George Beitzel, a trustee of the College from 1966-1987 and Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1980-1986, was interviewed in 2010 by Richard Fink, former professor of chemistry and dean of the faculty.
[0:00] Richard Fink: Well, the Amherst Oral History Project is fortunate to have our speaker today, our interviewee today, George Bickley Beitzel, son of Springfield, Pennsylvania, who came to Amherst in the largest class that I think had ever been admitted to Amherst, if that's not right?
[0:25] George Beitzel: That is correct, I think.
[0:26] Fink: In 1946, right after the war, and whose span, if you consider the 40 years from 1946, when he entered Amherst, until 1986, when you retired as being the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Amherst, and think about change, what's gone on from 1946 to 1986. In general, through the experiences of your lifetime. And in particular, at Amherst College, it's really rather extraordinary. And so if there's a theme that we've talked about it is that of change, and being at the helm of the Board during periods when the rate of change was perhaps more rapid than it ever had been before, and indeed ever has been since because it was the crucial years from 1980 through ‘86, if I remember that right. So thank you very much for being here. It's a delight to see you as always. And I guess I'd like to ask just at the outset, um, Springfield, Pennsylvania--how does one find one's way from being a lad at Springfield High School, to being a first-year student at Amherst College?
[1:54] Beitzel: Well, first of all, let me respond by saying how pleased I am that, to have this conversation with you, Dick. I've admired you for so long that it's a pleasure that we're able to do this together. And I thank you for doing it.
[2:09] Fink: You flatter me.
[2:10] Beitzel: No, you honor me, so it's even.
[2:15] Beitzel: I, I came with Springfield High School, town of 5000 people outside Philadelphia right next to Swarthmore. And, uh, there were 72 in our graduating class.
[2:30] Beitzel: Half women. And so the 30 or 35 men in the class, only, only three or four or five of us, I guess, went into college directly from that, others eventually, after they joined the service, but I came to Amherst ‘cause I knew it was part of the Little Three. And I had two uncles who had gone to Wesleyan.
[2:55] Fink: Oh, really?
[2:56] Beitzel: And neither my father nor my mother had graduated from college. Um, and I thought I'd probably wind up going to Wesleyan because these two uncles used to give me the old raspberry every year at Thanksgiving dinner about Amherst and Wesleyan and Williams and there was only one big guy in the Little Three and it wasn't Amherst or Williams. [laughs]
[3:21] So I drove here with my dad. And that fall, and that December, and he took us to three, three schools, the Little Three plus Dartmouth. And I only applied to one, I only applied to Amherst. And in those days, unlike today when it's a real, ‘cause I have children and grandchildren that go through, and other family members go through a great deal of anxiety as to go to college and where they're going to go. But I was, I was accepted at Amherst, half of us in that large class were peach fuzz high school seniors, the other half were really hardened veterans.
[4:00] Fink: So you were at about 400.
[4:02] Beitzel: Yeah, we had 400, a little over 400. So that's how I came to Amherst. My dad really said he thought I would like it here because we had a great evening in the Lord Jeffery Inn, on a December night. And those days it was very picturesque and well known ‘cause it’d been in the movies. And we, we stopped for dinner that night, and then spent the night there. And on the way home, my dad said, “what do you think?” I said, “about what?” He said, “about where, where you'd like to go?” And I said, “what, what do you think?” He said, “I think you'll like Amherst. Because your mother I will spend our nights at the Lord Jeffery Inn.”
[4:42] Fink: [laughs] There you go.
[4:43] Fink: A little different from his day. [?] [crosstalk]
[4:44] Beitzel: A little different than that, nothing very profound about that, except it's the truth.
[4:48] Fink: Yeah. Well, that's, that's interesting. Did you find that there was a real difference in interaction between the younger, the 17, 18-year-olds and the 24, 28-year-olds? [crosstalk]
[5:03] Beitzel: There was a real interaction because their experience was vastly different than those of us who never served. And I was a junior in high school when the war ended. But they were, they were very helpful. And I never found a difference that lasted very long once you got to know the people. So I learned a lot from them ‘cause of their experiences. And they, uh, I don’t know what they learned from me, but I certainly felt no inferiority complex and no, living with older men.
