John Walsh Interview
Interview with John Walsh (Veterinarian; CAES '72)
Date of Interview: October 8, 2003
Interviewer: Bonnie McCay
Q: When you entered the College was it Cook College or was it still CAES?
JW: I entered in 1968 and graduated in 1972 and I was a member of the last class to graduate under the CAES name.
Q: What did that mean for you?
JW: What it meant for us, well, a lot of things were happening and some of them were certainly behind the scenes that we didn't see. My recollection at the time, as students we spent a lot of our time on the main campus not on the Cook Campus, and we spent a large part of our time down there. Then maybe we would have certain courses on the Cook Campus for which we would have to go across town on the busses. These were courses that were more pertinent and interesting to us, the reasons we came to the agricultural school. We saw more of the school in our last years because the first years had a lot of the primary sciences and things like that. My role at that time was that, each curriculum had a number of representatives that went to certain meetings in that last year. I represented Animal Science with a guy named Barry Adler and both of us happen to become veterinarians. So, we had these general meetings about student life and that's the way we got involved.
Q: So your job was to help plan the student life of the new college?
JW: That's right.
Q: Did you go as far as talking about dormitories and apartments and so forth?
JW: We did talk about it, that it would be a good idea to get into those dormitories and to try to bring more of the students to the school itself.
Q: Because your experience was being separated from the college?
JW: Yes, we were very far from it. I think at the time the only thing that was on campus was Helyar House. So we talked about dormitories and a student center and some things like that. The nature of those I can't remember very well. We graduated from the College of Agriculture and the next year it became Cook College .
Q: Were you involved in any of the curriculum planning?
JW: No, I don't remember that. I can't remember discussing anything about the curriculum itself.
Q: So the main purpose of these committees was to help plan student-life programs for the new college.
Q: Did you meet very often?
JW: We met about 3 or 4 times in that year and, of course, there were representatives from every curriculum.
Q: Who did you meet with from Administration?
JW: I think Dick Merritt and Roger Locandro were there but beyond that, I don't remember.
Q: I know that some people have talked about how they regretted the change to Cook from CAES. Why would they feel that way?
JW: I don't have any regrets that way. I'm glad the school has maintained some of its own identity. At that time, what I remember distinctly about the feeling, is that CAES was somewhat of a separate entity in feeling but not separate from the University. If anything, we were more closely aligned with Douglass and probably that had to do with our location. Many people use to take courses at Douglass and we had somewhat more of an attachment to Douglass than we did to “downtown”.
Q: But except for the Helyar House, you all lived on the College Ave. Campus?
JW: Yeah. We all lived on the main campus.
Q: Were you in a fraternity?
JW: Well, I tried that but it didn't work. I'll tell you something, my advisor was Dr. Tudor, and he was a good man. This fraternity thing that I tried, I had a hard time studying at the fraternity house. So, Dr. Tudor let me study in a room on the third floor of, I think, Martin Hall. This was an attic, a real top of the building, an old room. That worked well. But he did find out that one night I slept in there and he said, “Well, you can't sleep in there any more.” But to this day I really appreciate that he allowed me to study there.
Q: That was probably Bartlett Hall.
JW: Bartlett Hall, yeah. The top, top floor of Bartlett Hall.
Q: What about sports, activities like that? When you were at CAES, it was all through Rutgers College ?
JW: That's true. There weren't any separate intramurals. Everything was all downtown. Our school was known for having most of the football players. All the football guys went to Cook. But they still didn't have a very good team.
Q: You have maintained your relationship with Cook? You have been active in the Alumni Association from time to time?
JW: Yes, around 1980 I moved back to NJ. In the early 80's I received a phone call from Dick Merritt and he wanted to know if I was a member of the Alumni Association and I said, “No.” He said, “You should get involved,” and I did. The first year I became a member I sat in on a lot of meetings. By the second year, I was the vice-president and the president had a breakdown. So, all of a sudden I was thrown into this situation where I was the president. I remember the hectic times; I would come to the meeting and the president wouldn't show up and then I would have to run the meeting myself. This became a second period of change for Cook because this became a period when the school was having a lot of trouble with “ downtown”. The big issue that came up at the time was the land on the other side of Route 1, which Dr. Bloustein wanted to sell. The land was Cook land and as Cook land it was part of the research, teaching, extension mandate that we had. When this became an issue, the Alumni Association began to become a little bit more political and we tried to organize a political front against the selling of this land and it basically involved the Farm Bureau. I went down to the Farm Bureau and met with them. I think we talked to Walt Foran [in the legislature] at the time. Then we organized students. Then we also had the help of former Secretary of Agriculture, Phil Alampi, and he was very instrumental and basically we fought off the attempt to sell this land. I think that was a valuable piece of land, commercially and everything. There weren't good feelings between downtown and our school at the time.
