I am pleased to be interviewing Professor Herbert L. Sebren of the Department
of English at Old Dominion University. Professor Sebren has been on the
staff for many years.
first question I'd like to ask you Professor is, tell me about your background,
including some of the colleges you attended and what your early interests
and career plans were.
I suppose you want to know where I'm from, so I will start with that.
My home is Asheville, North Carolina where I went to high school. I
graduated from Asheville High School, and then I went to Morris Hill
College which is a junior college right outside of Asheville. I graduated
from there. Then I went to Berea College in Kentucky. This was largely
an economic problem and I was lucky to get in Berea which at that time
charged no tuition and I could just afford to go there. I graduated
from Berea and I came to some crossroads. I had a fellowship to the
University of Michigan and at the same time I got an offer to teach
at a college that I graduated from, Morris Hill. So, I decided to take
the job instead of going on to graduate school at that time. I taught
at Morris Hill for three years and then I went into the military service.
This was from 1939 to '42 when I taught, and of course this was also
a very hectic time as far as the military was concerned, draft wise.
So, I volunteered for the Air Force and spent thirty-nine months in
the Air Force.
I got out of the service I came to Norfolk and taught at St. Helena's
for two years. Then I decided that I had to go back to graduate school
so I had, had one summer of graduate work at Louisiana State University,
and then I decided to go to Northwestern University. It was at that
time a very fine school of music. I was doing band directing and also
teaching English. I took both of those subjects at Louisiana State and
also at Northwestern University. But I concentrated on music and got
a masters in music from Northwestern. Then...I came back and taught
at what was the Norfolk Division at that time, and decided to go on
for a doctorate. So I went to Peabody in Nashville, Tennessee and decided
that I would go ahead and pick up a masters in English since I was teaching
English, along with directing the band at the Norfolk Division. So,
I thought I would go ahead and get the masters degree while I'm working
on the doctorate. So, I got--I completed the MA in English down there
and stayed on to complete all my work for the doctorate at Peabody's.
had also had a little bit of graduate work at the Catholic University
in Washington because I was asked to go up there and teach some graduate
courses in music during the summer--a couple of summer sessions. So,
I thought that while I was up there I would just go ahead and take some
classes, too which I did in English and Music. So, that's about the
extent of the educational background as near as I can recall right off
I'd always had in the back of my mind that I was going to teach. I was
not sure what I was going to teach. I wanted to be a band director,
and so, I became a band director. My first employment opportunity as
I told you a minute ago was at the school I graduated from, Morris Hill.
They wanted someone who could do two things: direct the band and teach
English at the same time. There didn't seem to be too many people at
that time who could come up with that combination. So I worked at that
and organized the first band at Morris Hill College in 1939 and was
director of the band and also was the director of the orchestra there,
while teaching English.
the war broke in, I had planned to go back there, but a friend of mine
by the name of George Bebe, who was head of the History Department at
the beginning of the St. Helena Extension of the College of William
and Mary, and called me and asked me if I would be interested in coming
to Norfolk in serving in the double capacity as both band director and
teacher of English. So, I took that opportunity and came to Norfolk
and served in that same double function up until about 1955 I guess,
when I went away for a year of graduate work at Peabody. When I was
gone during that year, they had to get some--they had to hire two people
to take my place. One to direct the band and one to teach the English.
I came back, Dean Peele told me that I should make a decision about
concentrating on one or the other. The school was growing so fast that
it would be hard to do both. It wasn't a very hard decision to make
at that time, because the music situation was at a comparatively low
ebb because of the Korean conflict. A lot of students had gone off to
the war, so we just didn't have the music students available at that
time, and the band was not really too good, as much as I would like
to have seen it. So, I went into full-time English and that is what
I have been doing ever since. Although I have continued to teach Applied
Music--the clarinet. I taught it for the College for I guess ten years
after I gave up the band.
