter of fact on Freemason Street. And for the early years of the Theater Center, every year we opened with a performance of “Waiting for Godot” in which I was one of the characters. So it was this kind of tradition that I would be… that we’d open with that. And I also performed down there elsewhere and did other work for them too. That company after Stan left… but before he left it moved out of that building and down under Chrysler Hall and performed under there. Then after Stan left, a local lawyer in town took over as president and started raising huge amounts of money for it and started looking around for a permanent home for it. That was Bob Brown, and it’s now the Virginia Stage Company.
Vaughan: Who was that that took over?
Burgess: That was Bob--the attorney was Bob Brown. He used various different directors in the process. But by that time I was Provost and not active anymore with the theater. So that was my theater experience off campus. I did of course do on campus… developed the Masquers Group, but I guess that’s your next question isn’t it. I was… the other major arts activity that I was involved with off campus was a friend of mine and I somehow or other managed to talk the Chamber of Commerce and some other people into sponsoring a summer arts festival of all weird things. And so we ran for several years a summer arts festival at City Park right next to the zoo there. Over there we ran a city arts festival with drama and music and visual arts. Some people in the city didn’t always approve of that. We had a police chief who almost shut us down one time because we were exhibiting obscene pictures. It took me a while to figure out what obscene was, but obscene it turns out meant pubic hair. It’s alright to show nudes, but not to show… [Laughter]
Burgess: That was a little picture of the mores of Norfolk at the time but again after I got involved in the Administration that sort of fizzled out. But it… much of my summer activity was involved with that.
Vaughan: Okay, so then go ahead and tell me about what was happening on campus.
Burgess: On campus when I got here there was no student theater group. There had been a student theater group called the Masquers, but it hadn’t had anybody to direct it or to take it over. And so -- I don’t know how I had all this time, I was teaching fifteen hours you know at this point -- I agreed to become the faculty director of the Masquers. And we got a remarkable group of students involved in it and did some very ambitious -- far more ambitious than our ability as a matter of fact -- plays. I remember we did “The Trojan War Will not Take Place” and we did “The Merchant of Yonkers” which is the play that is the basis of “Hello, Dolly.” And we did actually a couple of Greek plays where I was arrogant enough to do the translation with a lot of help from books, but I did… and from Greek dictionaries, but I did the translation of Euripides “Andromache” and that was… we just had a lot of fun with it too.
Vaughan: So was this throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s? Or was….
Burgess: Well this, this started in the late ‘50s and then continued. It continued until Paul Dicklin was hired. And then he took the student theater business over and really built it into much more than it had been in the early days.
Vaughan: Okay, so you were very busy.
Burgess: Yes, must have been. [Laughter]
Vaughan: Tell me what other significant events took place for you in the ‘60s. Did you have time for anything else?
Burgess: Well, as I mentioned before I did finally get around to finishing my doctorate. And I of course immediately assumed that now I had a doctorate I should get a job at another institution, so I went on the market and was interviewed for a number of positions – actually offered two -- and in both case decided that I would probably be better off staying here. They didn’t offer that much in the way of advantages for advancement. And so I stayed. That incidentally is a part of my life in general. I usually, until I retired, put myself on the market maybe every five years or so just to see whether anybody would be interested. And sometimes it was a real desire to go someplace else, but somehow or other the jobs I could get I didn’t want and the jobs I wanted I couldn’t get. [Laughter] So I just stayed here.
Well, that was one of the best things I did – not taking those two jobs – because within the next year at the Little Theater first and then in connection with the University, I met a young woman named Elisabeth Chambers. At the theater, she was not an onstage person; she was a backstage person and did a lot of work back there. And also was on the board. And we got on various board committees together. When we did the… got to the doing the experimental wing, one of the major prod… the major production as far as I’m concerned was a production of Dylan Thomas’s “Under Milk Wood” in which she worked very closely with me. As a matter of fact, I was doing the part of the first reader which is a huge part and she worked with me on my lines quite a lot. Well, we got to know one another pretty well. And meantime, she was also a reporter on the Ledger Star, which was the evening newspaper at the time. And part of her beat was education reporter. So I became her secret inside source at the university, particularly about faculty senate matters and things like that. [Laughter] And actually in the latest--in the latest university history they quote from articles in the Virginian--in the Ledger that she wrote in describing those years at the University. They don’t give her name, but they… well…
Vaughan: And now so was it really secret? Did people…
Burgess: Well, it was pretty quiet, yeah, until we got married and she took my name. And after that of course I was useless as a source. [Laughter] Well, obviously we did get married and still are. And this introduced me to another one of the figures that I’ve admired most in my life, and that’s her father Lenoir Chambers, who is the-- was the Pulitzer Prize winning editor of The Virginian-Pilot. And you have a lot about him over there in the projects you’re doing on the Massive Resistance because he was the only editor in the state who opposed the Massive Resistance. But he was also kind of like Alfred Kroeber. He was a polymath and he was interested in everything. And you could… conversations at his house were just a delight. And also he was a very witty person. And so he was somebody I admired enormously.
Well Liz and I got married, and the summer… we got married one summer, and the next summer she quit her job. I didn’t teach that summer and we spent a couple of months just traveling in Europe at $10 a day – not quite, but close. And that was a wonderful experience in our life because we… our plan worked out. We had a feeling we might not be able to get over there for some time because when we got back we were pregnant and so my daughter Elisabeth was born the next year and a couple of years later my son Chuck.
Vaughan: You didn’t wait four years? [Laughter]
Burgess: We did not wait four years in this case. And so we were what Regula Meier said was known in Switzerland as the perfect family – a father and a mother and a boy and a girl.
Vaughan: Right. Did you have a dog?
Burgess: We did from time to time have dogs too, right. So that was a very important obviously part of my life at this… in the ‘60s.
Vaughan: Okay, alright. So we’re going to move on to the ‘70s. The college became a university in 1969. How did you feel about this change?
Burgess: Well I was--I was basically in favor of it. I mean I knew it was--I knew it was a stretch to call ourselves a university just with a few graduate programs as we had, but we were getting there. And certainly it was a sign of what we wanted to be. Interestingly enough this is one of the issues in which the Faculty Senate split. I remember there was a vote in which… I can’t remember which side won, but it was about evenly split between whether we wanted to change from ODC to ODU. And again the people in the more conservative schools tended not to want to change.
Vaughan: So when Bugg became president then, what was the campus climate like, especially among faculty?
Burgess: Well, I think he was obviously very much anticipated because of the faculty dissatisfaction with Lewis Webb at the time. But in one sense, and I don’t think this is saying anything that he wouldn’t agree with, he blew it right away. Everyone mentions -- and it’s in two or three of the other interviews -- the opening faculty meeting. The first year he--just a couple of months after he got here, he had an opening faculty meeting in which he said two or three very important things. He said, one, we are going to become a university and that has certain very specific implications for the faculty. It means that we’re not just a teaching institution, that we have to do research. It means that the criteria for promotion and tenure and salary increments, which had been more or less across the board up to that point, have got to be based on your success not only as a teacher but as a researcher. And he said however as a university we’re not just going to be an imitation of the University of Virginia and of the traditional university. We’ve got to, we’ve got to decide what kind of a university we’re going to be and focus on that, which is the beginning of the planning process that I’ll be getting into a little bit later. Well all of those things brought very negative reactions from different groups of faculty. After all, all of the older faculty including me had been brought here on the understanding that this was a teaching institution and that they were not expected to do research. So basically he was saying to those people appropriately, but not diplomatically, “Okay, you are second class citizens from now on, because the goodies are going to go to the people who act like university faculty members and are teachers and researchers. I remember John Ramsey in Political Science and a lot of other strong faculty leaders got very upset at that. And it took him a long time to overcome that. In order to bring this about, he had to make a lot of changes. And again some of them were popular and some of them weren’t, but everything offended somebody. One of the main things he did, for example, because he could not expect the people who were in dean’s positions at that time or in chair’s positions at that time, to enforce this kind of thing which was against the pattern – the tradition of the past -- he pulled all of the faculty personnel decisions into the president’s office. I remember this was after I became Graduate Dean so I was.… He and Cliff Adams, as Research Director, and I, as Graduate Dean, and the Dean of the College involved would sit around the table in his office and go over salaries, promotions, every faculty position, faculty member by faculty member.
