1960s

In 1960, BYU moved from the quarter to the semester system. Although this often combined three quarter classes into two semester classes, the department still offered ninety-six courses. The major also dropped from forty-five to thirty hours beyond freshman English to adjust for the switch from quarter to semester hours. New courses included Remedial English, Remedial English for Juniors, and English for Bilingual Students; Lower Division—an advanced freshman course, Technical Writing, Fundamentals of Literature for Majors and Minors; Upper Division—The Spirit of Tragedy in Literature, The Bible as Literature, four courses in World Classics, English and American Folk Poetry; and Graduate—The American Novel, The English Novel, Colonialism and Puritanism in American Literature, and Research in Folklore.

Bruce B Clark

In 1960, Bruce B. Clark became the department’s sixth chair. An able administrator and dedicated teacher, Bruce would later serve as dean of the college. The department continued to grow during the mid- to late-1950s, adding fourteen new faculty members: Marion B. Brady, Frank Horton, Jeannette Morrell, Douglas H. Thayer, Richard G. Ellsworth, John B. Harris, Darcus D. Hyde, Scott S. Hymas, Harold S. Madsen, Lorna R. Nielsen, Ted E. Ridenhour, Mable (Mae) Blanch, Alice (Allie) Howe, Eileen Gibbons, and Celestia J. Taylor.  The emphasis in the department was on teaching. Given the number of students enrolled in English classes, it was essential that all faculty members carry heavy teaching loads and teach well. The department gave little emphasis or encouragement to scholarship leading to publication.

Of the thirty-hour English major in the early 1960s, twenty hours were prescribed:

  • English 251, Fundamentals of Literature (3)
  • English 221, English Grammar (3) (substitution allowed if student showed an unusual mastery of the subject)
  • English 362 or 362, American Literature (3)
  • English 371 or 372 or 373, Early English Literature (3)
  • English 374 or 375, Later English Literature (3)
  • English 382 or 582, Shakespeare (3)
  • English 490, Senior Seminar for English Majors (2)

Majors could emphasize British or American literature, contemporary literature and creative writing, comparative literature, or English language. Two years of foreign language were required. If this requirement were partially waived, the student had to take an additional five hours in the department, if completely waived, ten additional hours.  The department designed a required reading list and developed a senior seminar to be taken the semester before graduation. A potential graduate was further required to take an exit exam based on the reading list, the seminar, and the student’s overall major program. Students taking a teaching major in English filled the same requirements as the regular major, plus additional courses required for certification.

Students taking a teaching minor took a course in grammar, two survey courses in English literature and one period course in American literature. Other students wishing to minor in English took fourteen hours of approved courses. To fill the university requirement for a minor, English majors could complete a regular minor in any department of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Fine Arts, or library science, or a composite minor of twenty hours in approved courses.

In 1960, the university began the Honors Program with Robert K. Thomas of the English Department as its first director. Modeled on a liberal arts education, the program provided superior honors courses taught by dedicated, dynamic faculty in small classes to create a sense of scholarly community and to motivate students to write an honors thesis. From 1960 to 1983, admission was by invitation only and involved less than five percent of the student body. However, it was later found that high test scores and GPAs were not as predictive of academic success as writing ability, specific high school courses, and leadership experience, and so Honors moved to open enrollment. As might be expected, the English faculty has been heavily involved in creating and teaching Honors courses and directing Honors theses since the program’s inception.

Like the rest of the university, the English Department continued to grow in the Sixties. In the fall of 1963, the department had five hundred majors, and eight thousand students taking English classes, five thousand of whom were in freshman English.  Increasingly, freshmen were taught by graduate student instructors, sixty-two of them in 1965-66. These young instructors, as the name implies, were MA students. Teaching was a way for students to pay their way through school, gave them valuable professional experience, and of course was vital in helping the department staff freshman classes. The director and associate director of composition visited instructor classes regularly to check on teaching skills and also held weekly training meetings.

One of the department’s current responsibilities was to administer an English proficiency examination to all university juniors; juniors not passing the exam took a remedial course. To graduate, a student had to pass the exam.  It was hoped that the prospect of not graduating, or being delayed in graduating because of poor English skills, would prompt students to improve these skills. Eventually, however, such a backlog of students who failed the exam developed that the requirement became an administrative nightmare and was dropped.