Q: About the St. Helena Extension in 1946, you're the only member
of the faculty here, I believe, who taught there. I want some information
on that. What students you had and where it was located? What went on
there; was it a smaller version of the Norfolk Division, or what did it
not the only one from St. Helena actually. There have been several other
people who came over from St. Helena, too, but it's possible that they
have all retired. I think Dr. Wichard was there when I was there, and
Yates Sterling was there when I was there. I don't recall if there is
anyone else who is actively teaching now, who was there or not, but
I do remember that those two people were there when I was there. That
school was established by the State as a branch of the College of William
and Mary because right after the war there was such an influx of students,
GI's, that the State didn't have room for them in the colleges that
they had at that time. I think the Governor had made a commitment or
someone in high authority made a committment to the veterans that they
would be given an opportunity and an opening in a Virginia school if
they wanted it.
of the crowded conditions, they decided to open up what had been an
old Navy barracks at St. Helena. I do not know the exact street names
and all but it was in the south Berkley area just right near the Navy
piers, near the fertilizer companies. Since they already had this Navy
barracks there plus some wartime barracks-type buildings what they called
not permanent buildings but temporary buildings. They converted those
into classrooms and dormatories for boys, so they just had all GI students
there. Mostly from Virginia, but there were a number from out of state
like Pennsylvania and New York. I remember several students from those
states that I had. We had close...I would say close to two thousand
students there. I maybe wrong on that figure but it was something like
that at that time. This school was called the St. Helena Extension of
the College of William and Mary. I think probably the connection with
the College of William and Mary, is what attracted me to come to Norfolk;
the chance to get into a well-known established college--four year college,
rather than going back to the junior college where I had taught, Morris
Hill. They had only the first two years.
was just an overnight development of a school. It was just a miraculous
thing the way they developed that thing, staffed it, furnished it, and
equipped it, almost overnight. I guess from the--well, from the end
of December 1945 until the following September they worked on it. And
I'm not sure that they knew that in January of 1946 they were going
to have the school. They just developed it overnight. They brought in
faculty from everywhere. A lot of them were from Virginia but many were
from out of state. They had them from Wisconsin. The head of the English
Department was from Pennsylvania. They had English teachers from New
York. One of them I remember was a man who sounded like a Brooklyn cab
driver, but he did a good job. They had people from the Philippines
teaching here, people from everywhere. They had a fine faculty.
taught mainly the freshman English courses there, and sophomore literature.
After awhile they decided they could offer some advanced courses, and
I was one of the first ones to teach advanced composition. I also taught
advanced composition at the Norfolk Division. I was one of the first
instructors in that course. That school operated for only two years,
so after those two years everyone was left on his own to try to find
what he could in the way of a position. It so happened that there were
a few positions available over here at the Norfolk Division, as it was
called. I was lucky enough to get one of those positions teaching English
and they wanted someone who could organize and direct the band at the
Norfolk Division. So my double qualifications and double ability came
in good stead again. So, I was the first band director at the Norfolk
Division which is now Old Dominion University.
mentioned that in the early years you taught the freshman and sophomore
English courses. I would be interested in your impressions of the Norfolk
Division students in the late 1940's and how those students compare to
today's freshmen in the composition classes.
students are students and they always have been. They have their weaknesses
that go with the times. You will always going to have good ones and
you're going to have bad ones. I think that one thing that motivated
the students in the early days especially at St. Helena was the fact
that they knew they were being given a chance that they may not have
had ordinarily. By the Governor opening up this special extension for
veterans gave them that chance. So, most of the students there worked
hard and tried hard to get through if maybe they were not as well qualified
academically as students who go to your standard colleges. They made
up for that I think by hard work.
remember one of my classes I had two boys by the name of Whitehurst,
Hal and Al. You may know Al Whitehurst, the judge, one of the Norfolk
judges today. There were a couple of other boys in there that I remember,
have gone on to become doctors and lawyers. One student, I don't remember
if he was at St. Helena or at the Norfolk Division, by the name of Juny(?)
Bradshaw, who is very active in state politics in Richmond. He's a pretty
high state official. He was in my English class. He was a good tennis
player, by the way.
as the quality of the students, I think they were about the same. Given
equal opportunity I think they were about the same but maybe a little
bit better motivated back in the "olden days" than they are
today. They didn't have as many choices back then. They had to work
pretty hard for it, so they took advantage of it. Today's freshman classes
I find to be actually...from the standpoint of background, of having
read a whole lot, I find them to be not too well prepared. But I think
that's a universal weakness and not peculiar to this school. There again
you have some students in the class who are well-read, so it averages
out. You can't say that the students of the 40's were any better than
the students of the 70's. I've had some very good students today, some
well-read students, some motivated students, just really a very fine
quality people today, just as I had back then. I'm thankful for it.
