A Rollins Perspective
Part III: Setting the Course
By Lorrie Kyle Ramey ’70
“The liberal arts evolve. The curriculum at Rollins is faithful to its distinguished ancestry, yet adapted to contemporary society.”
—Centennial Statement of Educational Objectives, 1981
A trio of Rollins presidents: Jack Critchfield, Thaddeus Seymour and Hugh McKean (l to r)
Seymour immediately spoke of rekindling Rollins’ spirit of community, calling the campus together for his inauguration on November 4, 1978. In seven years, it would be the College’s Centennial and President Seymour defined the course he wanted Rollins to steer: “On November 4, 1985, our aim is to know ourselves and to be known by others as the finest small college in the Southeast, standing among the finest small colleges in the country.”
To continue bringing Rollins to the fore of liberal arts institutions, the College’s curriculum was streamlined. In 1977, the Educational Policy Committee had proposed massive curriculum reform. The general requirements that had succeeded the Hourglass were redrawn. As of 1978, students were called upon to fulfill requirements in Skills (composition, mathematics, foreign language, and “Decision Making”), Cognitive Area (social sciences and science), and Affective Area (arts and literature). As the curriculum changed, new area studies appeared: Urban Studies, Literature in Translation, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Classics.
Rollins’ progress toward excellence was validated by two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. $450,000 was pledged as a challenge grant and $260,000 was given to assist the College’s writing program and to fund a faculty member in classics—the first in 30 years.
The Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business, which had offered the MBA and the MSM, discontinued the MSM in 1981, when it began the drive to receive accreditation from the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. The undergraduate Business major was abolished at the same time. A night program leading to the MBA was substituted for the MSM and a special MBA program for local business executives was added in 1982. In 1985, Rollins won AACSB accreditation, joining schools the likes of Harvard and the University of Chicago.
Even the Rollins College School of Continuing Education experienced curriculum revisions. (In 1972, the School’s name had been changed from the Central Florida School for Continuing Studies.) As well as its graduate degree programs in Physics (until 1973), Criminal Justice (until 1974), and Education, the School had offered the Associate of Arts (AA), Bachelor of General Studies (BGS), and BS degrees. The School was divided into the Division of Continuing Education (DCE) and the Division of Non-Credit Programs, which encompassed the School of Creative Arts. In 1982, the DCE curriculum was rewritten with requirements in Skills and Perspectives, and BGS and BS degrees were discontinued. Enrollment increased 11 percent in one year.
Rollins adopted another experimental program in 1983. The Community of Learners was composed of a small group of students and a Master Learner, a faculty member who took a term away from teaching to join the community. Together, the learners attended classes, participated in a special seminar, maintained diaries, and offered each other support. The COL student members formed new opinions of faculty, and the faculty member gained a fresh perspective of education—from the students’ point of view. Area Studies majors flourished, with African/ Afro-American Studies and Irish Studies successfully transitioning to formal minors.
Although a master of surprise himself, an unexpected surprise awaited President Seymour in 1979, when outraged citizens attempted to stop performances of a play at the Annie Russell Theatre. The drama was Equus, and it contained a nude scene. At first blush, President Seymour and the cast agreed to drop the offending scene. But, valor being the better part of discretion, the Rollins community rethought its position and responded—in numbers. A federal court injunction permitting the performance was obtained, a Rollins contingent marched on Winter Park City Hall, and Equus played—as written. It was a triumph of virtue over “virtue.”
The old Fred Stone Theatre building had disappeared in 1973, but the FST was reincarnated next door in Bingham Hall. After the loss of the shop area of the original FST, the Theater Department had been using one of Rollins’ earliest buildings, Lyman Hall, to store and build sets. In 1974, Lyman was destroyed by fire. With grants of $250,000, a new shop and dressing rooms were eventually added to the Annie Russell Theatre.
Following the Jubilee of the Annie Russell Theatre and the Chapel in 1981, the campus’s attention swung from the sublime to the roisterous: in 1984, funded by gifts from alumni and friends, the Alfond Stadium at Harper-Shepherd Field was ready for the Tars to play ball!
In the meantime, a controversy that had existed for years was finally silenced with the announcement of a $4.7-million grant from the Olin Foundation to build a new library. Experts had long disagreed as to the better course of action—to build a new library or to renovate Mills Memorial Library. Studies had considered erecting a new library building on the Sandspur Bowl, or “fastened on” to the Beanery and Knowles Hall, or in front of the old library. A visit from Olin Foundation representatives saved the Horseshoe and scrapped Knowles.
The Olin Library was dedicated on Founders’ Day, 1985, launching the year-long celebration of the College’s Centennial. A week later, Good Morning America broadcast the creation of the panoramic Centennial photograph of the entire Rollins community, with students, faculty, and staff lining the street from the Theatre to the Chapel. Senior David Zarou successfully sprinted from one end to the other to be captured for posterity—twice.
A year later, the College announced The Rollins Resolution, a $33.8-million capital campaign focused on facilities, equipment, and The Endowment for Academic Excellence. Among the happiest of the campus constituents touched by the campaign were the faculty of the social sciences. Having seen their home in Knowles Hall demolished to make way for the new library, then relegated to the distant moon of the Park Avenue Building (the former Park Avenue School, which the College had purchased from Orange County), they were delighted to be consulted in the planning for Cornell Hall for the Social Sciences, a Halloween “treat” from George and Harriet Cornell. (Soon after the faculty’s move into their new quarters, the Park Avenue Building met the same fate as Knowles Hall, though some local citizens lobbied to save the dangerously deteriorated structure.) The Psychology Department received its own quarters in the new Johnson Center, a two-story addition to the Bush Science Center, complete with sleep laboratory.
In 1987, the School of Continuing Education (which had also shared space in the Park Avenue Building) was renamed for Rollins’ innovative and iconoclastic eighth president, Hamilton Holt, with the thought that the new title better reflected the School’s mission. Certainly, that year’s introduction of Florida’s first Master of Liberal Studies program marked the Holt School as an innovator in its namesake’s fashion.
As the College was celebrating the successful completion of The Rollins Resolution, President Seymour announced his intention to retire from the presidency in 1990. “The College deserves new ideas and inspirations,” he said, “new visions and leadership.” He also expressed his enthusiasm for a return to teaching, which he continued as a professor of English at Rollins.