an interview with Dr. Marie C. Klinkhamer, a Professor of History at Norfolk
State College, Norfolk Virginia. This interview is being conducted on November
10, 1978 in Dr. Klinkhamer's office which is located in the Tidewater Hall
Annex Building on the Norfolk State campus. The interviewer is Irvin Leon
Jordan, Jr., a graduate student representing the oral history program of
Old Dominion University.
Doctor, I would appreciate it if you could tell me something about when
and where were you born?
Answer: I was born
in Detroit, Michigan on March 21, 1917. Just in time to keep my father
from having to serve in World War I.
Q: How was that? I don't
A: Any, any father
of an infant was not automatically drafted in 1917. The war broke out
three weeks or so after I was born so my father did not have to serve.
Instead of that he spent his World War I career working for Ford Motor
Company which in turn was doing a great many government contracts.
Q: And your education?
A: I said I was born
in Detroit. When I was six years old, my family moved from Detroit to
Royal Oak which is about ten miles North of Detroit. Partly they moved
there because it was time for me to start school, and they were concerned
about the neighborhood that we lived in. There were a couple of very
busy streets that I would have had to cross in order to go to the nearest
school. So they thought that in view of the fact that the whole neighborhood
was getting to be more and more business and less and less neighborhood,
it would be desirable to move. So they moved to Royal Oak and that meant
that I had three and half blocks to go to school. None of the blocks
involved crossing heavy, heavily trafficked streets. And ironically
I was hit by an automobile on one of those less heavily trafficked streets
that very same year.
Q: My goodness.
A: Nothing much happened.
The van was not going very fast and I was not injured at all really.
But it does seem ironic that they moved to avoid traffic and in the
place that had less traffic I actually should be struck by an automobile.
So I started in the local, parochial school. We lived in St. Mary's
Parish and it had a school of its own. It had at that time eight grades
but before I was out of sixth grade, they had high school. So I went
for all twelve years to that school. And when I was graduated, I went
as a commuter from Royal Oak to the University of Detroit, which was
about six-and-a-half miles away. But easily reachable by public transportation
and that is something I cannot say about most other places I've attended.
So I went to the University of Detroit for three years and then I entered
Q: What, what made you
enter the convent? Was it because of your religious education, your education
_____ your religious background or some personal decision?
A: Well certainly
a personal decision. I'd- I don't know any way that I could describe
it. Except that the sisters who taught in St. Mary's school were sisters
who had taught my mother. And from the time I started first grade, I
suppose I never really had any mental picture of myself as being anything
but a sister. I tried on various occasions to think of myself as being
a librarian or a teacher without a habit or a lawyer - I tried that
when I first went to college, but it just never worked. I never could
get any clear mental picture of myself as anything but a sister.
Q: I see. Well would
you describe your religious order. What--
A: Yes. The sisters
who taught in that school and the congregation I belonged to are Dominican
Sisters. And their headquarters is in Adrian, Michigan which is about
seventy-five miles a little southwest of Detroit. They had at the time
I entered the convent an academy - that was where my mother had gone
to school and a college. So while I was a young sister, what we call
a novice, I finished my education. I finished my Bachelor's Degree at
that college. And I did years ___ student teaching, I suppose one would
call it now until the rest of my novitiate year. And then I was sent
by my religious congregation to Catholic University to get a Master's
Degree. I don't know whether that answers the question you were asking
about the congregation. I don't know whether you want more background
on the Dominican Order or not.
Q: Yes, I think I would
like a little bit more background about what the order is and this mission.
A: Well, the order
was founded in 1216 by Dominic (sic) de Guzman, a Spaniard. Mostly,
by way of encouraging the education and preparation of priests to fight
off the Albigensian heresy, a heresy that as you may recall teaches
that everything corporeal is evil and only things that are spiritual
are good. So the Albigensians taught what was basically a destructive
kind of doctrine. It was against society, against the family, marriage,
having children, procreation - all that sort of thing was just automatically
evil according to the Abgensians because it involves bodies. The only
thing that's any good was what involves souls. Dominic thought this
was a pernicious doctrine and he founded an order that was intended
to prepare people with university educations. He was himself very well
educated. And he knew that in order to fight the Albigensians, he'd
have to have men who were very well educated. So we got approval, church
approval for the order in 1216, but even before that time, ten years
before in fact, he had come across a number of Albigensian ladies who
believed that there was something wrong with the doctrine and asked
him if there were some way that they could at least support in prayerful
fashion the kind of crusade he was beginning to mount against the Albigensians.
So in actuality he founded a convent of women ten years before he founded
the order of men. Now, from the time he founded those women, until about
1806, women Dominicans lived in monasteries. That is, they lived cloistered
lives. They went into the convent and they stayed there forever. They--they
supported themselves in various fashions. Some of them had titles to
property, and the property would come with them and help to support
the convent, but they could also make vestments or illuminate manuscripts
or later on do some kinds of things that would help churches, various
churches and, in that way, they could--they could keep these little
what they thought of as little citadels of prayer going. But after the
Napoleonic expropriation of land and the dismissal-- the opening up
of convent doors and the dismissal of the nuns because they were regarded
as undesirable, you know, an encumbrance on the territory. If the government
was taking over the territory then, then the government had no reason
to keep people in convents. So nuns, and they were called nuns because
they were cloistered and had solemn profession of vows, those nuns were
forced to leave the convents and find some other way to live. So between
the beginning of the nineteenth century and just after the middle of
it, more and more nuns were either bringing young people into their
convents where they could teach them. Especially small children, they
were not trying to do advanced education. But--or else they were having
to leave the convents and find some other way to live. Now the only
way they could live was to get some different kind of recognition by
the church. And they got recognition as third order Dominicans. The
first order is the men, the second order is the cloistered nun, the
third order is either non-cloistered religious women, properly called
sisters not nuns, and lay-people who want to affiliate themselves with
the order and agree to do certain kinds of good works, let's say, or
to engage in certain kinds of prayer. And that division of the Dominican
Order into three parts is still true. The congregation that I belonged
to was originally founded as a cloister. It was founded by the migration
of four German nuns from ______ Regensburg to New York just after the
middle of the nineteenth century. They came at the request of a Benedictine
priest who wanted people to begin to teach in parochial schools. But
from the time those women came until about twenty-five or so years later,
they still followed the European model of bringing extras into the cloister.