Q: In 1948, you became the first clarinetist of the Norfolk Symphony
Orchestra. I was wondering how this came about and if you could tell me
some more about you association with the Norfolk Symphony over the years.
let me correct that date. It was earlier than 1948, it was 1946. I read
in the newspaper when I was at St. Helena in the Fall of 1946 just after
I started work there that they had some openings for different instruments
and one of the instruments was the clarinet. I had just come off of
the first tour with the North
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Swalleen. You see when I got
out of the service, which I did in 1945, in December, that was the middle
of the school term. I couldn't start right in because I had no job,
so the symphony of North Carolina was looking for people who were free
to tour for a couple of months. Well, it just so happened by chance
that I was unemployed and free to move about so I auditioned for that
orchestra and was the first clarinetist for the first touring orchestra
of the North Carolina Symphony. That was their spring tour of two months.
Since that time I think they have made that an annual affair and they
tour--the orchestra tours the entire state for a period about two to
I came to Norfolk, I had just had that experience and had been practiced
up on my clarinet you know, so when I read of the opening in the newspaper
I went down to the rehearsal which was being conducted by Henry Coles
Whitehead. The orchestra met at that time upstairs in the Centre Theatre
building in a room that had been designed to be used I think by Civil
Defense or something of that sort. It wasn't suitable for a symphony
rehearsal, but that's the only place that they had available. At any
rate I showed up, played the part, and Henry Coles Whitehead liked my
playing and he said, "The job is yours." So from 1946 until
the present time, which is--what is the present time--March 1975, I
have enjoyed an association of very beautiful music with the Norfolk
Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately, Mr. Whitehead died after my first
season with the orchestra. He died just at the beginning of the second
season, which would have started in the Fall of 1947.
left without a conductor, they wanted to go ahead and preserve the orchestra
until they could find a suitable conductor, so they prevailed upon the
man who was at that time was head of the Music Department at the Norfolk
Division of the College of William and Mary. A man by the name of John
Paul, to conduct the opening concert and he would be assisted by a man
over in Newport News, who would conduct half of the concert. This other
man's name was Cary MacMurren. So, each conducted a half, each one conducted
I believe each one conducted a concerto. I forget the name--Mr. Paul
conducted the... I believe it was the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with
Larry Mednick as soloist and Cary MacMurren conducted the Grieg Piano
Concerto and I don't remember the name of some girl who played that
but I could find it. So, after that concert they were able to look around
and located Edgar Schenkman in New York who was willing to take over
as conductor. And he came then, that was either at the turn of the year,
either the beginning of 1948 or right at the end of 1947. He remained
as conductor for...well, until about 1965, I believe it was when Mr.
Stanger came, '65, '66, somewhere around there. As I said, I have been
the solo clarinet player with that orchestra up until the present time.
Let's see I believe I was telling you that I played the solo clarinet
in that orchestra. I don't know how much detail you want to go into
about the Norfolk Symphony. I played every concert--never missed a concert,
and only a couple of rehearsals because of sickness, except for the
year's leave of absence that I took when I was away working on my doctorate.
Mr. Schenkman left because of the conflict between Norfolk and Richmond.
You see Mr. Schenkman was a fine conductor and a fine musician but he
began to divide his time between Norfolk and Richmond. He was also conductor
of the Richmond Symphony. Well, the Richmond people wanted him fulltime
and the Norfolk people wanted him fulltime, especially since both places
were paying him what they thought was a fulltime salary. So, they said
why shouldn't we have his services fulltime. This forced Mr. Schenkman
the position of having to make a choice. He elected to go to Richmond.
That left Norfolk again without a conductor. I was on the committee
that searched for a conductor. They interviewed several people and had
about eighty applicants for this job--this position of conductor and
they finally selected Russell Stanger, who before he had come to Norfolk
was an Assistant Conductor with the Minneapolis Symphony.
Q: You also played clarinet for the Feldman Chamber Music Society
in 1949 and I wondered if your association with that group was as long
as with the Norfolk Symphony or did you just play with that group in 1949?
thought that I played with them earlier than 1949, now that may have
been one concert. Because Mr. Feldman heard me play with the symphony.
I remember the first concert that we played--that I played with them
we played "The Spinning Wheel" of Saint-Saens, and we also
had a program that utilized the chorus, the Beethoven choral work. I
forget the name of the complete title of it. And Alec Templeton played
a Rachmanonov concerto. I had several little solos in those works. Mr.
