One Hundred Semesters: My Adventures as Student, Professor, and University President, and What I Learned along the Way

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Overview

"I have read Bill Chace's book and found it moving and full of what Nietzsche called 'joyful wisdom.' He is the Ishmael of American higher education's great quest for excellence: he has seen it all, its glories and shames, its triumphs and defeats, its ironies, tragedies, and paradoxes—and he has survived to tell us the tale. He is the best commentator on college and university life since Clark Kerr. And he weaves the threads of his own life and his own struggles into the great tapestry of institutions. His story takes us beyond the roles he has played—student, professor, dean, president—into the life he has lived in these institutions. It has been a good life but not an easy one. And out of it he has drawn thoughtful lessons for all of us who care about America's best colleges and universities. A wise and well-crafted memoir."—Tom Gerety, New York University

"In his engaging and delightfully honest account of the changes he experienced in American higher education over the last half century, Bill Chace mixes memoir and affectionate criticism as he reflects on his own continuing education in a variety of roles: student, teacher, administrator, on six very different campuses. While deploring the destructive role that intercollegiate athletics has come to play, the competitive commercialization of what was once thought of as the life of the mind, and the cost of attending college today, Chace's respect for and love of teaching, and all that is best in the academy, shines through the pages of this thoughtful book. Those of us who have spent our lives on a campus will see our own experience mirrored in Chace's odyssey, and for those who have not, it will be clearer why higher education in this country is admired around the world. We should all hope that 'loving critics' like Chace will continue to answer the calling."—Mary Patterson McPherson, President Emeritus of Bryn Mawr College and Vice President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

"Chace's book is not a standard memoir but an autobiography of his experiences inside higher education. He had the good fortune to be at important schools at important times, and he had the intelligence and wit to observe carefully what was occurring at those institutions and in higher education generally. In a crowded field, this is a new kind of book: a mixed genre that deftly combines memoir and educational critique."—Murray Sperber, author of Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education

"If one were to design the experience for someone to write a memoir surveying, critically and thoughtfully, the landscape of post-World War II higher education in America, Bill Chace's career or one very like it would emerge. I don't think there is a book about higher education in America that is as thorough, as personal, and as rich."—Donald Kennedy, former president of Stanford University, Editor-in-Chief of Science

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Editorial Reviews

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - Mark E. Hayes
An unusual book, 100 Semesters is part memoir, part analysis and part how-to manual. . . . Chace's prose is clear and compelling, a pleasure to read as much for its style as for its ideas. It is, in a word, eloquent.
History and Education - Tim Lacy
A very useful, if not crucial addition, to the libraries of aspiring humanists and administrators in U.S. higher education. Although neither a call to arms nor a road-map for change, Chace's book is a rich, timely, and sober reflection on higher education's upper half at the start of the twenty-first century.
From the Publisher
"Chace here recounts a young man's maturation and offers insight into the challenges of university administration. . . . Chace is a gifted storyteller, appealingly honest in analyzing what he did well and where he went wrong."—Evelyn Beck, Library Journal

"An unusual book, 100 Semesters is part memoir, part analysis and part how-to manual. . . . Chace's prose is clear and compelling, a pleasure to read as much for its style as for its ideas. It is, in a word, eloquent."—Mark E. Hayes, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Hopeful yet sober, Chace's memoir provides an invaluable perspective on the challenges facing higher education."—Booklist (starred review)

"A thoughtful commentary on both the promises and challenges colleges and universities have and continue to face. . . . [T]his is a much-needed, authentic commentary on the changes which happened throughout American higher education from one who was a direct participant in academia. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"A very useful, if not crucial addition, to the libraries of aspiring humanists and administrators in U.S. higher education. Although neither a call to arms nor a road-map for change, Chace's book is a rich, timely, and sober reflection on higher education's upper half at the start of the twenty-first century."—Tim Lacy, History and Education

