COBE’s senior faculty member today is Clarence Rose, a professor in the Department of Accounting and Finance. He came to RU in 1977 to teach insurance courses while he completed a Ph.D. in public administration and public policy at Virginia Tech. Even three decades later, he has vivid memories of his early days on campus—before air conditioning.
During the Whitt renovation, Rose shared an office in the basement of Pocahontas Hall with colleague Hooshang Beheshti, now a professor in the COBE Department of Management. “Most of us were in basements of dorms with no air conditioning,” Rose said. “It was so warm, it was really hard to do anything from mid-May to mid-September. It was so humid, our papers would be wet.”
Rose said the office he shared with Beheshti was about 10 feet square with no windows and no space for file cabinets. “To sit down, we had to turn sideways to get behind our desks,” he said. “We had to take students up to the lounge for conferences.”
When Whitt reopened in 1983, bringing COBE’s people and programs together under one roof, it was ultra-modern for the time, with a contemporary floor plan and the latest in climate control. Yet it maintained a certain mystique as an old college building, Rose said.
Rose, who is teaching courses in personal finance and principles of insurance this fall in the new COBE complex, said, “Those of us who have been around awhile have paid our dues. This new building is many years overdue.”
COBE’s growth in the next three decades reflected that of business and economics globally, as well as social changes. Though an economic recession plagued most of the world at the start, the 1980s became known as the Decade of Greed, with a financial boom glamorizing the stock market and making folk heroes of maverick business magnate Donald Trump and financier Michael Milken, credited with developing high-yield “junk bonds.” The ‘80s saw increased numbers of women holding prominent positions in management and the military, rapid growth in the number of minority-owned businesses and the first widespread “green” initiatives focused on conservation and sustainability.
As interest grew internationally in business education, COBE’s curriculum changed with the times. One of the last people to earn a degree in home economics from Radford was Estelle Dobbins of Christiansburg, who received a Master of Science in 1984, the final year the program was offered. Dobbins went on to teach at her high school alma mater, nearby Auburn, where she had a 30-year career. At the university, courses in homemaking and secretarial skills made way for renewed emphasis on ethics, financial markets and the increasingly global economy.
Prahlad Kasturi, chair of the Department of Economics, said COBE’s next monumental change began under Dean Donald W. Kroeber, who began discussions during the 1989-90 academic year to earn accreditation by the AACSB.