Dr. W. I. Throssell came to Chipola College in 1954 and remained a huge part of the English department until his retirement in 1971. He retired as the head of the English Department. Dr. Wilbur I. Throssell provided great insight to Chipola.
Simply put, in order to grow, you have to go through changes. In order to change, you have to come from somewhere. In order to know where you’re coming from, you have to touch base with where you’ve been. Although directions change, the base remains stable.
Chipola has been around for a long time. But in order to get a proper perspective on what really has been happening, we need to drop back a few years and get a good look through the eyes of a retired head of the English Department, (1954-71) Since coming to Chipola in 1954, Dr. Throssell has kept close tabs on what Chipola means to the community, “When we first came here, the school consisted of a lot of land and the old field house. We had classes in the barracks, and from there, many of us grew with the school,” Throssell told in a 1962 interview for the Chicujo (Chipola’s yearbook).
His reminiscing carries us through the turbulent 60’s when the youth of the nation’s campuses were up in arms over Viet Nam and the peaceniks were taking over, through management changes, administrative turnovers and the transience of students. “Chipola’s values never changed,” he declared. “The faculty and administration always strive for the goal of bettering education standards. We always were home-town in style.”
Although Dr. Throssell retired, he kept close tabs on changes at the school by attending school functions. He sponsored the poetry contest for the English Department for many years and his valid claim to the title of Chipola’s Poet Laureate is supported by the reams of good poetry he writes.
He offers suggestions to the new president by saying, “Faculty and administration need to continually upgrade the quality of education offered, and student needs should always be the top priority. I have a dream, in which I see responsible students planning the curriculum, hiring the instructors, joining in with administration on all major decisions effecting the college.”
In viewing the recent changes and proposed changes in the president’s position and proposed name change, he states, “It will always be Chipola at heart. You can’t change the feeling of a place.” This was prior to the change from Chipola Junior College to Chipola College.
A little history of Dr. Throssell was provided by his son-in-law, Jesse Smallwood. Throssell was born on a Crow Indian reservation in 1906 in southeastern Montana. Throssell’s dad was the Indian agent. Smallwood says a testament to what a good man his dad was which flowed down to Throssell himself was that when his dad retired he went over to the Yakama area. The Indians gave him a large parcel of land and that was very uncommon for Indians to give away land to anyone except other Indians. He then attended school in the Yakama area and ended up going to school at the University of Washington where he got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. During the summers after he got his bachelor’s, he would teach in high school in the Yakama area. Yakama was one of the Indian tribes in that area.
Dr. Throssell then opted to attend the University of Florida for his doctorate degree. He finished there and was asked by the chancellor if he’d like to be the chancellor of the college there but he declined. His love was in teaching and not administering.
At the time, Throssell’s mother-in-law had a motel called the Red Gate on Highway 27, which some of the items at the motel are on the Throssell property today. Many movies stars of that era stayed at the Red Gate Motel including Ester Williams and Burl Ives. It is rumored she had a roulette wheel in the lobby for the movie stars. From there, Throssell began his career at Chipola.
He became acquainted with Dr. Richard and Sarah Schulz and shared their interest in exotic animals and went into the importing and exporting of animals. A story he told frequently was riding down main street of Marianna with a horse in his car. He liked to play bridge but played his own version of the game, not liking the rules of the professional bridge players played by.
Smallwood told the story of Throssell’s 100th birthday party where they brought his two brothers from Seattle to join in the festivities. The gift from Smallwood was saved for his last present, “When I gave it to him it was a signed birthday card from the president of the United States. He opened it and stared at it for a little while and asked if it was from me and I said, yes. He said, ‘Well I didn’t vote for him.’ So, 100 years old and he said he didn’t vote for him.”
After he had established himself as a teacher, during the summers he would instead of teaching the traditional Spanish taught in schools, he would go to Cuba to learn street Spanish so the kids would know it instead of getting out of school and having to go to Spain to even recognize the language.
Students today still benefit from Dr. Throssell in that there is an endowment in his name allowing students to further their education through application for assistance through the endowment.
Dr. Throssell was well respected among his peers. Dr. Robert Ringer was on staff at Chipola during the same years as Dr. Throssell and spoke highly of the job he did, saying he held his students accountable for the work he assigned them, never wavering under pressure from parents or influential persons in the community. Ringer said Throssell spent countless hours outside the classroom working with students.
I had the pleasure of having Dr. Throssell as asophomore for poetry and can attest that he did hold students accountable, to the extent that other teachers knew that and piggy backed on his style. Margie Mixson taught there during the same time and she announced the first day of each semester’s class, “You are allowed two grievance absences for grandparents. To quote Dr. Throssell, after that you better produce a death certificate or a dead body.”
Dr. Throssell passed away at the age of 101 in 2007 but with the endowment, his legacy continues on for generations to come.