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C. Warren Hovland Oral History Interview, January 26, 2010

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SB: This is Dr. C. Warren Hovland. Sandi Bean and Liz Hill are interviewing him from Sociology 518 for the OSU Life Histories project.

WH: Welcome, I'm glad to participate in this interview.

SB: We're happy to be here, too.

LH: We would like to hear some information about your childhood and how you came to be interested in this field, well first liberal arts here and then religious studies. But first if you could start with your childhood a little bit. When and where were you born? What did your parents do for a living?

WH: I was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1918. My father was an engineer with the 00:01:00telephone company. And my mother had come from Sweden when she was a 12-year-old, and settled in Minnesota. Yes, I had two brothers Carl and Roger. Roger was an engineer with a utilities company. Carl became rather well-known chairman of the psychology department at Yale University. He was a distinguished professor there and had consulting jobs with major corporations and was well 00:02:00known for his research on learning theory. My early education was through the public schools in Chicago, and I did the regular thing I guess although one teacher reported that I did a lot of day-dreaming, and I don't know about that. I would say that my experience of growing up in Chicago was very multilingual 00:03:00community. There were Swedes, and Polish, and some Blacks, and a variety of communities. how to me I think that helped open up that world to me. My father was a very religious man, conservative from my standpoint now.

SB: How so, how was he conservative?

WH: He belonged to the conservative wing of the Lutheran Church, and therefore 00:04:00he thought the Missouri Synod was too liberal. He belonged to the Norwegian branch of that church and he was Sunday School superintendent, and I was baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran. I was comfortable, in fact I started my college career at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin, thinking of going into the Lutheran ministry, but I encountered some liberal professors at Lawrence and I ended up at Yale Divinity School after a year at Boston 00:05:00University, with interest in a more liberal thing. I was actually, it was the time of World War Two and I was ordained in the Congregational Church and became a Navy chaplain in 1943, for three years with service in the Pacific.

LH: What was that like?

WH: Well, actually, my assignment was first to a naval hospital in Philadelphia and then to an attack transport. So were in on invasions in Leyte and Peleliu 00:06:00and those areas. We took aboard casualties and transferred them to hospital ships and so on. It was quite an opening experience for me. And as a matter of fact, the head of the chaplain corps looked at me and said, "Chaplain, you look awfully young. Why don't you get yourself a mustache." Anyhow, so I did that [laughs].

SB: Tell us about coming from your doctoral program at Yale to OSU in 1949? How did you get from Yale to the military?

WH: I had attended Yale Divinity School to get my bachelor's of divinity. Then 00:07:00after the war, I returned to Yale with the encouragement of some of the professors to start a doctoral program. And so back to 1946 I started my three-year doctoral program at the graduate school at Yale. Then in 1949, I was finishing my program and I was looking around for a job. The President of the University (OSU), Dr. Strand, was attending a conference in New England. A. L. 00:08:00Strand, he was a wonderful man. I met him and we had a good visit and he said, "Well, if you want to come out west and see what we're like, why don't you come and start a program there?" so Dr. Warrington, who started the program in 1928, 00:09:00he was retiring and President Strand offered the job to me. I think there were only about 5,000 students at OSU at that time. I remember my salary was $1500 and I thought that was a big salary at that time!

I went back to Chicago at Christmas in 1950, met my wife at that point. My cousin had a New Year's Eve party with square dancing and neither of us had square-danced. So I got my first square-dance lessons and I don't' think we've 00:10:00ever square-danced since [laughs]. Anyhow, she came out to Oregon and we were married in 1950 and I started teaching at that point.

SB: What were some of your Depression experiences?

WH: Depression experiences, well it's true-the '30s and the '40s were economic downturns and many people were out of work and so forth and funding for the department was all, at first, voluntary. This was interesting-it was the President and the Dean who wanted a Department of Religion and they hired Dr. 00:11:00Warrington with their own funding before the State Board finally took over. So it was hard raising funds at that point, too.

SB: What were your experiences with the civil rights movement?

WH: I became more and more interested in those issues and during the Vietnam War we sit-ins and we had groups marching in town and at one point they took over the Dean's office and by and large I was involved in supporting those movements.

In terms of my family, my mother never really had any schooling except the 00:12:00country school in Minnesota up to the 8th grade, I think. She continued to write to me in Swedish; I grew up in a family where Swedish and Norwegian were both spoken and I understood those (languages). I didn't have any sisters but my brother Carl always served as a kind of model. He was a very bright, intelligent 00:13:00person and a great achiever in the academic world.

SB: What did your brother do?

WH: He was a professor of psychology and head of the department at Yale. There's a question here [reads from list of prepared questions] about whether I am more of a researcher or a philosopher. I considered myself more of a teacher. I was also involved at the college (OSU) in building up the college of liberal arts and feeling that we had a long way to go. We were called "the lower division" at 00:14:00first. I said, "Well, lower than what?" [laughs] I don't know. But at any rate, with a number of people in the English department and history, this was a time when Bernard Malamud came. He was a very important stimulus to several of us to get the liberal arts lecture series, get the foreign film series, get the chamber music series-these things.

At the same time, I became interested in faculty governance and I was appointed the first non-administrator as President of the Faculty Senate, so I was very 00:15:00involved in faculty welfare. Also about this time, I was appointed to first the long-range planning commission and then an important assignment with Emery Castle and Jim Knudsen, whom I noticed just in the paper just died this week-called the goals commission and that's in the archives. It's a fairly good-sized document that was prepared with discussions with deans and committees 00:16:00and so forth. That's the goals commission with Emery Castle and Jim Knudson.

Now as I detail in the report of the history, the growth of the department came about as we were able to increase the number of upper-division classes, and I was involved in hiring three or four very fine scholars-Marcus Borg, for 00:17:00instance, who is a nationally recognized Biblical scholar, and I persuaded him to join our faculty, and he was a very important figure. Later on, he was offered a million dollars by an alumni (sic) Hundere, and that was the Hundere fellowship, scholarship, and he (Borg) became the Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture.

I also encouraged a young Timothy Hosoi who was a scholar at the University of 00:18:00Chicago in history of religion. He had done his PhD at the University of Chicago. And then Nick Yonker who became a professor of the philosophy of religion, and one of my former students, Ron Clark who was interested in religion and science. So our department grew I should say from a kind of simplistic notion of religion and very kind of conservative ways as it grew to 00:19:00be a much more scholarly analysis of religion and brought a different perspective and was recognized more by other departments of the University and so on. And so we established an undergraduate major. I was not involved in research and publication, rather I used my sabbatical to become aware of important movements in religious thought, namely I had two sabbaticals at 00:20:00Harvard at which I became more aware of the role of people like the psychiatrist Eric Erikson who developed theories of the growth of the individual and the role of religion in that area. I sat in on his classes and was invited to his home.

I was also on another sabbatical at Harvard, interested in the thinking of Paul Tillich, very creative German who was lecturing at Harvard and I was invited to 00:21:00share in his home where he had a group of graduate students. So, I conceived of my function as trying to bring these movements together to the classroom and to introduce students. Then I became interested in a Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, and I had one sabbatical in Germany and studied under Hans Kung, who is a critic of the conservative movements in the Catholic Church.

SB: How long were these sabbaticals?


WH: A sabbatical is normally a year. Now I had also the experience of directing the exchange program between Oregon's system of higher education and a German university. So two years I spent in Stuttgart, Germany, directing those programs and got more acquainted with that.

[Reads the survey: Can you give us an overview of your work-we had a hard time finding your publications?]

So yes, I wrote some papers. I also had one grant from the National Academy of Humanities and I spent that at Princeton one summer. As a result of that, I 00:23:00wrote a publication which was Studies in Contemporary Thought-my article is in that.

LH: What year was that?

WH: Right now, I would say [looks through bookshelves, brings back a book] See, 00:24:00this is the book that it was published in.

SB: The book is called Pagan and Christianity Anxiety

WH: '84 is about when I was in that area.

SB: Thank you. Tell us about your time on the faculty senate? What were some major milestones? You said when you retired from the senate -that the institution had evolved from a timid organization to the faculty taking "seriously faculty governance." How did that manifest itself?

WH: In terms of the Faculty Senate, there was a growing feeling among faculty 00:25:00that the Faculty Senate belonged to the deans and administrators and we were not, our voices were not heard. So a group of faculty petitioned the Senate that faculty should be allowed to run for office and they encouraged me to run [laughs] and I was elected the first thing. As a result we had a much better general area of communication, with the Dean of Faculty and faculty members, and 00:26:00committees were established and we took on issues of salary and tenure and all those choosy issues.

LH: Dr. Hovland, we had looked in the Faculty Senate minutes and you had this wonderful quote when you retired when you said "it had moved from a weak institution to something that was stronger." Do you remember your feelings about that, or how you saw that changing as you were a member of the Senate?

WH: I think you know it was really a part of liberation, if you like. Liberation 00:27:00theology is one area that I was kind of interested (in). Another was I also taught a course in feminism and there was a growing sense that there was a lot of inequality where deans had absolute control of the faculty salaries and so forth. Instead we wanted committees to be involved with that. The whole tenure process was a very critical process for us to be involved in. I don't know if 00:28:00that answers your question. It's kind of like: during my lifetime I've seen the Civil Rights Movement, and then the Feminist Movement, and then the Gay and Lesbian Movement. In terms of faculty, that impinged in terms of salaries and women's salaries compared with men's and all of those issues. You know, a university is a pretty conservative place [laughs], and you don't bring changes about very quickly. But anyhow, that's what we were working on. At the same 00:29:00time, at the intellectual level, wait a minute! My coffee, I've got to get that.

SB: I should stop this.

LH: I guess what I was really trying to ask was how did you see the Senate changing during your time in the Senate?

WH: Ok, essentially by moving to committee structures, where you would get a wider range of faculty. One of the very big issues was graduate students and lab 00:30:00assistants and so on, right in that area where they were not really recognized and so on. So we moved to get a classification that allowed them to have more rights. Anyhow, you don't like my cookies?

LH: The cookies are delicious!

SB: I ate two! Your cookies are good and your coffee is nice and strong!

WH: I'm sorry, it may be too strong. I can thin it down a little bit.

SB: It can't be too strong for me.

WH: Got to keep us awake, you know! Tell me where we are and what you'd like...


LH: I think we're down to: if you could do anything differently, what would you have done?

WH: I think that's what I've been trying to address. It was like the Civil Rights Movement-you had to stand up against a long tradition in which deans and chairmen controlled the faculty, really, and to give the faculty a voice and to let them really have charge of the review of tenure and so on and that's still 00:32:00open. At one point, I was a serious contender for Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, it was kind of between me and Bill Wilkins and I realized that I was more an academic and not an administrator at that time anyhow and that my heart was more with the ordinary faculty. I think it was a very questionable decision that 00:33:00Bill Wilkins as Dean used the excuse of a financial exigency to say we no longer needed a Department of Religious Studies and that was terminated.

SB: When was that? When was it terminated?

WH: [refers to prepared notes] It's about the last page there, I think. What comes just before that.

LH: You have a question here on the date. We can look that up.


WH: But at any rate, faculty that were still, I was retired by then.

LH: So it was after 1987.

WH: I retired in 1987. Maybe it was a couple of years after that, about '89 I think. So the faculty who were just about to retire were accepted into the philosophy department. Now there is just a philosophy department, no longer religious studies, although some courses are still offered in philosophy.

LH: What are you the proudest of? What will others think is your greatest accomplishment?

WH: I don't know what I was proudest of. I would say it was an honor when 00:35:00Hovland Hall was established because that was right about the time when religious studies was terminated and yet the President, the Dean, and a couple of people, said (to me), "This was a tribute to what work you did for the University as much as just for religious studies." I was always trying to do was to bring a scholarly approach to the liberal arts. I was not as concerned about 00:36:00religious studies, but I was concerned about the well-being of the scholarship in English, history, philosophy and so on.

And one of the most satisfying courses I taught before I retired-in fact I taught it for 18 years-was bioethics. I taught that as a team-taught course, with Craig Leman, who is a local physician- a very wonderful human being, a very scholarly gentleman-and a geneticist from the school of science. We taught 00:37:00bioethics for 15 or 18 years, I think. Then we hired Courtney Campbell, a bioethicist who had been nationally recognized for his work with the Hastings Foundation.

That was an area where we initiated and started a program that became very important for people. One of the interesting students in that course was Kathleen Schori. She became a Bishop in the Episcopal Church aferwards. Her 00:38:00field has also moved on into theology and so on, but she took the course in bioethics with us [laughs].

SB: I just had that course under Dr. Campbell last term.

WH: You did? Well, good for you, good for you! How was it?

SB: It was excellent!

WH: It's a challenging issue.

SB: Very challenging!

WH: And, of course I've been asked by other people to what extent to what extent does one's own religious background influence our value choices, but of course the fact is that all of our religious backgrounds influence our value choices, no matter where we are [laughs]. But anyhow, I like Courtney very much, he is a 00:39:00wonderful, very modest, quiet gentleman and I'm very fond of him. I think we were lucky to get him to come to OSU. How are we doing?

SB: You retired in 1987-tell us about that transition?

WH: When you are retired and you've been involved, the natural thing is for groups to say, "Oh, he's retired now, let's get him on our board!" So I was very 00:40:00involved with church, with university committees, the mayor appointed me to a hate-crimes commission, and I was involved with campus religious groups, and so on. Gradually those came to an end, so I am less, I am involved very much with my church, the Congregational Church down the road [laughs] and especially with 00:41:00our "Just Peace" committee, "Peace and Justice" Committee. That's headed by Aleita Holcolmbe, who's very active in the community on housing problems and many other things. So I support what she's up to and try to raise the level of understanding of what Congregationalists originally believed very much in, and that is that what we call the "social gospel"-namely, the application of the teachings of Jesus to society, to questions of poverty and housing and education 00:42:00and things like that. I'm involved with that.

I'm involved with a group of men who meet once a month-Tony Van Fleet, and Cliff Trow and Rob Mix, and [...] Thurson Doler and Ken Hedberg and anyhow all of us at least over 80 (years old) and several of us in the 90s. Rob Mix calls me every morning to see if I'm still alive at 91; he's 92 [laughs]. We meet once a 00:43:00month, this next time Tony Van Fleet has a docket. We are urged to present materials a week or so in advance about this proposal for the State Board of Higher Education to become a corporation. He's very much opposed to this, but that's our topic. So I've done one on the media and one on secularization. Each of us pick a topic we want to explore and so on.

Another group meets Friday at 3 o'clock just to chat about local politics and so on, so I keep busy with that. Now you've got a question about my family.


SB: Tell us about your own family-sons, daughters? What are they doing, did anyone follow in your footsteps?

WH: My wife died in 19, oh, 2003, so she's been gone. I've managed to live here in the house that we bought in 1952 [laughs], trying to take care of myself. I have two wonderful children. My son is general counsel for the Asian Development Bank in Manila (Philippines). That's like the World Bank. He's in charge of about 30 lawyers; for each country, the grants made to the country depend on the 00:45:00laws and so forth. He spent nine years at Harvard [laughs]. He spent his undergraduate, and then a master's degree, and then a law degree at Harvard. He is not married and was here for two weeks at Christmas. He calls me once a week on Friday night and he's probably the best-read person I've ever encountered and we have wonderful conversations and so on.

My daughter went to Wellesley College and after that she did a time with Peace Corps then she went to Yale Divinity School. She did not become ordained. She 00:46:00was assigned to Hawaii for an all-Japanese community of the Congregational Church. There she met her husband, but they moved to Corvallis, been here for about 10 years now I think. She has a master's degree also in social work. And she now is employed by Evergreen Hospice in Albany. She worked for many years with a hospital here and she was not really happy with their policies. She's very happy with Evergreen. It's a wonderful, supportive community of workers. So 00:47:00that's my daughter. She has one son, 16-year-old Kai, who lives to be near the water. He goes to our house at the coast whenever he can through cold weather now, with his suit. What do you call it?

LH: A wet suit?

WH: Wet suit, that's right.

SB: [points to photo] Is that Kai?

WH: Yeah, yeah, that's him. So anyhow he's the joy of my life and I'm happy they live right at the entrance to the hospital, the last house, so they are back and 00:48:00forth here. That's my family.

[Reads question from the survey: When looking back on your life, what were some of the turning points? What direction did they lead you? ]

I would say that I'm a political liberal; that I was happy with the Obama election, but I'm disappointed with what's going on in Congress. While I'm not a pacifist, I feel that our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake. I'm 00:49:00not an isolationist, either, but I feel that those countries are in such chaotic condition that our involvement is maybe not even in their best interest. But any rate, that's another issue. I'm happy with the last election [laughs] because I think we need more funding for schools and education.

SB: Do you mean the referendum 67 and 68?

LH: 66 and 67.

WH: Yes, 66 and 67 which are going to give us some more funding for our schools. That's about the way we're headed. I'm disappointed with the way health care 00:50:00reform is headed, disappointed with the way our Congress is operating.

But anyhow, I guess I'm an optimist, I think hope is in education. I think sometimes our legislators are not very well educated [laughs]. But at any rate, that's another issue. And I'm basically I guess I'm a person of gratitude. 00:51:00Gratitude for the good genes I had from my parents, gratitude for having had a wonderful wife and good children; gratitude to live in a free country; gratitude to live in that part of the world that has more beautiful things. I've traveled all around the world and worked different times. I'm hopeful for humanity although there's lots of real tragedy in human lives. I'm fortunate to have had a good life, and I'm a strong believer in public education and in a place like 00:52:00OSU to give the opportunity to young people to further their education and prepare themselves for meaningful careers. So that's about it!

LH: Thank you!