[5:33] Fink: The College at that time was, you, if I could put it this way, old Amherst in the traditional sense of what the college was like, in the way of the faculty in the way of the undergraduate student body. And now, Lord knows if you look at the faculty and the student body 40 or 50 years later, 60 years later, how would you, how would you contrast the--?
[6:04] Beitzel: The freshmen here today are different. They're women. And there are a lot of people from all over the world and quit--, and all diversity in the US. But I think rather than comment on that, I would comment on the sameness of why they're here, and what they're going to get from it. So that means the College has changed as a fit when I was here very well. I, I have to admire what you and the other faculty members and administration have done and the board for keeping Amherst thoroughly “Modern Millie.” And I think we represent the kind of leadership opportunities that our country needs. And these kids will be part of that.
[6:50] Fink: And, uh, we hope we can keep up with them, one way or another. [crosstalk]
[6:55] Beitzel: [laughs] That’s right. I hang on for dear life.
[6:56] Fink: Well, I'm retired as you know. [both laugh]
[6:58] So after, after Amherst, did you find, uh, history as I remember, was what you-- [crosstalk]
[7:05] Beitzel: I did, I read history. Yeah.
[7:07] Fink: And you then went very soon into doing some, got into business and then into the Navy.
[7:18] Beitzel: Yeah, what I did was the draft is still on because Korea had started.
[7:23] Fink: Yes.
[7:24] Beitzel: And I was a student so that was not important. I had a draft number. And I was admitted to the Harvard Business School, right after Amherst. In those days, that was a very normal thing to do.
[7:35] Fink: Really? You didn’t have to have three years before--? [crosstalk]
[7:38] Beitzel: No, that's exactly, that's exactly the point. They, they've now gone back to where they were when I went there. But for, then for a long time, they thought they would have three or four years or more for experience. So I, I went to the, went to Harvard. And that year, Korea started and I had two fraternity brothers from Amherst killed, recalled and killed. They were fighter pilots. The opponents had jets, we didn't. And I thought it was time to enlist.
[8:10] Fink: Yeah. How, were you on, what sort of a ship were you on?
[8:13] Beitzel: I would, I would either the, my dad said, this is what the dean at school says, my dad had served during World War One in the Army. And, um, so the dean went down to the Pentagon goes, “half our class at Harvard, after [[?]] Reservoir where we took a terrible licking and a lot of people killed, were kind of upset wanted to, wanted to serve.” And the Pentagon came back and said, “we'd love to get those fellows but wait till they graduate in spring. First-year is better than stopping in the middle of a first year.” That's what I did. I signed up in the Navy and went to OCS school at, at Newport, Rhode Island. Then served on a destroyer most of my two years at sea.
[9:03] Fink: And where in this, if I may ask, did, uh, Ms. Mary Louise Elliott appear?
[9:11] Beitzel: [laughs] You, that's why you're so good. [laughs]
[9:15] Really, I, that's the perfect time to ask that question. I dated Mary Lou at Amherst, and I took off the summer after Amherst, that's when I joined the service. And Mary Lou had lots of suitors. And I was traveling, I was out in the West Coast, working that summer, came back.
[9:36] And I really, what really changed my mind was that Mary Lou sent me a Christmas card when I had gotten back in school and then a, from the Navy. And I saw her on Valentine's Day of 1952, picked her up for dinner in Philadelphia, knew the other women I was going out with I’d never, that would never work and decide to take my chances on Mary Lou, she accepted. We got married at Valley Forge chapel, in middle of July. And just last week, we celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary.
[10:16] Fink: Marvelous.
[10:17] Beitzel: So that's, that's how I met Mary Lou. [laughs] I had seen her from afar. She went to a neighboring high school. And I heard about her, I dated with her in Ocean City during the war. But we, we really got together seriously.
[10:32] Fink: And she's an accomplished artist as well.
[10:35] Beitzel: Yeah. I, Ms. [Heiss], my third grade art teacher, my, yeah, third grade art teacher flunked me in art.
[10:46] Fink: [laughs] We share an experience.
[10:48] Beitzel: [laughs] And so I. I’ve pondered that.
