Speech to the Men’s Faculty Club
April 22, 1980
I think this occasion is a remarkable example of the lengths to which a group will go to get a free speech.
I made no preparation. All that I picked up here is an old Table of Contents from the book as a prop. I really don’t know why I wrote a book of this kind. I hadn’t written a book since the 30s, when I wrote a book about bank failures. In between I’d written only speeches and memos, and I found out that writing an extended composition is a great deal different from writing a speech or writing a memo, and I found it a very traumatic experience. In Dr. Bryan’s years when he was getting ready to retire, we’d all say to him: “You must write about that; you must write a book.” He would consistently refuse. I knew he was a very smart man, but I really didn’t know how smart he was until after I went through this experience. When we began to throw out great chunks of this material after it was finally put together, somebody said, “Well now, you write another one!” And there, I know the answer to that. At least I’ve learned from this one. I am not a writer, and it is an extraordinarily difficult and traumatic experience for one who is not a writer to put together a book of this type.
Really, why did I do it? I am reminded when Dr. Bryan died and the President’s house was empty, people would say to Mother and me, “When are you going to move?” We were down at the Woodburn House and perfectly comfortable, and I knew I was going to be leaving the presidency in’62 and it didn’t seem worthwhile to move. We were very happy where we were, but they kept saying, “When are you going to move?” Finally we got so darn tired of it, and one day Mother said that she’d had to answer that about a dozen times, and I finally said, “Well, let’s just move.” People kept saying to me, “Well, you have to write a book about it,” every time I’d tell a yarn or something, and they’d say, “You must write that,” and on and on until finally I just capitulated. Then Tom Clark joined in on this and said, “I’m not writing about your administration, I’m writing the history of the University, and few historians have your insights and your interpretation of what happened, and so you must write a book.”
Then others did this—Bernard Perry, he’d always say to me, “You’re always asking me to publish Indiana materials, Hoosier materials, and so you write a book and then I’ll publish it, and I’ll do what you’ve been telling me to do.” So what we have, I think—if we have anything—we have a book for local consumption, a book which will be useful to future historians. Some sections of it may be interesting to some of you. I hope you all buy it because the Press needs the business, and royalties, if any, go to the book fund and the library. There’s a good reason for buying it, not necessarily a good reason for reading it!
When the Press saw the length of the book and asked us to reduce it, I sympathized with them because I saw how long it was, and I don’t like to read long books either, and in addition big books are expensive to publish, but those of you who have written know how difficult it is to take something out once you put it in. It suddenly becomes very precious and important and if you hadn’t thought of it in the first place it wouldn’t have made any difference at all—you never would have put it in! The book has this title. It’s the first title I thought of. The Press thought of some, and Dottie thought of some others and we played with a variety of them. The next best one, I thought, was Gentle Reader, Be Not Bemused. But this has Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections in order to free up the form of the book, and I’ll explain that in a minute. So the first third of the book is chronological and the rest of it is topical. This made it possible for it to be Reminiscences and Reflections and the reason we had to go to that was the first third, which we did research carefully as it was being written, I realized (or at least Dottie kept saying to me, “If you continue at this rate, we’ll be at this all the rest of this century, and we’ll have not one book but half a dozen”). The reason for that is that we were going to the records. I asked the girls just before I came over here what kind of material we had in my present office, and these are the materials not of the presidency, you understand, but just the materials since ’62, and there are 250 file drawers full of letters, memoranda, materials of that sort. Then the Archives have all the presidency and the dean of the School of Business and if we were going to go through this carefully and do it chronologically, it would have been an endless job.
The first part of the book deals with how lucky I was to be born in a little Indiana town at the beginning of the century, then college days, and then a couple of chapters on my experience with the bankers of the state and the bank failure situation and the closing and opening of the banks. This particular material had never been written, and this represents the kind of material that occasionally gets into this book for the record. It really interrupts the story in a way, but it’s for the record. At the time, the Press took a dim view of those chapters. But now with the new economic situation, they may turn out to be two of the chapters that are better read than the others. I hope so, anyway. Then my apprenticeship in academic administration in the School of Business, my fate as a non-candidate, my first year in the presidency, and then a vignette of Dr. Bryan.
Now having gotten that far and realizing that we had to go to topical presentation, l “dried up,” so to speak. I couldn’t do anything—I couldn’t sit down and write consistently, chapter after chapter. Bernard Perry and some others said, “Whenever you have an idea about anything in your experiences with the University, just dictate it. So began the process of dictating any topic that came into my mind. The dictation was done in my sitting room; I got up in the middle of the night and had had a tape recorder machine and if I had an idea I dictated it. It was done in the car, on trains, on ocean liners, it was done in New York, Chicago, Florida, and it was done wherever the idea occurred to me. Then we had to take all that material and put it together, and that’s no easy job. But it was a way to do the topical thing. And of course I didn’t realize how verbose I was in this kind of thing. We had great stacks of things which we couldn’t use. But I broke the mental block that I had and so then for a couple years we followed this system. With this system not only do you have to take out all the repetition and so on, you have to check all the facts, and it’s just amazing, really amazing, how many things you remember that are just not so when you check the record. It’s unbelievable. I’d dictate something and then John Haste, who was working for us, would check the record and come up with a letter or something and would say, “How do you account for that?” And I’d say, “I don’t believe it!” Which would exactly refute what I’d said about a given thing. Actually much of the material at the very first chapter about growing up in a little town came as a result of dictation with Mother before she died and in the last couple of years when she couldn’t move around. So I would get her to dictate her memory of the early years of her marriage and we had that as a basis for those chapters. But even Mother’s memory, when we checked, was not without fault. It’s remarkable how many things we remember that are not so.