Then one day, this is a legend in my own religious congregation, the
youngsters were out on the playground and one of them fell and hurt
himself and one of the sisters ran out of the cloister to take care
of the youngster. She did not take the time to change her white habit.
We wore white habits and put on a little black suit that the sisters
wore when they went out to shop because they were not supposed to wear
their white habits out of the cloister. She didn't stop to do that.
She just went out to take care of the youngster and then that evening
or within the next few days, there was a whole rethinking of, "Well,
we're teaching these children in white habits in a classroom, why are
we so concerned about wearing something black to go out on the playground?"
And with that whole episode as a kind of catalyst, the congregations
gradually began to understand that they could move out of the cloister
and they could be satisfied with taking simple but perpetual vows. The
difference between simple and solemn vows really is the way church receives
them. It has nothing to do with what people say. The formula is the
same. The formula for Dominicans has been the same for seven hundred
and fifty years. It is a very simple formula. So the transition came
about by reason of the kind of work the sisters were engaged in doing.
Now that particular sister was one of the people who was sent from New
York to Michigan as one of the first to do something, in our case it
was originally to run an old people's home. But that was a self-defeating
project because it was one of those situations in which old people had
been told that if they would bring a hundred dollars, they would be
taken care of for the rest of their lives. Sometimes that might mean
twenty or thirty years, and a hundred dollars would not really support
them. So we began to go out to teach in parishes and to begin to teach
on the same property where the old people's home had been. It was called
Little House in the Cornfield. And when I entered the convent, that
sister who had run out on the playground to take care of the youngster
was still a member of our congregation. She was by then I suppose in
her late eighties. But there was a kind of link there with that old
way of doing things. I might add by the way that our congregation was
not (coughs) excuse me, the only one that was begun from New York. There
are forty-three separate congregations of women Dominicans in the United
States alone. And they all stem from some kind of European foundation,
either directly or indirectly.
Q: I see. What you're
saying is you didn't - you actually lived in a convent that was not exactly
A: I did, or the other
Q: No, yourself. We're
talking about yourself.
A: Well when I entered
I guess that's a technical phrase too. To enter the convent is to become
a religious. If I say to you, you matriculate as a student, you know
what that means.
A: Now entering the
convent is matriculating as a religious woman. It does not strictly
speaking, mean that you go into a building called a convent. It did
used to mean that when I entered, but that's not necessarily the way
things go now. There are a great many changes that have taken place
within the last fifteen or twenty years. And most young women would
not refer to their coming into some kind of affiliation with the religious
group as entering a convent anymore. That's an old line phrase.
Q: So the modern world
is affecting the church and how it runs or how it administers itself,
is causing the church to make changes in regard to the so called progress.
A: I don't know whether
that's the way I would put it at all. The church is in the world and
no matter what old line separations between the church and the world
-- it's kind of an Albigensian thing, you know, to say here's the church
and there's the world.
Q: Umm Hmm.
A: That cannot be.
The church is made up of human beings, so it's made up of bodies as
well as souls. And the church is made up of human beings who have to
earn their living. So that the kind of thing that a person does by way
of profession or avocation or job or what have you, has something to
do with the church and always has had something to do with the church.
It -- it's impossible to make that dichotomy that you're suggesting.
Therefore the church has always either had to be influenced by the society
out of which it draws its members or it has had to influence the society
out of which it draws its members. And I suppose you could say that
the problem really is to maintain some kind of equilibrium between the
claims of civil society and spiritual society on a person. Of course
there's always the economic reality that the church has to be supported
too. There has to be some way for the church to recognize that in its
official service, the clergy, the ministers, the priests, the sisters,
whatever, the need --- the basic needs for food, clothing and shelter
are not lost because one decides to become a priest or a deacon, or
a brother, or a minister, or a sister, or what have you. I don't whether
that makes it any clearer or not.
Q: What I'm getting
at is that, was that for persons who are not part -- who do not belong
to the Catholic church. They see cert-- they believe that certain ideas,
certain things that the church believes and follows along with have become
our day to day society, such as priests becoming married. Many people
question a priest counseling a couple, and here's a man who has never
been married, but he's offering advice and counseling to a couple who
A: I've never taken
drugs, but I have no hesitation at all in speaking to a student or anyone
else who comes to me and says I've got a problem with drugs or alcohol,
or petty theft, or anything else. I, I think that the argument that
you mentioned has been used for centuries. But I'm not sure that it
has a great deal of validity. I think that the basic factor which is
common to the priest and the married couple, or the potentially married
couple that he is counseling, is humanity. They're both human beings.
Q: Umm Hmm.
