Ever the Leader: Selected Writings, 1995-2016

Ever the Leader: Selected Writings, 1995-2016


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Thursday, April 22


Ever the Leader gathers together selected speeches and writings from one of the great scholars and commentators of higher education. William G. Bowen’s career at Princeton University—from economics professor to provost to a sixteen-year tenure as president—was marked by extraordinary accomplishments during times of great change, both at the university and in the country. But it was in Bowen’s second act, as president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and founding chairman of ITHAKA, that he took the lessons he learned as a highly productive leader of one of the nation’s most esteemed universities and applied them to a broader set of problems in higher education. This volume of work from Bowen’s later career captures this expansion of his thought and influence.

Comprising remarks and articles on the subjects of university values, educational opportunity, college sports, technology, and colleagues and peers in higher education leadership, Ever the Leader is more than just a concise distillation of Bowen’s research and thinking on some of the most urgent issues of the day—it is a portrait of leadership in action. The selected papers, talks, and articles exemplify Bowen’s commitment and singular ability to communicate strong, persuasive arguments for change, and to motivate others to engage with the truly hard questions facing higher education leaders.

Filled with formidable insights, Ever the Leader will be required reading for university presidents, policymakers, and all those who carry on the struggle for equity and excellence in higher education.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691177878
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/07/2017
Series: William G. Bowen Memorial Series in Higher Education Series
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

William G. Bowen (1933–2016) was president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University and founding chairman of JSTOR and ITHAKA. His many books include The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions and Lesson Plan: An Agenda for Change in American Higher Education (both Princeton). Kevin M. Guthrie is an executive and entrepreneur with expertise in higher education technology and not-for-profit management. He was the founding president of JSTOR and ITHAKA.

Read an Excerpt





William G. Bowen October 17, 2000


It would be a great privilege for anyone, and it is an especially great privilege for a sometime academic from across the sea, to give the Romanes Lecture. To be joined, in even a small way, to such a distinguished list of predecessors, going back to Gladstone and including many scholars whose writings I have long admired, is a most humbling experience. Adlai Stevenson once remarked that "flattery is all right — if you don't inhale" (a phrase since made memorable by another American with Oxford connections).


The title I have chosen for this lecture, "At a Slight Angle to the Universe," is taken from E. M. Forster's description of the Greek poet Cavafy. I will return to the title at the end of the talk, when it will be clearer, I think, why I have chosen it. My purpose today is to consider the implications for the university of two powerful intersecting forces: the revolution in information technology that is so pervasive (on which I will concentrate) and the associated, but separate, increase in the reliance on the market to solve problems of all kinds.

Let me begin by proposing working definitions of our key concepts that may help to clarify why "digitization" and "commercialization" are inevitably linked and why, together, they propel the university into a new world. It is useful to remember that despite all of the hyperbole, things, even in this new age, will continue to be things. As Professor Negroponte of MIT has put it, "If you make cashmere sweaters or Chinese food, it will be a long time before we can convert them to bits." But universities are not known for their steamed dumplings. Rather, they have long been concerned with intangibles: ideas, concepts, and knowledge. Their "products" draw upon information and are packaged as information — which, unlike dumplings, can be broken down into the digital equivalent of atoms. When this is done, the life of the university changes in profound ways: students and faculty are now surrounded by e-mail, websites, electronic archives, search engines, voice and image transmission, and the wonders of Internet. So, for the purposes of this talk, I use "digitization" to mean the electronic assembling, disassembling, and transmitting of the basic elements of intellectual capital. These include words, sounds, pictures, and data. The ability to take these sources apart, send them easily over distances, and reconstruct them renders the walls around universities far more porous.

Once those walls are pierced in this way — that is to say, once both the basic materials and the fruits of the work of academic institutions are easily gathered and sent — the very currency of the university becomes dramatically more accessible and these institutions find themselves drawn increasingly into the realm of commerce. New economic possibilities abound — especially in an age when the market is king and everything (or nearly everything) seems to have a price and to be for sale. As Thomas Friedman writes in his recent book on globalization: "Ideologically speaking, there is no more mint chocolate chip. There is no more strawberry swirl, and there is no more lemon-lime. Today there is only free-market vanilla. ... In the end, if you want higher standards of living in a world without walls, the free market is the only alternative left."

Innumerable manifestations of the broadening reach of market mechanisms are seen on many campuses, certainly in the United States. The universities themselves have become highly sophisticated in collecting large streams of revenue from the licensing of patent rights; faculty increasingly expect to be paid extra not only for developing patentable inventions but also for helping to create e-commerce "products"; many graduate students want to be regarded as paid employees and to affiliate with old-style industrial unions like the United Auto Workers; and students seem to require the promise of compensation in such exotic forms as chances to win mountain bikes to cooperate with survey research. I suspect that it would be easy to add UK examples.

