Partial Transcript: Well, tell me a little bit more about your initial impression of the campus and about what kind of
Segment Synopsis: Singletary describes his initial impressions of WC and the Consolidated System, including his interactions with administrators such as William C. "Bill" Friday, president of the Consolidated System.
WL: William Link and the date is November 9, 1989. I'm in Lexington, Kentucky,at the office of Dr. Otis Singletary. Why don't we start just by exploring a little bit about the background of what brought you to - well, what became UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. I guess, at that point it was called Woman's College [of the University of North Carolina].
OS: Well, I was - I had been since 1954 a member of the history department atthe University of Texas at Austin, and during my time there had been drawn into some of what I called quasi-administrative work with Harry Ransom who was (in my time) dean of arts and sciences, then president and ultimately chancellor of the system. And he and I became very good friends, and I was seen, I guess, as sort of his young [unclear]. So I had had some administrative experience. I ran the 1:00Plan II program, which was the honors program at the university at that time, and had been the associate dean of the college of arts and sciences at this time, and was teaching a full-teaching load and doing those things that a non-tenured, and even tenured, faculty members better do if he means to do well. So I received a grant from the Carnegie Foundation [for the Advancement of Teaching]. The man who would later become such a popular writer, John Gardner, was the president of Carnegie Corporation in New York. And he invited me up there when I was at Texas to come have lunch [laughs] in New York. And I went. And he offered me a - he said that every now and then they invested some dollars 2:00in relatively young people who appeared to be good bets for university administration. And what he did was fundamentally offered me an opportunity to have a leave of absence from Texas in which they would continue my base salary. Carnegie, then, would pick up all the expenses of travel and everything else. I could go anywhere I wanted to in the U.S., visit whatever campuses I wanted to. The idea being that they wanted to broaden my vision about things. They wanted me to see how things were done in places other than Texas or wherever one happened to be. It was a wonderful experience.
WL: It's unusual.
OS: Yes, it was. I plotted out three swings: one in the Southeast to visitcampuses and institutions, one in the Northeast where the Brahmins [New England families which claim hereditary descent from the founding English Protestants] are and then one out in the West, just sort of at random. But I wanted to see 3:00the sectional differences as well. And so that's what put me out there and was my first contact. The first visit I made under the Carnegie grant was to go to [The University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill and visit with [President] Bill Friday and look at the consolidated system [Consolidated University of North Carolina]. And so I spent a couple of days in Chapel Hill, and I had about a three-hour session with Bill that last afternoon. I was going on from there to Duke [University] to get the private school look. And so we talked a lot about the system and how it worked, what was wrong with it and what he'd change if he had the ability to do it himself. A very fine meeting. I went on over to Durham, and I got a call from Bill that night after seeing him that afternoon. He said, in effect - and I don't want to make this a direct quote, it's been a long time ago - he said basically, "I don't know why I didn't bring this up to you this afternoon." He said, "You know we're looking for a chancellor at Greensboro, one of our (then) three campuses." He said, "I wonder if you'd be interested." This 4:00was my first day on the new job, so to speak, on my tour. So I told him - I said, "Bill, I've never even been to Greensboro. I don't know anything about it. I have no way to respond to that." But he said, "Well, let me put it to you this way. Would you be willing to talk to us about it? You find out about us, and we find out about you." And I said, "Sure, if that's what you're saying - absolutely." So I went about my way. And in the course, I went on and visited around the country - spent most of the rest of that semester on the road. But I kept getting - Bill is a good detail man. Bill would get you on the telephone every now and then, want to know how things were going. And finally they issued 5:00an official invitation for me to visit Greensboro. I didn't really know much about it. I did that, and it fell into place from there. And I was appointed there just before my fortieth birthday. I was thirty-nine when I took the job at Greensboro. And I thought then, and I still think in retrospect, that it was a very special kind of place. And it was a good place to break in, in a way. It was a part of a good system. It had its own decent history and traditions. It was a good solid place. And it was free of a lot of the things that were the less attractive side of collegiate administration - athletics, for example. No fraternities or sororities - in those days, sororities. There were just a 6:00lot of things about it that I liked. And so I ultimately took it when I had finished. In fact, after they offered me that job, I determined that I was going to take it. I also visited, then, about eight of the best women's colleges I could find, mostly in the Northeast. Although one in New Jersey, Douglass College [founded as the New Jersey College for Women and affiliated with Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey] is the nearest to Greensboro in terms of it being state or publicly supported. And it was a somewhat different decision for me. At any rate, that's how that all came about, I was on the Carnegie grant touring around the country. And I've always thought it was almost 7:00incredible that literally on the first visit out that - I knew that the Carnegie name would help you. I didn't know it would help you that much. [laughs]
WL: Well, tell me a little bit more about your initial impression of the campusand about what kind of place it was faculty-wise.