A: For him to say
from some kind of position on Mount Olympus, "well I have never
had any attraction toward a woman and therefore I don't really know
what you're talking about", would probably be to belie the reality.
Q: And so you're saying
that the church necessarily not being forced to change because of society
but it's still able to function as it has functioned, offering help and
assistance to human being souls, regardless of technological progress.
A: Any kind of progress.
Q: Any type of progress?
A: Umm Hmm. For one
thing, the church has encouraged all kinds of progress. Now I know that
-- I can tell by the expression on your face -- that things are coming
to your mind about, for example, the trial of Galileo.
A: Or something of
that kind. Uh, that does not -- what I said does not mean that every
churchman has always encouraged what we now perceive to be progress.
He may not have encouraged what we now perceive to be progress, because
he did not understand that it was progress. Or he may not have encouraged
it for some other much less worthy reason, like this is going to interfere
with a particular program I have, or it's going to interfere with my
livelihood. Or it's going to lose me the favor of the local Lord who
is not going to like the fact that Galileo says this as a possibility
of affecting some other thing he has going for him. All -- remember
that I said that the common factor is humanity. And so the fallibility,
the proneness of a person to give in to one or other weakness is not
going to be canceled out because he takes vows, is ordained or any thing
else. He is a human being. She's a human being. It would be entirely
appropriate for me to say, for example, that I found when I first became
a sister, and I have continued to find since I have been a sister any
number of women who have this or that or the other weakness, or defect.
And I'm sure they could say the same about me.
Q: I'm not trying to
imply that the--
A: No. I'm not saying
you are. I'm saying that I think that in this conversation what we have
to recognize is that if we are going to talk about religious life, or
the life of the church, we do have to remember that the members of the
church are human beings - they are not, therefore, perfect. They are
on a road which it is to be hoped will lead to perfection.
Q: Okay. But not just
for them, not just for them.
A: For all the people
that they deal with.
Q: All they deal with.
A: Umm Hmm.
Q: I have spoken with
persons who are nuns and they have told me of experiences such as living
the life in convents, such as having to walk on the far side of the wall
as superiors come with head bowed, and that sort of thing. Have you had
to deal with this?
Q: Or did you have any
experiences such as that?
A: No, I've never
had that particular experience but I think I might point out that the
Dominican order has a particular reputation. It was the first order
to grant the right to elect superiors. So that the fathers have always
elected their own superiors. The sisters and the nuns came to that recognition
much later. We don't even use the term anymore.
Q: Which term is that?
Q: You do not?
A: Hmm umm. We don't
use it at all. We don't even speak of a sister as being in charge of
a house or a convent. If there is anybody who has to be the official
spokesperson, or the official representative from the point of view
of the church, or the point of view of civil society, she might be called
the coordinator but she does not automatically command any greater respect
or evidence of respect than anyone else. And in my own congregation
even the -- we, we had for a long period of time in the United States
the use of the term "Mother", as, as the way to address the
person in charge. Like the person in Adrian who was in charge of all
the sisters wherever they were, was called Mother. No other sister was
ever called Mother. And we have abolished that title. The sister who
is in charge of all the sisters, Adrian sisters wherever they are is,
is called Sister. The same as the rest of us are. Only most of us don't
bother using the term "sister" anymore. We're -- we just call
each other by our first names, the way real sisters would.
Q: That seems to me
an evidence of acknowledging the tendency in the world today to do away
with titles, or, or of a sort of equality of everything, of everyone within
A: I think that's
a legitimate inference, but I think that you're ignoring the inference
that you could also draw from the fact that the order was established
to begin with, with equal rights of all persons to elect the -- the
person to be in charge. So that you could say that it's a kind of happy
combination of going back to an original spirit of democracy and bringing
it into harmony with current usage. And I really think that that's the
way most of us feel about it. We are not saying oh well since Vatican
Two with all the windows open and the fresh air let in as John the 23rd
said he would like to do we are starting over again. We are saying way
back there, there was that tradition and it's too bad that we let other
things overlie it. Now let's bring that tradition up and put it in harmony
with current usage, with current -- current terminology.
Q: Have you had any
-- have you undertaken any major trips, Doctor, any major travels? Not
just relat -- in relation with the church, but yourself as a person?
A: I don't really
know how to answer that. I -- I taught at a college for women in Miami
for three years. And in the course of that time, I was asked, this was
back when sisters were still supposed to travel in two's -- that requirement
has been updated too, shall we say.
A: I was asked by
a sister who was planning a trip to Europe if I would go with her and
however many people we could get to go. Because this sister wanted to
people who would benefit from a music and drama festival tour. So I
did have three weeks in Europe on that trip. Now, I don't know whether
you would regard that as church-related or not. If you mean have I done
traveling on my own initiative without any kind of thought in mind except
sheer pleasure, I don't suppose I've ever done that.
Q: So -- so all your
travels have been in regards to church activity.
A: No, well not --
see that's not strictly speaking too -- true. Our congregation was one
of a relatively small number in the United States that used to provide
for a one week stay at home every three years for a sister. Now that's
not much vacation time and we have expanded that now. So that now it's
up to us, in terms of our local situation to determine how much time
we can spend and how much money we can spend on an individual vacation.
So I guess the closest thing I could come to that is to say that I --
I have twice in the course of the past seven years, decided that I needed
a vacation, and that I had enough money accumulated to do something.
So I went to California and visited a friend in California. That was
a sheer vacation. But part of the reason I went was not just for my
own pleasure but because I believed that she needed to have a visit.
