Archive for July 29th, 2009

This blog is now available as a Kindle book – click here

I am still researching the 1958 Mosk campaign for Attorney General of California. One of the pivotal issues is why, how and when Pat Brown chose (finally) to run for Governor thereby opening the way for Mosk to run for the vacancy Brown created. This naturally got me into the wider issue of the 1958 campaign for Governor, a fascinating, confusing and even funny story in itself. One of the richest sources on the elections of 1958 turns out to be a lengthy oral history given by Fred Dutton, Brown’s confidante and campaign manager in ’58 and a Democratic power broker in both Washington and California who served as assistant to President John F. Kennedy and chief of staff for Gov. Brown. The portrait photograph in the printed version looked vaguely familiar. Reading a few paragraphs in explained why: Dutton had been on the University of California’s Board of Regents for the years of my employment in the University-wide offices of President Charles Hitch.

Fred Dutton

Fred Dutton

This got me to reminiscing about some of the entertaining incidents that arose in my very few contacts with the Regents. One of the perks of my job was being occasionally allowed to attend a meeting of the Board. Four of them are fastened in my memory.

At one meeting the location of which escapes me, probably the Regents’ own meeting room in University Hall where I worked, the Vice President in charge of physical plant, Joe Something, had a couple of presentations on the progress of some ongoing construction projects. The first had to do with some remodeling or expansion of Roadhouse Hall, the dairying school on the Davis campus. The VP went on and on with all the details and complications, work schedules and so on. When he was finished there was an awkward pause while the Board members tried to come up with a question or a comment. Then Catherine Hearst (who was head of the Audit Committee, believe it or not) asked “Does it have to be called ‘Roadhouse’ Hall?” The VP answered, “Professor Chester Roadhouse was one of the most widely known and respected members of the Davis faculty who taught dairying there for more than thirty years.” “Oh.”

Professor Chester Linwood Roadhouse

Professor Chester Linwood Roadhouse

Then the VP took up the subject of a new project, still in the planning and preliminary phases, a Chimpanzee building on the lagoon of the Santa Barbara campus. This one was fraught with environmental problems and therefore, legal problems because of the site selected, the edge of the lagoon, and putting together the required EIR was posing a lot difficulties. After an exhaustive and exhausting exposition of all of this the VP concluded and awaited questions and comments. Once again, after a pause, Catherine Hearst asked, “Does it have to be called the ‘Chimpanzee’ building?” “You know, the same question occurred to me, so I called up Professor So-and-so and he said ‘Yes, Goddamn it! They’re not simians, they’re not primates, they’re not anthropoid apes, they are Goddamned Chimpanzees!’” “Oh.”

Catherine Hearst at the time of Patty's kidnapping

Catherine Hearst at the time of Patty’s kidnapping


In the midst of the student uprisings (I think in 1970) the Regents held several meetings in an auditorium of the UC Extension campus on Laguna Street in San Francisco. This was done so that the Board could avoid the unpleasantness of confronting crowds of students shooting their pictures with Hasselblads and Nikons (described in my post “Above and Beyond …”). The room had a stage and arena seating. The Board sat around a large table on the stage running almost the entire stage width.

One meeting I attended there featured a presentation by Verne Orr, Reagan’s Director of Finance (after being the director of the DMV) and personal factotum. He was perfect for the job being a natural born bureaucrat, capable of carrying out long-running boring and trivial tasks and seeming to be devoid of ego. Reagan had a bug up about the Governor having a lower salary not only than the President of the University but of more than a hundred other university staff members. Most of these were professors in the medical schools who commanded movie star wages but they also included Edward Teller who held two chairs simultaneously and others of that sort.

Orr appeared, set up an easel with flip charts on it and distributed hand-outs containing the same material as the charts. One regent who was missing at the start of the meeting was Edward Carter, former chair of the Board, CEO of Broadway-Hale Stores (formerly called Carter-Hawley-Hale Stores), on a dozen or more boards of major banks, Pacific Tel and Tel and other prominent corporations, a major power broker and huge contributor to the Republican Party, leader of the right wing faction (along with his pal Ed Pauley) of the Regents (such as the group that was the toughest opposition to the Free Speech Movement in 1964) and so on.

