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Interview with David E. Padgett, November 21, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with David E. Padgett, November 21, 2006
November 21, 2006
Dr. David Padgett discusses his 30-plus year career as a professor of biology and marine biology. He came to UNCW in 1975. Dr. Padgett discusses his service in the Navy, his graduate education, and his teaching and research at UNCW. Dr. Padgett's specialty is marine mycology and aquatic fungi.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Padgett, David Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 11/21/2006 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 52 minutes

Riggins: Hello, my name is Adina Riggins. I'm the university archivist and I'm behind the camera today. What we're doing today is an oral history interview for our Voices of UNCW Interview Program in the university archives. I have before me a very welcome guest, and I would like to ask you to introduce yourself, but first I will state the date. Today is November 21, 2006 and we're in the archives, and Dr. Padgett please state your name for me.

David Padgett: Yes, I'm David Padgett. I came to the university in 1975. I'm professor of biology and marine biology.

Riggins: Thank you. Now let's start with way before UNCW. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

David Padgett: I was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was raised in Fayetteville.

Riggins: So you have the ties to this region from going way back.

David Padgett: Yes, indeed.

Riggins: Did you complete your high school and everything there in Fayetteville?

David Padgett: Yes, in Fayetteville and then went on to college and the military.

Riggins: Okay. Was Terry Sanford High School there then or no?

David Padgett: No, it was Fayetteville High School. It became Terry Sanford High School.

Riggins: Oh, the name changed but it was the same building?

David Padgett: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: And then where did you go from Fayetteville?

David Padgett: I did my undergraduate work at Duke from 1963 to 1967, then was in the Navy during Vietnam and then in 1971 entered graduate school at Ohio State.

Riggins: Okay. So during, when you were in the Navy, were you overseas then?

David Padgett: Well, yeah, I did a number of different deployments, but the big one was to Vietnam.

Riggins: What was that like after having been in North Carolina and elsewhere?

David Padgett: I grew up, I grew up then.

Riggins: Yeah, yeah. Not easy?

David Padgett: No, I still have very dear friends that I went through that experience with, one of whom is just retired as the Chief of Naval Operations who is the commander of the Navy.

Riggins: How did you end up in the Navy? Did you have, does your family have Army connections, is that why you (inaudible)?

David Padgett: My dad was in the Army, got out after the war, I was born in 1945 right after the war, and I had always loved the sea and the draft was imminent as I was getting out of undergraduate school, so I opted to apply for officer candidate school in the Navy and was accepted, and that's how it started.

Riggins: Something different from what your father (inaudible).

David Padgett: Yeah, mm-hmm.

Riggins: And he was retired?

David Padgett: No, he wasn't retired, he just was, I think he was in about five or six years, but got out after the war.

Riggins: Oh, okay, but you stayed in Fayetteville?

David Padgett: Stayed in Fayetteville, right.

Riggins: Is that where he was (inaudible)?

David Padgett: He, yes, he went to work at Sears and was with Sears for, oh, 40 some years, then retired.

Riggins: So Navy is when you grew up and when did you know that you wanted to go on to continue your higher education?

David Padgett: Well, I thought I wanted to before I went into the Navy, but after getting out of the Navy and going back to graduate school, I realized that probably I would've been happier staying in the Navy.

Riggins: Oh, really?

David Padgett: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: So at Ohio State was where you went for your PhD? Was that, what subject was that?

David Padgett: I was in the botany department, my degree is in botany and I got my Master's degree in 1973 and PhD in 1975, both in the botany department.

Riggins: And what was that experience like?

David Padgett: It was very good, very intense, to go through from an undergraduate degree to a PhD in four years is pretty intense, but I was older than most entering graduate students and knew what I wanted to do and I just did it.

Riggins: What made you thing that, during that time, was that when you thought maybe you would've preferred the Navy?

David Padgett: No, it was after coming to UNCW. I just really missed the ships and the camaraderie and the discipline. I'm a disciplined person and I like being around disciplined people.

Riggins: So right when you finished in 1975, soon after is that when you came to UNCW?

David Padgett: Right, came to UNCW directly out of graduate school, which actually is kind of unusual I guess. Now we don't even consider hiring people that don't have postdoctoral experience, but back then, I don't know how many people applied for this particular job that I got that had postdoctoral experience, but I didn't. I know there were about 75 applicants, that's all I knew.

Riggins: It was a position in the biology department? Was it focusing on botany?

David Padgett: It was marine mycology, which actually was my specialty within botany. There are a lot of subspecialties within the larger field of botany, mine was aquatic fungi. And the position was specifically in marine mycology.

Riggins: So when you came down here, did you meet with Dan Plyler?

David Padgett: Yeah. Dan was the Dean. Mm-hmm. Fritz Kapraun was the chairman of the committee, the search committee. Jim Merritt was a faculty member who had been here a year, I think, maybe possibly two years. David Lindquist, the ichthyologist, was hired at the same time I was and actually he was like, I think, about 30 minutes senior to me. He signed his contract before I did, so he pretended to be senior all the time. It was funny.

Riggins: That is funny.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: So you're offered the position, and decided to come. What drew you here? What did you like about the area?

David Padgett: Well, I wanted to go into aquatic mycology, and as far as I know, for about a three or four-year period in the United States, this is the only position that was offered, so I felt very fortunate. It was really the job more than the location that was what drew me here, but I like Wilmington a lot.

Riggins: So the job and its uniqueness?

David Padgett: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: When you came in 1975, what did you find about the University? What was the University like when you came? Where was your office, etc.?

David Padgett: My office was in Friday Hall. The department had moved to Friday Hall, I think just like a year or two prior to my coming, so it was very spacious and I had an office and a shared laboratory on the first floor. And then, oh, gosh, I guess we were in Friday Hall until I, until we moved over to Dobo Hall, and I was in Dobo Hall for oh, I guess, about three years. And then moved my offices down to the Center for Marine Science at Wrightsville Beach for a couple of years. And then down to the Myrtle Grove facility.

Riggins: Okay. That is where you've been since 2000 when it opened?

David Padgett: Right, right, yeah. When it opened I went down there.

Riggins: What were some of your other observations about the University looking back? What were the students like? Was there a graduate program?

David Padgett: The graduate program started, our Master's program in, I think it was started as a Master's program in marine biology and then branched out into biology. That was started it seemed like around 1980, maybe a little bit later than 1980, and that's been a successful program.

Riggins: When you started you didn't have grad students to work in your lab, really?

David Padgett: No, no, just undergraduates. Yeah.

Riggins: How did that work?

David Padgett: They were enthusiastic.

Riggins: You could get some things done. Well, who are some of the people, you mentioned a few who started, like David Lindquist who started with you, but who were some of the people who you worked with over the years who influenced you while you've been here?

David Padgett: Oh, gosh, a number of people. Certainly Jim Merritt, Ron Sizemore, the microbiologist is a good friend, and has been a very dedicated leader in the department. Oh, gosh, I had coffee for 20 years with Carl Undine [ph?]. You know, there are a number, it's kind of hard to pick out specific people, because the department was fairly close when I first came. We would always eat lunch together until we literally outgrew the place that we were having lunch in Friday Hall. And I think having that, or not having a space to have lunch together, the department began to kind of drift apart after that and is more a collection of individuals who were, you know, specialized in various parts of biology than it was. I think it had more of a family feeling when I first came.

Riggins: Yeah. That's interesting how a size, space can really determine relations.

David Padgett: Well, we were all in the same building. We are now not in the same building. We are in at least three different buildings.

Riggins: All over the place.

David Padgett: Yeah. I don't even know everybody in the Biology Department now.

Riggins: Right. There's someone who I interviewed, and now he's passed away, but I interviewed him. He was a student at Wilmington College and then came back.

David Padgett: Oh, Frank Allen, maybe? He was a microbiologist?

Riggins: No, it wasn't. I'll think of it. The name just escaped me. He just passed away a couple of years ago. But he was a student here and went to (inaudible) and I think was at State, came back, then he was in biology.

David Padgett: Was it, oh, Walter Biggs.

Riggins: Yes.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: Was he here when you started?

