BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Charles Cahill, February 4, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Charles Cahill, February 4, 2003
February 4, 2003
Charles Cahill discusses his life and career, with a focus on his 22 years as Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Provost of UNC-Wilmington. Dr. Cahill came to UNCW from Oklahoma. As provost, he oversaw much activity on campus, such as the hiring of new faculty members including Deans and department chairs. He also oversaw the construction of new campus buildings and worked with donors and the General Administration of UNC to support UNCW's growth. Dr. Cahill remained a fan of university athletics throughout his career. After serving in senior administration, Dr. Cahill taught in his home department of chemistry for several years prior to retirement.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Cahill, Charles Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 2/4/2003 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 90 minutes

Lack: Hello, today is February 4, 2003, Tuesday morning. We’re in the Randall Library conference room. My name is Adina Lack. I’m the archivist and special collections librarian. Can you please introduce yourself for the tape, sir.

Cahill: I’m Charles Cahill, former provost and vice-chancellor for academic affairs at the university. You need to know I don’t hear too good as you can tell, but I’m hearing you okay.

Lack: Dr. Cahill, can you just tell us where you were born and where you grew up?

Cahill: I was born in a little town in Oklahoma, western central Oklahoma, a little town called El Reno, a long time ago. The Fort Reno was adjacent to this little town and El Reno was the last active cavalry remount station that the Army had. So when I was a youngster, even up to the time that I was early in high school, the soldiers rode horses around this town. It was just a typical little western town. The Rock Island railroad came through there and stopped principally because of the fort.

There was a big Indian reservation across the river from the fort, Cheyenne and Arapahoe. We were all poor, but we didn't know it because everybody was in the same place. I was born in 1933. A lot of people including some of my family had gone to California to pick grapes. My parents, on my daddy’s side in particular, they stayed. So I grew up in this little place.

Lack: Was that what people refer to as the dust bowl or is that somewhere else?

Cahill: It’s right in the middle. It was coming forth by the time I got into high school. Things had kind of smoothed out a little bit better. My journey, you know, my personal journey has been an interesting one because first of all my family was poor as a church mouse. I don’t know where that saying came from (laughter). We had a tremendously successful athletic program in this little bitty high school that I came from.

I think there were like 40 in my graduating class. At any rate, I was fortunate enough to be gifted as an athlete and they got me a scholarship to college.

Lack: What sport did you play?

Cahill: Basketball and baseball, really, but basketball is my forte. Otherwise I think I would have not gone to college. In those days, particularly in that part of the country, it was few and far between those who had the means to go to school. At any rate, I had a scholarship so I went principally to play ball. I had no idea what I was getting into. I think back on that now and I probably could not have gotten into college.

Lack: Where did you go to college?

Cahill: Undergraduate wise, I went to a reasonably small school called Oklahoma Baptist University and then I went to the University of Oklahoma to finish up my Ph.D.

Lack: Did you play ball all four years?

Cahill: Oh yes.

Lack: Did you ever think you would be a professor in those days?

Cahill: No, that’s why I say, it was interesting. My life has been kind of … I don’t know, the events that have happened, I’ve just been very fortunate. I assume you’d be interested in how I ended up here. There was a fellow there, he was dean at the time, James Ralph Scales, who ultimately became president of Wake Forest University. He became kind of my surrogate father when I was in college and I don’t really know why.

He looked after me and he fussed at me in that first year when I was not doing very well. Kind of kept me pointed in the right direction. We became very close friends and good friends. Through the years we just kept up with each other. As I said, he was president of Wake Forest. He called me one day and told me about this little place on the coast of North Carolina. He said they had just become a part of the University of North Carolina and in his estimation it would be something in the future.

He wanted to know if I minded if he submitted my name as a candidate for then the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs. So I told him that was fine with me. I appreciated him letting me know, but I kind of had all I wanted.

Lack: What were you doing at that time?

Cahill: Well I was at Oklahoma City University at that time. Had a very active research program and I think back on that particularly today because we had a lot of mass of money in the university that we were doing research in the early days for prior to the first moon shot. After that horrendous happening the other day brought a lot of this back to mind.

Lack: Are you referring to the space shuttle?

Cahill: Yes.

Lack: Yes, that was terrible. The space shuttle that was lost as it was almost landing.

Cahill: Anyhow I had no intention of really leaving, but I told him to go ahead and submit my name if he wanted to. Eventually I got a letter advising me that my name had been submitted and did I want to send my stuff in and I sent in the usual array of stuff. Again really I had no interest in moving anywhere let alone to North Carolina because I hard never been to North Carolina.

Lack: Had you ever seen the coast?

Cahill: No.

Lack: Never been to the beach?

Cahill: No, so eventually my wife and I were invited out for an interview. I told her when we were coming, I said I felt kind of guilty about going out there because I had no intention.

Lack: You said you probably wouldn’t take it if they offered it.

Cahill: So we came and had a very delightful time. I told her going back home, I said I really had a bad attitude about this whole thing. I didn't feel very good about the interview because I didn't put forth any good foot I didn't think. So I told her, I said I wish I had done better because I really would like to go there. Anyway we went on back home and entered back into our routine of life.

This was in I think like October 1969. I think it was ’69 because that’s the first year that this place became part of the University of North Carolina. I didn't hear anything from anyone. I heard zero. Occasionally my wife and I would talk and I’d say I guess I really bombed out. I didn't even get a letter saying thank you for your time or anything.

I had been to the Bahamas and was in Miami. I’d gone with our University of Oklahoma basketball team. The coach and I were good friends. We had played against each other in college. He was the coach at Oklahoma City University and I came to Oklahoma City University so we were good buddies. We fished a lot together and played golf together. His attitude was he always like to take some faculty members with him when he went on road trips.

Being very close to him, I got to go with him. He would rent charter flights so we’d have a ball. Anyway we were in Miami and I got this phone call from Dr. Wagoner. He had called my wife and she had told him where I was and he called me and offered me the job. This was months after I’d been there. I told him I needed to check with my wife which was the usual thing to say, but I knew I was going to take the job. So from there on I took it the following summer.

Lack: So perhaps did you come in 1970 maybe?

Cahill: No, I came in ’71 so it must have been ’70 when all this happened. We came to the university in the summer of 1971.

Lack: I’d like to ask a little bit about this interview. What was it that you enjoyed so much? Who did you meet with and what did you see?

Cahill: A lot of the people I met with are not here now. Will DeLoche was then the chairman of the chemistry department. Dan Plyler was on the search committee. Jackson Sparks who at the time was chairman of the modern language department. Helena Cheek was on that committee and she was in student affairs but in the foreign language department also. Helen Hagen at that time was the librarian. She was a princess.

Lack: That’s amazing, you knew her from way back.

Cahill: There was a lady, I can still see her face, she was chairman of the department of nursing. Can you help me with her name?

Lack: It wasn’t Luetta?

Cahill: Luetta Boule.

Lack: Okay, she was nursing. I’ve been trying to figure out what department she was in for a long time. She’s still living I think.

Cahill: Yeah in Winston-Salem. She got really close with my wife more so than me, but we were good friends. She did a magnanimous job with that program. Back then it was a two year program. The kids that came out of it were sought after. She did a very good job.

Then there was Darwin ______ was on that committee. He was in the psychology department. Then it was called education and psychology. He was on the search committee and Darwin was also involved somehow or other, he was in student affairs over there in administration. But anyway you asked about the interview. I’m amazed that I could remember all those names. I was afraid when you called me, I told _____ sometimes I can’t remember to tie my shoes. I don’t want to do any of those people a disservice. I think that pretty well covers it. There may have been one or two more.

They asked me a lot of questions back then about where have you been and why would you want this job and where do you think you would start if you had the job. You know, back then it really was their first opportunity as a faculty to really be involved in the seeking out or the search title wise someone who would be a senior administrative officer. As I understand it and this took place before me, the Board of Trustees were very keen in determining that Dr. Wagoner coming on campus and there were not a lot of faculty involved in that decision.

So once he got here, Paul Reynolds who was the dean of the college, but that position changed name wise when it become a part of the University of North Carolina.

Lack: And he became…

Cahill: I took his place. Paul and Rebecca, his wife, myself and my wife, we got to be pretty close, but purely on a social level. I mean Paul were very good about, he said if you want to talk to me, you call me. I will not…

Lack: Interfere, right. Did he stay with the university?

Cahill: No, he went on. Paul was very heavily involved with Southern Association of Accrediting Association and I think he had done a lot of work for them. Review committee chairman and what have you and I think he stayed active in that for a while, a good long while. He walked away from the university.

Dr. Wagoner, bless his heart, he was great to work with. I enjoyed it because basically he said here it is, it’s yours, you take it and go. Then he went downtown, he worried about the building and the Board of Trustees, the campus and its growth and development. I don’t mean that he wasn’t here, he was here every day. But he was involved in that sense and I kept him informed of what was going on. He didn't second guess us so he was a great guy to work under.

Lack: What had been your position at Oklahoma City? Were you in administration there?

Cahill: They had a little bit different organization there. I was chairman of the chemistry department and associate dean of the science division. So they had the divisional arrangement there. There was a dean who probably would be more like a vice-president. The associate deans, there was one for humanities and one for the sciences and one for the creative arts.

The ____ loved to teach. I guess that’s the one thing that I missed when I took this job because the nature of the beast wouldn’t allow me to teach. I talked to Will DeLoach some. Jack Levy was appointed chairman of the chemistry department. I tried to get in to schedule to teach some lab or something. Then there was all of this continual activity and change with the state, the legislature and the university system, trying to get used to one another and developing all the wheels and gears that would make the system go.

Sometimes and this happened on many occasions, the first couple of years that I was here that I would get a phone call at 5:00 in the afternoon and be told to be in Chapel Hill at 9:00 the next morning. We had a session we had to deal with as a chief academic officer. So I would be there with all the other people from the 16 campuses. If I had a lab scheduled on that day, then I couldn’t be there.

I really had to pull myself out of the teaching aspect or teaching activities. I missed that. When I left the provost office after Dr. Leutze came, then I went back to the chemistry department and did some teaching there. Of course I was probably way behind times in my profession when I did that, but I still love to teach. The students that I had and myself, you know we had fun learning together. Then I had to go back and do a tremendous amount of work. In fact, I spent a year at North Carolina State reading and attending lectures trying to bring myself back up.

Lack: Oh, before you started teaching again.

Cahill: Still I was way behind. Any professor who really is in to it if they’re honest with the world will tell you they learn more than their students because you just do. If you enjoy it, you’ll learn more. I always did.

Lack: How did you get interested in the sciences with being a basketball recruit at Oklahoma?

Cahill: That’s interesting. I’ve talked a lot of people down through the years. I told you about Dr. Scales that became sort of my surrogate father. He was in political science and a very brilliant person. Back then NCAA didn't coddle athletes like they do now. You know if you didn't make your grades, they could take your scholarship away from you just like that if they wanted to.

Anyhow you had to do it. I for whatever reason I don’t know because this little one horse school that I came out of was a one horse school, but I could do better, I could make my grades easier in science and math than I could in English and history. So the first couple of years, I took a lot of chemistry and I took a lot of math and everything I could do to keep my grade point up.

My first semester I just about flunked out of school. That’s when Dr. Scales got on my case. He pushed me hard.

Lack: He wasn’t with the athletic program or anything, he just…

Cahill: No, he was a very strong supporter of it though. I mean he was at every game and helped with the Booster Club and he did this, that and the other thing. But he was not the athletic type. I tried to get him to play tennis I remember one time. He was the most uncoordinated person I ever saw in my life.

Lack: He was a fan.

Cahill: He got me going and for some reason or another I started working hard because I wanted to be in college to play ball. I didn't want to go back to messing around with horses and what have you. So anyway I started studying. I’ve always liked to read and I started going to the library every night. In the spring semester, I think on the first test I did good. I thought this is fun. So from there on in, I just liked it.

So I started going. I graduated with honors and got accepted into graduate school to study chemistry. I graduated, I had a double major, one in chemistry and one in math and then a minor in physics. You know, I thought back on that a lot too because I don’t think English or history or philosophy or whatever was that difficult. I think for whatever the reason, whatever turns whoever you are on, science was my thing.

Lack: And you had no idea, but you found it.

Cahill: It turned out good. I’ve been very fortunate.

Lack: And also going back to your college days, what was it like playing ball? Did you travel a lot with the team? Did you see more of the state or the country than you had before?

Cahill: Oh yeah. Well as a kid growing up, we didn't travel. We had an old rickety school bus that we traveled in for high school athletics. Like I said, we had a football team and I played football, but we didn't have 22 guys on the team so we couldn’t scrimmage. We got beat to death every time we played football.

Basketball was a horse of a different color. We were state champions. We won the state championship. We were strong. We played in a little bitty rinky dink place. Everybody in the county comes in. You know how they support these small high schools. We were tough in that little place and it was packed with people. You probably couldn’t get 200 people in there.

We didn't travel much and I think it was probably like 50 miles to Oklahoma City where we played in the state championship. That’s the farthest I’ve ever gotten from home until I went to college. Then we traveled, not like schools travel today, but we went to Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas.

Lack: Was it a division one? I don’t know if it was the same back then.

Cahill: It was not the same, it was different. A lot of things were different. To be honest with you, I don’t even remember how it worked. In these days in Oklahoma, basketball was not the king.

Lack: Right, I would think more football.

Cahill: Football. If you were a football player at the University of Oklahoma, you had a halo around you. So it’s a different world. I understand now Oklahoma basketball wise is up there with the big boys as well as being up there with football. It was different in those days. Of course I love to go to the ball games here. You know, being a old worn out jock, I still in my mind I could go down there and play. Maybe it’s in my heart.

Lack: Do you go to the games now?

Cahill: Oh yeah.

Lack: Do you have season tickets?

Cahill: Well when I retired I guess it was the athletic department gave me…when we built the new gym I was involved in the building of everything on this campus except a couple of new buildings that are going up now. I’m in section four in the first two seats in row D. Anyway when we built the building, I got involved in that here. I’m sitting up here, it’s high enough so that people walking on that level won’t get in my way. So I’ve still got those two seats. They gave me two tickets on a plaque. The tickets were bronzed. I’ve got that at home now. Every year they send me two season tickets.

Lack: That’s great so you can catch the games.

Cahill: It hasn’t been as regular the last couple of years because of …probably the last six years, because we’re raising a grandson. We got him when he was three days old and he’s now six years old.

Lack: That keeps you busy.

Cahill: It kind of cut down on our moving around. But he’s now big enough that we can go and he has fun. I’ve got an old Seahawk license plate on the front of my car. I was going to take it off here a while back one Saturday morning and he wanted to know what I was doing. I said I was taking it off, it was kind of grungy. He said, “No grandpa, that shows everybody we’re Seahawks”.

Lack: Oh that’s good, he knows.

Cahill: Oh yeah, he knows and Blizzard is his favorite player.

Lack: That’s wonderful. Coach Brownell seems to be just doing great.

Cahill: He’s doing really very good. I’m tickled to death for him because he kind of got handed…he couldn’t take that team and do well. Maybe he’s in the wrong business. Bill Brooks, I’m assuming you’ve talked to him. Bill and I were always the closest of friends. He and I worked together in trying to develop the athletic program. For many years administratively speaking, just about everything around this campus had been reported to me and athletics being one of them.

So I was in that position where Bill and I worked together. We hustled money and were successful getting the Seahawks up moving. I became very close with Trask for a variety of reasons, but for one reason or another, he kind of took me under his wing when I came to town. Obviously the Trask Coliseum, he was a big time donor. I don’t know that I would be talking out of school if I told you this story.

Bill and I were trying to get the stadium built for the baseball team. Bill’s main forte was baseball. When I came here, he was baseball coach, basketball coach, chairman of the phys education department, he was doing it all. We were trying to get money, but we couldn’t get state money. Even now you can’t use state money in building athletic facilities.

So I told Bill that he and I needed to work on Mr. Trask. I call him Raeford, I don’t think I’m doing him any disservice. So I talked with him and said how about getting 15-20 of your guys you run with and get them together and let me talk with them and see if we can’t talk them into kicking in $10,000 a piece and we’ll have enough money to build this stadium for the baseball field.

He said he’d work with me on that. So periodically I would talk with him. He said let’s get together at the country club and have dinner. So finally one day he called. His secretary, Doris Walker, called and said that Mr. Trask wanted to see me, would I come down there. So I got into my car and went down to his office. He said, “How much money do you need for this baseball thing”. He said I really didn't have time to get these other guys together.

Lack: And these would be other businessmen?

Cahill: Other businessmen. He said he really didn't have time but wanted to know how much do you need. I told him. I said I really needed $100,000 to even make it look decent. I said if we could get that much, then we could get it started and get the thing built and build it in such a way that we could add on to it later. He called his secretary in and said he was just going to give me the money, that he didn't have time. So he said “Write a check for $150,000 and give it to him”. He called me Pat. So he wrote the check out and I gave it to the chief financial person. And we got the baseball stadium.

Lack: Wow, and the baseball stadium, it’s named something else.

Cahill: Well the field is Brooks Field, but the stadium is part of that.

Lack: The funding yes, Trask Coliseum.

Cahill: You know so things like that happened.

Lack: That’s great. So people must have been very pleased with your work there.

Cahill: Well, you know it was like I say, things like that don’t happen every day, but there was always something going on around here back in those days. It made it fun to be here. I really couldn’t wait to get out here. My family, I just left them and came out here. I would be out here early and be out here late.

Lack: Oh, you worked many hours.

Cahill: It was a fun time in the life of the university. But anyway athletic wise, I had fun helping build buildings because I had this background and I understood. I know a lot of times when I was teaching and the athletes would be there. They kind of did the work to get into my section.

Lack: Really because they knew you could help them or appreciate…that was when you taught later on?

Cahill: Yes because as I said a while ago, teaching wise, I couldn’t do it at the same time. It just wasn’t fair to the kids.

Lack: So we were talking during a break about some of the activity involved with hiring faculty. That seems to have taken up a lot of your time. Can you talk about that?

Cahill: The university here was obviously growing very rapidly enrollment wise and was sort of feeling its oats as a university. Enrollments nationwide were on the decline. Students coming out of graduate programs, Ph.D. programs, many times we were able to hire them here just because the job market was such that we had a job and there weren’t jobs somewhere else. We were able to do it and obviously we jumped at the chance to get some very good, very strong, high quality faculty members.

In my books, that’s one of the key elements that brought this university to the level of success that it’s had. The university is really only going to be as good as its faculty wants it to be. Our faculty suffered in those early years because we had young people coming out of research programs and coming here. The teaching load was a burden onto themselves. To be effective in research, it’s really difficult. As the institution grew, well really as the institution developed, I think is more important to say then we got more people and teaching loads never really got lessened for many years because the enrollment kept growing.

We were always, as per usual, a year behind budget wise. Our faculty had to be interested in teaching. If they didn't want to teach, we really didn't want them. We didn't have a place then for the…and I don’t know that the institution has it now… a place for pure research.

Lack: Right, some universities maybe they teach two courses a semester. I would think here it’s probably three at the least.

Cahill: I suspect at least three. Probably that will never change. I’m going to tell you in my estimation, it ought not to change. If you take away students, you don’t have a university. The students’ reaction to the relationship with the faculty I think is that thing, the alumni. If students don’t relate to the faculty, you’re not going to have really a very good learning process. Not every student is going to like every faculty member.

I remember one year, you know, we have the students evaluation, these spot tests. The first year after I left the provost office and I went back to chemistry…not the first year because I spent that year at North Carolina State, but then the next year I came back and I was teaching freshmen chemistry. We didn't get these things back for about a year. I never will forget this. I think I know who said it, but I don’t know because he and I became good friends. He almost admitted to me that he said it. But I never will forget it.

In the comment part on the spot thing, this guy is so bad that I actually had to read the book and work the problems to pass this course or words to that effect (laughter). And I thought to myself, you know, if I did that, if I got you to read the book and work the problems, then I accomplished something. That will always stick in my mind.

But you know, I tried to, as a guy playing a role in the search for faculty…I mean I didn't hand pick faculty. We had committees and the departments know best what they want. We were all pretty much of one mind as to who we were looking for.

Lack: Were you a member of the committee?

Cahill: No, I wanted a committee of faculty members of that department to do their thing. I wanted to play a role in it, but I wanted to get input from that.

Lack: And did that change after there were divisions, after the College of Arts and Sciences was formed and there were deans? Were you involved with that?

Cahill: Yes I was in that I tried to meet every candidate that was going to be hired. When I came, I don’t remember exactly how many departments we had, I want to say maybe 13 or 14. A typical array of departments, with the exception of nursing which was a department and business was a department and education was a department. They had English, history, chemistry, math. That’s another thing that we had to do. As I say, it had to develop on its own.

So we went through the throes of organizational growth. The College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the School of Nursing and the School of Education. So Plyler was the first dean. That was the dean of basically everything. That was the first step. We were working on this, everything as we went along. The plan was to take business and education and nursing out and form their own school which would leave the College of Arts and Sciences.

So over a period of time we accomplished that and Plyler then was the first dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Norman Kaylor had been the chairman of the department of business and I recommended he be appointed as dean. That was with the blessings of the faculty, the business faculty. Rosenkoetter became the first dean of the School of Nursing. Roy Harkin, I lured away from Chapel Hill to become the dean of the School of Education.

Lack: I interviewed him as well as Norman Kaylor.

Cahill: Like I said, I think I had a unique ability to pick good people.

Lack: Yes, you said during the break your strength was picking good people and then letting them go, turning them loose.

Cahill: Let them do their thing. This was particularly critical here because as the university was developing its arms and legs and ears and eyes to become that living entity, they wanted to grow in these directions, but I felt we had to have people who were very knowledgeable about this. And they were, Norman and Roy and Marlene were good, they were great. Then there’s a lot of development that takes place out of that – departments in the School of Business, departments in the School of Education. I don’t know, nursing did not have departments within that school. They may now.

Lack: I don’t think they do.

Cahill: I’ve not met the current dean of the School of Nursing.

Lack: Virginia Adams.

Cahill: Right, I’ve read a lot about her and I understand she’s a very, very top notch type of person herself. Early on these people were great. They are why we have the School of Business that we have now, the School of Education that we have now and the School of Nursing.

Lack: Did Marlene Rosenkoetter, did she come when you were provost or was she already here?

Cahill: No, she came.

Lack: Okay, so you brought her in and you brought in Roy Harkin.

Cahill: I hired Norman, that’s wrong. Norman and I came the same year. Paul Reynolds hired me.

Lack: We interviewed him too.

Cahill: So Norman was a member of the then Department of Business. He appeared on this campus the same year I did.

Lack: Oh wow, so you probably always were friends with him.

Cahill: Norman and I, we hit it off. He’s a great guy. He puts up with me a lot. We play golf a lot too. We have fun.

Lack: Yes, he’s a great guy and his daughter works here now. She’s a librarian, she’s wonderful.

Cahill: Well Norman and Jo, I know his daughter, I know his boy. I don’t know whether you know this or not, but if you interviewed him you probably do, but his boy is quite an artist. Got a place up in the mountains. Jo, Norman’s wife, she babysat with us when we first got this boy.

Lack: Oh yes, she loves children.

Cahill: She was a major help because now two 70 year olds trying to keep up with a 6 year old, it’s interesting.

Lack: You deserve a lot of credit.

Cahill: It’s interesting, but getting back to the university, I had to, because I was that person…one time I actually served as a chairman of the education department while I was vice-chancellor. I don’t know the first thing about that.

Lack: Is that while they were looking for…

Cahill: Yeah, it was after the major organization, we were looking for a dean. Somebody had to serve as chairman. There are people in that department I’d like to think we’re good friends now.

Lack: Well I would love to hear more about that because I am doing a special focus on the School of Education because they’re building a new building. So I’d like to hear, if we can switch tapes for a bit about your time in education. We’re back with tape 2 with Charles Cahill. You go by Charlie, that’s a nickname. We were discussing a little bit about how you served as a temporary chair of the Department of Education. Was this after Dr. Hulon left?

Cahill: To go through that aspect of the development just a little bit – when the decision was made that we needed to form a school of education, I worked very closely with Arnold King who was one of the vice-presidents in general administration under Mr. Friday.

Lack: King Hall is named after him.

Cahill: Yes, I was very fortunate that somehow or other I was able to relate well to the vice-presidents at Chapel Hill. Either that or they saw that I was totally incompetent, but Arnold King was quite a guy. Brilliant person. One of the most fun guys to be around that I was ever blessed to be around. Anyway I talked with him and he put together a committee of people from different universities around the country and here I’m going to lose some names.

Arnold contacted these people. The guy from Auburn was the chairman of this committee. We had a guy from the University of Virginia, one was from Penn State. He put this high level group together. They came down here, they looked at what we had, where we were, talked about where did we want to go and gave us here the kind of advice that we needed. Well Harold was not going to be considered as dean of the School of Education.

Lack: And that’s Harold Hulon?

Cahill: Yes and then during that time that one year in there, I served as chairman of the neophyte if you will School of Education while we were looking. Arnold was very close with the School of Education on the Chapel Hill campus and Harkin was associate dean at Chapel Hill. So with Arnold’s help, I got Roy into coming down, to leave there and come here as the dean. Again very key appointment to the success of the School of Education.

Lack: Right and he stayed on for a long time.

Cahill: He was good, a very sharp cookie. He got along with people, provided the kind of leadership that was needed to build. I think, I haven’t seen Roy in a long time, but I think Roy is still over there, isn’t he?

Lack: I believe he still has an office, he may have until recently, but I did interview him. He was great. He had a lot of good history to share. Were there other people in leadership positions? You mentioned Marlene and Roy Harkin, Norman Kaylor, what about other faculty that you brought in? There were probably so many.

Cahill: There are so many of those. I think you said you talked with John Williams. I remember bringing John here to provide leadership for the psychology department because when we formed the School of Education, when I came here it was the Department of Education and Psychology or Psychology and Education. So when we did form the School of Education, we needed psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences. So we pulled the psychology out, if you will, of the education.

Lack: That makes a lot of sense.

Cahill: So then I was involved in the hiring of John.

Lack: And Michael Bradley in psychology?

Cahill: Michael was I believe was here.

Lack: He was here and the same with Jack Levy?

Cahill: Jack Levy was here. These guys had just arrived, he hadn’t been very long when I came. Like I said, I appointed Jack as head of the chemistry department a year or two after I came.

Lack: You must have always felt a special bond with chemistry since that was your department.

Cahill: That was my department, my baby. Sometimes they suffered a little bit because I tried very hard as provost to not be guilty of giving them everything but the _____

Lack: A bias, yes, people would accuse…

Cahill: Oh yeah, but when I set my office up over there, I mean this was just my style, but I wanted some help and so I brought…well Dan Plyler was in my office. This was early on. But I had advice about the science through Dan. Then I brought Tim McGowan.

Lack: Oh, in philosophy and religion.

Cahill: I brought him into my office so I had some advice for the humanities. It really ended up, Dave Miller came into my office. Then eventually, down through the years, I don’t remember the exact placing of these things, but Paul Hosier who now is the acting provost, I brought into my office. I always tried to maintain…and Elizabeth Foushee was also involved in my office. She was a member of the English department.

What I tried to do was keep an array of people’s assistance in that office so that everything was covered. I did that not as a charade, not phony to protect myself in an argument, because I was always of the opinion and I still am, nobody knows all that stuff. Maybe the guy who’s over there now, I mean the chancellor, he might feel different, but I doubt it. But you can’t know – Solomon I guess did know everything, but I didn't.

So I needed people to talk to me. I had to make a lot of decisions and I needed to feel I had fairly comfortable that I had appropriate input in arriving at that decision. Then we had the research aspect of the university, that needed to come along. To get into the graduate school, we had to go through that process. Boy he would really feel great if I can’t … the first dean, the first dean of the graduate program, in the biology department.

Lack: Eric Bolan?

Cahill: Yeah, Eric.

Lack: He’s still around.

Cahill: Then you know I served as a dean of the graduate school, personally served until we got all of that worked out.

Lack: Wow, hands on.

Cahill: Then you’ve got the research bit. Now I think they’ve combined research and graduate school. Early on we had a director of research. Elizabeth Foushee I think really served more early on as the director of research. I brought Jack Manock in as the director of research. Jack did a tremendous job putting things together, you know, organizing the effort to get proposals written, handled, keeping the faculty advised if you will of the rules and regulations, the availability of research funds and what have you. Jack did a great job. Jack’s still here in the chemistry department. I don’t know if you have talked to him.

Lack: No, I haven’t.

Cahill: Jack did a tremendous job. Then Bolan as you know was the graduate dean. Jim Edmundson, I brought Jim in and he’s still doing something.

Lack: I know his name.

Cahill: I brought him in in the continuing education aspect. He worked with us with the community colleges and all that kind of stuff. Jim and I got to be very close and he did a tremendous job. I got him to do and I got out of the way. I want to know what you’re doing, but if I have to tell you what to do, then I really don’t need you was sort of my philosophy.

Lack: What is Will DeLoache like?

Cahill: Will was a very sharp cookie. You had to be around him to just see how he lived, to really understand Will Deloache. He was a man unto himself. He was his family. He was a sharp cookie. He loved to teach. He was very quiet, getting him to say anything outside of the classroom was like pulling teeth. He was a little unhappy with me when I appointed Jack Levy as chairman of the chemistry department.

You know, when I came I was not and I guess when I left, nobody would ever say I was a really a real smooth administrator. Some guys and gals are gifted and some of us just kind of blunder and get it done. I think I was the latter. I didn't really handle it all that well according to Will. Like I say, I wasn’t very smooth. It was a problem.

Lack: And I’m sure you had your reasons. It’s always tough with these administrative positions I guess. A number of people may be qualified, but it’s a matter of fit.

Cahill: But you know Will had a very deep seated love for this institution. After a little while, he and I were very good friends. As you probably know, the money he set up with endowments and what have you. All of that came after Will left. It was really a surprise to everybody. Will had accumulated a pretty good package. You see you have to accept the fact that Will really knew what he was doing because he brought Jack Levy to this department, coming to this university as a member of that department.

Will had the knowledge to look forward and went out and got people like Jack Levy. So when I came, the chemistry department was really coming along very well. Another young fellow that passed away four or five years ago, Louis Nance, in the chemistry department. Louis was very good. So Will was getting along in years and had a very interesting academic background himself. He was very sharp. He’s got to be known as a heavy benefactor to this campus, certainly to the chemistry department.

Lack: And did you bring in David Miller?

Cahill: Are you talking about The David Miller? David was here.

Lack: I interviewed him, but I can’t keep the dates all straight. He was a student here.

Cahill: The year I came, he was in Florida finishing his doctorate. He’s a jewel. He is probably one…I consider a lot of these people friends now. They might not agree.

Lack: I think they would.

Cahill: David and I play golf together and I ride him and he rides me. He was one of the…he’s just a great guy. I don’t want to put this on tape, but I could tell you a lot of stories about him. I’ve never seen David get mad. Remind me, I’ll tell you after we turn this tape off, I don’t want to put that on there. He came back with his doctorate and then he ended up going into Dan Plyler’s office.

Dan had a similar idea in mind of needing assistance in his office that I had. Dave went into there and then Dave came into my office. Dave’s a good one. He was assistant baseball coach under Brooks. Well if you talked with him, you know all about it. But he was an athlete and still is. I like to think of myself as an athlete, but those years are all behind me. I find it hard to believe, I don’t feel like I’m as old as I am until I start trying to do something.

Anyway back to the development of this thing, this thing being the university. We had to go through all of those things. I mean recognition, we’re getting these faculty members who are involved in research, we need a director of research. The institution needs somebody. We’ve got these professional schools, we want to get into graduate programs. So here we go. So you’ve got to have a graduate faculty. You’ve got to have a graduate school so you need a graduate dean. We had to work out all that.

Lack: During your time, you probably got to know William Wagoner quite well.

Cahill: Oh yeah.

Lack: What was it like to work with him?

Cahill: He was great to work for, work with. He sort of said here it is, you take it and go. I had the best experience that anybody could ever have. I mean we didn't have buckets full of money, but again Chapel Hill, I knew the people at Chapel Hill. They helped a lot. They really did. I think it was not just because of me, but I kept them aware as well as I could about what was going on.

So Wagoner was a great guy to work for. I could do pretty much what the world would allow me to do. I mean he didn't second guess. He wanted to be kept aware of what was going on and I tried to do that. If I had an idea, like we need a director of research, well then I would put my business together to get that going. Ours was never an up and down thing. Ours was all kind of like this, the chancellor was here, he was just a great one to work for.

Lack: Then in 1991 or so, you went to North Carolina State and went back to school and studied on your own. Then you returned to the department. How long did you teach after that?

Cahill: I was the provost I think under Dr. Leutze for maybe two years. He’s been here 12 years.

Lack: Yeah, he came in ’91.

Cahill: Well he came in ’91 and I was there, I was over there for a couple of years.

Lack: And then you went into the department.

Cahill: Well the first year that Marvin Moss was here as provost was the year that I spent up at North Carolina State. Then I came back down here as a full time member of the chemistry department. Then I went into phase retirement. I don’t remember the exact dates on this, but Moss was the provost when I went into this phase retirement. But I’m retired now.

Lack: You went into teaching and enjoyed that.

Cahill: Yeah, you know I just like to work.

Lack: Did you have a particular area of chemistry that was your interest?

Cahill: Biochemistry was probably the thing, the general area that I got involved in. While I was involved in research, it was probably a mixture of organic and biochemistry, protein structuring. Relating those structures to the activities. Teaching wise I guess during my career, I’ve taught just about every chemistry course there is to teach. Like I say, most of the time I was learning more than the students. It’s a very dynamic discipline.

Lack: What do you think of the university now? I mean obviously you were around some people who had a lot of foresight like that fellow from Oklahoma who went to Wake Forest and just saw great things for the university. I would think for me it would just be hard to imagine that it would grow as much as it did, but some people have foresight.

Cahill: Well, it’s kind of hard to believe even when you look back on it. I think now it’s there. It’s an entity. I think it would have been better, it would have been more fun for it to stay small. I mean the first two or three years I was here, I knew every member of the faculty. We could talk on a first name basis or we could fuss on a first name basis. The fusses for the most part that we had were never personal. They were over some kind of an issue somewhere.

Back then I knew the staff, the SPA people. Helen Hagen had just a fistful of people that worked in the library. I guess you know where the old library, what it occupied in this phase here.

Lack: I know the library used to be over in Alderman Hall.

Cahill: Then the year before I came they moved it from Alderman into the then new library building which was just a small part of this place over here. I knew Helen and I knew everybody that worked for her.

Lack: Did you know Betty Sue Westbrook?

Cahill: Oh yeah.

Lack: I interviewed her.

Cahill: So what I’m saying is everybody knew everybody. There’s some downsides on that too because everybody knew what was going on. If you wore the wrong color socks to work, everybody knew about it. But we had fun, we had a lot of headaches and we did a lot of fussing and moaning. We don’t get enough help and we don’t have enough buildings and we don’t have enough people. I was fussed at because I put too much money over here and I didn't put enough over here and those kinds of things.

But it was a fun place to be. I’ve said several times I could hardly wait to get out here and then I didn't want to leave. Everybody, we were all in tune and we were all going in the same direction. I think now, I saw it before I retired as the provost, everybody was going in their direction, not necessarily in the same direction. I think now the matter of budget fights are pretty much like everybody’s budget fights.

My budget fights back then you see were fights to keep up with the growth. This place in the last 10 years as grown some, but if you go back and check the numbers, I think you’ll find that the growth compared in the last 10 years to the previous 10 years has to be significant.

Lack: Right, the proportional growth.

Cahill: And so as I say my arguments with the people, with the powers that be at Chapel Hill, I’ve got a graduate school that’s being formed down here. You all have to give me…I can’t take the money out of our already existing funds. I’ve got to have some new money. The research aspect of it…the computing center. I remember Don Trivette. We had a little computer over there. I’m dating myself now, but at Oklahoma City University, I got the first money, Senator Kirk who was the power in the senate in those days from Oklahoma. I was the director of research there so I think I said earlier we had a lot of national money because Senator Kirk, the space program was just getting started and he was involved and a lot of money came from that. I knew him and his staff really well.

I got the money to buy the first computer at Oklahoma City University. It took up probably four times as much room. It was slower and you had to do these cards and all that kind of stuff. So I came here and we weren’t much better. Don Trivette, he was the computer man. I don’t know where Don is now.

Lack: I think I’ve heard his name.

Cahill: I’m sure you have. He was a character. He was one of these guys that just knew computers. Anyway we had to go through the throes of getting the whole campus computerized.

Lack: Oh my goodness, starting from nothing.

Cahill: Starting from nothing. Like I was saying, fussing for money, but those people up there were easy compared to going up there now and getting money. That was probably the most trying of things that we had to get involved in, the computerization of this animal that was called a university. But we did it and we did it without a whole lot of budgetary help, but obviously we had to have some help.

And we had to have a lot of mindsets change because the use of the computer in political science was different than the use of the computer for math. So everybody is got to have their own computer. You can’t buy everybody a computer. So you can imagine the kinds of debates that we had.

Lack: You had to deal with the main frame and then when personal computers came around in the early ‘80s.

Cahill: See that was a world unto itself that we had to put together. I say we, we did. Again it’s a great bunch of people on the faculty and the staff here. Everybody had their own ideas and everybody listened to everybody’s ideas. Nobody was completely happy with what we did at that time. Maybe a lot of people still aren’t happy with what we did, but it’s functional. So people like your Bob Frye’s, I hired…I can’t think of his name, the head of computer services and he probably retired 7, 8, 9 years ago.

Lack: If you think of it let me know.

Cahill: Well John Anderson, John was in the School of Business and I don’t know if you’ve talked with John or not. John is a Navy Academy graduate. He was in business and he still is, but I got him to become my right hand in terms of advising me on the development of the computers. He became the director of that. Bob Frye came in. Bob is probably at the age of retiring too. Anyway he was very helpful in the planning and all these debates that we had.

John left that position and actually went over to the state forest for a couple of years and developed their computer capability and then came back. John’s an interesting person.

Lack: I’ll have to talk to him. I was wondering if you could spend a little time talking about the buildings that you oversaw the building of. You mentioned the coliseum and Brooks Field, not a building but it’s a locale on campus. What are some of the others that you remember pretty well, taking a lot of time?

Cahill: I remember the library. Gene Hugelae, I don’t know the current crew over here because I’ve been gone. He’s a character too, but a prince.

Lack: Yeah, I don’t know him. I’ve been trying to schedule an interview with him.

Cahill: You need to. I think during his tenure we had the best director of library services of the whole university system. In fact, I know we did. Well you can see what we’ve got now. I mean this, I think is first class and I take great pride in the fact that I was here while this thing was built. Actually it was built after I left as provost, but the money for the science building and the Center for Marine Sciences, money for that stuff.

The state bought the land. I was involved in buying the land for the place down there on Myrtle Grove. We built just about everything with the exception of the science building. The funding was there for it, Dobo Hall, but I don’t think they started construction on it until later. It’s interesting. It’s very difficult to even describe. College Road which is a terrible thing now. You take your life in your hands when you get on there, but that first year I was here it was a little two lane road. Just beautiful pine forest.

I just fell in love with it. I love the outdoors. I love to fish. You’ve got the ocean and you’ve got the rivers and all that stuff. Coming from western Oklahoma, I mean where a tree is very unusual. It’s hard to believe all these trees here. Now you look at it and all these people cut them down and build things.

I told John Cobal the other day, Ray Cobal was his brother over at East Carolina, but I told him if one could put a fence across up there and just kept southeastern North Carolina from growing with people, it would be one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. But it grew and it’s going to continue to grow. We kind of got sidetracked.

I think now this place, it could grow. There’s no question about that. I hope personally that it doesn’t. Recognition wise, we’ve always been recognized as having the best undergraduate marine science degree program. This goes back years. That will always be one of the main fortes of this campus. Now there’s a lot of other fortes and a lot of other strengths that it’s got. Obviously it’s in a beautiful place. You can’t beat what you’ve got in your own backyard down at Wrightsville Beach. You can’t rule that out as a factor of why students want to come here and what faculty want to come.

It could grow. I could be the next great big campus in North Carolina. I hope it doesn’t. I don’t have anything to do with that anymore, but I hope that it doesn’t.

Lack: I don’t know either. I don’t know if they’ll want to cap it at some point or not.

Cahill: I hope so. You know, you can’t stop growth, you can’t stop progress. You can’t put a fence around the place, that’s pie in the sky thinking. Yesterday is always more fun than tomorrow, but you’ve always got the idea that you can look forward to something new tomorrow. I think I had the greatest experience that a senior administrator can have because of everything falling into place the way that it did and the things that I could be involved in.

I know I don’t envy anybody’s position over there now because I don’t know what they think about when they get up at 4:00 in the morning. You’ve got your schools, you’ve got your graduate program, you have a great faculty. You’ve got research, you’ve got a good athletic facility, you’ve got a good athletic program. They’ve got a tremendous library. What are you going to think about. The only thing that’s missing, it’s been in the paper, it would be nice if you could take…I don’t want a convention center out here.

I don’t like for this place to be looked at as a Chamber of Commerce. It would be nice to have a creative arts center. Physical facility wise, that’s the only thing I think we really lack.

Lack: We really need that.

Cahill: I mean there’s a lot of other places that would argue that they need something new too and I don’t deny that. The thing that I think we really don’t want to add…you know we’ve got the auditorium and it holds like 1200 people if you stand them up in the aisles. Probably 900 is a better number. You don’t have a lot of room for teaching like drama or art or dance, music, stuff like that. I think that ought to be the next move.

The move that I seem to read is one of a convention center type and maybe that’s the only way to go. I would not want to see that.

Lack: Yeah, I kind of thought that ought to be downtown.

Cahill: What we need is a creative arts facility because there are a lot of arts. You know Jack Dorsley, I don’t know if you know him or not, he’s a very accomplished dancer and has had a lot of good ideas, but you know you can’t do it out there. She has given me her thoughts and I love her to death. All the faculty has been good to me. I probably had my fusses with every one of them. A lot of new ones I don’t know.

That’s one of the bad things about the size of the campus. The guy who comes in over here as provost, there’s no way he’ll ever know all of the supporting staff, or all of the faculty, or know you unless you make an effort to get in over there. Those days are all behind us as an institution.

So I think a lot of the fun is behind us, too much drudgery in front of us now. That’s why I said I think I had the greatest experience.

Lack: The best of both worlds. It’s so interesting to hear your perspectives for archives. I don’t know if Sherman was telling you, but here in the archives we really don’t have a complete history of what life was like. We have some records and we have a few video cassettes, but these oral histories are so important to fill in the gaps and complement any papers that we have.

Cahill: I would compliment you for whoever idea this was. I think it’s a great idea. You know when you get through with me this morning, I’ll probably think about a million things I could have said because so much happened in my time on this campus that I can’t keep it all.

Lack: Well feel free to call me back. In fact, someone who you probably hired, Brooks Dodson. I interviewed him last year soon after he retired and he called me back the next day and said he thought of a couple of good stories.

Cahill: Brooks came down here as chairman of the English department.

End of tape.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign