Interview Transcript Selections


Oral History Interview with Edwin C. Lewis

November 18, 2004

Interviewer:  Tanya Zanish-Belcher


TZB:    Well, here's a question for you.  If you had to compare Iowa State College of 1960, this is really mean, and Iowa State University of 2000, what do you think the major differences are?  Just one or two.


ECL:    Size.


TZB:    Size.


ECL:    Both people and physically, buildings, et cetera, one.  Another one is the emphasis on outside funding, research funding, for example.  Back in 1960, there was a lot of state funding of research, college research institutes, now, not much.  And the big jump that we've made has been in supported research, in research centers and things of that kind, so that you don't have... there are areas outside of the Colleges that have gotten really big, really powerful.  Much more so than would have been the case in 1960.  On the funding side, the other aspect which is very different is funding, the donations to the University, through the Foundation, are almost all now targeted.  Whereas, thirty years ago, at least, certainly forty, but even thirty years ago, we got a lot of the money that came from donors, came just to the University, in general.  And we were able to use it where we thought it needed to be used.


TZB:    Right.


ECL:    And we lost that, by we, I mean Central Administraton, lost that flexibility.  I can remember being able to get programs started, with seed money for new programs out of Foundation money, because it was available to use at our best judgement.


TZB:    Mm-hmm.


ECL:    And now it's all targeted.


TZB:    Do you think that Iowa State, and this is just my perception, that it was a much more personalized atmosphere in 1960, everybody knew each other, and its much more insular...


ECL:    Some of that was size.  Certainly that, it's a good point, the student population was much more the 18 to 22, direct from high school.  The on-campus residential, yeah.  So there was a lot of interaction in, among students outside of class as well as in class.  I don't think people accept yet, for example, this is my own bias, I don't think they accept that one of the reasons that VEISHEA is going the way it's going is because this is not 1930 or 1960 anymore.  It's the 21st Century, and VEISHEA, frankly, is not relevant anymore.  And they're still trying to recreate or maintain mid-20th Century phenomenon in a 21st Century environment.




TZB:    Well, that last question I have really has to do with women's issues.  Because you are considered in many arenas to be a champion.  That basically you were a part of the Administration where the Women's Center was created...


ECL:    Yeah. 


TZB:    ... the University Committee on Women, was created by George Christensen, I think in '71...


ECL:    Right.


TZB:    So you had some things, were involved with these things.


ECL:    All right, women's issues.


TZB:    Oh and including childcare, you also were in charge of the Program for Women in Science and Engineering for awhile too, I believe.


ECL:    That's right, it reported to me later on.


TZB:    Mm-hmm.


ECL:    Well, I need to give you some background.  After I'd been here a few years, I was advised by others in the Department, senior faculty, that if I was going to get promoted, I needed to have some research activity.  I needed to have an area that I was doing research in.  So I looked around, and one of the things that struck me, in my experience by that time in the Counseling Center, was that most of the tests, and most of the information that we had to work with about careers, and most of the interest tests and things like that, were normed against men.  And there didn't seem to be much that was aimed at women.  And yet it was pretty evident from the psychological literature that there were some important differences in career patterns between men and women.  So I wrote a paper on this, which was published in one of the counseling psych journals.  It was pretty well received, so I decided I'd pursue that.  So I started doing literature search, trying to pull the stuff together, and this was, actually, I started in '63 which was the year that Betty Friedan's book came out, and got people, a lot of people got really interested in this stuff.  And so I put together, it ended up being a book, that the University Press published in '68, Developing Women's Potential, which was basically a survey and somewhat of an analysis of what the research suggested about women's career patterns.  I tell people, if anybody has an occasion to go back and look at it now, remember, this was back in the Sixties.  I wouldn't necessarily say some of the things now that I said then.  But you know, I remember reading once in Science magazine, one of the editorials, a guy saying, "I report these results in a sad scientific spirit," and that's kind of what I was doing.  So, my point is that I had some interest in this area, and knew something about it.