David Padgett: Oh, yeah, Walter and I were good friends. He was, he and I taught the non-majors biology course together for like six years. Actually, it was at the time, it was a course both for majors and non-majors. So the non-majors complained that the course was too rigorous, and the majors complained that it wasn't rigorous enough, but we taught it.

Riggins: You taught it together?

David Padgett: We each had a section of the same course, but we had to coordinate because we'd give the same test to both sections, so we coordinated on a daily basis, but it worked very well. Walter was an excellent teacher.

Riggins: Yeah. He had some great stories for me about the Isaac Bear Building.

David Padgett: Oh, yeah, yeah. I'm sure, I'm sure.

Riggins: Teaching there and being a student there. Then coming back and working. And he's remained active with the alumni, Biology Department alumni, so he had some great stories about that. Carl Lundine, I haven't actually been able to track him down, or maybe after.

David Padgett: I don't know, I haven't seen him.

Riggins: You haven't seen him in awhile?

David Padgett: Mm-mmm.

Riggins: There's a number of biology folks, of course, that I haven't interviewed yet that I'd love to talk to. Ann McCrary [ph?].

David Padgett: She's still here, as far as I know. She still lives down at Wrightsville Beach.

Riggins: Okay. Yeah. So it was a close-knit department?

David Padgett: Yeah, it was.

Riggins: And there were lots of students, weren't there? Like, a lot of students who wanted to take biology?

David Padgett: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. There are always a tremendous number of people who want to be marine biologists, who once they find out it actually involves a lot of work, frequently change their mind.

Riggins: But in the early days, you got them right away. I was talking to Dr. Merritt about that. They came in and if they were your advisees right away, do you remember that?

David Padgett: Oh, God. I remember advising, phew. I think we each had about 40 to 50 advisees. And pre-registration advising for the semesters was just, oh, it was the time from hell. Oh, boy, because inevitably they'd come in and say "What should I take?" So you got to go through all the options with them and it was tough.

Riggins: And make sure they have all their courses?

David Padgett: Well, it was their responsibility ultimately, and the catalog said so, but somehow they never really accepted that responsibility. They wanted to be told what to take.

Riggins: Well, that way they have someone to blame.

David Padgett: Yeah, right.

Riggins: And then when the general college came in that must have lifted your load some.

David Padgett: Yes, oh, God, it made a tremendous difference, it really did.

Riggins: But with the department being small, did you collaborate with other faculty on research or was everyone pretty much doing their own research?

David Padgett: Yeah. The department has always encouraged collaborations, but some disciplines are able to collaborate with others better than mine.

Riggins: Were you the only one to have that specialty?

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah, mm-hmm. Yeah, I did collaborate with a number of people on papers that I wrote with various people in the department, but most of my work was individual work.

Riggins: When you came, Dr. Wagoner was here as chancellor?

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: Did you get to know him at all?

David Padgett: Not really. I was on the first faculty senate or, either the first or the second year of the faculty senate I was. Yeah. So I, you know, heard his reports and everything, but didn't get to know him personally.

Riggins: There must have been a lot to do on the first faculty senate if there had never been one before. There's a lot to start.

David Padgett: Yeah. Well, we, prior to that we had conducted faculty business just in a large faculty meeting. And, boy, you talk about knock-down, drag-out fights, oh, that was something.

Riggins: And long.

David Padgett: Very, very long.

Riggins: And then all the faculty, but then when you started to number what, you know a hundred faculty or more, it got a little too?

David Padgett: Yeah, we had faculty meetings in the building that initially was the education building. I can't remember that.

Riggins: King Hall?

David Padgett: King Hall, yeah, the King Hall Auditorium. And we got everybody in there with plenty of room to spare.

Riggins: Wow.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: So that got pretty heated?

David Padgett: Well, the faculty was reasonably passive except on a few issues, and I remember hearing one faculty member in chemistry who got extremely heated about one issue and basically committed academic suicide there. It was very interesting, it was. But the faculty senate was needed, because you can't, as the faculty grows that large, you have to have governance by representation. You can't do it any other way anyway.

Riggins: Actually there were probably more than a hundred faculty members even in the 60s, I would think?