By "commercialization," thought about in this context, I mean the changing way in which the wares of the academy are transferred from one person (or one entity) to another — not solely through interactions in cloistered realms devoted to the free exchange of ideas, but also in settings where ideas and information are bought and sold like wooly goats and port wine. "Commercialization," in this setting, has at least a mild connotation of impurity. The selling of autos is not regarded as "commercialization" — that transaction is, and always has been, "commercial." Places or products that are "commercialized" are those — at least to my ear — that have not always been subject to the dictates of the market and, some would argue, ought not to be. Let us remember that there is a deep ambivalence in the relationship between the university and the market — there always has been and always will be. Scientia gratia Scientiae may be the mantra for certain individuals and for certain fields at certain times, but institutions that depend on external support have never been that pure. What digitization does is accelerate the possibilities and the pace of commercial trafficking. When both new techniques and digitized content can pass so easily through walls as beautiful as those around us, the possibilities for transforming intellectual capital into capital capital provoke a most challenging set of questions.

A principal theme of this lecture is that universities are not businesses (though they have many business-like aspects). They are highly unusual institutions with missions and attributes unlike those of any other entity in either the for-profit or the not-for-profit world. Society depends on them to do much more than produce "products" at a fair price. In keeping with most other economists, I love the market (it is, as it were, "our baby"). But I also know the limits of markets as definers of values and allocators of resources, and one of my greatest concerns is that, either inadvertently or by design, universities will be so bemused by market opportunities that they will lose sight of, or downplay, their most essential purposes. These include educating students broadly so that they may lead productive lives in a civilized society; serving as engines of opportunity and social mobility; creating new knowledge of every kind, including work that either has no immediate market value or may even threaten some commercial end; encouraging and protecting the thoughtful critic and the dissenting voice; and defending cultural, moral, and intellectual values that no one can "price" very well.

If these venerable institutions become too market-driven, and come to be regarded in too instrumental a way (by themselves as well as by others), they could lose the distinctive "angle to the universe" that they need to retain if they are to function at their best. This does not mean, however, that they can or should turn away from their new opportunities. The key, as I will argue throughout this lecture, is to define and defend the right "middle ground," even as we recognize that, as Isaiah Berlin said in an earlier Romanes Lecture, it is "a notoriously exposed, dangerous, and ungrateful position."


Before discussing both the opportunities and the dangers before us, let me pause and remind us, ever so briefly, of why we are playing for such high stakes in debating the role of the university in a digitized and commercialized age. I can be very brief because the basic points are so well understood. In essence, the revolution in information technology and the unforgiving nature of today's international competition combine to enhance the value of well-functioning educational systems. Statesmen and politicians everywhere understand that individuals and countries that fall off the "learning curve" (or that operate below its higher reaches) will pay a big price.

I need do no more than reference the substantial body of literature that documents the purely economic returns to investments in higher education. It is easy to understand intuitively that human capital will be more highly valued in an information-intensive world than in a world dependent in greater degree on manual labor and inherited capital. Seen in this light, universities are perceived — correctly — as societal assets of immense value. They will be heavily responsible, for better or worse, for how well societies make material provision for their citizens.

But this is not the only reason that they matter so much. In last year's Romanes Lecture, Mr. Blair gave equal attention to the social case for investments in education. He emphasized what he called "the price of missed opportunities" — for individuals as well as for society. Even those of us sheltered in New York are aware of subsequent discussions in this country about admissions policies at a certain well-regarded British university — a topic I will avoid altogether except to note how sad it is when discussions of serious subjects appear to depend so heavily on argument by anecdote and incomplete information. In any event, large numbers of us will surely agree that in a digitized and commercialized age it is even more important than it was before that access to the most prized educational opportunities be made available to individuals of ability and ambition from every background. How best to pursue equal opportunity in ways that strengthen, not weaken, colleges and universities is a huge subject all its own that I cannot pursue today, except to note that whenever anything increases in value we naturally care more about who gets it.


Universities must pay careful attention to digitization for the simple reason that it will provide innumerable new opportunities to improve and extend teaching and research, and it is these opportunities, some of which I will now outline, that have to be balanced against the associated temptations and risks, many of which have a commercial dimension. Websites and e-mail addresses have become the stuff of daily life, both inside and outside the academy. A cartoon that I have in my office depicts a woman explaining to another woman why she has a patch on each arm: "The patch on the right is for cigarettes; the one on the left is for e-mail." Many walls created by distance, time zones, and the need to work directly with physical objects have been breached, and there is much more to come as new technologies emerge and costs of hardware, software, and connectivity continue to fall. A colleague speaks of the impending arrival of "omni-connectivity," by which he means the ability to access information at any time, from anywhere.