Feldman was in the audience and he didn't know me and never heard me
before, and he came up after the concert and introduced himself. He
told me how much had had enjoyed my playing and what a sensitive musician
he thought I was and wanted to know if I would play with his group which
he had just organized. So, I was glad to do that and I played with them
the Mozart Quintet for Clarinet and Strings and what I believe was the
first concert by the Feldman Chamber Music Ensemble. If not the first
concert, at least the first year of their operation. This concert was
played in the Women's Clubhouse down just off of Olney Road, off of
the Hague. It was a very intimate place to play, but the place was packed.
People were sitting practically in my lap, looking over my shoulder
as I performed that work, and it was very, very successful. Now you
may--that could have been the 47-48 season for them. Then probably in
'49 I had a chance to play another work with them: the Brahm's Quintet
for Clarinet and Strings.
by this time they'd grown so much; their audiences had grown so much,
they needed more room than the Women's Club could handle, so they would
hold their programs at that time in the Taylor School, elementary school
there on Princess Anne Road. That was a very good program and a very
successful program. Then, soon after that the present building housing
the Norfolk Little Theatre was completed, a very beautiful little theater
building and they gave their programs in there. And I played--lets see,
one work that I played there was the Prokofiev Overture on Hebrew Theme,
and also did the Schubert Octet with them.
they began to bring in out of town artists. It seems that they felt
that they could draw more of a crowd by bringing in people from outside
than using local talent. So, they brought in a clarinetist from Baltimore,
a fellow by the name of Genussa (Sp?) Except that Mr. Feldman asked
me to perform the work with the quartet so that they could learn it.
Then Mr. Genussa would come in for just a day of rehearsals a head of
time before the concert and he was the performer, so I had quite a bit
of experience playing other works that I did not really perform in public.
like to correct one misconception that I read in the paper about the
performance of the Brahm's Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano that the
Feldman society claimed had been the first performance Norfolk a couple
of years ago with a clarinet player from Norfolk State. I had performed
that work just ten years earlier on a program sponsored by the college,
the Norfolk Division, in the early days of television when we had our
first television series from WTAR. The Norfolk Division put on a program
educational programs of different kinds and the Music Department put
on several programs. And, I played the Brahm's on that program.
You mentioned that the college band and you said you directed it until
about 1955. I was wondering in those days without any major athletic
teams just what exactly the band's role was on the campus and whether
you gave any concerts off the campus.
main reason was just to afford an outlet for students who played an
instrument and didn't have anyplace to play, but wanted to play. And
then if occasion arose, we could put on a concert. Why we'd have something
ready to do. The beginning days of the band at the Norfolk Division,
or Old Dominion University, whichever you want to call it, were very
hectic. We had no rehearsal hall and we had very little equipment. What
we had to do was just simply move the chairs out of a classroom and
move them back, so we could get the stands, what few music stands we
had in there and get the band set up in there. It was very crowded and
of course, very noisy. Finding a time to rehearse was a problem. We
tried it at noon but that didn't work out too well. Then in the afternoon
if we tried to rehearse of course, we ran into the problem of disturbing
classes that might be going on in the building. In fact, nearly every
time we had a rehearsal, which was scheduled twice a week, we would
get a complaint from Dr. Robert MacClellan, who was the Director of
the Evening College and Professor of History, and I don't know what
all he did. He was into everything here at that time. He liked music
but he didn't like it next door to his office, which was where we had
to rehearse. So, everytime we practiced Dr. MacClellan would come in
ask us to soften it down or how much longer did we have to go, or could
we please speed it up, or something to stop the noise.
we had our troubles, but we had some fine musicians back in those days.
People right out of the service. Boys who were trained with the service
bands. We had some superior musicians. As an example, one of the people
that was here at the time that I came was Tommy Newsome. You may have
heard of Tommy Newsome with the Tonight Show. Tommy Newsome, Jack Lida,
Jack Levy, Lucia Montagna, who is in the shoe business here in Norfolk.
You'be probably heard of the Montagnas. Also Jahn Dario, Ziggy Harrell,
Fred Hewitt, Jr. this was, were all veterans who knew their music, so
we could play just about anything and everything. In addition to the
students that we had, there were a number of boys who were in the service
at that time who were looking for additional outlets to their musical
talent, so when they heard that we had a band, they wanted to come over.