David Padgett: Yeah, somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred.

Riggins: Some of them may have been part-time?

David Padgett: I don't even know how many there are now. There's probably a whole lot more now.

Riggins: Now there's about probably between 500 and 600.

David Padgett: Is that right?

Riggins: Yeah. So, yeah, it was needed. And what about governance, were there some governance issues that needed to be clarified? For example, I've heard stories about how it used to be that the chairs could pretty much run the department as they wanted without question.

David Padgett: Yeah. I never really took a lot of interest in that. There are people on campus who really like to be leaders and want to be leaders, and I said, "Fine, you go ahead, and I'll do my job." So I really, I don't know about that kind of thing. Yeah, getting dental insurance I remember was a fairly big deal, and Claude Farrell I think was the chairman of the committee that ultimately got dental insurance for the faculty and staff members.

Riggins: He would be a good one to do that, the economics and finance staff.

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah, he was.

Riggins: So that was a good thing. But in your department it wasn't really, it was run such that the chairs had meetings with the rest of the faculty?

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah, it was pretty much, initially it was pretty much governance by consensus, and the chair I don't know of any decisions that the chairman made in the first few years I was here that weren't essentially unanimously agreed on by the faculty.

Riggins: What did you teach? You mentioned some of (inaudible)

David Padgett: Anything they told me to, whether I knew what I was doing or not.

Riggins: With preparation?

David Padgett: Well, I mean, I majored in religion as an undergraduate, I didn't know squat about biology. I mean the fact that I've got a PhD in botany is, it didn't teach me anything about zoology. I never had a zoology course in my life, and the introductory biology course was exclusively zoology, so I had to learn that real quickly and pretend. Of course, my Navy training was very useful in that I learned to look like I knew what I was doing and the importance of that.

Riggins: And talk like you know what you are doing?

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah, like I'm doing now.

Riggins: Right. Yeah, right.

David Padgett: Yeah. I do not know what I'm doing, never have.

Riggins: But I think that is a gift with faculty members. They have to be able to be off the cuff and yeah, it's very few faculty members that I'd put in front of the camera here who act nervous or say they're nervous or anything. I mean, they're at least having to wing it, I guess. Major battle.

David Padgett: I had never had teaching experience. As a graduate student, I didn't have any teaching experience, so the first time I was ever in a classroom was at UNCW. I didn't know what I was doing.

Riggins: What did you like about it?

David Padgett: I guess I was very scared. I don't know. You get used to being in front of groups after awhile. It was a very nervous time the first few years, and I was very, very careful to be prepared at every lecture. I don't do that so much now. I don't know whether that's out of confidence in what I am doing, or stupidity. I don't know.

Riggins: But back then, well, I guess you weren't that close in age to some of the students, unless they were non-traditional students.

David Padgett: No, no. I think because of the time I spent in the military, I was older. Well, I was older than everybody I went to graduate school with. I finished, I entered with a class of I think 26 people who started the Master's program at Ohio State when I did, and all but one of them was still working on his Master's degree when I finished my PhD. So they were, they didn't know what to do. They saw each other sitting around not doing much, so they figured that's what they should do. I have no idea how many of them finished. I would suspect not very many.

Riggins: Right. But you did?

David Padgett: But the military had instilled discipline in me, and I think that's why I was able to just go on through without much difficulty.

Riggins: Right, and to remain focused.

David Padgett: Yeah. It's not a big deal to get a PhD, it just takes a lot of persistence. That's really it.

Riggins: Right. That's interesting. You mentioned your religion major at Duke. How did you become interested in botany?

David Padgett: Well, I was always interested in botany, but the religion department was very flexible in terms of other courses you could take and still get your degree. So I was able to take a tremendously diversified curriculum. I actually had more hours in botany than botany majors did. But the religion part was just fascinating. It was a wonderful experience. I'm glad I did that. But I think the fact that I majored in religion gave me much more of an appreciation of the value of a very broad-based liberal arts education. I think our students here are very, very focused, much more focused than is good for them. And I think by and large they find that they're not nearly as broadly trained as the job market would want them to be when they go out. I'm not sure we prepare them as well as we should.