After Orr had been droning on for about ten minutes Carter, attired in at least a thousand bucks worth of dark brown Italian suiting, made an intrusive appearance, crossed to the middle of the downstage side of the table and took a seat, so that his back was to the audience. He was a big man, very wide of back and seemed to fill half the stage aperture. He started going through the handout to catch up to where Orr’s flip charts were. Orr stood silent as Carter flipped each page up with a loud enough snap to be heard in the back of the auditorium – Snap! Snap! Snap! When he caught up, he asked in a very aggressive tone, “Verne what is this all about? What’s your point?” Orr started mumbling something about governor …  president … salaries … Carter interrupted “Excuse me Verne. If the Governor has issues about his salary, it is the State’s problem, not the University’s.” Orr stood silent for a moment looking defeated and perplexed, meekly folded his easel and left.

Two other meetings stick in my mind because of the appearances of the governors of the time. I think the first was also in the San Francisco UC Extension theater during the height of student protests over the Viet Nam war when Reagan was governor.

The Governor of California is a member of the Board of Regents by virtue of his state office but, as a rule rarely attends meetings for a number of reasons not least being that it would take too much time to be both informed and a participant in the complex considerations involved in governing a major university. They usually handle the matter by appointing friends and political allies to the board and relying on them to represent the governor and keep him informed.  Pat Brown’s appointees Fred Dutton and Bill Coblentz are good examples of this approach.

On the occasion in question, Reagan made a grand appearance, striding down the aisle of the auditorium with his retinue behind, making an attention commanding commotion as befits the Great Governor of a Great State. What was really astonishing though was his appearance. He was in full Max Factor make-up, a bright rosy color, with his well coiffed hair dyed a rich chocolate brown, apparently wanting look just so for the evening TV news broadcasts. It was like having a street mime in attendance. Everyone in the room pretended not to notice.

The other gubernatorial appearance I remember was early in 1975, the first Regents’ meeting after Jerry Brown was elected, when he introduced himself and his philosophy to the rest of the board. He proceeded to tell everyone there how to run a university. Mouths were agape at the arrogance and the snotty manner. I don’t know whether he ever attended another meeting but I’m sure he wasn’t missed. That scene has left me with a deep distaste for Jerry Brown; I never voted for him again for anything and find the possible or probable prospect of his becoming Governor again rather depressing.

New Governor Jerry Brown 1975

New Governor Jerry Brown 1975

Management Seminars

Another perk of my job was a standing invitation to the President’s management seminars which, I believe, were held about monthly, though probably not the year around, in the Regent’s Meeting Room in University Hall. These were always very interesting and often entertaining to boot. I’ll recount a few that stand out in my memory.

Angus Taylor was, at the time, Vice President for Academic Affairs. His career with the university was as a teacher of mathematics for many years at UCLA. He wrote a fairly successful calculus text with much of its sales coming from UC campuses (support your neighborhood professor!). (In my father’s day the most popular calculus text was Love’s. In my youth it was Granville’s. After that it was Thomas’ and I think these days it’s probably Strang’s – the last two were from MIT which gives their texts a lot of “clout”. While I am on this digression, I have to bring up my favorite trivia item: who invented the textbook? Answer at the end of this post.)

In 1963-1964, Angus Taylor was chair of the statewide Academic Assembly and Academic Council of the Senate and, as such, was deeply involved in resolving the contentious issues brought forward by the Free Speech Movement. Taylor was one of the very few involved who emerged from the episode with an enhanced reputation. It was the Academic Senate’s simple, reasonable proposal which became the basis of a compromise between the hard-shell Regents (Carter, Pauley, Hearst, et al) and the FSM that ended the conflict. This, in part, led to his appointment as Vice President. Not long before I left Taylor was appointed University Provost by Hitch’s successor, David Saxon, but left that post to become acting chancellor and then chancellor at UC Santa Cruz, where he completed his career, once again receiving accolades for a successful reorganization and administration.

Angus Taylor was almost a caricature of the beloved professor – he was charming, engaging, interesting and interested in all he encountered – intensely loved by faculty, students and administrators.

