A ‘journey’ away from Fredonia

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.

I was the last instructor of radio/TV during this period. I had begun work on my doctorate in 1965 at Syracuse but progress was slow. I could only take courses in the summer and these were limited and expensive at a private university.

I was fortunate to be in a period of time when federal scholarships were plentiful. Two “National Defense Education Act” scholarships paid for two summers of instruction-one with Roger Englander the director of Leonard Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts.” During a third summer I was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to produce an instructional program at WGBH-TV Boston.

This program was inspired by the past performances of Irv Smith and Alice Bartlett in their annual faculty recitals. In concert with Irv and Alice we produced “A Journey is a Person in Itself” (taken from John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley”). It was later aired nationally on PBS.

Unfortunately the program did not move my doctorate forward and after the summer of 1969 I was told that my appointment would not be renewed. I was also told that the administration had decided to concentrate on theater since it was more academically respectable than radio or television. In the 1970-71 school year I returned to Syracuse to finish my residency. From 1972-1976 I taught speech, radio, and television at North Carolina State University.

I also did some production with WRAL-TV thanks to the invitation of Jesse Helms the program director. I also did some work for WUNC-TV the public television station. In January of 1976 I moved to The Ohio State University as Associate Director of their Telecommunications Center.

This was a good training experience but being the only Ph.D. on the staff, and apparently hired for that reason, was certainly different. Happily, Ohio State proved to be the perfect springboard to return to Fredonia as director of instructional resources in 1977.

That last year of 1969-70 was pivotal to the speech-drama era. Irv Smith began looking for another job because he felt that he was too dependent on student money for his productions and that his choice of productions was often compromised.

When he proposed creating a program funded with state and admissions funds he created quite a stir in the administration. The president and his officers had a share of the student funds and the removal of a popular activity like theatre might threaten this. Dr. Robert Nossen, Dean, then Vice President, went so far as to go ballistic and at one meeting jumped on a table and threatened the faculty driving Alice Bartlett to tears.

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.