Holding the Center: Memoirs of a Life in Higher Education

Holding the Center: Memoirs of a Life in Higher Education

by Howard W. Johnson

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Memoir of a former MIT President, as well as professor, corporate director, and advisor to American government agencies and to museums and foundations.See more details below


Memoir of a former MIT President, as well as professor, corporate director, and advisor to American government agencies and to museums and foundations.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Johnson has been associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over 40 years, most memorably as president from 1966 through the early 1970s. From his youth in Chicago through his academic career, Johnson notes certain events that prepared him for his role as an administrator. His stint in World War II also provided him with lessons, such as learning how to live under pressure and having "compassion in the midst of disaster." One of Johnson's early accomplishments at MIT was the Senior Executive Program. Johnson also found himself involved in NASA's Apollo Project; MIT helped with guidance and navigation systems. Next came the opportunity to begin a medical school, a major step for MIT. Antiwar demonstrations in colleges across the nation soon followed. Johnson's office was occupied by student demonstrators, but MIT was fortunate not to be a prime target for radicals. Johnson's memoir of life at the center of a turbulent university, too detailed at times, will be of interest primarily to those in the academic world.--Terry A. Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

MIT Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

The Boston Globe - Thomas Winship

Holding the Center is a rare accounting of how
President Howard Johnson skillfully lead MIT throughout the 1960s campus revolt.
Executives everywhere will learn a thing or two about conflict management from this engaging diary of a university president.

Nannerl O. Keohane

Holding the Center is an exceptionally wise and readable book, rich with the fruits of long experience in troubled times. All of us who have some responsibility for university leadership should cut out the list of maxims in the Coda and tape it up near our desks.

Warren Bennis

What a multiple feast Howard Johnson has given us. At one level his book is a fascinating autobiography of the leader of arguably the greatest research institution in the world. At another level, it is a riveting history of how this university, MIT, coped with and responded admirably to the spastic hyper-turbulence of the Vietnam era. But for me personally, as a student of human organizations, the most important contribution this book makes is how it illuminates the darkness surrounding our understanding of how complex organizations are led through periods of unparalleled change -- a challenge, I need hardly add, that all of our contemporary institutions are confronting today.

Arnold R. Weber

Holding the Center tells two engrossing stories. One is Howard Johnson's personal journey from the South Side of Chicago to the presidency of one of the most prestigious universities in the world; a journey that transited the Great Depression, military service in Europe and World War II, and a circuitous climb to the peak of higher education. The other story recounts his experience as President of MIT in the late 1960s and 1970s when MIT, like other
American universities, was wracked by student and faculty dissent growing out of opposition to the Vietnam War and a profound shift in cultural attitudes. An understanding of Johnson's personal values and life experiences helps to explain how he skillfully managed the potentially explosive forces in a way that preserved campus comity and the integrity of the institution. Together, these two stories make an absorbing, and even inspiring, narrative which tells us much about higher education -- and American -- during a period of turbulent change.

Theodore E. Stebbins

This is a remarkable book about a remarkable man. Howard W. Johnson has served his community well, as an educator and a leader in business and the arts. He is the kind of man whom people instinctively trust. Johnson's memoirs make good reading and should be studied by anyone interested in the history of Boston and
Cambridge from the 1960s to the 1980s, or in how one great institution faced the educational crises of 1969-70.

Frank Press
These memoirs show how an exceedingly wise, balanced and knowledgeable individual can guide an institution through turbulent periods and have it emerge stronger from the experience. This is a book for anyone who wants to see how the fortunes of institutions reflect the quality of their leaders.
I. M. Pei

Holding the Center represents not only the personal memoir of a deeply dedicated man but also a vivid history of MIT since World War II.
This book reveals one of the secrets of MIT's success as one of the greatest
American institutions of higher learning -- the continuity of its governance throughout its history.

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