For the life of me, I cannot recall the subject of his presentation that day. What I do remember was that he circulated around the audience a pair of pitons, for he was an enthusiastic climber of mountains all over the world. The first part of his presentation had to do with a famous incident he was involved in about a year earlier. He was in a Swiss cable car which had gotten stuck mid-flight hundreds of feet above an Alpine gorge. It took something like twenty-four or more hours for rescuers to get the passengers down safely. His account had the audience alternately holding its breath and rolling with laughter.

Angus Taylor as Emeritus Professor, VP and Chancellor

Angus Taylor as Emeritus Professor, VP and Chancellor

William Coblentz was a very successful, fast-talking, witty and personable real estate lawyer to San Francisco’s Pacific Heights set who was something of a celebrity (often showing up in Herb Caen’s column, for instance). He was also the favorite lawyer for San Francisco’s numerous rock-and-roll musicians – which I will explain later. His “presentation” was personal, anecdotal, apparently completely impromptu and funny.

One of his stories was about an encounter with a grungy student in Sproul Plaza who said “You’re Bill Coblentz that smart rich Jew San Francisco lawyer Regent, aren’t you?”  Coblentz said “I wasn’t sure just what the charge was, so I thought it best to plead guilty.”

Coblentz said being the lawyer to a great number of rock stars had its difficulties, often involving more than business services, but on balance he considered it a good thing because it made him a hero to his adolescent daughters. He explained how it all came about. Bill Graham had been one of his clients for a couple of years, initially brought to him by another client who was a promoter. One day Graham appeared with a young woman singer (Grace Slick – Coblentz was very careful not to use her name but I knew who it was). When introduced to Coblentz by Graham she went up to him and asked, “Gettin’ enough?” Here too he wasn’t sure what the question was but thought it better to say yes.

A couple of years and a large number of performer-clients later a new one appeared and Coblentz finally decided to ask why he had come. The new client said Grace had highly recommended Coblentz saying she has this really cool lawyer who drops acid.

When we lived on the “big mesa” of Bolinas there was a property nearby, containing a house and an old barn, that had a sign at the driveway saying “Coblentz.” Also, while we were at that location Grace Slick and Paul Kantner bought the house at the beach entrance at the west end of Brighton Avenue which was originally built in the 1920s by Marin Pepper as a teahouse, serving the beach goers of the day.

Grace and Paul did some remodeling of the house, added a big gazebo for rehearsing, double-glazed for noise suppression, in the surrounding yard and a large, irregularly shaped swimming pool. The pool, bottom and sides and its surrounds, was completely covered with a mosaic (depicting what, I do not know) which took well over a year to create. (In the small world department: several years later my son and I went to a tire sale at the Cow Palace and the long-haired hippie salesman assigned to us asked where we were from and when we told him Bolinas he said he was the guy who did the tiling.)

The "Jefferson Airplane house" today. Note the camera is so good the diving board is visible.

The “Jefferson Airplane house” today. Note the camera is so good the diving board is visible.

She became pregnant while living here and when asked by the old ladies she encountered at the post office or village store what she was going to name the baby she said ”God” just to stir them up. (This anecdote is incorrectly related elsewhere as happening in the hospital and being said to an obstetric nurse.) Not long after the baby, a girl named China, was born they bought a house in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood and sold the Brighton Avenue house. A few years later a big winter storm sent waves crashing over the sea wall that carried off the gazebo. I think the pool tiling was damaged as well.

After his presentation I went up to Coblentz and told him that I lived near his Bolinas property. “Not mine – my wife’s – I hate Bolinas.” Then I mentioned the Slick-Kantner house and he seemed to get genuinely angry (he is a real estate lawyer, remember) and said, “They sold that house for half what it was worth!”

A few years later Coblentz was Catherine Hearst’s lawyer during her daughter Patty’s kidnapping ordeal.

