ZhangSo what made you decide to major in French?

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Lancaster:  When I went to college, I thought that I was going to major in biology.  I was very interested in science and I had some image of myself wearing a white lab coat and doing something, not exactly sure what.  So I told the college advisor that I was majoring in biology.  But I had had a lot of French in high school.  We had a very progressive school system that had more than the usual amount of language study.  So I was already fairly advanced in the study of French, which I enjoyed very much.

So, when I was a freshman, I went into an intermediate level French class, and then I was taking my biology class.  And when the midterm advising period came along, my biology professor said, “Now, you need to sign up for calculus next semester.”  Well although I could do mathematics, I never enjoyed it a great deal and during the same advising period, my French professor said, “You know, you have a real talent for French.  I think that you should major in French.”  So I thought that sounded pretty good and I said, “If I major in French, do I have to take calculus.”  She said, “No.”  I said, “Fine, I’ll major in French.”

(Laughs) I don’t know how I thought I was going to be a biologist without taking advanced math.  Maybe, you know, as a freshman you haven’t really thought that sort of thing through.  So I told my parents that I was intending to major in French.  I was the first person in my family to attend college.  Although there were teachers in my family, but to go and get a four-year liberal arts degree, I was the first one.  So my parents said, How will you make a living?  And I said, “Well, I don’t know.  I guess I’ll teach.”

So here I am, many years later, making a pretty good living (laughs).  And I think that it follows a long with what Joseph Campbell says in his books.  He always says, “Follow your bliss, do the thing that you like and enjoy, and you’ll be much more likely to be successful.  And so I liked French and I majored in French, I became a teacher.

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Zhang:  Could you share with us some of your educational background, where you went for grade school and college?

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Lancaster:  I attended grammar school in Spartanburg until the fourth grade.  And then my father was recalled into military service during the Korean War and we were sent to Fort Brag, North Carolina.  So I had two years of grammar school in Fort Brag, North Carolina, and then we returned to Spartanburg where I attended Evan’s junior high school and Spartanburg high school.  I then went to Coker College, which was at the time a woman’s college.  It’s located in Hartsville, South Carolina.  I received a scholarship to go to college and I was graduated first in my class.


Zhang:  That’s wonderful.  Is that Coker College a liberal arts college?


Lancaster:  Yes it is.  And in fact, my education there, I think, had a great influence on the development of my interest in further education as well as the things that I like to teach.  They had a curriculum that was a, they called world civilization.  And it was a course that you took all four years.  I should say that, in fact, I finished college in three years; I started in 1960 and finished in 1963.  But the course was designed so that you had lectures by faculty from a number of different areas and there was an effort made to give you background about a historical period and all of the things that went on at that time.  Not only the political events, but what was happening in the arts and what was happening in science, and so that there was a real holistic understanding of each period as you worked through it.  And I think that that course is no longer taught, but for me it was a wonderful way to learn.  I think that I got more out of having that type of course than I would have if I had by taking a lot of individual courses on the same material.

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ZhangSo in 1992, you became the Dean of Brevard campus.  Can you tell us about your experience there?

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Lancaster:  Well that was quite an interesting experience because all of the students at the Brevard campus were adult students, or at least they were studying for their degree in the evening, which meant that most likely they were working and so weren’t going to school in a regular full time program.  The group of faculty who worked with those students and who headed up the majors that we had, are really remarkable people; highly dedicated, very interested in the students’ progress.  We had Maggie [Margaret] Dunn, who’s still with us, who headed up the English program; Larry Holt, who now runs the computer science major in the Holt school; Professor Ed Harold (??), who headed up history; Sandra McIntire, who’s now left Rollins, she retired, but she ran the psychology and organizational behavior major.  And there were others as well.  But the faculty who were truly dedicated to what they were doing and really knew how to inspire their students; it was a wonderful, small learning community.  And it became much smaller because we were no longer able to offer the business major, which had to do with the Crummer’s school accreditation by the ACSB.  So we had to disband the business major.

And one of the more interesting things I’ve ever done in my life was to move a college.  We actually moved our campus from a, sort of a warehouse in Rockledge to a very nice facility in West Melbourne, and I got to help redesign the interior of the building.  We had very high hopes for having that campus continue to succeed.  But the growth of the University of Central Florida in Brevard County finally made it necessary for us to close down.  So I had the opportunity to help a program move with the hope of growing and the sad duty and responsibility of closing it out.

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Lancaster Talks About a Trip to Martinique

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Lancaster:  Oh, the first year I was here I got an unexpected opportunity to take the group on a study abroad trip.  The woman who was the head of the French section, Eleanor Miller, had organized a winter term course, because at that time we had a four or five week January term.  And she was taking a group to Martinique in the French West Indies.  And it was a large group.  The idea was that some of the students, if they were more advanced, would go and live with the families in Martinique and others would live in a villa and would have instruction in intermediate level French.

So she called me just before Christmas and said, “Do you have a valid passport?”  And I said, “Yes.”  She said, “I have pneumonia and I can’t go to Martinique in January, can you go and take the group?”  (Laughs) I said, of course, “Sure, why not?”  And so there I went, off with about forty Rollins students to Martinique—


Zhang:  Just you?


Lancaster:  Just me, yes.  I did have a sort of student work-study helper.  But it was quite an experience, very interesting.  And we went again the next winter and then we also had a summer program and tour of France that I was involved with for a couple of summers.


Zhang:  Yeah, I took students to China last year, twenty students.  I feel it’s a large responsibility, I just cannot imagine taking forty students all by yourself.


Lancaster:  (Laughs) Well the most interesting thing about that trip was that we were there for about ten days without any money (laughs).


Zhang:  So how did you survive?


Lancaster:  There was a group of Martinique who had, they called themselves something like the Cultural Association, and they had arranged for us to have this place to stay in.  It was a large, old house, it had no hot water, but it had a very lovely view of the Caribbean.  And they paid for the initial food cost for those of us staying there.  And I had gone there with a cashier’s check for a large sum of money.  You know a cashier’s check is supposed to be the same as cash.  You should be able to just go to a bank and walk away with the money.  Well the bank in Martinique didn’t want to accept this cashier’s check, and it was drawn on some New York City bank.  And they said that I would have to wait a week and come back to get my money.  So I waited and I went back, and they said, well no, they hadn’t received the authorization yet.  And I said, “You know, you really don’t need an authorization, this is the same as cash”  “Well, you know, we can’t be too careful.”  Essentially, the cultural group that had helped to organize it, kept advancing the money to feed us until I got the check cashed.


Zhang:  They had their share of cultural shock.


Lancaster:  It was a terrible culture shock.  A couple of the young men in the group rented Vespas.  And we lived in a suburb outside of the main city ______, and it seems to me that between this villa we lived in and ______, was pretty much down hill all the way with a lot of hair pin turns and a big cliff going over the other side.  One of the fellows would put me on the back of the Vespa and we would go into town and see if we had any money yet.  Sometimes I went on the bus.

But it had a happy ending: we finally got our money

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Zhang So what is most challenging about being the dean of the Holt school?

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Lancaster:  I think making sure that you maintain the quality of the educational experience of the students, because you want them to have the best possible instruction.  And sometimes when you have many students who want to be in the program and you don’t have enough full time Rollins faculty to serve the needs of all of those students, then you have to make sure that the part time faculty we’re hiring have its sufficient, you know, education and experience to be able to do as good a job as a full time Rollins faculty member.  That’s always a challenge.  You work with the departments who also want to be sure about that.

Working with adult students is great.  Many of them are so excited to have the opportunity to be in college that they are just very highly motivated to have a great experience.

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