Bob Casebeer

Robert L. Casebeer, Professor Emeritus of English, Southern Oregon University

Provocateur-in-Chief, Project Prometheus

1931 -


                      Uncle Bob, 1969                                                  Audrey and Bob, 2007

Robert Livingston Casebeer was born on March 12, 1931 in Roseburg, Oregon and attended primary and secondary schools in nearby Glide.  While in high school, he met Audrey Marier, whom he married on August 31, 1950, one year after his graduation from Glide High School.  Bob attended Multnomah School of the Bible (Portland) and Southern Oregon College (now University), where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education - English (1956) and a Master of Science degree in Humanities (1963).  After his nine (!) years in college,  he would have qualified for majors in English, Education, Psychology, History and Geography, based on the typical number of academic quarter hours (56) required for a major.  In 1964, he was hired as a Professor of English by the College, and within a year, was laying the foundation for Project Prometheus, along with several colleagues that later became faculty members for the program.  At the time of his retirement from SOU in 1993, Bob was an Associate Professor of English.  Prior to his collegiate academic career, Bob worked as a logger, a sawmill worker, a plywood mill worker, a carpenter, an infantry sergeant during the Korean war (serving with both the infantry and the combat engineers), a newspaper editor, a high school English teacher and guidance counselor, and a college registrar.  He is currently an emeritus Professor of English at Southern Oregon University and is retired after stints as a visiting Professor of Education at the University of Puget Sound and at the Foreign Language Institute, Fujian Normal University, Fuzhou, Fujian Province, Peoples Republic of China.  Bob is a poet and a rather impressive amateur historian, particularly in regard to Oregon and Western US history.

Bob and Audrey, who also graduated from Southern Oregon College and later worked as an elementary school teacher in Riddle and as a physical education instructor at Ashland Junior High School, had three adopted children: Kimberly Ann Casebeer (b. 1964),  Jeffery Jon Casebeer (b. 1965, d. 2007) and Kevin Andrew Casebeer (b. 1967).  They have 10 grandchildren.  Audrey is also a potter by avocation, and she and Bob presently live in Talent, Oregon, an appropriate place name for the couple if there ever was one!

On Project Prometheus (Open letter from Bob)
There is a document I wrote about Prometheus in the Southern Oregon University Library, and Ron Lamb's doctoral dissertation analyzing the first year of Prometheus is also in that Library. Basically, one of the ways Prometheus was unique was that we were trying to prepare those of you who participated to handle change... so we tried to focus on the attitudes, the knowledge base and the creativity needed for that monumental task. Toffler came out in the second year of Prometheus with his book Future Shock and said in it that he thought the educational system needed to focus on the impending create coping classrooms.  Those of us operating Prometheus snickered, because we thought we had just done that.  We concentrated on critical thinking, and the test results indicated that in literature, fine arts, and social science, those of you were there learned one-ninth of what most people ever learn....and all this in six weeks without grades, tests or much homework.  I do recall John Smock's China class, had to read his text in the first two days of his three-week class...and he walked out after starting the class, explaining what was going to happen, handed out the book and said "have it read by Wednesday afternoon!

I think one of the things unique about Prometheus was that perhaps for the first time you who were there were being taught by people as bright as you were...just a little bit older. The faculty, as well as myself, think even today that the program was the success we hoped for...In terms of the brain trust that created it you can thank Dea Cox, whose last educational effort was on the board of George Fox University after being on the curriculum committee of that board which turned that university into the dramatic institution it is today;  He was the superintendent of the Jackson County Education District at the time, which submitted the initial proposal to the U.S. Education Department.  Doyle McCaslin was another of the group who brainstormed the initial year...and myself.

We were not allowed to teach anything that any of the 50 high schools taught, nor what was taught during the first year of college at Southern Oregon University.  I had complete freedom to pick out anyone in the United States as instructors....and quite a few of my fellow professors at Southern Oregon were highly annoyed at me when I did not choose many from my own institution.

Regarding selection... as I recall there was a board who helped in the selection process of people from the eight counties who worked with the planning staff.  We used IQ tests, Creativity tests, an achievement test that had previously been used in an experimental program at Southern Oregon with a body of we could get a base,  We insisted that every high school involved had at least two students from each high school, and we chose fourteen students who met the criteria for their leadership skills. Ron Lamb's dissertation goes into that selection process more completely.

Regarding what we wanted...I think I discussed that in the first paragraph.  We wanted the Prometheans to be able to handle the impending and monumental societal and environmental changes that we were certain were coming..,,and we wanted the experience to be totally different from high school instruction and in a lot of ways totally different from most collegiate experiences in Oregon.  We had gone down to the Governor's School in North Carolina prior to the second year and that had a rather large inpact on those of us planning the second and third years  The first year the planning was so complex that my secretary and I used a process that had been developed by Lockheed called critical path analysis to plan what had to be done and what had to be done before anything else could be done.  After the first year, that processes was not used....we had learned how to organize it.  One thing that was unique were the one week long mini-courses (no one in the U. S. had ever done that before).and I insisted that no written materials could be used and no movies....forcing the faculty to have the material become a real seminar discussion.

I could go on....but I loved planning and seeing the whole thing come off so well.  Incidentally, one other item. I knew that many of you had some funny ideas about bright teenagers, thinking them nerds, etc., catching that from your less than bright fellow students in your high schools. So you expected the Prometheans to meet your stereotypes....and then when you came you discovered that they were handsomer, prettier, more interesting, and very likable.  That got me to worrying about the possibility of too much opportunity for compatibility between the I asked the groundskeepers at Southern Oregon if they could make sure that every dark spot on campus was saturated with irrigation water from 9:30 to 11:00 PM every day. And they did do it with vigor.  I got the idea from a poem by Kenneth Rexroth called a Beastiary for his Daughters:  "To have a happy love life, control the environment."

Uncle Bob