By the 1965-66 school year, the student body numbered twenty thousand, an increase of ten thousand during the previous decade. To keep up with this continued growth, the department hired another twenty-four faculty members. Some of these new hires were instructors who helped teach the heavy freshman English load for two or three years and then went on to further graduate work or left for other reasons. But many become part of the permanent faculty.  New faculty members were Mary I. Allen, Penelope M. Allen, VerDon W. Ballantyne, Elouise Bell, George C. Bennion, Robert W. Blair,  Richard H. Cracroft, Harrison M. Davis, Blaine H. Hall, Darwin L. Hayes, Dustin H. Heuston, L. Douglas Hill, Eileen Kump, C. Craig McNeil, Ruth M. Mackay, Judith L. Merrell, Lorna R. Nielson, Karen F. Parker, Susan E. Ream, Charles D. Tate, Jr., L. John Taylor, Elizabeth Wahlquist, Marjorie Wight, and William A. Wilson.

Determined to improve teaching, President Wilkinson set up a new system whereby students evaluated faculty and the results were reported to deans and chairs. The intent was to rate teachers, reward superior teaching, and improve teaching where necessary. Not enthusiastic about the university system, Dean Clark, with the help of college chairs, devised a different approach which ultimately gained administrative approval. The student evaluation eventually became part of a three-part faculty evaluation that included teaching, citizenship, and scholarship on which promotions and continuing status (tenure) were granted. New faculty submitted a file after three years and again after six years, showing their achievements in the three areas. The file was then reviewed by department, college, and university committees. New faculty who passed the three-year review were advanced to candidacy for promotion to associate professor and continuing status, which were granted after passing the six-year review. Prior to the three-part evaluation, promotions were based largely on seniority and competent teaching. The move to the three-part evaluation was typical of the continuing effort to improve the faculty and particularly to encourage scholarship and publication.

Wilkinson also stressed the dress code. Famous for his crushing handshake, Wilkinson stood at the entrance to the Smith Field House to greet every student who came at the beginning of the term to register. He also had a committee present who decided whether a student’s dress and grooming met the university standard. Those who didn’t (skirts too tight or short, hair too long, beard unshaven, etc.) were denied entry until they returned in more presentable fashion. Selected students, zealous of the dress code, carried printed “Pardon Me” cards with them night and day; seeing a wandering violator on campus they would, without comment, slip the student a card, hoping for speedy reformation.

The dress code included the proviso that women, including faculty, might not wear slacks or pants, not even during periods of severe winter cold.  Eventually, of course, common sense prevailed, and women were allowed to dress against the frosty cold. Length of women’s skirts and shorts was always an issue, and it later became an issue with men’s shorts as well.  As with the women’s attire, it was assumed by some that if a man’s shorts were above the knee, his intention was to allure, if not to provoke. After serious debate and argument, it was generally concluded that knee length was safest for all concerned. If a male faculty member needed to wear a beard because of skin problems, he was required to present a note from his physician to support his case. The argument that Brigham Young and Karl G. Maeser both wore beards, as their on-campus statues proved, did not avail. Wilkinson was particularly concerned that faculty women not wear sheer blouses, to which one of the single female members of the English Department took severe umbrage. One day, although wearing an opaque blouse, she said to a male colleague that you would see them again, to which he quipped, “And what, Miss _______,is the antecedent of  ‘them’?”

During these years, students registered for their classes by pulling cards, the whole process taking place in the Field House. Coming in pre-assigned alphabetical groups, students, after passing the dress code gauntlet and Wilkinson’s maiming handshake, entered the area west of the basketball playing floor. Here they found a great horseshoe of tables with faculty under department signs handing out class cards. Students, their semester class programs in hand, stood in lines, sometimes long, hoping to pull a card for the desired class. If the cards were gone, as they sometimes were, students typically asked what class cards were available, often taking what they could get. The whole process proved so daunting that a few students (probably freshmen), disgusted and frustrated, gave up and left the building, abandoning all hopes of a college education. In the subsequent years registration would be by telephone and eventually on-line.

Department life was not all work and no play. At a fall social every year the faculty gathered for food and entertainment at one of the local ward houses. Supper was strictly pot luck, and delicious, with a wide array of meat and vegetable dishes, casseroles, salads, rolls, and desserts. The entertainment (known as the Faculty Follies) came from the department, including solo music performance, skits, original readings, roasts of faculty members, satirical sketches, and jokes. Perhaps one of the most memorable events was a beauty contest for six male faculty dressed in drag—bathing suits, tutus, and evening gowns, which, needless to say, brought down the house. The social eventually shifted from ward houses to BYU-owned Aspen Lodge at Sundance. At Christmas the department had a noon Christmas dinner on campus, again strictly potluck but without entertainment, the emphasis being on good food and conversation.

Under Wilkinson’s determined leadership and ambition to make BYU a major university, BYU continued to add students, buildings, and programs. A successful Washington, D.C., attorney, rather than an academic, Wilkinson was not always as sensitive or democratic as some faculty might have wished. A hard driver and a very hard worker, Wilkinson was sometimes known to work on Sundays in his effort to get things done. His comment that to be a professional one had to put in sixty hours a week did not sit well with all of the faculty. A campus rumor had it that Wilkinson wanted to put in time clocks and have the faculty clock in and out each day. New buildings didn’t come with faculty lounges.   If a faculty member felt the urge to discuss policy, programs, or changes with Wilkinson, he or she needed to be prepared. In his office Wilkinson had a whole series of charts and graphs that he could pull out to hammer a point home. He respected those who could argue from facts and sound reasoning and stand up to him, but he had little regard for those who lacked backbone. Given the problems of a growing university and the differing opinions and personalities involved, general faculty meetings sometimes became heated.

Typical of the changes on campus, and Wilkinson’s manner of effecting those changes, was the dividing in 1965 of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences into the College of Social Sciences and the College of Humanities. In the college meeting where the division was announced, a young, somewhat naïve English instructor asked if the division had been discussed with the college faculty. Wilkinson briefly turned to his two vice-presidents, then turned back and said no. When the instructor asked if it might not have been useful to discuss the division with the faculty first, Wilkinson had no comment.

That evening, the young instructor received a call from a seasoned faculty member complimenting him on his courage and telling him that he walked where angels feared to tread. This same instructor in a later meeting asked the Dean of Students if it were true that his office used the lie detector on students. The dean, at first reluctant to answer yes or no, finally said, “We find it gets good results.” The questioning instructor long regretted not commenting, “So does the electric chair.”

Bruce B. Clark, who was just completing his fifth year as chair, became dean of the new College of Humanities in 1965, eventually serving for sixteen years.

Dale H. West, a tall, angular man much given to irony, became the chair of the English Department in 1968, serving for the next seven years. Although not at the same rate as in previous years, the department continued in the sixties to hire new faculty to meet the demands of increasing student enrollment. Newly hired were brothers Brian S. and Larry G. Best, Maureen Derrick, Margaret T. Goff, Jerry A. Herndon, Neal E. Lambert, Julia P. Halgren, Marion K. Smith, Stephen C. Walker, Thomas L. Wood, Glade Hunsaker, Glen McKellar, Rose E. Calder, Don E. Norton, and Ray Williams.

In 1967, the English Department moved from the McKay Building to the top floor of the new west wing or annex (JKBA) of the Jesse Knight Business Building, later renamed the Jesse Knight Humanities Building.  Prior to this, the English Department faculty had offices in eleven different buildings—McKay, Maeser, Social Hall, Jesse Knight, Joseph Smith, Smoot, Harris Fine Arts Center, Smith Field House, J. Rueben Clark Library, and two temporary office buildings. Although bringing the faculty together in one building was a great improvement, graduate student instructors were crammed into two small classrooms on the bottom floor of the annex where they rotated the use of cubicles and desks.

English Department Faculty, 1969. Left to right: Harold S. Madsen, Edward L. Hart, Briant S. Jacobs, Bruce B. Clark, Ross S. Esplin, Neal E. Lambert, A. Lemar Hendrickson, O. Glade Hunsaker, Richard G. Ellsworth, Margaret T. Goff, John A. Thomas, Edward A. Geary, Susan E. Ream, Brian S. Best, Ted E. Ridenhour, Celestia J. Taylor, Thomas E. Cheney, Olive K. B. Mitchell, Clinton F. Larson, Byron W. Gassman, Darwin L. Hayes, Ray S. Williams, William A. Wilson, Douglas H. Thayer, Woodruff C. Thompson, John S. Harris, Dean B. Farnsworth, Richard H. Cracroft, Dale H. West.

In addition to faculty offices, the top floor of the annex included three office suites for the department headquarters. Faculty also had a large workroom (copy center) with copying machines, faculty mail boxes, and a supply room. For the first time faculty had student assistants to help with proofing, copying, collating, stapling, and other tasks. A small room doubled as a committee and lunch room.

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