BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Thad Dankel, November 14, 2001 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Thad Dankel, November 14, 2001
November 14, 2001
Continuation of interview with professor of mathematics and statistics. In part 2, Dr. Dankel discusses his UNCW career with a focus on the Albert Schweitzer International Prize for the Humanities and the symposium held in conjunction with the first award, presented to Mother Teresa in 1975. Dankel also discusses his wife's career at WHQR and her involvement in establishing the first and only public radio station in Wilmington.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Dankel, Thad Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 11/14/2001 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 60 minutes

Lack: Good afternoon, this is Adina Lack. I’m the UNCW archivist and I’m here today with Thad Dankel, Professor of Mathematics, who has already visited us once and we are fortunate that he’s come back a second time to talk about some things that we still have some questions about. Today is November 14, 2001 and we’re in the UNCW archives.

Lack: Before we started the film, we talked some about your Albert Schweitzer International prizes. I’m new to UNCW relatively. I just started in 2001 so I really don’t have any knowledge about this at all and I need to know since I’m the archivist. We think it started sometime in the 70’s.

Dankel: I do think the prizes were awarded for the first time in the fall of the 1975 which was the year of the 100th anniversary of Albert Schweitzer’s birth and there are materials that you have here showing events around the world that year that were to commemorate Schweitzer and his work and we’re included because this was a very ambitious undertaking that was really the brainchild of Jerry Shinn who is a professor of philosophy and religion. It was supported by the local community and local government I believe. Local governments, city and county provided some financial support for the prizes.

There were extensive efforts to achieve foundation support and the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation did sponsor the prize in medicine. There were three prizes awarded in three areas that Albert Schweitzer had distinguished himself in. One was music and one was humanities, sometimes interpreted as humanitarian service and one was medicine. The first recipients were Mother Teresa of Calcutta in humanitarian service, Gian Carlo Menotti in music, the composer, and Dr. Theodore Bender who was somewhat in the Schweitzer mold, a doctor who ran a medical clinic, I believe, somewhere in the Caribbean, but a person of European heritage and training who had, as Schweitzer did, set up medical clinics for third world people in situ.

There was a quite elaborate award ceremony and in conjunction with that I believe earlier in the day, there was a symposium on the life of Albert Schweitzer that was really originally envisioned by Professor Robert Ducket of the Philosophy and Religion Department. Dr. Ducket, well actually Mr. Ducket had to leave the university and go back to Johns Hopkins to work on finishing his Ph.D. and so he was not here that fall it turned out.

It had been thought that the prizes would be awarded in the spring, but they were postponed. So I was a friend of Bob Ducket’s and somehow it fell to me to organize this symposium that we had.

Lack: This was the first one?

Dankel: Yes, the very first time, and we had oh I don’t know seven or eight discussants including Professor Roberts of the Duke Philosophy Department, Professor David Miles who was Chairman of ?German at the University of Virginia. Someone who was a well-known biographer of Schweitzer, and I’m sorry I can’t recall his name, showed up the day of the event and sort of crashed our planning session and we welcomed him aboard and he was in the symposium too. Heard about it and said he’d like to be in on it, so he was there.

Memory is failing me beyond that. There were several other participants. You have materials in this file that document interests in televising this symposium and also the awards ceremony by the UNC public television studios and they did come down and tape all of this and broadcast it on the statewide network later that fall. There were lots of banquets and that sort of thing.

One thing Jerry Shinn insisted on was that the prize recipients spend some time with students. So I was not as involved in subsequent years as much as this first time, but I did follow the prizes and try to attend some of the activities and always it included blocks of time where students could talk one on one with the recipients.

I remember for example Beverly Sills getting the music prize and sitting in the living room of the Union and discussing, well fielding questions and discussing her career with people in the community, students and faculty actually. So that was an important aspect of the program from Jerry’s perspective was to bring people of international distinction to the campus and have them sort of rub elbows with the local people.

Lack: I suppose he wanted them to be people of distinction in these fields. For a certain reason, he didn't pick politicians or artists necessarily, actors.

