Interview with William (Bill) H. Gwinn, February 20, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Interviewee: Gwinn, William H. Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 2/20/2007 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 80 minutes
Riggins: Hello, my name is Adina Riggins. I'm the archivist here at UNCW. I am behind the scenes here, in the University Archives, Randall Library, interviewing someone for our Voices of UNCW Oral History Program. I'm very pleased to welcome a retired professor here, William H. Gwinn. Do you go by Bill or--
Riggins: Bill Gwinn. Today is February 20th, 2007. Dr. Gwinn can you please, for the record, state your name for the tape?
Gwinn: William H. Gwinn; I go by Bill.
Riggins: Okay good. Thank you for coming here and for participating in our Oral History Program, which is growing very, very quickly and is bound to be a very rich collection before long. Can you start off by telling us where were you born and where did you grow up?
Gwinn: I was born in Bishop, California. It's in the eastern part of the State and about 90 miles north of Death Valley. And I actually then grew up in Sacramento, California.
Riggins: Okay. We had a librarian who was, I believe-- well I think she lived in Bishop. She was from California. She just left for Oregon but she taught at Bishop High School I think for a long time.
Gwinn: Well years and years and years ago, my dad was principal of Bishop High School.
Riggins: Really? I'll have to tell her that. He was? But you didn't-- that was before--
Gwinn: That was before I was born. Yeah, he worked for the County Superintendent of Schools and then got hired by the State Department of Education.
Riggins: Oh, no kidding.
Gwinn: So the County Superintendent of Schools there in Inyo County, after the high school.
Riggins: Oh wow. Yes, she was a librarian there for a long time. She loved it, and she actually moved back to the West Coast, to University of Oregon. But your family ended up moving into Sacramento; a bigger town I guess.
Gwinn: Yes, when he went to work for the State Department of Education.
Riggins: Oh okay, all right. So he was an educator.
Gwinn: He ended up as a consultant in secondary education, high schools through general colleges, for the State, working for the-- at the time he retired, working for Max Rafferty, who was the State Superintendent of Schools.
Riggins: Oh okay. Well what was your education like? Did you go to public schools? I guess coming from that family you probably did.
Gwinn: I went to public elementary schools, junior high, and high school, and City College in Sacramento; and then Sacramento State College.
Riggins: Oh yeah, so you stayed.
Gwinn: That was up through a Bachelor's Degree.
Riggins: Sacramento State. What did you study there?
Riggins: Oh good.
Gwinn: Geography minor.
Riggins: Really? So perhaps you can appreciate the archives and oral history, all that. History with a Geography minor. Well then what did you do following post-secondary education?
Gwinn: I went into the Navy, in 1965, and stayed in the Navy until July of 1992. So I had almost 27 years.
Riggins: Oh wow. So this was a second career.
Gwinn: This was a second career.
Riggins: Twenty-seven years in the Navy, from 1965 to 1992. Did you suspect when you went in that you would make it a career?
Gwinn: Not really. I went into the Navy because it was the Vietnam years and my dad had been in the Navy in World War Two. I had originally started off to become a teacher; strange as it seemed, I ended up there. But throughout my Navy career I ended up teaching and instructing, as well as fulfilling operational billets.
Riggins: What did you teach?
Gwinn: Primarily aircraft systems. I was in a P-3 squadron, which is the Lockheed Orion, a four-engine turbo prop, and it was primarily anti-submarine warfare, and I was a mission commander and instructor in the aircraft systems in crew qualifications, and a tactical coordinator.
Riggins: So everything from tactics to actually the systems--
Gwinn: That's where I first got involved with computers. The aircraft used a rather primitive Univac system that was loaded with eight-inch tapes and had some primitive logic units on board; actually had three of them. It was interesting. No keyboard-- well that's not exactly true. To actually interface with the computer itself, there wasn't a keyboard, you had to set a number of toggle switches to make it do things like load the program, save the program at the end. But the various operator stations had keyboards and CRT screens.
Riggins: But behind the scenes it didn't.
Gwinn: Behind the scenes it didn't.
Riggins: Wow. So you got involved with that not having worked with computers much before the Navy, right?
Gwinn: No, not--
Riggins: Or not at all.
Gwinn: Not at all, before that. And then after my first sea tour I was selected for the Naval Postgraduate School, and I had a program called Engineering Science, which was to take liberal arts folks that didn't have a lot of math and science backgrounds, bring them up to speed in calculus and physics, and then dump them into a technical program. So then it was called Systems Analysis-- let me see, Operations Manage-- no it wasn't either. Let me-- darn, it was a long time ago and they changed the names, but it ended up being the field that I'm in. Operations Analysis and-- I can't remember, but it became Systems Analysis and Design as part of Information Technology.
Riggins: Was that the precursor to programming?
Gwinn: No, no programming existed for a long time.
Riggins: That's true, yes.
Gwinn: It was more of, ushered in by McNamara when he was Department of Defense, to analyze things and use a lot of statistics to try to make computer programs and computer systems suit human users. So there's a lot of human resources involved with it. And really our Information Systems Program today is an outgrowth of that. It's made up people who are psychology majors, who are computer science majors, who are business majors-- because the application they were interested in was business-- and the human resources folks in addition. So it was kind of-- accountants. It was an amalgamation of these fields. Then it became the Information Systems field.
Riggins: It's interesting that-- well there is a minor here at UNCW here called Information Science, and of course you have your program, your department in Cameron School. There does seem to be a lot of overlap. The field I got in, which was Library Science, is very similar to that now. I took a course in Systems Analysis and we did the flowcharting and database work and all that. It was pretty good.
Gwinn: Well that's it.
Riggins: Yes, it was good, I liked it. It was challenging. So you did graduate work in that field, or what else?
Gwinn: I actually went to the Naval Postgraduate School and got a Master's Degree.
Riggins: Was that in Minneapolis?
Gwinn: No, the Naval Postgraduate School is in Monterey, California.
Riggins: Oh nice.
Gwinn: Which is a very beautiful place to be, except for the earthquakes, but other than that it was great. And while I was there I also went to the Navy Aviation Safety School which is there. So that taught you how to do accident investigation, and fortunately I never had to do that. And following that, because of the Information Systems and Analysis background, I was assigned to the USS Guam, which was doing Department of the Navy systems evaluation on a sea control ship concept. So a lot of what I did there was a mixture then of using my graduate degree and my programming skills with the tactical applications, and developed a number of applications that were used for inventory management on a ship during tactical evolutions.
Riggins: Oh, so it was nice to see your work being used.
Gwinn: That's part of why I liked going into Information Systems because there's a lot of self-gratification in that you design a computer program or a system for others to use, and when you see it being used successfully, whether anybody says it was a good job or not, you kind of give yourself a pat on the back, it worked.
Riggins: Did you design relational databases, among other things, or was that part of the inventory system?
Gwinn: Actually at that time it was done in COBOL and so it was more of a file system rather than a database system. But it would be a precursor to a database system. It didn't really have the link tables as much as it had just link files.
Riggins: But users could input it using like a DOS-- it was a DOS operating system or something?
Gwinn: Well it was a Univac Unisys system that ran the actual machine. But they had to fill out computer cards; which, by the way, is the way people used to register back then in colleges too. And from those, then they went to a keypunch machine that was put in, and then the system was updated and it would print out then what type of supplies that were being consumed, where they were located, how many there were, when they should be moved to a flight deck to be put on an aircraft and so forth.
