The Colgate Scene ON-LINE

[Richard H. Frost]
Richard H. Frost

Richard H. Frost

Professor of History 1966-96

After 30 years on the Colgate faculty, I can attest to the fact, as every freshman and first-year faculty member knows, that Colgate is a dynamic institution. My favorite illustration involves the creation of our Native American Studies program about 10 years ago. In many universities there would have been slow-moving referrals to academic review committees and layers of administrators worried about the additional costs, the ethnic qualifications of the instructors, and political ramifications. At Colgate, half a dozen of us decided over lunch to propose that the Native American courses we taught be a concentration; Gary Urton at once agreed to offer a new introductory course in the Anthropology of the Americas; and within a week or so Dean Chuck Trout agreed to the proposal. We have had a Native American concentration ever since, and it is thriving.

The flip side to Colgate's freshness and creativity is that we have, I think, a remarkably short memory about what the college used to be like. Professor Charles S. (`T') Blackton once commented to me that every new generation of faculty here thinks that it alone has put the college on the map.

I certainly thought that way when I first came here, and now I am one of the fuddy-duddies, grateful not to have been put to the hiring test a second time, since my American Indian blood is either exiguous or totally fictitious, and would have counted for naught.

But there were many good qualities about Colgate that have slipped in our endless quest for improvement, including the faculty tunks at Merrill House, the mid-morning breaks during "chapel period," and the dwindling of the General Education core curriculum. As an American historian,

I believe that historians teach "general education" every day, but the university is the poorer for having given up GNED 270 (previously 370), in American Institutions and Values. Democracy is in jeopardy in America, for reasons as long as the stairs in Alumni Hall, and we should be doing more to alert Colgate students to our national political and constitutional problems.

We have a way, too, of forgetting the contributions of past faculty members. For want of space, I limit my remarks to just three. One is Bob Freedman, who spent his career here in the economics department. Bob succeeded T Blackton as social science division director about 1970. He was a truly cheerful man, supportive of junior faculty, and founder of the Yugoslavia study group. Bob cared deeply about Yugoslavia, and particularly about the opportunity for Colgate students to study economics there, because Yugoslavia provided a non-Soviet alternative to capitalist organization, particularly through workers' cooperatives. Bob's labors are a quiet rebuke of the shallowness of current American commitment to Bosnia, the "sick man" of Europe.

Ray Rockwood, who passed away in California in 1992, joined the history department in 1935 and served for 41 years until his retirement. He loved French and English historiography, and taught it to most of our concentrators. Ray was a straight arrow, never posed for effect, never played to the galleries, even during the 1960s, when academic posing came easily and offered psychic rewards. Ray was instrumental before I came to Colgate in working out with the administration and trustees the principles of fringe benefits that the faculty enjoy. We are indebted to him and to the later chapter leaders of the AAUP -- Jimmy Hou, Oz Honkelehto, Nick Longo, Hugh Pinchin and others -- for pressing for salary scales and compensation that have improved markedly over the past 30 years.

Third, Carol Bleser, a member of the history department from 1970 to 1984. Carol was the first full-time woman on the Colgate faculty, the first woman associate professor, the first tenured woman, the first female full professor. She was a southern lady, gracious always, and firm when necessary. Carol was one of very few faculty women who arrived ahead of Affirmative Action. Colgate had just gone co-ed, and it seemed natural to our department that we should invite a promising young woman to join us. I have always believed that other departments would have done the same thing -- that the maleness of the faculty was a reflection of Colgate as a male college, which ended in 1970 -- but the moral authority of departments to appoint and promote women was pre-empted by the administration, with the advice and consent of the faculty, the majority of whom did not share my faith.

This is a great place to teach. I should like to be starting out here now, but there are other pastures calling me.