My Snowman’s Burning Down
Rudy Martin, Willie Parsons, and I were deans together at The Evergreen State College in the early to mid 1970s. Rudy had been one of the 18 planners and schemers who worked together for a year before the college opened. He had as much of a stake in the place as anyone and as 50 or so teaching staff with our own passions and quirks, came on board in 1971, faculty meetings became, well, interesting. So much was unformed, nascent, and possible. So much had been unforeseen. Our own hopes, many fired by the idealism of the 1960s, began to mold the still pliable institution into new forms. We were all over the place. The lacunae in the original plan allowed for off campus reservation based programming to gain a foothold. Mary Hillaire*, said, “you say you are an experimental college? Let’s see how experimental you are.” Maxine Mimms began meeting students around her kitchen table in Tacoma. We had a farm. We had students on individual contracts with journals and backpacks hoofing it all over the globe! Dogs were running through the halls. Some, faculty not dogs, already wanted to tear down the narrative evaluation system and go to grades. Rudy stayed the course. He and colleague, David Marr, wrote a critical memo called, “Help! My Snowman’s Burning Down.” (after the 1965 film) Marr and Martin. The M and M Manifesto. The piece helped set the agenda for a critical look at our work. And then we were co-deans. We were charged, if only in our own minds, to bring some order to this chaos. And we three, Parsons and Martin and (then) Patterson, were under enormous pressure. Two African American men and one white woman, all relatively young, as deans? This was unheard of in 1973. The expectations and the scrutiny were equally daunting. And this still young, college, bombarded by negative press almost daily, was, in many ways, ours to bottle feed and nuture. We had to wipe its bottom but we had to keep it free…to let it take its first steps…to see what it would become. Rudy was part of all that. And so much more.
He is to be thanked for his fierceness and dedication to teaching because without both we would not have had our Evergreen. Thanks, Rudy.
*Mary Hillaire (Lummi) was a first year faculty at Evergreen. Her vision initiated the long, successful relationship Evergreen has had with Native American tribes and people.