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Postlethwait, S. N. (Samuel N.), 1918-

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: April 16, 1918 - January 15, 2019

Biographical Information

Samuel N. Postlethwait was born in Wileyville, West Virginia on April 16, 1918. He attended Fairmont State Teachers College, where he received a two-year “Standard Normal” degree. He taught for one year, and then returned to Fairmont State College to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Per Postlethwait’s oral history, “My first year of teaching I was paid $98 per month for nine months. Each year a teacher’s salary was automatically increased by $2.00 the first year and $3.00 the next.”

Postlethwait enlisted in the Navy after teaching a few years. Per his oral history, “I became a communication officer and ultimately became the Operations Office at the port in Kittery Maine. I was assigned to submarines.”

After the war he returned to school on the G.I. Bill, earning a master’s degree at West Virginia State, and a Ph.D. at the State University of Iowa. He was hired as a faculty member in the Purdue Botany and Plant Pathology Department in 1949.

In 1957 Postlethwait went to England on sabbatical, primarily to investigate the British approach to teaching. When he returned, he kept thinking that there must be a better way to help students learn than the “3 lectures and lab” approach. His students suggested that there should be a general assembly session each week, a small group session once each week, and an independent study session in a learning center like the location provided by the audiovisual department. In 1961, Postlethwait pioneered the audio visual tutorial system of instruction. He built the Learning Center with his own hands and money in the basement of the Lilly Life Science Building. The students were responsive to this new way of instruction, and per Postlethwait, felt that they were a part in a new approach to education. He mentions in his oral history that the students gave him high ratings all the years he taught, up until his retirement in 1984. He was often referred to as the “Grandfather of Technological Instruction.”

Postlethwait was the recipient of many honors and awards including the Sigma Chi Best Teacher Award in 1965, the Helping Students Learn from the Botanical Society of America in 1989. Postlethwait is also among the “Book of Great Teachers” at Purdue. In retirement, he was active in the local community and gives talks on wild flowers and bird lore.

Samuel Noel Postlethwait passed at 100 years of age on January 15, 2019.

Citation

Samuel N. Postlethwait Interview, October 11, 2007. MSO 1, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Oral History Program collection, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Citation

MSO 1, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Oral History Program collection, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Oral History Program collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSO 1
Scope and Contents The Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Oral History Program collection documents the history of Purdue University. The collection consists of recordings and transcripts of oral history interviews conducted with individuals associated with Purdue University. This is an active collection and will be frequently added to on an ongoing basis.
Dates: 2006-

Samuel N. Postlethwait papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 516
Overview Articles, artifacts, audio cassette, historical documents, instruction system design handbooks, manuals, papers, photographs, publications, teaching aids and devices, and teaching methods handbooks, which document the pioneering audio tutorial system of instruction of Professor Samuel N. Postlethwait during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Dates: 1965 - 1981