The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Henry Sayre Oral History Interview

August 5, 2014 – 11:00a.m.

Video: “Reflections of an Influential Art Historian and Administrator” . August 5, 2014

Location: Sayre residence, Bend, Oregon.
Interviewer:  Janice Dilg

1:23:58 - Abstract | Biography | Download Transcript (PDF)


Janice Dilg: So today is August 5th, 2014, and I am here with Henry Sayre in his home in Bend, Oregon. My name is Janice Dilg, and this interview is part of the Oregon State University Oral History Project. Good morning to you.

Henry Sayre: Good morning.

JD: So, perhaps if you would, please begin with just a brief bit of family history, where you grew up, kind of some of your early life.

HS: I was born in Boulder, Colorado, in 1948. When I was born, Boulder was 12,500 people, if you can believe that. My dad was a city attorney, the school board, a water lawyer, actually. And I went to prep school when I was 14, went to Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire. And then, thought I was going to go to Yale until Stanford interviewed me, and the guy said, "Why do you want to go to Stanford?" I said, "Well, Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Stanford, they're all the same school." I said, "I just want to go someplace where the weather's nice." And the moment I said it, it was true! [Laughs] So I went to Stanford.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: And then subsequently went to the University of Washington Graduate School.

JD: Mm-hm. So in growing up in Boulder, you mentioned it was quite a bit smaller than it is now.

HS: Oh, yeah, yeah.

JD: But expand a little on kind of what it was like, what life was like. What were some of the things that you were interested in, and liked to do?

HS: Well, what was really extraordinary about Boulder in those days is, you know, we were safe. We lived two doors down from Chautauqua Park, and behind Chautauqua Park were the Flatirons. And we could just get up in the morning, pack lunch, and go, and they'd expect us home for dinner. [Laughs] And that's about—so we had forts built all over the hills, all over the foothills. We'd take lumber from people [laughs], and nobody seemed to care, and we built tree houses. And you know, that's what we did.

We did a lot with the University of Colorado sports programs, because they were—one of the things that we did always is we sold—all the Boy Scouts sold Cokes and hot dogs at the football games. So we got to go to all the football games for free. And then we would collect bottles after the football game and sell them. They were two cent deposits. And we could make upwards of a dollar or a dollar fifty; we were ecstatic. So we considered ourselves well-to-do [laughs], and it was a good place to grow up.

JD: Mm-hm. And do I understand that you skied?

HS: Oh, yeah. Skied for Bob Beattie and Jack Beattie—Bob was later the Olympic coach—for the Alpine House. And we raced pretty hard and heavy. When I went away to prep school the skiing stopped. So I became a swimmer instead, so I swam in the winter instead of skiing in the winter.

JD: Uh-huh.

HS: And, life turned upside down—

JD: [Laughs]

HS: —in a funny way, when I went away.

JD: I was led to believe that you were involved in the Junior Olympics at some point?

HS: We were—it wasn't really, I don't think there were a Junior Olympics then. We were all sort of thinking that we would be—we were racing as if we were. I mean, we were Olympic development. And skied downhill until I saw a good friend of mine crash and break his back, and I never had the guts to go fast again. That was really the end of my career. I did pre-ride. My greatest claim to fame is I pre-ran the NCAA downhill at Lake Eldora, which is the first year they ever had it, skied at Lake Eldora. And my time was the fastest of the day, to the complete anger of the coaches. And I beat Jimmy Heuga and Bill Kidd, which was, you know, unofficial.

JD: No small feat. [Laughs]

HS: Unofficial, but that was my great moment.

JD: And it sounds like there was some dancing and singing in your early years, or perhaps there still is?

HS: [Laughs] You've heard about the tabletop dance in Greece, I take it?

JD: Well no, but do go ahead. [Laughs]

HS: When, I was at Stanford in Italy, and we went to Greece, and it was my 20th birthday. And we were on the Plaka in Athens, and I think there were 15 of us, and we had—that night, we had something in the vicinity of 36 dinners and 70 bottles of wine. And I ended up dancing on the table with an older Greek woman, and tour buses stopped to take our pictures as we were so, I guess, authentic looking.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: When we closed up shop that night, we were the last people out of there, and there were no taxis, and it's the strangest thing, I know, is I somehow led us back to the hotel, down this maze of streets, and I've always sort of felt that maybe at some point I was Greek. [Laughs] Because I did know where I was going; it was really kind of bizarre.

JD: [Laughs] So, to kind of go back to Stanford.

HS: Mm-hm.

JD: Once you got there, did you have some idea of what you wanted to study?

HS: Oh, yeah. Actually, I thought I was going to be a lawyer for about three months. Then I took Constitutional Law and decided I wasn't going to be a lawyer. But it was an honors program in Humanities, and I was in that, and it was—it blew me away. It consisted of, really what we did was we read every epic that we could get our hands on. So we started with Gilgamesh, and then we did The Iliad, The Odyssey, the Old Testament as epic, and on through The Fairy Queen, the history plays of Shakespeare, over the course of a year—and Paradise Lost, the whole bit.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: Ending with Tolstoy War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov. And I don't think anybody who went through that program could get a better education. I was a sophomore, and I just, I was blown away. So I was an English major.

JD: Mm-hm. And was that really where kind of your interest in literature and perhaps even art developed?

HS: Well, you know, art was always sort of there. My parents took my brothers and I to France when we were thirteen, actually to Europe. And we were there for three months, and we had a poor worn out station wagon we just drove everywhere. And I can remember being in Paris and going into the Jeu de Paume where all of the impressionist stuff was in those days, and with my brother, just the two of us. And we would—we're a year apart, and we would just look at art all day. And that was just part of what we did.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: So, I was a terrible painter. Painting bored me to death, but I loved to look at it. So that was always there. I was really interested in, at Stanford even, in the arts and interrelations, so I was particularly—I remember taking a course on emblem books and Renaissance poetry, and what I was most interested in was the way that you would illustrate a sonnet. Pretty interesting, still.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And so, when I was going to graduate school, I applied to art history programs, saying that I wanted to—I wanted to write about landscape as an idea. And they all turned me down. But the English programs I wrote to all thought that was real interesting and accepted me, so I got a PhD in English. But I probably took more Art History than most art historians while I was getting my doctorate in English. [0:10:01]

JD: Uh-huh.