Vaughan: But now they had tenure. Was that--how did that…?
Burgess: He did not… he didn’t break tenure. He didn’t break tenure, no. He was too much of an academic for that, but it meant that some people just fell behind others in their salary and in their rank. He also had to make some rather significant changes administratively. The most dramatic -- because nothing is more dramatic than things that have to do with athletics -- the most dramatic was Bud Metheny. Bud Metheny had been the athletic director for years and years. He was literally beloved in the community. I mean he was one of the people that everybody in the city knew. And he was… he was part of the good ol’ boy gang. And Jim discovered that basically he was running a private little empire over there – that a lot of what was going on over there wasn’t on the university books in terms of money. I don’t think anybody ever accused him of doing anything dishonest, but it’s just that he was… I don’t think he was pocketing it, but he was just running it himself. And Jim could not get it brought into that. And Bud defied him basically saying, “I’m untouchable.” Well, so Jim fired him. And -- again I got this from Jim -- the board held a meeting and then went into executive session, asked Jim to leave the room, and Jim said he didn’t know whether he was going to have a job because Metheny had so much support. And the board members were, you know, people in the community who were supporters of his. But he survived that.
Vaughan: Jim Bugg survived that.
Burgess: Jim Bugg survived that. And he appointed somebody who of course obviously, obviously was just a short timer – Jim Jarrett [laughter] who has just retired, so one of his really good appointments.
Vaughan: And what happened with Bud Metheny?
Burgess: He just sort of faded away. I didn’t remember hearing much about him after that.
Vaughan: So he wasn’t working on campus anymore?
Burgess: I… I don’t know. He might have continued to coach baseball. I don’t know. I’m not sure about that. But in any case he cleaned that up.
He had to deal with Student Services which was pretty much in a mess. And nobody was really doing anything with… and so he got a rather strange appointment – a guy named Warren Matthews – to be Dean of Students. But Warren appointed again another short timer Dana Burnett [laughter] who was trained in student service work -- he was originally a financial aid director before he became Vice President of Student Affairs -- and a guy named Jim Vaillancourt as Director of Admissions who pulled the Admissions Office into something really, really good. So there were administrative changes that I think a lot of people appreciated on the faculty, but didn’t see that much and they didn’t get much advantage of it themselves. So he had… he had a pretty rocky road with the faculty in the early times.
Vaughan: In 1970, you became Dean of Graduate Studies. Can you talk about how that position came about and what practices were going on on campus at that time?
Burgess: Well 1970 was a year of SACS accreditation – Southern Association of Colleges and Universities, uh… Schools accreditation and…
Vaughan: Had there been one before?
Burgess: Yes. They had--we had been accredited separately ten years earlier, but basically as a college.
Vaughan: As a college, right.
Burgess: This time obviously since we had graduate programs, we had to make the case that we--that we were capable of operating graduate programs and as Graduate Program Director in English Jim had appointed me to be the chair of the committee dealing with graduate programs. Well, this may sound a little bit self-serving, but one of the recommendations of the committee -- and I really didn’t know that I was going to have anything to do with this afterwards myself -- one of the recommendations of the committee was that we really needed to have a Graduate Dean. There had not been any before. And so Jim asked me to become the Graduate Dean. I almost didn’t get to be Graduate Dean.
Vaughan: So that was just an appointment?
Burgess: That was just an appointment. I almost didn’t get to be Graduate Dean because there was a graduate student in English who accused me of bias against her and… because she had failed the written comprehensive exam which we had at the time. And she was a very noisy kind of person, and also a faculty wife – the wife of a faculty member in Sociology. And that finally ended up going to a board committee to adjudicate whether she had any case, and of course she didn’t and… but that held up the appointment for a little bit, which was interesting. If that had gone the other way I might never have gotten into administration in my life and it would have been a completely different life. Well, because I was the first person to be Graduate Dean, I had to figure out what a Graduate Dean was, set up an office, hire staff, and work out procedures and do all of that. I of course did a lot of reading and went around to a number of other places and joined an organization of Southern Association of Graduate Deans and Graduate Schools and that kind of thing and began to learn what to do. I don’t think I did it very well at first, but I began to learn what to do. And what was happening I fairly quickly found out is that in fact the University especially in some departments was not at all sophisticated in knowing how to recruit and select graduate students or how to maintain national standards in that way. This was particularly true in a couple of the science departments. There were some areas… at this point the only area in which we were recruiting, we were actually able to recruit people who came here because they wanted to, was in oceanography. That was a success almost from the start. It became… it was kind of a hot field at the time with Jacques Cousteau and all of that and a notion the faculty _______. And so that became a real program fairly quickly, but there were some other programs that why would anybody come here to do graduate work in chemistry or physics or something like that. They didn’t even have a doctoral program, so it… they had a large percentage of their student body other than the ones that were local and couldn’t afford to go to any place else were international students, particularly from India, particularly from Gujarat, as a matter of fact.
Vaughan: Is that when the international sort of focus came about because of graduate studies do you think?
Burgess: No, I don’t think so. No, I think it was… I think that was a separate phenomenon.
Burgess: So these… we had a wave of Patels – Patel being the most common name in Gujarat -- we had a wave a Patels. And it turned out that some of these departments were accepting people who didn’t even have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. They had the word “bachelor’s” on their diploma, but it was a two to three year degree program in India. And again being involved with the Association of Graduate Deans, I had all the paperwork and be able to find this out. They were very upset with me when I told them that I wouldn’t accept them.
Vaughan: So they were not able… they were not able to be in the program, or the ones that were already in the program, were they not able to graduate?
Burgess: We didn’t throw anybody out, I don’t think, but we just clamped down on the admissions. There were lots of funny things that happened in there. One of my favorite people on campus in those days and later was the registrar at the time, Marceline Staples. And I remember her calling me one time telling me about two of the Patels whose records were completely messed up; the courses that each one of them took was from the other one’s transcript and all of that kind of thing. And she finally investigated, finally managed to get them both in, and finally managed to get them to talk. And finally one of them admitted and said -- international students were assigned sort of fake social security numbers -- and this guy said “Well, actually I was filling out my registration and I couldn’t remember my social security number so I used my friend’s.” [Laughter]
Vaughan: That’ll cause a mix-up.
Burgess: So there were a lot of things like that that were going on. It was a… it also was a learning process for me – learning how to deal with administrative issues, learning how to work with different departments, learning sort of different cultures of different departments.
Vaughan: Right. Did you… were you still teaching in the English Department at that time?
Burgess: No. This was a full-time job.
Vaughan: Okay. And so how long were you in it and once you left it what happened to the position?
Burgess: It was just a couple of years. And it continued and it continued to be needed for awhile, again to help professionalize the graduate programs here. So I hired… as provost I hired a couple of… at least one Graduate Dean. I think maybe two, and then managed to keep… In fact, I think that may have been how I got Dave Hager into the administration for the first time.
Vaughan: You hired him?
Burgess: Yeah. Well, he had been a faculty member in Political Science I think.
Vaughan: Did you usually appoint from within the faculty or did you hire from outside?
Burgess: No. One of the people I hired, a guy named Stan Rauch was from the west coast. And he was… so no it was not necessarily an inside job. And… but as the departments became more sophisticated, as the graduate programs became more part of the academic world in their fields, it really didn’t make sense to have someone looking over their shoulder all the time. And ultimately although there was a certain amount of paperwork that still needed to be done -- but it could be done by a lower level person -- ultimately we sort of abandoned the graduate dean model and turned it back over to the faculty with some supervision maybe, but not really supervision just some making sure the paperwork was right.
