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´╗┐Ren Harman: I have some questions and it's very conversational. I'll do a little housekeeping at the top and we'll get started. Sound good?

Bob Bates: Yeah, I'm ready.

Ren: Good afternoon. This is Ren Harman, the project director for VT Stories. Today is October 2, 2017 at about 2:07 PM. We are in the Alumni Library in the 1:00Holtzman Alumni Center on the campus of Virginia Tech with a very special guest with us today. This is the only time that I will prompt you, if you could just say in a complete sentence my name is, when you were born, and where you were born.

Bob: My name is Robert C. Bates and I was born in Portland, Oregon. My birth date is March 8, 1944.

Ren: Thank you. If you can just talk a little bit about growing up and your early life.

Bob: Well, I was the youngest of four children, two brothers and one sister, so of course I was always accused of being the favorite because I was the youngest and I got away with a lot of things that the others didn't, because my parents were worn out by the time I came along. Of course none of that is true. 2:00[Chuckles] Anyway, but it was a community kind of in Portland, Oregon but not too far out. We were close to a college that had moved from a different part of the state to a private Presbyterian college just up the hill from that, and so people were building houses and moving into that area. I think we had a very good childhood. The yards were bigger and we had neighbors and a lot of kids of similar ages, and so we would play together and so forth. There were little streams and we would do things, stop them up and make dams.

Anyway, we had I think a very good...good schools, typically you would ride the 3:00school bus to go, but we weren't very far from the school that I attended for kindergarten through 8th grade. Then in high school we went to a brand new high school back then, which of course was brand new 55 years ago or something, and it was a very large, the other schools were small, but the high school was very large like 3,000 students. And so there were so many students in my class that I didn't know. A lot of them I didn't even recognize for walking across the stage. And I can go and tell you my sort of educational tract. Would that be helpful at this point?


Ren: Yeah, we will get to it in just a second. I want to ask you a little bit about your mother and father.

Bob: Okay.

Ren: What did they do for work?

Bob: My mother was a schoolteacher and she taught school, but then she was a substitute teacher for some of the time. My father worked for the U.S. Government. Both of my parents went to college in the 20...the early... Both had college degrees. They went to a private college in Minnesota until my dad transferred to the University of Minnesota and got into agriculture, and his background was in agriculture.

Ren: What role did education play in your home?

Bob: A lot. That was absolutely mandatory. There was always an expectation, and 5:00of course for the kids, my oldest brother became a dentist and went on that way. My other brother went into teaching. My sister was a nurse, and so everybody had advanced education, so that was a high priority obviously for my parents, you can tell.

Ren: Sure. I'm the youngest of five and you're the youngest of four children. What was your relationship like with your siblings growing up?

Bob: We got along really well. My two brothers would be wrestling me all the time. [Chuckles] But it was a good positive kind of relationship and supportive in ways that needed to be at times, and so I think that was very good.


And my parents were married for 60 years or 70 years before they died, and my wife and I are 48 years now and we have children.

Ren: Time flies doesn't it?

Bob: Yeah.

Ren: So you mentioned your education tract, when did you first start thinking about college? You graduated from Louis & Clark College in Portland in 1966?

Bob: Yeah.

Ren: With a degree in?

Bob: Biology.

Ren: So when did you first start thinking about college and kind of how did Louis & Clark and the major of biology come into the equation?

Bob: Well, we always knew we were going to go to college, so that was...

Ren: There was no other option.

Bob: There was no other option. That was basically it, and that was not know, for our parents to pay for us to go to college, but it was 7:00still a priority. I really liked biology in high school as well, so I was a biology major and I knew I was going to be a biology major when I went to college. I had a lot of good opportunity when I went to college learning how to do some research and so forth. In a smaller private college you actually get some good opportunities to do things that you might not earlier in your career to do in larger universities, so it was a very good experience. They had a study abroad program that was fairly new, so in my first semester I went to Japan and I continued to have a lifelong relationship with the family I stayed during that 8:00time in Japan, so I feel like I was blessed in many different ways in a college experience.