Riggins: Interesting.

David Padgett: I'd like to see the curriculum redesigned so that the students don't have any choices. They don't know what they need to take. They have no clue. That's what we're here for, to help them, and I think the faculty basically ought to dictate what courses the students take, because we know better than they what they're going to be facing when they leave here, and I am afraid we allow them too much to become narrowly focused. But, you know, some people agree and others disagree with that.

Riggins: Were you involved or do you remember anything from the basic studies discussions over the years? I know that it's going through again, now. There are some basic studies revisions coming up, but were you involved in any of that?

David Padgett: Not as a leader in it, but I was aware by talking to some of the leaders through the years that, you know, how the thought process changes about what the basic studies curriculum ought to be composed of. I frankly think that we ought to have about 90 hours worth of requirements in basic studies and eliminate majors and have students take a couple of minor, just minors to diversify their education.

Riggins: Interesting.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: And there are some colleges that work that way, some universities. It would make us unique.

David Padgett: Well, it was interesting to me that of the Duke undergraduates that were accepted at Duke Medical School, by far and away the great majority of them had been religion majors, and the medical, the people in the medical school told me that was because the religion majors have such broad-based educations. Yeah. So I'd like to see UNCW put more emphasis on broadening the scope of the courses the students are required to take.

Riggins: Broadening the scope, right.

David Padgett: Yeah. Right now we allow the students to take the courses that they want to far too much, and I think that may be driven by the popularity contest umbrella that I think taints higher education right now.

Riggins: Well, yeah, they get to choose, for example, if they need to take a philosophy arts humanities course, they can choose within those subjects.

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah.

Riggins: So they may never have philosophy if they take some arts and humanities instead of that kind of thing. But there are, of course, lots of other universities that are more specific. So that would dictate, for example, everyone would take religion 101.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: That's interesting. That's just a different approach. Well, what has it been like to be an academic over the years? Anything that's changed or remained consistent?

David Padgett: Well, I think one of the things that has certainly continued to be a tremendous benefit is the amount of freedom that we have to control our own schedules, as long as we meet our classes and do the other professional things that we separately need to do to advance our careers. We have complete control of our own schedules. Whether it's going to get a haircut when you want to or that kind of things. That's, you know, there are not many careers that allow that degree of flexibility so. You know, the salaries are not great, but the freedom we have, and I think that is a very valuable thing that probably makes most of us accept lower salaries than we might be able to get elsewhere. I had an opportunity to work for the Paint Research Institute on paint mildew for a lot more money, but, you know, I didn't like the fact that I'd have to live in an industrial region in New Jersey and be constrained to a 9:00 to 5:00 job. So this fit my expectations very well.

Riggins: Yeah. I can imagine that it would feel constraining.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: If you're the type of person who wants to work really hard when you want to, and take a break when you want to, to have to be an office situation where they look askance if you come in at 8:15.

David Padgett: Right, yeah.

Riggins: And they don't trust. What about the expectations of scholarship here at UNCW when you started?

David Padgett: There were no expectations of scholarship.

Riggins: Oh, really?

David Padgett: No. Not really.

Riggins: But they wanted to hire PhDs.

David Padgett: If the individual faculty members wanted to, you know, excel for their own reasons, they did. I didn't. I thought the expectations were extremely low for scholarship. My department has never failed to tenure anyone, ever, in the whole time I've been here. And I am not real sure what that says about the department. I think our expectations...

Riggins: Everybody is great?

David Padgett: No. Well, you'd have to meet all of them to make your own decision about that. I don't know of any department that has achieved the greatness that the chancellor wants us to strive for that has ever tenured everyone. I think that really says a lot about the University, and I really wish the administration would think about that.

Riggins: What about as you continued here, did expectations change as they got more research intensive?

