Theodore Greene, professor of history and American studies at Amherst College from 1952-1989 and class of 1943, was interviewed by Hugh Hawkins, also a professor of history and American studies at the College.
Hawkins: All right. I think we ought to start with the when, where, and who. It's February 2nd, 2000. We're at Amherst College in the Robert Frost Library in the special collections and archive section. The interviewee is Theodore Greene, an alumnus of the college, and for many years, a faculty member here. The interviewer is Hugh Hawkins. Arrived somewhat later on the scene, but for many years, Ted Greene's colleague in both history and American Studies. So Ted's been good enough to agree to tell us what he remembers, especially how his life related to the College. First question is, when you chose to come to Amherst College, what role did your family background play in that choice?
Greene: Well, it played a central role starting in 1878, really, when my grandfather, both my grandfathers entered the freshman class at Amherst, actually, they entered the class of 1882, and the class of 1882 came to be central in their lives. And my father's and mine too, in many ways. My great-grandfather was just retired as a rear admiral in the US Navy. He'd been through the Civil War. He briefly commanded the Gulf Squadron in Gulf of Mexico, when I think the real commander was off somewhere. And anyway, he had retired. He'd taken over the family homestead up in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. The man of the first ministry there. He was living there, and his only son, Frederick W. Greene, came to Amherst College. So he decided he'd come to Amherst too. And he rented a house up above the Dickinson's on the hill where Phi Gamma Delta has been for many years. And moved into Amherst and was here during the college year, and then moved back to Jaffrey in June. And my grandfather, F.W. Greene, was a very congenial fellow, made a lot of friends. They were all congregational ministers together. And he was congregational minister in Andover and then in Massachusetts, and then in Middletown, Connecticut, at Wesleyan for many years. But in college, he would invite all his friends to his father's house for occasions, and then he would invite them up in the summer to visit in Jaffrey. So my other grandfather, Lucius Theyer, who was congregational pastor in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he built a summer home up in New Hampshire. And so did Bixler, who was pastor in Exeter. He built the summer home in or on land that the Greene family gave him in Jaffrey, or sold to him, I guess. Anyway, there were five members of that class, of 1882, the Blisses, Daniel Bliss, who was involved in founding University of Beirut and being missionaries there for many years. The class of 1882 had at least five members who all settled in Jaffery for their summer places. And so I kind of grew up in this group. We would go to the lake club and march around, hang hands on shoulders, march around the dock and the porches, singing Amherst songs. And so even though I'd gone to Exeter, I'd graduated first in my class, I'd won the prize for general excellence, and this entitled me to a full four-year scholarship at Harvard, Exeter Harvard Scholarship. But I didn't have a chance of going to Harvard. My father was perfectly willing to pay for me to go to Amherst, but I'd had, by that time, father, two grandfathers, five uncles, all of whom had graduated from Amherst. I just had two uncles who'd gone to Harvard, and they were the ones who married into the family. So that was a long tie. I used to come up to the Amherst football games in the fall and into class reunions for the class of 1913, my father's class. So.
Hawkins: I think we would call that an overdetermined decision.
Greene: Right, right. Well, in those days, as I said in my class of 1943, I think 51% of the class had either had relatives of some kind, either their fathers or or other relatives had graduated from Amherst. So it was a common way. I turned over the Exeter Scholarship to Harvard to Adelbert Ames whose family had been going to Harvard for generations.
Hawkins: That's a famous man.
Greene: Second in the class.
Hawkins: All right. You went to a very fine preparatory school, Phillips Exeter, trying not to get confused about the two Phillips's here. Was there any let down when you then came to Amherst College?
Greene: Oh, not really. Actually, I continued taking the same kind of courses in my freshman year. I took Greek Three because I'd had two years of Greek at Exeter. And there were three of us in a little room on the top floor of Converse Library. Met at 7:50 in the morning with Professor Fobes, who had an international reputation as a Greek scholar, and who was an heir to the Necco Wafer Candy Family. He used his inherited wealth to rent an apartment in Pratt Dormitory on the second floor of Pratt Dormitory. He had four or five rooms and a space in the basement for a printing press where he would print up examinations in Greek letter, so on. And he also would hire students to take him around the country in the summer. He had a Packard, as I remember, and they would drive to the West Coast. And this was a cushy job. One of my fraternity brothers got it. And he'd also hire students to help him fly his kites down on Pratt Field, something which disturbed the town of Amherst from time to time, because he flew them with a wire rather than a string. And the the kites would go way up and then come down sometimes in South Amherst shorting the electric wires as they came down, I think several times the town lost electricity because of his kite flying. Well so he taught me Greek at 7:50 in the morning. Then I took Latin poetry. By that time, I'd had four years of Latin. And so this was Latin Five or whatever. Then I continued, well, I took an English course and that was a mistake. I would've been more interesting really, to take English I, which Ted Baird was teaching, and which all my, almost all my colleagues were required to take. I was excused from it because of my Exeter record and because I'd won the Porter Admission Prize. And you wrote an essay in that, and Ted Baird would read the essay and excuse you if you seem to be literate. But I missed all his, I think they read Henry Adams' Education as their major work and all of his really innovative and great teaching I kind of missed. I had a young faculty member who did 19th century English literature, and it was kind of ordinary, but, and I can't remember, oh, the fourth you had to have a science. So I took chemistry, chemistry one two, and I wasn't, I did all right in chemistry except for the labs. I could never make the experiments yield the figures for me that they were supposed to anywhere near the ballpark for what the figures would be. So I had to use the figures of one of my future roommates, a good friend who was going to, who was a pre-med, and he could do the labs very nicely. And his figures were much better than mine. So I'd use his figures in writing up the experiments.
Hawkins: I'm interested that this freshman year comes back so vividly. I guess one does remember the first part most of all. But I would like to hear how it was that you became a history major.
Greene: Well, the other, the final fifth course, I think.
Hawkins: Oh, I'm sorry.
Greene: Was History I.
Hawkins: I was raised under the four course systems.
Greene: Yeah right. Well, there were five. I think I'd forgotten number five, but, and history one with Laurence Packard was a classic course, which continued up to first year or two after I came back on the faculty when Packard died. But Packard and Dwight Salmon were the two great lecturers. And everybody took both their courses. Packard gave a course partly because World War II had started. He gave a course on World War I, which was always jammed full, full house. And his classic lectures were three days on the Battle of Jutland, where he outlined minute by minute what had happened in the Battle of Jutland. I used it later to work up a Christmas vacation lecture, the one before Christmas vacation when students are required to be present. But they spent all the night before at a fraternity party and so on. And so I worked up a minute by minute account of the battles of Lexington and Concord and Paul Revere's ride. And so on the 19th of April, 1775, which I still give occasionally on April 19th at Applewood.
Hawkins: Now what was it the appeal of those two teachers that attracted you to the department?