Ren: Maybe you can talk a little bit about Louis & Clark College for maybe those who don't know a whole lot about it.

Bob: It's largely a small liberal arts college. The total student body is around 3,000, and so fairly small classes, 500 or in that range. That doesn't add up to 3,000, but anyways it's of that size and it's residential. Because I lived just down the street from that college I walked up to college and so forth, and so maybe didn't have a little bit of that going away to the dormitory, but I spent 9:00most of my time on campus anyway in study groups.

It was a really good learning environment, and like I said, the opportunity to try to learn about some research and things like that. That as you will hear from the other things that we say that was an important opportunity.

Ren: When you were majoring in biology as an undergrad at Louis & Clark what were your aspirations after graduation?

Bob: Well I didn't know exactly where I would go. I had some consideration that maybe I would go to medical college or something like that, but I didn't go in that direction. But what I did do and found out that as a subset of biology I got very interested about microbiology. Actually the little experiments that two 10:00of us kind of worked on them together, two students, but were microbiological kind of experiments. You know, very simple kinds of things, but I was learning how to do it. And that faculty member in that small college was absolutely excellent. I have high respect for him, and most of the faculty in their disciplines were really good. That's sort of put me on the... Well what was I going to do with that? Then I thought I probably ought to go to graduate school, some kind of microbiology, so I applied and got selected to go to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, which is in the eastern part of the State. The department was actually called Bacteriology and Public Health at the 11:00time, but it was microbiology.

And then to tell you how this moves on, then I was interested in microbiology, but then I learned about viruses, and well, I wanted to know more about that. Virology was not a strong part of their overall programs, but certainly you were introduced to all of that. So I applied to go to Colorado State University. These are all, rather than college this is all n the land grant system of colleges that are, so that's how I got to Colorado State for my PhD.


That was a four-year program. I worked actually and did my research in the lab of somebody who was actually a veterinarian, a PhD, but veterinarian and he is in research rather than taking care of dogs in a clinic, and I learned a lot there. So that really led me on to where I was going and so forth.

Ren: I want to ask you, as someone with a bachelor's degree in biology I always enjoyed the microbiology classes when I was here the most. I want to ask you what the state of microbiology was in the late 60s, in the early 1970s.

Bob: Well, back that early you didn't have [restriction] enzymes. You didn't have gene cloning and some of those things that became available and so forth. 13:00When I finished my PhD we didn't have any of that kind of hands-on. We were doing though more of a different kind of, in this case virology and virology work, and it was more applied. But during that time I got very interested in molecular biology and a little different than what my advisor was doing, so when I became a faculty member I knew that I wanted to go in a different direction, but I learned a lot about viruses and virology during that PhD time. And then of course so many opportunities and things to do with viruses and study was 14:00incredible as it came along.

Ren: Right. When you graduated with your master's degree in Bacteriology and Public Health from Washington State in 1969, something else happened when you were at Washington State; you met your wife.

Bob: I met my wife, that's right.

Ren: Can you tell us how you guys met?

Bob: She was an undergraduate so she was already in her third year when I came to do my master's, so I met her in our third year. Actually it was kind of later in that third year, so we started to spend some time together and so forth, mostly in her fourth year and my second year. By the time we got to the end of that I already had applied to go to Colorado State and got selected and she was 15:00finishing her degree.

And we weren't quite there yet, but hers was in education, so she went home to Tacoma in Renton, part of Tacoma, and taught school, elementary. So my first year I was in Colorado she was in--but by Christmas time of that year we said...

Ren: No more long distance.

Bob: Yeah. So she finished her year and we got married that June and pulled a big trailer out to Colorado State and then she taught school in the local school district for three years while I worked on my PhD, and went back to lab at night and she would grade papers. [Chuckles] But no children at that time, so it was 16:00totally focused on my degree.

Ren: In 1972 you graduated with a doctorate in microbiology with a specialty in virology from Colorado State as you mentioned. You were married at this point I guess.

Bob: Yeah.