Riggins: And this was probably like the '70s?
Gwinn: This was 1973, 4 and 5.
Riggins: Yes. I know a little bit about cards. Just sometimes they'd come and you'd see them around the house or something for like some kind of, I don't know what, maybe--
Gwinn: Everything for my Master's thesis was done on those cards. And, of course, since we were students, you had to keypunch them yourself, and it didn't long to find out you wanted to make sure you put sequence numbers on them because they came in big, long trays, and if you dropped a tray of 1000 cards, which I did, then you decided, well I better put sequence numbers on all the cards.
Riggins: Oh my God, wow.
Gwinn: It's like everything else. People always say today, "Make sure you back up your computer," and about 95% of us don't, and then it crashes and then you reconstruct everything. Well it was the same way then. We were students and the professors were telling us, "Make sure you put sequence numbers on your cards." You start off with maybe 10 or 20, and you say, "Well why?" Well this rapidly grows. Then you have 1000 cards and no numbers.
Riggins: So your Master's thesis was done-- was it a highly quantitative Master's thesis? Did you have a lot of formulas then or was it mostly--
Gwinn: Then it was more quantitative, because the actual Master's thesis and the work that went on it was done in FORTRAN.
Riggins: Yes, I don't think I've talked to anyone who did--
Gwinn: Generating information for my thesis professor-- of course, that never happens now where professors use students' work to help develop their-- it happens all the time.
Riggins: Yes, I'm sure. So you were helping him with his research as well.
Gwinn: Yes, did a small niche of it, yes.
Riggins: What was it on, your thesis? What was it saying?
Gwinn: Actually it was a quantitative-- I can't remember the exact title-- but it was a quantitative analysis of the small number theory, which now people would use if they're doing conference testing and so forth, peak codes. They never called them peak codes back then. But it was looking at it to see how far you could go below the magic number of 30 for small samples and still get somewhat of a reliable estimate. And, of course, a lot more people did a lot more definitive work on it than I did then, but at least was a precursor to some of that.
Riggins: Yes, I've had statistics. Well so you had a long career in the Navy. What were some other highlights? What did you do following your tour on the USS Guam?
Gwinn: After the Guam, I went back operational in another P-3 squadron for a department head tour, and made deployments all over the world, to Japan, the Philippines, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Took tours to Australia. At the time, one of the admirals was looking at setting up a new fleet and basing it somewhere, one of our allies. So we looked at Singapore, we looked at Australia, Tasmania. And then, after that, we did a deployment to Iceland, and we were up there eight months, and came home. Then I received a phone call from the Chief of Staff in Iceland saying, "Would you like to come back up here as Director of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Center?" And so I asked my wife, "Would you like to go overseas?" And she said, "When do we leave?" She didn't realize that it was going to be ten days later. So that was very quick. I had two children, households. The only bad part was we couldn't take our dog to Iceland. So we had to give our dog to my stepmother's sister and her husband. So then we went to Iceland, supposedly for three years, and then they asked, "Would you stay here and become an executive officer for the base?"-- that's like the Deputy Base Commander. And so I did that until 1986, and then we came back to the States and I was--
Riggins: How long were you in Iceland all together then?
Gwinn: From 1981 till 1986; so five years.
Riggins: How did you like living there?
Gwinn: Great. A lot of people didn't like Iceland but I did. It was a very beautiful country; a lot of different venues to view, everything from a stark moon landscape-- in fact they trained some astronauts up there because it had such a moonlike landscape-- to glaciers-- there's five of them-- to some very lush valleys where they have a short growing season but they can grow things. They do a lot of hothouse because almost everything in Iceland is geothermal, since it's one of the most volcanic places on the earth. And so they'd tap into the geothermal hot water and use that in a system to heat the homes and heat hothouses and heat swimming pools. There are swimming pools all over the place, and hot tubs. Almost every swimming pool has three hot tubs: warm, hot, and oh my gosh. And people will normally-- the swimming pools are around 87 degrees. So they'll normally go swimming and then go into a hot tub, and it's not infrequent to see people in the hot tubs with snow coming down. And of course the snow, before it even hits the hot tub, is evaporating into a mist with its--
Riggins: And it was all geothermal.
Gwinn: All geothermal heat, hot water.
Riggins: How did your children like living there?
Gwinn: Very much. They enjoyed it, and in the summertime they went to an Icelandic pony farm where they lived with Icelanders and learned Icelandic, because that was all that was spoken, and took care of Icelandic horses, which they call ponies, but they're really horses, but very small horses. And because of a rabies scare in Iceland, they're very restrictive on allowing animals in and out. So if someone buys an Icelandic horse for show purposes, and takes it out of Iceland to show it, it can't come back. So then they have to stable it elsewhere. Icelandic sheep, very exquisite wool, probably some of the best in the world. I like the taste of Icelandic lamb much better than U.S. or New Zealand lamb. I've had it served in a number of different ways. You would think it was steak; even a London Broil that I thought was steak but it was lamb. Fish, a lot of fresh fish. Whale; didn't care much for eating whale. It was okay in chili but very high fat content, so it's a very strong taste. In chili you couldn't tell the difference.
Riggins: So lots of interesting foods.
Gwinn: Interesting foods. What I did eat but wasn't real enthralled with, the rotten shark. They used to get shark and then bury it in the sand, and it would, of course, die then of uremic poisoning. And then come the spring, part of their spring celebration was to dig up these buried sharks and eat them. A very, very strong smell, like Limburger cheese; if you've ever smelled Limburger cheese you'll know what hakarl, or the rotten shark smells like. A very strong taste; don't think it tastes quite as bad as Limburger cheese; but it's hard.
Riggins: That's not something--
Gwinn: And they have a lot of other delicacies too. Most of them are very good. Herring's big, a lot of pickled herring, herring in dill sauce. But my favorite was haddock-- they call it ysa-- and they like to make like a fish and chips, do it in a beer batter, or broil it with onions, and it's very good. And cod, of course; almost all the cod you get in fish and chip shops is exported from Iceland. Long John Silvers and H. Treacher's Fish & Chips and all of those were Icelandic cod.
Riggins: Are lobsters up there?
Gwinn: You can get lobster. They're bigger on getting a very small rock lobster. It's kind of between a very large shrimp; it's larger than a crawdad but it's smaller than a real lobster. Although you can get the Atlantic lobster. But that's big. A lot of the shrimp and the small lobster.
Riggins: It sounds like there's a lot to do, a lot of outdoors activities.
Gwinn: As long as you take the attitude of an Icelander, or actually somebody that lives in Great Britain. If it's rain, it's a good day, you go out and do what you want to anyway. And as strange as it seems, the Icelandic wool, once it's knitted into sweaters, at least in the spring and summertime when it's not real cold, you can get by with one or two of these sweaters on; and they shed water, probably better than some of the artificial materials that we use. I guess it's the high lanolin in the sheep's wool.
Riggins: So it really works.
Gwinn: It works. I still have two of those I wear.
Riggins: Really? So wow, they last a long time.
Gwinn: They last a very long time.
Riggins: And the snow doesn't slow people down.
Gwinn: Depends where you are. Now the Naval Air Station was actually part of Keflavik International Airport-- so it's about 40 kilometers east of the capital city of Reykjavik-- and that's where all the international flights come in. So we, during the time, Iceland was part of NATO but they had no armed forces. So their contribution was to provide the base, and the bilateral agreement with the United States was the United States would provide the defense of Iceland. So on our base we had Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Coastguard.
