Scope and Content of Series
The material in this series consists of correspondence written between 1964 and 1966 from Dr. Carl D. Duncan to Patricia neé
Carpio Whiting during part of her undergraduate career at San Jose State College. The letters not only provide a glimpse into
the everyday lives of Carl D. Duncan and Patricia Whiting but also reflect a deep bond of friendship between mentor and student.
This series contains letters, poems, postcards, and toasts.
Duncan frequently expressed his admiration of Whiting. Whiting asked Duncan in 1964 if he would like to “adopt” her as his
“goddaughter” and often referred to him in her letters as “father.” Duncan and Whiting found an early common bond in poetry
and enjoyed critiquing each other’s prose. Duncan’s poems are commonly on light-hearted subjects such as insects, Patricia’s
love of cats, and Patricia’s younger siblings. Duncan enjoyed experimenting with different poetic styles such as haiku, sonnet
Duncan’s letters reflect the life of an aging professor who, having become recently widowed and having had no children, sought
to feel needed in a society dominated by the emerging youth culture. As he stated often in his letters, he desired to remain
in touch with the students of the college so that he may best know how to teach them. Rather than embrace his own generation’s
conservative reaction to the turbulent 1960s, Duncan chose to keep an open and tolerant mind to the issues of racial prejudice,
civil rights movements, psychedelic drugs, transcendental meditation, and anti-war discussions.
Duncan typically wrote Whiting 3-4 letters per week. Common themes in the letters include discussions on nature, family, pedagogy,
counterculture, the Vietnam War, and modern philosophy. Duncan often wrote during his trips to national parks, in which he
enclosed physical mementos such as flowers, rocks and leaves. Other enclosures include programs from plays and concerts, napkins
from restaurants, and newspaper clippings on contemporary topics including LSD, “flying saucers”, fashion, and sensational
murder trials. Whiting responses are marginally represented through poetry and occasional brief notes.
This series is arranged chronologically.