Greene: Well, actually they were great lecturers and I liked the history, but the teacher who really appealed to me most was Everett Gleason. And he taught medieval history, and I didn't get that until sophomore year. He taught medieval history and Renaissance history. And when I left Amherst, I thought I was gonna be a medieval historian. And it was only because John Hyam was a fellow weather observer at the Army Air Force Weather Station in Buckley Field, Denver, Colorado. And he put me onto reading American Histories in the post library, it was the only kind they had in the post library. And so I read Nevins and Commager, I read Common Morrison and Commager, and those were my first real serious introductions to American History. And by the time I got out of the Army, I was, I'd switched to wanting to do American history. So I started reading Commager and Alfred Kazin on American Literature on Native grounds. And I didn't know both of 'em would end up as colleagues on the Amherst History faculty.
Hawkins: Oh, that's a fascinating career change. World War II shook up a lot of things. We don't want to talk strictly about the curriculum here. Fraternities have been very controversial, at least in recent years. Why did you join a fraternity? Which one did you join? What was your experience there like?
Greene: Well, in my case, it was very pleasant. Again, I simply inherited a fraternity. One of my grandfathers had been member of Alpha Delta Phi, and the other one had been a member of SIU. So I automatically got rushed by both of them. And I guess because of the Exeter record, I got rushed by DKE too, but it was all very pleasant. The rushing chairman at Alpha Delta Phi turned out to be a distant cousin of mine. In those days, the fraternity rushing chairman would go around in the summer visiting a prospective freshman whom they knew from the records they wanted to, they might be interested in. So Stu Rider, my cousin, had come and visited us up in New Hampshire and had a nice weekend. So I wasn't particularly tense or anxious about getting accepted anywhere. And my fraternity experience was very pleasant throughout Alpha Delta Phi was where I would've most wanted to be. It was the most intellectual of the fraternities. It had the top scholars. Tom Rodman was the top scholar in his senior year. His roommate was Peter Kitchell, the architect who just died this year. And Sam Kitchell, my roommate, came back, stayed with us at Applewood for the funeral, and was very impressed that Tom Rodman had come back after all these years. But Alpha Delta Phi also had a literary program every Tuesday night, there was what was called a goat meeting. Every fraternity met Tuesday night down in the goat room, which was in Alpha Delta Phi. It was down kind of underground, and it was all supposed to be hush hush, and only members were supposed to be allowed in and so on. But it had a literary program. It had from the beginning in 1830s literary program, so that every member of the fraternity was supposed to read a paper once a year, and then it would be criticized by a senior member of the fraternity. And that was, that had been a tradition that was carried on. And they had national competition, which I won one year for the story I'd read. And so that, in that sense, Alpha Delta Phi and Phi Psi were the two kind of intellectual fraternities. Oh, I was happy with that. And it was very pleasant living every Sunday night there in the fall, there would be a sing in the main living room, and you'd take a date. And the Karigus, who was Sam Kitchel, my roommate in our year, would lead college songs and fraternity songs. As a freshman, you were, there was a, you had to learn the songs every fall as part of the so-called hazing. The hazing didn't consist of much except having to learn the songs, learn something about the history of the college. It's one reason why now, I don't think students really get to know most of the Amherst songs. We had to learn a great many of 'em, and we had to compose a verse of a song as freshmen that was part of the hazing every night. And we'd have to sing it as well as we could.
Hawkins: Might have punished both the singer and the listener.
Greene: Right, right, right. But that was the right place for me. I greatly enjoyed it. I ended up as president of the fraternity in senior year and went out to the national convention or whatever in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where my rushing chairman cousin had lived, and where the Dayton family, Dayton Department Store, who was a class fraternity brother and classmate of mine, we still see them down in Sanibel. They have a house right on the beach about 200 yards away from where our condo is. And he married woman who was the head of the trustees at McAllister College. And so we get to see both of them every winter.
Hawkins: This brings back a lot of the color and the way it lasts on into later life. I'm sure that your extracurricular activity wasn't limited to Alpha Delta Phi. What other activities were you in?
Greene: Well, I played freshman soccer. I'd never played soccer at Exeter. I always played touch football in the fall. But I had at Exeter been second string short stop. And when Andover beat us with George Bush playing first base, this is the senior George Bush in 1939, I just sat on the bench and watched, but goalie was the closest I could come to playing shortstop in soccer. And so I played with second string goalie on the freshman soccer team, which meant the only game I started was one against Deerfield, up in Deerfield on a wet and rainy day when the ball was slippery. And we did just fine until one goal got by, slipped through my hands and wet field. I played soccer in the fall. I played class basketball in the, or fraternity. We had fraternity competition and basketball. And I played baseball on the freshman team in the spring. But unfortunately, the shortstop from Andover, first string shortstop, who'd been captain of the team, came to Exeter. I mean, came to Amherst.
Hawkins: Heavy competition. Right. I can see that.
Greene: I try, I wrote for the college magazine Touchstone, which came out every month. It was, you know, modeled on the New Yorker combination of humorous cartoons, which many of which were done by my roommate John Risley, who ended up head of the Fine Arts Department at Wesleyan. And who used to carve soap stones, pieces of soap. He'd carve in sophomore year when we all roomed together on the top floor of Peggy Moore's house, which is across from the Lord Jeff and right behind Grace Church. There were four of us who roomed up there and included Risley, who we'd take turns going to a 7:50 in the morning English class. It was a pretty Orthodox English class, and we'd take turns going and taking notes. The trouble was Risley would go and he'd carve on his soap stone and he'd write, he'd draw little cartoons and pictures in his notebook and then that was supposed to remind him of what the teacher had said. So, but that was very pleasant to live across from the Jeff on the top floor with these four guys. One of 'em was Risley, one of 'em is Harry Keefe, who just gave $5 million to the college for the Keefe Student Center and for the Keefe Health Center or whatever. And one of 'em is Sammy Kitchell, who I just visited at Christmas time in Arizona and who has just published a history of the Kitchell Corporation, which is a fascinating book on there. This has been a year when Amherst gave a dinner for Harry Keefe called, this Is Your Life Dinner down in New York, in the Lotus Club, which is an old Vanderbilt mansion, I think just off Fifth Avenue. And Harry invited me down for that. And they, I thought I was gonna have to tell part of his life, but there were four others who had told his life at Boston Latin School and later his business and so on. But it was, Harry and I had been in the same Greek class and that Greek three class in freshman year. And we'd go over the night before the class meetings and work out the translation together. And would get to know each other very well.
Hawkins: I see that you were, you're blessed in your roommates, it seems.
Greene: Well, and we all took over the college magazine.
Hawkins: This Touchstone.
Greene: Touchstone. John did the cartoons. I wrote the front page, the Talk of the Town, humorous bit and occasional stories. And Harry Keefe was the business manager. And so we all pretty much ran that.
Hawkins: As the, your college career went on, did you become more interested in your classes, spending more time there and have less time for extracurricular activities? Or did you keep right on?
Greene: Well, this was still Amherst before World War II. It was not a particularly difficult college. We'd have exams from time to time, but you'd take notes and do the reading and bone up for the exams. And in between you just had to get the classes off and on. As I said, we'd take turns sometimes going into classes and taking notes in the English class, you didn't have exams, you wrote papers so that it didn't matter really on. Scholastically, life was not particularly difficult. And there was lots of time for extracurricular activities. There would be a fraternity house dance every spring and another one in the fall. Then another one of my roommates and I had dates come from our hometowns, and he ended up marrying my date. Then they got divorced after five kids.
