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Three emeritus faculty members from Portland State's School of Health and Human Performance met for this oral history interview: Chuck Becker, Alice Lehman, and Jack Schendel. Accompanying them were two former School of Education faculty, Maxine Thomas and Steve Brannan. Together, their oral histories recall the development, growth, and achievements of Portland State's School of Health and Human Performance, which evolved from the university's Department of Physical Education. Chuck Becker discusses the department's founding years at Vanport and its differentiation from the Athletics program, for which he also served as a football coach. Alice Lehman describes the program's move downtown from cramped quarters in the former Lincoln High School into the new Health and Physical Education building (Peter Stott Center) in 1966, and the development of women's collegiate athletics programs at PSU and in the state. Jack Schendel, Dean Emeritus of the School of Health and Human Performance, describes the mission and achievements of the School in providing specialized professional training for students in various fields of health education, and the circumstances leading to the closure of the School in 1992.

University Archivist Cris Paschild conducted the interview, which was held at the Portland State University Library on February 12, 2014.

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Universities and colleges -- United States


When Portland State became a degree-granting institution in 1955, the Department of Health and Physical Education (HPE) was formed within the Division of Education, with Joe Holland as department head and Athletics Director. Charles Becker and Alice Lehman were hired as HPE faculty in 1959. In 1964, the college separated the HPE and men's athletics departments; women's athletics became a separate department after PSU joined the NCAA in 1981.

A bond measure in the mid-1960s supported the construction of a new physical education building at Portland State in 1966. This facility was the foremost collegiate physical education center in the state in its day and contained gymnasiums for dance, gymnastics, and basketball; tennis and racquetball courts; a fitness center and range room; faculty offices and classrooms; and a swimming pool. The Department of Health and Physical Education became an independent academic unit in 1966, and was awarded degree-granting authority in health education and physical education.

As its degree programs matured, the department added new specializations and faculty, and the Department was renamed as the School of Health and Physical Education in 1977. Jack Schendel joined the School as its Dean in 1978. The enlarging vision of the School of HPE established it as a professional school for specialized fields in fitness, health, and physical activity, initiated new accreditation and master's degree programs, and fostered collaborations with the Portland VA Hospital, Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, and the Nike Research Laboratory.

In 1990, the School was renamed the School of Health and Human Performance, containing the Department of School and Community Health and the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies. The School of HHP was authorized to award Master of Science degrees in recognition of its responsibility to provide master's degree opportunities to students in professional fields beyond that of teaching.

The School's steady growth and potential was derailed after Oregon's property tax limitation referendum, Measure 5, passed in November 1990. The Portland State and Oregon State Board of Higher Education administration decided to close the School of HHP at the end of the 1992 academic year as part of PSU's budget reduction plan in the aftermath of Measure 5. Many faculty members, including Jack Schendel and Chuck Becker, chose to retire at that time rather than pursue other options at PSU. Many former HHP faculty and staff members, however, are involved with the Retirement Association of Portland State (RAPS) and with preserving the important place of the School of Health and Human Performance in PSU history.

University Archives thanks RAPS and Alice Lehman for historical information on the School of HPE/HHP.

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Interview with School of Health and Physical Education Faculty