David Padgett: Yeah, but not as much as they needed to. They needed to be much, well, and I'm not even saying necessarily research intensive. Our expectations about the standards to which we should hold our students I think need to go up. I think the students are capable of performing much better than the standards we hold them to. We teach the same thing in too many courses over and over and over again, and we essentially expect them not to remember from course to course. We teach, if you took a survey of how many times the basic concepts of mitosis and myosis are taught in biology, you'd probably have 90% of the faculty say, "Oh, I teach that in my course," because the students don't remember it from the previous one. So we waste an awful lot of time simply because we won't hold the students' feet to the fire about things they should remember from the core curriculum. We either don't have an effective core curriculum or we're not reinforcing the notion that we're going to hold the students responsible for it.

Riggins: But I would think it might depend on a faculty member, too. I took a lot of English courses as an undergrad, and I remember some of the professors, if we said, "Oh, I haven't hardly read any Shakespeare," they would get really upset and say, you know, "That's not my problem. You should, you need to come in with this," you know, but I do not know how much that was acting, you know, so there is, I suppose it varies from professor, the expectations, you know.

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah.

Riggins: But then the students know that there's some professors that have a difficult (inaudible).

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah. I never was liked by the students because of the expectations I had of their performance. I was not a favorite at all.

Riggins: Not a favorite, but maybe did you ever hear back, well, you know, "I learned a lot." Did you hear back from them about that?

David Padgett: Almost never. Yeah. Sometimes, yeah, I had a couple of notable experiences for that. And over the years I've had some really, really good students that have gone on to really do great things that I've been very proud of. And I don't know whether I've had an average number or a lower than average number, or whatever, because I've never really talked to other faculty members about it.

Riggins: Right. But they excelled in your class.

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah. I think we've got far more students that are capable of doing that, but we don't push them to do it. What the students say they want to achieve and what they demonstrate that they're willing to try to achieve are almost always two different things.

Riggins: Well, saying it isn't doing it.

David Padgett: Saying it's easy.

Riggins: Yeah. And they might believe.

David Padgett: Putting in the work to do it.

Riggins: I think they might really believe that they will do it, you know, if they say it. Bit that doesn't mean that it'll happen.

David Padgett: Right.

Riggins: Well, what about the graduate programs as they proliferated in your department? I don't know, how did that impact your schedule, could you start teaching more graduate courses?

David Padgett: No, I didn't teach graduate courses. I had graduate students, but my courses were principally undergraduate courses.

Riggins: The PhD program in marine biology, have you been working with those students?

David Padgett: Right, I was qualified to teach PhD students.

Riggins: Okay. Have any of them graduated yet, do you know?

David Padgett: We have had one PhD graduate at the last commencement. It was a student of Martin Posey's.

Riggins: So May '06?

David Padgett: May '06, correct.

Riggins: I want to make sure we have the dissertation. That's great.

David Padgett: His name was David Meyers, was the first PhD graduate. I don't know how you spell it. He was Martin Posey's student.

Riggins: Okay. I will make sure that we get that dissertation for our archives, because we have a system to get the Master's thesis, but we only have one PhD program at the university, I'm not sure we have a system in place for that. So, Martin Posey's student. Well, with your field, was there a certain amount of field work that you had students doing?

David Padgett: Mostly, well, I did actually a number of things. Mostly the work in mycology out in the field was a matter of going out and collecting samples and bringing them back and isolating and identifying the fungi therein, but I also did work in decomposition of plant litter in estuarium environment, and I did salt marsh restoration research.

Riggins: Ecology.

David Padgett: Yeah. I would consider myself principally a fungal ecologist.

Riggins: Oh, good. And can you summarize perhaps for the tape and maybe non-biology specialists the work you did that we were talking about before the tape started with the species that you researched.

David Padgett: Well, I think what you're talking about is the monograph of which I was one of the authors. That was a tremendously large book that is available on the internet that was started in 1975, but not finished because my undergraduate mentor at Duke, who was the principle author, and my graduate mentor at Ohio State, who was the second author, both retired. And I kept asking them about "When are you going to finish it because I need the information in it?" and they finally just said, "Here, take it." So I finished it. And it's now available on the web free of charge. The publisher that we had originally contracted with was the University of North Carolina Press, and when they saw the scope of it in the final analysis, they said, "Whoa, we can't handle this, it's too big." And they said even if they did, they'd have to charge like three to five hundred dollars for it. So we just, our principle interest was in stimulating renewed interest in this particular group of aquatic fungi that the book dealt with, and to charge five hundred dollars for a book is not going to stimulate an interest, so we just decided to put it on the web.

