The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989 Page: 84
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Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly
ways a Texan in speech, appearance, and manner. But like the Greek
mentor, Dr. Webb helped his students "to see reality as open to change
and themselves as makers of change, to possess a clear vision of hope
and the power to serve that vision," to quote a recent journal issue on
"Teacher as Mentor."' He enabled his students to become more than
would have been possible without his concern and his confidence.
My first encounter with Walter Prescott Webb was in Ruby Mixon's
American history class in Paschal High School, Fort Worth. She had the
class read Divided We Stand and the Temporary National Economic
Committee papers that resulted from it. Her class in general and Di-
vided We Stand in particular had a great deal to do with my choice of a
college major, for I caught the vision that a better understanding of the
past could help us to deal more intelligently with the present.
My first actual meeting with Dr. Webb occurred in the summer of
1943, when I went to Austin to be interviewed for a job as student as-
sistant in the Texas State Historical Association office. Dr. Webb was
just back from serving as Harmsworth Professor at Oxford. H. Bailey
Carroll made it clear that I must pass Dr. Webb's inspection to be hired.
The interview was unexceptional, but I experienced the sense of awe
mixed with trepidation that Dr. Webb engendered in most of those
who entered his office in Garrison Hall.
As an undergraduate student, I had Dr. Webb's course on the Great
Plains and an upper-level course on late nineteenth-century United
States history. While I learned a great deal, especially about the plains,
Dr. Webb was not a particularly good lecturer. Nonetheless, his respect
for students and his commitment to the task of teaching made the
classes good ones.
It was in his seminar "Democracy and Frontiers" that Dr. Webb did
his best teaching. At the first class meeting, he sketched in broad strokes
the "Great Frontier" he was sending us out to explore. Each of us, after
making his or her individual exploration, would return to share discov-
eries with the group. Each of us, he insisted, would be an expert; we
would know more about the topic than anyone else, and we were to
present our findings as experts. The miracle that his confidence in us
worked was that we did in fact accomplish more than any of us could
have imagined. Dr. Webb listened intently to each presentation and led
the seminar in critiquing the work. The sense of being involved in a
great adventure of the mind was extraordinarily exciting, and I imag-
ine each of us who participated in the seminar can still recall that sense
of exhilaration. We also experienced learning as a process of participa-
'Myron B. Bloy, Jr., Editor's preface, R & IL: The Journal of the Assoczatson for Relhgon and
Intellectual Lzfe, II (Winter, 1985), 5-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989, periodical, 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/m1/111/: accessed April 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.