OS: Well, the views that I had held up remarkably well and still, as I lookback on it, hold up pretty well. So I'll just kind of review what - the big issue for me was to decide whether I was, at that point, willing to go into that kind of institution. And quite obviously - and a lot of people told me this, "If you just want to go into administration, you're in a very good place at the University of Texas to make that move. So don't just jump at anything that comes along and look very carefully." Well, Bill Friday was part of the reason for that. Bill had great tact, good sense, and he and I worked out a very fine 8:00relationship, as it turned out. I never had the kind of problems that the Chapel Hill chancellor always has and the Raleigh chancellor [North Carolina State University] frequently has with the president. As it worked out, the really good working relationship that we started with went all the way through. We never had, to my memory, any kind of confrontational issue. I was very careful to include Bill on every ceremonial occasion on our campus that was important for the symbolism of a consolidated university.
WL: Did he come over frequently?9:00
OS: Yes sir. I invited him always for the first faculty meeting of the year tospeak to the faculty and set great store by that. I think he appreciated that. He always came to commencement ceremonies. Any time we had any kind of distinguished guest or performance or anything, I invited him, Ida [Friday, his wife] and any guest he wanted to bring. And I wanted him to feel that I understood what that relationship between the president and the chancellor was, and I was going to honor my end of it and I wanted him to honor his end of it. And he did. His end of it was that while he was the sort of "chairman of the board" concept - the policies for the university came from the board and the consolidated office - the operation of the campus was a Greensboro matter. So I would say that we maintained that relationship. And I have never had a better academic administrative relationship since. It really held up very well.
WL: How well did Greensboro do, vis-a-vis Chapel Hill or State? Were they - ?
OS: You mean inside the consolidated university?10:00
WL: Yeah, inside the system.
OS: Well, it was the smallest, and because it was historically a women'scollege, it was a different breed of cat. But it had one thing. In those days only a limited number of women could get in Chapel Hill in selected programs. You couldn't just go. And you couldn't go to Raleigh at all. So our part of the consolidated university at Greensboro - Chapel Hill was the great citadel and fortress, and Raleigh was the land grant, ag[riculture]-engineering complex - Greensboro was the women's college, very strong in the humanities, I thought, and in the fine and performing arts. And that was part of my decision to go 11:00there. So let me cut back in. The Bill Friday tie was important to me. I had to feel that since I didn't know much about it, that was a good place to learn, and I was going to have a pretty good pro helping to teach me. And it worked out that way. Some people were critical of Bill. They thought he was too concerned with the newspaper coverage in the state. And some of us thought that he did not take a hard enough line quite often in the legislature [unclear]. I didn't sense that to be true. I thought Bill was very effective with this. He didn't like to do a lot of it himself, but he saw that it was done. And he knew when to show and to run up the flag. The best thing I can say about Bill is that he had 12:00ingrained in him not just the North Carolina way, because he was a native and he understood the people and that kind of thing. He also had picked up some of the Frank [Porter] Graham [former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of North Carolina System president] mystique. He knew about that. He was not innocent or ignorant of that as some people. He was not just - you know, you could make an argument (Some like to) that Bill was not an effective administrator. I never saw - I thought he was very good, as a matter of fact. He was low key. But I think that's what that place probably needed at that time. And I'm sure that he appreciated the fact that, at least in my time there, he had no problems in Greensboro that were visited on him. I shielded him as much as I could from all that. I thought that's what the chancellor was supposed to do. In return for that, when I needed something from him, I could go to him and have a very open, direct conversation, and I could get it or not, depending on what the situation was, and he would tell me why. So we really did - and still 13:00to this day, I get messages from Bill and we talk on the telephone every now and then. But people see him in places, and he asks, "Be sure and go by and tell Otis hello." For a while there, he was - he liked to say, "Well now you know, I got him started." That was his way of - and the truth is, he did. And many of the lessons that I learned about the organization and administration of universities I learned at Greensboro and in Chapel Hill with that board. So, quite obviously, Bill himself was - and while I didn't know it at the time or I only sensed it at the time - I liked the idea of that great big board of the university. We then had a hundred member board or something. It was huge. And 14:00people used to say, "My, that's unwieldy." Of course, it was unwieldy. In fact, it was run by about twelve people. There was an executive committee that did the business of the university. I think the full board maybe met only once a year. But the beauty of that - and I could smell that coming - the beauty of that was that those hundred people were pretty much the movers and shakers in North Carolina. They were - the phrase they liked in those days - they were the establishment. And in plain fact, if you could get them behind you in the university on any single important issue, you could carry the day. There wasn't much to stand in your way out there. That included governors. And I can remember some very direct meetings in governors' offices with members of that board when they were not at all hesitant to say to the governor, "Keep your hands off the university." Well, that's rare. That's really rare. I thought that might have been the secret to the old question that people ask you, "How is it that North 15:00Carolina has had such a good university system. And particularly, how has it been successful in creating that thing that is so difficult to create, which is a first-rate public university?" And they mean Chapel Hill. They weren't talking about Raleigh then; they weren't talking about Greensboro. They were talking about Chapel Hill. And I think that's justified. I'm not quibbling about that. North Carolina, for some reason, created a really distinguished public university. You cut an arc from your old alma mater on down to Texas, there aren't many. I am talking about public universities. UVA [University of Virginia] is hard for me to think of as a public university quite often. It's just - it really is a special case. And I've always said that when you look at 16:00places like South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, the Mississippi schools, Louisiana - you had to go all the way to Austin to find another significant university, really, that had the capability for becoming a first-class institution, a national university. Texas frustrated itself over the years by its flirtations with overt, unambiguous political interference in the university. Now you had a few times in North Carolina where that got tried - the famous speaker ban controversy was one. But I always thought it was - and this is just a theory, but it's worth at least thinking about - I always thought it was that one hundred-member board that did so much to cushion the university system in North Carolina away from daily workings of the political scene.