Vaughan: And then--so then in 1972 you became Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Provost and… was that… is that why you left the Dean of Graduate Studies and how did you-- how did that all happen?
Burgess: Yeah. It was an emergency for one thing. It was one of the tragic things in the history of the University. John Johnson committed suicide. He was… had all his family there for dinner, his children and everybody one day, and he went upstairs and slit his wrists. And they didn’t know about it until it was too late. He was going through a fit of depression. He also did not adjust to… he did not adjust to the Bugg administration. I don’t think this was Jim Bugg’s fault. I think it was a problem with a man named Harold Eickhoff who will be noted later a number of times, whom Jim brought in as his assistant – Assistant to the President – and who sort of gradually managed to work his way up into higher positions and who really wanted to… really helped and abetted Jim and if you will in bypassing John Johnson in a lot of ways. And John realized that he was probably not going to survive too long and certainly was not going to be happy because he was sort of out of the decision making area and everything was being decided in the office above him – literally in those days – in the President’s Office. And I remember his saying to me at one point it had been so long since he had taught that he didn’t think he could go back to teaching. And I think in that point and I didn’t realize it of course, in that point he was going in this downward spiral of depression and so he committed suicide. He had just appointed Allen Clark as assistant… as Associate Provost--Assistant Provost at that point, I think. Allen had just been in the office a couple of weeks and didn’t really know very much about what was going on. And he tried to hold things together a little bit, but he didn’t. Jim, I think, had known me because as I say I had worked with him on the faculty salary and promotion area and building the graduate programs and so forth. And he asked me if I’d do the job. He took it to the Council of Deans and made sure that they were satisfied with it, but they didn’t veto it. They approved it, and so I got the appointment as Provost. And of course it took me awhile to learn what that was all about. But since I had Jim’s confidence, Harold had to back off on a number of things that he really wanted to do I think.
Vaughan: So some decision making was restored to the Provost.
Burgess: Oh yeah, a lot, and over the years -- and this is anticipating a little bit -- over the years as Jim became more and more comfortable and I became more and more competent probably, he pretty much relinquished everything except the final oversight authority. I mean, he could reverse a tenure decision but otherwise I was the final authority by the end of things. And you know I handled the budget and I did all of the other things that the inside person at a university does. He was basically the policy maker and the outside person. But that took place over time. It just gradually, gradually moved in that direction.
Vaughan: So when you first started what were the priorities?
Burgess: Oh, I can’t remember. It was putting out fires I imagine. [Laughter] But there… what I learned first -- I had to learn in a hurry -- was how to trust and how to work with an assistant. And of course Allen Clark was a fine one. And so Allen and I developed a relationship over the years, and we joked about it a little bit that Allen would be the one who would enforce policy and I’d be the one who overrode him. [Laughter]
Vaughan: That works.
Burgess: And it worked pretty well actually because we both understood one another and we never actually-- there was no problem either way. But Allen was a chemist, and is a chemist, and is a very straight forward thinker and a very precise person. And I could depend on him completely so that I could spend much of my time on planning and major personnel decisions and other things and didn’t have to worry about the minutiae too much. But it took me a few years to get to the point where I learned that. And then later he was replaced by Dave Hager who of course is the quintessential Associate Provost. But in those years I’ve got a long list of things that were our priorities over time there. And if you want I can start off on those.
Vaughan: Go ahead.
Burgess: The first thing that -- Jim was interested in building a university but not a typical UVA type university -- and so the first thing that needed to be done was planning. It was in effect designing what kind of university this should be. And we spent… Jim and Harold and I spent a large part of our time, and Harold and I were the travelers in this. We went around to other institutions, trips to New York, trips to Washington, consultations with all kinds of people. I remember one time Harold and I went up to the Brookings Institution and got a number of people to sit around and talk with us about what an urban university is. And we developed slowly and with lots of joint meetings with deans and others and faculty committees which were sometimes extremely contentious. We developed a series of plans. There were long range plans this time, nobody had thought of strategic yet, and with university emphases established on them. We had at one point 6 emphases. I can’t name them right now, but most of them began with the word “urban” with the idea that we would be a distinctively urban institution and that that would be our niche in the higher education system in Virginia.
Vaughan: Did you have a model that you were… or several models?
Burgess: Several, several, several models, but no one particular one. I can’t give you a particular one. We visited places in several cities and talked to people, but I can’t give you a specific model. This was important because another thing that took up a great deal of my time, because the State of Virginia already had universities and they were not particularly interested in developing another major university so that we were muscling our way into a club that didn’t necessarily want us to be there.
Vaughan: Right. And that was SCHEV? Is that . . .
Burgess: SCHEV was the key factor there because they had to approve any new degree program we offered. And every time we offered a degree program there would be somebody else in the state who would object that they were already doing that. So we spent a lot of our time developing programs and trying to find niches that we could work into and also trying to get support from other institutions that we could work with. The first big battle was over oceanography because William and Mary with the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences already had a doctorate in oceanography not too far away, and they fought tooth and nail. They guy who was head of VIMS at the time, Bill Hargis, was the major enemy there. They fought tooth and nail to keep us from getting an oceanography program.
Vaughan: And was that--would that be our first Ph.D. program?
Burgess: That was I think our first Ph.D. program. And finally we managed to get through SCHEV the concept that William and Mary’s program, because it was also part of the State Fisheries Bureau too and you know this sort of joint academic-state type thing, was basically biological oceanography and that what we would do, of course would not do anything like that. We would do physical oceanography. And so they approved that and then of course we hired some biological oceanographers, but [laughter] which was what the students wanted. But that’s sort of typical of what we had to do over and over again.
Vaughan: So was the degree program called physical oceanography?
Burgess: No. I think not.
Vaughan: They let you call it oceanography?
Burgess: I think it was in the degree proposal, it was called physical oceanography, but the Ph.D. was in oceanography. I’m pretty sure, so yeah. And so again and again we were working with that kind of--those kinds of constraints. And some kind of strange programs came up in the course of this that we had to invent. One of the things they really didn’t want us to have was a Ph.D., a doctorate in education because every, every university had an education degree. And they didn’t want us to have that. So we had to end up somehow or other with something we called a Ph.D. in Urban Services. . .
Vaughan: Okay, that’s where that came from.
Burgess: . . .which didn’t mean much of anything. But what we could do is set up a Ph.D. of Urban Services and then under that have little fields like urban education or urban business or… I think there were four different fields originally – urban administration or something like that. And this was again a way of getting the university programs you had to have in order to be a credible university in a state that didn’t want you to have them.
Vaughan: Right, so you had to be really creative.
Burgess: Had to be very creative and very persuasive. When I stepped down as provost I made a vow that I would spend an entire year without ever setting foot in Richmond because I had to spend so much time up there.
Vaughan: How often would you say you were there?
Burgess: Oh, every couple of weeks. Now it helped that there… of course the main consultative body in Richmond was the Council of Presidents. I occasionally sat in for the president on that one, both with Bugg and with Rollins, but there was an academic advisory committee that was the provosts throughout the state. And what I did and -- I’ve always been pretty good at committee work and things like that -- what I did was kind of establish my place on that and become very active in it and become very able to do a lot of the horse trading at that place because the presidents were too visible and too political. So I could do it sort of under the radar a little bit by working there. And of course when Gordon Davies became head of SCHEV -- I can’t remember when that was exactly -- but it was in the ‘70s. He had previously been Assistant Director of SCHEV who met with the Academic Advisory Committee. And so I was… I knew Gordon well and I think he trusted me and we worked together well so that was helpful. But it was constantly a struggle because of all of these factors. And I could mention another factor in there that is looking ahead a little bit maybe, but VIMS was one, but EVMS – the medical school downtown – was another because the state did not want EVMS to start. And it was started as a… it was a private institution, not a state institution, because the state said, “No. Medical education goes on in Richmond and Charlottesville and no place else.” And so a group of people – Mason Andrews most visibly among them said, “Heck, we’re going have a medical school here in Norfolk no matter what you say,” and established one. Well ODU was under very strict orders not to have anything to do with this radical institution.