Just as last summer I went to New York for three days but that was partly
because a friend of mind had called and said "I really feel the
need to get away, but I don't want to go to New York alone, will you
come with me." I, I don't know any -- I, I don't -- maybe I'm not
really getting the full implication of what it is you're asking. And
I think that there may be a confusion here. I don't feel -- see I don't
feel that any of those home visits that I took were for my benefit alone.
They were to bring me into contact with my family, which lived at a
great distance. I've never lived close enough to my family to have the
kind of visits that many sisters found just commonplace. Where they
-- they lived in the same state, or they lived on the other side of
the same city, and they could go back and forth. The families could
go back and forth. At that point we could not go back and forth. Now
we can. We can go anywhere. But at that point the families had to come,
except for this one week every three years. So I don't know that I would
regard that as, as something done on my own initiative for my own pleasure.
And I don't mean to condemn it. I just think it never occurred to me.
I do know one thing though, maybe this would answer your question, at
the time that this friend and I agreed to go to New York, I had reached
the conclusion that I needed a vacation and that if she had changed
her mind, I was going to go to New York anyway. So maybe that would
be the closest.
Q: What was your impression
of New York?
A: Oh, I loved it.
I always love it.
Q: You did not find
New York frightening in some ways?
A: Oh no, umm mm,
not at all. It's one of the few places that I know of where I don't
feel much apprehension about walking down the streets at night. Now
I'm not walking down back streets, dark streets.
Q: I understand, yes.
A: Or through Central
Park, I don't mean that. But the kind of thing I'm thinking of is the
difference between an ordinary street in Washington, D.C. where I lived
for twenty-three years, and Georgetown where the streets are brightly
lighted at night, and people are coming and going at all hours and nobody
finds anything to be fearful of because the place is just so full of
very friendly people, just circulating as though it's broad day light,
and that's the way the areas in New York that I'm referring to affect
Q: And you find New
York City and Washington D.C. friendly?
A: Umm Hmm. Very friendly.
Well, I lived in Washington and Washington was the first place in my
life where someone explained to me how the streets are laid out and
I cannot get lost in Washington. I know tour motorists tell me it's
very easy to get lost in Washington. I do not find that true because
I am not a motorist, I'm a pedestrian. And I know how the streets are
laid out and I know that within a very short time I can find exactly
where I am and go from there to where I might be living or staying or
whatever. And it's the same way with New York. They're so logical, they're
just so beautifully laid out in terms of logic. I, I love them for that
and then I love them for all the variety that they offer. London is
something like that. I found London fascinating in the same way. That
was part of my music and festival tour. We spent about three and a half
days in London and I loved it.
Q: What period of time
was this that you were in London?
A: 1966. August.
Q: Umm Hmm. And you
also find London enchanting, friendly?
A: Yes, yes. More
friendly than many other places where if one stops a person on a street
and asks for directions, he will turn and walk a block or block and
a half to be sure that one makes the right turning. That's unusual.
I did not find that in the other places that we went. I found them fascinating
for other reasons. I think it's fascinating to see the same style and
type of architecture in Paris and in London, but to get an entirely
different impression because the quality of the life is different. The
color is different. So that the same stone shows up differently.
Q: In working on your
Ph.D. did you encounter any difficulties in reconciling your -- your religious
role with a more worldly role? Did you -- were there any difficulties
or did you receive a full and unqualified support of your religious order?
A: They sent me to
get a Ph.D. When I finished my master's degree in a year and they sent
-- they sent me back and said, "Get a Ph.D." So they certainly
offered me every encouragement to get as much graduate education as
I could. And after I went back to the same university to teach -- this
is all Catholic University in Washington -- they told me that it might
be desirable in the future for me to get additional education and they
would like me to get some Education credits. And when I got about 25
or 26 graduate credits in Higher Education -- Organization and Administration
in Higher Education -- while I was teaching at the graduate level at
-- in Washington. And then later on there was a request to our congregation
and a number of others from the Canon Law Society of America to send
sisters to get some education in Canon Law, so they sent me. And by
that time they should have not been sending me, they should have been
asking me if I were willing to go.
Q: They were sending?
They were not asking you at all, they were just --
A: That's right. But
by the time they got around to this, they were sup -- really were supposed
to be asking me, and I did point that out to them, but they said did
I have any rooted objection and I said no, I would be very happy to
go. Only I did not want to go to Dallas which was where they wanted
to send me because I had planned that summer to visit an aunt in the
San Francisco area. And they said well that's very simple, there's another
program in San Francisco, so go to the University of San Francisco.
That was fine because I could visit my aunt--
A: --and I could go
back and forth to her on weekends. And I could go to the University
of San Francisco which I did for two summers. So I got about thirty-eight
or thirty-nine hours of graduate education beyond the doctorate and
in addition to that I have two research fellowships, one at Yale Law
School and one at Johns Hopkins University in American History. Those
decisions to go to Yale and to go to Johns Hopkins were my own decisions.
I had, there was enough money available because I was at a college that
the trustees - who were the general counsel in my congregation, the
sisters in charge of the congregation - they had decided to close it
and there was some money that had not been used. It had been budgeted
for a particular purpose so I was able to use that to go. It was my
decision too because I was the President of the college and therefore
I could determine what was to be done with the money. I don't mean that
I took all the money there was, by the way. I did see that a couple
of other people got money to pursue their educations, but this was,
this was money that had been budgeted for and either people had left
or the programs had faded out before the end of the year. And the same
kind of thing happened the second year when Johns Hopkins -- the Johns
Hopkins fellowship opened up, it was a funded fellowship so I could
simply take it.