Dankel: Well he picked fields where Schweitzer was active and in particular the overarching watchword or motto of the awards program was Schweitzer’s reverence for life. The recipients were selected by a very diverse international selection council that was chaired by Professor Hugh Anderson of the University of Edinborough and you have records of membership of this council. There was an attempt to have recipients be people who advanced and excelled in ways that Schweitzer did.

Lack: I’m showing, but I don’t know, I don’t remember knowing much about Albert Schweitzer. Was he, it sounds like he was German.

Dankel: Well he was from Alsace Lorraine and he was a kind of polymath. He trained as a theologian and musician, organ. He was an expert in the music of Bach. He wrote multivolume work still in print of the music of Bach Actually I have a record of Albert Schweitzer playing the organ in his medical facility in Africa much later. So he was a first rate musician.

His first doctorate was in theology He was the dean of a theological seminary and he decided that really his faith required more service of him than what he was doing so he trained as a medical doctor. I remember at the time he was to undergo his final exams for the M.D., he took some time off and went to Paris and premiered Widor’s 5th organ symphony. This would have been around, I don’t have my dates, I haven’t checked in a long time, but I would guess around 1910, maybe the 20’s, I’m not sure. Early part of the 20th century.

So he was capable of doing a world premier by a well-known composer and getting an M.D. all at the same time, having written some seminar works in theology, a pivotal figure in the history of historical research into the life of Christ. I mean if you read the story of scholarly examination of materials related to the life of Christ, Schweitzer will be right in the middle because he, around the turn of the century, he summed up all the previous research and developed it into a different theory of his own.

He really was distinguished as a scholar mostly of religion, but he also wrote some books on philosophy. He was a world class musical performer and expert on Bach and writer on Bach and he was a medical doctor who then went to Africa and established a hospital for natives in remote Africa where he spent the rest of his life.

Lack: He lived there until he died?

Dankel: Yes which I think was in the 60’s probably. So he was a kind of polymath who excelled in various areas and one goal was to carry on the kind of sensibilities and values that he had. The phrase “reverence for life” he developed in some of is later writings trying to express his deepest motivation. It was said he wouldn't even step on a cockroach in his jungle hospital because of his profound feeling that life was holy. So he was a unique person.

He of course was criticized later for being a kind of bearer of the white man’s burden, but that’s a later political framework. He was viewed as someone who sacrificed fame and comfort to go into remote areas on behalf of these people in need of what he could provide.

Lack: That’s real helpful to have some background information. We also have done oral history interviews of Jerry Shinn and I imagine he talked about this and how he was always impressed by Schweitzer and that’s what inspired him to do this?

Dankel: I would think so. Jerry is such a dynamo. I don’t think I ever sat down with Jerry and had a conversation with him about this, but Jerry like Schweitzer was interested in human beings and human potential. He was always identifying students who could excel and trying to give them the means to do that. I remember one of our math students whose, I remember two of our math students. One of them was working in a shoe store because he had to make money and Jerry tried to help arrange for him to get some financial aid. This person eventually got a National Science Foundation scholarship for graduate work in computer science at Carnegie Mellon. He’s on the staff at MIT now.

Another student came from a background where let’s say the intellectual horizons were not very broad. There was no support for him to travel and Jerry arranged for him to go to the International Congress of Mathematicians one year. So Jerry was that sort of, in a way, had some of the same ideas that Schweitzer did. There were people out there who needed something he could provide, he took great pleasure in working on their behalf and he really did a lot of good for a lot of students.

Lack: I can imagine. Did you go to the ceremony?

Dankel: I was unable to go. I imagine you did.

Lack: Yeah.

Dankel: He came for that. I haven’t seen Jerry in several years. I hope he’s still doing well. He was so energetic. We’re talking about the dedication of the Jerry Shinn Pagoda, right, earlier this month?

Lack: Yeah, it was this month, a couple of weeks ago and it’s a real nice pagoda and there’s a plaque for him. It’s handmade wrought iron. It’s really pretty. It was a nice cermony.

Dankel: Jerry was a very ______ sort of guy. There used to be a saying in the Philosophy and Religion Department. I’m not sure I can put this together exactly, but Dr. B. Frank Hall was the father because he had been there before everybody else. McGowan was the son, but Jerry Shinn was the holy ghost because no one knew where he bloweth or listeth or something like that with the wind (laughter). Never knew where he was going to be, but he always had his tie stuck in his pocket.

