Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John W. Oswald, August 11, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - University of Kentucky presidential inauguration

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Partial Transcript: Dr. Oswald, in yesterday’s sessions we, uh, we got you to Kentucky and got you in place and, uh, talked about the implementation of the academic program, uh, the community colleges. Today, I'd like to begin by, uh, uh, talking about the, uh--your inauguration.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. John Oswald discusses his inauguration as president of the University of Kentucky. He talks about the ceremonies and receptions, and his colleagues from California that attended. He talks about his relationship with Senator John Sherman Cooper and his brother Richard Cooper.

Keywords: Caliber; Ceremonies; Chancellors; Clark Kerr; Connections; Friendships; Inaugurations; Keeneland racetrack; Kentucky; Maker's Mark bourbon; Quality; Richard E. Cooper; Senator John Sherman Cooper; Speakers; Student involvement

Subjects: Campus visits; College administrators; College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College presidents; College publicity; College students--Attitudes.; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Public relations; Universities and colleges--Ratings and rankings.

00:13:17 - Goals as president of the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: But it was--the main, the main thing--you say what was, what was important about it--

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses his "five imperatives" that he wanted to accomplish during his time as president, including improvements to the faculty and academic curriculum.

Keywords: Academics; Community colleges; Cost; Curriculum; Graduate school; Imperatives; Improvements; Quality of education; Scholarly; Student involvement; Undergraduate education

Subjects: College administrators; College presidents; College teachers--Rating of.; College teachers--Selection and appointment.; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Curricula.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Ratings and rankings.

00:17:14 - Dr. Thomas Clark's reaction to the rotating chairmanship policy

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Partial Transcript: The, uh, representative from the faculty at your inauguration who gave the talk was Tom Clark.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the newly implemented policy of changing the head of a department every few years, and discusses how Dr. Clark felt about the policy. He talks about why he decided to remove Dr. Clark as head of the history department, Clark's reaction, and how it affected their relationship.

Keywords: Carl Cone; Changes; Controversy; Decisions; Dr. Albert Kirwan; Dr. Thomas D. Clark; Evaluation committees; Firing; History department; Leadership; Paul Nagel; Policies; Reactions; Relationships; Removal; Rotating chairmanship; Rotating deanship; Rotating department heads; Speakers

Subjects: College administrators; College department heads; College teachers--Rating of.; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Evaluation; Universities and colleges--Faculty.

00:27:53 - Dr. Thomas Clark's chairmanship of the University Press Committee and the connection to the rotating chairmanship policy

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Partial Transcript: The other, the other side of that coin is, uh--or the other part of the Clark story is, uh, he was chair, chairman of the University Press Committee.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about whether Dr. Clark's role as chairman of the University Press Committee was affected by the rotating chairmanship policy, and talks about which other departments were or were not included. He talks more about Clark's opinions of the policy and his reactions to being removed as chairman of the history department.

Keywords: Anger; Changes; Controversy; Decisions; Dr. Thomas D. Clark; Firing; Paul Nagel; Policies; Reactions; Removal; Rotating chairmanship; Rotating deanship; Rotating department heads; Scholarship; University Press Committee; University Press of Kentucky; University of Kentucky Press; Upset

Subjects: College administrators; College administrators--Rating of; College department heads; College teachers--Rating of.; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Faculty.

00:36:37 - Conflict over the University of Kentucky College of Education

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Partial Transcript: While we’re on this, this topic, let’s go on and talk about the College of Education.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about his relationship with Lyman Ginger, dean of the College of Education. He gives his opinion on the quality of the College of Education when he first became president of the university.

Keywords: Dean of Education; Diplomacy; Liberal arts education; Lyman Ginger; Preconceptions; Quality of education

Subjects: College administrators--Rating of; College department heads; College teachers--Rating of.; College teaching.; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Evaluation; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Ratings and rankings.; University of Kentucky. College of Education

00:41:05 - Conflict over the University School

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Partial Transcript: The specific, uh, uh, thing about, uh, about, uh, this particular College of Education is that I felt that, uh, that, uh, they really, uh, were not serving the broad educational purposes of the university, uh, by, uh, operating this, uh, uh, this, uh, school that, that they had, and particularly, at the high school level.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the University School run by the College of Education. He discusses the quality of the school and why he did not want to continue the program. He talks about the reactions to this decision.