So we didn't have too much trouble getting good players. They just
from everywhere to come in. So we played a good high level of standard
band repertoire, the overtures, ballet music, the Soussa marches, novelty
tunes, all that. And as we developed we began to put on programs for
the student body, which were quite popular. We would play for a convocation
in the gym, or just have a band program for the students and the faculty.
They were very well received. Dr. Gerald Akers played clarinet with
the band. We used to joke about the fact that we were probably the only
college band in the country that had a PhD sitting on the last stand
of clarinets, but that's where he liked to sit and do his bit on the
played for civic clubs. We played at the Monticello Hotel for Kiwanis
Club or Civitan Clubs or whatever met down there so that gave the students
additional incentive and helped to publicize us a little bit. The programs
were always very well received. now one first that we can claim, and
in fact at this time it was probably the first and only was the marching
band. We didn't have enough players to march on our own, but a friend
of mine who was the Band Director at Williamsburg, at the College of
William and Mary, Allan Stuart, said,"Let's join forces, because
I don't have enough players up here to make a marching band. And, you
don't have enough down there, but if we get together maybe we can get
up a good group."
we did. We would take a couple of carloads of our students up there,
work out formations, and they provided the uniforms. One trip that I
remember taking the Norfolk Division band on was to the football game
at Wake Forest with William and Mary. We put on a halftime show, the
marching band and had a great time. And then we'd go to Williamsburg
and march up there in the games. I wish we could--I think it would be
a good thing to get a marching band going again of some kind. Just to
give practice to the students.
Q: You alluded to the answer of following question, but perhaps you
would like to say something more about it. With such an obvious interest
in music, I was wondering why you chose a career in teaching English rather
than teaching music. If it was just related to the parlous state of the
Music department here.
always been interested in both subjects. I read a lot all the way through
high school. I had good English teachers who inspired me. In fact, I
told one of them that I was going to be an English teacher. This was
before I ever graduated from high school. But as I said earlier, I
had always wanted to be a band director, too. So, I was just lucky enough
to get into a situation at Morris Hill where I could do both things.
And later the demand in Norfolk for someone who could do both things.
I had a lot of training in the band field, but I guess the more I got
into it, the less I really wanted to do that fulltime. I really have
no deep regrets for having given up band directing.
worked with some of the greatest directors in the United States and
played with them. They were people like Glen Banum, Henry Fillmore,
Carl King. They just don't make them any better than those people. But
you know, band directing is a very exacting and demanding field, you
have to do a lot more than just work with music. You have to be a financial
wizard and keep up with uniforms, and the equipment all this, that and
the other, so I don't regret not having to do all those things. I love
the music, but I'm just as happy to be out of it. I love reading and
I love the English and I love my contact with all of the students that
I've had as an English instructor.
You find in the college newspapers many many references to operettas
put on by the Music Department and I know that you were involved with
these. In 1952, for example, two operettas were put on: "Trail
by Jury" and "Down in the Valley." Professor Vogan of
the Music Department seems to have been responsible for these operettas.
I wonder if you thought that he was basically responsible and if he
contacted you to come in and join forces with him, or how that came
Well, the opera production at Old Dominion started in 1948-49. That
was when John Paul was head of the music Department here. He had all
this talent, as I indicated a while ago; these musicians, and he also
had some fine singers like Shirley Thompson and her sister who are both
opera stars in Europe and in New York here. They had the urge to do
some kind of stage production, so the first opera that they produced
was the Gilbert and Sullivan "H.M.S Pinafore."
had such good luck with that, they decided to do a second one the following
year, which was "Pirates of Penzance", that had Bill Martin
in it. Oh, I can't remember the names of all the people off-hand. They
will come to me after all this is over--the interview is over. Mr. Paul
asked me because I was the band director to get the orchestra ready
for these productions. So I had to organize an orchestra and find the
string players, and rehearse them and get them ready to perform for
the show. So that was the beginning of opera and the opera workshop
and so forth at the Norfolk Division or Old Dominion University.
Paul left here the following year after the 1949 year to become head
of the Music Department at the Catholic University in Washington. So,
when he left, we had no one to do that, but we still had the demand,
we had the students and we still had some talented musicians. Dr Vogan
came in as head of the department following John Paul, so he inherited
this operetta or musical production business, and as I said, the demand
for it still seemed to be high. He continued with that, with the two
works that you have indicated; "Trial by Jury" and "Down
in the Valley" and since I'd been orchestra conductor for the previous
work, he asked me to serve in the capacity of Associate Conductor,
Conductor, I forgot what the title was, for his works. That's how I
happened to be listed there. But he was--Dr. Vogan carried on the tradition
that John Paul started. It continued to grow to the extent that Dr.
Vogan who is primarily an organ man--theory man, and not an opera production
man decided to bring in someone who could do stage productions. So he
hired Harold Hawn to come in, and Harold Hawn was the key figure in
the opera workshop here for a number of years.
Q: When the school orchestra came into existence, how long did you
play a role in the development of the orchestra?
actual organization of the orchestra, I guess I was the key figure in
it for probably three or four years. After that time, the band was the
big thing. We didn't really have an orchestra as such on the campus.
The need for the orchestra came only for these stage productions. So,
when the time came to do one of those, it was my job to assemble, through
my contacts in the community with the players that I knew through association
with the symphony. It was my job to assemble the proficient players
who could put on a show with the minimum number of rehearsals and do
the best job. So I was the orchestra organizer, I guess you could call
it. Although I did not really conduct. Mr. Hawn conducted the performances
up until just the last couple of years of his work with the opera workshop.
I think he brought in John MacCormack to help him do his conducting.
So that was my role with the orchestra.
Q: Then you came in at the beginning of the opera workshops. You didn't
continue with that through the 50's. In the mid-fifties the Division began
to offer Junior level English courses. I was wondering what advanced courses
you offered and over the years what new offerings in the advanced areas
you have developed.
of the courses that I offered in the beginning, in connection with the
Engineering program was a course in Advanced Technical Writing. This
was set up primarily for engineers. I guess I was the first one to teach
that course on the campus. It was English 440, I believe. Normally,
they would have waited until they got to VPI. Becayuse they would have
transferred, you know, before this became a four year school, to Virginia
Tech to take that course in their senior year. But as we continued to
grow they decided to offer some of these advanced courses on this campus,
and that was one of the first ones in the English Department that they
course that I taught on the advanced level was Advanced Grammar, and
I've forgotten the course numbering for that. I think it was a 400 at
that time. I taught that for two or three years. I was the first one
to teach that.
course that I taught, and it's kind of interesting to see how these
things have all mushroomed, was Children's Literature. That was English
342. We started out with one section of that with eight students in
it. And then the following year we had something over twenty students,
and then the next semester we had about forty students.
then we had to split the classes then so that we had not one class,
but two classes, and each one of them filled. That course has grown
to such an extent that, as you know, it moved from English to Education
and then Library Science, and now I think it's moved back to Education,
combining Education and Library Science. We now have three or four people
teaching that course; Children's Literature. I was glad to be able to
start that field at Old Dominion University. I had some excellent work
in that from one of the pioneers in the field, Dr. Bruton, who's written
many books on that subject.
Q: During the past twenty-five years have you noticed an improvement
or a decline in the students' reading skills? Do the students today seem
to enjoy reading more or less than when you began teaching here?
I told you at the beginning of this interview when you asked me about
the students of the forties, and the students of today, there doesn't
seem to be much change. You have some that are well-read, some that
never have read anything. You have some that can read fluently, and
some who can't make head or tails out of an English sentence. That situation
is just as true today as it was twenty years ago, or twenty-five years
ago. It's been kind of a standing joke, not only with me but with other
members in the department, that if you wanted to have some fun in a
course in which you are studying drama, just ask the students to read
the parts in the drama. Whether it is a Shakespearean play or a play
by Ibsen or a play be George Bernard Shaw, just let a student take the
part, the role of the character in the play and read that part out loud
in the classroom. It's always amazing at how poorly they do, it's disconcerting.
is a situation, as I say, that's gone on ever since I've been in the
business and it's not just a characteristic of Norfolk students, it's
true every where. It may be that oral reading is something that people
need to practice more on or never do any of, so when they are called
upon to do it, it always comes as sort of a shock to them to have to
do it. They do poorly at it. As far as the reading skills are concerned.
I don't notice any great improvement in the past twenty-five years.
As to whether they enjoy reading more, you have a certain percentage
of them who are going to...to read a lot and some who don't. I always
get a little questionnaire that I pass out asking them what their favorite
magazines are and if they have read any books. Some of them can list
some magazines and some of the can't. Some of them list no books that
they've read. That is, in the last three or four months just for pleasure
an example right here of a student who not only has not read any books
lately, but can't even write the sentence stating that he hasn't read
any good books lately without misspelling several of the words. you
need anymore evidence?
was wondering if your involvement with musical performances on the campus
declined in the 1960's as the staff of the Music Department began to expand.