But what kinds of scholarly resources will there be for scholars to access? Hanna Gray, president emeritus of the University of Chicago, has observed that in many respects the electronic content produced by digitization projects often closely resembles the real objects (the "hard copies") from which it was created — much as the first printed books were intended to look as much as possible like the hand-written manuscripts produced in monasteries. But this is, as Professor Gray noted, surely too limited a vision, and I want next to describe just one example of the many new kinds of specialized scholarly resources that can be built with digital technologies (apart from "courseware" and distance learning projects, which I will discuss later). My example is the JSTOR collection of scholarly journals, an electronic archive whose history I know well because the Mellon Foundation initiated its development and I continue to serve as chairman of the not-for-profit entity that is responsible for it. Focusing on the lessons learned from this one project has the advantage of making concrete a number of points that have broad applicability, and I will return to the JSTOR example several times in this lecture.

The JSTOR Collection of Scholarly Journals

"JSTOR" may be familiar to a number of you. It is a highly searchable electronic archive of journal literature that contains the full contents, back to inception, of over 120 leading scholarly journals in core fields of the arts and sciences — excluding only current issues. The JSTOR archive contains high resolution images (exact replicas) of more than 6 million pages of journal literature; additional content is being added every day, and when the earliest issues of the Transactions of the Royal Society are digitized later this year, it will be possible to call up on your computer screen some of Newton's first published papers. While the JSTOR system displays images, it also contains ASCII text files that are used to facilitate searching. Users can submit searches by author, title, subject, or even by a descriptive phrase; locate relevant articles; and then print them out. Thus JSTOR offers atypically convenient access to the content of a "library" that never reports that something is "out" (since any number of users can read the same article simultaneously), that delivers articles directly to a person's desk (with no defaced pages), and that never closes.

These features explain why JSTOR has been received so enthusiastically by libraries and the wider scholarly community. Over 850 libraries in forty countries (including Oxford and fifty-three others in the United Kingdom) have paid the site license fees required to obtain access to JSTOR. Usage continues to grow at a phenomenal rate — having more than tripled in the United Kingdom over the last twelve months. It is expected that more than 2.5 million articles will be printed from the database in the current calendar year. Usage has been heaviest, not surprisingly, at research-intensive universities such as Oxford (which now ranks among the top ten universities worldwide in terms of its usage of JSTOR). But in many ways the enthusiastic reception of the archive at less well-known places has been even more gratifying. JSTOR provides a small Appalachian college in the United States with the same access to journals such as Science and the Renaissance Quarterly as is enjoyed by graduate students at Manchester or Stanford. It closes in some degree the "digital divide" by allowing universities in countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Russia, and Greece to acquire a rich repository of journal literature without building space or hiring staff.

The implications for scholarship and teaching are profound. They range from simply making it easier for students to work with important articles to changing fundamentally the literature that faculty and students consult. One side-benefit of JSTOR is that it allows us to track the usage made of the journal literature in its database — something that could never be done in a paper-only world. Of the 391,000 full-length journal articles in JSTOR in 1999, over two-thirds (69 percent) were viewed and nearly half (46 percent) were printed at least once in that year. Experience to date has demonstrated, convincingly, that older articles are valuable. The average age of the ten most frequently consulted articles in economics is more than fifteen years; the average age of the most frequently consulted articles in mathematics is more than thirty years. These findings are a useful rebuttal to the line of thought that equates anything electronic with a suspicion, if not a rejection, of old verities. The most basic scholarly contribution of JSTOR may be its ability to "unlock" access to older journal literature.

Enhancing Course Content and Providing Distance Learning

While information technology has had, and will have, manifold effects on how scholars do research (and I have not even mentioned applications in the field of science, such as the key role played by computer scientists and sophisticated software in the mapping of DNA, the imaging of art, or the greater ease with which scholars all over the world can collaborate), it will also have major effects on the teaching functions of colleges and universities. It is much too early to pass judgment on the wide variety of ways electronic technologies are being used to supplement as well as supplant the work done traditionally by the lecturer, but it is evident already that the importance of different technologies varies dramatically from discipline to discipline: animated graphs are particularly useful in fields such as economics and applied mathematics; virtual environments are especially helpful in studying organic systems in biology and medicine; and feedback applications are particularly effective in language teaching and in instruction in proof technique in logic courses.