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An unusual book, 100 Semesters is part memoir, part analysis and part how-to manual. . . . Chace's prose is clear and compelling, a pleasure to read as much for its style as for its ideas. It is, in a word, eloquent.
— Mark E. Hayes
Booklist
Hopeful yet sober, Chace's memoir provides an invaluable perspective on the challenges facing higher education.
Choice
A thoughtful commentary on both the promises and challenges colleges and universities have and continue to face. . . . [T]his is a much-needed, authentic commentary on the changes which happened throughout American higher education from one who was a direct participant in academia. . . . Highly recommended.
History and Education
A very useful, if not crucial addition, to the libraries of aspiring humanists and administrators in U.S. higher education. Although neither a call to arms nor a road-map for change, Chace's book is a rich, timely, and sober reflection on higher education's upper half at the start of the twenty-first century.
— Tim Lacy
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An unusual book, 100 Semesters is part memoir, part analysis and part how-to manual. . . . Chace's prose is clear and compelling, a pleasure to read as much for its style as for its ideas. It is, in a word, eloquent.
— Mark E. Hayes
Library Journal
Chace (president, emeritus, Emory Univ.; The Political Identities of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot) here recounts a young man's maturation and offers insight into the challenges of university administration. His undergraduate experience at Haverford College, class of 1960, included a year off (owing to suspension) in which he worked in construction and learned to appreciate the gifts of higher education. He attended graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, taking a year off during a pivotal time in the Civil Rights Movement to serve as an English instructor at Stillman, a historically black college in Alabama. While at Stillman, he was briefly imprisoned following a demonstration protesting a new courthouse's separate "colored" bathrooms. He returned to California for two decades as an English professor and administrator at Stanford University before assuming successive presidencies at Wesleyan University and Emory University. Chace is a gifted storyteller, appealingly honest in analyzing what he did well and where he went wrong. This book is similar in purpose, though perhaps more diverse in scope (as Chace has worked in a variety of colleges and universities), than other recent books by former university presidents, such as David Gardner's Earning My Degree: Memoirs of an American University President and Marvin Wachman's The Education of a University President. For all public and academic libraries.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A guided tour of academe, from the author's years as a student at Haverford in the 1950s through his recent retirement as president of Emory University. Chace, who has hitherto published only scholarly titles, began this memoir after he stepped down as the head of Emory. (He returned later as a professor of English.) He entered Haverford in the fall of 1956, was suspended for a year-college authorities were not amused by his "borrowing" the dining-hall silverware-and finally got his B.A. in 1961. After that, he made fairly consistent progress up the plane of academic life: a Ph.D. from Berkeley (earned during its wildest free-speech days), a stint at Stillman College in Alabama (where he was arrested during an early civil-rights demonstration), a job at Stanford (he taught the school's first course in black literature on barely a moment's notice), a segue into administration, an appointment to head Wesleyan University (some success, some failure), a transfer to Emory for nine of his most gratifying years. During his administrative career, the author continued to teach, generally courses on Ulysses, and so brings a broad perspective to his commentary on higher education today. Chace sees some things he doesn't like, especially big-time college athletics, which he calls a "cancer." He also worries about the state of his own particular academic specialty, English-teaching, which in his judgment has nearly abandoned its traditional emphasis on literary history for a food-court curriculum, political correctness and the arcana of literary theory. In sum, however, he is sanguine, dismissing portraits of dissolute campus life like Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons as "grotesquelycartoonish." Although the subtitle's characterization of Chace's experiences as "adventures" is perhaps over-generous, he did hold some nitro he needed to handle carefully: Gay unions proclaimed in a college chapel? Tenure for all? Investing in South African businesses?Of interest mostly to those concerned about the health of American higher education, but Chace's quiet, modest voice is intelligent and appealing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691127255
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/31/2006
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,441,161
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

William M. Chace is Professor of English and President Emeritus at Emory University. He is the author of two books, "The Political Identities of Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot" and "Lionel Trilling: Criticism and Politics".

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Read an Excerpt

One Hundred Semesters

My Adventures as Student, Professor, and University President, and What I Learned along the Way
By William M. Chace

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2005 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-691-12725-5


Introduction

Most people do not stay in school for a long time. For them, the world after and beyond school is more attractive than the academic enclosure. For them, the ladder of education-kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college-is climbed once and then laid aside. They go on to "real life" and obtain jobs, establish careers, and look back on formal education as a moment, just a moment, that happened when they were young. Their youth ending, their formal education ends too.

