Musings from the early years

By Robert Dewar, Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Early my first year (1965) here there was a reception for new faculty at the home of President Armstrong. The university was small enough then to allow such events and it provided a chance to meet new people from other departments. We made several new friends through such activities.

The Psychology department had a big increase in 1965. Our department hired five new faculty, and 1 left, leaving a total of 11. The next few years saw two to three new faculty each year.

During my first summer here I had never been to the Stampede, so knew nothing about it. The Calgary Herald was looking for someone to comment on the psychology of people’s behaviour during Stampede, so they called our department. As I had taught Social Psychology my first year here I was called upon to comment. Having nothing meaningful to say, I asked one of our graduate students who was from Calgary for ideas. He provided me with his perspective on Stampede behaviour. So I was an instant “expert”, ready for the interview.

An important social group in the late 60’s was the “Faculty Wives Club”, which included wives of faculty members who wished to join. At one point when they were planning the reception following convocation and ideas were being discussed, the issue of cost came up. The President’s wife said something to the effect that “money is no object”. Things were flush in those days, as reflected in the Psychology department budget for equipment, which was about $200,000, as I recall (a fraction of today’s budget).

The establishment of a faculty club (later to be a staff club to include all people working at the university) was a positive step and resulted in the chance to meet folks from other departments. We often ate together in the faculty club with people from various departments (e.g., medicine, sociology, chemistry, physics, engineering and archaeology). The demise of the faculty/staff club (which was bailed out of financial problems by the university) was a sad day in such a large university.

There was a coffee shop/lounge in the Administration Building where one could get drinks and snacks. Those in our department often ate lunch there together and with members of the Education Faculty. At one point the price of coffee was increased. One of our faculty members was so upset that he opened his first floor office window, which looked out into the lounge, and started selling coffee at a bargain price. This did not last long.

One year the Calgary Herald had an article about our department research and interviewed many of us. I described my research on visual perception as perception research. It got reported as my “perpetual research”. Perhaps that’s why people thought I looked so tired.

There were lots of student-faculty sports activities during my first few years here – bowling, hockey, basketball, softball. In addition, a tradition developed involving weekly Friday afternoon beer at the Highlander Hotel, where Home Depot is now on 16th avenue. We often took one or two female students so that we could sit in a better section of the bar (for ladies and escorts only).

After I retired in 1991 many other retirees and I assisted the Graduate Studies Dean by acting as monitors for dissertation oral defenses. The aim was to observe proceedings and ensure that the rules were followed if faculty wandered off track in their questioning, started debating among themselves or if students took too long in summarizing their research findings.

During the 70’s President Carrothers set up tenure appeals committees to hear from faculty who did not receive tenure. I was on some of these committees and chaired one. Input from the appellant, as well as others who were in a position to provide relevant information, was helpful in making our decisions.

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