Excerpted from "Ever the Leader"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Princeton University Press and ITHAKA.
Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

1 University Values At a Slight Angle to the Universe: The University in a Digitized, Commercialized Age (Romanes Lecture, Oxford University, October 17, 2000) 3

The Two Faces of Wealth (Remarks at the Induction of Morton O. Schapiro as 16th President of Williams College, October 21, 2000) 30

Enduring Values: Openness and Mutual Respect (Remarks at Haverford Commencement, “Second Bite,” May 18, 2014) 40

Demanding Universities to Divest Is Often Bad Policy (Washington Post Op-Ed, March 27, 2015) 44

Commentary: Scott Walker’s Test of Academic Freedom (written with Eugene M. Tobin, Chicago Tribune Op-Ed, June 22, 2015) 46

2 Extending Opportunity Life on the River: Talking with Americans about Race-Sensitive College Admissions (Macalester Conference, June 3, 1999) 51

Extending Opportunity: “What Is to Be Done?” (Macalester College and Spencer Foundation Forum, June 21, 2005) 68

Appalachian College Association (Remarks, June 8, 2008) 86

Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities (Association for Institutional Research, May 30, 2010) 101

3 Athletics, Admissions, and Campus Culture Reclaiming the Game: College Sports and Educational Values (Walter E. Edge Lecture, Princeton University, September 25, 2003) 117

Why You Came (Remarks at Dedication of College Centre, Centre College, October 13, 2005) 139

Playing Their Way In (written with James L. Shulman, New York Times Op-Ed, February 22, 2001) 148

Untie the Knot Binding College Sports and Educational Values (Chronicle of Higher Education, April 7, 2014) 151

4 Technology and Scholarly Communications JSTOR and the Economics of Scholarly Communication (Remarks, Council on Library Resources Conference, Washington, DC, September 18, 1995) 157

Funding the Library of the Future: Harvesting Productivity Gains as a Partial Answer (New York Public Library Centennial, April 27, 1996) 174

MIT OpenCourseWare Celebration (Remarks, October 4, 2004) 185

5 Technology, Education, and Opportunity Academia Online: Musings (Some Unconventional) (Stafford Little Lecture, Princeton University, October 14, 2013) 193

“New Times Always, Old Time We Cannot Keep” (Colby College Bicentennial Remarks, March 18, 2013) 217

Technology: Its Potential Impact on the National Need to Improve Educational Outcomes and Control Costs (Remarks, De Lange Conference, Rice University, October 13, 2014) 231

Issues Facing Major Research Universities at a Time of Stress and Opportunity (Rutgers Speech, April 7, 2016) 258

6 Profiles in Leadership Too Soon to Be Tired (Tribute to Leon Higginbotham, Philadelphia Bar Association, June 23, 2016) 277

Remarks at Memorial Service for Tony Maruca (September 14, 2007) 283

In Praise of President Chuck Vest (MIT OpenCourseWare Celebration, October 4, 2004) 288

Remarks at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Dinner in Honor of Hanna Holborn Gray (March 20, 2003) 292

Andrew J. Goodpaster: 80th Birthday Celebration (April 7, 1995) 297

A Gentle Giant: A Gathering in Honor of Nicholas Katzenbach (Remarks, June 21, 2012) 302

William J. Baumol 90th Birthday Celebration (Remarks, New York University, April 24, 2012) 306

Appendix: A Selected List of Publications 309

Afterword: William G. Bowen by Hanna Holborn Gray 313

Index 321

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This book captures the essence of William Bowen—his brilliance, wisdom, wit, and humanity. It is a worthy tribute to one of the most visionary and inspirational leaders in the history of American higher education."—Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University

"Ever the Leader introduces readers to one of the most original, productive, and engaging minds, wrestling with some of the compelling issues of his day. A remarkable portrait of an immensely effective leader, this collection clearly articulates the values William Bowen cherished in individuals and institutions, and displays the intellectual excitement inspired by his wide-ranging interests and commitments."—Mary Patterson McPherson, president emeritus of Bryn Mawr College

"Few figures in American higher education have left a larger mark than William Bowen. This beautifully edited collection of his lectures, essays, and remembrances perfectly captures Bowen's breadth, brilliance, wit, judgment, decency, and humanity. This is a fitting tribute to someone who was truly ‘ever the leader.’"—Lawrence S. Bacow, president emeritus of Tufts University

"Ever the Leader presents William Bowen's major ideas on essential topics in higher education. Even for those who are well versed in the Bowen oeuvre, there are important insights, especially on academic freedom and free speech. Bowen's moral clarity, wisdom, and courage—his willingness to speak his mind on the most controversial dilemmas—shine through."—Nancy Weiss Malkiel, author of "Keep the Damned Women Out": The Struggle for Coeducation

"This exceptionally valuable book serves a distinctive and important purpose. It exemplifies William Bowen's work as a leader in the academic, philanthropic, and business worlds."—Michael S. McPherson, coauthor of Lesson Plan: An Agenda for Change in American Higher Education

Customer Reviews