Page 23 - Shared Vision

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Cohen teaching junior design class in that dome, 1957
The first dome of wood and canvas is completed on campus in 1956
AG: You got some grants from industry right off the bat.
HLC: I am a paper-folding man. I believe that you can
solve big design problems after first manipulating paper.
So I approached the Alton Box Board Company for a grant
in materials so we could build structures with corrugated
board. I also convinced them to give us money for staff,
testing, and documentation. That grant ran for over five
years, managed and documented by Herb Meyer. We also
used waterproofed cardboard for emergency housing.
But aside from forming the design department, I was most
excited about the Experimental Freshman Year project.
Delyte Morris challenged us to help high school graduates
who finished in the lower third of their class to aspire
to a college education and survive the first year. I had a
proposal on his desk within a few weeks. He gave me
carte blanche—both time and money—to run a
new program.
We contacted high school guidance counselors and
churches throughout Illinois to identify young people
who would graduate from high school and showed
ability in a single area, but were not likely to go on to
higher education because their grades were not good
enough. There were no community colleges then. At
SIU, there was resistance to this idea. Some faculty and
administrators accused us of “letting in the idiots.” This
was not a design program, but alternative education for
up to 150 college freshmen in three groups of 50 each.
Group I, my group, would be a completely experimental
program, so I turned the running of the design department
over to Davis Pratt and Harold Grosowsky. I worked full
time with my wife, Mary; grad students Howard Cotton,
Donald Glickman, Grant MacLaren, Dave Miles; and my
assistant Herb Meyer, on content, special audio and visual
aids, and individual work carrels on the second floor of
the new student center.
Dr. Robert Kibler, who was overall director of the project
and assistant professor in the School of Communications,
headed Group II, which limited the number of credit
hours for each student, offered a remedial studies
program and an intensive counseling program. Group
III students were left on their own with some counseling
services available.
The profile for the three groups was interesting. I
interviewed them all on campus, but did not form the
groups. The university wanted to make some choices
of their own. In the total class, some 12% to 15% were
black. There were more men than women. Many of them
came from a church background or were rebellious before
coming to the program. Many had endured the stigma of
being weird or even gay in high school. Religious schools
made them feel guilty.