Zhang: So what made you decide to come to Rollins and what’s your first impression of the school at that time?
Lane: Well I’d gone to these state schools. This was the time when these huge numbers of people were pouring into the colleges and the states had begun to expand and to build universities. You know they’d have the large state university and then they started building them in smaller towns. And then in some cases, I came across colleges that had been private colleges that were taken over by the—one of them was in South Carolina. And these were all state schools that were just, you know, just getting started [ones] that had been in existence about ten or fifteen years. And huge things with big classes and I just—it just did not appeal to me at all.
I would have gone to one of them, but then all of a sudden this job came. I came down; it is really kind of interesting. I thought—this is pretty late, this is like in May when I saw the notice. So I thought, this is pretty late for somebody [to be interviewing]. So I was the first, and I think the only, person they interviewed. And this is in May. And I came down for the interview and I was just shocked at the beauty of this college when I walked on it. There was, where the bookstore is, there was the student center at the time. And it was a beautiful room with ceiling fans blowing and palm trees in pots. You know, you walked into it and it looked so Florida. And I was taken over there by one of the professors to have a cup of coffee. And they would have coffee and students and faculty were all mixing around. There must have been two hundred people in that room. And just the kind of conversation that [I had experienced at Oglethorpe] was going around. I thought, This is exactly the kind of school I would like to come to. And then I saw the town and saw the location of it and when I went back I told my wife, “You know this is really a nice place to go. We’ve got to really work on getting this job.” And I was hired, so it’s very nice.
Zhang: Now, we have a couple of your books here. Tell me, why are you interested in the military history?
Lane: Well I had, when I was in graduate school, my field was in foreign policy. And that was my major field, and I was intending to write my dissertation on it, when— And I was going to write on the period at the turn of the century in the period of American Imperialism, a very hot topic in this time while we were in Vietnam, and there was question as to why the United States should be extending its powers in that direction. And an interest in where all of this started, how did America began to move out from the continent, out into other areas. And so I got into that field and there was a very good professor there, at the University of Georgia too. And I came across these letters, I was researching a Theodore Roosevelt Papers, I came across these letters from a man named Leonard Wood, a general. And many of them were letters from this general who was talking about foreign policy and what American policy should be in the Philippines and various others and I thought, This, you know, this might be of interest. So I researched a little further and found out that no one had really done anything on him and they had just opened his papers at the Library of Congress.
So my dissertation director and I decided I’d do a study on the relation, on Wood and the relationship between defense policy and military policy and foreign policy. So that was my dissertation: Leonard Wood and the shaping of American national security policy or something like that. I can’t remember the exact title. And so I went to Washington, researched through his papers, wrote my dissertation on that. And then, I had— He, my dissertation advisor, knew several publishers and they said, You know, this could be good, and so they told me, Oh why don’t you do a biography? No one’s done that. And I said, “Well I’ve never really done a biography." So anyway I decided to. So I worked for about, let’s see that was about ’63 I worked until, let’s see, when was this published? Seventy-eight? So I worked from about ’63, over ten years. On the biography. And because I had to write the biography I had to learn a lot about military history to do so. So really, I just sort of— It wasn’t my field in graduate school so I just sort of drifted into it, and the more I got into it the more I was sort of interested in it. Most military history is written by, were written by people with a very kind of patriotic view toward the military and I thought there needed to be another perspective on the military. So I decided to get into that. So I’ve got some pretty good mileage out of military history. I wrote not only the book, but this bibliography and, oh quite a few articles on military history.
And then I sort of got tired of it. Just about that time Thad, Seymour the president, asked me to do the history of the college. And so I started getting into— I had to learn something about educational history, higher education. I wanted to see where Rollins fit in all of that. That led me into thinking about writing in that field and doing some things. I saw some opportunities there so I wrote in it. And then, sort of, just became interested in generally in American cultural history and so sort of drifted away from military history. The key point came in the early eighties when the, you know the military has a lot of schools, when one of the schools asked me, and they usually had a historian there for a year, asked me to come there for a year. So I went up and interviewed at the Naval War—Army War College and they offered me a position for a year and I had to turn it down because my wife, for one thing, my wife could not leave her job, my kids couldn’t leave. I couldn’t take my kids with me. And so I had to turn it down and at that point when I did that I thought, Well maybe I’m not that interested in military history anymore. So I sort of drifted out of that and my scholarship too. I became quite scattered in my scholarship then. I didn’t focus. I’ve told people I thought my attention span was pretty short in that sense.
