Interview of J. Robert Warmbrod by Frank L. Himes
Creators:Warmbrod, J. Robert
Contributors:Himes, Frank L.
Subjects (LCSH):Ohio State University. Agricultural Technical Institute -- History
Ohio State University. College of Agriculture -- History
Agriculture -- Study and teaching -- Ohio
Warmbrod, J. Robert -- Interviews
Ohio State University -- History -- Sources
Subjects (Other):OSU faculty, tenure, retention
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Ohio State University Archives
Series/Report no.:Ohio State University. University Archives Oral History Program. Ohio State University Oral History Project
Dr. J. Robert Warmbrod had a long, diverse, and distinguished career at Ohio State. He was born on December 13, 1929, and joined the faculty at OSU as Professor of Agricultural Education on January 1, 1968. He continued an active teaching career throughout his tenure at OSU, but also held several high administrative positions. He served as Department Chair from 1978 to 1986; Acting Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture for six months in 1989; and Acting Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Dean of the College of Agriculture until the end of September 1991. He returned to full-time teaching until his retirement on April 1, 1995, but continued to teach part-time until 2000. The main emphasis of his teaching career was in graduate education especially as this related to research. Although he had some involvement with undergraduate students, primarily in advising, his main teaching focus related to policy analysis in agricultural education funding, and graduate courses on research relating to various dimensions of research methodology. Dr. Ralph Bender, Chair of the Department of Agricultural Education, recruited Dr. Warmbrod from the University of Illinois in 1968. At that time he had no inclination or expectation that he would later pursue a career in administration. But when Dr. Bender retired after thirty years as Chair, Dr. Warmbrod was named as his replacement. He served eight years as Chair. In 1988 Dr. Fred Hutchinson, Dean of the College of Agriculture, appointed Dr. Warmbrod as Acting Associate Dean. When Dr. Hutchinson was named Provost of the university, Dr. Warmbrod became Acting Vice President for Agricultural Administration of the College of Agriculture, a position he continued to hold for 27 months. His tenure as Acting Vice President overlapped the end of President Edward Jennings tenure, and the beginning of that of President Gordon Gee. Dr. Warmbrod observed many significant changes through the years in the College of Agriculture. The academic program of the College, particularly the undergraduate program, has steadily improved and become more academically rigorous. More emphasis has been placed on the basic sciences. There has been a substantial increase in the number and percent of women enrolled, especially at the undergraduate level. At the same time, a lower percentage of the student body in Agriculture has come from traditional rural farm backgrounds. This was true not only in the Natural Resources segment of the College, which has always drawn a more diverse student body, but throughout the entire student body of the College. Dr. Warmbrod observes further that the increased emphasis on academic quality was seen throughout the entire student body of the whole university. As academic quality was increasingly emphasized in the College of Agriculture there was less emphasis on some service activities. Some people criticized this trend away from service activities as getting away from the “practical hands-on aspect” of agricultural education that traditionally had prepared students for specific work either in production agriculture or in other occupations. Finally the student curricula expanded from almost exclusive emphasis on production to cover all phases of agriculture. Another significant change over the years concerned the governance of the College of Agriculture. And specifically, that is tied to a great extent to the change in the Dean’s position. Dr. Roy Kottman served 22 years as Dean of the College of Agriculture until 1982, and exerted a tremendous leadership in developing the College. He may be best known for developing the Extension Service and the research function of OARDC (Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center). He was also known for an administrative style that was “very direct, very heavy from the top down.” (p. 7). His immediate successor, Dr. Francille Firebaugh, served only one year as interim Dean, but she began to change the manner in which the governance of the College was handled. She encouraged and solicited faculty involvement. Dr. Max Lennon who was appointed Dean in 1983 continued this trend, and under his leadership the College became more integrated as a part of the total university rather than tending to operate more as an independent operation. Some of the positive changes in the undergraduate program were triggered by changes in the Basic Education Requirement (BER). Among other changes the BER forced a restructuring of some of the agricultural courses, and decreased the number of hours that a student could get in an agriculture major. This “was not a major disadvantage or problem.” Too often in the past students had tended to think of their university experience as a College of Agriculture experience rather than a university-wide experience. Dr. Warmbrod believed that agriculture students should have a wider exposure to the liberal arts, although were they to be required to complete a liberal arts degree before studying agriculture very few students would enroll. “Because the students come from rural backgrounds, their culture and their motivation are that I’m interested in agriculture, and that’s what I’m going to study.” (p. 9). Dr. Warmbrod offered additional comments about the pivotal role of Dr. Roy Kottman. It was said that he “wore three hats” during his entire time at Ohio State. Simultaneously he was Dean of the College of Agriculture, Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station in Wooster (later named OARDC), and Director of the Extension Service. (OARDC and the Extension Service receive separate appropriations from the State Legislature. OSU’s general funds appropriation from the Legislature supports the teaching function of the College of Agriculture the same as for all other colleges.) Dean Kottman was “extremely effective” in using his major strengths as a administrator to lobby for support not only from the state legislature, but also the various agricultural special interest groups throughout the state, including various commodity organizations. The most notable organization would be the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. There was no doubt that Dr. Kottman offered “very strong leadership,” and that he had “tremendous contacts throughout the state.” Despite Dr. Kottman’s undeniable strengths the tri-partite division of funding and programs between extension, research, and teaching created certain difficulties especially when a faculty member was funded from more than one of these areas. If you were funded by Extension that was what you did, not research or teaching. If you were funded by OARDC you did research, and not extension or teaching. There were also a few who did teaching and little else. Sometimes this focus on one’s own specific area caused some problems “on the promotion side,” and it didn’t contribute a great deal to the College of Agriculture being an integral part of the University. Furthermore, the separate Directorships of Extension and OARDC added to a sense of separateness between Agriculture and the entire university. Prior to 1982, OARDC was not, by state statute, a part of OSU. So OARDC’S governing board (Board of Control) was the same as the OSU Board of Trustees, plus the State Director of Agriculture (Governor’s Cabinet member). In 1982 state law was changed to make OARDC a part of OSU and also established the position of Vice President for Agricultural Administration. Also, prior to 1982 when the OSU Board of Trustees met, the OSU President was the CEO. When that body adjourned and OARDC’s Board of Control met, the CEO was the OARDC Director (Dr. Kottman), and the OSU President had no vote. Since Dr. Kottman controlled all three basic areas of teaching, extension, and research there was an opportunity to better integrate the three together, but “my candid opinion is that Dean Kottman didn’t do very much in that direction.” (p. 11) Later Deans of the College of Agriculture, especially Fred Hutchinson and Bobby Moser, have made considerable administrative changes. Dr. Warmbrod commented on how changes in admission policies, especially as Ohio State moved toward more selective admissions, have affected the nature of students in the College of Agriculture. Since overall admission policies encouraged a college preparatory curriculum in high school most applicants in agriculture needed more science, mathematics, and foreign language than formerly. Higher ACT scores confirm that agricultural students are now better prepared. Another major change was the increased numbers and percentages of women students in agriculture. OSU did nothing out of the ordinary to bring this about; rather it was more a reflection of changes in the general culture. Another change was the increased use of SET (Student Evaluation of Teaching) forms. Their use became a virtual necessity in Promotion and Tenure cases, although “when you look at those [forms] you would think that every instructor was just absolutely super.” (p. 13). Teachers who were confident of a positive appraisal from students were most likely to use the SET’s. Once Dr. Warmbrod became Acting Vice President he had responsibility for evaluating faculty in Research and Extension as well as teaching. The traditional expectation