WL: It kind of covered all political bases so you [unclear].
OS: So I just, I still believe that. It's an arguable proposition. But I liked17:00that board, and I saw them time and again rise to [comments on telephone ringing]. So those two things - The institution itself had some attractions - some that I could sense and some that I couldn't. I knew about its history and its evolution. You can learn those things, you know, from reading the materials and talking to the people. But I can't, I cannot imagine that - first of all, I sensed that that was a very good faculty. And in the main it was. Now some of 18:00them were right good producing scholars as well, although that was not the premium in those days. But they liked that. But they were as attuned to what I call creativity. After all, when I was there you could have taken a course with Randall Jarrell or Peter Taylor [both English faculty], who is now an endowed professor, I think, at UVA. Is Robert Watson still around there in the English department? He was a poet of some promise in those days.
OS: Yeah. And we had a number of people like that coming and going. The premiumwas not on publication, though they liked that. And many of the people did that. [Richard] Dick Bardolph's a good example. Dick Bardolph [history faculty]. I don't know - Dick was sort of a one-book man when I knew him. He had done the one, and I don't know if he ever did anything else. But it was a good book. You bet. There was nothing - I thought Dick, in some ways embodied what I'm about to say. They had good academics and good scholars, who were quite often really superb teachers. They were so old fashioned, they still believed in teaching. How about that? I liked that. And they did. The other thing was - well, I didn't know much about the education of women as opposed to the education of anybody else. They weren't precious there. It wasn't one of those kinds of places. And 19:00what I did sense, as I was really talking to people about going there - the women who were there, some on the faculty, some who were graduates or alumnae - as I talked to them, I was impressed by the fairly consistent theme. Most of those gals who came through that place could get up on their feet and talk and tell you just exactly how it was. They were not shrinking violets, and they were not clinging vines. They had come through a fairly rigorous academic, intellectual experience. And, by gosh, they knew some things. I gather 20:00that old Dr. [Charles] McIver [first president of the institution] set that standard pretty early on. His was a hands-on time, as you know.
WL: There were a lot of women on the faculty then [that had] had been therequite a while?
OS: Yeah, quite a few then. And that's one of the lessons I got free, beforethe movement that came in this county. I had had that experience in Greensboro, and I got to see and know and to value first-rate women in positions of influence and authority and leadership. So when all this stuff came along, as far as I was concerned, that was old hat. So what, - I'd been seeing first-rate women. Well, one of them is still alive there. Mereb Mossman [dean of the college, dean of the faculty, vice chancellor for academic affairs] is still around. And Mereb and I were very close. An inordinate woman in spite of all her problems, physically and otherwise, - just a remarkable woman. But there were a lot of them like that is the point. So I was to later have many occasions to be 21:00grateful for the fact that Woman's College educated me about that before it was a requirement to be educated about that in this county.
WL: What about relations between the chancellor and the faculty? Were there alot of faculty who voiced their opinions? Was there a lot of participation?
OS: Oh sure. Well, the faculty at Greensboro - the administration at Greensborohad gone through some ups and downs. I came in following an acting chancellor who had formerly been the graduate dean at Chapel Hill: [William] Whatley Pierson, grand old man. Whatley's career there at Greensboro was sort of to 22:00preside until they found somebody. He followed Gordon Blackwell. And then prior to Gordon you had the Ed[ward Kidder] Graham, [Jr.] term, which sort of ripped the place apart pretty much. So there were some divisions and fissures.
WL: Still evident then?
OS: Yeah. And some of the participants in the old wars were still around andwere cannonading one another. I didn't find it to be a brow-beating faculty. For example, there was a very keen sense of the faculty's place in the institution. And the whole - I learned there, I learned at Greensboro that whatever else you do, you ought to be aware of the fact that the faculty has in its hands the most important business of the institution - who gets in, who gets out and pretty much what happens to them academically and intellectually while they're there. 23:00I've never seen any reason - I've never seen a better description in my way of what it is a faculty ought to be doing. I liked that about that place. And it is like every other place - you had some who really wanted to administer the place. You always have some of those. And you have a number who are very critical of your administration or anybody else's. It's the academic way. I've never been anywhere where those conditions didn't prevail. But I would say this - after I'd been there a while and got to know people, I felt that I had pretty good, pretty strong support. And I was - there were two or three what I'd call articulate faculty folk who saw themselves as the scourges of the 24:00administration, and I had quite a few clashes with them. But there's no way to avoid that unless you're just going to roll over and play dead. But, in most cases, I think a lot of the faculty people enjoyed seeing them get put down once in a while because at least one of them - I don't need to mention any names - was kind of an obnoxious guy. We had a pretty good shootout early on in the faculty meetings.