Hawkins: Good movie plot. Now, twice, we've mentioned World War II. You were in the college when the war broke out. What was the impact of that war on Amherst College?
Greene: Well, I remember still sitting in my fraternity room with the fire going, and, I don't know, maybe there wasn't the fire going, but listening to the, what was it, Saturday or Sunday,
Hawkins: Sunday morning news.
Greene: It was a concert, not an concert, but an opera. Anyway, whatever the regular concert was, that was when the news broke in of Pearl Harbor. Well, that happened in my junior year. And what was the date?
Hawkins: December 7th, 1941.
Greene: Okay. Right. There was a fire then. And, we spent the spring trying to sort out what we should do. Amherst decided they would continue college during the summer, and there would be a summer session they would try to get us through and graduate. We were in class of '43. This was December '41. They would try to graduate us by January '43. And they did. So they had a summer session when I took, I was doing a thesis and on the Achaean League of Ancient Greece, which was a model for union now there'd been a book, America and Britain ought to join together in some kind of federal union or something. So I picked on this and did the work mostly over the summer as half of my course load. You took two courses, meeting every day, five days a week in the summer. My other course was with Ted Baird, a course in Shakespeare, which I am continuing now with a course in Bob Hoops of University of Massachusetts, who's retired in an Applewood. Gives a course every Thursday morning now on Shakespeare plays. We read a play every two weeks, I guess, whatever. Oh, that was great fun. And Baird, it was said that Ted Baird, who was very gruff and could jump on students and who also was very anti authorities and would let his feelings be known about the administration and other such matters. It was said that he had more correspondence during the war from former students than any other faculty member. Everybody, they were stuck in the Army, the Navy, whatever. It was full of what was called chicken shit. And all this kind of strange and unwelcome use of power and authority. They figured Ted Baird would be the only one who could understand what it was like.
Hawkins: Sure. The anti authority position.
Greene: So he really, he communicated with, I didn't write him, but I learned later that a lot of other people did. And that was one of his great services was to keep everybody's morale up throughout.
Hawkins: He always wrote back.
Greene: He wrote back yes.
Hawkins: Kept it alive.
Greene: And always witty.
Hawkins: So you didn't have an interrupted undergraduate education. You had one that was hurried up.
Hawkins: But you came in, went right through and graduated when?
Greene: Graduated in January, 1943 and two weeks later took the train up to Fort Devons in what was the coldest day of the winter. There were veterans there walking around with frostbite bandages and things. And was there for three weeks or so, I guess, taking the different exams and trying to get sorted out as to where I'd go. I ended up, we didn't know where we were being assigned. We went to the railroad station, got on an old Boston and main wooden car with a stove at the end and started heading west and south. And we went through Greenfield and then I knew where I was and we kept going down. We were delighted when we got past New Jersey, because that's where a number of the infantry camps were.
Greene: And then when we got past the Carolinas, where most of the infantry camps were, and we hit the Florida border and we knew we were headed for the Air Corps. And oh, I ended up spending my basic training in Miami Beach marching exercise fields, guarding the beach against German submarines in the nighttime or whatever, living in and taking, I mean they took over all these resort hotels that they put us in.
Greene: But they unfortunately didn't take over the dining rooms. They put up mess halls and so on where we would go and eat and do our KP.
Hawkins: This sounds like some of the greatest generation, very much a theme these days. I'm afraid we're gonna have to omit both the war and your graduate studies, 'cause I'm very interested and probably people listening to this tape or watching this video, will be more interested in when you come back to Amherst as a faculty member, if I've got it right. It's 1952.
Hawkins: I wondered, was this a place you'd hope to teach all along when you were doing, pursuing graduate studies?
Greene: Yes. Obviously I didn't think there was a chance of it really, because I was gonna be in American history, while I was at Amherst, I never took any American history. The Ted Con was the one figure in the history department who taught American history, he was not particular popular teacher and not a great many took it. And it was only after Charlie Cole had taken over that and he went to a history convention. Charlie Cole was a European historian, and he went to a history convention, one of those Christmas ones time where he'd heard a pitch for teaching colonial history and how important that was. So he decided Amherst should teach colonial history, which Ted Con didn't do. I guess Ted was about to retire about that time. So my good best friend fellow Amherst graduate at Columbia in graduate school was Mack Waller, who had married the daughter of the physics professor, Stiffler, Martha Stiffler. And so he had ties to Amherst also that were very close. And he had taken, he was specializing in colonial history, writing his dissertation in colonial history. And so he got the job at first job at Amherst when they started getting more American historians, they needed more in order to staff the American Studies course, which was part of the required curriculum. And so they had added Ed Rozwenc and Mack Waller were the two. But Mack never was particularly interested in American studies. He was strictly a historian, not a literature man. And he did colonial history, but, and he also started a course in diplomatic history, but he wasn't particularly, he wasn't that interested in the kind of American studies thesis often that students were doing so it wasn't just the spot for him. And he and the college chose not to keep the relation going. And so the job opened up, well, I'd never had any colonial history, but I did get interviewed for the job. I came up, had lunch with George Taylor, Gail Kennedy. I had Gail Kennedy as a philosophy professor and with Ed Rozwenc, whom I hadn't known before and some others. And then came up to be interviewed by Charlie Cole, I think during Christmas vacation. I was staying at Mother's in Boston and came up to be interviewed with Cole, was the final, final arbitor or whatever. So I got the job and I was delighted.
Hawkins: I'm interested in Cole's interview technique. Was it very penetrating or?
Greene: Well, I can't, you know, he always, he was able to ask questions in almost everybody's field.
Hawkins: That's right.
Greene: And people sometimes were put off by that because the questions weren't always quite appropriate. He'd know something about the field and something to ask questions about. Mostly it was to get you talking, I guess.
Hawkins: I'm sure that's what it was.
Greene: But I don't remember anything about the interview. He was in, he had had long Amherst connections too. And he kinda went for people who had gone to Amherst and who had married Smith graduates as all my family had. His idea was that was building up an aristocracy in America.
Hawkins: You knew him very well.
Greene: He'd done that.
Hawkins: You arrived shortly after the famous old, new curriculum had been established. That's why this American Studies course was required. Had you heard about it, did you have high expectations of being part of that program? Were you sympathetic with it?
Greene: Well, I'd heard about the whole new curriculum plan for Amherst after the war. Gail Kennedy had been faculty chair of the committee that drew it up. I'd read his report with great interest. Charlie Cole had been the head of an alumni committee that had written, drawn up a parallel report. I think Cole had also served on the Kennedy Faculty curriculum committee since he'd been an economics professor here before the war. And oh, I was very excited about this transformation. It as you say, Amherst before the war was pretty casual place and they had kind of a distribution requirement, plus Baird's English one, which was required of almost everybody. Everybody took history one anyway, I don't remember whether it was required or not, but it made great sense to me. And I was especially excited about the American studies. There were not that many good American studies programs around the country in universities, in colleges in after the war. They were all just starting up really. And they'd had three or four years. And Amherst made an impression as one of the most successful. And it was already publishing these problems in American civilization booklets that were being used in other colleges and in prep schools and high schools.