Riggins: And that would, and is that connected to the named species that you worked on? Was that the same, because I was also thinking that (inaudible).

David Padgett: Well, yeah, the species that I think you're talking about were members of the family that the book is about.

Riggins: Oh, okay.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: And then you went, and you had to get approved by this society?

David Padgett: Right. The process for getting scientific recognition of a species is a very regimented process, which involves publishing in a scientific journal the full description of the species. And we had gone through all the hoops to document that our species were, in fact, new species, but the fact that we put the book on the web rather than publishing it through the standard pathways didn't qualify as sufficient documentation that the species were new. So those species that are described in the book that we wanted recognized as a new species, we had to write them up as a separate publication, which we did. And those have been officially recognized now. Yeah, so lots of hoops to jump through. Scientists hold themselves to pretty high standards about stuff like that.

Riggins: So you have to just make sure that everything is as it should be.

David Padgett: Yeah, right.

Riggins: What have you, this is your first year in phased retirement?

David Padgett: Yes, mm-hmm.

Riggins: Is that correct?

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: What are your plans for phased retirement and for after?

David Padgett: Oh, my passion is cabinetmaking. I build hardwood cabinetry, dining room tables like this, and desks and wardrobes and things of that nature. And that's, yeah.

Riggins: You have a workshop, I suppose.

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah, my dream workshop, 12,000, or 1,200 square feet.

Riggins: Really?

David Padgett: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: Twelve hundred square feet?

David Padgett: Twelve hundred square feet. It's wonderful.

Riggins: That's a house size.

David Padgett: That's where I am going as soon as I'm through with this.

Riggins: So you work with solid wood? This isn't solid?

David Padgett: Yeah, mostly walnut and, well, this, yeah, well, no. That's composite. Mostly walnut and cherry, oak.

Riggins: Oh, wow.

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah.

Riggins: Wow. You buy the lumber?

David Padgett: Well, I get the lumber from a friend that owns a forklift pallet factory, so I've got about six tons of walnut and oak that I paid about two hundred dollars for. Yeah. It's very rough lumber. I actually make it into finished lumber myself. I make my own lumber and then build cabinetry from it.

Riggins: And what do you do with it? Do you sell it? Give it to friends?

David Padgett: No, no, no, no. Well, I just give it to family. Yeah. Some of my stuff has been appraised at values that nobody would pay, 30, 30,000, things of that nature, so I just give it to family.

Riggins: And how do you get your ideas for design?

David Padgett: Most of the things I just kind of let the wood tell me what to turn it into. I'll bring my portfolio by sometime for you to see. It's fun.

Riggins: Yeah, wow. You're a wood person, you like wood.

David Padgett: Yes, indeed.

Riggins: That's good. I'm trying to think of what else. Any other thoughts? You kind of mentioned that you've been on committees or the faculty senate, were there any other committees that you've been on?

David Padgett: I try to avoid committees at all cost.

Riggins: Committee work.

David Padgett: No, I've been on a number of search committees for members, for recruiting new members to the Biology Department, but other than that, I do what service I need to do for the University, but my main emphasis is teaching and research.

Riggins: Teaching and research. So that's what you've been. Yeah. Some people I guess like the committee process.

David Padgett: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Riggins: You know, some people kind of view it as necessary, you know.

David Padgett: Well, it's certainly necessary, certainly, but it's just not my interest.

Riggins: So what would you like to see for the future of the University? You care about the University a lot.

David Padgett: Yeah, I do, I do. I am basically disappointed with the University. I think we could hold students to much higher standards. I think we could hold ourselves to much higher standards than we do. I think that is beginning to limit the quality of the faculty that we can recruit. In biology in the last couple of years, we're not getting our first choices. We used to always get our first choice.

Riggins: For faculty?

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah. Our first choices are going elsewhere. I don't really know the reasons for that, but I do know that the people that we have on staff are very, very competent. I'd just like to see us hold ourselves to higher standards. I think we would achieve more and would be able to, once again, get our first choice in new faculty members.