WL: The faculty meeting is where you get [unclear]?
OS: Yes. But that's just a minor thing that runs through it. I recognized whenI was looking at it - and this was borne out later as well - that it did have a good set of traditions. It had made a difference in that state. And that old cliche that they used to cling to there, you know, "Educate a man and you 25:00educate a person; educate a woman and you educate a family." Well, a lot of those matriarchs in North Carolina were WC [Woman's College of the University of North Carolina] graduates, a lot of those able women. Susie Sharp was then, I guess, a justice [of the North Carolina Supreme Court-first female]. But just the women - I liked what happened to them there, I think, in terms of human development aside from just their academic or classroom work. [apologizes for ringing telephone]
WL: You mentioned just a few minutes ago about Mereb Mossman. She's a personthat spans a whole lot of history at UNCG.
OS: You bet.
WL: And the remarkable thing about her seemed to be her ability to work with anumber of different chancellors. You mentioned that she worked very well with you. You had a very close relationship.
OS: When I first got there, there were some who tried to weaken her position26:00with me. They really wanted somebody else in the job, and there were some faculty involved in that and some other administrators. The more I saw of her, the better I liked her. The more I realized that she was an important part of the - whatever that basic viscous fluid is that holds an institution together. And she just kept on growing - or I kept growing an appreciation for her - is a better way to put it. [coughs] And I do remember, at the time I left we were 27:00talking about the next chancellor. I had brought [James] Jim Ferguson there, I had recruited him from that tired little school in Jackson, Mississippi, no offense [unclear] Millsaps College. [Singletary received undergraduate degree from Millsaps.] And he was my candidate. But I let it be known to Bill Friday and all of them they owed it to Mereb to look at her. She was good. And that I would certainly not have any reservations about her being in that job. She was a very, very - given the problems in her life, the physical condition and all the other - she had the best disposition of anybody I believe I've ever known. And while she was not good at just saying no directly, she could resist things but she did it in a kind of gracious manner. And a lot of times people didn't quite 28:00know that they were being told no. That was a nice counterpart to my style, as it turned out. I could say yes to people, and make them mad. She could say no to them, and they'd go away happy. So it was a different -
WL: She buffered a little bit.
OS: Yes, she did. I think she did that for everybody she ever worked for. Shehad great dedication for the place and wanted it to be better. [coughs] Mereb is one of those that I'm glad I got to know when I was young.
WL: The university, Woman's College, was going through some major changes whenyou were chancellor. Let's talk a little bit about those. Let's start, perhaps, 29:00with coeducation.
OT: Well, that was the thorniest of all the issues. And scholars would bemistaken to look at that as though it were something that stood on its own merits - that that's all that there was to it. It was part of the larger complex of forces that were at play in North Carolina at that time. I don't think anybody really believed that you ought to make it coeducational because there was something inherently wrong with a women's college. What had happened in North Carolina was that at Raleigh they were moving to create [coughs] an arts and sciences component of some significance that they never had before. And they were going to admit women in as freshmen. And at North Carolina they were expanding the number of - by Carolina, I mean Chapel Hill - at Chapel Hill they were going to open a number of curricula to women as freshmen. What that meant 30:00was that in the old consolidated university, Greensboro's protected turf was being destroyed. The monopoly that we had there was the monopoly on those able women. And a footnote about that is in order. The freshman class at Greensboro was probably a little better than the freshman class at Chapel Hill, if you had not - if you had pulled out the Morehead Scholars program. If you just looked at the kinds of kids they brought in from North Carolina or other places around for that matter, but without subsidy, it was pretty impressive. They had good students and had a tradition. Greensboro was not reluctant to turn people down and did that. So its selectivity, while it was not like the Seven Sisters 31:00[prestigious women's colleges in the Northeast] or anything like that, it was real. And there were a lot of girls who did get turned down at Greensboro. Now what was going to happen - at least my conviction or fear, concern - was that they were going to siphon off at Raleigh and Chapel Hill the very best students we had, and Greensboro was just going to be left to kind of wither. To use - it's more acceptable to talk about the withering away of things, since the state is clearly withering away in Russia. I felt and made my pitch - what you must do (This was my play inside the university and with the legislature.) - you're 32:00taking away our monopoly. And this consolidated system has worked well because each unit had some special things. You're taking away our special thing, and you're not giving us anything. And my position was that you need to give us at Greensboro the performing arts - make this the performing arts center, make it the fine arts center, which means that you would have a strong undergirding of the humanities. This is the one chance we have. If you're going to take away our monopoly, you've got to give us something. Everybody else in the system has a protected terra except us now. Well, most everybody agreed with my logic, but we never could get the vote. My own belief is that the power of Chapel Hill - they were not going to give up anything in the arts. And you could make a good case 33:00that they shouldn't have. But they didn't. And it never came to be. And for whatever it's worth, that was one of the primary factors in my decision to leave Greensboro. I thought what they did then was say, "You can stay here and preside over this place but we're not going to let it do anything special."
