Dean Arthur H. Doerr
Arthur H. Doerr was Dean of the Graduate College from 1961-1965. During that time, the college experienced rapid growth in both enrollment and degrees granted. In 1960, graduate enrollment numbered at 1,200; by 1965 this figure had more than doubled. In 1963, the university granted more advanced degrees than ever before and more doctorates than had been awarded in the first 15 years of doctoral work (1929-1945) combined. Despite this growth, Doerr’s tenure as dean was marked by uncertainty over the role of the Graduate College. Many -- including Doerr himself -- worried that the dean was only a trumped-up clerk with little real power. From 1962-1964, the idea of dissolving the position of Dean of Graduate College in favor of greater autonomy for the other colleges was debated by the Faculty Senate.
Before becoming Dean of the Graduate College, Arthur Doerr had established himself as a noted geographer. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Southern Illinois University in 1947, his master’s degree from Indiana University in1948 and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1951. That same year, Doerr was brought to the University of Oklahoma as an assistant professor in geography. He received an outstanding faculty award from the University of Oklahoma Foundation in 1955 and coauthored one of the definitive textbooks in his field, “Principles of Geography, Physical and Cultural,” in 1959. Doerr was subsequently appointed chairman of the Department of Geography in 1960.
Doerr also entered the Graduate College in September of 1960, through an appointment as associate dean, working with Dean Lloyd Swearingen. When Swearingen resigned from the Graduate College in 1961 to focus his attention on the Research Institute, Doerr was appointed to the vacated dean’s position.
Shortly after being appointed dean, Doerr presented his “Plan for Excellence” for graduate education in Oklahoma. Doerr pointed to the state’s low per-capita production of doctorate degrees and called for efforts to quadruple both graduate enrollment and degree production over the next ten years. Doerr directly equated the number of doctoral degrees granted at a state’s universities with the development of industry within that state. He also pointed to the potential of education and technology to develop energy and food for the growing population of the state.
Dean Doerr’s seemingly grandiose goals for his college may seem odd when juxtaposed with the meager resources of the Graduate College in 1960. In 1961, Doerr and his staff moved into a small set of offices in Buchanan Hall. He declined to appoint a new associate dean, opting instead to rely on the long-serving assistant to the dean, Alberta McCann, as his office manager. The graduate college also had a clerical secretary, Marral J. Reichart, and a clerical stenographer. Other than the operating budget for this small staff, Doerr had little control of finances for graduate education. The dean, along with the Graduate Council, was responsible for nominating candidates for fellowships, but control of the actual stipends was held during this time by the undergraduate colleges. Despite more than doubling the enrollment of the Graduate College, Doerr was unable to convince the university to increase the size of the permanent staff or substantially increase his budget for the five years of his tenure.
Despite limits in funding and manpower, the goals set out by Doerr in his 1961 speech were ultimately fulfilled ahead of schedule. His goal of 5000 students enrolled in the graduate college was met by 1970. Doctoral programs were added in philosophy and music education. Research professorships were established to help retain the leading minds of the university. Funding for graduate students was also greatly increased through successful pursuit of fellowship funds from NASA; the NSF; and NDEA, title IV. Arthur Doerr survived a tumultuous tenure, in which the Graduate College went from fighting for its very existence to experiencing unprecedented growth in enrollment, funding and research.
Arthur Doerr resigned from the deanship in 1965, to concentrate on his work on geography. He left the university in 1970 to accept an appointment as the Anna Boland Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of West Florida.