Hawkins: Had you seen any of those before?
Greene: Oh, yes. I'd seen a number of 'em. You know, they were great, great things to have in graduate school because they pulled together the differing views and what historians had written on a whole range of topics. And so they were very handy way for graduate students to get on top of.
Hawkins: When you started using them and the draft versions that were used in the course here, did it seem to be working well? Did the course seem to have a magic that stimulated students?
Greene: Yes. I mean, as one of the required courses, it was one of the more attractive ones I think, because it set up issues you had to take a position on controversial questions. And that at least provided a fairly, an interesting kind of paper that, and one had these booklets that all the readings necessary for writing the paper so that it wasn't particularly difficult for students. And I never found any great resistance to it, even from students who were artists. And they all, somehow it was one of the things, training for citizenship in some ways, so they figured, you know, it's a part of life that I really oughta know something about. And some of course got very interested and very excited about it.
Hawkins: So it actually, it developed more and more as a major. And I think you play quite a role in strengthening the major as apart from this required sophomore course.
Greene: Yeah, I think that was one of the things that both Ed Rozwenc, who was head of the American Studies Department, and I and others as you joined us, you were the first first one really to join us wasn't it?
Hawkins: '57, I guess there'd been people pass through as interns and I came on something you might call tenure track today.
Hawkins: In '57. But by the time I got here, it was already a major that was established with seminars. DCs.
Greene: Well, it was by the, when I came here too, Mack Waller had helped set it up, but he wasn't that comfortable with it. As I say, he wasn't particularly interested in the literature element in American Studies. And oh, it was going, there was a major American Studies, it was an honors program in American studies honors thesis were written. But I was much more interested in it than Mack had been. And we really, and I got more students than he did in colonial history and in diplomatic history. And they tended to often major in American studies. I remember American studies major, very interesting guy, John Dower, he's now the expert on American policy in Japan after the war. He's written, he went on to major in graduate school in Japanese history, and he's written a highly praised book on the way America treated Japan after the war. And also another book on the images that America and Japan had of each other during the war.
Hawkins: Yes. He's won a couple of prizes.
Hawkins: I heard him when he came back to lecture. Nice feeling to have a student like that. One taught earlier on. Well, this talks about American studies and how it developed and the excitement that was stirred there. And yet your courses were also history courses. Were you somewhat less interested in the history department and the way it was developing?
Greene: Well, that was a much more established discipline. And I'd been through that as a student, or didn't have the excitement of novelty in the same ways. I taught, well, I guess in both, I taught in Ed Rozwenc wanted us to be sure and do our part in the history department, so we shouldn't.
Hawkins: Politically that was an astute of something else.
Greene: That's right. And so I was in both the junior honors seminar, that Dwight Salmon presided over and the senior honors seminar, which Laurence Packard presided over the two of them were, hadn't been friendly rivals for a long time. And so that it was important to do right by both of them. But then both of them died off fairly soon after I came.
Hawkins: Not Salmon, of course, who survived years and years.
Greene: Oh, that's right.
Hawkins: He lived to a ripe old age out on the Cape. But Laurence Packard must have died '55, '56. I remember reading about it.
Greene: So the rivalry ended anyway. Laurence has died.
Hawkins: All right. Okay. Now there were changes over time in American studies. You and I experienced some of those together. They're rather complex. Maybe that's too curricular to go into here. But generally that course and other required courses began to be resented by students. And the college shifted to a much more open elective system. Were you sympathetic with that move? Did you think it was time to break out of this, rather strictly required curriculum?
Greene: Well, I was sorry to see it go, because it had been so important really in making Amherst a much more serious college than it had been when I was a student. But that was linked to the whole admissions process.
Hawkins: I'm not sure.
Greene: So as it turned out, I don't know that I would've voted to make the change at that time. As it turned out, I think it worked out fine. We got almost as many students in American studies as we'd had when it was required, and they were a little more happier about being there.
Hawkins: Right. We didn't have to teach students who were compelled to be there, a few of whom could poison the atmosphere. And some of those required courses did have a sharp drop in an enrollment.
Hawkins: We did not say which ones. Okay. You talked about Amherst becoming a more serious place, when you came in '52, did you think these are better students than my fellow students? It's high quality? What's the difference?
Greene: Well, they clearly were the, by that time what it had been, Charlie Cole had been president for six years. And Bill Wilson had been admitting, he'd admitted six classes and they were quite different from my class. Whereas I said 51% had fathers or other relatives that were Amherst graduates. And where in my class it was mostly composed of people from 16 states, I think there were only 16 states represented, and mostly from the northeast. Wilson had given us national reputation and had traveled around the country. And he had people from every state, I think. And they were much brighter on average. There were, you know, there were always some in my day that were the equal of anybody afterwards, but the average was higher. The expectation of of doing work, of doing papers. The writing of honors thesis far higher proportion did it than in my day when maybe only a quarter or so bothered doing that.
Hawkins: Okay. I have down here, and although you've mentioned both of these figures, people I think of as very important in the American Studies Movement at Amherst, George Rogers Taylor, and Edmond C. Rozwenc. I thought maybe we should talk a little about each of those. It would be good to have it on the record. We're doing okay on time, I think.
Greene: Okay. Well, I'd be glad to get on the record on both cases, but especially Ed Rozwenc, I hadn't known him. I hadn't known of him before. Incidentally, when I mentioned we had to come out at Applewood, we had a Polish historian who somewhere in the valley come and talk about Polish history in the valley. And I mentioned to him that my boss had been Ed Rozwenc and that he had got a Polish student from the Valley to write Kuklis, Bob Kuklis.
Hawkins: Oh, yes.
Greene: To write a fine honors thesis on the experience of the Poles in the valley.
Hawkins: And Ed Rozwenc himself was a Polish instructor.
Greene: And Ed Rozwenc himself was from a Polish family who grew up in Northampton. And he had gone to Columbia and then had done his first teaching at Cornell College in the Midwest, not the University of Cornell.
Hawkins: In Iowa, right?
Greene: In Iowa, one of these religious founded colleges, I don't remember whether it's congregational or Methodist, but Bob Hoops, who's teaching me Shakespeare now, and is head of the Renaissance Center up at the University of Massachusetts and who lives at Applewood. He came up and said, Ed Rozwenc was his teacher out at Cornell.
Hawkins: Oh my.
Greene: And he greatly admired him and was influenced partly into teaching because of cause of it. Well, I really got to know, and to be very fond of Ed Rozwenc and to respect him greatly. He worked very hard. On his lectures and he taught two, he taught a social and intellectual course and a political history course. These were the two main courses in American history. He went on leave at some point after three or four years, after I'd been here three or four years. And I had to take over the one he was doing that year. I think that was, was political history, I can't remember. Social intellectual it was. And so I, and he gave me all his notes and so on to do it. So that they were very impressive. And he and I, we shared an office in Fairweather, which was where many of the historians were located, which meant that we each had a desk facing each other and we saw a great deal of each other. When one of us interviewed students about anything, either American Studies sophomore student, or more likely an honors thesis student where we'd have a conference every week. It would be kind of a joint conference, because you couldn't avoid hearing and pitching in occasionally if you could contribute. I contributed very little to Bob Kuklis, but so that I got to see him at work with students too. And he was very impressive and caring and tactful. Oh, that I liked him a great deal and he, I can't remember, trying to think of what his particular role in, say the sophomore course where George Rogers Taylor was the chairman of the sophomore course, the American Studies problems in American Civilization course.
