Historical echoes, part 4

Mon 06 Jul 2009 10:37 AM

This is the fourth part of William Leue's history of the UAlbany Philosophy Department. For context, see part I, part II, and part III.

Leue gives us more of his thinly pseudonymous poetry along with the rumblings of the coming revolution.

This installment is from Phib v 1 (1972-1973), n 18, pp 72-74.


In August of 1966, the Philosophy Department, along with most of the other departments and schools of the State University of New York at Albany, broke out of the chrysalis of the cramped downtown campus and rented quarters scattered over half of Albany and became part of the spectacular new academic butterfly that sprawled in spectacular new splendor across the western outskirts of the city. Thought it had been gestating for several years, we and the general public were rather surprised by the sudden advent of this "University Center" - one of the four that were to head-up the Empire State's late-entering but fast running contender in the public-higher-education-system-race. There we suddenly were - a not quite dry, but not quite complete competitor with Berkeley and Ann Arbor, or at least with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Certainly, the physical incompleteness of the plant as we moved in was obvious. Work was still in progress on the humanities building, some classrooms and offices lacked furnishings and even doors. The Library, the two end buildings on the Podium, and the four academic buildings along its southern edge were the only ones which were approximately ready to be put into service, the Campus Center was still half-a-year from completion. The four buildings on the north side of the Podium and the Performing Arts Center were still in the fairly early stages of construction, and the Lecture Center was merely a large hole in the center on the works. The Colonial Quad., second of the tower-dominated dormitory complexes was nearing completion. Work had barely started on the State Quad., and a start on the Indian Quad. was still two years away. One could only imagine the "dreadful symmetry" of the finished form of the whole construction, which may have helped to exaggerate its impact.

Old habits and ways persisted for a while. Some of us even had our drab old desks moved up from Draper Hall, thus cheating ourselves out of the racier but smaller new models. That venerable, student, underground publication, Suppression, along with its submerged contributors, such as "Old Bill," also moved to the new campus and endured - for a while.

Old Bill brought his disenchanted mood with him and greeted the new setting with one of his truly less memorable pieces.


Well here we go

To Flat-Top U.

Out on the sandy plain,

Far from the grime

And urban squalor,

Far from our warehouses

And Babyland;

Out to the Hanging Gardens

And more-than-Oriental-splendor,

Out to the tree pots

And golf tee forests,

The sunken patios

And liquid chimes;

Where our twin towers,

One and Two,

(Promising splendid sex equality)

Beckon travelers from afar

Off the Highway of the World

And offer limited access

At Exit twenty-four,

There was, of course, also genuine internal growth. That was the time when "the three Ms" all joined us at once and became the strong pillars of our department which they still are - Tom Martland, Bob Meyers, and Hal Morick.

That was also the time when our M.A. program became to grow, and our first successful candidate, Roger Lee, earned his degree in February of 68 and stayed with us a year-and-a-half as an instructor in our department. He recently dropped in to visit, and is one in the last stages of earning his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Southern California.

There was one other more transient member of our department during part of this period- Bob Perillat, who was with us for one year between his departure from a celebrated academic confrontation "Downstate" and his taking off for more independent pursuits.

Expansion, change, and vague but growing tensions were in the air. The physical barriers to the fast production of a great state university were turning out to be only a minor aspect of the problem, and titanic forces having their origins in vaster and deeper areas of human life were rumbling in the distance. Civil rights and the deepening involvement in Southeast Asia, along with many other drastic changes in the cultural environment, were brewing up a great storm that would shake to their roots the great cliffs of custom upon which our whole enterprise was founded. Doubts and uncertainties increased. Many of us had misgivings about one or another aspect of the enterprise and plans in which we had been caught up, and some of us had nostalgic dreams about quiet scholarly pursuits in an ideal setting of leisurely tranquility.

These are my own vague reflections and are not meant to explain the decision which Bib Creegan made at this time to ask to be relieved of the burdensome responsibilities of the departmental chairmanship. He had presided over the Department's origin and its growth up to this point and certainly deserved such relief.

Finding a person who was willing to take on the difficult assignment of organizing and working for further growth which had been mandated for us, and one in whom we could put our confidence, turned out to be a rather difficult job for those of us on the search committee, so Bob consented to continue to function as chairman until February of 1968, a full semester beyond the time he had wanted to relinquish the job.

(Perhaps one more installment will suffice to complete this small by apparently rank-growing saga.) [Despite Leue's parenthetical, there are two more installments to come.]