Q: Taking into consideration
your education and the background you've had in your field -- you're now
a professor of history--
A: I was a professor
of history before I left Catholic University. I was -- it took me seventeen
years at Catholic University and I taught there for twenty to reach
the full professorship. I began as an instructor at the munificent salary
of twelve hundred dollars a year, I think. No, excuse me, eighteen hundred
because we got a salary raise at the end of my first year and I went
from eighteen hundred to three thousand which I think is fantastic.
However, at the end of twenty years I was making sixty-seven hundred.
And I think that is atrocious.
Q: Yes, it is.
A: But I did earn
the full professorship. I did spend more time, I think this is quite
accurate to say, more time than any other professor, instructor, or
what have you, in the department, teaching. I always had the heaviest
load, I always had the largest number of students, I was in full charge
of the undergraduate program for the entire time that I was there, and
it should be easy enough for you to figure out why I had the heaviest
load and the largest number of students, and why I was in full charge
of the undergraduate program.
Q: Still, taking hours
into consideration, why did you decide to come to Norfolk State College?
A: Well, I didn't
leave Catholic University to come to Norfolk State. I went from Catholic
University to a college for women in Miami at the assignment -- they
were still making assignments then -- of my religious congregation.
And in -- in Miami, I was full professor of history, naturally I would
not take a demotion of any kind. And I was also, within a couple of
months, in charge of the graduate division at Berry College. So I doubled
the size of the graduate division in three years, and at that point,
the people in charge of my congregation came to me and said, "the
college that we founded five years ago in Illinois is in trouble, will
you go and be the president." So I went to be the president with
the understanding that I could recommend whether they should close it
A: I recommended that
they not close it, but they decided that it was too expensive to keep
open. They were -- the congregation was subsidizing it at a rate which
it thought was too high. So they decided that when they closed it they
would have a phase-out year, and I need not stay for the phase-out year.
That's when they said find someplace that you would love to go for a
sabbatical. And that's when I went to Yale. All right, now, I'm a full
professor, and I've been chairman of the graduate division, and I've
been president of a college.
Q: What was the name
of that particular college?
A: Barry, B-A-R-R-Y,
the one in Illinois was St. Dominic College. I go to Yale for a, wha--
for a research fellowship year, and that was a very marvelous year.
I enjoyed it immensely. And I had many contacts with very stimulating
people. And while I was at Yale, the fellowship at Johns Hopkins, for
which I had also applied at the same time, became available for the
next year. So I went to Johns Hopkins. But now remember, all these things
have happened over a period of a good many years, so I am getting no
younger. And I am a full professor.
Q: Umm Hmm.
A: Now in a job market
that in 1969 had four thousand people applying for two-hundred and fifty
jobs, I am not a desirable commodity. I'm too old. How many years can
I give an institution. If I come in at the top level, and I am not going
to settle for coming in at a lower level. It took me too long to earn
Q: That's understandable.
A: I had to write,
I had to research and write and publish twenty-four articles to get
that full professorship. And that was not an easy task because you,
did, you, you, missed what I said before. Why was I the one who taught
the largest number of student? Why was I the one with the heaviest course
load? Why was I the one in full charge of the undergraduate program
in History? Because I was the only woman in the department. No man would
have taken on all those obligations. I will grant that it might have
looked to the people in charge at Catholic University as though it was
a fair deal because the men in the department were married and had families,
and I was not married and had no family. They were not however, aware
of what the domestic problems were in a house that would take care of
forty-five people in which certain kinds of domestic work had to be
done by those of us who own the house, and I was one of them.
Q: Umm Hmm.
A: So, whatever the
men had to do by way of domestic work, I could double or triple. They
didn't have room in their homes for forty-five people. And we had the
laundry, a good part of the cooking, all the cleaning of that house.
All right now: put that together with the fact that I come out of a
full professorship, two top administrative jobs, two research fellowships
at top notch universities and send out a resume. What is a struggling
young college or university department chairman going to say? We can't
afford her. She has too much experience. We can't afford her she has
too high an academic rank. We can't afford her because we are not going
to get our money back. I would have to buy into whatever their program
was in terms of hospitalization, or fringe benefits or what have you
at too high a level. I would not be able to bring that amount of money.
I applied to one-hundred and ten places before I was interviewed for
Norfolk State. In the course of that application, which took place while
I was at Yale and when I was at Johns Hopkins, I was interviewed by
about a dozen places. I was asked not to accept any other place until
the University of Manitoba could draw up a contract. I was unanimously
voted in as the best candidate at the University of South Florida. I
was put up by the department at the University of Texas Arlington for
chairmanship of a department in a second place. Faculty recommended
three, they recommended me as the second highest. Now those were all
possibilities. Manitoba said, "We can't hire anybody except Canadians."
The provincial legislature said so. University of South Florida said,
"We can't hire anybody for a year and a half. The legislature has
cut off all funds." The University of Texas at Arlington said,
"We would prefer that a man, a woman, and a man ranking by the
faculty, should be changed to a man, a man, and a woman. So of course
I had no chance. I negotiated with a religiously oriented and run institution
in New England, almost to the point where it came down to Norfolk State
or the other place. The other place refused absolutely to tell me what
I would be expected to teach and I think that is a totally unbecoming
way to deal with a potential faculty member.
Q: Certainly not professional.
A: I would agree.
And therefore, when I was asked to come here for an interview, I found
the president and the dean and everyone I met in the history department
very congenial, very compatible, it was a matter of seeing colleagues
Q: Umm Hmm.