had been that faculty should demonstrate excellence in both research and teaching when being considered for Promotion and Tenure. Faculty in 100% research positions had an easy time in establishing excellence in research and publication, but those in Extension work had a harder time making their case. They also faced a perception by many that the extension function was not central to the mission of the university, or as rigorous and sophisticated as some others. The College of Agriculture established its first Promotion and Tenure Committee under the deanship of Max Lennon. Dr. Warmbrod served on that first committee. As this committee, which was composed of some of the most experienced and respected full professors in the College, undertook to evaluate the credentials from extension agents, they came to realize, somewhat to their surprise, that upon closer examination the extension faculty were doing “excellent work, sophisticated work, scholarly work” and that it was possible to evaluate this work fairly. The most difficult challenge facing the College Committee for Promotion and Tenure was to persuade the University Promotion and Tenure Committee and ultimately the Provost to endorse the recommendation of the College committee. Detailed written assessments were provided, especially for those cases which were not traditional research oriented. As it happened it was a very rare occurrence for the recommendation of the College Committee for Promotion and Tenure to be reversed at a higher level. The Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) was created at Wooster, Ohio in 1968 on the same campus as OARDC. Its creation was part of a nationwide effort in agriculture to establish what were called technical programs in agriculture, which meant they were not baccalaureate programs. Some people felt that some more technical, hands-on courses were needed since the University courses in agriculture on the main campus had become less practical and more theoretical. They might argue, “We want people who know how to do certain things.” Roy Kottman was Dean at the time. “He didn’t have to form committees. He just said we’re going to have a Tech Institute and he got the resources to do it.” (p. 18). Two faculty members from the Department of Agricultural Education who were very active in creating ATI were Chairman Ralph Bender, and Ralph Woodin. Jerry Halterman was hired as the first Director of ATI, and also as Professor of Agricultural Education. He had earned his Ph.D. at OSU in the middle 60’s, and had been a faculty member at one of the state universities in California. Some people at OARDC were “not too happy” with the decision to locate ATI at Wooster, “but Dean Kottman didn’t allow that to get in his way.” He also reportedly got special money from the legislature. The curriculum of ATI was “very practical oriented” and required internship on the part of every student. A “very nice campus” was built at Wooster for ATI and it was quickly expanded with the acquisition of a major neighboring farm of possibly 2,000 acres. Under the leadership of Dean Kottman and the Department of Agricultural Education ATI was soon operating very successfully. It was seen as a different type of institution, one with its own identity, and was very effective in getting funding, resources, and students. Most of these students were very effective in their employment after earning their two-year technical degree at ATI. There were many students who came originally to ATI for the two-year degree only to discover that they wanted to continue on at Ohio State for a baccalaureate degree. “A wonderful thing happened to some of them, many of them” and these students wanted to transfer to Columbus for the four-year degree. In the early years such students were told they would have to start all over since doubts had been expressed about the quality of faculty at ATI since many of them had no advanced degrees. So for a long time there were unresolved issues of articulation and transfer of academic credits from Wooster to Columbus. Gradually over the years these issues were worked out. Dr. Warmbrod was personally involved with the transfer issue when he was Acting Vice President and Dean. One change that came about was to begin offering regular OSU undergraduate courses, especially in the sciences, biological sciences, and chemistry, at ATI in the same manner these had long been offered at the four regional campuses at Lima, Marion, Mansfield, and Newark. Eventually the Board of Regents allowed ATI to award an Associate of Science degree and so this allowed students to use ATI as an entry point to a baccalaureate degree the same way a student would use a regional campus. Another change concerned the relationship between OARDC and ATI. In the early days OARDC “was not at all interested in ATI. In fact, didn’t think it was a very good neighbor because clearly it was not of the rigor and the caliber of the good