Hawkins: Yeah. He wouldn't be at the head of the table, but he'd be making very lively suggestions, drafting, bringing in sociology.
Greene: Which that's right. He was very strong. He greatly admired my Columbia mentor, Dick Hofstadter. One reason I think he wanted to give me the job, 'cause I was a Hofstadter student and he was big on the other social sciences and oh, when I came up to Amherst, I happened to be reading C. Wright Mills' "White Collar", which had come out, was a book about the middle class in America. And it just happened. That's what I was reading. And I brought it along and that also he was, I remember he was impressed in that, that I wasn't just reading another story or something.
Hawkins: Your hiring was overdetermined. I could see that too.
Greene: Right. But I hadn't planned on that. It just happened that.
Hawkins: Well, I'm glad that you concentrated on Ed Rozwenc, because I have a feeling that he's unfairly forgotten.
Hawkins: And that George Rogers Taylor is very important and we really need to talk about him because there are so many records about what he did and things named after him. But Ed, who dedicated so much to this department and cared so much about his teaching and inspired students, it's possibly forgotten. He didn't write books of scholarship. And I think that may count a bit against his memory and the professional research.
Greene: Yes. No, it's only the people who knew him that really remember him. But I think everybody who did, you know really, he didn't make jokes. He didn't, he wasn't particularly witty, he was just right.
Hawkins: That's right.
Hawkins: The certain, a certain stiffness there when when I arrived, I found him rather intimidating.
Greene: Right. No, I think he would be, and that's why it was easier to share an office with him where you saw him in a whole variety of ways than. Plus of course, he was a deacon and a prominent figure in First Congregational Church where by 19, what was it? By where my brother was the pastor.
Hawkins: Oh, that's right.
Greene: And so my brother knew him and he and my brother had studied under him and had done his honors thesis with Ed so that I came to Ed. That's the way I knew Ed there was very high on him. And he liked him very much as a, both as a lecturer and as an honors advisor. And.
Hawkins: Very interesting.
Greene: And then they had this continuing relation where Ed was a pillar really of First Church in many ways.
-Hawkins: I think.
Greene: So that I knew him in a variety of ways where a young instructor coming in wouldn't have.
Hawkins: That's right. A presence and the power. Okay. So I begin to see the differences. The third category I have here, and we're just sort of right on schedule as planned is to talk, not about curriculum anymore, but more about your role as a college citizen, which I have vivid memories, but I'm gonna try to let you do the talking about it. Just ask questions. You were on many committees at Amherst College over the years and what would be your first, your overall view? Do these committees really count for anything? Do they have any influence, any power?
Greene: Well, I was never on the committee on educational policy.
Hawkins: Okay, just strike that.
Greene: And that varies I think with the people who are on it, it can be, can have quite a bit of power. It was that committee that put an end to the required curriculum and that made proposals for moving on to a much greater choice. And I think as was be appropriate for a faculty committee, that's where the faculty energy's focus and faculty power is centered. So that, I think I haven't experienced the possibilities really of committee on educational policy. When I was on the committee of six good many times, certainly so far as hiring and firing and tenure decisions go, the committee of six is, has extraordinary power and Dan takes it very, very responsibly as in my experience that one does a lot of homework and reading. As it developed more and more, we found reasonable ways for assessing student views and student opinions. When I first came, there was just guesses at that. And I wasn't on the committees when I first came. I was just wondering how they made their decisions and what I had to do. And you never quite knew. In fact, I came up for tenure in the year that, no, I guess it was the year after Henry Commager was added to the Amherst faculty. And it looked like you didn't need any American historians if you had Henry Commager. But apparently Ed Rozwenc had worked out a deal with the president that he would approve hiring Henry Commager if Charlie Cole would see that I got tenure 'cause I was gonna do the work as I had been. And Commager was gonna be the presence. And we had to work out ways. Henry, his style was set for graduate school. And so that he would give a lecture course and suggest the students read these books. Well, he didn't give page assignments. They were supposed to read the book, which graduate students might do, but undergraduates weren't accustomed to it. They wanted to know what they were responsible for. And that was a limited amount of no more than a hundred pages a class.
Hawkins: Some of this is in the recent biography of Commager by Neil Jumonville, who I think interviewed you.
Greene: That's right.
Hawkins: So the sense of his difficulties here is on the record.
Greene: But it meant that somebody also, I mean, he would read part of a student honors thesis chapter or something and say, well, you don't have to, didn't didn't have to eat the whole apple to know it was rotten. And so somebody had to be there to pick up with him. You couldn't assign a student to do an honors thesis unless somebody was gonna be back up. And who would read the whole damn rotten apple.
Hawkins: I'm a witness to that. I think you also counseled some of his students who were assigned to him for honors thesis.
Greene: Yeah, yeah.
Hawkins: And helped them work through the year.
Greene: And some of 'em appreciate it. I mean they got often great deal from that kind of thing, but it wasn't what most undergraduates expected.
Hawkins: It's a sort of stimulus. It did great things with some people. For others they were bewildered. This isn't what they thought college was about. Well, I can see that committees aren't the most exciting thing about your memories of Amherst.
Greene: Well there were some committees that were. There was a committee I created, which was the College Council, which I still think was one of the major benefits in getting us through the whole turmoil of the sixties. There was no place before that where students could sit down with administrators and faculty members to make proposals to talk over issues that they had in mind. And this was a proposal that I made. The idea being that the, we'd had some experience of it during one of the moratoria or during some of one of the sessions.
Hawkins: My recollection would be that the college council was in existence at the time of the moratorium with classes called off.
Greene: Right, right.
Hawkins: That Ruth Morgan was the chair of it. And they said, thank goodness this exists. And you had sort of foreseen that this might be.
Greene: But there'd been some occasion during the summer where some committee that also had some alumni on it had met along with faculty members and some students. And I then proposed that we should set up a body regularly where students would have representatives, where faculty would be there and where some deans would be there. And though that was available and that was what ran the moratorium and what we could get a sense of what student concerns were from this. And we could give them some sense of power too. The power was only a power of recommendation. They could recommend a measure be done by the Committee of six or by the Committee on Educational policy or by the administration. But they didn't have the final power of decision on it. It had to be accepted by the people who still held the power. That was my idea, that it really would be a voice for them and they'd have to exercise it reasonably and effectively in order to have any power. Well, they did, it did help to change simple demonstrations into discussions and pros and cons, and a much more reasonable procedure.
Hawkins: Did you serve on the college council yourself?
Greene: Yes. I think I was chair of it for a while. I remember taking their recommendations into the faculty meeting in order to argue for them. And.
Greene: I can't remember for sure this, I was gonna write history of the college from 1940 to 1980, but I just don't have the energy for it. I've got a lot of notes in a lot of Xerox copies.
