An Academic Camelot
John Hulteng in his own words
In the fall of 1955, when I decided to leave the newspaper business and try my hand at teaching, there were several options available to me. I chose Allen Hall at the University of Oregon and never regretted the decision.
It was a fortunate time, and a fortunate place. The School of Journalism was small in that era, with perhaps a dozen or two graduating seniors. The faculty members were relatively young, close knit and congenial. The dean, Charles Duncan, was the finest journalism administrator I would ever know. The University campus was comfortable and scenic, and Allen Hall itself only a year old.
It was possible in those days to know -- and know well -- every student. The camaraderie that existed then, rather than a stiff teacher-pupil relationship, was exemplified each spring at an annual awards dinner. The faculty would present skits lampooning students' foibles and the students would return the favor. And favor it was, since it reflected a reciprocal, almost familial warmth.
There came a time when observers of the academic scene would characterize the students of the 1950s and early 1960s as a passive and unresponsive. I never found them so. They had integrity, imagination and idealism and they were a joy to work with.
There was a similarly gratifying family relationship between the School and the professional media in the state and region. It was a relationship characterized by mutual respect and shared values. All of the faculty members had extensive professional experience in their backgrounds, so they had common ground with the editors, broadcasters and advertisers. Annual meetings of journalistic associations were held at the School, or in Eugene with significant involvement of the School.
When I was appointed dean of the School of Journalism in 1962, the student body had grown appreciably. It was no longer feasible for every faculty member to know every student: disciplinary departmentalization was spreading and core courses were less universal.
But the traditions were still maintained: the family dinner each spring, with the lively skits; the collegiality among faculty members: the high standards in the curriculum.
By the end of the 1960s the currents of unrest and passionate protest that were wrenching every campus in the nation, from Columbia to Kent State to Berkeley, emerged at Oregon. They indirectly claimed the lives of a fellow dean I knew well and of the acting president of the University, as relationships deteriorated and understanding faltered. There was less disruption within the School of Journalism than elsewhere on campus, perhaps in part because our students were studying how to report and analyze events and movements and thus may have been less easily swayed by simplistic appeals and solutions.
I was away from the School off and on during the early 1970s, at Stanford as a visiting professor, or spending a year as an administrator at the EastWest Center at the University of Hawaii. But I came back to Allen Hall in 1975 for a second, short-term tour of duty as dean.
When I left Oregon in 1977 to join the Stanford faculty, it was with many a pang and a long, wistful backward look.
The Oregon year -- particularly the first dozen or so of those years -- are for me a particularly luminous memory. It was a cherished era. a kind of academic Camelot.