DEAN WEYER AS I KNEW HIM: REFLECTIONS
ON TEACHING UNDER "THE DEAN," 1956-1960
James L. Standley
(Associate Professor of Mathematics and Director
of Computer Services, Hastings College, 1956-1986)
In the late summer of 1956, I was looking at a position at an Illinois college and was ready to sign a contract when the president of the college informed me that bickering between the mathematics and physics departments had forced him to call a moratorium on hiring for either department that year. At the same time, he told me that he had a friend at Hastings College in Nebraska who was looking for a mathematics teacher. He assured me that he would contact the Dean, Dr. Frank Weyer, and recommend me. Soon thereafter, Doctor Weyer did call me and invite me to come to Hastings for an interview.
I went alone to the interview, as my wife Ruthís presence was required at home. Apparently, it did not take the Dean very long to satisfy himself that I would fit in at Hastings College. He sent me to see Dr. Silas Kessler, minister of the local Presbyterian Church and a member of the College Board of Trustees. After a short visit, Dr. Kessler offered me the position as Head of the Department, teaching all the advanced mathematics courses.
I returned home and began excitedly telling Ruth that I had the position, and giving her my impressions of the College, Dean Weyer, and Doctor Kessler. She interrupted me to ask what my salary would be. A good question. I had let Dean Weyer lead me into making a commitment without even asking about my salary. It would not be the last time that he brought me around to seeing things his way without my realizing that I had been persuaded. This was his subtle and effective style of leadership.
Dean Weyer chaired most of the committees on campus, and they usually followed the same pattern. We were all encouraged to offer our opinions, to speak freely, and to consider each otherís ideas. Each topic was discussed, often at length, until we came to a consensus Ė which we would realize was the conclusion Dean Weyer had in mind all along.
In one matter that I remember, he did not get his way. When he learned of plans for my becoming the dormitory counselor in the new Bronc Hall, he called me in and made it quite clear that Hastings College Faculty members did not run dorms in their spare time. But this was 1960, and after forty years as Dean, Doctor Weyer was retiring. I and my family moved into the counselorís apartment that Fall.
Doctor Weyer earned the trust and admiration of his faculty. Though one might personally disagree with him or dislike his decisions or actions, we knew him to be fair and always determined to do what he considered best for the College. There were, of course, times when the faculty found him to be a bit too determined, too arbitrary. But so far as I know, in the few years that I worked under the Dean, Hayes Fuhr was the only faculty member to successfully challenge him.
Students, too, accepted him as a leader truly interested in their welfare, dispensing praise and support along with wisdom and discipline. He could be a tough disciplinarian when he felt the situation merited it. But most often his reputation and his character made this unnecessary, as the following incident indicates:
While walking along the city streets one evening the Dean saw a student coming from a bar. Knowing full well Deanís and the Collegeís rules against drinking, the student ducked and turned away. By his own admission, the student was stricken with guilt, expecting any moment to be called to the Deanís office to be chastised. But the Dean did not call him in. After a couple of days the student could stand the suspense no longer and went in the Dean to apologize. Just the weight of the Deanís disapproval was too much for him. He left the office with lighter heart and a smile on his face, and insisted he never had another drink while in college.
Dean Weyer helped me in many ways, especially during my first year of teaching. He was always available to answer questions and to make suggestions. He was particularly good at dealing with student problems, whether they involved lack of motivation, poor attendance, pranks, or more serious matters, and he was always willing to share his wisdom and offer encouragement and support. Working under him, I felt no constraints on my freedom to teach and to interact with students as I felt best.
As a newcomer to campus, I heard numerous stories of the Deanís dedication to the College and its traditions, his elephant-like memory, and his wit. I remember a meeting when he urged faculty members to be understanding with some of the less than brilliant students who had been admitted at the last minute because enrollment was down. Someone asked, "Would you say these are slow learners?" With a small grin and a twinkle in his eye he replied, "NoÖletís just call them Ďlate bloomers.í"
Another story told of a young single male faculty member who asked him if there were regulations against faculty members dating female students. Supposedly, the Dean replied, "Oh, no. The women on this campus are the best possible candidates for wives that youíll find anywhere."
And this is how I like to remember him: witty, wise, kind, helpful Ė a strong and dedicated leader.