A: The students that
I met at that point impressed me very favorably. They seemed to me to
be alert and aware of what was going on. I don't mean that I found all
the students on that occasion or at any time since, here or anywhere
all "A plus." Now that's not what I'm saying. But I did find
an awareness and aliveness on the campus. And so when I got an offer,
a firm offer that would pay me one and a half times what the New England
place would pay me, and when the indication was very clear that I would
be fitting into these particular slots, that I would automatically be
accepted as a full professor without any problem at all, it seemed to
me highly desirable that I would come to Norfolk State. And I have not
regretted that decision at all. I think that being at Norfolk State
has opened up all sorts of avenues for me, and I think it's opened up
avenues for students too. So, does that give you an answer to that question?
Q: Yes, it does.
This concludes side
one of the interview with Dr. Klinkhamer. The interview continues on the
other side of this tape.
Q: How has your relationship
been with the students ??? continue to be a good relationship but have
you had any difficulties, especially in recent years?
A: I cannot honestly
say I've had anything that I would describe as a difficulty. The closest
I could come to say that I had difficulty was with a student who was
assigned to me, in what I regard as a rather antiquated way of dealing
with majors. I think that to take a group of students and assign them
to a professor in terms of alphabet is a little ridiculous. Because
what happens is that the advisee comes in and I've never seen him before.
Now in this particular case, the advisee came in and he said he wanted
to take X, Y, and Z courses and I said I think what we need to do is
go over what you have taken and see whether they really do fit into
the curriculum requirements, and he did not like this at all. And became
really incensed and informed me in no uncertain terms that my attitude
was racist, that if I were not white and he were not black we would
not be having this kind of problem. So I said it has absolutely nothing
to do with color, you will find no matter who you go to that the same
kind of requirements are going to be made. So if I see you again, that,
I will say the same thing. Two days later he came back and he said I
found out that what you said was true. So I would like to find out for
this and this and this, but I still think that I'm getting a raw deal.
And I said that's entirely possible, you know, for your particular purposes
this curriculum may not be the best, but I think what you have to do
is give it a chance and then negotiate. The student was at that point
about to begin a second semester of his sophomore year. Now, at the
beginning of the following semester, he signed up for a course which
I designed with a great deal of input from students, called Protest
and Accommodation. And he came into the class and he would not participate.
If we asked anything he would not participate. He would simply shake
his head or indicate that he had no desire to enter into any kind of
conversation. Until finally, one day, a student said to him, "You
make me sick. The rest of us all are sitting here in a circle"
-- that's part of the design of the course -- "and we are all entering
into what it is that we are protesting about, don't you understand that
when you sit there and you don't say anything you're protesting, you're
protesting this class and we've all got to accommodate to you. And I
don't think it's fair unless you tell us what it is you're sitting there
hiding behind your glasses" -- the student wore tinted glasses
-- "you're sitting there hiding behind your glasses, we can't even
tell what your expression is." Well the student said, "I never
thought of that." So, he said, "Well this is how I feel about
what you're talking about," and it was a very much different view
from that of the other students, but very well expressed. And then two
or three days later he volunteered something and then two or three days
later he came in and he wanted to know if he could borrow a book from
my office. I keep in my office all sorts of books and magazine articles
and that sort of thing, that I think will be helpful for the course.
And I had invited the students to come at any time, if there's anyone
in the office, whether I'm there or, or just a student, and help themselves
to these materials. So he came in and he was going through a table of
contents and he said to me what do, what do you think of this. Do you
think that I could use this? And I said strictly speaking you shouldn't.
The course begins in 1890. What you're looking at was written in the
1840's or 50's. It was something from Thoreau. But if you're really
interested and you can relate it to the course, by all means take it.
That student gave me eighteen pages of comment and in the middle of
what he's writing he says, "it's three o'clock in the morning and
I should stop, but I can't." And he went on with an analysis. And
from that point on, that student and I have been the best of friends.
You know, to the point where he will call up and say can I come over
and talk to you at home. I want to bring my little girl to see you,
you should not be waiting out here at the bus stop, I will take you
home. All that kind of thing. That is the most prominent, the most dramatic
thing that I can think of. I remember having a -- some difficulty with
a student, the first year I was here. A -- a girl who I think was really
hyper. I mean I really think there was a -- a perhaps a physical and
certainly a psychological problem
of difficulty in the sense
that she would shout at me from som -- this was in a small theater-type
classroom, so she would be sitting way up in the back and she might
shout at me if she disagreed. But no-- nobody in the class supported
her, so I've never -- I've never felt that that was a real problem.
No, I think that the one problem that I do encounter and that I think
takes up a lot of psychic energy and that I regret terribly is that
students who do not know me, avoid me. And I think that is a result
of the whole situation at Norfolk State. If students have teachers who
are non-black, and you know we have about thirty-five percent of the
faculty which is non-black and they get to know those teachers and they
see that the teachers really are concerned about them and really care
about them, they forget what color the teachers are. When people say
to me how does it feel to teach black students, I have to do a double-take.
