by Gary Huxford
We had a very stable (some would say inert) history faculty from the early sixties, when I first came to then OCE, to the late eighties. The “grand old man” of this group was Sam Anderson. The title was a tribute to his mentoring skills more than a comment on years since he was about the same age as the rest of us.
Sam was steady, unflappable, and decent. There are those without whom an organization stumbles. Their names don’t appear on the institutional letterhead, but you soon learn from casual but vital conversation who they are. Anderson was one such. He was a moving force behind the creation of a faculty Senate. He kept our collective memory. He became the arbiter in the matter of rules and procedures. And he was good company. I recall only one time witnessing him losing his temper, and even then one had to be a close observer to be aware what was happening.
Anderson served in the infantry in World War II (an ominous sign when we start numbering wars), initially in the Aleutians and then in France with Patton’s Third Army. I recall a comment he made after the movie “Patton” came out. “If ever I go into combat again,” he said, “I would like to be led by George C. Scott.”
It was years before I felt comfortable calling him “Sam,” even though he insisted on it. He seemed to me to epitomize all that was best in our shared profession.
One small story. Anderson was eligible for promotion to full professor. He met all the qualifications except one; his publication record was weak. Realizing this he wrote an article, based on his dissertation, and submitted it to one of the better scholarly journals. The editors returned his manuscript indicating they were interested but . . . . When Sam shared his news with me I asked if he would allow me to tweak some things (we were both trained in colonial history, the subject of his article) and re-submit the paper. He agreed. I did very little by way of re-writing, but when I sent it in for the second time, I listed his name as “S. Kingdon Anderson.” Now, I ask you; if you are an editor of a juried journal and you receive submissions from a “Sam” and an “S. Kingdon,” which are you going to take more seriously? Anyway, it was accepted and published. Such are the antics of academic life.
I miss Sam Anderson. He died while I was absent from campus on leave. Of all I have known who are now deceased, Sam’s passing is the one I am least reconciled to. I still expect him to come walking through my door one day.