I don't know exactly what you mean by that question. Of course I have
done less playing on the campus since I left the Music Department, that
would be easy to understand and would be expected. Up until the late
'60's I continued to, as I told you earlier, teach Applied Music. I
was the clarinet instructor for the college along with teaching English.
So that if someone signed up as a music major to take clarinet as his
major instrument, he would take his clarinet lessons from me. This meant
that I had to go over to the Music Building in the afternoons and teach
clarinet lessons to the college students who wanted them.
the school has grown there is more demand for me in the English Department
and more demand for someone else to do full-time work in the Music Department.
Plus the fact that the governor as nearly as I understand it, has said
that they would not allow someone to double up now as they formerly
did, when I did both areas. So I had to give up that work by decree
of the Governor, as a part-time music instructor. But I still continue
to play, I don't play with the department as such, but I still continue
to play with the symphony and other groups from time to time.
Q: During your career here have there been any committee assignments
that you recall as being outstanding or have they been all pretty much
been on most of the, well, I would say most but a good many of the standard
committees that the college has to insure a smooth function. One committee
that I served on for a number of years was the Convocation Committee.
We had to select programs and then we had to put on the programs. We
had to organize the presentation from beginning to end, that is get
the auditorium ready, arrange about the dismissal of classes, the whole
bit. Then preside over the convocations when the time came. So I enjoyed
working with that committee, especially when it gave me a chance to
meet people like Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Eddy Cantor, James M. Caine,
and other famous national figures like that.
I was on the Registration Committee for a number of years and the Athletic
Committee. I was chairman of the Athletic Committee, at a time when
they were thinking about going into the Southern Conference, for the
first time. They are thinking about it again now. So we met with the
Southern Conference officials in Asheville, North Carolina at their
Spring meeting and presented our case. I say "we", but this
was Bud Metheny who was at that time the Athletic Director and head
of department. We didn't have a chance of getting in then for the same
reason that we won't get in now. That is, that we don't have a football
team, unless the Southern Conference relaxes its rules on that requirement.
But I enjoyed my work as Chairmen of the Athletic Committee. It was
a transitional period from the old gymnasium to the new gymnasium.
were talking about the committes. And I was talking about the fact that
I was Chairman of the Athletic Committee of the transitional period
moving from the old gym into the new gym. I enjoyed working with that
group, and working with Sonny Allen, Jim Gerritt(sp), and so forth.
And, I've been on a Student Grievence Committee, and an Academic Standing
Committee, and I don't remember what all. Those were the main ones that
I recall being on.
Q: What members of the large faculty, which developed into the very
large faculty of the English Department have impressed you as the most
effective teachers and effective scholars in your career at the school?
don't know if I can answer that question. That's a loaded question.
I would say that they've all impressed me for one reason or another.
I don't know that I could single out one individual as being more effective
or not as effective as someone else. I think we've had a fine group
of people here at Old Dominion and there must be some truth in what
I say as witness to the way the school has grown. If we hadn't been
any good, do you think we would have reached the place we're in now?
be able to single out any individuals. I've enjoyed working with all
of them. Each one, each member of the English Department has his own
special characteristics and personality that makes him effective in
his own way. Each one has his own peculiarities, idiosyncrasies that
may make him less appealing to someone else. We all do. I wouldn't want
to name any names there unless you force me into it. [laughs]
Q: You have remained now for, under its various names: the Norfolk
Division, Norfolk College of William and Mary, Old Dominion College and
Old Dominion University for twenty-seven years on the faculty, and I wondered
if you ever had any second thoughts about perhaps you might have enjoyed
going on to another institution or if you have ever felt bored by staying
here, or have been happy that you remained at this college?
I'll say that I had my opportunities to move on. I guess everyone has
his opportunities. As the old farmer said up in the mountains, a long
number of years ago. He said, "Everyone reaches a crossroads and
he'll always wish, no matter which road he takes, he'll wish he'd taken
the other one." So it's hard to say you know, what would have happened
if I'd taken the other road, but the fact that I remained here this
long indicates that I've been satisfied and I've just enjoyed watching
this school grow the way that it has grown. I've had a lot of wonderful
experiences here, and could tell you a lot more stories than we're going
to have room to get on this tape. All of them I could document or authenticate
if need be.