I don't remember that they're black. I'm not looking at black faces,
I'm looking at student faces. I'm dealing with student people. Student
personalities. And I would like students to deal with me as a teacher
personality, or I like better as a co-learner personality. Because this
is a partnership that we're in and what I find very difficult is this
feeling, it was much more pronounced by the way at Yale Law School than
it ever has been on this campus, much more pronounced. Black students
-- this is at the beginning of the seventies -- at Yale Law School,
walked on one side of the hall. Like that situation you mentioned to
me in the convent. Only they weren't pulling away because we were the
superior, they were pulling away because they wanted no part of any
kind of connection with whites at all. Now that's that black student
union, black law school student union, kind of mentality that was being
created that was perhaps aggravated because Bobby Seal was on trial
in New Haven that year. There were all kinds of reasons for it. I don't
mean that what happens at Norfolk State is at that intensity, or that
level at all. I don't mean that. It's just that there's a kind of aloofness.
A kind of, I'm not sure you're really there, feeling that I get. And
I don't like that because I've never -- I've never been comfortable
with that with any students, anywhere. I've always liked the idea that
a student could drop in at my office or could call me up or could stop
me on the campus and ask me anything, bring anything to my attention,
tell me about his or -- his new girlfriend, or her new boyfriend, or
the new baby or a -- a problem with illness in the family or anything
of that kind as well as anything connected with academia. And I mind
that. That Norfolk State students with the mix that we have in the faculty,
perhaps do not always get a chance to plug into that mix, so to speak.
They do not get a chance to find the physi-- physicist in the Sari,
the lady from India. Or the Filipino lady in political science, or--
A: Yes, I could, could
mention all the names I'm just deliberately avoiding them. Or the, uh,
or the white man who spent years in Africa with the Job Corps and later
doing research. Or with the Indian gentleman who teaches biology. Or
the Egyptian who teaches business. Those -- we have a cosmopolitan mix
in the faculty, what -- what seems to me to be a highly desirable one,
and I wish that we were able to work out an arrangement by which formally
or informally more of the students could profit from that cosmopolitan
mix, because our students are going out into a cosmopolitan world. They're
not going to stay in Norfolk they're going to be all over the world.
And I'd like them to have had a little bit more personal contact, not
a strictly bookish contact with what they will meet out in the world.
So that would be my one reservation. It's not -- no I -- I have not
encountered -- I've not encountered as much resistance in a classroom
as I -- as I encountered in my first teaching at Catholic University.
And I -- I cannot remember in maybe twenty-five years or more, ever
saying to a student if you can't -- I hate to use the word behave, but
I can't think of anything else right now, if you can't behave better
you're just going to have to leave. I did do that. I threw five kids
out of class in one year at Catholic University. I ha-- I haven't had
anything like that, or any, any kind of situation that demanded that.
And I don't mean that's because the students adopt my point of view,
and I don't want them to. What I --what I like to have them do is understand
these are facts, we can't quibble with those. These are my opinions
and if they -- they do not set comfortably with you, then all I ask
is that you pay attention to them respectfully and I will try to the
same with yours and if we can't resolve them, all right then we'll just
recognize that they're in the realm of opinion. And we're each entitled
to ours. I'm not saying by the way that I am sure that I live up to
that high ideal, but that is the kind of thing that I think happens.
See, I think, by the way, that since I mentioned throwing five kids
out of class at Catholic University, I should also say that that was
back in the days when I wore a habit and I think a lot of the youngsters
who objected to what I was doing, objected in terms of, "Oh, this
is just another one of those sisters and I've had 'em all my life."
In fact I rode on a bus one time in Washington where I overheard two
students who were sitting ahead of me saying, "My gosh, I went
to parochial school all my life I had nuns all the time, I always had
nuns, I get here and I've got a nun for English and I've got a nun for
History," and I almost said, "She's sitting right behind you,"
but I didn't.
Q: What does the future
hold for you, Doctor? You think. Will you continue to teach at Norfolk
State or do you have other goals in mind for yourself?
A: Oh I -- I have
no plan to leave Norfolk State. I -- I -- I like one of the thing --
I mentioned that course, Protest and Accommodation. The college has
encouraged me to design courses, so that course went from a one-semester
to a two-semester course and I had the opportunity to work for two summers
in curriculum development on that. I also had the opportunity to design
another course called Ideas and Their Influence. And while I'm not sure
that that should be expanded I would be willing to spend some time doing
that if the opportunity offered. And I, I'd think that the college has
been very supportive of that kind of thing. So I have, you know I would
have no -- I would have no reason to believe that I should look for
someplace else. I like living in Norfolk, I like the fact that where
I have lived in Norfolk has offered me opportunities to work with parishes,
local church congregations, and I never had that kind of opportunity
in my life before 'cause I always lived in a house that belonged to
my own congregation where we had chaplains and we never worked with
parishes at all. So now I'm getting a whole new perspective on all kinds
of things. Family lives, economic obligations, the transiency of the
military component of the Norfolk population; and I'm also getting opportunities
to use all the skills and experiences and talents that I brought to
this area in church situations where they were never used before. I,
I cannot imagine not teaching, but I do know that retirement will come,
you know. So I would think that probably I -- I would have in the course
of the next four years, to come to some kind of decision about, "Do
I need some specific kinds of training that would help me to work into
a parish situation after I would no longer be regarded as a great asset
in a -- on a college campus." I don't know that I'm regarded as
a great asset now. But sixty-five is a kind of generally recognized
retirement age. I'm glad that there's a federal regulation that says
we don't have to live up to that, but there are certain state regulations
that still have to be contended with. And as far as I know they -- the
state retirement plan and, well, entire orientation of the educational
policies of the state look toward retirement between sixty-five and
seventy. At -- at that point, if I have enough energy left, I would
like to be able to fit into a more specifically church situation where
I could work with congregations in areas where they could use my skills.
I think my greatest problem there is I can't find any one skill or experience
or talent that would be worth the full-time support of the congregation.
