My over-the-hill syndrome was cemented by your “Through the Years” column. The modern U of U is a different world than the institution that I attended. I was a 17-year-old freshman in 1946 when thousands of World War II veterans descended upon the campus. A. Ray Olpin was president of the University. The avowed goal of the University was to ensure that each student received a liberal education.
My original major was journalism because I had been a reporter for my high school newspaper. My plans were changed when I took a required class, Biology 1 (the forerunner of Biology 101), taught by the department head, W. H. Behle, an ornithologist. I became convinced that my future was in the life sciences. My interest specifically in botany was solidified by Walter P. Cottam, whose enthusiasm for the field was infectious. His [Frederick William] Reynolds lecture of 1947, “Is Utah Sahara Bound?” was later printed as a bulletin and became quite famous. Others in the Botany Department who influenced me were Seville Flowers, an authority on mosses, and Bill McNulty, a plant physiologist, who had us tap silver maple trees on campus to produce maple syrup. Others in biological fields who inspired me were W. W. Newby, who taught beginning genetics, L. J. Stephens, who was the pioneer in human genetics at the U, and Angus Woodbury, a specialist in reptiles, especially rattlesnakes.
Among the teachers that I remember most in other areas of the University include Miss Walker, a T.A. in freshman English, who had ex-G.I.’s in her class significantly older than her. [Also] Jack Adamson, American literature (he later became a University vice president); Robert Helbling, a Swiss immigrant who taught French but was not familiar with the English idioms with which his students tortured him; Charles Dibble, an anthropologist, who encouraged us to go to the movies rather than cram the night before an exam; H. Bowman Hawkes, a geographer, who recited “The Cremation of Sam McGee” during his last class period; and Dr. [James L.] Jarrett, a philosophy professor who sat yoga-style on top of his desk while lecturing.
F. Douglas Wilson BS’50 MS’53
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