Charles Bowerman (1957-68)
(This is a reminiscence written in 1996 after his retirement from Washington State University and was living on the West Coast. It was in a letter to Glen Elder.)
It was a very thoughtful of you to send me a copy of your notes on the departmental history. It is an excellent summary and hits the high points, as I know and recall them. It is shocking for one to find that he is remembered in terms of “an era”, but it is probably traditional to put a label of some sort on a distinctive period.
I have often thought, with a fond nostalgia, of those fine days of the ‘60s. Things did happen. It was one of those combinations of conditions that is all too rare in academic life. As with many universities, financial resources were unusually plentiful, and money was put into those parts of the university that the administration thought could best use it. We were fortunate to have a strong reputation as one of the leading departments, and this gave us a strong base not only to get financial support, but to attract new faculty and promising students. We were lucky in the quality and type of new faculty we were able to attract. In the process, we were able to re-define and re-structure the focus of the department. A very important factor was the quality of the administration at that time: Aycock and Sitterson as Deans then Chancellors, and Bill Friday as president. I doubt if anyone else in the department knew how intelligent, helpful, and supportive they were in many ways. In all my contacts with administrations of other schools, they and the administration and faculty of other schools and departments stick out way above all others. Finally, I think the most important factor was the departmentally oriented unity of the members of our faculty. Too often, a group of talented individuals focus on promoting their own interests and reputations, and see the department as merely a vehicle for achieving their own ends. Basically, we had the reverse of that. Although there were often wide differences of opinion about academic and departmental matters, issues were thoroughly discussed until some agreement was reached on what was for the best of the department and its future. Everyone worked together congenially and, with families, everyone socialized together. And, as we developed a mature group of graduate students, they became, in an important way, a part of the departmental enterprise. It is very gratifying to me, and I am sure it is to others from that period, that the developments of the ‘60s era formed the basis for the successful continuation of departmental excellence.
Mady and I are fortunate to remain in useable physical condition and are enjoying a fairly active life. We have been able to considerable traveling, which we both enjoy very much. We got back a month ago form a brief trip to Ital, but it was truncated by five days when Mady fell and broke an elbow while in Venice, and we flew home for the operation. The cast is now off and she is back to piano and painting, and we are doing a lot of walking to keep in shape for another trip, hopefully, next spring. France again??