Q: Do you think that has changed much?
JW: I think it is better now, but I think there were ill feelings for a long time. I remember going to a meeting of all the professors, all the professors met in one of the halls around Passion Puddle, Dr. Bloustein, then-President, and the faculty met at this meeting. I can remember Dr. Bloustein specifically saying that none of the children of the professors from the College of Agriculture would ever go to Rutgers University . I remember this specifically. That was a threat that he had. There were a number of speakers that day and that one thing he promised.
Q: That was in the midst of the land issue?
JW: Yeah. One other recollection that I have is one of the professors, and the specific language around this meeting was that the President called the Cook College “draconian” and that other things that happened. An English professor said that this was a “cance”r and that it needed to be cut out. The concern was, well if we cut out the cancer will the patient survive? This was the nature of that conversation. It was all about Cook and its relationship to the University. That was a really heated time, and the Alumni Association had a part in it.
Q: Are you involved with the Alumni Association now?
JW: After my couple of years being president, I stopped. Well, after I was president I also became part of what became the Federation, the Rutgers Federation, which was a federation of alumni and I represented the school in that for a few years. Then after that I just kind of bowed out. I had enough of the pre-opening football game marches, or lawn breakfasts and that kind of stuff. So, only know I have taken some interest in its birthday.
Q: Have you kept up with any of the students that you knew then at school?
JW: No, I'm still friendly with some of the professors that are more involved with the horses, which is my interest. When they were looking to make some money for the new barns we contributed to that and that kind of thing. I still have some contact with school; I still enjoy it and I still support it.
Q: You weren't involved in the reorganization battles that occurred in 1981-82? There was a complete reorganization of the University and an attempt fold Cook into the bigger system.
JW: Well, my recollection of that is a little fuzzy. When we talked earlier about not having a good relationship with downtown, I'm not sure that meeting with Dr. Bloustein wasn't all about the reorganizational thing, but my recollection is that these issues blended together, or whether the land issue and the re-organization were part of the same time or issue. So, in that sense there was a land issue but we may have also been fighting the organizational issue. So, in that sense it was probably part of it, in the early 80's.
Q: Cook survived, although it changed. One of the things that Cook lost in that was what interests me as an anthropologist and that would be the broader liberal arts program. When Cook was created, it was created to combine both the old agriculture and environmental science focus with other programs: chemistry, anthropology, ecology and so forth.
JW: Yeah, that's true. When I was there, we still did all those downtown.
Q: When you were in school did you have requirements, what we call breadth requirements, like did you have to take Psychology or History or something like that?
JW: Each curriculum had its own requirements.
Q: Did the college have some general courses that everyone had to take?
JW: No, I don't remember that. I think just the curriculum had the requirements.
Q: Going back to the committee, when you represented animal science as a student, do you think you made a difference in designing the student life programs for the college?
JW: Yeah, I think we had an input and I think that was good. Looking at it now, I think, yeah, it was helpful and helped formulate the ideas that eventually made the school the way it is now. The school certainly is a lot different than we remember it. The agriculture school was almost like a commuter school. Either you had to commute from downtown or from other parts of the state. There wasn't any real connection there. I think the student life is a lot more centralized than it was.
Q: There is more of a community on campus?
JW: Yeah, it's true. It was that way; we always had to bus in.
Q: What was your relationship, you said you took courses at Douglass, what about women and men and so forth?
JW: Yeah there were women at Douglass, but the relationships didn't last very long.
Q: Were there women, that you remember, that were taking the Animal Science curriculum?
JW: Yeah, there were women. We had a number of women and they did very well and a number of them became veterinarians. Yeah, we had a fair percentage of women. Everybody use to take courses at Douglass hoping to get a date. Or the other thing is we used to go to the Douglass College hoping to meet somebody or sit at the Douglass Student Center , now, of course, Cook has its own, but we had to go to the student center at Douglass. It wasn't as easy to get to a professor because we were living somewhere else. So they weren't as accessible.
Q: Did you have an advisor at the College of Agriculture ?
JW: Yeah, every curriculum had its own advisor.
Q: So your advisor wasn't at Rutgers , downtown?
JW: No, you just paid your money downtown and lived there.
Q: Do you feel separate from the others down there?
JW: I think when you live in the dormitories you just sort of feel a part of the dormitory. I don't know what else to say, I enjoyed both parts of it. I enjoyed the University and the college itself, but I did feel a little bit more aligned with the school itself than the University.
Q: Who was the dean when you were a student? Was it Lee Merrill or was it Charlie Hess?
JW: Charlie Hess was there but I don't know.
Q: So, who were the deans you were involved with?
JW: I was only involved with Dick Merritt .