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THE MISSING Ph.D.
I received this email on August 4 from my father’s former colleague in response to my questions (see immediately below). It is amazing that he zeroes in on the dissertation as did my therapist and I. His lack of a Ph.D. was always a mystery in the family and none of his children knew what happened. All of his children, except Steve, spent the three summers at the Cherokee Reservation with my parents while my father did the research. In response to this email, I obtained his dissertation and the comments on it from the Smithsonian and I was shocked by what I read. Part of it is published on the old LIPNews site under “What Happened to the Ph.D.?” (click here).
I am very sympathetic to you and your siblings for the enduring effects of harm done to you. And I am very surprised to hear that you believe that your father is the culprit. I knew and worked with Charley between 1965 and 1971, and we had some differences, but on the whole we got along OK though I distanced myself gradually because I resented his reaction to some of the best of the anthropology students. I have always thought that the relationship was strained mainly because I was intently at work writing my dissertation and Charley had guilty or “failure” feelings about never completing his own, and the keen students were heading toward their own academic achievements.
I’m sorry to hear also that Tom has been having a dangerous and conflicted life. I still remember his cheerful and energetic help in unloading all of my family’s worldly goods from the U-haul truck when I arrived in Lancaster. I was at F&M when Steve first arrived, and was found under the bed with a hoard of bread. I am not sure that I remember you, Emily or Anne well enough to recall who was who. I just remember Millie’s sociability and her nice-looking young family.
What follows is simply my opinion, with no claim to knowing much of the whole story and no claim to truth. I hope that I am not doing anyone, including you, your siblings, Millie, and Charley, a disservice in sharing these opinions.
In my opinion, Charley’s “character” was conflicted by frustrations based on a sense of failure that he felt he did not deserve. A summary of his dissertation had already been published along with some “heavies” in the field who made very negative assessments of his use of Freudian theory to explain Cherokee Indian model personality as stuck in the psychological stage of “orality,” and I think this was the point where he felt the weight of authority figures oppressing him. I recall hearing (from your Mom?) that they once were driving back to the Cherokee reservation (to complete the research?), and he felt so fearful of possible reproach that he turned around rather than face them again.
What was at stake here? His reduction of a culture was criticized by a seasoned authority as arrogant and simplistic. His career was then stymied, but his tenure at F&M was secure. When I knew him, he was characteristically prepared to criticize or confront persons who were in his eyes, arrogant and simplistic, such as the keener senior students heading for graduate school. Some of them were arrogant, but his reaction was intemperate. He had a similar view of the President, who, in my opinion, was indeed arrogant and simplistic. I found it perverse that he would be inflicting a similar kind of judgment on others that he had himself been wounded by.
Yes, this has to do with power, aggression and control. And he was effective in its exercise to the point of sending one student into my office in tears and desperation (he is now a university professor) and cowing selected others. For most of the students, though, I do not recall his exercising control. A somewhat dogmatic style, but not much of a problem.
I never saw Charlie as being a very sexual person at all. I thought he was a repressed person whose sexuality came out in compensatory fantasies like Cherokee orality. On the other hand, I have never been very perceptive regarding sexual subtleties or strategies.
Arrogance or aloofness do not strike me as a part of what I saw. The same with “hot temper.” I would have thought he would be afraid to show much of that, to me, at least, since I was big and an ex-marine sergeant. Possibly that kind of aggressive attitude was more in his fathering than in his teaching. Children are easier to dominate.
So, Becky, I can’t offer you the truth of the matter. Even my memories must seem awfully vague to you. I hope that you will be able to find some resolution to your search for the truth. If I can add any more to anything here, or to other questions, please feel free to write. I will be away from the 6th through the 13th of this month.