East Tennessee State University

Retirees Association (ETSURA)

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George Dove

Among the most memorable administrators in ETSU history is Dr. George Dove, a leading figure on campus from 1947 to 1979. He spent 23 of those 32 years as director or dean of Arts and Sciences. The student body numbered 1,100 at the beginning of his tenure and had grown to more than 10,000 by the time he retired. Following are some of his recollections of major developments at the university during those years of rapid growth.

On changes in organization and administration of the university, in Dr. Dove's own words:

Under C.C. Sherrod (president from 1925 to 1949), there was really no departmental administration, there were committees. Ella Ross was chair of the English Committee as well as dean of women.

When Dr. Burgin Dossett arrived on campus, one of the first things he did was to reorganize the college into departments as a first step toward university status. President Dossett was a great organizer, and he delegated quite a lot. He wanted me to become chairman of the English department, so he engineered a way for me to get time off to meet residency requirements so I could get a doctorate and move up to the position. I held that job from 1951 to 1956.

About that time, President Dossett announced plans to organize the college into schools. Everyone recognized this as the next step toward becoming a university, but many in Arts and Sciences opposed the plan, saying it would create "super chairman positions" and put one more step between them and the president.

When Dr. Sherrod was president, if you wanted anything, you went to him. If you wanted an unabridged dictionary, you asked the president.

Now, President Dossett was setting up a plan for administration that changed everything. He organized the college into three schools -- Arts and Sciences, Business and Economics, and Education.

Choosing the deans for Education and Business and Economics was easy because Mack Davis and Floyd Pierce had more experience than did any other faculty members in those schools.

But Arts and Sciences was more difficult. It was full of people who had been here since day one. In fact, four notable professors were all in contention. It wasn't so much that any of them really wanted the position; they didn't want anyone else to have it, although they probably would have denied that.

President Dossett named Bill Beasley, who was the registrar, as director of Arts and Sciences for a year or two. Bill, of course, didn't have time to do much of anything. I think he had one meeting.

One day, the president called me in, and I had no idea what he wanted. He was a great person to talk and talk in circles before finally coming to the point. We talked about a lot of things, and we eventually got to the School of Arts and Sciences. Again, he circled around and around about who should be chairman, and I finally asked, "Do you mean me?" He said, "Yes, I mean you," and I was bowled over. I agreed to give it a try.

There I was, facing a battery of men who had longer tenures than I, all of them older. But the strange thing was that when I sat down and started meeting with them, I think they saw that I wasn't going to cause them any problems. I was going to work with them. And, I think, they all were relieved that none of the others had gotten the job.

By the time the Legislature approved university status in 1963, there really wasn't a need to change anything except that we took on different titles. We were already working with a university-type administration. The schools simply became colleges, and the directors of the schools became deans.

Dove is shown with
The Dove Award
he won for his
detective writing.

On establishment of the self-study process for accreditation:

Since the time of President Sherrod, East Tennessee State had been a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In the beginning, the association would send a committee at 10-year intervals to find out what the institution was doing wrong and point out what needed to be done to fix the problems. It was very important, of course, to be accredited.

In the late 1950s, however, the association changed its approach by setting up a system of self-study. At the end of the study, a committee of faculty members from other universities of about the same size and purpose would review the findings and issue its own report. If any weaknesses showed up, they were reported back to the Southern Association. This was a vastly different approach than the old one because it put the main responsibility on the college.

At the end of 1959, President Dossett and Mack Davis, who then was dean of the faculty, asked Dove to lead the first self-study. They assured him that he would have their complete backing.

Dove was determined to involve everybody on campus, and the first step was to have a faculty dinner to explain the task and enlist everyone's support.

"I have never participated in anything in which the feeling of support was as strong," he said.

Dove appointed a steering committee, consisting of Flora Marie Meredith, Stan Johnson and Dr. Morton Brown. Grace Leab was to manage the writing of the report.

"We had one kind of committee that studied the whole program," he explained. "Another committee concentrated on the academic program, and yet another on the student relations, activities and guidance area.  Committees also focused on faculty, administration, finances and all the other areas.

"I believe that we did get everyone involved, and we had awfully good support from the Southern Association."

Dove had to write a report to the association quarterly, and he sent a copy to everyone on campus. He said the last thing he wanted was for somebody to say later, "What's this? I never heard of it before!"

The self-study process, which began in the spring of 1960, was finished two years later. Then, Dove said, a major challenge was figuring out how the whole faculty could review the report.

A review committee, with as broad a representation as possible, was appointed. Dove met with the members weekly as they went over the report page by page.

"Would you believe that there wasn't a single dissenting vote in that whole pack?" he said. "It was the most gratifying thing that I did the whole time I was at East Tennessee State."

The first self-study set the tone and pattern for all subsequent ones.

As a result of its success, Dove was invited over and over to participate on visiting committees from the Southern Association and accrediting teams from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. He said he always returned from the trips with plenty of good ideas for our campus.

 On a more personal note:

At one point, Dove and his wife, Helenhill, lived in the men's residence hall on campus, and Mrs. Dove served as hostess.

They recall that East Tennessee State at the time regularly had a football game with Milligan College, located just down the road. Naturally, there was a great rivalry.

State students made a habit of stealing the huge stuffed buffalo that was Milligan's mascot. Just as regularly, the administration would order the culprits to take it back -- but not before they were allowed to form a parade of cars. Students waved and horns honked as the procession moved across town to return the buffalo.

On one of the occasions, the Doves' 3-year-old, Ellen, stopped the parade and insisted that she get to go, too. Unfortunately for her, Mom didn't think that would be appropriate. She was led, sobbing, back to the residence hall.


Mrs. Dove still gets a chuckle out of the time an ROTC leader asked her during a football game why all the students were yelling, "Pussycat, pussycat!"

She responded, "They're not yelling, 'Pussycat, pussycat!' They're yelling, 'Push 'em back, push 'em back!"


Dove has fond memories of taking walks across campus every evening before going to bed. One night, however, the usual serenity was shattered by the sound of the song "Goodnight, Irene," which was playing time after time in the old student center.

The center had a jukebox that played songs for a nickel, and residents of Ritter Hall -- sick of hearing the tune -- had taken up a collection of $14 or $15, changed the money into nickels, and fed them all into the machine. Their plan was play the record over and over until it was worn out.

The idea backfired, though, when the repeated plays began to drive people crazy. The jukebox was unplugged for the rest of the day, but the dreaded strains of "Goodnight, Irene" could be heard once again that night outside the locked student center. The machine had been plugged in so all the nickels' worth of replays could be completed.       




"Tales of the University" is a regular column provided by the ETSU Retirees Association about the university and the people associated with it through the decades.  Faculty, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to share their memories of ETSU with the Retirees Association for consideration for future columns.  Stories, comments and suggestions may be sent to Dr. Willene Paxton, chair of the Tales of the University committee, 1203 Lester Harris Road, Johnson City, TN 37601, or willenepj@charter.net.

Mailing Address:  Office of Human Resources
ETSU Box 70564
Johnson City, TN  37614-1707
Telephone:  423-439-4457
Fax:  423-439-8354
TDD:  423-439-4710

Office Hours:  8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. E.S.T. Monday - Friday
Office Location:  Rooms 307 and 311, Dossett Hall

Updated on 09/07/10