But school never stopped for me-that is the subject of this book. My continuing education on six different campuses defined how I came to terms, year after year, with classrooms, with teachers, and then with the institutions of learning themselves. Briefly describing the years before college, the book mainly focuses on the time thereafter: at Haverford College, where I was an undergraduate; the University of California at Berkeley, where I was a graduate student; Stillman College in Alabama, where I taught for a year; Stanford University, where I taught for twenty; and Wesleyan University and Emory University, two campuses where Iwas president for six and nine years respectively. I have been in school-inside the campus gates-for half a century, one hundred semesters-and my faculty life continues today.

That is a long time, but this is not a long book. It would be longer were I to tell about my life when higher education did not mark my days or fill up my emotions. My wife, JoAn, and our children, Will and Katie, are only faint presences in what I have written here. Their considerable importance to me rests securely outside these pages. I have sought to tell only the part of the story that can be found in the customs, manners, and procedures of American higher education and the way those things have figured in my life.

I have worried about these confessions becoming a selfish account, even a self-indulgent one. I hope that the stories I tell here, the information I give, and the spectacle of success and absurdity I portray, will move the center of attention away from me and onto the landscape of higher education. In any case, what I have seen in school makes up these pages.

My beginning assumption is a simple one: going to a college or university never turns out to be, for anyone who has done it, a trivial step. If you have been to college, even only briefly, you don't forget it. Memories of who you were then and what you did surge up to please or embarrass you; certain moments of time are fixed indelibly in your mind. That is because college puts you on your own, often before you are ready to stand by yourself. Your strengths and vulnerabilities are on display and you can surprise yourself by how ready you are to do some things and how ill prepared you are to do others. That which surrounds you, the distinctive landscape known as "the campus," is at once reassuring and yet foreign, your home for a while but a mysterious location of studies, pursuits, and preoccupations unknown to you and carried on by countless others. It is bigger than you and retains a power over you. Because of its mysteries and its strengths, you will always remember how it looked, smelled, and felt to the touch.

Going to my first campus, Haverford College, in the fall of 1956, I acquired an interest in what such places do. Now, never having lost that interest, I write about what I saw on that campus and five others. The terrain and culture of each is different: Haverford, a small liberal arts college near Philadelphia founded by Quakers; the University of California at Berkeley, a large and powerful public university; Stillman College, a small and poor institution in Alabama established for African-Americans; Stanford, a distinguished private research university; Wesleyan, another small liberal arts college, this one in Connecticut; and Emory, an enterprising private university in Georgia. At all of these places save the first, I taught. At two of them I was a student. At two I was the president. Taken together, these six schools provide a mirror of much, but not all, of higher education in this country for the last half-century.

Given my experience, none of the rooms where the work of a college or university occurs is now a secret to me; I have been inside all of them: laboratory, seminar room, library stacks, classroom, stadium, student residence, treasurer's office, operating room, training facility, power plant, dean's office, recycling center, lecture hall, presidential suite, board room, and professorial office. These places have made up my world.

As a student, I studied in library carrels. As a professor, I read countless student essays. As a president, I watched the payroll office issue monthly checks to thousands of employees. When students killed themselves, I called their parents and grieved with them and with fellow students; when commencement day came, I congratulated and hugged the graduates. I had the honor of appointing scores of people to administrative positions and the discomfort of dismissing others. For what I did over the years, I received both praise and blame. The praise, I learned, is often no more appropriate than the blame.

A witness of higher education for that half-century, I continue to find the American campus an attractive and even a good place. Most informed people believe that American higher education is the best the world has to offer. They are right. Our colleges and universities might also be the best of America's achievements. Inventive, responsive, energetic, and endlessly productive, they are the cynosure of the world and a tribute to the possibilities of the human mind. I champion them and, in this book, offer an enthusiastic defense of them. But I also find, and report on, things about them to lament.

In this report, I ask one basic question about our colleges and universities: what sustains and fortifies them? What makes a collection of people congregate in a special place, pursue difficult studies, share understanding, wrangle over matters both crucial and insignificant, invest prodigious amounts of money in abstruse investigations, maintain high standards of excellence, for the most part treat each other decently, and come back, year after year, for more of the same? Without the consolation of yearly profits, often in the face of public ridicule or censure, and aware of the massive infusions of money required to keep them solvent, what allows these institutions to survive, indeed to prosper? Put it another way: if we did not have them, would we know how to invent them? Indeed, would we want to invent them? Given their expense, and given also the ways they do and do not comfortably exist within the prejudices and pressures of American life, would a sufficient number of the nation's people want them to dot so handsomely, as they now do, the nation's landscape?

