"This splendid book offers us a sampling of the rich contents of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida. From the collection's many thousands of interviews on tape, program director Julian M. Pleasants has culled nine recordings that illuminate the history of the University during what may be described as its modern period. Included are two presidents, one dean, three sports figures, and three graduates. I found the interview with president John Lombardi (1990-99) to be particularly revealing. But the reader will be enlightened by all of these selections, as well as by the editor's thoughtful introductory essay."--Michael Gannon
From the earliest days in Gainesville, to milestones in campus expansion and institutional growth, to the infamous Johns Committee, the Vietnam War, and civil rights protests, to Gator athletics, this lively, anecdotal history provides an intimate look at the university’s last 100 years.
Of the many people who made the university, UF’s 13 presidents, with their talents and initiatives, provide a colorful introduction to a remarkable century’s progress. As early as 1909, president Albert Murphree recognized the university’s growing pains and embarked on a drive to expand significantly on the university’s campus of just two buildings. By the end of his term in 1927--a period also notable for the arrival of the influenza pandemic, the introduction of “rat caps” and the Florida Alligator, and an episode in which undergraduates fired a cannon into a local carnival in retaliation for its thievery--Murphree’s additions included Flint, Newell, Floyd, Language, and Peabody Halls along with Library East, University Auditorium, and the original gymnasium, which he persuaded the New York Giants baseball team to help finance.
Subsequent administrations each augmented the university’s strengths in new ways. John Tigert (1928-47) gave the university its first constitution, decentralized financial control, and revised the undergraduate curriculum. While presiding over the introduction of women into university life, J. Hillis Miller (1947-53) initiated the most ambitious building expansion in the university’s history, also securing the addition of medical and nursing schools at UF. The building frenzy continued apace under J. Wayne Reitz (1955-67), but he also invested considerable effort in improving the life of the campus, adding housing for married students, introducing coed dorms, and maintaining an active involvement in the athletic program. Reitz even ventured a stormy halftime visit to an FSU locker room where he berated the coach for using stalling tactics and demanded that FSU either “go out there and play ball” or “go home right now.”
Beyond the administrative history of the first 100 years, Gator Tales features extended interviews with nine notable individuals whose influences extend from within UF to the broader worlds of business, law, and sports: Ray Graves, Otis Boggs, Tracy Caulkins, Steve O’Connell, John Lombardi, Marna Brady, John Dasburg, Manny Fernandez, and Stephan Mickle. Each interview opens a window onto a particular time and set of challenges in the history of UF, while reflecting the personal qualities that enabled each individual to have a substantial impact on both colleagues and the institution itself.
Combining history with serious and humorous recollections from faculty, administrators, athletes, and students, Gator Tales is a tapestry of personalities and participants in the evolution of UF from a small provincial campus to a major university--an entertaining, fascinating centennial read for Gators everywhere.