Interview of Carl D. Riggs
by Professor Horace Bliss
February 1, 1981
Horace Bliss: What was the early attitude of the Board of Regents toward the Station?
Carl D. Riggs: On the part of some of the Regents, one of well, that's an entity of the University and they must be doing the right thing and they didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it, but some of the Regents, Tommy Benedum, Oscar White, Rayburn Foster, Quintin Little, George Short, all became very much interested and all had some individual part to play in the long time success of the Station. They supported us very vigorously in many, many ways.
Horace Bliss: Was there any sort of financial support for students in those early days?
Carl D. Riggs: Well, yes. We had graduate assistantships from the very beginning and if it weren't for the fact that I had three or four or five very good graduate assistants that first summer we never would have been ready to open and would not have had the first session. One of those graduate assistants incidentally is a colleague of mine in Florida. He is the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Central Florida. His name is Leslie Ellis. Without an exception the other assistants have all gone into biology professionally and have all had successful careers as biologists. The source of financial aid for students that we developed very early was that a number of alumni at the University would give summer scholarships which would cover the basic costs of the tenants to the Station and then we would award these on a competitive basis to the best students who applied. I particularly remember the excellent support that we got from Duncan, Oklahoma from such people as Hiram McCaslin who has always been a great support of the University in many, many ways, but also of Tom Jones and Lynn Colbert--they supplied one or more scholarships every summer for a number of years.
Faculty from 1957
Standing: Carl Riggs
Seated (left to right): J. Teague Self, Charles C. Carpenter, Bryan Glass, George Goodman, George Sutton, George Ware, George Bick, and George Moore
Horace Bliss: What changes developed over the first few years of the Station's life?
Carl D. Riggs: Well, I assume you are referring to the changes in curriculum, etc. We did expand the curriculum as the size of the student body grew. We attempted each year to have a nucleus of faculty from OU but to also bring good field faculty in both botany and zoology from other universities and so we did have people that would come from schools in Texas, from Oklahoma, from Michigan, from New Mexico, we got--and from Kansas, we tried to have a good variety of faculty to have different people each year if possible to bring in new ideas and new concepts and that also helped in bringing students from other areas so that we had a good cosmopolitan student body. The main that that changed, of course, was we developed a real sound research program on various aspects of the biology of the lake and of the area. We were fortunate to be able to get from the Army Engineers a long term lease to several hundred acres of land adjacent to the lake and kept it from being developed or widely used and it really quite wild and quite ideal for certain types of biological research. Some of the research programs that we have developed there were for example that of Dr. Charles Carpenter, who in 1957 as a result of the very high water which destroyed a lot of his natural lizard habitat study areas developed some controlled areas on the grounds of the station and this led to Chuck being one of the world's leading authorities on lizard behavior and now he's moved into snake behavior. Teague Self got involved in the parasites of the fishes of the lake and this led him to interest into different parasite groups and he has become one of the world's authorities on a group of parasites called, "pentastomas". George Sutton's early ornithological work during his second stay in Oklahoma was done at the Biological Station. In fact, my bringing George to the Biological Station resulted in our being able to hire him on the faculty of the Zoology Department and as you know, we become one of OU's most well-known and revered faculty members as a recipient of the University's Outstanding Service Citation and is a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. George J. Goodman did a significant amount of collecting in that area and as you know, we probably knows more about Oklahoma plants than any other man living and has built the finest collection of Oklahoma plants in the herbarium of the Norman campus. Elroy Rice got interested in his early work on plant inhibitors and started some of that at the station and he too has now become a world renown authority on plant inhibitors.