But my question is only "academic." We know that our universities and colleges are not going to disappear. They have become part of the fabric of the lives of many young people, their parents, and alumni, as well as the great number of others whose livelihood depends on their continuing existence. Part centers of learning, part businesses, part havens for the young, and part the places where millions of our fellow citizens are employed, they are central to what we are as a nation. Characterized by their profitless behavior within a profit-making culture, and representing a dedication to intellectual excellence in a country that historically has been ambivalent about such excellence, they are at once admirable, unique, troubling, and permanent. Here I write about them.

My praise is mixed with descriptions of some tough problems they face. The best schools are too expensive, and only a tiny fraction of the young people who could benefit from them even apply to them, much less gain admission to them. Those who arrive on most campuses do not now find what once was the mission of America's best colleges and universities: a commitment to the kind of moral development that produces an informed and responsible citizenry. That kind of education, to which I was introduced decades ago at little Haverford College, is now in danger of being lost. It is sinking beneath the waves of faculty neglect, administrative busyness, preprofessional frenzy on the part of students, and the depressing uncertainty on almost every campus about what moral development might even mean. But it is what some parents want their children to have, and it is a realm of learning that no other entity in the country is prepared to provide. That the nation's best schools cannot, or will not, provide it is profoundly lamentable.

Over the years, many of the leaders of these schools-whose extravagant compensation, I argue, should be reduced to levels closer to that of the faculty-have joined with others to permit, witlessly, the growth of irrelevant entertainments and amusements for students. Chief among them is big-time athletics. On many campuses, it now diverts attention from, and even undercuts, the academic pursuits that are the schools' fundamental reason for being. Not classrooms or libraries, but football stadiums and basketball arenas become the focus of student attention. The climax of the week becomes Saturday afternoon.

In addition, many schools have become overly concerned with marketing, "branding," and the competitive commercialization of the life of the mind. Colleges and universities should combine their strengths rather than wasting energy in emphasizing the small differences between them. And, most distressing to me as an English professor, America's colleges and universities have witnessed a decline in the force and relevance of the humanities, once a source of delight and wisdom to students and graduates, and now, for many people within and outside the academy, an arid, unattractive, and inaccessible subject.

I would not write about these institutions as I do if I did not cherish them. My respect is mixed with anxiety; my affection is tempered by misgivings. But about their importance to this country I have no doubt. As a nation, we have invested a large share of our hopes and dreams in our colleges and universities. As a student, teacher, and president, I have seen for five decades the extraordinary dividends of that investment. In the pages of this book, I show what living so close to higher education for so long has meant to me.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from One Hundred Semesters by William M. Chace Copyright © 2005 by Princeton University Press . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: I Knew Exactly What I Was Doing 6
Chapter 2: Haverford—the Guilty Reminder 11
Chapter 3: And All Will Be Well 22
Chapter 4: The Readiness Is All 35
Chapter 5: Berkeley: Thoroughly Unready 47
Chapter 6: The Discipline of Literature 57
Chapter 7: A New Kind of Proletariat 69
Chapter 8: Going South 77
Chapter 9: Reading in Jail 88
Chapter 10: Poetry and Politics 97
Chapter 11: The Storehouse of Knowledge 110
Chapter 12: Unfolding the Origami of Teaching 121
Chapter 13: Tenure and Its Discontents 134
Chapter 14: Tenure Tested 143
Chapter 15: Teaching and Its Discontents 153
Chapter 16: The English Department in Disarray 165
Chapter 17: Why Join the Administration? 177
Chapter 18: Exchanging Reflection for Action 188
Chapter 19: Diversity University 198
Chapter 20: Marching to a Different Drummer 208
Chapter 21: The Puzzle of Leadership 222
Chapter 22: Looking at Success; Looking at Failure 240
Chapter 23: Learning and Then Leaving 252
Chapter 24: A School with Aspirations 270
Chapter 25: Being a Proprietor 287
Chapter 26: Real Power and Imaginary Power 306
Chapter 27: "A King of Infinite Space" 327 Index 339

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