This is James Sweeney of the Archives of Old Dominion University. Today,
I am pleased to be interviewing Miss Emily V. Pittman, Professor Emeritus
in the Department of Health and Physical Education in the School of Education.
First of all, Miss Pittman, would you discuss your background, that is family,
education and early career interests.
Answer: My family
are English and Irish. One thing of particular interest, I think, is
a deed that was given to my great grandmother by the king of England.
There are three brothers and three sisters ... big family. As far as
education, my undergraduate work was done at Madison College in Virginia.
Later, I went to New York University and then got my Masters degree
at William and Mary in Williamsburg.
Q: From 1935 to 1950,
you taught women's health and physical education at Suffolk High School.
Ultimately, you became the chairman of Physical Education Department at
Suffolk. Two questions about that experience. First, could you discuss
your career at Suffolk High School and what were the highlights?
A: My stay at Suffolk
High School was a most enjoyable one. I enjoyed the--the young, vivacious
people that I contacted, I enjoyed the relationship to the faculty,
principal and so forth. As far as highlights, I did coach the women's
basketball team and we went 50-some games without losing a game. I also
coached the women's tennis team and, which was most unusual at that
particular time, I coached a ... the boys' tennis team. The reason for
that was the--the fact that a man was not available. So the young men
asked me to help them. As it turned out, we went on to win the state
doubles championship for the state of Virginia.
Q: Could you compare
or contrast high school and college teachers based on your experiences
at Suffolk and Old Dominion?
A: I wouldn't say
that there is a great deal of differences between the two. Maturity,
of course, is one seriousness of purpose is another. I don't believe
the high school people are ... really know what their objectives are
and they are beginning to be formed. But other than that, they have
objectives, you have objectives and of course your procedures and evaluation
just as you would in teaching college.
Q: Why did you leave
Suffolk High School in 1950 to join the staff of the College of William
and Mary in Norfolk?
A: In 1949, the College
of William and Mary in Williamsburg offered me a job. This was after
I had signed a contract for Suffolk and even though William and Mary
told the school board that they would give them a qualified person for
the job, the school board would not release me. So in 1950, the job
became available at Norfolk College of William and Mary and that's when
I applied and received the job.
Q: When you came to
the Norfolk College of William and Mary, you were immediately made Chairman
of the Women's Physical Education Department. How large was the department
and what were your duties as chairman?
A: The department
was very small. There were two men, and I replaced a person who had
resigned. The duties of the chairman at that time was try to build the
program up, which we did. At that particular time we had two years of
required physical education. We required a team sport and individual
sport. A course in dance and a course in swimming. Now later on that
became optional and the students could take any of the activities that
Q: Could you describe
the women's physical education program and the facilities that were available
at the college in the early 1950's?
A: Of course at that
time, we did not have a variety in the program because of lack of facilities
and also lack of personnel. At that time, we had two gymnasiums, a pool
and all the outside area that we needed, like fields for field hockey
and softball and so forth.
Q: You coached women's
team in tennis, field hockey and basketball. Could you review your coaching
experiences? What were the best teams and do any of the students stand
out in your memory as outstanding athletes?
A: Yes, I coached
tennis, field hockey and basketball. I enjoyed coaching all of the sports.
I don't know that I have a preference. As to best teams, I can't remember.
As to outstanding athletes, there were so many that I would be reluctant
to name any one or any five. They were all good.
Q: Perhaps you've already
answered the next question, but did one of the sports appeal to you at
the time more than the others?
A: Perhaps ... tennis
appealed to me, even though tennis is a sport that takes quite a time
to build up the fundamentals. At this early time, what we really had
to do was teach the fundamentals when the students came to college and
then those that excelled in those fundamentals would go on to be on
the teams. I enjoyed all of them.
Q: During your tenure
as chairman of the Women's Physical Education Department, did women's
athletics occupy a subordinate role in the college's emphasis?
A: Yes, just as it
did in every other department at the college. No more or no less.
Q: Could you explain
why that was?
A: I really don't
know. I suppose that men had to support the families and they didn't
consider women in the primary role of a family at that time.
Q: Was it because women's
athletics was not a revenue-producing sport?
A: That certainly
could have been one reason, and the same thing exists today.
Q: In 1957, the college
sponsored a co-rec day, that is an inter-school system, co-recreational
sports day. Could you explain your participation in this event?
A: Yes, this--this
was very interesting. I went to President Webb, who at that time was--was
a real friend. He was a friend to all the faculty and I told him that
I had an idea, if he could supply enough money for refreshments. So,
I elaborated. He said "Great", this was the beginning of the
co-rec day. It really was two- fold. Number one, we wanted to familiarize
the high school students with the program. Number two, it was a fun
thing for the students.
Q: And this involved
the high school students coming to the college?
Q: What role did you
play in the development of the four-year degree program in physical education?
A: My role was the
same as the other members of the department. It was a cooperative effort.
We reviewed programs in other colleges, added the courses gradually
until we got exactly what we wanted.
Q: During the 1960's
did women's athletics assume a more prominent role at the school than
during the previous decade?