Riggins: Wow, that's a lot of bureaucracy right there.
Gwinn: And then provided the security in the terminals for Iceland Air and some of the other flights that would come in there. They have a national police force, and that was assigned to the airport, was under the Foreign Minister; all the rest of that police force was under the Minister of the Interior. So it made an interesting setup. On the base we had our own Icelandic Police Headquarters, with their own judge, their own jail, and they worked very close with our base security folks.
Riggins: During this time did you start using microcomputers?
Gwinn: Yes, as a matter of fact the first ones that I saw in the Navy showed up there while we were there in Iceland, and the early ones were Apples. And then rapidly, towards '82 or 3, things started going the way of Microsoft; some very expensive machines that they developed for using classified material on that were shielded. The things must've weighed more than a safe because they had metal plates all around them; were all DOS-based and Microsoft, rather than the Apple. So that's where I first got exposed to that.
Riggins: The Icelandic people, were they starting to get into computers? Because I know--
Gwinn: Apples, a lot of them were on Apples.
Riggins: Yes, they seem to be quite adept.
Gwinn: Computer literate-- yes they are, they really are, with one exception, they do not change the Icelandic language. So if there's any technology words that come up, they're going to be in English, Danish or German, they will not be in Icelandic, because they will not modify the language. Their Icelandic language is basically unmodified from the Norse language of 980.
Riggins: Really? So there's a lot of foreign words in there that they incorporate.
Gwinn: They do. They won't incorporate the foreign words into their language. They then switch to something else. An Icelandic child first learns Icelandic, then Danish, because they were occupied for almost 900 years by the Danes. So a lot of their official correspondence is in Danish, as well as a lot of the spoken word. Then usually their third language is either English or German. It's not unusual to find an Icelander speaking seven or more languages.
Riggins: And in the schools the primary language is Icelandic.
Gwinn: Icelandic and Danish, they're taught both of those in the schools, and they've got about a 98% literacy rate.
Riggins: Amazing. Did you travel over to Greenland?
Gwinn: I did not; I did not travel to Greenland. Since it's the western most European country, we did a lot of traveling in Europe, both on behalf of the base and personal traveling. Greenland should've been called Iceland and Iceland should've been called Greenland.
Riggins: Right, that's what I ______________________.
Gwinn: Kind of a mix.
Riggins: Right, yes. Well it sounds like it was nice to be in one place for awhile, because you had been traveling, you'd been on different tours for a long time. Where did they decide to put the base by the way, when you had said you went and looked at Singapore and you were looking at--
Gwinn: They decided not to do it.
Riggins: Oh, funding maybe?
Gwinn: Funding, I'm sure that was it. And it was post, right after Vietnam, and so everything was starting to scale down, and so they decided not to do that. Now they probably wish they had, it would've made things a lot closer.
Riggins: Wow. But you went and had to investigate and do all your reports and everything. And so it sounds like you liked your time over there.
Gwinn: It was really interesting going to Australia and Tasmania. This was, well just before I went to Iceland, so it was '79, '80, and at that time there were enough folks still left from World War Two that they were very, very, very pro-U.S. and pro-U.S. military. You would go ashore there-- and it's one of the few places they would still let us wear our uniforms ashore-- and you could do nothing. People would say, "We remember you from World War Two. Thank you." They would buy you drinks, they would buy you dinner, they would take you out to the movies and entertainment. They would not let you spend a dime.
Riggins: Really? In Australia.
Gwinn: In Australia.
Gwinn: And Tasmania.
Riggins: Interesting, wow.
Gwinn: I understand things have changed now.
Riggins: Probably, even in Australia. Probably. Well how did things wind up in Iceland? You ended up going someplace else?
Gwinn: I had orders from there to the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and I went there and became the Assistant Director for their Advanced Research, and inherited 50 PCs, which went through the update from the old CPM system to the DOS system. And then that's where I first started networking things, because we had to network printers; they'd only buy us one or two printers for these 50. And so it made it easier to network them all and let them print, rather than have people walk with individual disks; these were the old five-inch disks. So that's where I got involved with networking.
Riggins: What printers were they?
Gwinn: Oh, they were daisywheel printers, very much like the daisywheel typewriter, except that it would take the electronics signal and then print it off. So it was a wheel that had individual characters on it and then impact-- very noisy, because a little hammer would hit each one of the little letters, and so almost all of them were in a box or a sound reducing enclosure to try to reduce the amount of sound that was put out.
Riggins: I don't think I've seen one of those. It sounds like it was pretty slow.
Gwinn: Very slow; about as fast as an electric typewriter, if you were a good typist.
Riggins: It read it electronically. So well that must've been exciting.
Gwinn: The mechanism was basically the same. The only difference now is that it goes to an inkjet or to a laser head, instead of individually. Actually inkjet's still closest to it because it actually sprays ink from a little mesh on the front of the ink head. So it's literally spraying a character, but it's much faster than an impact and then feed ribbon and move it again and impact it again. But it sounded like somebody with a typewriter was typing really fast; very loud.
Riggins: So you were directing this division in the college?
Gwinn: I was the assistant director for it. A Ph.D., that was hired from the U.S. Navy, was actually in charge of it, and then I was still Active Duty Navy Officer, so I was the assistant director for it. So I worried more about classification, the mechanical side, and reading their thesises and dissertation with a technical view, and he worried more about meeting the academic requirements and the grammatical structure and so forth.
Riggins: Well somewhere along the way you got a doctorate. Was that while you were in the Navy?
Gwinn: Yes; well no it actually wasn't. Master's Degree was, but after Rhode Island I went to the Naval ROTC Unit at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and there I went originally as the executive officer; then I became the commanding office.
Riggins: For the ROTC?
Gwinn: For the ROTC unit. Now when you do that, you get vetted by the college's academic equivalency board, and then they assign you an academic rank. So as an executive officer I was an associate professor of Naval Science, and then as the commanding office, I was a professor of Naval Science. So then when I retired in '92, my wife said, "Well you're not going to sit around." And I still had some GI Bill left. So I stayed at Texas Tech because they had an information systems program for Ph.D. there in the College of Business, and I completed my work there; and then did teaching there as well, up until I moved elsewhere, here.
Riggins: Right, so it's a Ph.D. in the field-- was it called Information Systems?
Gwinn: Information Systems.
Riggins: Oh good, all right. Wow, you wife said, "You're not going to hang around here." It sounds like she was--
Gwinn: No, no, no.
Riggins: She knew you wouldn't be happy.
Gwinn: She said-- she was real unhappy for a short period of time because she was working and supporting me in the Ph.D. program, my son at Texas Tech in the undergraduate program, and my daughter at the University of Texas in the undergraduate program.
Riggins: Everyone's in college.
Gwinn: So as soon as I got a job elsewhere, she retired.
Riggins: What's her field?
Gwinn: Medical records administrator.
Riggins: Okay, yes, there's a need for people in that field, good people in that field. Yes, so everyone was in college. That was a strain. But how did you like your Ph.D. experience?
Gwinn: As a student?
Riggins: Yes, being a student.
Gwinn: Actually I enjoyed it a fair amount. It was different from having been a professor of Naval Science and then suddenly become a student; having been in the military, now you're in the civilian world. But it was a good place, I think, to make the transition.