Everybody thought there was some significance to this. Jerry was a member of some secret society and they all stuck their ties in their pockets. He was a distinctive presence, always on the go and on the move.

Lack: I hope I get to know him.

Dankel: You should definitely interview him as much as possible.

Lack: They have interviewed him, but I’d like to meet him for sure again. I know that probably the history of the university, there’s a great deal of the history right in his video tapes.

Dankel: And of course you know, he was the founder of the Museum for World Cultures which really he founded on a total shoestring. There was no place to put any artifacts, no artifacts. He managed to induce people to donate artifacts and get cases to display them in the hallways of the different academic buildings. Now there’s a full time director.

Lack: Yes and it’s still the same kind of idea, a museum without walls, various buildings. Maybe one day there will be a museum. It’s still very much his legacy. Well it’s good to have some background. I suppose, for example, that first symposium that you helped organize, was there a theme related to Albert Schweitzer’s life?

Dankel: Well we really wanted to talk about his background for one thing. We had Professor German there to talk about late 19th century German culture and then we had a philosopher there to comment on his philosophical writings. Because one of the aspects of this was to try to keep the memory of Schweitzer’s accomplishments in his life alive.

Now we were already seeing at that point school children didn't know who it was and now I think very few people ….

Lack: Well look at me, I had to ask.

Dankel: Because the prizes haven’t been awarded in some time and I think it’s at least dormant if not…

Lack: Do you know anything about why it stopped? Was it a question of funding?

Dankel: Well I’ll say something that may be controversial or other people would disagree with, but after Jerry Shinn left, and Dr. Brauer who was Jerry’s partner in the Southeastern North Carolina whatever it is, historical, scientific, educational foundation, I can’t get the title right, that really was an official kind of sponsor or initiator of the whole thing, after Jerry moved away and Ralph died, carrying on the prizes really went to the local community people. Dame Carpenter died a few years ago, she was the first chair. I’m not sure I can name the right council or group or whatever, but she was the head local person for a while.

She died a few years ago so it’s devolved on some people who were active in the beginning and some people who really don’t know the origins to consider whether to carry them on. There was actually a little committee of several faculty that met with this group within the last few years, I was one of them. It just seemed to me that the kind of thing they were interested in, things like black tie dinners…

Lack: Oh, like fund raisers?

Dankel: Well I mean even in connection with the prizes, that it was going to be sort of a black tie country club type thing and that’s all they could think of to have. Really wasn’t all that appropriate. In other words, they didn't have any money any more and it seemed to me the legacy…the thing that they did have was the legacy of Albert Schweitzer, but there didn't seem to be an imagination for creating events and activities that would uphold or hold up Schweitzer and what he stood for, what he accomplished as the centerpiece of the program. Their idea was let’s have this fame accrue to the local area.

You know, Jerry Shinn’s idea was let’s bring in some distinguished people and have them sit in with the students. It’s a different sort of outlook. Some of us suggested a few things like maybe we should have some essay contest about Schweitzer for school children and that sort of thing, but that didn't seem to be spectacular enough or something to motivate the community people and we, the university is under such budgetary pressure, the university doesn’t have any money. They really wanted the university somehow to say that we can take over this whole enterprise.

Lack: Sounds like the university never paid for ….

Dankel: Well the university did not really fund the prizes, but a lot of university people were involved, mostly Jerry, in drumming up the money. I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t speak well for the university to report that those of us on the university side of the table didn't think the university was able to step up and sort of rescue this thing. So that’s why I say it’s either in limbo or maybe even dead now.

Lack: I would have to ask. Maybe university relations would have an answer.

Dankel: The chair of that little faculty group was Diane Levy and she wrote sort of a report, at least on behalf of the faculty. We didn't really have anybody but faculty members on the university side of the table and of course faculty members don’t control money as such. We couldn't really commit anything. But there is a report about that that Diane could give you.

Lack: That’s good to know. A report about the meeting?