Vaughan: Why was that?
Burgess: Because it was not a state institution and it was not an institution the state supported and wanted to have here. And so we were told in no uncertain terms in the Bugg administration and also in the Rollins administration to be at arm’s length with EVMS. But at the same time on the faculty level, on the dean’s level, on the provost’s level for that matter, there were a lot of commonalities and a lot of ways in which we could work together and wanted to work together and even of course from time to time there was the question “Well why doesn’t EVMS become part of ODU?” And so we had to play that game very carefully.
Vaughan: Now so did Mason Andrews come to Jim Bugg and propose that?
Burgess: I don’t think Mason himself did. No, EVMS was split on this issue as well. Sometimes the dean and board wanted to get a merger at least closer and sometimes they wanted to stay away from us. So it was a delicate situation all the time. We finally managed to get some joint degree programs.
Vaughan: Much later though?
Burgess: But well, still in the ‘70s. But we had to be very careful. I actually developed a relationship with EVMS and they actually put me on their academic affairs committee. So over a long time -- not for a long time, but for a couple of years there toward the end of the provost-ship -- I was voting on the tenure of faculty members at EVMS [laughter] and was part of their structure over there. The strangest of these degrees was one which I understand from somebody from sciences now is being questioned, was the psychology doctorate – doctorate of psychology degree –because EVMS had a psych department of psychiatrists and psychologists that really wanted to offer their own degree and not just an M.D. And ODU had a group of faculty members in psychology who were about the only department in sciences that didn’t have a doctorate by that time and who were anxious to get one. William and Mary already had a psychology department. I don’t know that they had a degree. And for reasons we’ll get to later, Norfolk State obviously couldn’t be left out of anything. So we ended up with this weird degree program which was offered by four institutions. Now it worked out somewhat because the four institutions had different kinds of faculty. I mean the EVMS was pretty much clinical. Our faculty was very much experimental psychology. William and Mary had a bunch of Freudians. And I’m not quite sure what Norfolk State had, but they were--they had a department. But students had to go around from one to the other in order to get the degree, but it worked for awhile. I hear it’s kind of falling apart now, but it worked for awhile.
Vaughan: What other external activities were you involved in as provost?
Burgess: Well I was provost when the Tidewater Consortium for Higher Education was developed. It at first was an attempt to control some of this duplication problem. There were consortia established by SCHEV in each of the regions of the state -- actually approved by the legislature I think too in each of the regions of the state -- and their purpose was to prevent duplication… to prevent institutions from offering the same services to the same students in the same places within the region. What they became initially -- and this was obviously not going to work politically for too long -- what they became initially were ways of controlling the University of Virginia and VPI because essentially what the consortium was saying is “Why is the University of Virginia coming down to Tidewater to offer courses and programs that the local institutions already offer?” In fact, the provost at the University of Virginia at one point said, “This isn’t a consortium. It’s a cartel.” [Laughter] And we did a lot of that, but we did a lot of other things too. We did faculty development programs. In fact, Larry Dotolo who’s been the head of the consortium forever practically used to run programs -- it was one of the few times I did any teaching -- used to run programs for… faculty development programs of different kinds and get people from different institutions to come in and talk to the faculty members who signed up. But -- and it’s done a lot -- most recently it’s been doing a lot with scholarship development and bringing more students into higher education. But in the early years it was the cartel. And we did some personal infighting. Christopher Newport didn’t like it very much when we were offering a nursing program at Riverside at one point and that sort of thing. But in general it did some coordinating good. But it also meant that we got to know the people from the other local institutions very well, which was a good thing. As provosts we would meet fairly regularly… as they met statewide… again one of the things I helped set up was a statewide meeting of provosts. We’d meet at different institutions at different times and as I will say later that served me very well for example in negotiations with Norfolk State because I developed a pretty strong relationship with the provost there. I remember another irrelevant personal story. I remember one time the provost meeting was at George Mason and the provost from Norfolk State and I were driving back to Norfolk and stopped at an eatery near Langley and somebody who’d obviously had a little bit to drink came up to us and said, “I know who you are and I know what you are. You’re from the CIA, because they always have these black and white teams going out to different places.” [Laughter] So anyway, it was… we laughed about that of course for a long time. Then we… long before Teletechnet was doing this… we were educating the Navy as well. We had a program which was called the PACE program -- I have no idea what the acronym is for -- the PACE program, which we had won by competitive bid and maybe a little bit of influence from the local naval station . . . in that faculty members from ODU would offer courses not only on bases around here, but also at sea and sometimes they’d be flown out to Naples or someplace to give a course.
Vaughan: And that was in the ‘70s?
Burgess: And this was in the ‘70s. And actually one of the things you have on tape is Professor Tom Blossom from History who talks about his experience when he actually spent a whole year on the aircraft carrier JFK as part of that program.
Vaughan: And so none of the other universities were doing this kind of…
Burgess: No. That was a contract we had with the Navy. Now somebody underbid us later and we lost it, but I do… I remember going down to Pensacola and reporting to the admiral and talking about what we were doing… well some of the things. I’m sure there were a lot more. Of course I spent a lot of time out… out in the community, not as much as the president had to of course, but…
Vaughan: Well you also went to a lot of conferences and workshops and…
Burgess: Oh yes that was part of the business and always, always has been. I did that as dean too. I mean you’ve got to keep in touch with the national, national situation. The Association of State Colleges and Universities was the major, major place where we got involved and again I served on a number of committees there and did various things with them. On external stuff I might mention in here too that we put a lot of effort into developing the Continuing Education Programs. Again, we didn’t have Teletechnet, but we did do an awful lot. Jim had appointed actually before I got in a guy named Bill Whitbeck as Dean of Continuing Education and he built that program enormously particularly one of the interesting things he built was a huge non-credit program. I mean he had something like fifteen thousand non-credit students at various places. And he had a crackerjack director of one of the biggest and most successful of the programs. They called it the Rainbow Program. A woman named Betsy Creekmore, also known as Miss Rainbow, who really was very sharp in building courses that people would be interested in. I did teach one of those. I taught a course in Shakespeare for non-scholars or something like that – a non-credit course just for people….
Vaughan: And why rainbow?
Burgess: Oh, I think just because it took in all disciplines and everything. And also of course we had other non-credit… we had regular credit off-campus courses as well all over the region in many places. I’d appointed -- after Whitbeck stepped down -- I appointed a guy named John DeRolf who was also a builder and an enterpriser. He made one mistake… okay, another story… he made one mistake. I’ll talk later about Betty Diener whom I hired as Dean of Business and she was not known as a delicate person. She had a very much of a mouth on her. And at one point he argued, DeRolf argued, that the Institute of Management was actually a non-credit program. It had been run by the College of Business forever and therefore should be under his control. And she sent a letter to him and copied me and a number of other people saying, “You get your hands off the Institute of Management or you’re going to be singing soprano with the Virginia Opera.” [Laughter]
Vaughan: Wow. And she put that in writing.
Burgess: She put that in writing. But we had a very aggressive off-campus program in those days. Now of course we have centers and full programs at Virginia Beach and some things at the Peninsula, but in those days we had--everything had to be done from here.
Vaughan: Right, so in the ‘70s everything was expanding. Do you feel that ODU had a good enough infrastructure where you weren’t worried that it would expand out of control?
Burgess: No. I didn’t worry about that. We were until -- except for the times in which we hit budget problems which were constant… that was another one of the jobs of course, dealing with budgets -- we were expanding; we were expanding personnel to take care of it. I think we were a little thin in the business support area and some of those other areas, but not there.
Vaughan: But it brought us to where we are now so.
Vaughan: What about any personnel type issues or activities that you had hiring deans and hiring faculty?
Burgess: I was… of course I did not do hiring of faculty because that was a responsibility of the other faculty and of the deans. I did have final say, but I didn’t exercise it in any academic area. The only time that I got into trouble on that was when a basketball coach was hired and part of the deal that he had made was that his son would be hired too. And his son was definitely not qualified because the position was a faculty position at that point. And so I balked at that. Jim Jarrett and -- I can’t remember who was president at the time I’m sorry -- worked out that we wouldn’t make that a faculty position. We’d have a position of “coach” after all. We didn’t need the faculty position so it wouldn’t be in my area so, but other than that I stayed away from faculty appointments. I was of course very much involved with tenure decisions because they came to me and I did turn some people down and get into some nice fights about that, but…. The deans and appointment of deans and academic vice-presidents of course was in my area. And you know I made some good ones and some bad ones. I am particularly proud of the fact that I appointed the first black dean and the first woman dean that we had in the institution. And in general I think the quality of the deanery increased. Of course we had then as we still do now weekly meetings of the Council of Deans and… oh I also appointed the first woman Library Director too I think – Cynthia Duncan.
Vaughan: Cynthia Duncan. Okay.
Burgess: Yeah. It was very interesting. Business deans were a terrible problem. The business faculty really didn’t want a dean. [Laughter] I think you’ve got this on one of the other tapes, I can’t remember which one, that the business faculty just sort of chewed up deans. And I don’t know whether they still do because I don’t pay attention. Somebody would come in as dean with all kinds of nice ideas and basically they just wouldn’t pay any attention to them. They went along in their own way.
Vaughan: How long did Betty Diener stay?
Burgess: She was still dean after I retired. She stayed for several years. They found a very elegant solution for that. The governor appointed her as a member of his cabinet. [Laughter]
Burgess: So she left the University. But we had Ole Johnson when I came in that I did have to separate--help to separate--and Ben Perles and I can’t remember them all. And the science deans were kind of the opposite. They also came and went, but they were real entrepreneurs. Dale Lick… both Dale Lick, who like his successor became a college president later, was one of the most ambitious. I mean he wanted to establish a college of optometry here. He wanted to establish a degree in physician’s assistance here. He had all kinds of big, big plans most of which mortally offended the people at EVMS.
Vaughan: Yeah. Is that why they didn’t happen?
Burgess: That’s why it didn’t happen basically, but also because they didn’t make any financial sense either. So he really didn’t get much support but he was indefatigable in pushing these things and did a lot of other things. At the same time he was a strong builder and built with strength, a number of the departments and a number of the degree programs, but he was a character. They… behind his back he was called “Dean Slick.” [Laughter] And then Tom Wallace whom I think was probably one of my best hires was very imaginative and creative and also ambitious.
Vaughan: In what college was that?
Burgess: This was in sciences as well. He wasn’t so much of a builder of new programs, but he strengthened a lot of the programs in the college and he was a… unfortunately one of the… he became one of my successors – not my immediate successor, but a successor as provost and I’ll talk about him later when we talk about the ‘80s. But he lost out with the presidential change as sometimes provosts do. So a lot of my time was spent interviewing and working with faculty committees and coming up with--trying to come up with the right combination of academic administrators that would work.
Vaughan: Busy times right?
Burgess: Busy times, busy times.
Vaughan: Well what did you think would be your greatest challenge when you started in the position and what would you say turned out to be your biggest challenge?
Burgess: That’s a… I don’t know that I even knew… I mean I was… remember I had been in administration for two years. [Laughter] And I can’t tell you what I thought my greatest challenge would be. I think my greatest challenge might have been just staying alive [laughter] and keeping up with what was going on. And I got lot of help of course from Jim Bugg on that. The greatest challenges as you already can tell I had a lot of them, but I think always one of the most painful and difficult things is working with budget crises. And we did have to do that at least one major time in there. Interestingly enough what Jim did I think was very intelligent and it worked very well. He established an expenditure review board. We called it the ERB and it consisted of me, his provost, and the director of the business operations of the campus, the budget director, a guy named Steve Richter I think, and the chairman of the faculty senate, so it had faculty representation in it as well. I think that was Eliot Breneiser but I’m not sure. We were charged with reviewing every request for funding that came in. One of the interesting things is that the toughest person on the committee was Eliot. [Laughter] He turned down a lot of faculty requests.
Vaughan: Is that right?
Burgess: But what that meant was that we got through that without anybody feeling that we’d been totally heavy handed about it. And that taught me something that I could use as dean whether I knew it or not. And so that worked pretty well, but that was a definite challenge.
Vaughan: That was just budget decisions for the academic side?
Burgess: No this was everything.
Burgess: Everything went to it. The external work was of course totally new to me, because I had just been an inside person as a faculty member or when I’m in my own private life externally. So this was a new experience and something I had to learn. The main thing I learned, I’ve said this a couple of times, but I’m still amazed that I could learn it was how to work with a team, particularly with an assistant – the process of delegation and keeping your eye on the main things and not letting yourself get distracted by the vast mountain of paperwork. And that was… that was something I didn’t know I’d have to learn at all.
Vaughan: Well,defeated talk about the whole team idea and, you know, why do you feel that it was important to learn and you know…
Burgess: Well, in an operation that has major responsibilities there… first of all, you’ve got to get the work done. I mean somebody has got to fill out forms. Somebody’s got to make sure that policies are being followed. Somebody has got to make the routine decisions. And when you first go into a job – this is what Jim Bugg did of course too -- first you go into the job, you don’t trust anybody else. You want to do it all yourself. And I’ve seen administrators who never get past that, who just expect that everything has to come through them. And that’s true unless you can find people you trust. So I was lucky; I inherited Allen, and Allen was that kind of person. I brought in Dave Hager who was also that kind of person, absolutely, and some of the deans’ appointments, and some of the people…. What happens is then the person who has the overall responsibility can concentrate on two things which is the way I saw it -- I actually gave a convention paper on this when I was dean -- that is planning, deciding where you’re going to go next, what you’re going to do next, and major personnel decisions so that when I was dean -- this is anticipating -- when I was dean I used what I had learned when I was provost and basically my associate dean, Paul Schollaert particularly and I had pretty much worked out that if it’s anything that had to do with this year he handled it. If it’s anything to do with next year or beyond I handled it. And of course faculty personnel decisions are for the future so that had to be something that I did. But managing what was within the budget once the decisions had been made overall, why he could do that. That’s basically the philosophy that I worked out.
Vaughan: It worked well. Tell me what teaching initiatives did you institute on campus and what do you feel succeeded and which ones didn’t?
Burgess: Well first of all obviously a provost can’t really initiate a program because that’s got to come from the faculty. I could not design a physics program, but I could be involved in deciding which areas we would be receptive to proposals from. And obviously the sciences were a major area that we were building then. As well as we began to work in other fields as well. One thing I couldn’t do, and I will talk about this when we get to the ‘80s, is in general education. One of the things that became clear to me, especially as I dealt with professional accreditations in engineering and education and business and so forth was that the process that had happened in the ‘70s… ‘60s and ‘70s particularly the early’70s which I hadn’t paid too much attention to at the time which was happening all over the country, probably as the result of the student uprisings in the previous years, was to give more control to the students. And so the very rigid set of general education requirements that William and Mary had had and we had inherited gradually began to be eroded and eroded and eroded until essentially the theory was, at the time it went through the University Senate, the theory was that we were giving the students freedom, giving the students freedom to design their curriculums and follow their hearts and do all of that kind of thing. And therefore there wasn’t anything but the very basic scaffolding of any kind of general education at all. But what really happened was that once we cut out the general education is that the schools and departments added more and more courses in the major as requirements for the students. And the students really didn’t have that much more freedom. It’s just that they were much more narrow in their education. And so I wanted to try to reverse that trend and move back toward… back toward having the faculty decide what was the basis of a bachelor’s degree that everybody should have and build it on that. Well I was defeated. The deans, particularly the professional school deans, and the faculty just didn’t want that to happen.