Riggins: At Texas Tech they were-- I guess the way our military people-- I've talked to other professors who came from the military and they said, "You know, I think my advisors didn't really expect me to finish, because they saw a lot of ex-military people coming through and they didn't really think I'd finish this Ph.D." I don't know if you encountered some of that.
Gwinn: I think so, I think so.
Riggins: Yes. It was the same thing, after working for so many years and being in a different position for so many years.
Gwinn: But I have to say that people there were great. The department chair ended up being my thesis- or my dissertation advisor. So that was interesting too. Because I was working with him and because a lot of the things that I was working on then, which was artificial intelligence, he decided that I should be the one who would sit in a lot of the dean's conferences and so forth, representing the department; that was interesting.
Riggins: When did you complete your Ph.D.?
Gwinn: I completed it in '98, and then taught another semester, till May of '99, at Texas Tech, and then came- actually started here in August of '99.
Riggins: Okay. So you completed it in '98. And what was that like? Were you a different generation than the other students, or were there some other people who were not right out of college?
Gwinn: Actually I'd have to say, except for maybe two, none of the people in the Ph.D. program were right out of college. Most of them had work experience, from wide and varied backgrounds. We had two Turkish students that were there that had worked in business in Turkey. One had been a professional educator, then worked in some business and came back, and he was there. So that was a husband and wife pair. A gentleman from Israel, and I think he came straight from a Master's program to the Ph.D. program. A number of Chinese people, and most of them had work experience as programmers somewhere before they came. My office mate was Japanese.
Riggins: Very international. Felt like you were back in the Navy, right?
Gwinn: Yeah, in a way; it's true, it's true. It was interesting being in an office with a Japanese gentleman because when I was at the War College I was on their liaison team with the Japanese Naval Self-Defense Force. So I made a number of trips to Japan, back and forth. So it was interesting.
Riggins: How about your language skills? Did you learn any foreign languages while you were in the Navy?
Gwinn: Very little. I had Spanish before I went in, but on my one trip to Spain my Spanish was so rusty that I tried to order a cheeseburger and I got a grilled cheese sandwich and a hamburger. In Iceland I didn't really make an effort to learn Icelandic, and my commanding officer did, he was fluent in it. And one night he was sitting there and it was about seven o'clock and he said, "I think we should go home." And I said, "Just a minute sir, I've got this to finish and then I'll leave." And then he said, "Bill, do you understand what I just said?" I said, "Yes sir." He said, "But I just told you in Icelandic." And I was not conscious of it at all. A lot of greetings and so forth became second nature. You would do it in Icelandic; but not proficient. And it was the same in Japanese; picked up a lot of the greetings and just courtesies, but as far as ever being fluent in it, no.
Riggins: And then you learned some from your office mate in grad school.
Gwinn: Well he was working- he had a job in the United States, so he was working very hard on English, polishing his English skills.
Riggins: And you said your Ph.D. dissertation was on artificial intelligence applications.
Gwinn: Yes, yes.
Riggins: Okay, so it sounds like a highly technical topic again, but at least you didn't have to use those cards.
Gwinn: No, it was all on PCs by then.
Riggins: A very different world. However, the skills you learned in the previous decades still paid, I'm sure.
Gwinn: Yes they do.
Riggins: So you completed it and you were teaching at Texas Tech. You seemed to like it there, but was Texas Tech-- we'll talk about UNCW when you get to over here-- but looking back on it, was it kind of similar to UNCW, the students at Texas Tech, or no?
Gwinn: I have to say that there's a similarity in that students from the local area came primarily from an agriculture background. A lot of them were first-generation college. They came from ranching and farming, and very, very polite. The West Texans in particularly are very much like the military, and "yes sir," "no ma'am," "yes ma'am"; very formal, very polite. And that made an easy transition; not exactly the same as a beach community on the East Coast, there's a big difference there. But you got used to it. There was a lot of folks that did come into Texas Tech that weren't from the local area, and that's a lot what you see here, a lot of out-of-staters that come in that aren't from the local area.
Riggins: And what did you teach there?
Gwinn: I taught-- oh what did I teach? Well I taught Systems Analysis and Design, Database Systems, Introduction to Computers, in the Master's program they had, which is pretty much what I-- I was hired to teach System Analysis and Design when I came here, and that's what I primarily taught. I did teach Introduction to Computers here. We try to spread that around among the faculty, so nobody gets stuck forever doing Introduction to Computers. So we take turns doing that and then move it each year through the various groups.
Riggins: When you finished, you said, "Well I guess it's time to get a job, since I've been in school for the past few years."
Gwinn: Right, and I had an offer to stay there. But most institutions that grant Ph.D., if you're going to stay there, they don't want to hire you as a professor, they just want to hire you as a lecturer. Unless you go somewhere else and get some more experience, and then they'll come back after five years and then they'll consider hiring you back as a professor. So I had a house there and I considered that, but then decided well I'll go see elsewhere. So I went to a conference that was being held out in Long Beach, California, and another one in San Diego, a professional society, and had my vitae out there and job application. And I got offers from I think it was five universities, and one I kind of discarded it out of hand because it was a rural setting in Pennsylvania and a religious school; well they were offering pretty good, but I kind of figured Lubbock, Texas is rural enough. You're four hours to five hours from any other settlement of any size: five and a half to Dallas; six to Albuquerque; five and three-quarters to El Paso; Amarillo is two hours north, but Amarillo is smaller than Lubbock.
Riggins: And you thought that was about the limit for you.
Gwinn: So I thought well I'll go someplace else. Actually living in Texas wouldn't be bad if you could be within two to three hours of Dallas or Houston, because they're major metropolitan areas, and you get everything, like traveling Broadway shows and opera. And here you can do that with Raleigh and Charlotte, they're not that far away. So when I started searching in Chicago area-- mostly night school, traveling around on the elevated in Chicago at night, and nah, I don't think I want to do that. Minnesota, nice folks, have to join a union and I'm not real pro-union, just for personal reasons, and didn't want to do that; it was kind of out in western Minnesota, kind of cold. Boy I'm glad, after looking at the weather reports this year, I didn't go there. And Massachusetts, nice people but the facility, it was a state facility and it was like being in a prison. They didn't invest any money whatsoever in painting. So if you took off the wallboard here and had the concrete, brick building, that's what you had, only it was a grey cinderblock. So inside was grey. If you wanted a carpet in your space and you're sharing an office with six other professors, it was grey to cover the concrete floor, or you had to go buy a carpet on your own to cover the floor. The outside was grey, days were grey.
Riggins: I'm sure the Navy wasn't luxurious but it may have been slightly better than that.
Gwinn: At least even in the ships they painted the walls pea green, which was something different. Most of the Navy bases were pretty decent. At least they had linoleum floors and they painted the walls; well you painted the walls, military people painted the walls. But then I came down here and really liked the people that were here. The others were friendly but these folks down here were great.
Riggins: You really felt like that.
Gwinn: And they had nice-- some of the places I interviewed, either they were under renovation or they didn't have the money; so there were no offices for professors, there were just cubicles. And I know sometimes students like to talk about grades or problems they're having and they don't necessarily want everybody next to you hearing what's going on. So I decided this was the place for me. And of course they told me that there weren't any hurricanes and it never snowed here.
Riggins: They were right about half.
