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Extension Head Recalls Long Career

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Extension Head Recalls Long Career
When Everett Soop was a high school student in Belleville, about 1915, Dr. W. D. Henderson would take a train into Detroit, transfer to a second train, and make his way back out to Belleville.
A simple train trip from Ann Arbor to Belleville was impossible.
Henderson’s long trips to Belleville High School remained in Soop’s memory. “For us, Dr. Henderson was the University of Michigan,” he says. Henderson, a U-M physics professor, was the first director of the University’s Extension Service.
Much later, after Soop had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and had worked for several years as a teacher and administrator in the Detroit area, that same Dr. Henderson asked him to join the University Extension Service to establish the first regional office in Detroit.
That was in 1935. This month Everett Soop will retire as director of the Extension Service, a post he has held since 1948.
The Extension Service has grown and changed much during those years. In addition to the Detroit office, nine other off-campus centers were established. Many programs which began as part of the service, such as radio broadcasting and audio-visual center, grew to the extent that they became separate divisions of the University. Many of the non-credit courses previously offered have been incorporated in the program of the Adult Education Center, a joint project of the U-M and Wayne State University.
“One of the advantages of the Extension Service,” Soop says, “is that we have always operated with a great deal of flexibility. We have been able to develop new programs to meet public demand in the state. Many of the things which we began have been taken over by other agencies or are now independent. Other programs were simply abandoned when they no longer met a current need.
“We like to think that we have been responsive to the needs for educational service in the state. For example, the credit course program which still forms the core of the Extension Service, has changed considerably through the years. It is now much more closely tied to the University’s graduate program, since many other institutions have developed to absorb the burden of undergraduate education.”
Since the time Soop joined the University, he has worked under three U-M presidents, Alexander Ruthven, Harlan Hatcher and now Robben W. Fleming.
He still remembers a day not long after he took the job, when President Ruthven stopped at the door of Soop’s makeshift Detroit office.
“He asked me if I had a secretary yet,” Soop recalls. “I told him that I didn’t, and he said that I should hire someone right away. ‘We’re not paying you to stay in the office,’ he told me.”
Soop took the hint, and has spent much of the last 35 years out of his office. He has crisscrossed the state innumerable times, organizing conferences, setting up new courses, establishing new centers.
He has also devoted much of his time to national, state, and regional organizations in the adult education field. This spring, the National University Extension Association awarded Soop its highest honor, the Julius M. Nolte Award “for outstanding leadership and professional service to the association and the cause of university extension.” His biography includes a list of no less than 20 professional and public service organizations in which he holds membership. He has served as an officer of many of them.
Soop has worked throughout his career to develop better programs of cooperation among universities involved in adult education. Largely as a result of his efforts, many extension courses offered in outstate cities now carry joint credit at the U-M and another state university. He has also been a moving force in the Michigan Coordinating Council of State College Field Services, which is devoted to state-wide cooperation among colleges offering extension programs.
Soop has lived and worked in Michigan all his life. He was born in Belleville in 1901. He attended Hillsdale College, where he received a master’s degree in 1922. He has also done further graduate work at the U-M.
His teaching career began in a Detroit school for boys, and he later taught chemistry and physics at Hillsdale College, and the Detroit Institute of Technology. He was registrar and director of publications at the Institute before he joined the U-M Extension Service.
During his year of retirement furlough, Soop hopes to complete several projects which will contribute to the historical file on adult education in Michigan and the nation.
He plans to write a history of the Extension Service since 1937, and is also working on a compilation of articles by several authors which appeared in the Journal of Adult Education from 1927 to 1941. It was during this time that adult education became a “movement” in the United States, Soop explains. He would like to prepare the materials so that they will be available to modern students of American education.
He also hopes to find time to prepare for publication some material on the founders of the National University Extension Association. The group was first organized in 1915.
Although Soop knows that he will miss the day-to-day direction of the extension program, he feels that perhaps it is time for a younger man to take over his job. “I see and talk to the students who are undergraduates today,” he says, “and I know that their demands for continuing education are going to be vastly different. I think it might be a good idea for a younger chap to come in here – someone who could understand better what those needs will be.”
Dr. Alfred W. Storey, associate director of the Extension Service since 1965, will become acting director on July 1.
[Caption: Everett Soop At His Desk]