WL: Because you saw [unclear] university, part of - not letting, part of theproblem [unclear] -
OS: It wouldn't have mattered.
WL: But would that have [unclear] -
OS: No, I don't think that that would have made it unnecessary. I didn't reallyresist the idea, although in retrospect I think maybe I wish I had. It was part 34:00of the tempo of those times - not the temper but the beat. You know, the men's colleges were becoming coed. The move was on in this country. And while I was never an ardent - for example, I held out a long time for places like Princeton [University] and Washington and Lee [University]. I didn't see anything wrong with having some all-men's or some all-women's schools for those who wanted that. Clearly that battle was lost. But I never really fought that much because it was not a great conviction with me then. I'd never looked at the question of the admission of men as much of a problem because I never thought that it was going to be much of a - at least in the time that I would have known it - coeducational school. And some of what I see happening now - I'm not enamored of 35:00Greensboro's athletics teams. I could have lived without that. One of its glories is it didn't have to fall back on all that. And as they would be quick to tell you here, I'm not anti-athletic. In fact, I am referred to as the jock president.
WL: But you thought that was a disadvantage there?
OS: Well, I just didn't think the institution needed it. It was provingsomething that needed to be proven in this country, and that is that you can have a really first-rate educational institution here, and you can drive over to Raleigh and Chapel Hill if you want to see a football game. [laughs] Who cares.
WL: Was the decision for coeducation - where did it originate? Did it come from [unclear]?
OS: I think some of both. No, I don't think it would be safe to say that it36:00came from campus. If my memory serves me right, I would've said that the greatest resistance came from within our campus, although it was pretty clear that the determination not to go coed at the same time they were taking away your basic protection up there - it appeared to a lot of people, including me, that you were going to drive the place down. And with the rest of the world going coeducational, in a sense that seemed to be one way to bolster it. I remember telling them very clearly that you can go through some phases if you took that route to go coeducational. You're going to have a curious place here for a while in which the males will be in the great minority. It'll take a while to build some plateau where you will have what you like to think of as the coeducational experience. But what is it now, by the way, how's the enrollment?
WL: Well, it's still two-thirds women. And I think that's a major factor in the37:00athletic program [unclear]. You mentioned there was opposition - how did the faculty feel? [unclear]
OS: I think they were divided. I do remember some strong opposition to it. ButI also remember a lot of people thinking it was the thing to do. I don't remember, I don't remember any great battles there over that, but there were feelings about it.
WL: Did you have support from above, from Friday?
OS: Well, not in the final analysis I didn't. I think if I could've gotten Billto understand the importance of something for Greensboro - and I remember I said to him many times, "What you're doing - understand what you're doing. I'm not fighting what you're doing. You're taking something away from us and not from anybody else, and it's a course that's fraught with difficulty for the future." 38:00But my guess is to this day that Bill just simply didn't think it was necessary to take on all the interests of Chapel Hill and Raleigh that he would have had to take on to guarantee Greensboro its place in the sun, as I saw it.
WL: So you were asking - what you wanted Greensboro to have a monopoly in[unclear] -
OS: Give it something that it could excel in, rather than just leave it outthere to sort of shrink or lose its quality.
WL: And in part, that's what has happened. [unclear]
OS: Well, we did have a very fine program in the arts undergirded by, I39:00thought, a very good undergraduate program in the humanities and social sciences. I'm not much of a judge about the sciences, but I've never thought - I didn't think then - that that had made or would make a career out of the reputation of Greensboro.
WL: One of the other changes, of course, from your chancellorship was thesteady but gradual growth of the graduate school and PhD programs.
OS: Well, we had some. And I was - we were doing more work in the master's then- and that was a logical development - and only selective involvement in the PhD programs. We had a really good undergraduate library there. Of course, you 40:00have Chapel Hill, which is not far away. There are ways to overcome. We had a very good interlibrary loan program, as you know. I just didn't think - I did not believe at that time that we ought to be any more involved in doctoral programs than we could justify, based on the strength or concentration of faculty in a particular area. We didn't have the kind of money to go out and build faculties and all that in order to have a doctoral program. John Kennedy [dean of the Graduate School, vice chancellor of graduate studies] - is John Kennedy still around there?
WL: He's retired.
OS: John Kennedy followed Ferguson or vice versa. He followed Ferguson in thegraduate deanship. My mind is not good. I thought that was a good choice, both instances. 41:00
WL: So you were reluctant to [unclear].