Hawkins: Well, we'll get some of it here, this interview, I associate you, and correct me if I'm wrong, with the creation of the senior assembly, which is a very special thing now. People wearing caps and gowns and there's an elected speaker and then there's dinner afterwards. And it's a big, it's a rather warm occasion for students and faculty. And in my memory, you're the one who thought that up, that earlier there'd been sort of a senior assembly for 30 minutes in the morning where they gave some prizes.
Greene: Oh, right. Yeah, yeah.
Hawkins: Well, maybe. Okay.
Greene: I don't remember that.
Hawkins: Okay, well that's nice to do. I'd good around the place.
Greene: I'd like to take credit for it, but in my memory isn't that good. But.
Hawkins: Now we talked about, you know, committees about student power and parenthetically, after the college council was formed, other committees like the CEP began to have student members. And the college now operates very much on that plan.
Greene: But maybe, the major committee that had some impact on Amherst was the visiting committee on co-education, which I cheered.
Hawkins: That's right. Yeah, let's talk about that right now. Because that's a hundred years from now. They may look back and say, that was really the most important change at Amherst. And you know, a lot of it from the inside.
Greene: Well, I wrote a 76 page report, which includes, most, includes our experience in visiting a great number of men's colleges, which had admitted women about that period. And I have in there my efforts to analyze both why students were seeking power at this time, what was the source of all the turmoil and how that related to co education. So my fully complicated answer to why students were seeking power is there in that report, Mavis Campbell was going to incorporate three or four pages from it in her book on Amherst Women. But.
Hawkins: Black women of Amherst.
Greene: Black women of Amherst, yeah.
Hawkins: I should say again, parenthetically, when I tried to give my copy of that report to the archives, they said they already had plenty.
Greene: Oh, right.
Hawkins: So that report is well preserved.
Greene: Yes, I'm sure.
Hawkins: But the question I had down here, and what you just said doesn't really answer it, is why was the decision for co-education at Amherst so agonized?
Greene: Oh, well that's very simple. Everybody always knew that. Same reason it was very agonized at Haverford, because of our ties with Smith and Mount Holyoke. We had, you know, all the traditions were that you dated Holyoke and No, you married, you dated Smith and married Holyoke. All my mother's grandmothers went to Smith. I dated both, not greatly, but, and as I say, Charlie Cole's notion had been that like him, if all Amherst students married Smith graduates, we would create an aristocracy. And there was a lot of that feeling and feeling that to admit women to Amherst would somehow hurt Smith and Mount Holyoke.
Hawkins: You don't think there was just some plain old male chauvinism that this was a male balliwick and we want to keep it that way.
Greene: Oh sure. I mean, but that's everywhere that, that's assumed.
Hawkins: It was no worse at Amherst.
Greene: You're asking what's special about Amherst, and it was even more at Amherst. They assumed Smith and Mount Holyoke were their balliwick and so on.
Hawkins: I certainly think of you as a central figure in that change. But who else would you say contributed to bringing the change to pass?
Greene: Well, Bill Ward, of course, made the original recommendation, which the trustees agonized over and split right down the middle in their vote, Bill Ward based his decision on justice. It was only fair that women should be admitted to an Amherst education. They shouldn't be excluded from it. It was in women's interest for them to go to Amherst. And we shouldn't be nasty enough to exclude them. When Sheila Tobias, who was the woman at Wesleyan presiding over the admission of women to Wesleyan read Ward's report, she got incensed and said, he's crazy. Women don't need Amherst. Amherst needs women. Her argument was that Amherst would become an anachronism in 10 years if Amherst didn't admit women as women took more and more important places in the world as lawyers and doctors and so on, more often became women. Women more often became lawyers and doctors and even CEOs. I have one former student who's heading to CEO-dom, I think, in general electric, best student I ever had is this woman. And her argument was Amherst couldn't afford not to admit women. Well, that was, I used that quotation from her in the report. I used it also in a large alumni gathering on the steps in front of the library here. And I, well, and Walter Gillhorn told me later that that was the argument that turned Eustace Seligman around. Eustace was an extremely important member of the board of trustees. And he was often an open and reasonable fellow in many ways. He was afraid that Amherst would lose by admitting women. And he didn't go for this justice bit. We owed it to the women.
Greene: But when he looked at it this way, Walter, I think had read it to him, had read the report, had read my 76 page report to him. And Walter said that that had transformed everything for him, that had made it very different. He somehow never thought that Amherst might lose by not having women. And so that was in his case and he was a key figure on the board. I don't know, I think by that time we'd been at it long enough. So everybody was pretty well convinced.
Hawkins: There was some drift of opinion. But you remind us that it was a very intellectualized argument here. People had to have reasons and had to justify. It just wasn't that.
Greene: Well, and they, they needed that report. I mean, it made sense. The trustees said they wanted to wait five years so that they could learn from the experience of these other men's colleges, which had admitted women and see whether they went downhill or what happened to them. And so that was why I went out to get this report. All of the colleges that we visited were enthused about the change and the admission of women. And they were all very pleased. And they had evidence of how it had energized and all the places where they'd admit them. The only other place having trouble was Haverford. They were even closer to Bryn Mawr than we are. They were only five minutes away between the two campuses.
Hawkins: Walk. Some of the Bryn Mawr students and they would exchange dormitories. Most of their extracurricular activities were often merged. And the president of Haverford was trying to get Haverford to admit women. And we had a long talk with, he and Bill Ward used to console one another over their problems. And also their trouble was in the Quaker institution, you had to reach consensus. You couldn't have a minority, you never overrode minority opinion in Quaker. So they really were stuck. And many of their trustees were married to Bryn Mawr graduates. And it was true, that Bryn Mawr had a tougher scholastic image and stance than did Haverford. Haverford was a bit more feminine, a bit softer, a bit less competitive. Bryn Mawr had quite a hard competitive edge.
Hawkins: One institution at Amherst that I think of as rather special is the faculty meeting. And the faculty members are required to attend. And it is held in the evening and seems to be rather important matters get settled there. And the exchange of opinion is very open. What's your recollection? Was there evolution and change in faculty meeting during your time here?
Greene: Well, it changed a bit with the change in presidents, which is probably where you're working up next, because Charlie Cole ran a tight ship and in Charlie Cole's day, we met in the Babit room, and the front row of chairs was always reserved for senior professors. And then two, three rows of chairs plus the seats against the wall. You kind of worked back to junior figures were against the wall more ways than one. And you kind of waited for the senior professors to announce themselves. And they were fairly eccentric in those days. Warren Greene, I can't remember all the eccentric figures, people of strong will and views. Charlie Cole had been a member of the faculty. He knew all about them and he knew how to get around them and keep things moving. After that, partly moving into the red room changed the whole atmosphere because everybody was equal in a sense. We had an amphitheater and there was no reserved seats for the seniors. They were scattered around like everybody else. And I think, the whole country moved a bit towards more democratic sharing.
Hawkins: When the Red Room became the place where a faculty meeting met, that was under Calvin Plimpton.
Hawkins: And, he in fact helped design.
Greene: Well, yeah. And of course, and Plimpton encouraged that. He, if Cole had been president during the sixties, we would've had a tough time.
Hawkins: Counterfactual history. Very interesting.
Greene: But Plimpton was urbane, had great sense of humor, was able to make a joke or play a fool, do whatever was needed to take the edge off of things, to get people to accept what they didn't want to accept. He didn't try to argue them into anything.
Hawkins: That's well said.
Greene: And he didn't lay down the law either. He made decisions that had to be made. But we were really fortunate to have anyone as you know, as self-confident as Plimpton. Plimpton was not gonna be shaken by any radical opponents or views. He wasn't gonna take it personally. And whereas with Cole who knew the way things ought to be and had really done a great deal to transform Amherst and make it a much more intellectual place, I think it would've been harder for him to see what was happening in the sixties or to accept recommendations from the college council and so on.
Hawkins: I would tend to agree that Plimpton at the time, people say, oh, this is a weak president. He doesn't have control of things. You're wandering. But in reality, the very virtues that you speak to are the ones that kept the, held the institution together and let us come out pretty well on the far end of the sixties.
Greene: Right. No, and I'm prejudiced 'cause I was involved in it so much. But I thought we came out as well as any other college in those times. And we often were the model on the front page of the Times, the letter that was written by the president to Nixon about the moratorium.
Hawkins: Again, the Amherst pattern, you focus on organized thought and put it down in words. That's kind of the Amherst way.
Greene: Yeah, yeah.
Hawkins: But surely you think of excesses among the students then that.
Greene: Oh yeah.
Hawkins: Or maybe you've suppressed them. One might want to.
Greene: I can't say, my memory isn't that great nowadays.
Hawkins: But your sense is that generally there was a push from the students. Some of the things they were asking for were legitimate and there was positives.
Greene: Yeah. I always thought and thought that there was always some things that could even should be done. And.
Hawkins: I remember your involvement in the time when the military recruiters were in Valentine and there was a sit-in to block them from coming in. I think your view is quite active in trying to resolve that.
Greene: Well that's, again, that's one of those things I don't remember.
Greene: I don't remember.
Hawkins: Maybe I was.
Greene: Well I was involved and we did work out some kind of arrangement. Get them out of Valentine where everybody had to go past them in order to get to their meals, put 'em in the alumni house.
Hawkins: That's right.
Hawkins: That's what I remember.
Greene: That's pretty obvious.
Hawkins: The name for that. Well, it wasn't, wouldn't have been obvious if somebody like you hadn't thought it through. And the argument was, we have an open campus. There's no view that can't be expressed here. But you don't coerce people by being right in front of the place where they eat.
Greene: Yeah. Yeah.
Hawkins: I think that ended rather successful.
Greene: Anybody wanted to go see mail that their recruiter could, but you didn't have to walk past them.
Hawkins: Okay. I very much associate that. You with that movement. Well, one doesn't know, maybe if we go president by president, and I think we might go back to the time when you were a student, and Stanley King was the president. How did he, how did you think of him when you were a student in those years?
Greene: Well, I came somewhat prejudiced against Stanley King, because my father had been a strong supporter of Alexander Meiklejohn. And Stanley King had been on the board of trustees when Meiklejohn was fired. And that was one of the great traumas in Amherst history that in the 1939 we were still living with in many ways. And King had been chairman of the committee that picked King to be president. And.
Hawkins: That's going to sound like a misstatement, but that's literally true.
Hawkins: He chaired the committee and he then turned out to be the candidate. Yes. Okay.
Greene: Right. I'm not positive, I'm pretty sure that that's the case.
Hawkins: Certainly all I've ever heard.
Greene: And really in my case, my view of Stanley King has been one that has developed, much more favorably than it was when I came or for quite a while after. He really did get us through the depression. It was Dwight Morrow who decided that Amherst better take its investments out of the stock market in early in 1929 before the crash. And that was what initially gave Amherst one of the larger endowments per student for any college, was the fact that, that Morrow had made that decision. But it was Stanley King who really prudently managed the college through the Depression and brought us into World War II in pretty good financial shape. And who then set up the committees, the Kennedy Committee for the new curriculum, the Cole committee for the New Social Order. And, he set this pattern for presidents of setting up committees on their departure. It never quite worked as well again as it did in that case. Then partly it was 'cause Stanley picked the right people to sit on them, and gave them enough freedom to make very fine suggestions and reports. So I've come to feel better about him. And, but there were all kinds of jokes. He and Charlie Cole both had trouble with their Rs. They couldn't pronounce R they always said W instead. So the joke about Stanley King always was when he invited people to come to the President's house, he would tell them to put their coats up in my wife's womb. It was strange that we had two presidents who in a row both couldn't say R. Nicole was careful never to say anything like that. So I have come to feel better about Stanley King because of that. Charlie Cole was the key figure in transforming Amherst. You've heard my.
Hawkins: Yeah, I thought.
Greene: Talk about that.
Hawkins: That's on record here in the archive. Certainly. That was a very informative, very moving. And I thought maybe for that reason we'd say less about Charlie Cole, who certainly maybe this perhaps the outstanding figure here.
Greene: And I've already said, I think it would've been too bad if he stayed longer. But he left his, the longest term of any president is 13 years. And he.
Hawkins: Or maybe 14.
Hawkins: I have a feeling.
Greene: Equaled to somebody or other than in that.
Hawkins: So that, we agree on that as a general phenomenon. And how about John William Ward? You've already mentioned his role in coeducation, but other things about him and his presidency, former colleague of yours in American Studies and history, who became president?
Greene: Well, of course, I greatly liked John William Ward. He was a colleague. I admired him before he came to Amherst. And the book he wrote Andrew Jackson, the article he wrote on Lindberg. And.
Hawkins: Do you have a sense that when he was brought here on the faculty, that that was sort of unnecessary addition? That we already were pretty well covered in American history. We had Leo Marks, Ed Rozwenc.
Greene: Well, we could have got along without him, but I was delighted that he came, he came because he was a friend of Leo Marks mostly. I think Leo wanted him, and Leo wanted to come because of Leo. And the two of them did a great deal for American studies and.
Hawkins: Certainly true.
Greene: As president, I was surprised when he accepted the presidency. I don't, I still don't quite know why he did it, why it really appealed to him so much at that time. And his key decision, of course, to going to sit in at Westover, I always understood it as flowing naturally from his book on individualism in the Jacksonian era, his lectures and writings on Henry Thoreau. For him, it was very important that one not allow individuality to be replaced entirely by institutional demands and institutional pressures. Which was why I was a little puzzled that he accepted the presidency. Having accepted it, I wasn't surprised that he would risk his institutional status and possibly some of the support for the institution by doing what he felt as an individual had to be done.
Hawkins: That's only a dramatic thing that happened in his first year here. He was president for eight years. Did you feel he was.
Greene: It wasn't his first year here was it?
Hawkins: It was the spring of his very first year as president.
Greene: Was it?
Hawkins: Yeah. So it was early on. And one theory as well, this poisoned his relation with alumni and caused trouble from then on and postponed the fun drive because relations were bad. So many people were resentful. But his, on the scene here, working with faculty, making hiring decisions, conducting faculty meetings, was it helpful that he was a former colleague of the people he was with, he was working with?