Gwinn: Yes, in 1999, when I arrived, let's see, there was Dennis, Floyd and I guess it was Irene, three in a row; of course, Floyd was the big one. And then that winter it snowed one day.
Riggins: Yes, 2000, was that January 2000?
Gwinn: Yes, that's right.
Riggins: I was in Chapel Hill then but I remember it snowed here, quite a bit.
Gwinn: It snowed here. And of course it was gone 24 hours later but about eight inches; for awhile it was snowing, enough to get all the roads nice and slick and people going nuts.
Riggins: It's like a danger zone, everything. Yes, it looks much worse than it is because it's not clear. Oh yes, that must've been exciting. And you were here right in time for Floyd I guess.
Gwinn: Yes, exactly.
Riggins: You said you started in August.
Gwinn: Yes. I actually checked in here the 7th of July, but the first academic year-- they just paid part-time for that-- and then the academic year started in August.
Riggins: Right. Was John Anderson the Search...
Gwinn: Department chair?
Riggins: ...Committee Chair also?
Gwinn: He was-- yes.
Riggins: And he was, of course, a Navy man. So I don't know if that--
Gwinn: Well he came from the Naval Academy, but Marines mostly.
Riggins: Right, Marines, that's right.
Gwinn: But he found out my son was a Marine, so that made it okay.
Riggins: Okay then. I believe I've got that on tape. I talked to him for a couple of hours and yes we learned he was Marines. But that Naval Academy just confuses me. So that made it all right, that you had a family member in the Marines.
Riggins: So that made it fine. And they told you what they were looking for and it just seemed like you'd like it.
Gwinn: Seemed like it. And at the time I came here the big emphasis, both at the university and in the School of Business, was on teaching with some research. And so that fit my bill. I like to teach, I enjoy teaching. I got a number of Excellence in Teaching awards and then students saying that--
Riggins: From Texas Tech?
Gwinn: From here...
Riggins: From here, wow.
Gwinn: ...saying that I'd made a major impact on their life. And even after I retired, I got one from that last semester. So I thought that was pretty good.
Riggins: Was that from the university or from a former Cameron School--
Gwinn: From the students, the graduating seniors.
Riggins: Oh that's great.
Gwinn: Yes, I have to talk about that.
Riggins: Yes, if you can make computers interesting and fun, I'm sure people can people appreciate that. So you came in 1999. And Dr. Kaylor wasn't the dean then, or was he?
Gwinn: Dr. Rockness.
Riggins: Dr. Rockness was maybe the interim dean.
Gwinn: No, he was the dean.
Riggins: Oh he was the dean, okay.
Gwinn: And Kaylor was the dean, the interim dean was John Anderson. So and Norm Kaylor was dean and then John Anderson was the interim dean, and then Howard Rockness, and then Larry.
Riggins: Right, so when you came the emphasis was on teaching and research and John Anderson was in your department. Who else was in your department? Dr. Badarinathi.
Gwinn: Dr. Badarinathi, Dr. John Garress [ph?], Barry Wray.
Riggins: John Garress, he's one I've been trying to reach too.
Gwinn: Art Gowan [ph?].
Riggins: Oh, Art Gowan, oh.
Gwinn: Let's see, I replaced Matthew, he'd just left. Who else was here?
Riggins: Oh you replaced Dr. Matkin [ph?]?
Gwinn: He was teaching an analysis and design course. So I actually took that spot. I'm trying to think who else was there. Oh, in operations management side. Drew Rosen.
Riggins: Yes, he's still here of course. Operations Management. So I didn't realize that was completely different, or that was-- Information Systems and Operation Management--
Gwinn: Is the department.
Riggins: Is the department.
Riggins: But Operations Management reports to what?
Gwinn: Two different disciplines. Operations Management is everything you would use in manufacturing operations or carrying out plan operations of a sort, and that actually is closer to what my original minor was, because the discipline changed over the years. So when I came out of the post-graduate school, it was what they would now call Operations Management. It was Operations Research Systems Analysis, is what it was originally called; I knew I'd remember sooner or later. You just don't think about it. And so from that, then it became Systems Development and Design and Operations Management. So they kind of-- when they first melded this whole group it was one discipline, and then it kind of drifted into two separate disciplines, under the same umbrella. But you find them various places. Some of them are under Industrial Engineering, some of them are under Accounting, depending on where you go. Some, like Chapel Hill, are under Library Sciences, Information Systems. So it's kind of a strange duck.
Riggins: Yes, well because it's important but it's _____________.
Gwinn: Of course, we'd say they all ought to be under us but--
Riggins: You don't want to say that. Well there's a minor in Information Science out of Computer Science now, right? And then there's that whole new building...
Riggins: ...that houses Computer Science and your department.
Gwinn: That was one of the chores I had was to be on the academic part of the building committee for that building.
Riggins: Oh yes. So you could plan it all but then didn't teach in it.
Gwinn: So we planned it all and then saw the funding go-- "oh we can't fund this;" "oh we can't fund that." So it dropped from something like 12 million to down like 8.8 million or something by the time it was done.
Riggins: Makes you feel like you have input, right? When you came, you said you discussed what you were going to be teaching. What were you hired to teach basically? What did you plan on teaching?
Gwinn: Originally it was going to be a mix. It was going to be some introductory statistics and database, and then after I'd interviewed and they'd hired me, Matthew was leaving and they wanted somebody to do the systems analysis and design, and at that time he was teaching it as a one-semester combined course. So it was kind of group projects for-- the whole class was doing one project. And my pitch was, "I think we should separate these and make a semester of analysis, a semester of design, and have individual projects, or at least team projects where it's no more than three or four people, because I think they'll get more than having a whole class project." And so that's what we did. And of course I still had responsibility, at that time, for doing the Information Systems section of the Masters in Accountancy program; so I did that too, the first couple of semesters.
Riggins: So you were teaching the grad students in--
Riggins: Accountancy. How did you like that?
Gwinn: It was good. They were good people. They did some good projects. We split the team up and they actually did some projects for Costal Beverage over here, which was interesting. They had a warehouse problem, because they have most of the non-Budweiser beer sales in eastern North Carolina, east of I-95, and they had to run a number of warehouses and try to keep track of things that were sold from trucks, things that were sold through the office, and things that came out of warehouses. So people did a good job.
Riggins: So would they bring you these real-life issues from their experience and you record--
Gwinn: Or the companies would come to the university and say, "Here's-- we've got a problem. Do you have any students that can help us out?" And they seemed most appreciative. The main result was that you, in a semester or two, you never had enough time to see a system fully develop, but you had recommendations that were made, and then a lot of the folks would come back and say, "I thought they were really good recommendations and here's what we implemented." So that was great.
Riggins: Oh that's great, to get that kind of feedback. What, both from undergrads and any graduate students you came across-- did you teach in the M.B.A. program also?
Gwinn: No I did not.
Riggins: Was there a lot of interest in your department with the Internet boom going on, and well having recently boomed I guess; March 2000 was the peak boom I guess.
Gwinn: A lot in the database and Dr. Janicki's Web Programming course that he was teaching.
Riggins: Right, but the other stuff too they have to have, the background.
Gwinn: That's right. A large number of folks that stayed local ended up going to work for- or establishing their own companies that were doing these business systems where they're networking and setting up the computers and doing some programming stuff. I noticed four or five of them, as I was doing consulting in the area later on, that had been former students who were involved in this.
