Interview with Howard W. Beers, June 21st, 1972

Accession Number:
1990OH333 A/F 431
Howard W. Beers
Charles G. Talbert
Interview Date: 
Wednesday, June 21st, 1972

In this session, Howard W. Beers recalls that while teaching at Rutgers University he came to the University of Kentucky in 1938 for a meeting of the American Country Life Association. He talks about Dr. W. D. Nicholls, the Chairman of Agricultural Economics at the time. During this visit, Beers was asked to come to UK and he accepted the appointment of Professor of Rural Sociology in February, 1939. He says that Dr. and Mrs. Frank McVey were very interested in a training program for rural social workers. Beers remembers the McVeys' social gatherings at Maxwell Place. He says that Dr. McVey's speeches at the Rotary Club were "thoughtful and reflective", and that McVey possessed a "dry, subtle sense of humor." He recalls a controversy on campus after he first arrived at UK over the use of some literature in the teaching of English, which were being called "allegedly pornographic books" by the "puritanical leadership" in the community. Beers says that, given his area of expertise, this made him question his move to the "Bible Belt" from a more urban area. He says that Dr. McVey always upheld academic freedom in a tactful manner to avoid offending the critics. He mentions Dr. McVey's fight against the anti-evolution law in 1922 and states that McVey was responsible for its defeat.

Beers briefly explains the structure of a land grant university. He mentions that Thomas Poe Cooper was Dean of the College of Agriculture, and Director of both the Experiment Station and Agricultural Extension Services. Beers notes that the "original administrative integrative strategy" was to have one person at the head of all three functions and that in the past there were Assistant Deans and now there are Associate Deans. He recalls that Cooper was Secretary for the Association of Land Grant Colleges for many years and was president of this organization as well as the National Association of State Universities. These two groups eventually merged. Beers talks about the resistance he experienced when first he introduced the discipline "Rural Sociology," and explains the resistance from conservative faculty members regarding the perception of "social work" as opposed the term "sociology" in regards to agriculture. He talks about the "gamut of approval" he experienced with the curriculum committee in the University Senate to gain approval for "Rural Sociology" as a course. He explains there was a perception of possible conflict with social work course offerings, so he worked with Dr. Vivian Palmer, head of the Sociology Department, and they decided on course titles for each discipline in order to avoid this. Beers explains the difference between the terms "social worker" versus "sociologist". He remembers the time from 1940-1941, when Dean Cooper was acting president at UK during the transition from Dr. McVey to Dr. Herman L. Donovan.


Interview Restricted: 
No Restrictions