Vaughan: What about in the arts and sciences? Were they more supportive of your idea?
Burgess: More supportive, yeah, but not--but even there not always… even there not always. There you had some people on liberal grounds who still believed that, you know, let a thousand flowers bloom. It was the way to go.
Vaughan: So that was throughout the ‘70s?
Burgess: Through--well, through yeah, but particularly toward--I began to pay attention to it more toward the end of the ‘70s. Now we did get one thing in and Al Rollins was crucial in this as well and that is the writing exit exam which was a… something of a novelty at the time we put it in and that basically--that was supported by the professional schools after awhile because they were--they realized that people were complaining that their graduates couldn’t read and write. [Laughter]
Vaughan: Right, right. So let me ask you about your involvement with any new programs, specifically the women’s studies program and any new policies, affirmative action, and that type of thing that was happening in the ‘70s. What was your involvement in those types of things?
Burgess: I was obviously supportive. I mean with the development of the women’s studies program by the good group of people who did develop it - Carolyn Rhodes particularly -- it was something that made a great deal of sense. We also worked and I don’t know how effectively and not necessarily without some push from the federal government, we also worked on bringing women’s salaries up to… faculty salaries up to a… up to at least a comparable level with the male.
Vaughan: And that was Women’s Caucus generated?
Burgess: The Women’s Caucus generated that. And again I was working with them. I may not have been working as fast as they wanted, but I was working with them on the development of that. The development of a Black Caucus was slower, but beginning to develop in the ‘70s. There wasn’t a great deal of activity as I recall in program development in the ‘70s either. Did you have something in mind?
Vaughan: No. I think that was really ‘80s.
Burgess: Yeah, that was really ‘80s before that got going. In general, of course, as I mentioned, I mean I tried to set an example with the appointment of the black dean and the woman dean and also the woman librarian and that in leadership positions we could have people other than the white male group and it did some good.
Vaughan: Right. How would you characterize the challenges and successes of the Bugg administration?
Burgess: Oh boy. Let me start with a long view. I think that in terms of the lasting impact on the institution the two most important presidents were Webb and Bugg. Without Lewis Webb and Lewis’s skills as a persuader and his firmness and strength as somebody who was determined to get a separate and credible institution in the city, we would not have developed I don’t think. But we would not have developed as a university without Jim Bugg. And his strength I think was his determination and almost uncompromising desire to create an institution that would be credible, academically sound, and be attractive to faculty and students in a way that we couldn’t have been as we were in the ‘60s, and he accomplished that. I really firmly believe that he is the least appreciated president of this institution. I think without him we… the others did great things I mean I’m a greater admirer particularly of Al Rollins and certainly Jim Koch has made some major strengthening of the institution. But they built on what was already there and without the Bugg initiatives I don’t think we would have been there. As a person, he was not always approachable. One of the problems I think is that his style was not always as successful as his ideas. I don’t know how to put that exactly, so he didn’t build the core of firm supporters that some other presidents did. I was very close to him-- my family and the Bugg’s-- very close. Our children were about the same age and we spent a lot of time together in various ways. And I know he essentially is a warm and interesting and funny person, but he’s a shy person and somehow or other he was not able to do that. Dave Shufflebarger reminded me of something which I knew, but I’d forgotten, that when he came he told Frank Batten -- who was the rector who brought him here -- he told Frank Batten in his interview for the job, he said, “Well I’ve got to admit I’m not a fundraiser. I don’t… I’m not--I don’t like it. I’m not good at it.” And Frank told Jim, “That’s alright. The board will do the fundraising.” Well Frank wasn’t rector forever and as the board turned over, the governor made new appointments -- that was sort of forgotten. And the board was asking why the president wasn’t raising more money. And… I’m trying to… I can’t avoid being a little political here. I will read it over and see how it comes out. Jim also was too trusting sometimes, and particularly of Harold Eickhoff. He brought Harold here. Harold had been a student of his and Harold just came as an assistant to the president. But gradually he managed to enhance his position and Jim went along. Jim made him secretary to the Board of Visitors which normally was the president’s job but Jim wasn’t comfortable with all of this politicking and so Harold managed to ingratiate himself very much with the board. And then Harold indicated he wanted to look for another job and it would help if he could have a higher sounding position and so Jim made him executive vice-president in name. Actually, you know, in fact I was the number two man in almost everything, but he was the executive vice-president and he had people reporting to him, business personnel and some other people. And that sounded pretty great. And I think Harold got sincerely to believe that although Jim had done good things--had done good and positive and necessary things at the beginning of his administration that he wasn’t really the person for the job in the long run because of his character. However, I think Harold got to believe that Harold was the person for the job. And so I think Jim was sort of blind-sided by that. And then there was another incident that happened toward the end of his career as president that really wasn’t his fault at all and that concerned one of the people you have interviewed or has been interviewed for this project and that is Cliff Adams. Cliff was also a highly ambitious person, but also a person who was very, very politically connected. He had been head of the Research Foundation until the state decreed that the head of the Research Foundation couldn’t be a member of the university faculty or an administrator so he had to leave that position. And he was Assistant Vice-President for Research theoretically under me pretty much working on his own. And that position wasn’t as much fun anymore if he wasn’t running the Research Foundation too, so he decided he wanted another job. A job became available, the job of Director of Development, and he believed that he’d been promised that job and actually somebody else got the job. Harry Jennings got the job. And Cliff became a violent enemy of Shufflebarger who was the Vice-President the job reported to, but also blamed Jim for not being strong and also not seeing how great he was. And so he had connections in the state legislature. He had connections in the community and he was running him down.
Vaughan: Running Jim down.
Burgess: Running Jim down. So and the board didn’t know Jim that well anymore, this new board of people who came in, and Jim just was not… he wasn’t suspicious enough. He wasn’t political enough about these things. So the terrible day at the beginning of an academic year, Jim gave his opening speech to the faculty and by that time, the faculty had changed a lot and the university had changed a lot and Jim did not have the faculty opposition he used to. He was actually getting the faculty behind him. But he got home after doing his speech and got a call from a newspaper reporter asking him why he’d resigned. And he was completely blindsided by it. And of course the board had leaked like a sieve and made the decision that afternoon and supposedly he was going to be informed officially the next day, but they leaked it. And that was a terrible blow. And I think a totally undeserved one. Now I’m being pretty nasty to Harold, but I think to be fair Harold is an extremely smart guy and he does have a lot of vision and did do a lot of extremely good work on the academic planning of the university. And he’s been a successful university president since he left here so--no he’s not a hopeless person, but I just think he didn’t act very well here. Does that… that gives a little university history that doesn’t show up in the books? [Laughter]
Vaughan: Yeah, I don’t know that I’ve heard all that.
Burgess: Let me give you another Harold note, because toward the end of Jim Bugg’s presidency -- oh and by the way -- the board wasn’t as fooled as he thought they were. He assumed that he was going to get the presidency, and apparently one of the first things Al Rollins was told when he was hired was, “One of the first things you’ve got to do is get rid of Eickhoff.” But anyway, toward the end of all of this, Harold heard about, and I don’t know how he heard about it, but he heard that the Shah of Iran – my story on this one – that the Shah of Iran was looking for a place to establish the Iranian Naval Academy on a deep-water ocean and was willing to endow it with many times the amount of money the ODU budget was at the time, and Harold got the idea and sold it to the president and sold it to the board and sold it to everybody that we ought to make a bid for the Iranian Naval Academy. And, so we did. We got Bill Whitehurst’s office involved – he was in Congress at the time; we got various people in the federal government involved too. I went up with Harold at one point to Washington and we paid a visit on the Iranian embassy, one of the fanciest places you’ve ever seen, and he thought he had the thing greased. Well, then all of a sudden everything died down, everything dried up -- no response, either from the American feds or from Iran. And, I was reminded of this, I got this really from Shufflebarger who… because he was involved in this, at one point Shufflebarger was doing government relations. At one point he got a call from Bill Whitehurst’s assistant who said come to my office after hours. And so he did, he went to his office after hours and the assistant said, “This conversation didn’t happen. But I need to tell you what’s happened to the Iranian Naval Academy.” The wife of the Shah of Iran – this story I had heard – the wife of the Shah of Iran went to the Bazaar Souk one day and saw an absolutely beautiful piece of jewelry and decided she really wanted to get it, went back and talked to her husband who said “Oh get it. It’s wonderful. You’ll look great in it.” And so she went back the next day to get it and it had been sold. It had been sold to the Iranian Chief of Naval Operations who shouldn’t have had that kind of money. He disappeared. She became shortly after that, the widow of the Chief of Naval Operations. And it was a CNO that we were negotiating with about the Naval Academy, so that whole idea was completely dead.
Vaughan: A little international intrigue…
Burgess: A little international intrigue. And so one of Harold’s greatest triumphs didn’t happen because …
Vaughan: …because of a piece of jewelry…
Burgess: A piece of jewelry. Then of course not too long after that the Shah was deposed, and that was another interesting time here – we’re running long, I know – another interesting time here. I remember during the Thanksgiving holiday, Dana Burnett and I were spending a lot of time with the Iranian graduate students on campus, trying to… first of all, assure them that there weren’t going to be riots against them because they were Iranian, and our people were being held in the American embassy, but also trying to help them understand what their future was likely to be because they didn’t know – the Shah had sent them here, although many of them didn’t like him. They were sympathetic with the people who deposed him. So it was an interesting international time in there.
Vaughan: Yeah. So in 1976 when Dr. Rollins was hired, what kind of changes did this bring to you as provost?
Burgess: Surprisingly, it didn’t bring very many. I read Al Rollins commentary on this program, and he said that he intentionally kept on most of the administration when he came in – I’d given myself credit for that but I think that’s probably what happened. In any case, we hit it off pretty well right from the start. A certain amount of yankee, ivy-league collegiality maybe was in there, but we…. My wife and I were both very fond of Faith Rollins, who was his wife when he came here. Of course he looked over my shoulder a little more than Bugg had in his later years, and obviously he had to make sure that he was comfortable with what I was doing, and sometimes he reversed a decision. But basically I just kept on doing what I was doing and felt confident that I had the president’s support in what I was doing. It was unusual, very unusual, for a provost to survive a change of presidency. Usually after you hear of a president leaving, you see an advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education the next year for a provost’s position. But I did stay on.
Vaughan: So that was like your team approach where he had to get your trust …
Burgess: He did like Jim Bugg, he brought his own person in, somebody he’d worked with at the University of Vermont, John Moore. But unlike Bugg, he didn’t let him run wild, and John wasn’t that type of person anyway, so John and I also developed a very good relationship. He essentially handled a lot of the business and student services side of things, and I handled the academic side. It was a good relationship. So… one of the things of course that I was very compatible with was, partially because of Faith and partially because of his own interests, he was very strong at building the arts at the university.
Vaughan: That suited you well?
Burgess: That fit me very well. We did a lot in encouraging the music department and encouraging bringing performers to the campus and trying to enhance the place of the university within the arts community. Of course, this is what I had been trying to do anyway, so this all worked very well.
Vaughan: What about an emphasis on international programs? That began in the late ‘70s?
Burgess: Yes. It had always been somewhat a part of our mission, but not… but with Bugg planning, the urban was the strongest part of what we were doing in general. Rollins -- again I was very sympathetic with this -- wanted to develop the international programs and – without the Iranian Naval Academy – the international scope of the institution. We were helped by an appointment – I can’t remember how it came about – by the appointment of Jerry Weiner as the international programs director. Jerry Weiner -- later, after he married, he for good feminist reasons called himself Jerry Bookin-Weiner – he was and is I think still, wherever he is, an amazing go-getter. He built international programs. He ran study abroad programs. He developed the Model United Nations program into one of the biggest in the country. He worked on getting people in Fulbright’s and international exchange programs of different kinds. After I stepped down as provost, I took advantage of a lot of this in some of the work that I did. We also, in addition to what he was developing, we began to develop relationships with some foreign institutions. There was the beginning of some development of international programs of different kinds. It was a very good time for that. That expanded into the ‘80s and became even more important.
Vaughan: Okay, what about in the late ‘70s ODU’s relationships with area institutions?
Burgess: Well I’ve already talked about EVMS and the consortium. The relationships with other area institutions… there wasn’t anything really outstanding about them. What happened in the ‘70s of course I didn’t mention was the development of the Virginia Community College System, which took away some of ODU’s mission. We no longer had a technical institute and all of the two-year degree programs, which had hung on--some two-year degree programs we had to turn over to the community colleges. But that was not a… we were expanding so much in other ways, that that wasn’t a real problem. We never had any basic issues with the community colleges. The first state-wide director of the community college system, a guy named Hamel-- I remember him at one point saying something that we laughed at the time, but it really wasn’t that wrong. That “Ok, we’ll establish this system, it’s like,” he said, “it’s a…” – he kept going into the past – “it’s like a Piedmont Airliner. When first it takes off, it then dips a little, and then it goes on straight up.” And, so, yeah maybe your enrollment will dip a little, but this is going to be good for you in the long run. And he was right. So we didn’t have much problems with the community colleges. William and Mary was in its own world -- the 18th century I think, and so the main issue was Norfolk State.
Norfolk State was an enormous issue. I spent huge amounts of my time, and Jim’s time, and a lot of other people, and Al, because it cut across both presidents. Obviously there was no reason in the world for there to be one black and one white institution in the same city. The federal government, of course, particularly knew this. We were one of a group of cities around the country that had this same problem – Savannah is another one, and a number of others – you know, of a traditionally white institution and a traditionally black institution in the same city. Nobody really knew what to do about it. In some places, they had merged the two institutions. That had generally been disastrous for both of them – either the white institution had dominated, and all of the sudden the black faculty and administration and everybody else didn’t have any place to go, or the black institution dominated, and all the white students left. So, that was not a good solution, although it was one of the ones that was pushed on us for a while. There was a… as long… and I can’t remember when he stepped down, but it was in Jim’s time… as long as Lyman Brooks was president of Norfolk State, he wouldn’t even talk. He saw what he was doing as building one of the greatest black institutions in the country, and he wanted it to be a black institution, and there was no question about it, and he didn’t want anybody else taking his students away from him. So, there wasn’t much we could do at that point. Once Harrison Wilson came in as president over there, it began to be possible at least to do some talking. Jim had done… I think it was Jim – Jim or Al – had done all he could to try to help this including giving Lucy Wilson a position in the College of Education over here. So, there could be no question that there wasn’t a friendly relationship going on here.
But of course there was still great reluctance over there. What the feds said ultimately was that you’ve got to avoid duplication of programs. You’ve got to set up something so there’s no duplication of programs. And the state resisted this probably for the wrong reasons much of the time, but the state resisted this for a long time. Finally the feds I believe said, “Okay, we’re going to cut off all federal money to the state of Virginia unless you do something about this.” I’m not sure of that, but I think so. And so the word came down from Richmond, “You two solve this. You’re on your own, but you’ve got to solve it.” Well, it was almost a hopeless situation, because we had two universities here. And of course we had duplicating programs. There was no way you could possibly establish… We both had business schools. We both had education schools. We both had science programs of different kinds.