Ren: How did, and why we're here, how did Virginia Tech come into the picture?

Bob: Yeah, that's very interesting. You know, I had never heard of...I knew there was a State of Virginia, but certainly never heard anything about the state and certainly never heard of Blacksburg. But in microbiology it's a little different than, somewhat a little different than the way things are now. But you would go to the national meetings, these national meetings, like many thousands from all the microbiologists from around the whole country. But those were 17:00opportunities to also look for in my case faculty positions. And you know the different colleges and universities were looking for sometimes not narrowly a certain kind of microbiology that the person had focused on but more broadly. So I interviewed for some open positions at the meetings and one was in microbiology. Well you know, just looking to get a job and it turned out I got an offer for Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, and never heard of all that but I said well I better go to interview. Then you go to interview on campus and 18:00so forth.

Ren: Let me ask you about the first time you stepped on campus when you were doing your interview for your job, do you remember what it looked like, how you felt? Can you go back to that day? Can you remember?

Bob: It was very receptive and of course if they were wanting to hire you they were on their best behavior, so it was great. I remember talking with everybody and all that. They have a big party for you and all the faculty there. It's just for all the interviews and stuff like that. It was really great and I thought this is a really good opportunity and certainly I never expected to go that far away or what, but yeah, it was pretty exciting. And it was on an institution 19:00that was still pretty much all-male military, so that was kind of unique. Obviously, it was changing and starting to change in the 60s, but yeah, it was very interesting. [Laughs]

Ren: So you picked up and moved from Colorado to Virginia and I guess you started in the fall of 1972.

Bob: Right.

Ren: What was the campus like in 1972? Definitely a time of change in our national kind of history and what was going on, but what was Blacksburg and Virginia Tech like at that time?

Bob: Well you know it was quite a bit smaller. It was beginning to change as I said. There was more, T. Marshall Hahn was President and it was getting farther 20:00along, but he was the one who broadened, you know, taking away more of the focus only on a technical, the arts and sciences, other disciplines. Not that there wasn't some of that, but it was more balanced in terms of so that would obviously draw more students who wanted to go, undergraduate students for example, because they could go into sociology or other things. And some of that was already there, but much more broader. And the land grants, all of the land grants were really that way and became more generalized I guess if you want to say.


I think that was good, but it was a little bit of a surprise. Not that I had been at any other university, except from the standpoint of where I got my PhD, and so I was focused on my work and my area, not looking across the entire, but universities pretty much like that.

Ren: As you start this new career at this new university you are a tenure track, and then what was that process like and being at this university and doing research and teaching classes I'm sure, what was that experience like?

Bob: Kind of scary in a way. I mean it's not scary scary, but it's like well, you know, and the research university, the expectation is that you're going to be doing research and whatever your interest is, whatever first for others that 22:00are doing that kind of research, so you need to get on with it. And you learn very quickly that if you are going to be successful in actually carrying out your research a lot of that research with your guidance is done by the graduate students. And so you know, I got a student right on who was going to work on their doctoral program in my lab, and I was pretty early to take on a doctoral level student, but she had her interests and they aligned with what kind of research I was interested in and so forth, which actually turned out to be very helpful. But there were times when they thought that I was too new as a faculty member to be guiding doctoral research and degree students, but I think that's a 23:00bunch of crap myself obviously. And so we got started and then the biggest issue was to be able to do anything in research there usually requires some funding available to actually do it and so forth. That was the hard part in getting that lined up.

Where we got most successful was collaborating with another faculty member who had different skills and so forth that meshed but wasn't exactly what I do. And then when we did that we just flew. I mean it was great.

Ren: So even in the early 1970s there was some kind of interdisciplinary work almost.

Bob: Yeah, certainly more... It was beginning to be more like that, yeah, 24:00absolutely. A lot of programs, depending on what they're working on and so forth, they could be quite integrated, people working on different parts of the same thing and so forth. So there was much more collaboration like that, which actually was good.

Ren: So during your time as a faculty member trying to achieve that illustrious goal of tenure you started a family, correct?