Keywords: Controversy; Discussions; Elitist; Lyman Ginger; Quality of education; University School of Education

Subjects: College administrators; College department heads; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Educational change--Kentucky; High school teaching--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Evaluation; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky. College of Education

00:49:02 - Experience with university issues

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Partial Transcript: At that point in your career, you weren’t in the habit, it seems to me, of running the flag up in front of the Administration Building each morning just to see which way the wind was blowing.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about how his experiences at the University of California prepared him to handle problems at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Deans; Decisions; Experience; Issues; Problems; University of California

Subjects: College administrators; College presidents; Universities and colleges--Administration.

00:52:56 - Conflict with Lyman Ginger

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Partial Transcript: Just to give you an example of how Lyman Ginger remembers the situation, he said, “Oswald hadn’t been on campus six weeks when he announced to the Fayette County Alumni Club that he intended to close the College of Education and make a department within the College of Arts and Sciences.”

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks more about Lyman Ginger's reaction to his removal as dean of the College of Education. He talks about Ginger's opinion of him and why he may have felt that way. He talks about the advice he received from Ab Kirwan about removing Ginger from his position. He discusses the differences in philosophy between himself and Ginger. He compares the removal of Ginger to the removal of Dr. Thomas Clark.

Keywords: A.D. Albright; Academic philosophy; Advice; Advisors; Changes; Conference on Higher Education; Controversy; Dean of Education; Deans; Decisions; Differences; Dr. Albert Kirwan; Dr. Thomas D. Clark; Firing; Influence; Lyman Ginger; Politics; Powerful; Reactions; Removal; Rotating chairmanship; Rotating deanship; Rotating department heads; University School of Education

Subjects: College administrators--Rating of; College department heads; College teachers--Rating of.; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Evaluation; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky. College of Education

01:07:20 - Policy of rotating chairmanship and the removal of deans

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Partial Transcript: Why don’t we just go ahead and, and continue talking about the dean situation--

Segment Synopsis: Oswald continues talking about the rotating chairmanship policy and other deans who were removed from their positions. He discusses Leslie Martin, Martin M. White, and Cecil Carpenter. He discusses how each situation was unique, and the reasons behind each removal.

Keywords: Academic philosophy; Cecil Carpenter; Changes; Controversy; Dean of Men; Decisions; Dislike; Faculty review; Firing; Leadership; Leslie Martin; Liberal arts education; Martin M. White; Policies; Reactions; Recruitment; Relationship with students; Removal; Replacements; Resignation; Rotating chairmanship; Rotating deanship; Rotating department heads

Subjects: College administrators; College administrators--Rating of; College department heads; College teachers--Rating of.; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Evaluation; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; University of Kentucky. College of Arts and Sciences

01:20:24 - Articles about changes in leadership at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: And I guess that takes care of, uh, the deans that--well, we mentioned Robert Shaver yesterday and, uh, he, he stepped aside on his own I think you said.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald reads and discusses two articles written about the situation surrounding the removal of deans at the University of Kentucky. He talks about why the articles were written, how they affected opinions of him, and whether he would have done anything differently knowing what he knows now.

Keywords: Announcements; Changes; College of Education; Controversy; Decisions; Dr. Albert Kirwan; Faculty review; Faculty review committee; Firing; Jim Hampton; Kentucky Kernel newspaper; Leadership; Lyman Ginger; Personal judgment; Policies; Reactions; Reasons; Recruitment; Removal; Replacements; Resignation; Robert Ezekiel Shaver; Rotating chairmanship; Rotating deanship; Rotating department heads; Search committee

Subjects: College administrators; College administrators--Rating of; College department heads; College publicity; College teachers--Rating of.; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Evaluation; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Public relations

01:33:43 - Replacement deans

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Partial Transcript: Now, let me ask you this, um, and this goes back to, to, to just what you were talking about in terms of how--the perception of it.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses the perception that he enjoyed firing the deans that were removed. He talks about his excitement about the replacements that were chosen to fill the open positions, due to their qualifications and their educational philosophies. He talks about the support he received from the board of trustees and from Governor Breathitt.