TZB:    Mm-hmm.


ECL:    Then, in the, around 1970, there was, I think, an editorial in Science that talked about, need to pay more attention to women in the academic area, particularly things like salaries and that sort of thing.  And some of the schools, universities and colleges, particularly more to the east, were beginning to create committees to do this, and at least see what their situation was.  So I went to George Christensen and I pointed this out, and I said, "You know, I think it might be a good idea if we would do this."  And he said, "Why don't you write it up, why don't you write up something to take to the Cabinet."  So I did, I wrote a paper, kind of a proposal for him of what we might do, and he took it to the Cabinet.  And the Cabinet agreed.  I remember though, his coming back and saying, "Carl Hamilton isn't sure about this.  He thinks we're just going to get ourselves in trouble."  But anyway, we did it.  And then I kind of worked with the Committee.  A woman by the name of Marguerite Scruggs chaired it and it's probably familiar to you.  And they did a report in which they recommended, among other things, they pointed out some areas of concern, that needed to be looked at more carefully, but they also recommended that there be a Committee on the Status of Women created.


TZB:    Mm-hmm.


ECL:    Also, as it happened, about the same time, just after my book was published, and I got somewhat known for that, Governor Ray created a Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, and I was asked to be on that.  And so I had some contacts from that standpoint, too.  So anyway, we created this Committee, which became a standing committee and I kind of became sort of the liaison with it, for our office, partly because of my interests, and it kind of went from there. 


TZB:    And so that's the University Committee on Women?


ECL:    The University Committee on Women, right.


TZB:    And were you also involved with the founding of the Women's Center?  Which happened almost the same time.


ECL:    In the sense that it was an outgrowth of the Committee on Women.  Jean Adams, who was chairing the Committee on Women, was, that was one of her major interests, was having a Women's Center.  And so yeah, I supported him, I worked with them to help it be created, to see that it got created.  I don't really take much credit for it.  Jean was the person that really did the hard work on it.


TZB:    But, then again, the Administration has to be receptive at the same time.


ECL:    And I think George was, George particularly, and Bob Parks, were very receptive and very concerned.  I've always thought that Mrs. Parks was probably, played some role in the background of this too, Ellen.


TZB:    Well, just to finish up, you later supervised the Program for Women in Science and Engineering.  Do you think that opportunities for women changed while you were here at Iowa State?  Or the atmosphere for women changed?


ECL:    I think it did, of course it changed nationally as well.  But yeah, I don't think there's any question about it.  I think faculty, male faculty, became somewhat more sensitized.  I think that it certainly became more acceptable for women to be in non-traditional fields.  Certainly in math, or the engineering and science area, the fact that we were actively recruiting women students for those areas...


TZB:    Mm-hmm.


ECL:    ... was important.  I remember, one of the things that struck me, one of the reasons I got interested, originally in the, the more that I think about it was when I first came here, like I said we were in Building H.  There was a conference room down at the end of the hall that we used for staff meetings, and things like that.  And on the wall, the first thing that I noticed, was on the wall, there was all the curricula, we had a lot of curricula at that time.  All the curricula were there, and whatever the entrance test we were using at the time, the average scores of the people on the entrance test, each of those curricula, the students were on there, and it was graphed, you know.  And there was one curriculum that was way up above, was the top one, but it was a curriculum, at that point I didn't know these curricula, didn't know what that was.  It was a curriculum called Home Ec and Related Science, I think that was the name, Related Science was in there, I think it was Home Ec and Related Science.  And I asked, "What's that curriculum?"  Well, what it was, it was a curriculum for girls who wanted to be in Science, but whose families insisted they had to be in Home Ec.  And that was the brightest group of students on the whole campus.  And I remember thinking later, when I got interested in it from a counseling standpoint, "Why is it that we don't have very good tools for helping the brightest group of people on the campus?"

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