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A place in history, 1950s-1960s

Submitted by Dick Manatt from Ames, Iowa, USA
University Professor Emeritus
  • BS History '53, MS Voc. Ed. '56

Before we were a College of Education

In August of 1955 I returned to campus to meet a new professor. Virgil Lagomarcino had just completed his Ph.D. and was a newly minted "Professor of Education." Virgil served as my advisor as I completed a Master of Science in Vocational Education. I was his first graduate student. Licensure, like every thing else, was simpler back then. That one degree got me approved as a counselor, principal, and superintendent! From the very beginning, Virgil talked about some day having a college of education instead of being a department in the College of Agriculture housed on the second floor of Curtiss Hall.

Since I was Virgil's first (and only) graduate advisee, he gave me a lot of attention. No appointment was needed. I simply met him on the ground floor of Curtiss Hall by the rickety old cage elevator and rode up. He would point to the only vacant chair in his office and say "sit." He would read and critique my latest chapter draft while I waited. Today's graduate students will find the quick turnaround amazing.

I left ISU the next spring with the master's to become (in sequence) a teacher, counselor, vice principal, and principal in Oskaloosa, Iowa. My superintendent, Joe Gettys, thought I needed some Iowa River water in my veins, so he encouraged me to spend summers at SUI. Big mistake! The faculty at Iowa discovered I had some talent and gave me an assistantship working in the testing center with money from E.F. Lindquist.

A telephone call from Virgil, now Director of Teacher Education, (and still planning/scheming for that college) told me he had an assistant professorship open that summer 1964. I completed my Ph.D. in the spring of that year and chose ISU over a post-doctorate at Ohio State with UCEA or a superintendency in New Jersey. Much had changed since the last time I was in Curtiss Hall. Iowa State College was now Iowa State University of Science and Technology. Harold Hughes, a Democrat, was now governor. We had liquor by the drink. JFK was assassinated, LBJ was president. An incident in the Gulf of Tonkin foreshadowed the long Viet Nam War. Bob Parks, a strong ally of Virgil Lagomarcino, was Vice President for Academic Affairs and James Hilton was President and talking about an ISU Center.

Some things hadn't changed. The only air-conditioned building on campus was the Union. The Education Department was still on the second floor of Curtiss Hall. Offices had fans, classrooms had windows, some of which opened. Professors were housed two to an office with a wall between them. A foyer-like space across the two professors' area leading to the hallway was for the shared secretary. Each pair of profs also shared a telephone which was installed in a two foot square box with a door in each office covering the phone until you wanted to use it. No long distance call out was the rule. If you opened the door and found the phone missing you knew your office mate was using it! The secretaries did not have a phone. Dictaphones using blue plastic belts were the only office technology.

Secretaries turned over every year or two; most were earning their PHT (Pushed Hubby Through). Ray Bryan, head of the Education Department, held the strong belief that if you kept a secretary longer that two years they acted like they were the bosses! Ray held many strong beliefs, another was that Lagomarcino was too ambitious. Headships were lifetime appointments: a mistake in my opinion. I was happy to see them go out with the telephones in a box.

A visitor from 2006 would be dumbfounded. There was no gender diversity, we were all males, mostly ex-GIs. All but two on the floor smoked. One or two were suspected of nipping from a pint of whisky hidden in their desks but always masked the smell by sucking F&F cough drops. We were a conservative bunch. No parent would ever worry about these profs messing with their kids' heads with liberal nonsense. We had no helicopter parents in those days. Parents only came around at graduation time.

Most of us were young, but experienced. It was policy to hire only those who had public school experience. Our teaching loads were four sections of classes per week. Classes met on MWF or TThS. I began teaching Saturday classes then and never had a Saturday morning open until I retired in 2002. In the early years I taught all of the Education 426 Secondary Methods classes. Curtiss Hall had few classrooms and all of us moved from building to building. The lecture hall in the Vet Med building (with a balcony where the Dean's office is now) was my 426 location. I remember lecturing to over 200 students there while asserting that lecture really wasn't a good technique to use. Our only media were the blackboard and an occasional 16 mm film projector.

I handled most of the school administration teaching load in the early years. Such classes and graduate advising comprised one fourth of my assignment, the rest was teaching undergraduates. Graduate classes were all males. Jokes I used as an Army drill sergeant were generally acceptable. Undergraduate classes had the dismal ratio (for a male student) of nine males to one female. Graduate final orals were tough on nonsmokers. I recall one Ph.D. oral in which five of us smoked pipes while a nonsmoking candidate defended (and choked).

In retrospect, we were well treated in the Agriculture College. Pay raises and promotions recommended by Virgil and Ray were generally accepted by Dean Floyd Andre and his associate, Louis Thompson . Parking was close by and parking permits were cheap. We didn't have Starbucks, but Union coffee was 25 cents and the famous chocolate covered donuts were 20 cents. Nonetheless, we were all happier when Virgil's dream of an education college came true in 1968.

Oh yes, the last class I taught (in 2002) was all women majoring in Educational Administration!