research” being done at OARDC. (p. 22). Gradually this changed into a closer and more compatible relationship, and some faculty members at OARDC were recruited to teach at ATI. Another hurdle that was overcome was the fact that certain faculty who taught courses at ATI, such as in the sciences, were not members of these departments in Columbus. Usually, however, when the Columbus departments had reviewed the syllabi and curriculum vitae of the ATI faculty in Wooster they would conclude “These folks are as well qualified as the people we have teaching chemistry at Lima or anyplace else.” (p. 23). One issue which many faculty saw as a major negative of the whole separateness function of Wooster and Columbus was in graduate education. Most departments in the College of Agriculture would have faculty in both places; only the Departments of Agricultural Education, Food Science and Technology, and Agricultural Economics did not. Even so there was a tendency to see Wooster as a center for research, and Columbus as the main center for teaching. Apparently some graduate students were caught in a situation where they had completed all of their required coursework in Columbus but in order to do a particular type of research would have to go to Wooster. Dr. Warmbrod’s conclusion was that “probably it made graduate education in some of those departments not as smooth as it could have been” (p. 24). Dr. Warmbrod comments on the strengths of some of the provosts he had gotten to know through his long experience in numerous committees and in administration. He said that Al Kuhn was a “very effective” person, and yet “relatively low key.” During the ‘70’s when Al Kuhn was provost the university placed major emphasis on program review. Dr. Warmbrod was named chair of the Program Review Committee for the Department of Botany. Considering that this review turned out to be a rather complicated and somewhat controversial undertaking it brought Dr. Warmbrod into close contact with Provost Al Kuhn. He observed that Al Kuhn was “a good listener,” “very thorough,” and one who knew “what he was doing.” (p. 25). He also worked closely with Provost Fred Hutchinson, “a tremendously personable, people oriented person.” (p. 26). Dr. Warmbrod had very little contact with Provost Myles Brand. He did know well, however, Francille Firebaugh, who served as Acting Provost for one year. Earlier she had been Acting Vice President in the interim between Roy Kottman and Max Lennon, and before that as Director of the School of Home Economics. As Acting Vice President her great contribution was to introduce a “completely different” management style, a much more open and democratic style in the College of Agriculture than had been the case previously under the leadership of the authoritarian Roy Kottman. She was “very supportive” of the Department of Agricultural Education. Dr. Warmbrod also worked closely with Provost Richard Sisson, and found him to be “rather insightful about the University and how it functions, and how it ought to function.” (p. 27). Sisson was “a major actor in the restructuring” that went on at Ohio State in ’93,’94, and ’95 under the presidency of Gordon Gee. Dr. Warmbrod was asked to mention some of the numerous successes and awards which he had received over the years at Ohio State. He received the OSU Award for Distinguished Teaching twice, in 1972 and 1995. The latter award came during one of the few undergraduate courses that he taught at OSU. He also received the Gamma Sigma Delta award for teaching. During the presidency of Ed Jennings Dr. Warmbrod was appointed in 1989 as Presidential Professor, a signal honor which recognized excellence in teaching, research and service. There was also at the time a second high distinction called “University Professor.” Later on when Dick Sisson was Provost it was decided to call both of these titles as University Professors, and it was with that designation that Dr. Warmbrod retired in 1995.
Ralph Bender: long-time Chair of the Department of Agricultural Education (pp. 2-3, 18) -- Fred Hutchinson: Dean of the College of Agriculture, and Provost; also Vice President for Agricultural Administration (pp. 3-5,12) -- Myles Brand: Provost (pp. 4, 26) -- Edward Jennings: President of OSU (pp. 5, 9, 28) -- Gordon Gee: President of OSU (pp. 5, 27) -- Roy Kottman: Dean of the College of Agriculture for 22 years (pp. 7-11, 18, 26) -- Max Lennon: Dean of the College of Agriculture; also VP for Agricultural Administration (pp. 7-8, 26) -- Francille Firebaugh: Acting Vice President and Dean of the College of Agriculture (pp. 7, 26-27) -- Bobby Moser: Dean of the College of Agriculture (p. 12) -- Ralph Woodin: faculty member in Dept. of Agricultural Education (p. 18) -- Jerry Halterman: first Director of the Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) (p. 18) -- Al Kuhn: Provost (pp. 25-26) -- Myles Brand: Provost (p. 26) -- Richard Sisson: Provost (pp. 27-28)