Vaughan: Did they have Ph.D. programs at the time?
Burgess: They didn’t have Ph.D. programs yet, but they were scheduled to. And that would… that was another bone of contention. Why does the white institution have Ph.D. programs and the black institution not?
Vaughan: But you mentioned the psychology program that joint program between…
Burgess: That came… somehow or other that got through, but because it was joint and possibly because William and Mary was involved. So the presidents negotiated and negotiated but they were out in the lime light and they… it was difficult for them to do things in a straightforward way. And finally it came down to me and the provost at Norfolk State, not to make the decisions obviously, but to try to come up with a package that would satisfy the feds and wouldn’t kill either institution. And I don’t like to be cynical about this because I’m obviously a person who’s extremely to the left on things like race relations and all of that, but really it wasn’t in their interests or in our interests. The package was finally worked out in a hotel room in Atlanta where the Norfolk State provost and I were at a state universities and colleges convention. And we just took an afternoon and did some very hard bargaining and came up with a package. I think I can say now -- I wouldn’t have dared say it long ago -- that a lot of it was fraudulent.
Vaughan: Did you rename programs?
Burgess: We renamed programs or we sort of decided we would wink it. About all we lost, ODU really, was a bachelor’s degree in business education which wasn’t much of anything anyway. We gave that one up. We had a whole series of other things that were supposedly to avoid the duplication and we had a couple of joint programs established. We started running a bus back and forth between the campuses so that students could take the joint programs. Many of those have sort of withered away since then. I understand for example that the master’s degree in the studio art is no longer offered. That was a joint program and apparently not many students wanted to go back and forth and didn’t want--and the coordination of the two schools didn’t work very well so the program was just given up. The hardest thing, the really the absolutely intractable thing, was education because both of us had big education programs. And one thing that came down very clearly was you can’t both be training teachers – one school training black teachers and one school training white teachers. You’ve got to remember our black enrollment at this time was not very large. What we did -- and this is what I mean by fraudulent -- what we did is say that, okay I think it was this way, Norfolk State will train teachers in the primary grades in K through 3 or 4 or something like that. ODU will train teachers in the middle grades from grades 5 to 9 or something like that. And the programs would be totally divided that way. If a student wanted to go into one of those programs they had to go over to the other institution. Well needless to say somehow or other people would get certified on one level and also be able to teach on any level they wanted. So it never really worked, but neither of us wanted it to work. Again, I wouldn’t have said that before -- I think the statutes of limitations must be out by now. [Laughter] But that was the hardest one. There were some other things in there that were medium painful, but not--nothing that…. And somehow or other we got away with it.
Vaughan: You got approval.
Burgess: I got approval. Now I don’t know whether the feds had other things on their minds at the time or something or didn’t care as much or what because it really was not a very good way of eliminating duplicate programs because we ended up with lots and lots of duplicated programs still. But we got away with that anyway. And I’m not proud of it, but…
Vaughan: Well what do you think the situation is now?
Burgess: I think we’re running two different institutions and they’re doing whatever they want. Each one can do whatever it wants to.
Vaughan: Okay, but there still is that stipulation that you can’t have duplicate programs?
Burgess: I think Virginia’s been let off the hook now.
Vaughan: Yeah. I can’t remember exactly, but yeah.
Burgess: I don’t think it’s under the non-duplication thing anymore. And… what was… over the years, I mean we’re talking 30 years, anyway a lot of time here, the two institutions developed pretty much as they wanted to. And we don’t make any pretense about not offering these programs anymore.
Vaughan: Right, but it was probably a good thing that they didn’t merge – the two universities?
Burgess: Oh. I think it was a good thing because I don’t think we’d ever have been able to sort it out. I mean in abstract I would say the logical thing was to have one institution in the city, but I think politically I don’t know how it could ever have worked out with either community because either the black community would feel that something had been taken away from them and maybe rightly or there would be a lot of question and turmoil on this campus about… and of course the two campuses that are separated by quite a few miles. It would be very, very difficult to pull off. At one point that’s what I thought I wanted, but I don’t know that it would work. I think that for ODU the best possible thing has happened. I mean we are now genuinely a multi-cultural institution with a very--we’ve got the largest black percentage in the state of students other than the traditionally black institutions. And we’ve got of course lots of other ethnic groups involved as well. And we have established the institution that probably should have been in the city in the first place, rather than have two separate ones, so I’m happy with what’s happened at ODU, but that was an awful time because we were back and forth and back and forth and back and forth on that.
Vaughan: Do you remember when it was that you finally got the approval from the feds or whoever?
Burgess: No. It was in Rollins’ administration so it was the late ‘70s, but I can’t remember the exact date.
Vaughan: Okay. We’re going to switch gears here a little bit and ask a little bit more about your arts involvement in the ‘70s. You did perform with the Poetry Quartet at ODU’s first Literary Festival in 1978. How were you involved with the beginnings of the Literary Festival?
Burgess: Well to be fair, I really wasn’t. That was an English department, and still is an English department, activity and a faculty member in English, Phil Raisor, was the stemwinder of that and remains so until he retired. He deserves all the credit for the Literary Festival which became and is an important part of the campus life here. It gave us an awful lot of visibility and has helped the development of our MFA in Creative Writing and a lot of other good things. Another faculty member in English named Roy Aycock who also taught Shakespeare conceived of the idea of getting a group of four people – two male, two female – to read scenes from Shakespeare as a performance. I think it was based upon something that he had seen or heard about in another community. And I got involved with it right from the start probably because I was both a Shakespearian and an actor. And the other members changed from time to time. One of the magic names around here, Ben Clymer, was involved for quite some time and a woman from the Beach named Shirley Hurd who was an actress, British actress, was involved, and then a number of other people.
Vaughan: Did that start then in the late ‘70s?
Burgess: It started in the ‘70s and went on until the ‘90s. It was about a twenty year run.
Vaughan: Okay, and so you were acting in this quartet while you were the provost.
Burgess: Yeah, I mean it was… I could do that because it was a one shot thing you know. We would have a performance whereas in a play you’ve got to be there every night for three weeks and I couldn’t take on an obligation like that.
Vaughan: Okay. And so how long were you involved in the Shakespeare…
Burgess: Through its whole history because I stayed on with it until the bitter end.
Vaughan: Let’s see. We’re wrapping up the ‘70s here so let’s say in 1979 you decided to step down as provost. Can you talk about that decision?
Burgess: Yes, but frankly I don’t remember all of the things involved. I know there are two things I think mainly. One, I had been doing this now for eight years basically and as I have learned to think no one should stay in any one administrative position for more than seven or eight years. I violated that and stayed as dean for ten years, but you get tired of it. Not that the excitement still partially isn’t there, but what I have said several times is if you hear yourself at some point saying “We tried that five years ago and it didn’t work,” then it’s time for you to leave because you’ve outstayed your time. So some of it was that, and I had applied for other jobs. I went through one of my job searches and actually interviewed for several presidencies and a couple of big provost jobs. Again, I had the same situation. I didn’t get anything I wanted. And I was a finalist in a couple of places, in fact at one point I learned about the presidency of Northern Kentucky from a newspaper reporter, but somebody else was appointed there. I was one of the three finalists there. But then I had a health problem too. I had found that I was getting lame while I was walking and I was diagnosed with a vascular problem and I had to have a major vascular surgery and then had some complications afterword and it knocked me out for a long time. And I didn’t really know whether I--how long it would be before I got the energy back to go into this kind of job so I thought I’d take it easy and just go back to teaching. We’ll talk next time about what “take it easy” means.
Vaughan: Okay. How did Dr. Rollins react to your decision?
Burgess: Oh. He was fine. When he understood it, especially after the health issue it was not a problem. And so he said, “We’ll get somebody younger in the job.” So they hired Sam Bieber who was actually my age or older.