Fabulous 50: First Graduate Degree Program in English

Thomas Walters, one of the original co-directors of the English dept.'s graduate program.  Photo by Marieta B. Heaton.

Thomas Walters, one of the original co-directors of the English dept.'s graduate program. Photo by Marieta B. Heaton.

Fifty years ago during the 1968-1969 academic year, NC State's Department of English began offering a master of arts degree.  This was the first graduate degree program in the department, and at that time it was designed specifically to prepare high school and community college teachers. 

According to a press release issued on 26 January 1969, the program focused on "substantive courses" more than methods, and it emphasized classroom practice.  It went on to say that students "in addition to being given instruction in analyzing and presenting materials to be used, are given intensive practice in simulated classroom situations accompanied by detailed criticism of every aspect of their presentation and performance."

According to the English department's annual report for 1968-1969, 35 students entered the graduate program in the fall of 1968.  At the 31 May 1969 commencement, 2 received masters degrees:  Mildred Wallace Everette (the library has her thesis) and Cecilia Turnage Garner (the library has her thesis also).

The first directors of the English department's graduate program were Thomas "Tom" Walters and Leonidas Betts.  Walters (1935-1983) had experience as a public school teacher, and while at NC State he wrote the novel Always Next August (1977) and the poetry collection Seeing in the Dark (1972).  Betts (1938-2004) had directed the English department's undergraduate program for secondary school teacher training, and he became an expert on folklore, especially urban legends.

Special Collections holds a small archival collection of Walters's papers, and the NCSU Libraries has his publications and Betts's publications.  Archival collections on the history of NC State's Department of English include the department's records and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Annual Reports (especially Box 2).  The university's press release about the graduate program's beginning (mentioned above) can be found in the Office of Public Affairs Records (see Box Box 98).  The best source on the history of graduate programs are the college catalogs.  Please contact the Special Collections Research Center if you are interested in further researching any of these topics.