Riggins: Did you feel that when it was smaller that the students were maybe worked harder or were of a different caliber?

David Padgett: Well, yeah. I think one of the problems on campus today is the tremendous amount of space that we've got and buildings that we've got on campus that are devoted to student leisure. You don't soar to greatness and have as much student leisure space as we have here, because the subliminal message that students get is that pleasure is the top priority, not achievement. So soaring to greatness and looking at all those student relaxation buildings just don't go hand in hand to me.

Riggins: Well, let's see, the Student Union.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: Is that what you're thinking?

David Padgett: Well, when I was an undergraduate, we didn't have a Student Union, period.

Riggins: Right. Well at Duke, I grew up in Durham, so the Bryan Center was.

David Padgett: Oh, the Bryan Center was built way after I graduated.

Riggins: Way after. That was built like in 1980 or so.

David Padgett: Yeah, yeah.

Riggins: And I don't know what they had before then.

David Padgett: The Dope Shop.

Riggins: Oh, right.

David Padgett: It was about this size, yeah, which was both a bookstore and a soda fountain. Yeah.

Riggins: I don't even remember it, but I remember people talking about it.

David Padgett: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Riggins: Okay, yeah. So that was it?

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: And then the Bryan Center came on. I still think of that as kind of new, but it isn't.

David Padgett: Well, I think for UNCW, we'll never have enrollment problems unless the legislature figures out how to take the ocean away from us, which tells me that, you know, if you know you've got a student clientele that are going to come, you can tighten the standards, and tighten standards, and select the very best and grow in academic stature and in the reputation that the students, that the University has so that students saying that when they're applying for a job that they graduated from UNCW, that that'll put them at the top of the list. I don't think it does. We're not as good as that. I wish we were. That's just my opinion.

Riggins: You share it, I'm sure, with others.

David Padgett: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It's one of the reasons I'm retiring is because people got tired of hearing me squawk about it.

Riggins: Well, I guess in a university setting it's always good to have discussion, dissent.

David Padgett: Oh, sure, sure, sure.

Riggins: And conversation about that. And biology and marine biology are such an important part of this university's history. I mean, for so many years students wanted to come here to study marine biology. And it has this reputation for being excellent definitely in graduate level and undergraduate, too.

David Padgett: Well, but at the same time, we got a lot of press about being so highly ranked among universities that had undergraduate degrees in marine biology, but we never really ask how many colleges do. Very, very few.

Riggins: I see.

David Padgett: So you can play that game and appear to be really, really good.

Riggins: And that must have been it. And then for awhile there weren't very many graduate programs in marine biology.

David Padgett: I suspect there were probably more graduate programs than undergraduate, but I don't know how many, I really don't.

Riggins: I wonder if there's going to be more undergraduate majors in marine biology. I don't know.

David Padgett: I don't know. It depends on the job market really. It does.

Riggins: It's a good field, but I know a lot of students who say they're going to do it and then they don't make it.

David Padgett: Well, and so many students, I thought it was kind of humorous, said, "Well, you know, I really like Wilmington. I really, really want to be a marine biologist as long as I can be one in Wilmington." Interesting.

Riggins: Well, who's hiring marine biologists in Wilmington?

David Padgett: In Wilmington? I'm sure there are some. Army Corps of Engineers? But if you restrict yourself to a geographic area, you're almost doomed to failure in searching for jobs.

Riggins: Unless you get really lucky.

David Padgett: Yeah.

Riggins: And you can't depend on that.

David Padgett: Right.

Riggins: Well, it was great to talk to you today, and I thank you for coming in.

David Padgett: Enjoyed it. You're very welcome.

Riggins: And if you think of anything else that you'd like to share, just give me a holler or come by and show me your work, your catalog.

David Padgett: Okay. I'll do that sometime.

Riggins: Your portfolio. That'd be great if you come, and just let Beth know, or come see if I'm in.

David Padgett: Sure.

Riggins: All right. Well, thank you Dr. Padgett.

David Padgett: Well, thank you.

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