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Extended Bio for Evayln Bates and the History of the ADP

Extended Bio for Evayln Bates and the History of the ADP


Evalyn Cora Bates (1916-2010)

The Early Years.

Born in Williamstown, Vermont, in 1916 to a Vermont subsistence farmer and his Vermont-born wife, Evalyn(n) Cora Bates was the middle-born of five children. Although her father was a farmer, he had come from a wealthy family in Barre who put great stock in education. Their plan for their son was for him to go to the University of Vermont and become an athletic coach and teacher. But he had other ideas. He had a love for the land and wanted to be a farmer, so his family told him he could be a farmer but he had to be an educated farmer, so he studied animal husbandry and horticulture. With his family’s help, he and his wife purchased a farm in East Calais, Vermont, which is now the site of the East Hill Theater.

In the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the Bates family was devastated by the loss of their eldest child, a son, followed a short two years later by the loss of their second son by spinal meningitis. The three remaining children—all girls—helped with the farm work, but were never expected to take over the family farm in the way the male children were.  The girls were encouraged to engage in discourse about politics, religion, and current events with their parents, and although Evalyn often disagreed with the viewpoints of her parents, she was never discouraged from expressing her views on any subject. Reading was a major activity in a household with sporadic radio reception before television was invented.

All of the girls were bright, eager learners, and excelled in their school work, but Evalyn was identified early on by her teachers as exceptional. She was advanced a grade and graduated from East Calais Elementary School a year behind her older sister, who was actually two years older. From there she went to Montpelier Seminary as a boarding student, with her tuition paid by produce and milk from the family farm, graduating from Montpelier Seminary in 1933.

Her fraternal grandmother wanted someone in the family to graduate from UVM, so offered to pay for Evalyn to go there. After a year at UVM, Evalyn developed appendicitis and had to leave college, as she had missed too much classwork. She then returned to Barre, where she finished her second year at Goddard Junior College, graduating in 1936. While she attended Goddard, she lived with her grandmother and aunt and acted as a mother’s helper and nanny to her young cousin in exchange for her board and room and tuition. 

After graduation she became Tim Pitkin’s secretary, thereby beginning a long professional relationship with the man who would later become the president of Goddard College, her mentor, and life-long friend.


The Goddard Years

It has been said that adult learning as we know it would never have become a reality without the “energy and background of a Tim Pitkin or an Evalyn Bates.” Evalyn was in the vanguard of adult education and has been an essential part of Goddard College from the beginning. Her curriculum vita is both the history of, and the blueprint for, adult education, as we know it today.

1936: In 1936, Evalyn graduated from Goddard Junior College, which Royce Pitkin ran as a division of Goddard Seminary in Barre. While there she worked as secretary to Pitkin, beginning a long and productive working relationship.

1938-1943: When Goddard reincarnated as a four-year college in Plainfield in 1938, Evalyn was among those who worked to get the new enterprise off the ground. At the fledgling four-year college, she continued her studies and, in 1943, was one of the first two graduates of Goddard College as we know it today. Her senior study was “Two Projects in Adult Education.”

During his 1943 Commencement speech Tim Pitkin said that Evalyn’s study in adult education took her “into the community and have[sic] thus resulted in a removal of the barriers that ordinarily separate the school from real life. In a very real sense the social environment has been [her] laboratory. [She] has set a standard for achievement that is worthy of emulation by the long line of students that we hope will succeed [her].”

1943-1958: Throughout the early years she also taught secretarial studies, organized many adult educational forums, and helped form the Upper Winooski Community School Association in 1946. In 1957 she earned her master's degree at the University of Chicago. Her thesis, “Development of the Goddard College Adult Education Program,” proposed five possible program designs. “It seemed to me that people my age had ideas of their own about what they wanted to do,” she said. She started forming the idea of an adult program at Goddard “when I began to see myself as something other than a secretary.” In 1958 Evalyn was awarded a Fulbright Lectureship and spent eight months in Australia, assisting in the adult education department of the University of New England in Adelaide.

1959-1969: Back at Goddard, she continued her efforts to ensure its place in innovative and progressive education. As part of a project funded by the Chicago's Center for the Study of Liberal Education for Adults, she spent four weeks investigating programs at other colleges. During this time she approached Tim Pitkin with an idea about a new kind of program for adults—a low-residency model for those who couldn’t come to a college campus—she said she met with some initial resistance. “My recollection is that it took some prodding for him to think about it,” she laughed. “He wasn’t too keen on the idea at first; he didn’t understand its dimensions.”

But when they started to develop a plan, they began to see that, for an adult, it could be a very good way to fit a college degree into an already full life. “When you get to the person who wants to learn after normal college age, you have to design a program for them,” she said. “You have to have a program that meets their needs and allows them to have time and space for learning.”

She also directed the first mid-semester conferences, an early 1960s curriculum experiment. She served on the nationwide committee that designed the Union Graduate Program. From 1962 to 1967 she co-directed the School-College-Rural Community Counseling project funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. From 1960-1962, while Director of Adult Education and Community Services, Evalyn finalized the plans for the Adult Degree Program.

In August of 1963 Goddard formally introduced the Adult Degree Program, a program that is very much like the low-residency programs of today. “During the resident period, there were seminars, but most of the work was done by students on their own initiative, with good contact with the faculty,” Evalyn said. “I think Goddard was one of the places that took seriously the idea that adult college students could make up their own minds about what they wanted to do.”

Evalyn directed the first ADP residency in 1963. This is the program that survives as the Off-Campus Program at Goddard and ADP at Vermont College. In 1968 she took a sabbatical to study at Claremont Graduate School and Esalen Institute in California, where she worked on formulating a master's program for Goddard based on the ADP model.

1970-1979: In 1970, after nearly three decades at Goddard, Evalyn left Plainfield and went to work for Hartwick College, in Oneonta, New York, as Dean of Special Programs. She returned to Vermont in 1978. For the next several years she worked and traveled as Academic Director of Scandinavian Seminars, which provided opportunities for American college students to live and learn for a year at unique residential schools for young adults. While there she developed the relationship between the Scandinavian Seminars and Elderhostel, which led to the programs in Scandinavia for older Americans. And by doing so, singlehandedly saved the Scandinavian Seminars from certain extinction.

1990-1999: In 1990, she was invited to join the Goddard College Board of Trustees and served for two years. In September 1996, she volunteered—as a former administrator, faculty and alumna—to work in the Goddard archives. She invited a group of retired seniors to join her. Evalyn, Ken Carter, Forest Davis, and others began the task of working to resurrect and preserve the history of which they have all been such an integral part.

It seems best to conc1ude with her own words. From her thesis, which seem to describe, not just her study, but also her life: “[It] has represented a truly educational and stimulating experience, one which has led to an ever-widening spiral of deeper understanding and greater appreciation of the field of adult education ... it is much more a beginning than the end of a learning experience.

A Brief History of the Adult Degree Program

One of the original principles upon which Goddard was founded was that the College should provide educational opportunities for adults; that education was a basic human right; and that learning should continue throughout an individual’s life. Goddard created various programs in order to reach disadvantaged students whose access to college had been limited by social and economic factors.

As Goddard explored the idea of adult education it became clear that there was a great need for a program through which adults who had not completed college could obtain a degree without greatly disrupting their family lives or careers. The Adult Degree Program (ADP), created by Evalyn Bates, Assistant to the President, was proposed and adopted by the faculty in 1963. It was the first low-residency adult education program in the country.

Goddard’s ADP was a radical departure from traditional educational patterns. It drew from a variety of practices to establish a substantially new educational design for adult students aged 26 or above. Instead of defining a prescribed curriculum, ADP asked its students to design semester-long independent study projects that reflected their own passions and interests. Instead of lengthy campus residency requirements, the program expected twelve days of intensive residency twice annually, wherein students would initiate and conclude their half-year study projects. Instead of faculty as fountains of wisdom from whom students gratefully drank, faculty worked as knowledgeable facilitators and mentors, helping the students accomplish what they aspired to achieve.

This design was not for everyone. Students accustomed to prescribed curricula sometimes found ADP's expectation of autonomy uncomfortable. Those used to traditional, often compartmentalized, learning found it necessary to stretch their academic imagination as they discovered that most compelling questions in the liberal arts required interdisciplinary explorations in their monthly communications with faculty advisors.

Yet from its modest beginnings in September, 1963, when nineteen students and three veteran faculty members gathered in Kilpatrick Lounge to inaugurate the program, ADP's model of educational enterprise began to make its distinctive mark in American higher education. Significantly, The Goddard Bulletin declared that “standards for evaluating the work of participants in the adult program, and for graduation, are identical with those applied to Goddard undergraduates.”  Rather than placing ADP students in a separate category, Goddard reaffirmed that “No distinction will be made between degrees earned under the adult degree program and those of the undergraduate college.”

Although the residency, over the forty-eight year history of the program, has been shortened from twelve to eight days, the ADP's basic calendar has endured to the present: (1) the exploration phase, wherein students explore potential faculty mentors/advisors and refine their study proposals; (2) the start-up advisory group sessions in the second half of residency, wherein more precise study plans are formulated and agreed upon by students and faculty advisors; (3) the crucial five and one-half months off campus, wherein books are read and evaluated, essays, reports, and critical annotations composed, and practical experiences integrated into regular faculty/student exchanges; and (4) the final evaluation phase, wherein students return to campus, report on their process and products, and complete their critical evaluations of the study with faculty.

The ADP had 2,000 inquiries in the first year. By 1973 there were 400 students enrolled in the program. Goddard’s current intensive low-residency model of education is based on the design of the original ADP program.

For many years the ADP program flourished at Goddard College. However, during Goddard’s 1980-1981 financial crisis, the program was sold to Norwich University, which was eager to expand its programs for the growing adult market. Many doubted whether the ADP could survive in an educational environment dominated by traditional programs within a university that prided itself on being the nation’s oldest and only private military college. Could two such radically different educational programs and student cultures co-exist productively?

The program thrived and grew at Norwich. By 1984, Norwich had fully approved the ADP’s academic rules and regulations. In 1985, the ADP generated a weekend model, involving six weekend residencies over the course of four and half months. In 1993, Vermont College’s campus mission was modified; it became entirely dedicated to providing adult-oriented, low-residency learning opportunities.

The ADP as an educational incubator has also generated other programs based in whole or in part upon its assumptions and residential designs. In the mid-1970s, a program leading to the MFA in Writing was founded at Goddard under the leadership of poet Ellen Bryant Voigt with its residency and faculty staffing based largely upon the ADP’s precedent. In 1991, ADP core faculty member G. Roy Levin coordinated the design of an MFA in Visual Art, explicitly based upon the residential design of the ADP.

This combination of the Danish folk schools, American educational and religious idealism, John Dewey’s progressive educational aspirations, and the Yankee common sense of Royce “Tim” Pitkin, Evalyn Bates and their successors continues to enrich the American educational landscape.