A: I don't know that
it did. There were two purposes in mind, one was to give the exceptionally
well- coordinated person an opportunity to participate with others of
the same ability. The other purpose was a fun thing. It was--and it
was on that basis that the athletic program for women was--was carried
Q: What courses did
you teach during the last ten years you were at the college?
A: Well I taught quite
a few, including History and Principles of Physical Education, Methods
and Materials of Health Ed, Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis, Golf, and
supervision of student teachers. I might like to say at this time that
I think the public schools are in pretty pitiful shape. I think the
reason for this is the permissiveness of parents, number one, and the
lowering of standards by the school system.
Q: What was your opinion
of the merger of the men's and women's physical education departments
A: I suppose my initial
thought was it wasn't a good idea. Because the women's department had
been built up to about 12 women, including the part-time people. But
as it worked out we integrated the classes as far as men and women in,
say the same tennis class or the same golf class. This I enjoyed very
much. I enjoyed teaching the men. I do think it would have been a much
better idea to have separated and today to separate the athletic from
the physical education program.
Q: Could you expand
on that comment?
A: Well, I believe
they are so different in purpose ... that they should be separated.
Because in one--on one situation you have a coaching program, in the
other you have a teaching program, and in my opinion these should be
separated. In other words, we should have an Athletic Director that
is just for athletics and a program chairman that is only concerned
with the teaching program.
Q: Could you tell me
about the ODU summer swimming program for girls, which you conducted for
A: this was a most
interesting experience. Of course, we handled it completely separate
from the--the teaching program. It was a summer program and registration
started January the first. And there were times when we had to have
extra people in to help answer the phone. Because we had so many applicants.
I actually had mothers to cry over the phone because they couldn't get
their little girls in. Now at that time, I handled only little girls,
and the boys ... little boys were handled by the men's department. I
think one of the most gratifying things that happened during the summer
swimming program was that we taught drown- proofing and a mother called
me after having her child at the beach for an afternoon, and said that
a wave swept her little girl out. And of course, she was panic stricken
but in a little bit, the child was all right. And the first thing she
told her was that she remembered what had been told her at the summer
swimming program. Most satisfying, the whole program, if we could have
saved just one life, which I hope we did.
Q: Would you--how would
you compare or contrast your students of 1950 with those of today?
A: I really believe
the students of 1950 knew more about where they were going and how to
get there than students of today. Of course, they were a select group
in the 1950's, everybody didn't go to college. Now we have freshman,
sophomores, sometimes juniors, who really don't know in what direction
they are headed.
Q: During the past few
years women's athletics have recei--or has received much attention on
the college level. What impact has the women's liberation movement had
on women's athletics?
A: I suppose that
one of the impacts of course, is ... is more money to carry out the
program. We have scholarships now, which is something new for women.
I am sure this will lead to more opportunities for students to participate
in the various inter-collegiate activities.
Q: I wondered if you
had on this question some comments about the effect of scholarships on
women's collegiate athletics. Do you see a possibility that scholarships
will lead to over-emphasis as it has in some cases with--in men's athletics?
A: I really don't
know. This of course is hypothetical ... I know that there are in some
parts of the country a great deal of emphasis put on women's athletics.
I haven't been in those sections, so I really don't know. Sometimes
this bothers me because I don't think the overall objective of women
is to be terribly outstanding in athletics. Maybe for men but I've never
heard a woman say that to be on an Olympic team was an objective. So,
I don't know.
Q: Do you believe that
women's athletics will attain parity with men's athletics on the college
A: No! For two reasons:
interest as far as spectators are concerned and again going back to
the general objectives of women.
Q: A question that I
don't have listed, but which I think is of interest. About 1973 there
was a major revision in the curriculum at Old Dominion University and
one of the changes was the dropping of the physical education requirements.
I wondered what your reaction was to that change.
A: I suppose at first
I was a little bit concerned. But as it turned out we have more students
interested in the variety of activities that we offer now than we did
prior to that time. So, I think it's good.
Q: What is your assessment
of women's athletics on the ODU campus today?
A: I think it's fine.
I think they went--I think activities should be offered to--to all interest
groups. We haven't mentioned Intramurals, but to me that is one of the
big programs that should be stimulated because it's in these intramural
programs that all have an opportunity to participate not just the gifted
Q: Did you develop intramural
programs during your years as--in the department?
A: Yes we had intramural
programs in every activity that we taught and a great deal of interest.
We also have a great deal of interest today.
Q: Another question
that I have thought of since making up the list. When black students began
to come to Old Dominion, did they participate in the women's athletic
program in proportion to their numbers?
A: Yes, it's just
a case of those that were good participated . Those that were exceptional
as far as coordination was concerned had the same opportunity to participate
as the white students.
Q: Looking back now,
what would you say have been your chief satisfactions in twenty-six years
of teaching at the college?
A: That's a difficult
question, but I suppose when you boil it down, it's the friends that
were made and the fact that you had a part in developing a program,
that you have satisfaction in knowing that you helped students progress
in their life desires.
Q: Thank you very much
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