William Coblentz

William Coblentz

When Earl Cheit spoke to the Management Seminar he was between jobs, being no more than a mere professor in the Haas School of Business. To see what I mean just look at his list of posts given on the School’s website:
At Haas since 1957
1993 – 94 Interim Athletic Director, Intercollegiate Athletic and
Recreational Sports, University of California, Berkeley
1990 – 91 Acting Dean, Haas School of Business
1976 – 82 Dean, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
1981 – 82 Acting Vice President, Financial and Business
Management, UC Berkeley (I think this should read
“University-wide” – author)
1965 – 69 Executive Vice Chancellor, UC Berkeley

Cheit was one of the “good guys” in the Free Speech Movement uprising in 1964, Chairman of the Faculty Component of the Committee on Campus Political Activity which took the position that the University had no right to limit students’ off-campus political participation (which agreed with the ACLU and UC attorney Cunningham). Cheit put forth a proposal for the CCPA which was supported by the Academic Senate and agreed to by the students only to have it rebuffed by the intransigent administration. In the end something very like it was proponed by the Academic Senate (see Angus Taylor above) and finally accepted (with added requirements regarding “punishing” the Sproul Hall sit-ins). Cheit was a member of the committee which met with Clark Kerr and the regents in Los Angeles on December 18, 1964 which led to the denouement of the FSM affair. He also was on the search committee that found Roger Heyns to be the new Berkeley Chancellor.

On January 2, 1965 the Regents finally terminated Edward Strong as Chancellor at Berkeley. The next day Earl Cheit notified Alex Sherriffs, Strong’s Vice-chancellor for Student Affairs (described somewhere as “rabidly anti-communist” which had a lot to do with the odd behavior of the administration) that he was to join Strong. This is a passage from an oral history interview of Alex Sherriffs years later:

So I went out when Roger [W.] Heyns was coming in as chancellor and Earl [F.] Cheit was setting up the palace guard and so on

Did you resign?

Well, Cheit came to me and he said, “This afternoon we’re having a staff meeting and I’m going to announce that you’re resigning.” [pause] I said, “Is this your idea? Is it Roger Heyns’ or is it Clark Kerr’s?” And he wouldn’t answer me. I said, “Well, that’s enough of an answer. I’m tired of empty in-baskets. I think I can do something better for the cause than sit here anyway, so go ahead. Announce it.” Then Cheit said, “Let’s have lunch.” So we had lunch and he said, “You should have six months to get caught up so you can go back to teaching with a fresh start, and so forth.” I didn’t feel hostile. He was doing what he was supposed to do. Actually, I didn’t want to be somebody’s vice chancellor who didn’t want me. I had been somebody’s vice chancellor who didn’t want me because there was a war going on and nobody seemed to know who was on what side: I refer to the
Meyerson episode.

In the Management Seminar Cheit was lively and spirited and his talk was lively and spirited – all done ex tempore, of course (in case you haven’t noticed, professors are usually great talkers). He talked about university administration issues from an economist’s viewpoint which often appeared as insights. I remember that he spent a lot of time on the subject of Berkeley’s tenure rate, the proportion of faculty that was tenured which also would be the probability of tenure for a new appointee. He said that Harvard’s rate was something like twenty-five percent, Oxford’s five percent and Berkeley’s seventy-five percent! Each year the average age of Berkeley’s faculty increased by nearly a full year. At the time Cal’s pay scale was comparable to other universities of similar size and stature so a high tenure rate wasn’t needed for recruiting and Cheit felt it was a real threat to the quality of the staff. I don’t know what the situation is today.

After the presentation as people were leaving I overheard a number of the conversations of members of the audience saying that they wished Cheit would be the next University President. Alas, it was not to be.

Earl Cheit

Earl Cheit

Bob Adams was an econometrician who transferred from Berkeley to Santa Cruz in the first round of appointments to Crown College, third of the colleges to be established (after Cowell and Stevenson). Crown was to be the science college at Santa Cruz much like San Diego is the science university of the UC system. He was a cranked up sort, very emotional and obsessed with the tensions that existed between the collegial (or English) and the departmental (or German) models of a university. He kept referring to his job at Crown as “intense”. He said his bedroom window looked across a field toward the college and that he couldn’t stand to wake up in the morning and have that as his first sight – so he kept the shade drawn.

He said that in Berkeley his office was in a building full of economists (think of it!), that his friends were all economists and that his social life, dinner parties and the like, was also exclusively with economists. When he got to Crown his office was on the ground floor with a window and exit right onto the courtyard and in the neighboring office was a professor of English who specialized in eighteenth century English poetry. Adams said that to his surprise he found his neighbor to be quite intelligent and rather good company. He made a number of other funny and witty remarks along the way and had the audience in complete sympathy with his problem: how to combine departmental and collegial affiliations.

