An Augustana Story
AN AUGUSTANA STORY:
RUTH PARKANDER CLOKEY...and GUMBY...and DAVEY
If you, your children or grandchildren know Gumby, then you're part of a unique Augustana story.
Gumby is that little green rubbery guy with the bump on his head. Today, he's practically a cultural ikon, featured in a special display by the Smithsonian Institution on his fiftieth birthday, caricatured on Saturday Night Live! In his filmed claymation adventures Gumby can expand, contract, roll into a ball or stretch into a sheet of tissue, when inclination or storyline demands. He's a modern-day Proteus without the attitude. Together with his faithful steed Pokey he moves through a world of astonishingly imaginative adventures, a sometimes-tough world he always leaves the better for his gentle innocence.
Gumby and Pokey are in part children of Augustana: they were created by Ruth Parkander Clokey, Augustana Class of 1944, and her husband Arthur Clokey. While her husband directed the exacting, detailed work of stop-motion animation---in the early years, this was a laborious process that involved physically adjusting the pliable characters and then photographing each small movement separately---Ruth oversaw production, script editing, and business arrangements. It was work she loved. But even more significant to her, and more closely connected with Augustana, was the second series produced by the then-Clokey Studios: Davey and Goliath.
It was a "first" in children's television programming, a show that took on questions of ethics from a religious perspective. The animated figures Davey Hanson, supported by his big dog Goliath, and his family, dramatized the kinds of every-day moral dilemmas that confront children as they grow up into an increasingly complex world. "Davey and Goliath" encouraged humanity and faith, but without preaching. Sponsored by the former United Lutheran Church in America (now part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to which Augustana is related), the series of weekly fifteen-minute episodes aired on network television from 1967 to the mid-1970s.
And it was the creative genius of Ruth Parkander Clokey that drove the series. She was "a woman ahead of her time," according to ELCA Communication Services director Kristi Bangert, a woman who "saw an opportunity for the church to move boldly into the world of public media and provide groundbreaking children's programming. As a result, Davey and Goliath became the first, and to this day, only children's television series to be sponsored and championed by a denomination."
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Those who knew Ruth Parkander in her Augustana student days and after weren't surprised at this achievement. A magna cum laude graduate in history, she was one of three students from her class elected to the prestigious Runic Honor Society, Augustana's precursor to Phi Beta Kappa. (Betsey Brodahl, former Augustana Dean of Women, shared the honor that year.) Ruth earned a master's degree in religious education from Hartford Seminary, created religious education programming for the Lutheran Church in New York City, and moved to California after her marriage. Always she read, swiftly, omnivorously; always she thought and spoke incisively.
In the last decade of her life (she died in December 2008), Ruth Clokey mused that of all she'd accomplished she was "most proud of Davey and Goliath. We were really doing something to help the children of our country and of the world." That assessment isn't any more surprising than her achievement. It's part of her personal and communal heritage. Her father, the Reverend Joseph Parkander, was a charismatic and joyful believer, as well as a liberal thinker who espoused feminist ideas before the term was current. Her sister, Dr. Dorothy Parkander, Class of 1946, became one of Augustana's most distinguished and beloved professors.
Augustana's story is one that claims both intellect and faith. In the fusion of these two Ruth Parkander Clokey found her vocation-and made a world of gentle friends.
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