The History of the Department

Compiled and written by Hugh W. Gillis (1962) and Robert Jenkins (1999)

With contributions from the alumni of the department, particularly Dorothy Somerville, John Wulzen, Evelyn McCurdy-Sivier, Wayne Mitchell, Lee Kopp, Brian Conroy, Martin Kachuck, and Beth Angood. Thanks also to Professor Mike Adams for his history of KSJS FM 90.5; Professor Emeritus Kenneth Dorst for his memories of fires, floods, and other disasters; and to Estelle Greathead, who captured many of the facts and much of the flavor of the early days of San José State University in her book, The Story of an Inspiring Past, which is referenced multiple times throughout this document (San José State Teachers College, 1928).

This history is a rough draft of the one-hundred-year history of dramatic entertainment and education on the San José State University campus. The institution itself has undergone several name changes during this century: San José Normal School, San José State Teachers College, San José State College, and, most recently, San José State University. The primary focus of this draft is the first sixty years (roughly from 1889 to 1960) of theatre production and curriculum at San José State.

This history has been broken down into five sections:

Clubs, Societies, and "The Players"

  • Club Dramas and Society Plays
  • The First Play
  • The Show Goes On
  • A Chronology of the First Two Decades of Plays, Societies, and Directors
  • The Drama Society Takes Over
  • The Players
  • The First College Film

Revelries, Pageants, and Our Own Department

  • The Department Takes Control
  • Revelries and Pageants
  • Drama and Play Production in the Normal School Curriculum
  • The Department is Formed
  • The First Chair

Radio and Television Take Off

  • Radio
  • Our First Radio and Television Star
  • Television
  • KSJS Is Born
  • A History of KSJS-FM

World War II and "Flower Power"

  • World War II Devastates the Department
  • Post-War Years
  • The 1950s
  • Happenings
  • Campus Under Siege

Hugh Gillis and His Hall

  • A Building of Our Own
  • Building and Construction Woes
  • The Fire
  • The Flood
  • Gillis Steps Down