Big news in college communications

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.

The speech communication department grew steadily and drew its strength from the fact that every student in the college had to take at least a basic public speaking course.

Once enrolled in that course, Dr. Solomon Simonson and others were successful in convincing students to take part in what he called “co-curricular” activities: drama, debate, oratory, oral interpretation, radio, TV, and film. Majors were required to participate in two activities per semester.

Simonson was committed to the idea of a unified department; that is, combining speech pathology and audiology, theater, public speaking, debate, radio, TV, film. Further, that each major should participate in actual practice outside the classroom.

Through full-time faculty in the department and with loaned faculty quite a program was created. Simonson taught all of the rhetoric and public address courses; another staff member taught oral interpretation and doubled as a teacher of pedagogy.

A third taught theater, supported by an interested member of the English Department who taught technical theatre. A fourth taught courses in radio-TV and a fifth handled speech correction and ran a clinic. (Henry Youngerman for whom our current center is named.) The entire faculty taught at least one section of the introductory public speaking course. Courseload in those days was 15 hours, 12 for a chair.

Dr. Simonson was also successful in having faculty from other departments teach courses that would help the majors-one in English taught script writing but was titled “Advanced Composition.”

The department certainly had public exposure. There were high school forensic tournaments-debate, oral reading, memorized speeches, etc.; a yearly high school drama tournament; a free clinic for those with speech problems. There was a monthly television program, “Fredonia Folio,” airing on WGR-TV, now GRZ, in Buffalo and WICU in Erie.

For radio, a nightly program was aired on WDOE – formerly WFCB – and drew heavily from faculty and student talents. During this period Fredonia won two Ohio State University Awards for an instructional radio series titled “The Radio Schoolhouse of Western New York.” (At one time the Ohio State Awards were the equivalent of “Emmys” for educational/instructional programming.)

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.