The next section had to do with my years in the presidency: my observations on collegial administration; the 50 Maxims updated with reflections on them—how to succeed without really trying in light of current circumstances; Money, Money, But Never Enough—the financial problems with the General Assembly; The Private Sector which is one thing that Tom Clark kept asking me to write about—the early years of the Foundation—which he said he wasn’t touching at all and he wanted written about. He wanted me to write about my perception of the Kinsey incident, and I broadened that to three others—what I considered the important challenges to academic freedom. Another chapter on To Make Room for the Future. That’s the building program and my concept of why we were doing what we did; Student and Alumni Relationships; Culture to the Crossroads—you know what that is; The University Looks Abroad which was our technical-assistance program during those years and there again I put in the kinds of things for the future historians. We dug out, finally, after great effort, a list, I think it’s a definitive list, of all our technical assistance programs in those years and we discovered that different offices would have different versions and some offices would have some of them and others would have others, and there was no place a complete record of our technical assistance programs. So we put that in and of course the Press screamed bloody murder but it’s there, anyway. Then the next section has to do with national and international service, travels on projects, and I’ll not read those chapters off. It has to do with the years on the American Council on Education, Educational Policies Commission, with Clay and Peter in Germany, UN experiences, the roots of PBS, and local committees and so forth, national and international service. And then one chapter which they asked me to write on travel titled “With My Hat on the Back of My Head.” It was a much longer chapter than it now is, but it has to do with one of my collecting interests, which is, I like to collect hotels. And it deals with hotels all the way from the Ideal in Huntingburg to the Peninsula in Hong Kong. About as great a contrast as you can have. Then there is another section “Beyond the Presidency” which has to do with the University Chancellor and there I was trying to answer something which I get very tired of answering. People say, “What does a University Chancellor do?” This book attempts to do that.
We had to take a great many things out, and I’ll give you an idea of some of those. Certain speeches which I thought were important and useful, some columns by Ernie Pyle, and then a whole series of vignettes—vignettes of people like Paul Getty, the Shah of Iran, Wendell Willkie, Foster Dulles, the King of Thailand, Harold MacMillan, Haile Selassie, and so on. These had to go out, but I think they would have been interesting, but they took out a great chunk of material. Then we took out such things as Kurt Pantzer’s imprint on Indiana cultural life. Then I had in there the remarkable influence of these great Indiana families who have made fortunes that have done so much for Indiana University: the Lillys, the Krannerts, the Balls, the Irwin-Sweeney-Millers. When you put that all together, you get an impression of the difference they have made to Indiana University, the growth of these local fortunes that have been dedicated to developing the state of Indiana’s cultural resources and in a very rich measure to Indiana University. That all had to come out. I hope that can all be published somehow or other separately; maybe it can be. I even had to take out my first message to the student body as Santa Claus in 1947, I think. Then I put in there the original text of the quadripartite voluntary agreement between the four state institutions that we struggled so many years to get. Now happily, Tom Clark put that in his Volume IV, which is in many ways the most important of the volumes of the University history and the one which hardly any of you know exists, but it’s the volume that has the significant documents in the life of the University, and this is a very important manual really for anybody who wants to know why we are what we are and how we got there. The documents give you that story.
In writing all of this, I’ve had several good fortunes—the good fortune to have people like Claude and Peter and Bob Burton and others who were very intimately connected with my administration and still alive. When I was writing those chapters on the financial institutions’ reform in the ’30s fortunately every member of my little staff is still alive or was still alive at that time, and they could all read the manuscript. It was the first social science research done on this campus financed by outside money, so far as I am able to determine and for that reason, if for no other, I thought it had some significance. They were all over the United States, but they could read the chapters and make comments and so forth. Of course Eddie Edwards was invaluable help on that, and Croan Greenough who was my first assistant, and Peter Fraenkel who was my third assistant, people who were intimately related to the office I had the advantage of having them. Finally, of course, I had the great good fortune to have Dottie because without Dottie there would never have been a book simply because she would take all this mass of material that I would belch out and put it together, and then I could go over it and decide what to be left in and what to take out.
Well, I’ve talked long enough. If you have any questions I’d be glad to answer them. As I said, if you want to buy it you’ll help the book fund, but you don’t have to read it.