Helping plant a foundation
12 years ago Jennifer Rudolph Comments Off on Helping plant a foundation
The white-haired man leaned back in his chair, gave a big smile and said, “So what about my life do you think is interesting enough to write about?”
It is not every day that a person can say he has been around since the beginning of Sam Houston State University. Evolving with the world, the university has seen years of change since 1879. However, 88-year-old Huntsville resident, SHSU graduate and distinguished journalist Ferol Robinson has seen SHSU go from 1,200 students to what it is today.
After high school, Robinson wanted to make something of his life. He was raised by a man that he calls “the greatest dad in the world. He was both parents in one.”
After the death of his mother, Robinson’s father raised all of the children by himself. It was the time of the Great Depression and Robinson’s dad “did without so that his children might have.”
In 1938, Robinson began college. He was worried about his dad paying for his tuition bill of about $25 a semester, so he worked hard to earn money. He asked Dean King if he could put a cow in the barn next to the boy’s co-op and sell the milk. He received permission and asked his dad to send him one milking cow from their family farm.
Robinson milked the cow twice a day for three years. He sold the milk for 40 cents a gallon.
“She knew she had to keep giving milk so I could stay in college,” Robinson said.
He also worked on the floor crew on campus. This job gave him 38 cents an hour. While that may not seem like a lot of money now, about 15 people were waiting in line for a person to quit so they could make some money.
In 1942, Robinson graduated, gave his job of milking the cow and the floor crew to his younger brother who was a freshman and went to fight in WWII. He served in the Army for three and a half years in the Classification and Assignment Division of the Adjutant General’s Department. Later he served as a Separation Counselor in the same department.
After the men came home from the war, Robinson got married to “Creedie” and returned to Sam as an itinerant Teacher Trainer. His job was to basically recruit students. Robinson loved this job and did it for three years, but he decided it was too hard to be away from him family. He and his wife decided to move with their two young girls to Missouri so that he could obtain his Ph.D.
With tons of hard work, Robinson fulfilled all of the requirements.
“Creedie’s name should have been on that degree right next to mine,” Robinson said. “She is really the one who kept me going and got me through.”
Once again, Robinson returned to Sam Houston. He became Dr. “R,” the head of the journalism department. The small department was like a family, and they became great together. With only one office in the present-day Thomason building, the students worked with the space that they had. Robinson blocked off a six by six square for his office. The students often referred to this as his “mole hole.”
The Robinson family became the guardians of the journalism department.
“Creedie took as much interest in the journalism students as I did. If they were journalism students, they were top-notch,” Robinson said.
It was easy for the students to come over and enjoy a nice home-cooked meal because the Robinsons’ house sat on two acres where the library sits today. On the land there was a house and a barn. This left plenty of space for a cow, horse, dog and a cat. They also planted trees in the orchard.
The horse would regularly come over to the plum tree, pick off the ripe plums and spit out the seeds.
“I wish I could say that I taught him how to do that,” Robinson said.
After a while, the family was asked to move to make room for the building of the library. The librarian said that he would put a plaque on the first floor that said, “Ferol slept here.”
“That plaque never made it to the basement of the library,” Robinson said.
After years of serving the university from the recruiter to the Vice President for University Affairs, Robinson retired. He dedicated 39 years of his life to the betterment of Sam Houston.
One of Robinson’s biggest accomplishments is serving on the city council and successfully pushing through the name change in roads in Huntsville. Robinson wanted to name Avenue L, Sam Houston Avenue and Avenue K, University Avenue. He put it before the council and got it approved that night. Mayor Marsh Waller backed Robinson in anything that would improve Sam Houston. Robinson said that he wanted this name change so that all roads could lead to Sam Houston.
Throughout the years, Robinson has touched so many people. Several ex-students contributed scholarships in his honor. This money goes to help students at Sam Houston who are seeking careers in journalism.
After the death of his wife in 2003, a group of students got together and planned a get-together in his honor. Over 100 students returned to SHSU to greet their beloved professor. Each guest wrote in a memory book. Flipping through the book, only positive comments were made. Every single student said how life was better with the help of Dr. “R” and Mrs. “R.”
During his life, Robinson has seen happiness and tears, hardships and successes and has faced his fears head-on. He has helped produce some of the country’s most renowned journalists and touched every life that crossed his path. He helped make history as he lived through it and has plenty to show for it.
“It is easier to tell of life,” Robinson said, “when you live it.”