Zhang: You created some modern history, I see. There is a write up about your course on Watergate.
Lane: Oh well, you know, when we—In that revision of the curriculum when I came here, we had a short winter term course. And I think they just about dropped that over the years. But for, oh I would say, a decade or more we had short winter term courses, which lasted only four weeks. And so in those courses we sort of, each of us sort of made up interesting courses that we wanted to teach and they usually changed every year. So what would be a topic that’s not broad enough for a large course but could be taught in a four-week period that might be interesting to students? So really we would attempt in every way to offer courses that were interested, that students were interested in. One of the guys in sociology, I recall, offered a course on the automobile, and part of it was repairing an automobile. Actually learning about it, but looking at the automobile in American culture. And there were some really fascinating courses because we would simply start thinking about them in the fall term and just make them up.
And so when Watergate was over and Nixon was gone, there was a real interest on the part of the students, I had a course on Watergate. We had a great time in that course, I loved that course. You know, the interest finally waned with students who had come in and I taught it about two or three terms in a row. And we would see the movie, All the President’s Men. I had the students take a character in the Watergate and do an in-depth study of each character. And so at the end of the term, we would all present the, they would all present the character. And then we were in a large classroom that was an old elementary school building over here, and we were in one of those old elementary school classrooms and it had a blackboard all the way around the room, and so we put a chronology of Watergate on the blackboard and students would construct that chronology. So we, it was an interesting course. We had fun with that.
Zhang: Tell us about the occasion you'd been appointed by Seymour as the college historian, and your work on the pictorial history of the school.
Lane: We were coming up, this was in, must’ve been ’83 or something of the sort, we were coming up to the centennial of the college and it was clear that there was—no one had written a history of it. And so, I can’t exactly remember how it came about but I think Thad Seymour approached me with the idea that would I be interested in it. And I said, “Yes, very much.” And he said, well, interested in the sense that I would be given a year off, to write the history, from my teaching chores. And so, this is when the archives were in the old library building, and fortunately, fortunately, I don’t think I would’ve undertaken it, except that several years earlier Fred Hannah had organized the archives and they were pretty well organized, you know? And so I went up there to look at them and I knew what archives looked like because I’d been at the National Archives for many years many, many times. So when I saw that the organization was there, they had the presidential papers, they had the faculty papers, they had all the material that you would need that was organized so that it was accessible. I mean, if they had said write the history and I’d gone up there and all these letters and things were just in boxes that hadn’t been organized, I don’t think I would’ve done it because you have to spend a couple of years organizing it before you can ever write.
So I spent the entire year in the archives. I had more fun doing that than anything that I’ve ever done in research. It was just fascinating to read the history of this college. To read it in the documents. And to be able to sit down and put together a narrative on it. That was just really most exciting because, you know, I was finding out things about my own institution and I was finding out, moreover, that this college has a rich, rich history, an interesting and fascinating history, and an important one in the history of American higher education too. So then I was talking to the archivist at the time and I said, “You know, we’re going to have to have some photographs for this,” and so she said, “Oh, well come look at this.” They had two cabinets of photographs there that were also organized pretty well. So once I saw those and started working with them I suggested to Thad that I put together a pictorial history and so we did. That has been a very successful project also, I thought. So in about a year I had it completed. I have nine chapters still in manuscript form, but I wrote nine chapters and finished in the process this pictorial history, which has about a hundred pages.
Zhang: Tell me about your involvement with the master learners. I read this article.
Oh yeah, well that’s one of those programs that I started.
And the idea was that we would have professors actually
classes with students and becoming one of their sort of
mentors, but participants, facilitators.
And they would take three classes and in one of the
would have a general discussion of what’s going on, where they
to draw the classes together.
That lasted a fairly short time, but it was interesting.
Several people who went through them: Barbara Carson went
it, became a master learner; Thad
became a master
learner, I think.
I never became a master learner.
I didn’t mind starting it, but I had no intention of
master learner (both laugh).
So I started that program and ran it for about three or
Just one of those things that we thought, Oh this sounds
good idea; let’s see what we can do with it.