HS: I lived in the Art Department, essentially.

JD: [Laughs] So, when you're in college and perhaps even a little grad school, certainly the 1960s, there was lots of change going on, Stanford and California.

HS: I arrived in '66, okay? The counselor for our dorm was David Harris, who later married Joan Baez, and was an anti-draft—within, I don't know, I was probably—my mother would die if she knew I was telling anybody this, but I probably burned my draft card within three months of arriving at Stanford, and then the Draft Board never knew, and sent me another draft card and I just kept it. [Laughs] But it was a, but we were—I was pretty active in the anti-war movement.

JD: And maybe you could expand, for people who might be watching this who don't know about the draft and what was going on during the Vietnam War?

HS: Well, I think the first thing is, things really didn't boil over till '68, and then once it became fairly clear, when the Tet Offensive happened in '68, that all the rhetoric that we were learning was pretty much a lie. A lot of us got concerned, and we were being drafted. All of us stayed in college, really, to avoid the draft. When I went to Italy in '68, it was a very strange time, because I arrived in Italy in March, Martin Luther King was assassinated a week later, Bobby Kennedy three weeks after that. We're over there, the Chicago Convention happens, and there's rioting in Chicago. And you're sitting over in Italy and you're thinking, "Why would I want to go back there?"

And I think if it hadn't been for the draft, most of us wouldn't. But the Draft Board would tell you, "If you don't come back you're going to be drafted." So there was a huge resentment because of the draft anyway, I think. And a lot of us did believe the war was illegal, as did a lot of senators. And then we got pretty concerned about Stanford's relationship with the military industrial complex, with the Stanford Research Institute. And so the SRI, the Stanford Research Institute, became the focus of a lot of demonstrations.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And that was—it scared me.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: I think I was—it got serious enough—I mean, I really did—now this is a weird thing to say, too, but I pretty much knew the people who kidnapped Patty Hearst. I knew who they were; I had seen them.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And that to me was a little too close for comfort. So I went away to graduate school and calmed down. [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs]

HS: Also I had a very—I got very luck. I had a very high draft number.

JD: I was just going to ask what your number was.

HS: Yeah, 354, so that relieved a lot of pressure.

JD: Mm-hm, mm-hm. And somewhere in there, do I understand that you were a music reviewer for—?

HS: Oh, yeah. It's got me through graduate school, not because I got paid for reviews, but because I got all of the records I got while I was a music reviewer, so I would sell them. I had literally a garage full of LPs that I would dip into and sell whenever I needed money. So a little magazine called Chaparral in the Bay Area, and I was the music critic, which was really fun. I mean, probably the most fun about being in San Francisco and Stanford from '66 to '80 was music.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: I was in the freshman dorm—what was my title? I don't remember. I arranged the parties. We had a Halloween Party in fall of '66. We had three, four dining rooms, and we had a haunted house in one, and we had a band for each of the other three. And each band was to play two hours. Book one band, two bands, three hours, then one band, two band, three bands, so six hours of music. [0:15:00] And we hired the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Big Brother without Janice Joplin, and the total cost was $800.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: [Laughs] The Airplane came back to play at the amphitheater at Stanford the following spring, after "Surrealistic Pillow" was out, and I think they charged $10,000, so we got them early.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: We got them early.

JD: Your timing was impeccable.

HS: Yeah, it was. So you know, I spent a lot of time at the Fillmore, almost every weekend.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: It was a great time to be there. Even—I should say, even the demonstrations were full of music. If you were up in Golden Gate Park for a rally, it was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young who were there playing. So it was pretty special.

JD: It was a rich cultural era and area.

HS: It really was, yeah. It really was.

JD: So then you go off to the University of Washington.

HS: Mm-hm.

JD: You get your PhD.

HS: Mm-hm.

JD: When did you decide that you were going to go into teaching? A little about your early career.

HS: Well, I always knew I was going to be a teacher. I mean, sort of growing up in Boulder, living next door to professors who had the summer off. [Laughs] That sat in my brain somewhat. But I think, you know, I enjoy teaching. And I knew that pretty quickly once I was in graduate school, because I did a lot of—I was a TA.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: So that was there. I was going to—I was an English teacher, teaching American Literature, and went off to Wake Forest for my first job. And got to be really close friends with an art historian there, a guy named Bob Knott, who passed away a couple of years ago. But Bob and I worked together on an Art and Literature course at Reynolda House, which is one of the really interesting American art museums in the country. And so we taught it in the museum, and I knew enough—I knew a lot of art history, and he knew quite a bit of literature, and so it was really, it was a fun gig.

So we were there; we were there three years, and we were teaching Freshman Composition, which I hated; I really did. And each of us—this is my first wife and I—said, "Whoever gets a better job, we'll go." I got a job at Alabama, and she got a job at Oregon State, so we came to Oregon State. And I didn't work at first. That's not true, I did. I commuted that first year to the University of Washington, where I taught. I went up on Sunday after—this is the year of Mount Saint Helens.

JD: Oh, wow!

HS: I went on Sundays and came back on Thursdays, and had a little apartment in Seattle. And I taught the Spy Novel, American Poetry, the American Novel, and I was an assistant professor.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: Living in Corvallis and teaching in Seattle. That got—that was getting old, and then our oldest son got cancer when he was two, and one of us had to quit, so I quit and took care of him. And that was really—that really made a difference, because a little boy with cancer sleeps. You have lots of time. And I started writing art pieces for magazines then. Was doing pretty well. And then Mark Sponenburgh put together a show of photographs, of scientific photographs of estuaries and the coast, and I wrote a review for the Statesman Journal of that, got to know him through that. And in August of 1981, I think, Nancy Corwin—no, she probably retired. She left just like that [snaps finger]. She was teaching Art History and she went to the Kansas City Art Institute and said goodbye. [0:20:00]

They had to teach the introduction, they had to teach the art history sequence, and they had no way to do it. And Mark called me up and said, "Could you do it?" And I said, "Sure." And so that's how I changed. [Laughs] That's how I became an art historian. I realized right away, actually, that teaching art history was like teaching poetry, with the benefit that the lights were off, nobody was looking at you, they were all looking at an image. And all you did is unpack an image the way you unpack a poem.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And so I loved it.

JD: And the way you were describing your earliest teaching at Wake Forest with Bob Knott, were you consciously kind of developing this interdisciplinary approach from the beginning?

HS: Oh, yeah, from the beginning. I mean, what I knew—I mean, I wanted to write about landscape as an idea, and that's an interdisciplinary approach. My dissertation actually was on Gertrude Stein, and William Carlos Williams, and the rise of American Modernist painting. So it was about Marsden Hartley and Charles Demuth, and Charles Sheeler, and Stein, Picasso, and you know, that's what the dissertation was. So it was already, that's what I was doing.

JD: So then, you come into the Art Department at OSU?

HS: Mm-hm.

JD: What was it like back in—that would have been the early eighties?

HS: Early '80s. I was the first tenure track hire in I think fifteen or twenty years. So, all of the painters—they gave me an office, and the first thing that happened was one of the painters, and I won't say who it is, but, walked in and said, "Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in Wayne's office?" Now it turns out that Wayne, in fact, didn't like to climb the stairs and didn't want that office anymore, so, so. [Laughs] But the other painter didn't know that, and so the attitude at first about me was that I was an interloper, and who the hell did I think I was, and what was I doing there?

And nobody was interested in Art History, anyway. And in fact, probably the Art History enrollments at that point in time, when I first came in there, were, if you had ten people in a class, it was a big class. And you know, within three or four years, I had 50 to 60 people in classes. And then I had 100, and then I had 180, and by the mid-1980s, I think it was pretty clear to everybody that Art 101, which I was teaching, with 350 students in it, in Milam Auditorium, was paying for the Art Department. [Laughs] And so, things got better. [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs]

HS: Their jobs rested on enrollments in Art 101, so.

JD: Uh-huh. And, was that the only course that you were teaching?

HS: Oh, no. I taught 364, -65, -66, so that's 19th century, early 20th century, and contemporary. I taught sort of a rotation. I taught Art 101 every year. I taught those courses every other year. What I really did, I taught about nine or ten courses, with some seminars, over two year stretches. So two courses a term, three terms a year, probably, Art 101 repeating and maybe one other.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: So it was, I did a lot of development, course development. But it was really fun. I mean, in a way it was just a constant learning process for me, and I really enjoyed it.

JD: Well, and from my research, and just interviewing other faculty or administration from the university during this time, it sounds like not only—that perhaps the Art Department was a bit of a microcosm of changes that were going on at the university as a whole, and maybe comment on your experience with that.

HS: Well, I think I first was elected to the Faculty Senate in '85, and I was on it for six years straight at that point. And what that really represented, if you think about it, is a new group of young people really taking over a lot of the university in every kind of way.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And so in the Art Department [0:25:00], you know, Berk Chappell had been chair, all of the old guard. Painter—he and I actually knew each other when I was a kid, in a really funny way. He and his wife Jody were SAEs and Tri Delts in Boulder. And as Berk and I talked, it became obvious that he remembered what I remembered, which was an incident where a good friend of mine, who lived next to the Tri Delt house, and I were going through the SAE garbage, looking for Playboy magazines, which [laughs] we were—I think we were ten years old. [Laughs] And Berk remembers that distinctly.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: And my dad was city attorney when the SAEs stole the lion from the post office in Georgetown, Colorado. And there was an All-Points Bulletin looking for the people who stole the lion, and they were scared to death. They placed it out on the Denver-Boulder Turnpike [laughs] and it was recovered. But I remember that, of course, from my dad being city attorney. So Berk and I shared that. But Berk was chair when I first got there, and I guess Sponenburgh was chair too, so Sponenburgh was chair, and then Berk, and then David Hardesty became chair. And David, again, younger, my age exactly. And it was an interesting time.

I think if you go back to '85 to '91, '91 is when we did—the university was in terrible financial shape, and we did program elimination, and I was on that committee. In fact, it's really pretty funny. I was on the airplane just flying back from Denver this weekend, sitting next to a guy who was an assistant professor of Vet Med in those same years, and our committee had recommended that Vet Med be closed down, because it was too expensive. I think it cost $60 a credit hour to teach an English course, and it cost the university somewhere in the vicinity—this is a wrong number, but it would be $1274 a credit hour. And we figured out on that committee that the average veterinarian would never pay enough in tax to pay back the cost of his education! [Laughs]

And so we recommended that it be closed. Kelvin Koong was about to become the head of Vet Med, and the whole Vet Med people, they were outraged. They went to the legislature, and the legislature, of course, is the keeper. But [laughs], but I was on the plane with this guy, and it turns out he was the assistant professor who was in charge of public relations, to try the get the Vet Med saved! [Laughs] And he said, "You know, I can thank you for just two of the worst years of my life." [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs]

HS: Ah, but it was a tricky time.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And you add to that the fact that the football program stunk. I don't know if you know Jack Van De Water, but Jack and I, and Bob Frank, had a running bet. Well, actually it was Bob Frank and Jack Van De Water who had the running bet, and I always got invited to the party. Jack, I think it was Jack, would bet that they would win more than two games, and Bob would bet that they wouldn't win two games. And whoever won that bet, lost that bet, had to host a dinner party, every year. So we always had to go to those, but we all sat there, and so, you know, five yards and a fumble. [Laughs] One would be losing their bet. It was good times.

But if you add how bad the football team was to how good the basketball team was, and we all went to every basketball game in the Ralph Miller era. And what we did is we went over to Togo's and bought submarine sandwiches, and then we went down and lined up to go to the basketball game. [0:30:00] And they let us in at 4:30, and we sat, saving seats for our wives until the game, because if we got up and left, we'd lose our seat.

JD: Sure.

HS: And we'd eat Togo's sandwiches for every basketball game. So those were sort of the dynamics of the place. You were losing programs. In Art, for instance, we lost Jewelry-making. We lost Textiles. Almost lost Ceramics, and for all practical purposes did. So it was just—Journalism, we closed Journalism down in '91, and Jim Folts came over to the Art Department as a photographer. But those were—a lot of people were hurt. [Pause in recording]

JD: So we were talking about, or you were talking about, kind of the tough times.

HS: Yeah.

JD: And I guess I also was wondering about liberal arts in a land grant college, and some of the programs really fairly new, you know, in the forties and fifties, compared to like Forestry and Engineering.

HS: And in fact, I think the great fight for the whole CLA, even in the eighties, was having the rest of the university not think of us as a service, that we were. You know, from the point of view—a lot of people really felt that what CLA's job was was to do what would end up being the baccalaureate core; it wasn't yet. And to make sure that every engineer read a book. [Laughs] That was really—that was pretty much the attitude, I think. And in fact, none of us had graduate programs, so that lessened our esteem. People just didn't think we were worth much. And so it was really important for all of us in CLA, and it was particularly true in English, I think, and in Religion actually, and for me, to publish a lot.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: So that the university could see, the rest of the faculty could see, that we were serious scholars, and that we needed to be taken seriously as departments, and as a college. And I think that was, you know, one of the real missions that Bill Wilkins understood, and brought to it. And rewarded those of us who did it, because he understood how important that was in the rest of the university, that our prestige mattered. And you know, it was a struggle, to be honest.

JD: Mm-hm, mm-hm.

HS: But I think one of the things that really changed things, again, was the Bacc Core, as the Bacc Core—I chaired that from '89 to '91 I think, and was on the committee in '88, and so it was '87 that they sort of outlined it. And I think this is something for students to have to take a literature course, for students to have to take two, or whatever it is—to do the WIC, actually introducing the WIC, I think, to the university as a whole, so that every program had to teach writing at an upper level. I think that sort of altered perceptions as well, because people began to realize how hard that was. [Laughs]

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: So I really think that that moment from '88 to '91, where we did cut back, but where we did institute the Bacc Core, where you know, a number of us began to explore the possibilities of having writing programs that really, that really mattered. It was a crucial time. It's also the moment, to tell you the truth, where—you know, I've been meaning to go back in the Archives and find out when this happened, but there was a—and I just haven't had a chance to do it, but there was a moment where a group of black students, after a basketball game, were walking down 14th Street, and a car went over a curb and tried to run them down. And the next day, the whole university was asked to talk about that incident in class, so we did. [0:35:02]

And I think that's one of the things that has really changed at OSU, and it sort of begins at that moment, too, is a growing awareness that we were lily white, that we were not a particularly hospitable place for people of color, and that we had to do something to change that. And you know, I think twenty years later, 25 years later, we've made remarkable progress in that way; I'm pretty proud of it.

JD: And as you've been talking about some of the personnel changes perhaps departmentally, what role would you say that kind of administration, the provost, the president-level, changes the atmosphere, or doesn't, on the campus?

HS: It did. I worked for three really great presidents in this, John Byrne, who I still admire a ton, and who really knew what we had to do. And then Paul Risser, bless his heart, understood really well the possibilities for this campus, which Dave Frohnmayer didn't [laughs] at the U of O. And I think, then Ed Ray. They've all worked really hard to elevate OSU from a cow college to an institution with real standing in the United States. And I don't think that's even begun to pay off yet, because I think what the Campaign for OSU is doing is really pretty dramatically going to elevate the campus even more. It's going to take five years, six years, seven years, to see that. But it's going to happen.

JD: Mm-hm. So, in bringing up the Cascades campus—

HS: Mm-hm.

JD: You were involved in a lot of that planning.

HS: Oh, yeah, was I ever! [Laughs]

JD: So talk about how you got involved, and what you were doing.

HS: I was Faculty Senate president, or maybe when this all started I was president-elect, I think. So I was meeting, essentially weekly, with the administration anyway, so we didn't—Risser had a president's council which was the deans, and the president, president-elect of the senate, and a number of other people. And we met every week. And I now know what had happened is that John Costa and some people from town here—John's the editor of the newspaper—had gone to, first, U of O, and asked if they would think about doing something here by the way of a university, and there was little or no interest. And they were pretty depressed, and they drove up the road to Corvallis, and with no expectations at all went in to see Paul. Paul said, "Absolutely! It's got to be done. This is really important. We're on board." And I only found that story out, really, when John Costa wrote an editorial a couple of weeks ago, when Paul died, about that moment.

JD: Hm.

HS: But what Paul told us to do is have a big meeting and talk about this thing. So it was Tim White—I remember this meeting so well. It was Sherman, science guy? Sherman Bloomer—Sherm Bloomer, and Tim White and I were sitting together in this big room with all these people talking about it, and we turned to each other and said, "Well, if we're going to do this, we have to write a curriculum." And we were forming committees, so I became chair of the curriculum committee. [Laughs] So I wrote, I created this curriculum, which was pretty ambitious. And we created a great publication, big, fat, blue publication to propose to Central Oregon. And when the proposals were due, we handed in our big book, and they sent in a twenty-page mimeographed [0:40:00], stapled, two side of the page thing. And we won hands down. They were not happy about that.

JD: I assume by "they," you mean—

HS: U of O. They weren't. And that took, really, another decade to resolve their unhappiness. But get a new a president, and they decided they would move on to Portland and leave this behind, which was a really good move for all of us. But I would come over here, oh, in that year, 2000-2001, I probably came over here every two weeks to make presentations to the community about a college. Then the legislature came through with enough—actually, that's not true. What happened is COCC agreed to build a building if we would rent from them. So we sort of designed the building.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: I remember when we were buying furniture, which we still have. I sat in 150 different chairs, for two hours at a time, to determine which was most comfortable. [Laughs] I mean, that's the kind of—that's the level we were working. I went door to door trying to find faculty to come over here; literally would walk into somebody's office and say, "Would you like to move to Bend?" And we created a curriculum that was more or less in place just by shaking a hand, going to a chairman and saying, "Can we teach this?" And he'd say, "Sure." It's a lot more formal now, a lot more complicated.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: That's how we started. And we opened our doors the day of—on 9/11, 2001. And the first thing I did as academic vice provost was gather everybody out in the circle in front of the COCC administration building, to sing "God Bless America." And it was pretty weird. [Laughs] And as that day began, we thought we had a budget of 9.5 million. By the time the week was over, we had a budget of 6.2 million. So it was—it was pretty strange.

JD: Expand a little on where the budget went to, or what was going on?

HS: Oh, it was very clear to everybody that the ramifications of 9/11 were economically, an economic disaster. So everything in Salem just tightened down. We were in a really funny position, because everybody was so scared on this campus, at OSU, because they really felt that we were going to take money that belonged there, and so we created—we did two things. One was that we got our own budget line, separate from even the State Board of Higher Education. We just had our own budget line.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: But that meant, of course, it was easily raid-able by legislators, so it was good and it was bad. We also created what came to be known as the firewall. The main campus had no economic obligation to this place, and so—now, they did provide financial aid services, and those kinds of things. But mostly it was, we were on our own. And so that was a good thing, but we lost that—we never recovered from those, that first three million, because we were—I say I designed it, but we had designed this whole curriculum, this whole campus, on a premise of 50 percent more than we got.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And so from that moment on, it was catch-up. And you know, then when we almost lost it after the 2008 crisis, a lot of calls to close this campus. [0:44:58] What saved it was the fact that 350 people showed up in the building when the legislators, legislative committee came over. And they had been touring the state talking to people, and I don't think they'd had twenty people in a room till that day.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: And so we saved it. But it was dicey.

JD: Mm-hm, mm-hm. So how does an art history professor make that leap kind of into administration?

HS: Well let's think about it. I had been on the Faculty Senate for probably half of my career at OSU, to that point. I'd been on the Executive Committee for, I don't know, four or five of those years. I had worked pretty closely with Risser. And to be honest, I didn't much relish teaching 450 students a term for the rest of my life. It's one reason I had agreed to be Faculty Senate president; I wanted to lighten my teaching load.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: Because I knew no students; I knew no names. It was really pretty frustrating. So when the opportunity came, we did the curriculum, and I applied for the job as associate provost, and actually it was Becky Johnson and me. She got it later; I got it earlier. [Laughs] But it was—you know, I love Bend, and I really did believe that Bend needed the campus. I'd been coming over teaching here on weekends since the early eighties, as a way to be able to ski on Sunday [laughs], but it was just something that—well, in 2000, when we started looking at the campus, Bend had just brought in 50,000 people. Today it's 90, so in that decade it's doubled in size.

But it was the largest metropolitan area in the United States further than 120 miles from a 4-year degree. And of course, part of that 120 miles were two passes, snowed in half the time in the winter. So it was really isolated in terms of education, and there was a huge need for people to finish degrees, for place-bound people who needed degrees. And so when we started, I think our first, our average age for five years, six years, was over 30. And now it's down around 27, but it's still a different kind of student.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And a kind of student that is incredibly rewarding to teach, because they really want it. They're not here for football and Friday nights.

JD: And they may be paying for it out of their own pocket.

HS: They're paying for it out of their own pockets. And suddenly my class sizes were ten, twelve, fifteen. I knew everybody. It's been really rewarding.

JD: Mm-hm. And you've talked some about kind of the low points.

HS: Mm-hm.

JD: But there's also been some real successes. It's grown; there's a couple of degree programs that you had a hand in developing.

HS: Oh yeah. It's amazing. I mean, we started here—I think there's only two of us left who were in that first, three of us, in that first faculty cohort. But we created not just a bachelor's degree in art, but a Bachelor of Fine Arts. It's a big, 120-hour degree. OSU had always had an American Studies program that was just not doing well, and we thought we could do that here really pretty easily, and we did. We have a unique degree in Tourism and Outdoor Leadership, which we started, which we created from the go-get. We had a tough time getting science programs going, but we've got that now.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: Really strong, actually, I think. [0:50:00] Really strong, one of our strongest degrees here, since the beginning and still is, Childhood Development whatever; I can never remember the name of it—HESC or whatever it is. But Early Childhood, Early Childhood. And we put a lot of folks into the community working in that area that have had a big impact, I think. And then later on, not on my watch, but we now have a graduate program in counseling, a graduate program in teacher education; probably get a couple more graduate programs pretty soon. New programs in health. It's a thriving place. And we're just about a thousand students, and if you go back, we actually predicted that it would take a decade to get to 1,000. It's taken a little longer than that, but that's because of 2008.

JD: Sure.

HS: And I think Becky's looking at trying to get this place to 5000 by 2020, and that sounds like mammoth growth compared to what we have, but if you look at institutions like this when they start, Portland State never—it took Portland State five years to get, or ten years, to get to 1000 students, and look at it now. You know, it was started in '56 or '57, and they were still a little, tiny place in the '60s. And their situation is a lot like ours. They had to create a campus in an urban infrastructure, and we're going to have to do the same thing, I think. But it's all doable. It's kind of fun to watch.

JD: [Laughs] Well, and there seems to be a clear plan in place to become a four-year campus.

HS: Oh, we're going to open in 2015 as a four-year institution.

JD: That's just around the corner.

HS: Yeah. One of the smartest things that they're doing is they're giving—I thought this was brilliant—pioneer scholarships, so that the first, that first cohort of freshman actually gets one hell of a deal, a really a discount half-price education. But that's really a smart thing. That's how you build a campus. The difficulty's going to be hiring enough faculty. They're not here at present. Going to have to go find them. That will be pretty interesting. It's exciting.

JD: Yeah, it is!

HS: Yeah.

JD: So, I wanted to turn to your publications and being an author.

HS: Mm-hm.

JD: But I don't want to—

HS: No, it's fine.

JD: —move away too quickly, if there's other things you want to say?

HS: No.

JD: So, you broach the topic about publishing when you were in the Art Department at the Corvallis campus as a way to kind of help establish some legitimacy, but I'm sure there were other reasons. Can you talk about—?

HS: Yeah, I like to write. [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs] That's important.

HS: Yeah.

JD: It's key.

HS: One of the first things I think is Prentice-Hall, which is now Pearson, approached me in 1988 or '87 about doing a writing book for writing about art, is what it turned out to be. And I loved that, because I so hated teaching writing in an Art History class. You know, I wanted students to have the information, but for them to have to go read it themselves. I didn't want to spend time in class doing it. And so that's why I wrote the book, and it turned out to be—it went through seven editions, I think. And now where it is, they bought it back from me actually, and it's now built into every art book they have, electronically. So it exists in virtual space now. But the good thing is I don't have to do new editions anymore, so I'm happy with that. And then soon after that did well from the go-get, and they came and said, "Well, would you do an art appreciation book?" And I said, "No." [Laughs] "No way! I'm not interested."

And then that incident with the black students happened [0:55:03], and I was teaching Art 101 that day. And one of the black kids in the class said, "Look Dr. Sayre, you're sitting here talking about how we have to think about what's going on in race and all of that," but he says, "I just want to point out that when you teach value in this course, you said black was low in value and white is high in value." You know, I was stunned! That's the rhetoric in art appreciation. And he said, "And look at this book." And it was somebody else's book. He said, "There's not a black artist in the book." And I started thinking about it, and there were no women in it either, and there were no—there were no cultures other than European and American in that book. There were no books with any of that.

So you know, I take great pride in being the art appreciation book that broke all of those barriers, that had lots of black artists, lots of women artists, lots of third world stuff, and China, and Japan, and just wrote that first edition to do that. And obviously it did pretty well, too. You know, the first edition didn't do so great, but when we got ready to do the second edition, we wrote this Annenberg Grant, and actually Jeff Hale helped a lot with that. And he was working in the Dean's Office at that point. And we got 1.2 million dollars to make this 10-part video series for OPB and PBS. And that was sort of built into the book. And Annenberg's idea at that point was to—what they wanted was a distance learning tool, so that they would have something that they could do distance with with a book.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: So the whole program was a distance book. And students created a CD. Actually, students did it themselves, teaching perspectives, and value, and all of those kinds of things. And so a couple of students, one of whom later went on to work for Adidas—actually he was head of Adidas Germany, I think. But I had all of these designers at my disposal, students who wanted to work. And so sort of the most fun thing we did is we designed the book ourselves. And from that point on, you know, Prentice Hall was loath to let me design my own book. They didn't think anybody could do that. But once I said to them, "Look, I'm just giving you a dummy," once I called it a dummy, they were okay with it. [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs]

HS: And now I design the books completely. I pick the images, put the images in. I work in InDesign, and I send them the finished book. They tweak it a little, but not much. And every once in a while we find an image we can't get, or something. But other than that, I'm sitting upstairs right now doing the eighth edition of World of Art, and it's going to be—it's completely electronic. There will be a book, but the book is like $165. The electronic version is $45. And in the electronic version, we licensed 40 videos from PBS from their "Art 21" series, "Art in the 21st Century."

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: So if I'm talking about Julie Mehretu, and this big mural she did in New York, well, there she is putting the final touches on the mural, talking about it in the video. So it's integrated like that, and it's pretty wonderful. The humanities, big humanities book, now—if I'm talking about Beethoven's Fifth, you punch a button and Beethoven's Fifth comes on, and a little listening guide comes up, and "This is a trombone." [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs]

HS: It tells you everything that you're hearing. It's, you know, music for dummies. But it's really important [1:00:00], because so many people teach this course that has music in it, but they're not musicians. They don't know how to teach. They don't know how to teach music. So that pedagogy's all built in to the electronic version. We have access to the entire Penguin Library, and teachers can go in and drop any text from Penguin into the electronic book.

JD: Wow.

HS: I mean, it's astonishing. There's panoramic—my favorite's the panoramas. You go in—and this is in both books actually. There's a little hidden button, and you're standing where you point to on the chart, you know, on the floor plan of Chartres, for instance. There's four different places you can stand. Stand there, and you can move your finger, and you can go up, and you can go around, and you can go sideways or down, look at the floor, and turn around. You can see the whole cathedral from that point of view. And then you can go to a different spot and see it from a different point of view.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: You can stand on the Parthenon and look up through the Parthenon and out to sea, and back to the top of the Acropolis. What it does is make people want to go there, which is a goal.

JD: Mm-hm. And you've also done a children's book?

HS: Oh, yeah. I wanted to do that my whole life, because—it's called Cave Paintings to Picasso. I didn't name it; they did. The Inside Scoop on 50 Masterpieces, I think, is the subtitle.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: But it won the Oregon Book Award, for children.

JD: Yes.

HS: The idea, I'd always thought, was there's great stories around works of art. I'll give you an example: Lascaux Cave. So, the first thing that they open up to is Lascaux in this book. And we've made it so it's a lap book, so that the images on the left-hand page—the text is over here pretty much. And so the images is in front of the kid, and the text is in front of the parent.

JD: [Laughs] That's very smart.

HS: That was really the idea. And he story there is two little boys, three little boys, actually, out walking their dog, and the dog disappears down a hole. And they can hear it down there barking. And this is 19—I forget the date, 1929? And they go get a ladder, an old ladder, and then they go down to get their dog, and their dog's down there all right, but way down further. So they take the ladder and they go down there, and they suddenly see all of these cave paintings. And so, you know, three 10-year-olds, or 12-year-olds, discover the cave paintings. Now that's a story that kids just eat up.

JD: They can put themselves there.

HS: Absolutely. And so what we did was we went through tried to pick 50 works from around the world, and across time, that kids could identify with, and wrote these little vignettes, really, about them. And it turns out that most parents like the book as much as the kids, so. [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs] Something to be learned by everyone.

HS: Yeah, exactly. And so that was a fun thing to do, and I've thought about doing it again, but I just haven't had time.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: But you know, maybe.

JD: Well, and I read somewhere that you—noted that you had a little difficulty finding a publisher at some point for that book? Am I remembering that correctly? But you might have changed their minds?

HS: Well, what's happened since—this is another instance. I mean, I really did—I think I can safely say that World of Art broke the ground, where now every art appreciation book is now world-wide, lots of women, lots of African-American, the whole bit.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: That was not true before that book.

JD: And did you get pushback on that aspect of it from your publisher, initially?

HS: None at all. In fact, when I proposed that, they saw that as—well, this is a funny story. They had just sent me the preface to the fourth edition of Jameson's Art History, History of Art. And I was reading this preface, and it kept saying, "The artist, he—. The artist, he—. The artist, he—." And I marked every one, and I said, "Artist, they—. Artist, they—." [1:05:01] And then I got to this moment in the preface where it said, and you won't find this because I got them to change it, but it said, "When an artist doesn't succeed at her craft, at her work, she often turns to the crafts." And I just lost it! [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs]

HS: I mean, and I thought—so when I called them—my editor, he was my editor and Jameson's editor both. He was one of the great editors, brilliant in the history of American publishing. And I read him the riot act about this. He just had my proposal to do this other book, and he said, "Boy, we're in real trouble, aren't we?" And I said, "Yes, you are, if you have this attitude." He said, "We've got to change that." So from that moment on he was completely on board with the idea of World of Art. And we've worked hard to keep it that way.

JD: Well, I guess I'm making a tie-in, and you can tell me that that's not correct.

HS: Okay.

JD: That these approaches, and the desire to do both a children's book, as well as kind of reframe what art appreciation is, and art history, with your comments you've made about art not being considered central and fundamental.

HS: Oh, actually, just to finish that last story, what's happened since I did the children's book, nobody really thought that there was a place in art history for children. If you go to a museum book store today, you'll see seventy books that are doing that.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: In other words, we were the first, again.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: And now everybody understands that a kid can understand Picasso. Kids probably understand Picasso better than their parents, to tell you the truth. It looks kind of natural to them. But yeah, I think one of the things that is—what World of Art does, what the humanities do, what the focus of those books is really is critical for me, and then creative thinking after that. But I think if you learn to analyze a work of art, you can analyze anything. If you know how to ask the right questions of a work of art, you know how to ask the right questions about anything.

So I think it's really important. It's a really good way to teach critical thinking, probably the best way, with maybe the exception of a literature course. It's the best way to teach critical thinking. The advantage of art, though, is that it also has that enormous creative side to it, that you—and that's one reason we put artists—we made the TV series. We wanted to show people making work, failing, starting again, failing again, pushing it again further, so the students understand that creation is not magic.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: It's work, and it's failure, and it's coming back, and it's starting again, and that's what the process is. And students who get that can succeed in anything. You know, I take my oldest son as an example. He was a Photography major at Syracuse, but digital photography was coming into being at that moment, and he got real interested in it. Now he's probably one of the two or three most important people writing freeware in the country, and works for Twitter. That's where the creative side, and the creative principle took it, because he could just go be creative.

And I think that's what—we always talk about American productivity and creativity falling short. It's because, frankly, you know, I'm not a real big fan of STEM, because—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—because I think it doesn't provide any opportunity for kids to be, except maybe in a biology lab, or a chemistry lab, to be very creative, to make things, to discover things new. And where do they get that is in the humanities, and then that can go back into their science [1:10:00], and then that can go back into their engineering. But where it's most accessible is in the humanities. I pretty much believe that with all my heart. [Laughs]

JD: And do you have any sense of when and why the conversation changed, and the fact that arts and art instruction in schools was considered just part of what students and young people growing up needed to know and learn, and how that all went away?

HS: I have a real good sense. I think it's all money. If we're going to invest in students, we need to invest in practical things. Nobody sees art as producing, as practical. You know, to be honest, teaching painting to a college student is a pretty silly thing, in the sense that they're not going to get a job as a painter [laughs], and very likely never make enough money to live as a painter. But you do teach some other stuff, but it's still—you'd probably make them a good banker, if you want to know the truth.

But I think that as school systems have been strapped for money, they've done two really awful things. One is get rid of the arts, and the second is get rid of physical education. And physical education is another place where a student can be creative physically, and discover things about themselves that they can't in a science class. You know, physical education—if it weren't for soccer, my second son never would have gone to college.

JD: [Laughs]

HS: So I really believe in that too. And how do you get it back? You know, you tell people over and over, and over, and over, and over again that their kids are going to get better math scores if they take art. But you can't convince the school board of that. And the school board is going to tell you, "Okay, we have a choice to make. Do our kids—?"—and frankly [sighs] we test—the whole testing scene is responsible for this too, so that Bush's "No Child Left Behind" has really damaged the arts. And I know enough about George W. to understand that he probably doesn't care, that the arts breed left-wingers. [Laughs] And so why would you want to champion that? I think if you're teaching for tests, well there's no way to test a painting, and so once you're out there in that world where it's just taste, everybody gets nervous. And so let's just get rid of it. We do know, though, that math scores go up if you paint.

JD: And there's definitely been connections made between mind, body and—?

HS: Oh, yeah.

JD: People who are active, their brains are active, too.

HS: Well, you know, it's a book that sometimes makes me laugh, but Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a smart book, in the sense that she's right, that it develops—drawing develops tools that you can use for lots of other things, that aren't easily developed studying multiplication tables, so.

JD: Well, in addition to all of your innovation, and work as a teacher and an administrator, you've also been pretty involved in community organizations, arts organizations, the State Arts Commission.

HS: Yeah. Yeah.

JD: Why?

HS: The Arts Commission, which I resigned from over the loss of—over the way they terminated the director—

JD: Right.

HS: —who was a good friend, and who I worked with for fifteen years, but the best thing about doing that is panel work. You give grants. Three times a year for the last seven years, we've given between 1 and 7,000 dollars to fifteen or twenty artists, every four months, to do something that is a remarkable thing that's going to further their career—go to a workshop someplace, or have a show someplace else, and they can't afford the shipping. [1:15:01] But doing that, it's rewarding to do that for people, but the most important thing for me is I got to know all these artists. I know their work. I get to see what's going on in the state. A lot of times I've served on literature panels, so I got to read short stories and poems from all sorts of people writing all over the state. So it kept me current about my place, in a way that no other way could have.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: Not even—living in Portland, even if you went to all the galleries all the time, you would never see the amount of work that we would see in a given grant cycle. So I enjoyed that a lot.

JD: And I was just going to ask a couple of sort of final reflection questions, but if there's some things that have percolated up as you have been talking that you want to make sure we capture, this would be a great time to do that.

HS: Well, the hardest thing that I had to ever do, and I'll just say this, is I was chair of the Cascade Festival of Music, chair of the board, in 2008. Just before everybody realized the economy was collapsing, we kind of already knew because our economy was collapsing. All of our funders had pulled back. We were a lot in debt, and no real way to pay it off, and so I had to shut it down. And that was pretty painful, but it was the responsible thing to do. And you know, as it turns out, as the economy did collapse, if we had gone on it would have just been doubly tragic, so. Because I loved that festival. It was a really great—I mean, Murray Severin was the conductor. We'd started negotiations with James DePreist to come be the conductor. We had a great orchestra, mostly from Aspen; so the Aspen Festival would end and they would come here, and from great players around the state as well. And so it was really—that was sad.

JD: Mm-hm.

HS: But that's that economy, you know, '90–'91, 2008–2009, those two moments were—what I learned from '90–'91 is when those things happen, change can really happen. So that's what happened here. I think we almost lost this campus in 2009, and now we're going to be a four-year institution.

JD: Mm-hm. Well, and so you clearly get the economics of all of this, too, which actually is going to lead me to one more topic I wanted you to speak briefly about, and that was the very generous endowment that you and your wife, Sandy Brooke, who is also an artist and professor.

HS: We've got a ways to get there, but! [Laughs]

JD: [Laughs]

HS: But yeah. You know, it's kind of funny, because we did that, there was no—

JD: Maybe explain what that was?

HS: Well, what it is for is for an endowed chair for someone to teach in more than one discipline. And when we did that, that wasn't happening at all at OSU. Now, the realignment of the campus, so that now art, music and communication and dance are all in one department, well, that's much more likely to happen now. And so in a way, I'm not sure that that is exactly the way it's going to end up looking. We've got a ways to go to meet our obligation, but [laughs] but it's still, it's going to happen, and I'm pleased about that.

JD: So we've talked about a lot of different topics, but I always like to give the person I'm talking to just a kind of chance to talk about anything sort of final about OSU, either where you're hoping it will go, and perhaps similar thoughts for current students and faculty.

HS: Well, one thing I worry about is how quickly we grow, to 28,000. My entire career there, I don't think we were ever more than eighteen, and we were often at sixteen or fifteen, as enrollments decreased. [1:20:00] I'm sure it's a good thing. I know that it's paying for a lot.

And I think the other thing that I find sort of unbelievable is the amount of construction that all of this has created. Now, the new classroom building, which I've seen plans for, a lot of, is a remarkable place. And that's going to really change, I think, the quality of teaching at the university. I think that big round auditorium, 360 auditorium, is going to be a pretty special place to teach. I think the other rooms are designed to just be conducive to all kinds of really interesting interaction, as the lecture, which is my mode [laughs], sort of disappears. And that's a good thing and a bad thing, because a good lecture is a really good thing.

The greatest class I ever had was a guy at Stanford, Walter Sokel, who would come in, start the lecture, and you'd be done. You'd think two minutes later, and it would be an hour and fifteen minutes, and you'd have four pages of notes, and you were just intrigued the whole time. You're going to lose some of that. But I think the most important thing is that the campus sort of has a spirit of innovation about it, that I think a lot of us, my generation, sort of helped create. And as long as it keeps that, it's going to be fine. A university that doesn't try new things is a university in trouble. And what I like about the Campaign for OSU is that it seems to be supporting new things, new kinds of classrooms, new kinds of teaching, new kinds—you know, half of it won't work, but that's the failure that you need to have. So.

JD: Mm-hm. And any particular thoughts or advice that you might offer to current OSU students and/or faculty?

HS: Yeah. Take a lot of courses that you don't think you need, as many as you can!

JD: [Laughs]

HS: No, really, truly, I think when you teach—what's made my career, honestly, is I've rarely taught the same course twice. I mean, sure, it's the same basic material, but there's new images, and there's new stuff I've read, and it's just not the same old thing. And I do stupid things. Like this fall, which will probably be my last year of teaching, I'm teaching a course on Environmental Art. Now, that means I have to prepare it. [Laughs] That means I have to put it together, and I haven't done it. But doing that, making yourself teach something new, is really important, because I think that's where your best research is going to come from, that if you're teaching what you're researching, if you're researching what you're teaching, that creates a sort of dynamic excitement that you don't otherwise have. If you're teaching the same old thing again, and it's rote, then you're a bad teacher, or will become one quickly. If you're a student, have the guts to go take something you don't think you should take.

JD: Well, that seems like a perfect note to end on. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

HS: You're welcome. [1:23:52]


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