Gwinn: Some of the disappointments? Some of the disappointments were folks that were really smart and went through, got As, had a lot of talent, and stayed in Wilmington because "My significant other is staying here. She hasn't graduated," or "he hasn't graduated," or "I like the beach." And they were flipping hamburgers and doing this and enjoying the beach a lot but wasting a lot of talent. No ambition. And then others--
Riggins: But talented enough to do well in school.
Riggins: Yeah, and then the longer, in this field-- I know, the same in my field-- time is really valuable. If you're out of the field for awhile--
Gwinn: You're passed by.
Gwinn: And it's unfortunate but in our field there are only a limited number of jobs in the Wilmington area; quite a few in the Research Triangle. A lot, especially financial programming and banking, in Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, New York, but you got to be willing to go someplace else. I think that, at least strange as it seems, it seems like my generation was more willing to accept a job change and leave than a lot of the folks now. And you would think-- I think folks now are more mobile in the idea that they job jump place to place, but all within the same city or metropolitan area. I have a niece and a nephew that are stuck in L.A. and don't even want to leave ever, even though they're way over their heads as far as mortgages and everything, and they could get jobs paying as well-- which means effective take-home income would be eight times what they're making in California-- in Atlanta, in Charlotte; and won't leave.
Gwinn: So it's interesting.
Riggins: Yeah, who knows why? Some are more ambitious. Maybe if we had compulsory military service or something-- I'm not advocating that.
Gwinn: No, I'm not either, but I would say maybe--
Riggins: A mixed role.
Gwinn: Yeah, in a way President Kennedy had an idea when he started the Peace Corps; some sort of compulsory service, whether it be a job corps for two years, whether it's military for two years, whether it's Peace Corps for two years. Folks that come out of those programs come in with a level of maturity and dedication to education that you don't see for most young folks that come straight out of high school to college.
Riggins: And then it looks like when they finish college they haven't reached that either.
Gwinn: No, well some of them haven't.
Riggins: Right, right. So that was a disappointment. Then you were going to say there were some others who-- did the performance of some of the students--
Gwinn: Oh some did really well and went to great jobs. They got hired by big corporations, IBM, SAS up in Cary. So some of them did some good things and got hired. Good starting salaries too, I was surprised; they were almost as high as mine.
Riggins: But were there some students then who are real talented and worked real hard-- I guess this is true in every field-- who could have done a lot better if they worked harder, but still probably managed to find jobs because of the demand in the field?
Gwinn: Yes, and they fall into basically two categories: late-bloomers and ones that never changed. So those that never changed might end up getting frequent job applications, going here and there and everywhere, and each time they went. And then the others were a late-bloomer and they might have been capable of A work when they were here but they did C, B work, but then got hired and just caught fire. Out of academia, it was a better--
Riggins: Better fit.
Gwinn: Better fit.
Riggins: Well it sounds like your field has a lot of potential.
Gwinn: I thought that we were lucky because, except for the introduction, or introductory classes, most of my classes were under 30, in a section, and that meant you could spend more time with the students. In the Analysis Design, where they were working in teams, they had to meet with me once a week so I knew what was going on and could help them. And most of them would take it to heart. I would tell them if they had trouble in the first exam, that was the time to come and talk to me and see what their problem was, and we'd get it straightened out; 90% of them did. The ones that didn't-- you can make the effort to help them; if they don't want it, not much you can do.
Riggins: Yes, that's always disappointing.
Gwinn: Some of them didn't need help, they were fine.
Riggins: It sounds like a lot were responsive. So that's good. And how did you like other aspects of academic life? I know teaching is what people like to do, but there's other commitments as well.
Gwinn: I enjoyed some of the programs that were here, as far as playing Kenan Auditorium and so forth, for cultural background; I enjoyed that. Probably hated faculty meetings almost as much as meetings in the military. They were quite similar by the way.
Gwinn: Yes, except that I think arguments tended to go on longer in faculty meetings, because in the military, sooner or later, somebody can say, "That's it."
Riggins: Pulls rank.
Gwinn: Yes, and it can cut it off. Actually if you're a student and stick to Robert's Rule of Order, you can do the same thing. But I found most academics are not astute in Robert's Rule of Order. So you tend to hear the same argument over and over and over again. "Is it 4:20? Oh my gosh it's a quarter to five." And over and over and over. "You've said that eight times." And over and over. So that was a disappointment.
Riggins: Yes. Departmental meetings.
Gwinn: Departmental meetings were not that bad. Most of the time they were of substance on talking about how we might want to change the curricular, where we're going. Of course, we were developing the Master's program jointly with Computer Sciences, so a lot was devoted to that.
Riggins: Were you on the committee for that?
Gwinn: Not the finalizing committee, but basically the whole department, with a committee from each one.
Riggins: Working with the curriculum.
Gwinn: Working with the curriculum, right.
Riggins: I think I heard that the only way that they would approve a Master's program was if it was out of the School of Business and Computer Science.
Riggins: Like the other universities--
Gwinn: ...that was a unilateral decision of a provost that was here, and then he left but it didn't-- it changed after that.
Riggins: Right. I think the other UNC schools were fearful of competition if it were Computer--
Gwinn: Might have been, I don't know. I know that we had gone all the way through and had approval for the program. All we needed to do was actually set the curriculum, and he said, "Not so fast," and actually put a stop on it. And then they had to go back and basically reinvent the same thing, using Computer Science to put it together.
Riggins: So the program is housed in both departments?
Riggins: And it's a Master's of Science and Information Systems?
Gwinn: It depends on which track you take. Let's see, how did they-- I don't know what the actual title ended up being.
Riggins: Yes, I can check the catalogue.
Riggins: I can't remember, but I thought if you took one-- I think it had a joint title and then it would say something like, 'with an emphasis in,' or 'concentration in computer sciences,' if you went that way. If you went the other way, then it would say 'in Information Systems.' And they needed a dissertation, as I recall, or a thesis, for the Computer Science side, and you needed to do a final project, or a complete project, for the Information Systems side; at least that's the way it was when I left, I don't know what they finalized.
[crew talk; tape change]
Riggins: Today is still February 20th, 2007. Adina Riggins interviewing Dr. William Gwinn, Dr. Bill Gwinn, about your career in and out of academics. We're hearing some about your field and about teaching in the Department of Information Systems and Operations Management. One general question is how did the Internet change the way you teach or the way people view your field? Did that have an impact?
Gwinn: In one big respect, I think most people now believe the propaganda that it was invented by Al Gore.
Gwinn: That was probably one of the most unfortunate things that ever came along. Anyway. It started off as academic research, the old Arpanet which was joint military and university development.
Riggins: Did you use it back then?
Gwinn: To some extent, yes; it was used primarily for research. Then, of course, it started to open up commercial. Once it opened up commercial and .coms came along, then we were off to the races. So, it's a very useful tool, but it's just like reading an academic paper, if you can't trace someone's bona fides from an article they've written on the Internet or see their documentation for it and treat it as myth or rumor vice fact; but most people don't unfortunately.
Riggins: Right. Oh yeah, that's something we're always battling in libraries is educating students about that, and also we work with faculty a lot to get them to understand that. We have electronic journals that are valid and useful, they're not websites, .com websites, but so often we only have them in electronic format because that's more affordable, and some faculty, they will tell their students they have to find articles in the bound journals, and there's just not as much in there anymore. So. Yeah, and there's a lot of educational going around in the Internet domain. You retired in 2005, is that correct?