OS: Not reluctant. I just didn't have the resources to go build. And Icertainly didn't want to do this: I certainly didn't want to take away from the undergraduate quality at WC in order to build second- or third-rate graduate programs. And that meant go slowly. Develop programs that you can be proud of - that you can stand behind and justify.
OS: Yes. The building that I suspect houses your office was built at that time,42:00and we put the new fine arts complex in. Those high rise dorms were built in my term. And the new infirmary, which is now old, incidentally, and that new physical education complex down there - I say new, you can tell how far out of date I am.
WL: There's another new one there.
OS: Yeah, I know. Sure. Well, life goes on. That was always a pretty goodprogram. [unclear] I don't know whether they still have it there, but we even had - dance was part of the physical education. Is it still true?
OS: That's right unique. You'll look a long way to find that again. That golfcourse - is it still there, or is it filled up with - ?
WL: Part of it is there, but now it's a playing field, soccer and -43:00
OS: That was a nice piece of real estate. I used to use it quite a bit too.
WL: By the time you leave, is the future of the campus clear?
OS: Not clear. By the time I left I think it was clear that it would not bebusiness as usual - that those changing circumstances we talked about meant that some kind of different future was out there, and nobody quite knew. But you could argue and debate what that would be. One thing was certain, it would not be like it was in the old days. And the thrusts - the assimilation of men, the development of more graduate programs, the expansion of the campus - were still more - although enrollment and campus physical projects had been going on all 44:00during my time. There was nothing new about that. It was a growing, burgeoning place. It was growing both in terms of enrollment and in terms of physical facilities. And that wasn't new. I think the only new thing was the largely unanswered question about what is all this going to do for the future of the place. And that was abstract enough that a lot of people didn't care. But there were a lot who did however.
WL: Was it still overwhelmingly female?
OS: Yeah. A few men at first.
WL: Did it create a lot of social problems?
OS: They were a pretty competitive, pampered lot, yeah. I've always thought insome ways that would be a great time to be there. 45:00
WL: Special dorms for them?
OS: Originally, I don't recall whether they set aside a particular dorm orwhether they had enough to even bother about that at first. But you still had the same faculty. You still had basically the same curriculum. You still had the same facilities, everything. There was no dramatic change when they suddenly said, "We're going coeducational." [coughs] And at even this late date, if they have only a third male, then there might have been a better solution than that. That doesn't say that what we will do is keep it a women's college. But we will run some special program for residents in this area - have a particular college or - there were different ways that you could've done that, if they had chosen to. But it was a calculated risk is how I would put it, in order to try and 46:00provide some brighter future for WC that one couldn't see just looking at what was happening there - that coeducation was a part of that psychology. Now people were differ about that. Some may not remember that; I remember that very clearly.
WL: What was the factor that made you leave?
OS: Well, first of all, I had never thought of that as where I would spend the47:00rest of my life. I didn't even know whether I was going to like it. I had enjoyed my teaching career very much at Texas.
OS: - And I went in an inverted promotion [unclear]. I was an assistant - Iwas an instructor for three years and was an assistant professor for two years, an associate professor for one year and was made full professor. My career got inverted, happily for me, in that always in the back of my mind was the idea that I would go back and teach, which I never did. But that thought has accompanied me all the way through - even here. I kept the title of professor 48:00of history. I would not be interested in being president of an institution where I couldn't also be a member of its faculty. But I taught for a while at Greensboro. I actually taught at Greensboro for a while. And I felt then as I feel now - that there is one kind of information you can get about your place by teaching a class that you don't get in committee reports and faculty meetings and past histories. You get a kind of feel and touch about that place. And I guess for - up until the time that I left there on that leave to go up to Washington, DC, I taught the first three or fours years after that of my 49:00six-year stay. It's what I wanted to do. I still believe - I want bright young guys like you to work with those graduate students and let them eat your entrails out with those bad theses and dissertations and all that good stuff. I think there's still a lot to be said for taking a basic survey course in American history or whatever else you're doing and teach that course. And that's one way that you attract students to the significant point that their goddamn history is important to them. And that they ought to understand it - not know it all, but they ought to understand something of who they are and how they got where they are and what many of the forces and influences and institutions were and are that shape their existence and made them. To understand how they got there. It's a sensitivity thing. And I believe that we're appallingly weak in this country in that kind of civic - not civics - civic intelligence. So I 50:00always taught that course and loved it, loved it.
WL: You had a leave to go to Washington to work with - ?
