by W. Merle Hill, CC President 1965-77

Recently, while looking through a file related to Christian and Columbia College, I came across several 3-x-5 index cards stapled together. They had been used at the 1963 CC graduation ceremonies by the Acting Dean of Faculty, William (Bill) Winstead. The printing of his introductory remarks on the cards was in 26-point type.

I met Bill Winstead in the spring of 1963, when I was invited to Christian College by President Ken Freeman to interview for the position of Dean of Faculty. My wife and I arrived in Columbia at mid-afternoon and checked in at the Howard Johnson Motel. I telephoned President Freeman, as he had requested in his invitation letter, and he invited us to have dinner with him and Mrs. Freeman in the President’s Room in the College’s Dining Hall in St. Clair Hall. My wife had lived in Missouri Hall in 1946-47 and knew the campus well, so we had no difficulty finding our way into St. Clair Hall and meeting the Freemans. Before the four of us went down the steps to the Dining Room, we were introduced to Elizabeth Kirkman, the Dean of Women.

During our informal dinner conversation President Freeman explained to us that Bill Bedford, the Dean of Faculty, was on terminal leave from the College and would not be returning. His replacement for 1962-63 was Bill Winstead, he informed us; and Bill was not a candidate for the Dean of Faculty position. He explained that we would be attending a faculty voice recital in the Auditorium that evening and, also, that I would be meeting with almost all the College’s administrators the next day.

My next day’s schedule was to begin at eight o’clock with a one-hour interview with him, followed by interviews with those staff members who reported to the Dean of Faculty: Elizabeth Kirkman, Dean of Women; Bob Montaba, Assistant to the Dean of Faculty; Buena Lansford, Registrar; and Miss Keener, Librarian. After lunch with Mrs. Freeman and my wife, he said, I would have the opportunity to meet with the following: Bill Winstead, Acting Dean of Faculty, Ken Serfass, Director of Admissions; Fred Frazier, Director of Development; Peggy Phillips, Director of Public Information; and Jane Crow, Director of Alumni Affairs. It would be a full day and night, President Freeman explained, since we were to attend a social function that next evening at the Frazier’s, at which time I would be able to meet staff members and some faculty on an informal basis. (The only administrative officer I was not scheduled to meet with was the Business Manager, Charles Chriswell.)

I totally agreed with President Freeman about the full day and night, since my interview at the Purdue University Department of Modern Languages in 1951 had lasted only four hours. In addition, my interview with the Director of the St. Louis Danforth Foundation for my one-year, full-salaried Danforth Grant in 1957-58 had taken place over breakfast and had lasted only 75 minutes.

When I met with Bill Winstead the next afternoon, things went quite smoothly. He confirmed that he was not a candidate for the Dean of Faculty position, as he was planning to enter a doctoral program in the prestigious Community College Administration Program at the University of California in San Francisco. We learned that we had had similar experiences in the Army during World War II and that we had both attended college after the war under Public Law 16, the section of the so-called G.I. Bill of Rights for veterans with disabilities. I explained to him that my three Purple Hearts had been for minor wounds, and he informed me that his wound had been serious: he had been blinded! He was receiving 100% disability payments.

I had noticed upon meeting him that his eyeglass lens was quite thick but could not make a connection between being blinded and wearing eye glasses with a thick lens. As veterans are wont to do, we started to swap war stories. I had been wounded in Germany, whereas Bill had been blinded by a shell fragment on one of the many islands the American Army and Marines had invaded and captured.

Bill was quite frank about how he was wounded. “I was a “wiseacre” jeep driver,” he explained, but he used a different ending than “acre” to the word “wise.” He explained that four men from his unit were going out into the jungle on a reconnaissance patrol and he had driven them to their jump-off location. As he dropped off his captain, a sergeant, and two enlisted men, in his inimitable wise-guy style he told them to have a good time while he went back to the outfit to “sack out.”
W. Merle Hill

This “wise-guy” remark irritated the captain, Bill informed me. The captain said to him sharply, “Winstead, just leave the jeep here! You’re coming with us!” This was a clear command he couldn’t ignore. Half an hour later, he was badly wounded by enemy fire. He was taken to an aid station and then shipped back to a field hospital because the wound was so severe. He was well attended by an Army physician, but his sight was gone.

There’s no place in the Army for a blind soldier, so Bill was given an honorable discharge and returned to Missouri. He enrolled at the University of Missouri and, as a blind man, was assigned a “reader,” Charlene, whose hourly fees were covered by Bill’s Public Law 16 benefits. Charlene, a native of Missouri, was Bill’s “reader” for several years and later became his wife. Bill was graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and got a position teaching at Christian College in 1953.

A year or so later, Bill and Charlene attended a professional meeting in Washington D.C. He had kept in touch over the years with the Army physician who had operated on him on that Pacific island. The physician was now practicing in Baltimore, and Bill made plans to drop by his office for a visit. After greeting each other and talking for some time about times past and present, the former Army physician said, “Bill, let me look at your eyes.”

After a brief examination the physician said to Bill, “I think I can help you some. Your one eye is gone, but I think maybe I can help the other one. But the operation might also cause you to lose the slight residual sight you do have. What do you think?”

Bill was pleasantly surprised but also somewhat hesitant. Although he was totally blind in one eye, he did indeed have some slight vision in the other. On a bright day, for example, he could make out the shape of a telephone pole or a tree trunk, and that slight bit of vision gave him a sense of security. Could he handle becoming completely blind?

He asked the physician if he could have some time to think the matter over. He and Charlene went to a nearby bar and talked about the proposition over several drinks. After talking about the pros and cons of the proposed operation for more than an hour, they decided Bill “should go for broke!” They returned to the physician’s office, and he operated on Bill that same night. The operation was a success, and Bill could see again! He would need a corrective lens, but he could see!

Bill and Charlene returned to Columbia, and Bill was now a “sighted” teacher at Christian College. He enrolled at the University of Missouri in a Master’s Degree program, completed all the required course work and sat for his final written examination. Unfortunately, the Master’s Degree Faculty Committee reviewing Bill’s written answers decided that his writing style was not good enough to qualify him for the successful completion of the master’s degree!

Bill and Charlene were crushed but not defeated. Bill explained to her that when writing the answers to the examination questions, if he wasn’t certain of the spelling of a certain “professional” word, he chose a shorter less “professional” word, one he could spell. The next day, Bill explained this predicament to his major professor and asked if it would be possible for him to retake the master’s examination orally. The professor understood the problem and agreed to Bill’s request. He passed the oral examination with flying colors!

In the fall of 1963, President Freeman was the president-elect of the National Association of Junior and Community Colleges and attended the NAJCC annual meeting in San Francisco. I attended that meeting, too. Bill and Charlene met my flight from Kansas City, and I had dinner with them and President Freeman at a famous restaurant on the east side of San Francisco Bay just north of Oakland.

Now enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of California, Bill had been assigned to work part time in the Dean of Faculty Office at Contra Costa Community College. He had made the move from Christian College, a small college with fewer than 350 students, to a large community college with an enrollment of more than 5,000 students!

In the spring of 1965, when President Freeman resigned at CC to accept the presidency of the three-campus Kansas City Kansas Community College, I accepted the presidency of CC. Needing a Dean of Faculty to replace me, the first person I called to offer the deanship was Bill Winstead. He had already heard about President Freeman’s resignation and thought he might be receiving a call from me. In the meantime, however, he had already decided that completing his doctorate at the University of California was more important than returning to CC as a dean.

After completing his doctoral degree, Dr. Bill Winstead was immediately employed by another community college and, in 1971, became the president of Sierra Community College, Rocklin, California. He was now the president of a college with an enrollment more than twenty-five times larger than the small private college he had served in Columbia, Missouri.

My brother-in-law and his wife lived near Sierra College and had become friends with Bill and Charlene. In late August 1974, my son, Lee, and I visited with them when we were on the last leg of our 53-day trip around the world. My brother-in law set up a Sunday morning appointment for Lee and me to visit with Dr. Bill. We spent three hours in the Office of the President of Sierra College, which had an enrollment of more than 10,000 students, before returning to Columbia, Missouri the next day. In the fall of 1974 Bill became ill and, unfortunately, died later that same year.

When I see anything in BIG PRINT, I’ll always think of my deceased colleague, Bill Winstead!

W. Merle Hill
CC President 1965-77

1. In 1945, a veteran received $1,944 for 100% disability. Today, the 100% disability payment is $14.580.