Bob: Yeah.

Ren: How was balancing life and family and three children, difficult balancing an academic career, having children?

Bob: Three children in five years.

Ren: Wow, okay.

Bob: The first was a girl and then a boy and then a girl, so the range was 5 25:00years from there to there, all wonderful young people that have gone on to be successful in all their work. But my wife who had of course been teaching and all that, stayed home until the third one was in like about third grade. She did some part-time stuff and then after that she went back to full-time teaching in the local...well, Price's Fork first and then Kipps after that.

Ren: That's where my kids go.

Bob: K-2, but it was mostly K-1. In fact, one of her co-teachers and her husband, much younger than her, we went by and saw them on our way here.


Ren: That's wonderful.

Bob: Yeah, it was interesting.

Ren: Three kids in five years, that's a heavy lift.

Bob: And one car, but that had to change fairly quickly.

Ren: So you spent the better part of 20 years as kind of a faculty member. And correct me if I'm wrong on any of my dates here, 1994, is that when you were appointed the dean?

Bob: Well not exactly.

Ren: So walk through maybe that timeline.

Bob: So there were, I guess about the first 13 years, and by the end of the time I got to the 12th year, but around that time I was a full professor and so I moved up through the ranks and so forth.

So as I said, I had a pretty good program and a lot of activities going on in 27:00the lab and all of that. I spent a lot of time evenings and weekends working on experiments and things like that, so that was a burping point to some extent. [Laughs] I can't remember exactly, I guess there was an opening in the dean's office and the dean's office was in the same building where all the biology and geology and so forth was in.

Ren: This is Derring?

Bob: Derring, yeah. And of course back then it was a new building. It's not so new now, but anyway, so we were in that building. I think it was the associate dean's position for research and graduate education, so that's on an associate 28:00level. Obviously it was a very big college, so you are associate dean for all of the programs for research. And so I thought well maybe I would want to do that. And so I gradually slipped in to these roles, because I was still in the same building and I continued at a 2X or maybe 1.5 kind of life, so I did that, but I still had my lab going. I cut back a little bit on the teaching, but I pretty much was still doing everything at the beginning. So I was associate dean for 29:00about six years I think it was, six or seven years.

And along the way I also had the responsibility for facilities, and arts and sciences was in 17 locations around campus, so I actually spent a lot of time on issues around that. But you know, I kind of liked it and because I had some senior people by that time in the lab beyond he students working on our research and so forth it could still work. So I did that for a long time and then by the time the dean was finished at the time I thought well, maybe I'll run to be the dean and got selected.

But still, we were still in Derring Hall and I got selected for that. I was 30:00still stupid enough to think that I could still teach my one major course, about 125 students, so popular, 125 students in it. I no longer did the...I was always in the labs even though we had GTAs in the labs. I was very engaged in all aspects of it.

Ren: Yeah, wearing a lot of hats.

Bob: Yeah, and loved to work with the students. We just had a great time. So eventually I had to give up the teaching thing because there were times I had to be in a meeting or whatever and 125 people you couldn't tell them we'll meet another day or whatever. And I also had graduate courses, but I had already gotten rid of those, and those you didn't move around because with 10 or 9 people in there you could say, "We could meet on this day." So gradually I had 31:00to give up some of those things and then I was full-time focused on that.

Ren: So at the time the college was the College of Arts & Sciences, correct.

Bob: Right.

Ren: What kind of changed, so it's obviously the College of Science now, what was kind of the history behind the name change and this split?

Bob: The College of Arts & Sciences had as I mentioned like 25 departments. We had ROTC, three leaders of that in our college. We had a lot of different things. Computer science was in the college. We eventually inherited Econ from business so had a lot of different kinds of things in the college. And then we 32:00kind of had five pods of the things that would kind of go together, but we never had a leader over those, but they did some things together and that's why we did that. A lot of places would not have it that way. They would do it differently, that had more [curly] subsets. Anyway, that's the way it was so there was always stuff to do, issues to deal with and various things. But in other ways I think faculty, you know, when there were issues on the teaching isn't as good in this area or whatever else, people would really get onto it.

I will say this on here, that by the time I was done as dean some of the other 33:00colleges were talking to me about how did you improve that, or what did you do, even in engineering. So I felt good about what we did, that we would have a quality education in all these disciplines, so anyway, it was interesting. But, well, as you know, things change.

Ren: In 2002 you left to be the provost right, at Washington State.

Bob: Right.

Ren: I want to get back to Virginia Tech stuff, but I want to ask was that a hard decision?

Bob: Yes, it was. When we got married my wife had never really been out of the 34:00State of Washington of course until we got married and then we were in Colorado. We had nobody and still have nobody in this area. Everybody was either in Oregon for me or Washington State for her.

Ren: Pacific northwest.

Bob: I told her, "We'll go here for a few years." She says three years, I say a few, and well we didn't. We stayed and stayed and raised our family and got involved. In those fields like that you don't just kind of like, "I would rather be at Oregon State," or something like that because you're in a specialty by the time you get down to that level, and so it didn't happen. I guess I'm going to that until my 17th year and by then I figured well, I don't think we're probably 35:00leaving and going anywhere. Not that it changed really anything, but it was always that we will go eventually, then when it wasn't in a short time, and you know, by then this is where our life was. This is where our family was and all of our relatives on the west coast came for all the graduations and the kids and all those things, and so we still kept contact at some level. So we got that point and I was dean and Washington State decided that they wanted to... I didn't go, in fact I turned them down a couple of times and finally they kept after me and said, "We would really like you to come be provost," which is typically sort of stepping stone way that people do.


They sometimes end up being provost of their own institution, but usually not. So we went out and interviewed and all that, and we sat there the night after the interview and they were more than ready to offer it to me. We ate some dinner in Spokane, Washington before we flew back and I said, "Well, what do you think?" and she cried. [Chuckles] You know, it wasn't like we ever thought we would go or would want to go or anything else, but by then you know we were there. So she stopped the school teaching at Christmastime in December and we packed up and were out of town in three weeks and there we were.

Ren: Wow. In Spokane.

Bob: You never know.

Ren: You never know.

Bob: And I think still in the end I think probably it was still a good move, but we could have also been here forever and still here. We liked it very much here. 37:00We liked everything about it.

Ren: How long were you at Washington State for?

Bob: So I was there another, it was almost 30 years here and it was about another 131/2 years I think. And I was provost for not quite eight of that years and then sometimes when you get a new president they want a different provost, very typical. So I wasn't quite ready to be done and so I decided I would go to the Vancouver, Washington campus right across from Portland on one of our younger campuses and help them out down there basically with research and things like that for a year or two. Six years later I finally retired. [Laughs]


Ren: Wow. That's wonderful. I want to ask you, your time at Virginia Tech as a professor, as an associate dean, a dean, teaching classes, probably interacting with thousands of students and hundreds of faculty, what were some of your favorite memories or experiences that you can remember? I'm sure there's a lot, but is there a few that really stick out in your mind?

Bob: I think at that point I was a dean, when I was a dean you couldn't determine how many... It was not very precise. I think it's much better precise now, but three weeks before the fall semester started there were 600 more 39:00incoming students than we planned on, and so we had to work really hard to put on more courses and things like that.

And you know just people, faculty of course weren't happy about that, but put a little group together and said we've got to solve this problem. We can't have these students starting and have no classes. I mean some of those challenges, but also where it's problematic like that and the faculty don't like it, but they step up to the plate. So I think things like that were rewarding and refreshing. Of course they wanted more money for their department than we could probably give them, but they would take it up. I think also to see them educate 40:00students in the different disciplines. When there were complaints that they didn't feel like the students were prepared in the math area, particularly engineering didn't say, "Well these kids aren't prepared to go on to the next steps and doing a good job and all that," well you know, that's always been an issue for mathematics. So we called their bluff in a way, they are saying that we're not doing a good job of teaching them in math, so we said, "Well, if you can do some math areas better than somebody else then send some teachers over," 41:00and they did. I don't think it was really necessary. But they also found out that yeah, that goes way down the line in being prepared as you move through the mathematic complexity and so forth, and so those kinds of things.

I think as a rank in file faculty member and so forth I think it was pretty good. I think people worked hard and there wasn't a lot of back-biting about someone not pulling their load very much. Yeah, it's some of that, but I think they did a good job.

Ren: Kind of the reverse of that question, difficult experiences or hard times through your many years here. Any ones that really stick out in your mind?

Bob: I think you know, it's always difficult when some faculty are not 42:00performing adequately and so forth and they have their evaluations each year and so forth. They can get rather ugly and mean, and so I knew that in my own department. But then when you're over the responsibility for all of them and their progression in moving up through associate and full professor level, which they all aspire to, you know to kind of counsel some of those people and then when they go along farther and kind of drop of out doing research and then having to say, "Well you're going to have to teach more sections or you're going to have to carry more of a teaching load." But we learned in that in that for 43:00some of those people they fell out of doing research. But the issue was then I had to do more of the teaching, but you had to reward them, not punish them. So they always felt like they chastised in all of that. It was a realty, and it was a reality that had to work out in a different way, but then give them recognition, because many of those people were really really good teachers. Make them feel good that they are making their contribution. And I knew that of course with my own department, but then when I got at the level for the entire college those could be difficult, and they could be pretty ugly about it.

Ren: Yeah, I'm sure.

Bob: They feel like they're being spanked and all this kind of stuff. They're 44:00not getting the salary increases that the others are, those kinds of things.

Ren: Yeah, very tribal I guess you could say.

Bob: Now there are issues that go beyond unfortunately, and that's really hard.

Ren: This is a question that you may be able to answer in a few words or a sentence, but if someone kind of simply says the words Virginia Tech what's the first thing you think of?

Bob: Actually Virginia Tech has gotten quite a reputation, and I think that... Well, two answers to that, because it's called Virginia Tech it sounds like it's not as broad a university as [Georgia Tech]--


And to some extent that was true but that's not so much anymore. And there are strong programs and so forth in many disciplines that are beyond the traditional core common disciplines. And I think you know, Virginia Tech, and one of the reasons that the name was changed, it went from VPI to, how did it go? Anyway, it included the liberal arts areas and then it was just too long and nobody wanted to say it anymore, and the football of course wanted to have something crisper than that. Anyway, it became Virginia Tech but on a lot of the paperwork 46:00and everything it was Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, but that's such a mouthful.

But you know, at some point, you know our engineering program and all are really strong. When people begin to know that they don't care so much about that, but that was a hard transition to try to have that identity that we're a complete university and not just a technical college. I had forgotten all about that as the years went by. That was very sensitive for the people who were in the other disciplines, not to be known that there could be strong programs in their areas 47:00and therefore the name worked some point that it doesn't work against us.

Ren: Both during your time here and when you were at Washington State what changes did you kind of see over time? You kind of alluded to that a little bit just now, but what were some changes that you've seen both in terms of campus size and growth, but also as someone who was really kind of in the mixture of this growth, and what do you think about some of those changes?

Bob: Well, I think that the idea of it being a larger institution, but if we're turning away students, and we do, that are well-qualified to come and so forth, 48:00maybe that's okay.

And most of the large land grant universities are quite large, and so that's maybe not a surprise. But kind of moving in that direction is not easy either, and the funding, state funding and all of that, you don't want tuition and everything to be too expensive. So how do you manage that as well as you can? Facilities are always an issue, and as you can see there are a lot, in the time that we left from 2002 an incredible amount of new structure building, and then as I've been here people are talking about, "Well we don't have enough space for 49:00this program" or "We don't have enough space for that program," and that's an issue. But they have also...

Ren: Do you think that's an issue at other universities as well?

Bob: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. And certainly at Pullman at Washington State University, basically the same issues, because that institution hasn't grown as fast, but is going through another real spurt, because it was a fairly small land grant institution and partly because of the location. But it's now a very sought-after college for in-state students and University of Washington, of course it's usually about [45,000] students or whatever. It's really big. I mean 50:00you are really anonymous there. One of the issues, you don't want to be so big, and the other thing is that students if they want to get a chance to do some undergraduate research there isn't that opportunity. So I would hate to see us grow beyond that, that the best majority of the students are going through the process of education and rather having these other opportunities in that. And we're not past that, but I would worry a little bit, and that doesn't mean that you have to have a lot more facilities, you would lose it in other ways. So I think there is probably a good limiting size somewhere and maybe we're there and maybe we're not.

Ren: What advice would you have for the current Dean of College of Science I've 51:00had the chance to meet, and maybe some other university leaders? What advice would you have as someone who started here in 1972 and was here for many years? What bit of advice would you share with them and maybe you have shared?

Bob: Well, they are doing what I think is very good. The program degrees or sub-degrees were pretty static and kind of narrow in concept, and they are not necessarily educating us in the way that the trends and society needs for their programs. They are coming up with a different education model really and some of those are being put in place that really make a lot of sense. So I think they 52:00are doing it, but reinventing yourself, I think could get very static in a lot of places. I mean there are certain part of the core disciplines that aren't going to change much, but there are some aspects of that that have to be different and they are doing that. Because I kind of fall when I see the...I get all... You know how all the stuff...

Ren: Yeah. No worries.

Bob: Yeah, right.

Ren: This is maybe a bit of a personal question, but what would you like people to know about you?

Bob: I'm a collaborator. I don't need to have to take all of the praise or whatever. I just need to see that we do a good job and get the job done. I'm not 53:00a prima donna, and when I was a researcher and all that kind of stuff we did it together. And sure, you're still maybe the boss in one sense, but you can't do what you're going to do unless you're collaborators with each other, and internally slowly in your area of research, but beyond that. And you don't need to always have to take all the praise, because if it's appropriate you'll get the praise, but there's some people that don't work that way and that's not good. In the end you don't advance in the way that you want.


Ren: Can you talk a little bit about OWLS? Are you a member of that group?

Bob: No, I'm not.

Ren: You're not? Okay. I thought you were, my bad.

Bob: Well, I mean if we of course were still living in the area I would have. Even for the deans thing, this is the one time I get to do it on Tuesday when we're here. We had been planning to come back every year for a visit and so forth, and I wanted to do it when I could also do that, and so we'll get to do that tomorrow.

Ren: Did you come back to Blacksburg or to Virginia Tech often after you had left?

Bob: Once. I think my wife was back for something, otherwise it took a while to remember exactly when we came up. It was 2009, and did a variety of things and 55:00so forth. When you're that far away...

Ren: It's a long way.

Bob: Yeah, all the way across. And we also had nobody in our family, our immediate family, our children had all left here for their jobs around the country and had been a lot of different places before they settled down. So it might have been different for us if our children had all stayed in the general area or whatever else. We might not have even left to go take the other job, but anyway, yeah. [Chuckles]

Ren: What would you like people to know about Virginia Tech that they may not know?

Bob: Well, I think kind of back to what we were talking about, the reputation of 56:00the institution and the knowledge about it and all that is that more and more people are becoming aware that it's a really strong fine institution. But I think to some extent the people didn't know that. You have others around the country have that reputation, and I think we're still gaining that reputation here, but I don't think that it's as widely known and as strong. But I think it's a whole lot better now, and as I move back to the other part of the country and all that they are much more aware. And you know, kind of interestingly, when we got into the big time in football, I mean that gave us an awareness.

Because you hear the name of the institution, even though it's about the 57:00football and not about the good program in some area.

Ren: Right.

Bob: But you know, there's a whole lot of people out there that have pretty good football reputations that are not as good an institution as we are here. And it takes time for people to learn that.

Ren: The last couple of questions here, and thank you for being so generous with your time and speaking with us today, I really appreciate it. As someone who was a professor here and associate dean and dean as we mentioned, you raised a family here, you spent many years in Blacksburg, myself I'm trying to raise a family also in this area, what does Virginia Tech mean to you?

Bob: You know, that's a good question. I have an incredible amount of pride in 58:00this institution, and not being a student here and my association and my pride has come after I came here to work. I think it's absolutely high quality, should be fully respected and even more if people knew more about that. I think you get into the, I mean the University of Virginia has a long legacy in their own right for lots of reasons, but I think that, and it's kind of the same thing in the State of Washington, that the University of Washington they are higher on the ranks of all the things, but WSU is not very far behind. Probably if you want to 59:00say it that way I think Virginia Tech is probably better in a whole lot of areas than Virginia, but Virginia is really a high quality institution, and our youngest daughter got her bachelor's degree there.

Ren: Oh wow, okay.

Bob: Our oldest daughter got her degree at William & Mary, and our son after being accepted to the Naval Academy and places like that, and he was not going to go to this institution that he grew up in this town and all this kind of stuff, and when he came down he said, "I'm going to Virginia Tech and I don't want to hear about it." [Chuckles] Yeah. Then he had an absolutely incredible career here and all of that, and education, so a lot of pride, a lot of pride about this institution. And that bothers some of them. I obviously have a lot of connection with Washington State University at a low level and a high level, but 60:00I think it's a really great institution here.

Ren: Yeah. Thank you.

Bob: One story of my life, we didn't kind of go around in that direction, but that was when Derring Hall, and I was doing all this and I was doing my research and all of that, but also being the dean in the same building, we moved out of the building before I left. That was in 1996. That was when the modular building was put in the middle of the quad. Did you ever see that?

Ren: No, I don't think so.

Bob: Well, right in the middle of the upper quad. It was right in the middle, to 61:00get our administrative people out so that that space could be used for research and so forth.

Ren: Okay, now I remember.

Bob: It's not too long that they, maybe just two or three years now since they tore it down as they started to take down the old dorms to renew them. So we moved up there to do that, so people had different names for it, the trailers or whatever else, which then ended serving in that role for the College of Arts & Sciences' main office for I don't know, 18 years or something like that, when it was supposed to be a temporary thing before something else was done.

Ren: Right.

Bob: So one of the fun things we had was it was called the Base Motel. We had this thing, this light-up thing like a motel sign, the old style, on the 62:00building. It would light up and do all this kind of stuff and so everybody referred to it, 'Over there at Base Motel.' This came out again when we were doing the pre-parties for the game this Saturday. So when I was recruited to go back to Washington State University as provost they of course didn't want me to go and I was betwixt and between, and we had that plaque, a lit-up neon thing. It says Base Motel and somebody lit it up, and No Vacancy. So when we finally accepted the job they put tape over the No Vacancy and put Vacancy next to it. They had to fix it up, so we had some fun too.



Ren: I had forgot about that, because I remember it when you bring that up now, the modular, because I remember going there to have some paperwork signed as an undergrad. Now my office is in Shanks Hall, but I remember going there now as an undergrad.

Bob: Anyway, we had some fun too.

Ren: The last question, is there anything that I didn't ask that you want to say or just kind of an open floor? I appreciate you being so generous with your time. I know you have a lot of people that want to see you and take your time. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Bob: I was just trying to think of some things, let me just roll through my head a bit.

Ren: It's a long career for sure at this university.


Bob: Yeah. I'm sure I'll think of some things.

Ren: We can add.

Bob: I think we covered it pretty well in a lot of ways.

Ren: I'm not sure what title to refer to you as. I'll just say Dr. Bates thank you so much for your time.

Bob: It's always Bob. I always made the graduate students, you know, some of them just couldn't, they just had to say, 'Dr. Bates' but that's where I felt like we were in it together, and not so hierarchal that your title is over the top of the other... So yeah.

Ren: Bob Bates. I'll go with that. Thank you so much sir. I appreciate it.

Bob: All right. Yeah. I enjoyed this. Thank you.