Greene: Well it wasn't, I mean, there were some people who resented him because he had been a former colleague. I mean, they were as good as he was. Why weren't they president? And who seemed to be competitive with him throughout. So in that sense, I mean, competition often is helpful, but I think that wasn't particularly helpful. And Bill was competitive. He would respond to that. I'd like Cal Plimpton who might make a joke about it or back off or say what a poor fool am I or something. Bill, that was not his style at all. But certainly for many of us who had known him as a colleague, it meant, you know, great respect and decisions he made. You would, even if you had some doubts about them, you would take seriously because you had respect for him. I don't know how, whether it was a help or a hindrance, as they say, in some cases, both.
Hawkins: Personally, it must have been really sad for him 'cause he wanted to stay warmly attached.
Hawkins: To his friends and institutionally, sometimes he had to couldn't frustrate them or quarrel with them.
Greene: Right, right. Well, again, that's why, but he took great delight, as he said, in being able to telephone anywhere in the country and say, this is President Ward of Amherst College and be heard. He thought that gave him a great deal of influence, a great deal of access. And it did. Again that added to the frustration when he really couldn't do anything but go sit in the road. But as you say, that happened early on.
Hawkins: And you know, one thing we haven't talked about, that he would associate himself with another president would too, is the increased admission of African American students. Now, do you think that this was a conscious policy that the institution thought out with this intellectual carefulness that we both referred to? Or was that just pressure and so yes. Yes. We'll give you more black students. Please don't have another sit in.
Greene: Oh, I, you know, I thought starting with Bill Wilson, that was college policy. It wasn't so much limited to black students as it came to be in the sixties, but limited to a whole variety of students who would've had a harder time under the previous Dean of admissions while I was a student was Dean McMeekin. The story that all students heard was that Dean McMeekin came to be a dean, because somebody had given the money for Kirby Theater and insisted that this guy be made Dean of admissions, 'cause he didn't have any other job. Well, McMeekin was not the kind to be a leader of any sort and not the kind to try to widen the constituency of Amherst College. Bill Wilson took over and he was the one, and Charlie Cole knew what he would do. And they, I'm sure they, and it spelled out in the reports of the Kennedy Committee and the reports of the Cole committee, that Amherst was a pretty provincial inbred kind of place and needed desperately to widen its impress on the country. So that I'd assumed it was a conscious policy as developed after the war. And that was continuing. Of course, it came to be not so much the admission of more African American students. As African American students took over the Babit room. I took over the.
Hawkins: Yeah, what is it called now?
Greene: The Octagon? The Octagon as the Center for Black Culture. That was extraordinarily symbolic. The octagon was the site of the First Congregational Church, which started Amherst College. And before it moved across the street to College Hall and then on down to where it is now that was where Amherst started on whatever the name of that hill is. And I use it as when I wrote the essay on, in Amherst's history on the years from '46 to '76, the site of the Octagon and the site of the Second Congregational church down on East Street. That was the place where those who split off from First Congregational Church, because the minister during the revolution was a Tory and his son David Parson's Junior, took over after him. And his son was also a Tory or had been, and that was too much for great many of the Patriots in Amherst. They moved down and started the Second Congregational church, which made it a center of the most loyal Amherst town.
Hawkins: Loyal citizens, loyal to the revolution.
Greene: And that by the time by '76 had been taken over as the center for the Jewish community. And it one had either end in a sense of the old Amherst, were these two transformations of what had been centralized.
Hawkins: That's a beautiful use of place for symbolic purposes and to show change through place.
Greene: So that it wasn't the, nobody really was opposed to admitting them. And they were, they never, as far as I know, accepted people who couldn't do the work, or who some needed some extra work and some extra help.
Hawkins: On this complex subject, I think we probably have somewhat different memories, but I'll wait till somebody's interviewing me. We have two more presidents to get to.
Greene: Well, you were involved.
Hawkins: Yeah, I would have a somewhat different take on it. But this was not the time or place for that. Julian Gibbs, his three and a half year presidency. You were here, you were on the committee of six for part of it. I believe you were.
Greene: Right. A good part of it. Well, I really think Julian Gibbs, I was surprised that Bill Ward took it, took the post. And I wasn't surprised that Julian took the post, but I think it was a mistake. He just wasn't really temperamentally suited to that job, was my impression of him throughout. And he was very attached to Brown and to the way they did things at Brown. He had a hard time shaking himself free from that. Catherine Bateson tells in her memoir about going to, at the president's house on the lawn, and in the fall there would be a picnic supper or lunch or something or other. And said one older member of the faculty came up to her, and complimented her and said how surprised he was at how well she had done. Well she takes that in her book as an indication that this older faculty member thought was surprised whenever women did anything well, something like that. What I was trying to convey to her was that as compared to Julian Gibbs, she as a good anthropologist had a grasp of Amherst culture and Amherst ways of doing things far more readily than he had. And in that sense, she'd taken over much more smoothly than Gibbs had. I think I tried to tell her that later, but she wouldn't buy it. She knows what she thought it was.
Hawkins: I'm glad that you have had this chance for a corrective at the written text by former Dean Bateson, which does present it that way. And you were anonymous, but that's, we still want have it accurate. Okay. Peter Pouncey was president.
Greene: Well, I was, I'd retired by the time Peter Pouncey.
Hawkins: Oh really?
Greene: Peter Pouncey took over.
Greene: He came out and gave us a delightful talk on liberal arts colleges at Applewood. And I had some other dealings with him, but I don't know enough to give you a formal opinion.
Hawkins: Okay. Now I often end my classes and seminars by saying, as I've structured this, was there something that you were wanting to say that you've not been allowed to say? And I don't see why you shouldn't have that same privilege?
Greene: Well, I hadn't been wanting to say anything, so I don't think I will extend it.
Hawkins: Okay. I think.
Greene: If something occurs to me, I will try to write a piece of that history that I never could get around to.
Hawkins: The correspondence. We've talked a lot about these things before, but I must say I've learned an immense amount that is new as you've talked. And I thank you very much for it. And I'm sure that future people watching this video will also be grateful. Thanks a lot. Theodore Greene.
Greene: Okay you. Mostly what you learned was about my family ties.
Hawkins: But that's fascinating. You know, I had the short version that's not most, but earliest memories seem to be the most vivid.
Greene: Yeah. Well that's the way it is.
Theodore P. Greene, class of 1943, came to Amherst in 1952 to teach courses in American colonial, social, intellectual, frontier, and diplomatic history. In 1974, Greene chaired one of the committees studying coeducation at Amherst and wrote a 76-page final report of its findings. He demonstrated for civil rights legislation in the 1960s and against the Vietnam War in the 1970s. He retired in 1989 as the Winthrop H. Smith Professor of History and American Studies, emeritus.
Hugh D. Hawkins was the Anson D. Morse Professor of History and American Studies upon his retirement from the faculty in 2000 after forty-three years of teaching at Amherst. In 1976, he was the principal architect of the first-year Introduction to Liberal Studies curriculum and helped build both the history and American studies departments.
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