After the meeting I went up to him and told of the organization of the Iroquois nations. Each Iroquois was a member of a tribe and of a clan or longhouse. The clans crossed all the nations and each nation contained all the longhouses. Among other things this made war between member nations impossible. I suggested this was analogous to being a member of a department and of a college.

It turned out Adams’ problem was nearly universal at UCSC and a rather serious one to boot. Dealing with it led to an administrative shake-up and the appointment of Angus Taylor chancellor of UCSC. There is an “In Memoriam” document on the web signed, among others, by Clark Kerr and Fred Balderston, which contains this passage:
“…But there was a cluster of issues concerning the relationships at UC Santa Cruz between the colleges and the boards of studies (i.e. academic departments – author). Built into the original campus design was a commitment to have a significant portion (originally, 50 percent) of faculty positions controlled by the colleges and to have the colleges offer some courses in-house.

Conflict over control of faculty appointments and course assignments was, in effect, built into the initial academic design of the campus. Many courses that would be given as high-enrollment courses at other University campuses were organized small-scale at UC Santa Cruz. …”

Months later I had an interesting and amusing encounter with Adams again but it takes some setting up, some background, to tell it.

UC Santa Cruz had a campus computing facility like all the others, but it was pitifully underpowered. When University-wide (U Hall) was given the IBM 360 model 65 that had been at Santa Barbara we sent our puny IBM 360 model 40 to Santa Cruz. (The Santa Barbara 65 was famous. It was held hostage for a couple of days by a black student group who were photographed waving a stilson wrench over one of the memory boxes. The students said they were grabbing the man by his computer.)

The titular head of the campus computing center was Harry Huskey who had been an engineering professor at Berkeley for many years, one of the pioneers in building computers (e.g. SWAC) and one of the early presidents of the Association for Computing Machinery and who was nearing retirement. Huskey’s primary function was to lend prestige to the facility. The actual operation and administration was left to Marshall Sylvan, a young lecturer in statistics from Stanford. Among the well known users of the computer center were William McKeeman and Franklin Deremer also from Stanford and near contemporaries of Marshall’s. They were involved in some rather advanced work involving compilers (“compiler compilers” for example) and would seem to have required better computer service than was available at Santa Cruz.

On the next block west of University Hall on University Avenue there was a discount “drug store” that I called the schlock shop. It had the broadest spectrum of crap imaginable – I don’t remember whether there actually was a pharmacist or not. I used to go there to get cigarettes cheaply (I quit thirty years ago). On the day of this story I went to the schlock shop and bumped into Marshall Sylvan. I guess I was in a puckish humor and started teasing him. I asked how he was managing with our hand-me-down feeble 360/40. Before he could finish saying how he was managing I fired another question: how could he meet the requirements of people like McKeeman and Deremer? He said something about having a Burroughs but again before he could finish I asked: what are you doing with wild men like McKeeman and Deremer at that hippie college anyhow?

At this point Bob Adams, whom I hadn’t noticed before, put his face between mine and Marshall’s and said, “I know this isn’t the true measure of a university’s quality, that it should be measured by the value added to its products, the students …” (I love it! He is lampooning his own field, mocking himself.) “still, such things do count for something: did you know there are more fellows of the National Academy of Sciences at Santa Cruz than there are at Ann Arbor?” “No, Bob, I didn’t know that.”


The answer to the trivia question is William Whiston, Isaac Newton’s successor to the Lucasian chair at Cambridge. He studied mathematics under Newton and was chosen by Newton to be his successor. He had a prodigious output of books, papers and broadsides in mathematics, theology and history. He contributed to a number of scientific and technical problems (such as the famous longitude problem). Today he is best remembered for his translation of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews which is still in print. I have a two hundred year old edition I found in a bookstall on University Place in New York.

Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews 1806 edition of Whiston's translation

Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 1806 edition of Whiston’s translation

In a book on algebra Whiston broke the subject up into lessons and provided problems to be worked by the student, the first book ever in this form.

Author’s note: I have been granted permission by the Bancroft and UC Berkeley Libraries to limited use of material contained in their oral history transcripts according to the usual rules of the Fair Use doctrine.

Read Full Post »