OS: Yes, I went up to - in fact it was right after, I guess, when [PresidentLyndon] Johnson was running in '64, I guess after Kennedy was - he filled out the term, then he ran. The "Lady Bird Special" came to Greensboro, and we built a platform over there. So the train pulled in over by where the old power plant was, by Curry School, back there. And Mrs. Johnson came out and got on the 51:00platform with the official party and talked to all the folks and took off. Anyway, in 1964 I was sitting there in that chancellor's office, and my telephone rang, and it was Sarge Shriver [brother-in-law of President John Kennedy, Democratic activist, founder of Peace Corps]. He said, "Well, Dr. Singletary, we haven't met. I don't know you. My name is [Robert] Sargent Shriver, [Jr.]. I'd like to talk to you." I said, "Well, I know who you are, Mr. Shriver. Get off that kick, I know who you are." Then I said, "What do you want to talk to me about?" He said, "Well, I won't tell you. If I tell you, you won't come." So I said, "Well, that's far too attractive an offer for anybody to turn down." [laughs] So I went up and talked to him. And he wanted someone to come and to create the program called the Job Corps. And it was one of the anti-poverty [programs] still around as you may know - one of the few that's still around. The Job Corps program was that portion of it aimed at the kids. I was never much interested in the poverty programs per se. I don't know what you do about old and infirmed people as a matter of public policy. I don't have a 52:00lot of knowledge about that. I don't know what you do about homeless folk or what you do about drug addicts. I don't have much feel for that, just to be honest. I would have never responded. But I believed then and I believe now that you can take young people, and, through the structured experience, you can alter their lives. I think that's possible. I think you see it all the time on campus. It's subtle here; they don't really know what's happening to them. But, quite honestly, a process is at work on them that I happen to believe is, in the main, positive. It's not all positive. Anyway Shriver and I talked two or three times. 53:00I went back up there two or three times. And what he wanted was somebody to come up there and head that thing. The deal he finally gave me was: here it is, here's a piece of legislation and an appropriation for one hundred fifty million dollars. And here is a desk and a telephone. Come up here and create this thing. Well, I went back and talked with Bill Friday. And the only way I would've done it was if I could have a leave of absence. And that's what we finally agreed to. So I left, like in November of '64, and stayed until January of '66. My deal with Shriver, "I'll come up here. I will help you start this program. And I will help you find somebody to run it. I don't want to stay. I have no interest in that." As I said to him at the time I was leaving - he said, "Are you really going back to North Carolina?" I said, "What you don't understand, Sarge, is that I not only have a better job in North Carolina than I have here, I have a better job in North Carolina than you have here." [laughs] That was my view of that. Anyway Bill and the board gave me a leave of absence, and I went up there. 54:00I came back and stayed from - I came back on January 1. I guess I left that summer. By that time it was clear to me that the new University of North Carolina [unclear]. And my old friend from Texas, the president of the system out there, a man who held a comparable role - his name was Logan Wilson - was once an academic vice president at Chapel Hill under [President] Gordon Gray. He 55:00had become the president of the American Council on Education in Washington. And he wanted me to come up there and be his vice president, which I ultimately did. His view was, "You ought to come here, stay a few years in Washington. You've had the campus experience. You've had the government experience. Come on up here and get a little" - this is the lobbying agency for all of higher education - "come up here and do this for a while. It's a great place to move back to the campus from." I did that and stayed there two years and went back to the University of Texas, which turned out to be a mistake. Wrong time, wrong place, wrong reasons. Stayed there just a year and came here [University of Kentucky], stayed here. I was president here for a long time.
WL: Upon leaving Greensboro, what sort of feelings did you have about your56:00tenure there? Could you identify the main - ?
OS: Very positive. As I look back over it, I took the usual administrativesatisfaction out of the growth of the place. We had just built the new - or had under construction, I guess - the addition to the library. A lot of things had happened that I, - I had all the satisfactions you needed from - the place hadn't gone to pot. It was really doing relatively well in those years. I had great, great tugs at my heart about leaving that place, mainly for the reasons we've already talked about. In spite of the fact that I didn't always persuade Bill to my way of thinking, the relationship was really always very good. I also had developed a number of really good friends on the campus there, people whose performance and whose judgment and all those things were what I valued. They 57:00were really good people. And in a curious kind of way, I guess I never had a better relationship with a student body anywhere.
WL: Did you have direct contact [unclear]?
OS: Quite a lot actually. In fact, it was - one of the curious things - when Itook the temporary leave to go to Washington, they gave me a going away party on my birthday, in October, Halloween, my birthday. They had a huge cake out there on the square back by the fountain at Harriet's - the Harriet Elliott Center, and a couple thousand students out there. So they gave me a nice party with lots of - you know, it was just a very warm kind of - and when I got up to Washington, I guess it was the week before exams. We used to have a kind of dead week. Do you still have that there, a kind of dead week where you don't, where 58:00they kind of study for exams?
WL: They've reduced it to one day.
OS: Well, anyway, I found, I had found up there a South Carolina black man whowas playing the guitar and singing and stuff. And I got him. He had done a song about Job Corps. And I heard about it, and I went over there one night late to hear him and I liked him. So we got him to cut some records that week. We pushed to develop that thing, and we put it in the Job Corps centers around the country. But he and I got to be pretty good friends. He was really a good musician. He was an untrained natural talent. And he'd written a bunch of songs. He had a haunting thing called, "Going Home to Georgia," stuff like that. He was a southern black who was doing pretty well, but was sort of [unclear]. Anyway I decided, with some occasion - I guess it might have been right before exams. I've forgotten whether it was the beginning or the end of the semester or the end of the year - anyway, in those days the chancellor could call a convocation 59:00down in the auditorium. It still held almost everybody [unclear]. And I called a non-mandatory. And I was going home that weekend. So, like on Friday night, I called for a convocation but made sure it was voluntary and not - I brought Ted Brown, that black guy, back down there just to put on a concert for them. I got up and introduced him. I said, "I want you to meet a friend of mine from Washington. Since you gave me a party, I'm going to give you one." So, oh God, it was just - but you know, there was a warmth about it. I still hear from some of the people there, the students. In fact, a wife of a faculty member on this 60:00campus is one of the girls who graduated in Greensboro [unclear]. Those ties are still very meaningful.