Keywords: Board of trustees; Cecil Carpenter; Changes; Charles Haywood; Criticism; Decisions; Firing; George W. Denemark; Governor Edward T. Breathitt; Leadership; Leslie Martin; Lyman Ginger; Mentors; Paul Nagel; Perceptions; Policies; Politics; Reactions; Recruitment; Removal; Replacements; Robert Ezekiel Shaver; Robert L. Johnson; Robert M. Drake, Jr.; Rotating chairmanship; Rotating deanship; Rotating department heads; Support; Vice President of Student Affairs

Subjects: College administrators; College administrators--Rating of; College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College department heads; College publicity; College teachers--Rating of.; College teachers--Selection and appointment.; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Evaluation; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Public relations

01:45:56 - University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy

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Partial Transcript: Now the other dean, of course, that uh--the other problem, but I went into this fairly thoroughly with Smoot, and that was the problems with the College of Pharmacy.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses his opinion of the College of Pharmacy when he first became president of the university. He talks about a joke he made about the program that caused controversy. He talks about how the quality of the College of Pharmacy has improved over the years.

Keywords: Changes; Dean Earl Slone; Dean Joseph Swintosky; Decisions; Dental School; Jokes; Leadership; Pharmacists; Policies; Quality of education; Reactions; Recruitment; Relationships; Removal; Replacements; Resignation; Rotating chairmanship; Rotating deanship; Rotating department heads; University of Kentucky Medical Center

Subjects: College administrators--Rating of; College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College publicity; College teachers--Rating of.; College teachers--Selection and appointment.; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Evaluation; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky. College of Pharmacy

01:51:30 - University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

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Partial Transcript: What about Barnhart? Did--now he came in--

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses his opinion of the College of Agriculture when he first became president of the university. He talks about why he did not focus much of his attention on the program, and discusses the leadership of the college.

Keywords: Agricultural community; Dean Charles Barnhart; Dean William Seay; Mrs. Seay; Quality; Reputation; Rosanel Oswald

Subjects: College administrators--Rating of; College teachers--Rating of.; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Departments; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Public relations; Universities and colleges--Ratings and rankings.; University of Kentucky. College of Agriculture

01:58:15 - Maxwell Place

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Partial Transcript: Just like I inherited Maxwell Place.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses why he and his wife disliked living at the president's house, Maxwell Place, on the University of Kentucky campus. He talks about discussing relocating to a different house with the board of trustees and why the deal never happened. He talks about the bad publicity they received when rumors began that they were considering moving to a new house.

Keywords: Board of trustees; Children; Controversy; Criticism; Dislike; Entertaining; John Oswald, Jr.; Limestone Street (Lexington, Ky.); Maxwell Place; Moving; Neighborhoods; Newspapers; President's house; Realtors; Redecorating; Relocating; Rosanel Oswald; Support; Unhappy

Subjects: Campus planning.; College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College buildings.; College campuses.; College facilities.; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; College presidents--Dwellings; College publicity; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Public relations

02:08:34 - Controversy over renting a house

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, uh, what happened--and this, of course, even got into the Maine Chance thing later.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer and the treatments she had to undergo. He talks about the decision to find another house to live in away from the UK campus during her recuperation. He talks about the criticism they received for this decision, which came at a time when he was involved with other controversies. He talks about why he did not receive much support from others at the university during this time.