Dankel: A report about the consideration of the future of the Albert Schweitzer international prizes that went on maybe a couple of years ago. There was one other program that developed I think in the 1980’s, the Schweitzer Award for Artistry.

Lack: That’s right, you mentioned that.

Dankel: Yes, well I think the truth is that Jim Burns who was independently wealthy, a local T.V. personality, wanted to do something, but he wanted to do it sort of on his own terms. My understanding is this was largely supported by him personally. Mostly people in the arts were designated award winners and there was a blend of local and regional people as well as national and international famous people. The awards programs usually featured some, if they were musicians, some small performance. Dr. _____ for example is a local physician and composer and pianist and was awarded a medal and played some piano pieces.

The son of one of my old teachers from Duke, Nicholas Kitchen, who’s a professional violinist. Do you know Nicky Kitchen?

Lack: I’m from Durham so …

Dankel: Oh, you’re from Durham so you know Nicky. Well his father was my teacher.

Lack: I used to take violin lessons from his mother.

Dankel: Oh yeah, Dorothy.

Lack: I didn't stay with it and Nicky is about a year older than me and I remember he was of course playing then. So she would occasionally say, “Nicky, come in and show her how it should sound”.

Dankel: Well then you know the Kitchens very well. Joe was my math teacher at Duke when I was an undergraduate and I’ve been in their home a lot. They taught me how to make dinner for people in the home (laughter), to have dinner parties. They were very good to me and Nicky got one of these awards so when he came down, they stayed with us, Dorothy and Joe and Nicky. That was very nice. I’m still in touch with them. They’re important people in my life.

It was great for Nicky to get that award. So he came down and played some and for example when he was here, he went to St. Mary’s School and met with some children and played for them. He also went out to Cape Fear Academy and did the same. So at least in his case, there was some of this thing about, some of the spirit of these distinguished people coming to be with the local people in their environment.

Lack: I suppose this as well as the original prizes were the only thing really going on like that in this area?

Dankel: I think so. I don’t recall anything comparable. Again the net was cast broadly. Helen Hayes came to one, I can’t remember, a distinguished network newsman came.

Lack: Was it the fellow that was born here?

Dankel: No, not David Brinkley, well we could probably find this out, but I can’t recall at the moment. So there were people, local people, Mary Eunice Troy who had been a piano teacher of many people in this area including Dr. Fulk was honored one year. So local people, national and international, it was really quite nice. All the events were down at St. Mary’s Church and Jim arranged to have Marines come from Camp LeJeune and play the bugle, formal kind of fanfares to get all these people in the church. So it was grand, a grand occasion. That went on for several years and it was kind of an adjunct or parallel program, but again with the Schweitzer name attached to it.

Lack: Just as an aside, it sounds like you have an interest in music. Do you play?

Dankel: Well I’m an amateur singer. I should tell you that in 1985, which was the 300th anniversary of the birth of Bach, the medal was given to Joann Sebastian Bach in music and accepting on his behalf was Professor Gerhart Hurtz who is a Bach scholar at the University of Louisville. He donated the prize which I think was $5000 back to UNCW to endow some Bach concerts.

Professor Joe Hickman who is a choral conductor, but especially knowledgeable about the music of Bach and baroque, Germany as well as other areas, but especially in those areas, has continued to have Bach concerts over the years some of which I’ve sung in. He just had one, I didn't sing in this one, but he had one this month down at the First Presbyterian. And he can tell you more in the tale about the full impact, but that prize was put back into Bach performance at UNCW. That was quite interesting.

One other thing about Menotti being here, this was 1975, the first Spoleto festival in Charleston was 1977. So at that time, Menotti was known to be looking to establish a festival in the United States because he already had the one in Spoleto, Italy and he wanted to make it the festivals of two worlds. Some people say he was on his trip to Wilmington to get the Albert Schweitzer prize of music that led to his going down to Charleston and falling in love with Charleston and deciding this was the place for the American half of the best of two worlds. I don’t know if that’s really true, but it could be. The timing is right.

Lack: That’s a great connection, because he was in Wilmington, he wanted to visit another port town.

Dankel: A place that was more European, that would allow pedestrian passage, that also had a lot of performance venues and allow pedestrian traffic between them. In the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, there are a lot of different kinds of events in a fairly compact area and different venues and to a great extent, you can walk. The city is…Wilmington is spread out. You always have to be driving and that really wasn’t what he wanted.

Lack: I’ve heard of the festival, never been, but always wanted to go.

Dankel: It’s been every year since 1977. We have a poster in our den actually of the first one, created for the first one. We went to the first one. And we used to go many times, but haven’t been in a while. Menotti is not associated with the festival. He’s gotten quite old. They’ve had a lot of distinguished opera there.

Lack: Have you done any composing?

Dankel: No. I just learned to make a joyful noise in church when I was young, but I didn't really have formal musical training. As an adult, I’ve tried to take some voice lessons and get a little more savvy about singing, but I don’t really know about music theory or to compose or how to play an instrument.

Lack: Where do you sing locally?

Dankel: Right now at Church of the Servant which is close to the campus here where my wife is a deacon actually. She sings too. We have sung off and on with university choirs with Dr. ___ who is a very fine choral person. I’ve gone to Germany with him twice with his choir and my wife came on one of those trips.

Lack: What do you think of the connection between mathematics and music?

Dankel: Well I’m glad that there seems to be some evidence based on brain scans now that show the physical proximity of the areas of the brain that are involved in mathematical problem solving and in music, either making music or listening to music. They’re very close in the brain physically. You can see it on images of people’s heads when they’re doing these kinds of activities.

And so in some sense, it’s hard-wired in, you know, the human being that these kinds of activities are closely related. But music is the most abstract of the arts. It’s just like mathematics, the most abstract scientific activity and so that makes some kind of sense that the same kinds of minds would appreciate.

Lack: Yes, I’ve always found that interesting because intuitively I feel like there’s a connection especially if you try to study something like music theory. It just seems like if you’re good in math it would really help.

Dankel: Well you know the quadriviem___ I guess in the early middle ages had, let’s see, how did this go, there was number, geometry was number in space, but music was number in time and then astronomy was number in space and time. So that ancient way of looking at the relationships, that shows a close connection goes way back.

Lack: That’s real hopeful to think about. Anything else that you remember from the Schweitzer awards? Did you say that Mother Teresa was the first award recipient?

Dankel: In humanities I guess, interpreted as humanitarian service and she was…I remember that she came here for these awards and I think within a week was addressing United Nations and was on the cover of Time Magazine, all on the same trip to North America. The university sort of got maximum publicity out of her visit. Probably the most famous other recipient was Andre Segovia.

Lack: Was he a musician?

Dankel: Yes, he was a famous virtuoso on the guitar. In fact about that time, we had a distinguished visiting professor who was a guitar player, Michael Lorimar. There was a program for a number of years, this was probably in the 80’s, late 70’s, where each year a distinguished person was brought in to be in residence for that year as a faculty member. Lorimar I think was here actually two years, brought his whole guitar studio with him. In fact, that’s how Rob Nathanson was added to the faculty in music here. He was Lorimar’s student and came with him and sort of stayed.

But about the same time Lorimar was here, Andre Segovia was the one who got the music prize. He was probably in my recollection the most famous other recipient after Mother Teresa. The physicians, the medicine people often were not well-known to the public because many of them had chosen the same sort of obscurity as Schweitzer had as a venue for their work. But they were impressive people. As I said, Theodore Bender was the first and I’d be hard put to name others.

One of the music people we were looking at was the Benedictine monk from Africa, from Senegal, Father Cada____ was a person of unique achievements, Gregorian chant in conjunction with African music over decades and making a new synthesis of religious music which was neither one or the other, but was a totally new sort of thing. I remember he came and was very eloquent in his acceptance of the award. He also played and sang. His music was quite impressive.

You see that … finding someone of that distinction in what we have to say from the typical media’s view of the world is real obscurity, you know, is I think part of the uniqueness of the awards.

Lack: Yeah, yeah, that is really special to be able to honor someone who is so deserving, not necessarily to the wider public, but to a specialized group.

Dankel: Yeah, who’s willing to serve other people without regard for fame or monetary rewards, but again in some field, in this case music, that’s wide serving.

Lack: Can you think of anyone, it’s alright if it doesn’t pop in your head, but anyone who made a particular impact on the students? I’m sure they all did in their own way.

Dankel: I think just because of my having to do my regular faculty rounds while these other things were going on meant that I often didn't go to the sessions where there was direct interaction with the students. I did go to the one with Beverly Sills and of course Beverly Sills is a charming, approachable and totally unpretentious woman and people who were interested, and there were some there, students who were interested in possible professional singing careers or even stage careers were quite interested in her career path and what it might take and so on. So I do remember that.

Lack: Since you were there you remember the impact she had on the students.

Dankel: And there were, I imagine, some of these people went to some classes, but not mathematics classes.

Lack: Oh I see. The body that chose the awards, was that like a board?

Dankel: There was an international selection committee or council that was chaired by Professor Hugh Anderson and you have records here of some of the people that were on it and there was a lot of effort to keep it all confidential because part of the effect is the surprise. But they accepted nominations and deliberated and chose.

Lack: There wasn’t any application procedure or anything?

Dankel: Absolutely, well people didn't nominate themselves. I’m sure somebody nominated people, but I’m not sure how that went. You might have records pertaining to that. I think this group realized they were supposed to come up with some winners so probably they ensured there were some nominees one way or another.

Lack: Well I think it’s neat that it was funded as long as it was and kept to its principles.

Dankel: Well really it was the creation of Jerry Shinn and his spirit is what sustained it and when he was no longer able to do that, then it sort of …. In a way the whole program is a tribute to Jerry Shinn’s career.

Lack: Well this discussion was real helpful to me because I came in not knowing much about it, really anything about the prizes and we have to do an exhibit in a few months about famous people who have come to UNCW so it’s helpful for me to have this context of some of the people that we might want to hang up on the wall and maybe they came because of the awards.

Dankel: If you look at the group of people that came to receive these prizes, I think it will be the most distinguished group of people of its size. I don’t exactly how many times the prizes were awarded. Seems like they were supposed to be every three or four years. Maybe they were done four or five times, maybe 15 or so people. If you put those 15 people up thinking of them as a group, I think it would be very hard to match that in terms of their human achievements.

Lack: That would be impressive just to have that.

Dankel: Yeah, in fact that would be an interesting project, to develop a kind of picture gallery or some sort of book that just…that had pictures of these people and drawing on the archives here, some summary of their achievements. Of course you have at least some speeches that they gave in accepting their awards.

Lack: In a book, you could choose what excerpts to put in.

Dankel: I mean that would be a unique artifact that would be valuable forever.

Lack: Before we started the tape, I think you came across some information about someone who was possibly going to write a book about it.

Dankel: Again there was some talk after the first ceremony that we might make a book I think out of the symposium that happened, but I don’t believe that ever came about. _____ would be the one to ask about that. I’m pretty sure it didn't come about. Probably it was felt that the video tape was sufficient record for that. You should really interview him if you want to know about that.

Lack: Well that was real helpful, thank you. I suppose relating in some ways to the theme of music, I was wondering if you could explain a little bit about your wife and what she does. I know sometimes I don’t always understand everything that my relatives do (laughter).

Dankel: Oh you mean in her current job.

Lack: Yes, in her current job.

Dankel: Susan Dankel is my wife. She is the general manager of WHQR which is the local public radio station. I don’t know whether you’ve heard about the founding of that station or not. It’s a community licensed station. It has no institutional support. How this got started is a fairly interesting story that in a way involves UNCW.

Probably in the mid to late 70’s, the commercial radio station in Wilmington that was carrying the Metropolitan Opera Saturday afternoon broadcast decided to drop those broadcasts, not to continue. At that time there was a little, as I think there is now, a very low power campus radio station run by students and they picked it up.

Lack: Interesting, wow.

Dankel: So and I don’t think it lasted more than a semester, but for a while, local opera lovers were driving their cars out under…and parking under the pine trees on campus here on Saturday afternoon and listening to the opera on the local UNCW radio station. Well they got to talking and said that we really need a station where we don’t have to sit out here in our cars every Saturday afternoon and that led to the founding of something called Friends of Public Radio.

Something like five years later, they had a license and a station up and running. At that same time, there was some discussion of whether the university, which had a license for this little low level station, where the university might want to develop a public radio station.

Lack: Yeah, that seems like a natural possibility.

Dankel: And I remember sitting in a committee meeting about this where, I won’t tell you who, but one of the still active lights of the business school came over and said well we have market research that shows that Wilmington will never support a public radio station.

Lack: Classical or ?

Dankel: Well whatever, public radio station. I think I told you last time that my first year, one of the book reps told Jim McGowan that they had data showing we wouldn’t support a bookstore (laughter). But anyway here we are eight or nine years later. So I’m not sure, but the university sort of stepped in the background and the ball was carried by this community group who got the license and who hired Michael Titterton who was the founding director of the station I think in 1984.

Lack: Is he related to Beverly?

Dankel: No, that’s Tetherton. Titterton is actually now, he was not a local person, he came from Florida. He’s been around. He’s English originally. He was in public radio in Detroit and Virginia. He came here from Florida. He is now actually director of Hawaii public radio. That’s Michael’s baby. So he was the general manager of the station for something like over 10 years and there was a person who was hired to replace him who didn't work out very well.

Susan, my wife, had been involved as a volunteer and board member from the beginning.

She was treasurer of the station for a while, signed all the checks.

Lack: Do you remember when it was started?

Dankel: It was either ’84 or ’85. She’d been involved. She had made a career in city government actually. As it turned out, she worked for the city government for 25 years and for a while was assistant city manager under Bill Ferris. After he was relieved from his duties and there was a new crowd, she sort of shuffled around and became Director of Administrative Services which included budget. She had a long career with the city.

When the second director of WHQR didn't seem to be working out and actually left, then she let it be known that she was interested in the job and they wound up hiring her to be the general manager in the summer of…she’s been there about 2-1/2 years, ’99. She has a staff of seven or eight people full time and then there’s all kinds of volunteers and part-time workers and things. She answers to the board of the Friends of Public Radio.

You said you might be interested in talking to her so you should get this directly from her, but it seems to me her approach is to be very inclusive in programming and involvement. The station of course broadcasts I think it’s 24 hours a day or close to it seven days a week, but it also does other cultural things. For example, it cosponsors the Cinematique film series and Thalian Hall, movies we wouldn't otherwise get to see.

It’s made its main room into an art gallery so there are receptions for artists and there are concerts in that room, some of which are broadcast live, some of which aren’t. Some are hootenanny’s, some are string quartets. They have this program called EARS, Eastern Area Reading Service.

I was just saying some things about what they do other than produce the radio programming that you hear over the airwaves. They provide space for the EARS program. What they do is read the newspaper for blind people and the signal can be broadcast on a subcarrier frequency and people can get a special receiver to hear it so several hours a day, they can listen to material from the local newspaper and EARS tries to stay in touch with the clientele and let them hear what they want to hear. Obituaries is pretty high on the list and other local news.

So WHQR provides space for that program and I’m sure that she could tell you a lot of things that they do in the way of community support and community involvement. Some of the programming involves commentators from the community and of course a lot of the programming or a significant part of it is originated locally. The key to the success of the station has been broad community involvement and support and I think that’s what she tries to do.

Lack: I really enjoy their website, community calendar, the cultural calendar.

Dankel: Yeah and they put that on the air several times a day too, but it’s nice to have it on the website.

Lack: You said she had a connection to UNCW occasionally teaching here.

Dankel: When we were married, she was a graduate student in philosophy and when we moved down here, she taught part time in the philosophy department for several years, mostly logic. So she was on campus and knew a lot of the people involved in the university then. She may be interested in you talking to her about that time in the university’s history.

Lack: I definitely want to keep that in mind. We have a minute or so and I don’t want to tire you out too much. We can always continue another time, but I found this interview really interesting.

Dankel: Well thank you. It gives me a chance to think about some things I hadn’t thought about in quite a while and I do have some written materials about the Schweitzer awards. I’ll try to get it together and bring it in.

Lack: Oh that would be wonderful to add to our archives. It’s good to have the written record as well as any oral reflections people have. Thank you very much.

Dankel: You’re welcome.

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