WL: Let me ask you [unclear].
OS: Yeah, Greensboro wasn't a place where there was much problem with that,mainly I suspect because women were not as rabid in some places [unclear]. I don't recall any problems there. I really don't.
WL: [unclear] an open door policy?
OS: Sure, absolutely. And I know - of course, this was in the early sixties.And I also don't recall any great numbers of black students there either. But I think, once again, the old question of - if you have admissions standards, you 61:00screen an awful lot of black students out regardless of what your motivation or intent is. You also have the black institution right there in town. And it's hard for a lot of southern progressives to understand that quite frequently they prefer the company of their own in social matters and that their end in life is not to be stuck off in some corner in a white institution somewhere, which they still were in North Carolina. As far as the activities [unclear]. But there was never an incident that I recall having to do with [unclear].
WL: Did the activities in Greensboro affect - the 1963 marches, the riots,62:00Jesse Jackson - did that affect UNCG at all?
OS: Oh yeah. I can't remember seeing many of the - but I think that UNCG playeda more important part earlier. It was not marching in those days. But earlier at the lunch counter [coughs] business, some of our kids were down there and were on the side of the blacks. That's one of the ironies of North Carolina higher education that extends from the Chapel Hill area. One of the great anomalies is that those rednecks out there who don't like a lot of what the institution does can somehow be brought to protect it. That didn't happen in Texas. It doesn't happen here [Kentucky]. It did happen in North Carolina. I still think that's what's great about - I did not favor the move to consolidation in North 63:00Carolina. It didn't matter what I thought about it. I was not a resident or a participant. I don't like the single board. Although if you're going to do it, having the universities' board take it over - but over a period of time it will have a depressing effect on your best institutions. My fear is that, in the long run, Chapel Hill will pay the price because when you get a coordinating governing board with a bunch of institutions, the point is "Let's treat everybody the same." That's a recipe for disaster in higher education. If you treat everybody the same, you don't really get anything good. And we're reluctant in this country to admit that institutions are of varying quality and ought to be. They have different missions and purposes. And if you believe that 64:00and if you're going to support such a system, then you've got to have the wisdom to allocate the resources to do what it is you want them to do. That's hard to come by. That kind of judgment is hard to come by in the so-called democratic marketplace or political marketplace, particularly. For a good university, the argument you've got to make without saying it is, "We need preferential treatment." It's hard to sell preferential treatment in this country.
WL: Presumably UNCG was hurt by this?
OS: I think so. See, I think, if in terms of the quality of its educationalprogram, I would have ranked UNCG ahead of Raleigh in my time. Well, it had a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Raleigh doesn't have one yet. And they ran into trouble with their basketball stuff. But [University of North Carolina at] Charlotte was just a junior college in those days. [coughs] So you siphon off a lot of money. 65:00Over the years Chapel Hill managed somehow to get that kind of treatment - not that they got everything they wanted. But Chapel Hill got what it needed to become an institution of considerable distinction, which I believe it to be. I don't think you can recreate that. You can improve Raleigh and you can improve Greensboro, but you're not going to make another Chapel Hill. You can only have one of those in North Carolina. And some states do not have one at all. The easiest thing in the world to have, Bill - the easiest thing in the world to have is a second-rate public university. And one of the hardest things to have 66:00is a first-rate public university. And that applies to all sections of the country, our part of the country even worse, because of the scattered population [unclear]. But you go out on the West Coast, you have your [University of California-] Berkeleys. But you look at a lot of the state colleges out there and you cut across the Western schools, the desert West, and you don't see much that interests. You go into the Big Ten and you begin to sense that there's some really fine - for example, you could argue that [University of] Michigan has been a great public university for a long time. I wouldn't make that argument for Ohio State [University], though. You go up to New England and the privates - 67:00a reverse history up there. The private institutions there are the tail that wags the educational dog. And that's history. That's part of history. And you go to our part of the country, and you can see a lot of examples of where a considerable amount of money has been spent and not much in the way of quality result.
WL: But in North Carolina they were able to pull it off.
OS: Chapel Hill. It's been an institution of considerable distinction. And I'vethought a little about that for many years. How is - why is it North Carolina was able to pull it off? My theory was the hundred-man board. My other theory was that, hands down, North Carolinians are very pragmatic. Their good sense is reflected in two things - roads and schools. I think that's to their credit. 68:00