An Even-Flowing Continuum
Charles Duncan in his own words
It was neither by design nor intent that I became dean. I came to Oregon from the University of Minnesota in the fall of 1950 to join a faculty of seven men, two of them part time. Any thought of administration was farthest from my mind when Gordon Sabine resigned quite unexpectedly in the summer of 1955 to accept the deanship at Michigan State (at the eye popping salary of $15,000). President Wilson asked me to serve as acting dean.
My seven-year tenure as dean was a time of low enrollment, both in the University itself and in the School of Journalism. The post-war surge in college attendance nationwide, brought on to a great extent by the hoards of returning veterans studying under the GI Bill, had been followed by a steady decline.
Classes were small; the full time faculty was never larger than eight and everybody knew everybody. There was one commencement a year. I believe it is accurate to say that there was a cohesiveness and personal relationship among students, and between them and the faculty, that nurtured a distinct sense of group identity. It was the custom to hold an annual journalism "family dinner" each spring, featuring skits. often elaborate and always irreverent, by faculty and students alike.
The 75-year history of our School, it seems to me, has been one of a relatively even-flowing continuum. It didn't seem so then but that was a relatively quiet time. Vietnam, Watergate, racial violence, the drug culture, the feminist movement, all and more were on the horizon but not yet in our face. Students in the early and mid-50s were called "the silent generation." One theory was that, as the young saw it, the lesson of McCarthyism, the bitter taste of which still lingered, was "keep your nose clean and lie low."
In the media world at large it was the “end of an era," or, it could as well be said, the beginning of a new one. The newspaper scene, in Oregon and nationwide, was undergoing radical change but the trend had not yet hit full stride. In broadcasting radio was still dominant in Oregon but television was coming on rapidly. A group of journalism students had their first encounter with the new medium in 1954 when they produced some footage on the construction of a new highway segment in the Coast Range that was aired over KVAL-TV, Eugene's first station.
In sum, those seven years at the helm of what has long been recognized as one of the best schools of journalism in the country were the busiest, most demanding years of my life. Everything considered, they were also the most rewarding in the values that bear no price tag.