[10:52] Beitzel: And I figured I must have an attitude problem. So I figured I’d solve it by marrying an artist. And that's how I got my culture, such as it is. [crosstalk]
[11:00] Fink: Makes very, it makes very good sense.
[11:03] Fink: So, after that obviously singularly successful moment in your life--
[11:12] Beitzel: Yeah, that was successful, I believe.
[11:14] Fink: --uh, you then found your way to IBM.
[11:18] Beitzel: Yeah.
[11:18] Fink: How did that--?
[11:19] Beitzel: Well, I came back, I was class of ‘52 at the business school, I stopped my first year so I came back in ‘55 with Mary Lou, a wife and a son and finished up. But they put us back in the class of ‘52 just coming back to finish in ‘55. And so I was ready for a job. And I took the job that paid the lowest amount, because I thought it might be the most interesting and it turned out to be that. But the company was IBM, just getting used to computers, weren't quite sure what the future was itself, for the company doing computers. They hired 35 MBAs from around the country, and I was fortunate to be one of the 35.
[12:05] Fink: It has to be amazing to realize now, retrospectively, that what you were thinking of at that time, probably, unless you were clairvoyant, in some sense, didn't indicate a change in the world that some people would say is equivalent to the Industrial Revolution, uh, or even the agricultural revolution historically, which is to say, the information revolution, and how everything has changed in the way of knowledge, access, storage, communication. Was there any indication of any of that at that time?
[12:53] Beitzel: Well, I gotta tell you, I think maybe Amherst College helped me get ready for that decision in the following sense: that you come to this College, you're used to change, you're used to dealing with what you think is a best strategic objective, not today's flavor of the week.
[13:13] And so I turned down better paying jobs, because I thought they would not be as exciting as something as new as computers. And that's why they hired 35 of us, put us through a special training program one-half the length of their normal program. And, and it really worked. So, and Mary Lou was willing to take a risk. So we did that and, and I think the College helped me to feel confident that the change that I thought might be coming, and you see it was not a commodity product, IBM was a service and intellectually able people are required to program the computers, design the computers, sell the computers, install the computers. And, uh, that's right, I was very fortunate to fall into that, that situation.
[14:03] Fink: That's an interesting remark because, possibly, one could say that learning flexibility of thought, which the College does try to develop in people is, at least if not, I would say more important than what one thinks.
[14:24] Beitzel: Yeah.
[14:24] Fink: Did you find that this sort of flexibility was, uh, useful? [crosstalk]
[14:26] Beitzel: Exactly, exactly. I think the thing that helped me most, once I had an important [?] tell me at IBM, he thought I had a supple mind. I had never been described that way, never thought of myself as that. But I think if I, to the extent I had a supple mind at that time in that environment, I think I got the training here.
[14:46] Fink: “It's the habit of rationality” as one likes to say these days rather than-- [crosstalk]
[14:50] Beitzel: That's a, that’s a beautiful phrase. I'll remember that one.
[14:52] Fink: It's, it’s Joe, actually, soon we’ll be talking about Joe Epstein’s phrase, he was a philosophy professor at Amherst for a number of years.
[15:00] Beitzel: Wonderful professor.
[15:04] Fink: So, working your way through IBM must have been really an extraordinary experience, being in on the beginning and then working with Thomas Watson. Was he a, uh, not a mentor, but was he a kind of beacon or--?
[15:24] Beitzel: Well, I didn't, I never really expected to work for Thomas Watson when I joined IBM. I knew who he was; his father had founded the company and Tom was on the cover of Sports Illustrated skiing at Stowe, Vermont on the sled with a couple of his children over his [motions over shoulder], and I did that with our little kids and I said, “well, that's, we’ve got something in common.”
[15:46] Beitzel: Guy way down here, a guy up there. But I, I had, I had a good fortune in Philadelphia where I worked for IBM and helped install the first computer, the big one at Rittenhouse Square at the Signal Corps. I taught the computer when I was there, I helped install small machines. And I met Tom Watson along with a half a dozen other people at dinner party. And I didn't know much about him, we just had, we all participated in the conversation. And sometime after that I got an opportunity to work for him.
[16:27] Fink: Was there, was the idea of service rather than a product intrinsic in the, in what the firm was about it that time?