Gwinn: Yeah, 2005, that's right.
Riggins: How did your department change in those six years that you were there, if it did?
Gwinn: It's kind of interesting. There are a lot of parallels between academia and the military, and of course most academics would probably shudder when they heard that. But as I said, when I showed up, the move was okay, let's take Analysis and Design and give them each a semester and concentrate on it; and when I left it was, let's combine those and put them back into a single course. So it's like the wheel, everything that is so brand new and every group that comes in that's hard charging, with new ideas, even in a five-year span the ideas aren't new, they're just rehashes of the old ones. Of course then someone like John Anderson who's been here 30 years, he would go basically, "Not that again." And then everybody, "Well don't be so negative." "It didn't work 10 years ago, it didn't work 20 years ago, it's not going to work." And of course it didn't work.
Riggins: You were a proponent of taking it separate.
Riggins: And the students did that for awhile, right?
Gwinn: That's right.
Riggins: And now it's-- do you know what's going on now?
Gwinn: I'm not sure. I think it's back combined again. However, part of the programming that we'd put into Design, which was one of the reasons for splitting it, I believe now Dr. Janicki has taken up, in one of his courses. So even though it's not called Analysis and Design-- you might say in the Analysis and Design course now you're getting the theory, and then in Dr. Janicki's you're getting the application, where mine was a mix of both in each one, to actually do some of the analysis for a project that you carried on the next semester in design. So I can't say that, even though the titles went full circle, that it stayed exactly the same.
Riggins: Enrollments in the department, were those going up by the time you left?
Gwinn: Then went up and then they went down, with the fall of the .coms and the Internet, and then they were going back up again. And, of course, bureaucracies, whether it's military or academic, move slow. So they're behind. "Your enrollment was down last year and two years ago." "But, but--."
Riggins: "What can I do about it now?"
Gwinn: "But we're driven-- this is like marketing, we're driven by the market and now it's going the other way." "But it was down." So anyway.
Riggins: We can't go back in time. Yeah, but right now, so we're trying to do it. Well that's interesting, that students were somehow affected by that.
Gwinn: The biggest complaint I think that's-- actually, and it's a valid complaint-- that students had was the price of textbooks in our field. Because they're technical, they cost a lot of money, and because it's such a volatile area, a lot of things that you studied 18 months ago are no longer in use or practiced.
Gwinn: So that means that if you start in our two-year program, by the time you're a senior the chances are that a book you bought back then is worthless. So a lot of people didn't want to buy textbooks and didn't want to use them. And I don't know what the answer to that is.
Riggins: Right. I think there is a textbook committee, a part of Faculty Senate, that's looking into all that. But yeah, I can see that. So the students couldn't even sell the books back to future students because they're already...
Gwinn: That's right, that's right.
Riggins: ...using a different edition.
Gwinn: And coincidentally, I was on the Bookstore Committee and Faculty Senate.
Riggins: Bookstore committee, that's right. Yeah, Arlene Hanerfeld, she's a librarian, she may have joined it after you left.
Gwinn: And Sherman was, I'm sure that he was doing it then.
Riggins: Oh okay, that's good, yeah, fine. So did they solve anything?
Gwinn: I don't know. The transition went from a university run bookstore to a Barnes & Noble run bookstore, and I guess Barnes & Noble still runs it, I don't know. So I don't know if that was a plus or a minus.
Riggins: I don't know if it affected the price of textbooks that much. It may or may not have affected the price of sweatshirts and jeans. Yeah, it's still an issue and I can see; I agree with you, the students certainly have a point there. I guess in your field maybe-- are there more and more electronic textbooks or Internet resources that they can access?
Gwinn: A lot of the publishers are making things available online, but they usually want you to buy the book in order to get the online access. I don't know any of them-- that's not true, there's a couple-- but not many of them have gone out with an all electronic venue.
Riggins: Yeah, because you would think that at least would be easier to update, keep it current. And then any changes in Cameron School of Business? I guess you saw the change in deans.
Gwinn: Well I saw the change in deans, saw the change in emphasis after AACSB.
Riggins: Right, accreditation.
Gwinn: Ranking and accreditation.
Riggins: That was good.
Gwinn: To go to more research oriented. And from my point of view, that was a bad thing because you're now on the standard university track where the emphasis is on research. So you're going to end up, sooner or later, with more and more students signing up for a professor and never seeing that professor but instead seeing a teaching assistant. A lot of my friends went to University of California. They had Teller and a lot of these physicists that were there, never saw them, all you saw was TAs. To a large extent at Texas Tech, in our undergraduate program and in the School of Business, it was all TAs for undergraduate, except maybe your senior year you might get a professor.
Riggins: I know, they have here.
Gwinn: In the graduate programs it's all professors.
Riggins: They have big graduate programs there, I guess.
Gwinn: Large Master's and Business, and Accountancy a fair size, and Information Systems. It's a 12-storey building.
Riggins: Oh. Yeah, that's big. So yeah, that is a change. And of course now I think basically it's a peer-review article a year and that's expected in Cameron School, and elsewhere.
Gwinn: Peer-reviewed in a journal.
Riggins: In a journal.
Gwinn: See, when I came here it was peer-reviewed a year, but you could be conferences too. So you could have a 20-page paper or a 25-page paper for a conference, or two conferences a year, and that would meet the research requirement. But now they want a peer-reviewed journal. And they're having trouble dealing with electronic journals. And of course in our field, and in Operations Management, a lot of the journals have gone electronic. So that was kind of a hard sell. And I think sometimes, even on tenure committees, that it's a problem getting them to understand. In this field a lot of the journals are electronic.
Riggins: Are they open access?
Gwinn: Oh sure.
Riggins: Oh really? Okay, yeah that is hard, because we have a lot of electronic journals but we pay subscriptions. ______________ are assigned to the journals, and some business too.
Gwinn: Yeah, not all of them are. Some of them you got to pay for subscriptions to, but there are some out there that are open.
Riggins: But serving on committees, that wasn't your favorite part of academic life.
Gwinn: Well some of the committees were fine; just faculty meetings I didn't care that much for.
Riggins: Okay, right, I see. And one of the committees you were serving on was the new building-- or was that just all the faculty?
Gwinn: No. There was Dr. Kline, George Schell, myself-- what was here name?-- Tracy, oh doggone it, it just slipped, it started with r.
Gwinn: Rishel. And it was the four of us that started off on it, and it ended up towards the end, after all the modifications, I think it ended up just dropping to Doug Kline and George Schell, because basically you were just filling a seat and it didn't matter what the input was, it was "Funding reduced, reduce the office space; funding's reduced, reduce the number of lecture halls; and oh, but you got to keep the sandboxes."
Riggins: The sandboxes? For study?
Gwinn: Yeah, it was a buzzword, and I hate to admit it, I never figured out if it came from academia, from IT, or it came out of the architects, but it was basically like one of you study carrels were for five or six people, but you got little separate-- they'd call that a sandbox. But it was supposed to have the electronics set up in it so that a project team or a group or a committee would have one access, and then they could work around a table and work things out.
Riggins: Okay, so a smart group study room.
Gwinn: A smart study room-- that's a good description of it, a smart group study room.
Gwinn: I didn't care for it, because sandbox to me connotes either a children's playground or something that you want your cat to use, and in some cases, unfortunately for the children, they're the same.
Riggins: Oh yeah; no I'm not--.
Gwinn: Because people still let their cats roam free.
Riggins: Well you're retired and you decided to stay here, at least for now.
Riggins: Do you and your wife like Wilmington?
Gwinn: We like Wilmington. Our son was a Marine up at Lejeune; he's now in Hawaii. So maybe we're moving towards-- no, ____________. My daughter was a radar intercept officer in a 14-fighter, and both our kids were in Iraq for the initial invasion, which was really nerve-wracking. It didn't bother me when I was in but it did when I was a parent.
Riggins: Right, now you know what--
Gwinn: What my wife went through when I was there, yeah.
Riggins: Yeah, so they were there in 2003?
Riggins: March, went in March.
Gwinn: She was flying from the Harry S. Truman out of the Eastern Med, across Turkey and into Iraq, and he made a landing on the South Coast and then came up to A-Joff [ph?]. And he's getting ready to go back again. This'll be the second time to Iraq and one time in Afghanistan for a year. She got smart, she got out of the Navy. She's in a Master's of Business in Harvard.
Riggins: Oh. She's in North America now.
Gwinn: Yes, well Boston's still considered North America.
Riggins: What do you like to do in the area? Since you're from the Navy, do you like boating?
Gwinn: I really like golfing. Actually, we started a project with The Friends in the Hanover County Public Library to put together a membership database, and my students worked on this for two semesters. They did the initial analysis work and then they did the development of an initial database. Well it got past the point-- the students would graduate-- that I couldn't take a new group of students that was just starting in the course and have them start where this left off. So I kind of agreed to sign on to their Board of Directors as their technology person, and to keep this database up. Well somehow, "Oh, you're a professor at the School of Business, right? Why don't you become treasurer and do technology, because you can do accounting." Oh, I hadn't done accounting since grad school. But I'm using Peachtree Accounting now and doing the accounting and being a tax consultant, because I file their taxes, and do twice a year their sales tax reclaim. But it's good. The County Library appreciates it. So. And it's actually almost a 40-hour a week job doing their stuff.
Riggins: I'm sure.
Gwinn: But I can do a lot of it at home.
Riggins: And it's more working treasurer than maintaining the database.
Gwinn: Absolutely, absolutely.
Riggins: Do they use the database then for their membership activities?
Gwinn: They certainly do.
Riggins: What program did you use?
Gwinn: It's in Access.
Riggins: Okay, yeah. Multi-tables.
Riggins: And do you know SQL or did you--
Riggins: Yeah, I'm sure.
Gwinn: I knew it, taught it. And some of their forms are in Visual Basic. A lot of people don't know, but the Office Suite is based on Visual Basic. So if you actually do the programming for the Office Suite itself, it's Visual Basic. So some of the forms they developed in Visual Basic; some of them were developed out of Access, which of course has a Visual Basic code behind it, but they used the Access interface. So that makes it interesting, because every time I have to scratch my head and try to remember okay, which one was this? And of course if you just look at the code, you got to go through the code a ways before you figure, okay, they did this in straight Visual Basic, rather than Access or Visual Basic for Applications.
Riggins: Oh good. And that's an active group then, The Friends of the--
Gwinn: Yes they are, yes. They run two book sales a year, out at the Northeast Library, and they made over $59,000.00 for the library last year, out of a used book sale. So, that's coming up in April, by the way, April 21st. Come out, buy some books.
Riggins: As a librarian, I certainly like books.
Gwinn: And there's a lot of books that come out of here, and if you're looking for an old, out of print textbook, you might find something like that, if you're looking for it. Or if you just like travel or leisure or pleasure reading too, there you go.
Riggins: How long have you been treasurer?
Gwinn: This is my second year; probably my last-- oh I shouldn't have said that on there.
Riggins: Yeah, right. Let's see if they'll let you go.
Gwinn: I would like somebody else to take that that on.
Riggins: Yeah, and you like the area. You said you golf.
Gwinn: Like the area and I golf.
Riggins: No boating?
Gwinn: With Dr. Anderson I've gone boating a couple of times.
Riggins: Really? He has a boat?
Gwinn: He has a boat.
Riggins: Well that brings me to my last question. Who else do you think I should talk to? You mentioned some of the people that were here when you started, some of whom-- John Gariss [ph?] is retired or on-phased--
Gwinn: He's on phased-retirement.
Riggins: Yeah, I tried to email him, like I tried to email you, and it didn't work. But he probably would be a good person to talk to. It could be also, if there's anyone else in the other departments, not necessarily just in your department. But I always like to ask people who should I talk to, in case I haven't talked to them yet.
Gwinn: When and if he retires, Steve Harper in Management. Boy, he's got to be number one.
Riggins: He's kind of the de facto historian, isn't he?
Gwinn: Yes he is. But a very accomplished individual, good with the Entrepreneurs. He was instrumental in joining the coastal Entrepreneurs. And also-- I don't know, maybe it comes with getting older and being around here, patience with long faculty meetings, gone down-- but a pretty astute individual.
Gwinn: Right, I'll definitely have to keep that in mind. I did interview Norman Kaylor a while back. He was definitely an important interview. And I notice just a lot of change going on over there. And I'm glad that people are going there. I think for awhile they were losing some faculty, some good faculty, because they were getting great payoff somewhere else.
Gwinn: Somewhere else.
Riggins: I don't know, maybe that's still happening, but hopefully not all the time. I know it's hard to be competitive. But usually folks in business can demand higher pay than folks in arts and sciences. Oh I don't have a reason to say that.
Gwinn: Actually over there I think George Schell and Tom Janicki are the only two in Information Sciences that are there, that came here as assistant professors and now have worked their way up through tenure. Because Art Gowan was, but he left. No, that's not true, Drew Rosen is too.
Riggins: Dr. Badarinathi, did he come as--
Gwinn: I think he did too, I think he came as an assistant. But of course he's in Statistics really, or Quantitative Analysis.
Riggins: Yeah, I know a number of people came and left.
Gwinn: Don't know if Barry came here as an assistant or not, Barry Wray. I don't know why I don't know, but I just don't.
Riggins: We have a Faculty Scholarship Collection where we maintain the articles of faculty and I just, because it's organized alphabetically, I came across Amy Zeng.
Riggins: Zeng. She must've left, because-- but I think she was in, back when it was called Production Management, or Decision Sciences--
Gwinn: Decision Sciences and Production Management, or something like that.
Riggins: Yeah, she was in that department.
Gwinn: She left right about the time that Matthew left too, Rick Matthew.
Riggins: Okay, right around when you started maybe, or before it was.
Gwinn: Actually she-- because when I came here to interview she picked me up and took me to breakfast, along with Rovija Badarinathi. So it was at that time. I think she followed her husband, he went somewhere and she followed him.
Riggins: Do you have any closing thoughts? I always like to ask people, do you have any closing thoughts or thoughts about UNCW, and what made your experience here unique? What's memorable about UNCW?
Gwinn: Actually I thought it was the good working environment within the department I had; that and the hurricanes. Of course, I lived in California where there's earthquakes, so.
Riggins: Oh yeah, which is different because there's no warning.
Gwinn: And in Texas it was tornadoes.
Riggins: That's what we get here. So it was the good working environment is what made it--
Gwinn: Yes, it was most enjoyable.
Riggins: Well I'm glad to hear that. I thank you for coming in.
Gwinn: Well thank you.
Riggins: And I hope you enjoyed our conversation.