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9. How to Succeed without Really Trying

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

DURING MY PERIOD in the university presidency, the National Association of State Universities (NASU) was a very active and useful organization. The members of the group had developed through the years a considerable camaraderie and a confidence in each other that enabled them to exchange important information freely and confidentially. So their meetings were held in high regard by the presidents. The final session of the spring meeting in New York City, the most important each year, was usually in a lighthearted vein and consisted of a dinner at the University Club followed by the valedictory of one of NASU'S members. Since college presidents spend their lives making and listening to speeches, the task of speaking to such a jaded group under any circumstance is not easy. To speak to them after they have had cocktails and an excellent four- or five-course dinner with two wines is a challenge indeed.

Some time after I announced that I would be stepping out of the Indiana University presidency on July I, I was asked by the president of the association, Ray Olpin, to be the speaker for the spring meeting on May 7, 1962. Knowing the hazards, I found it difficult to dream up a format, much less the content, for my talk, but, as I related in the speech, I eventually jotted down some notes that served for the occasion. The notes took the form of “Maxims for a Young College President, or How to Succeed without Really Trying,” paraphrasing the title of a popular show on Broadway at that time, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. My remarks were recorded even though they had been conceived, not as a speech, but rather as a bit of entertainment to mark my last dinner with the group. However, the maxims were then published in the Transactions and Proceedings of NASU, discovered by others, and republished from time to time, including a much more sedate version in the prestigious Educational Record of the American Council on Education. Since that time there have been many requests for copies of the transcription, and some of the maxims have been used by others with or without attribution. Because of this continuing interest, I looked at the text to judge whether or not the maxims still held in light of all that has happened since 1962. If so, they might bear repeating. The comments had represented a wholly personal point of view, intended only as a semiserious rule-of-thumb. Seen from my present vantage point, a few of the maxims seem to need additional comments. These follow the text of the transcript.

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5. Reopening, Reconstruction, and Reform

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

TWO VERY BUSY YEARS followed my appointment in 1933 as secretary of the Commission for Financial Institutions and head of two divisions in the Department of Financial Institutions. The pace was terrific, from about nine o'clock in the morning frequently to about midnight, seven days a week, with most meals taken at the desk or conference table. In our dealings with bank officers and directors, my staff and I were guided by the conviction that, with the return of prosperity, assets that appeared to be worthless would again be valuable. Time proved this assumption to be correct as we lessened the economic impact of the bank and building and loan closings in many Indiana communities, and I made a host of lasting friends.

The case of each closed institution had to be studied. Its assets and liabilities, the strength of its leadership, the need for it in the community, and its prospects for success if reopened—all had to be analyzed. Since depositors' funds were frozen, rapid decisions were desirable, but the labor involved was enormous. We worked under intense pressure. Believing that reform could come after recovery with less social cost, we took the position that our mission was to help speed recovery rather than to achieve immediate reform by liquidation of marginal units. In some departments in other states and among some federal bureaucrats, the attitude was almost the reverse. Reflecting the national anger against the banks and disillusion with all financial institutions, they took a punitive point of view and were eager to find ways to liquidate rather than to reopen banks.

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8. A Few Observations on Collegial Administration

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

UNIVERSITIES tend to be structural enigmas to the general public and, surprisingly, to a not inconsiderable number of faculty members, students, and staff. Beyond the primary units of departments and schools, lines and areas of authority are familiar to junior and senior administrators, whose business it is to know them, but for others the locations of decision making are often unclear, and the organizational relationships among faculty, administration and governing board are obscure and without parallel in their experience. Since the nature of what is being administered is an essential background for understanding its administration, some comments on the anatomy of a university may be in order.

A university or college has a structural order all its own. That it is typically incorporated by legal charter in a given state does not mean that it has the structure of the typical business corporation. Quite the contrary is the case. A university is an association of professional scholars and learners; its organization and administration would be more nearly analogous to that of the professional association found in a large law firm or in a medical group practice than in the business corporation. For reasons founded in long experience and tradition, the right to hire and fire in a university is quite limited and circumscribed, subject to the direction of the professional staff and to the implementation, if approved, by the trustees. A university does not exist to make profit but rather to teach and to enhance scholarship and learning. A university, of course, is expected in this modern day to make the expertise of its faculty—when needed and when possible to do so—available to solve immediate, emerging problems of society, but problem solving for society is not the first priority of its existence. The university is therefore an organization designed to take the resources made available to it and, rather than hoard them, use them as effectively as possible for achieving its central purpose.

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32. Epilogue

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

WITH THE “summing up” and the description of my present duties, it seems a proper time to bring this volume to a close. Other topics could have been treated and perhaps should have been—for example, the Hoosier political personalities I have known, the Ristine-Wells Committee to study the reorganization of the State Department of Public Instruction, the New Harmony Memorial Commission, the boards of the James Whitcomb Riley Association and of Lilly Endowment, the boards of various colleges and universities (Earlham, American University in Cairo, Howard, Tulane, and others), the High Council of Sigma Nu and the board of its Education Foundation, the TIAA-CREF board, the Council on Library Resources board, the board of the International Association of Universities, and many others.

For my readers who search here in vain for a topic in which they are interested, I offer the assurance that those topics were not omitted because I felt them unimportant. In a long life so many things seem important that the task of selecting among them is extremely difficult. But I have had to choose in order to keep this volume to a manageable size and also because, as I thought about the past, invariably the present intruded and my mind teemed with new opportunities that seemed available if my years allowed. I am reluctant to delay undertaking them longer while I write about the past.

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21. One World or None

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

FOR ALMOST two decades I undertook intermittent assignments related to the United Nations. They began prior to the San Francisco Conference while I was dividing my time between Indiana University and the U.S. State Department at the beginning of the 1940s, and they concluded, for personal reasons, in the waning weeks of 1960. So crucial an initiative for peace as the United Nations concept offered, it seemed to me, deserved what time I and others could afford it. I have never begrudged the days, weeks, and occasionally longer periods I devoted in service to that ideal.

The UNRRA Conference

An international conference of forty-four nations was convened on November 10, 1943, at Atlantic City to formulate the program and organization of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). Since I was at that time doing wartime duty four days a week in the State Department as deputy director in charge of liberated areas in the Office of Foreign Economic Coordination, I was chosen to be a member of the U.S. delegation to that conference. It was headed by the assistant secretary of state (for economic matters), Dean Acheson, later to become secretary of state and an increasingly powerful figure in the world of diplomacy and politics.

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