Keywords: California; Cancer; Children; Controversy; Criticism; Haggin Fund; James Ben Ali Haggin; Louis Haggin; Maine Chance Farm; New house; Operations; Overbrook; President's house; Protection; Ralph Angelucci; Recruitment; Recuperation; Renting houses; Rosanel Oswald; Scandal; Sons; Spending; Support; Surgery; Treatment; Trials; Wife

Subjects: College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College benefactors; College buildings.; College campuses.; College facilities.; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; College presidents--Dwellings; College publicity; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations

02:22:27 - President's house at Penn State / more on Maxwell Place

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Partial Transcript: Uh, but, uh, we did, uh, uh--now, now just to show you, uh, how--I said we were naive. When I went to Penn State, uh, they showed me after they sho--and were recruiting me, here was a house that had two more bedrooms than Maxwell Place.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about negotiating for an off-campus house during his recruitment at Penn State due to his negative experiences with Maxwell Place at the University of Kentucky. He talks about speaking with Governor Ned Breathitt about his similar situation at the Governor's Mansion. He talks more about the bad publicity his family received over their dislike of Maxwell Place and other issues. He talks about an accident at the Guignol Theater which resulted in his wife breaking her hip, and how living at Maxwell Place made the situation more difficult.

Keywords: Accidents; Board of trustees; Broken hip; Centennial; Children; Contracts; Controversy; Criticism; Dogs; Entertaining; Family; Governor Edward T. Breathitt; Governor's Mansion; Guignol Theater; Maxwell Place; New houses; Pennsylvania State University; President's house; Recruitment; Recuperation; Rosanel Oswald; Rumors; Sons; Taxes; University House; Wife

Subjects: College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College buildings.; College campuses.; College facilities.; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; College presidents--Dwellings; College publicity; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations

02:36:03 - First ladies' involvement in university issues

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Partial Transcript: Well, Ro--and, and, and Rose I must say, uh, uh, was, was truly a, a partner, uh, in, in all of this.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about how the wives of university presidents were generally their husband's primary advisors. He talks about their desire to be involved with the Association of American Universities, and the vote that denied their participation which led to the formation of a group called "The Partners". He talks about The Partners' meetings, which were sometimes also attended by the presidents, and the issues they discussed.

Keywords: "The Partners"; Advisors; Association of American Universities (AAU); Betty Corbally; First ladies; Involvement; King Brewster; Meetings; Partnerships; Pennsylvania State University; Rosanel Oswald; Salaries; Women's movement; Working together

Subjects: College administrators; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; Education, Higher; Sex discrimination in higher education.; Sexism in higher education; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

02:42:36 - Rose Oswald's involvement with the State Arts Council

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Partial Transcript: But anyway, uh, anyway, uh, uh, uh, Rose, uh, Rose of course at Kentucky, uh--I think one of the most, uh, interesting stories about--and I don't mean to get entirely on Rose for the moment--

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about his wife Rose being chosen by Governor Breathitt to be the chairman of the State Arts Commission. He talks about choosing the University of Kentucky's College of Fine Arts as the State Commission on the Arts. He talks about how he and Rose worked as partners to bring William Hull from New York to be the first director of the Kentucky Arts Commission.

Keywords: Adjunct professors; Chairman; Governor Edward T. Breathitt; National Arts Council; National Council on the Arts; National commission of the Humanities; Partners; Rosanel Oswald; Salaries; State Arts Commission; State's Commission on the Arts; William F. Hull

Subjects: College administrators; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; College teachers--Salaries, etc.; College teachers--Selection and appointment.; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; University of Kentucky. College of Fine Arts

02:49:55 - Role of women in university leadership

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Partial Transcript: Then she was also ex--very active in the, very active in the question of women, uh, who were, uh, uh, over 35 or 40.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about his wife Rose's involvement in the women's movement of the 1970s and her attempts to broaden educational and career opportunities for women. He talks about a conference held on women's equality. He talks about Rose speaking directly with Senator Harry Lee Waterfield in order to get a bill passed. He talks about his and Rose's roles on an advisory board at Penn State and their current problem with "The Closed Mind", a book with negative views of the university system. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: "The Closed Mind"; "The Partners"; Advisory boards; Approval; Conferences; Dean Doris Seward; First ladies; Harry Lee Waterfield; Job opportunities; Jobs for women; John W. Greene; Legislature; Maxwell Place; Pennsylvania State University; Quality of education; Role of women; Senate; Women's movement

Subjects: College presidents' spouses; Sex discrimination in higher education.; Sexism in higher education; Women in education--Kentucky--Lexington; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)