[16:38] Beitzel: That's a great question and I want to tell you why. Because Tom Watson once said, “the best ad IBM ever had was a full page ad in the New York Times with the following: only one line of type in big letters and said, ‘IBM means service.’”
[17:00] And that really is what set the company apart, I think, and why as the smallest company in the field when, when I joined it in ‘55, it became, it’d become the dominant one, um, 30 years later. Uh, so dominant that we had a fuss with the United States government on “were we a monopoly or not?” But after 14 years of fighting that, boy they, they gave up and claimed we were okay.
[17:29] Fink: The, the idea, then, of being easy about changing boxes from one computer to another, evolve phase of computing of the, of the commodity, as you said earlier, I think, was clearly less important than--?
[17:52] Beitzel: That's another very good question because before that time, everyone was making a computer and they were all different as though they had postage stamps with all different requirements from various countries, you couldn't put them all together.
[18:07] And when we announced in September on, in April 7 of 1964, something called a “system 360,” it did exactly what you said--it, it created a tree of computers. And if you start with a very small tree or branch, you can grow up to the very largest without changing your program. And that really caught the world by surprise, and a great tribute to IBM's engineers and leadership.
[18:36] Fink: And that kind of con-- connectivity is now, uh, fully formed. I mean, absolutely widespread with the internet.
[18:46] Beitzel: That's exactly right. The internet's a terrific thing. People, it has pluses and minuses, but that was developed with the help the government, uh--
[18:57] Fink: As ARPA. [crosstalk]
[18:57] Beitzel: --and the academic world worldwide.
[18:58] Fink: It was ARPA, originally.
[18:59] Beitzel: Yes, exactly, DARPA. Yep, yep.
[19:02] Fink: Which was, uh, have to remind me, the Advanced Research Projects entity of the Defense Department originally. [crosstalk]
[19:11] Beitzel: That's correct, yeah.
[19:13] Fink: DARPA.
[19:13] Beitzel: Which, which was populated by a lot of the brightest and the best in the country, and really people from around the world wanted to get into DARPA. Yeah, it was a very seminal development in computers and technology.[crosstalk]
[19:25] Fink: I should, I should just mention that Spike made his way from these, what he would say, “humble beginnings” at IBM all the way up to the nth level, uh, because I remember visiting you once in the corporate headquarters, where it was as close to probably the French nobility as I've ever seen, because you had this great circular waiting room, with people all busy on cell phones doing their, important people doing important business. I don't know why I was there, just to have a chat. And these five or six little satellite rooms where the [[?]] held forth and he was certainly, certainly in that, in that situation. So it was modesty about not name, mentioning where, where you were and how wonderfully you progressed through your, your career is, is not to be denied. Um, then with all of that background, you connected to Amherst in the middle-’60s as a trustee. [crosstalk]
[20:42] Beitzel: Yes, yeah.
[20:43] Fink: You were an alumni trustee originally?
[20:44] Beitzel: I was an alumni trustee, yeah, the board in their wisdom, or lack of it, decided at that time that they were old, old enough to be my father probably, and they decided they needed some young trustees. So they took, three of us were put on the ballot. I don't know how I was put on. In those days it was not complicated. There's no real campaign, didn't have to write a lot about yourself.
[21:11] Fink: Yes, pages.
[21:12] Beitzel: Whereas today it's a, it's quite different but probably quite appropriate. I make no comparison of any, anything wrong with that. But I was elected and, and I think I was 30, 35 years, maybe 36 years old, I don't know exactly. But it was, um, it was a great honor. And I, and I was welcomed by the board and treated very well by it. And then they subsequently, I guess, decided maybe these young guys were not that so bad after all.
[21:47] Beitzel: So then George Shinn came in and then someone else came in and we had, we had a much younger--
[21:54] Fink: Who was the chair of the board then?
[21:56] Beitzel: I think, I think the chairman of the board when I joined was John J. McCloy, a wonderful chairman and one who helped me a lot in my later life on the board.
[22:08] Fink: An interesting and complex man--
[22:10] Beitzel: Yeah.
[22:10] Fink: --that maybe we can talk about a little bit later.
[22:12] Beitzel: [laughs] Yeah, sure.
[22:12] Fink: If, you, it's okay. