The Oral History Collection came to the Archives from Dr. Garna Christian, UHD history professor and the unofficial historian of the University. His tireless work in gathering and protecting the archives of the South Texas Junior College and the early UHD story has been integral to putting together a comprehensive archives today.
In 1980, well before anyone else had the idea that the history of the University needed to be preserved, Dr. Christian put forth a proposal for a university archives. His proposal resulted in a rule for all permanent records to go to the library, which helped immensely in the process of finding and bringing together these permanent records in 2013 when the archives was officially created. Also in 1980, however, Dr. Christian started a project to collect the oral histories of the administrators of STJC and UHDC. He repeated this project in 1991.
Using students from his own classes, to give them training in the art of collecting an oral history, he recorded 41 oral histories from faculty, staff, and administrators about their personal stories and their work at UHD. Because of these projects, we have oral histories for a majority of the presidents of the University, including W. I. Dykes (for whom our library is named), Dr. Max Castillo and Alexander Schilt. We also have interviews for Chaney Anderson and Molly Woods, two of the longest-serving administrators in the University’s history, as well as the histories of many other people who were involved in the building of the University in the early and middle years.
Taken together, these narratives fill in the “gaps” in the history of the University. Documents and publications help us to understand the decisions made in a certain period in time, but oral histories give us the opinions, the emotions, and the motivations of the people behind those decisions. A pilot project of 12 interviews were digitized from their original cassettes in 2014 and are now available in the UHD Digital Archives.
Today, Drs. Gene Preuss and Bill Pogue are working to collect the next round of oral histories from the people of the University. Given how quickly the University is changing, continuing its focus on student success but expanding into community engagement, these should be a valuable addition to the collection once they are finished.