It would have to be some kind of a package deal and I guess what I'm
-- what I need to investigate is how could I put what I have into a
package that would have some kind of appeal. 'Cause unlike the stereotype
that most people have of religious women, I have never taught religion
as such, except the one year that I taught high school. I was not trained
to teach religion, none of my graduate work has been in religion per
se, and most parishes these days, if they want sisters, want sisters
who can teach religion, and I can't. So maybe I would have to go back
to school and learn how to teach religion. And I really don't want to
do that. I'd really like to learn theology, and I would not mind at
all doing adult education in theology, but if it comes to teaching religion
to youngsters right on up through high school or early college, I don't
think that I've got the qualifications, so I think I would not go that
way. I would go some other way.
Q: You are satisfied
with your life? Looking back over your life you --
A: I would not change
A: Well, I can only
say that there are -- that I have -- I have made mistakes--
Q: Yes, we all do.
A: --that I wish I
hadn't made, but I think that if I have not actually arrived at an understanding
of what good has come out of recognizing that there were those mistakes,
I am moving in the direction of being able to put it into some kind
of meaningful whole. It, it was not -- it was not perhaps the most diplomatic
thing for me on one occasion to say in a staff meeting, "If you
cannot change your particular approach to that particular problem, I
think I should have your resignation." I think I might have handled
that much more diplomatically. But an occasion rose later for me not
to apologize for that because I- I- I -- the only thing I could apologize
for was the choice of words. But to make that person, to hold that person
up before a group of seventy or eighty people as a kind of authority
in a particular field and that -- that from my point of view and I think
from hers, more than made up for the lack of diplomacy, the lack of
tact earlier. And I think that I had moved to the point where I -- where
I could say, you know, in effect, you deserve respect for this and this
and this. You simply were thrust into a situation where you couldn't
handle a kind of responsibility and what I should have done in the earlier
case was say, "Let's just sit down one to one and talk this through.
And I think you will see that you do not belong in that slot. I didn't
put you in the slot, somebody else did and now you're hanging onto the
slot because the slot represents security. What you need to hang onto
is your own personhood. That's the only security you have." And
I think that is probably the kind of lesson I'm learning, myself. I
don't find it easy to move. I moved four times in three years. Physically
I find that horrendous, you know, I dislike that kind of thing. And
I think that what I really -- what I really find is that -- it's not
just physically moving furniture, books and all of that kind of thing.
It's changing into a situation in which I have to do the human struggle
all over again to get accepted as a human being. So my only security
is my own personhood. If I don't know that there must be something worthwhile
about me or I wouldn't exist, then I hang onto a slot because it's easier,
it's more comfortable. I become a barnacle, hanging onto the piling,
pulling up a dock, rather than developing. And so I just get crusted
over with all sorts of things and I think that's -- that's a way I have
to look at myself; and also to recognize that no matter where I am,
other people are at some different point. Their timing, their rhythm
and so forth are not the same as mine. What we have to -- it's a --
my favorite simile here is the Gulf Stream. If you get up high enough,
you can see the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, it's a different color,
but it's not a uniform color. Within the Gulf Stream, there are all
sorts of little streams of other colors. And the Gulf Stream unites
them somehow so that they -- all the little streams are all converging
on one point. And I think that's the kind of -- of thing. I think that's
the kind of challenge Norfolk State offers me. To go into a classroom
with thirty-five to seventy-five students -- and I've had as many as
seventy-five -- and find them all at different -- at all -- all in their
own little currents in, in a stream and to try to bring them into some
kind of harmony with each other and with me, and then with the total
campus. I think that's a tremendous challenge and I welcome that. But
I'm also more and more aware that letting go and -- and admitting that
this is a stream and that we are all moving involves moving away from
that barnacle-like existence, clinging to something that's known. It's
the constant challenge of--
A: --diving deeper
into the unfamiliar that is very much a part of my life now. And I'm
very glad. I think that's the kind of thing that keeps people resilient
and flexible. I'm not sure young is the right word to use because it
might have a connotation of immature and I hope we're not that. But
that resilience, that flexibility comes from being so secure in one's
own personhood and in where that personhood came from. I said a minute
ago and you looked a little skeptical, I know I'm valuable because I
exist. Well that really needs another dimension. I exist because I was
created and God didn't have to create me. He created me because He loved
me, He loved me first and then I am. And therefore, as I am -- as I
develop my existence, I have to realize that it's in terms of His love.
There's something lovable here even if I can't find it, you know. So
that's what I mean by saying being secure in my personhood. And therefore,
letting go of all of these artificial things. You now this is a nice
desk. A nice, firm, solid desk. And those are good books. But if the
desk burns up and the books are all ripped off and nothing is left here
when I come to the campus the next time, I'm still me. A lovable person.
And I can bring that personhood and that lovable-ness somehow or other
to what I teach or to what I counsel or to what I edit or to whatever
happens to me.
Q: Doctor Klinkhamer,
thank you very much.
A: You're very welcome.
It's a joy to have a former student come back like this.
THIS CONCLUDES THE INTERVIEW
WITH DR KLINKHAMER.
THERE IS A RESTRICTION ON THIS TAPE OR ANY FUTURE TRANSCRIPTS MADE OF
NO QUOTATIONS ARE TO BE MADE FROM THE TAPE OR TRANSCRIPT OF THIS INTERVIEW,
WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF DR. KLINKHAMER.
TOTAL TIME LENGTH OF
THE INTERVIEW IS ONE HOUR, NINE MINUTES.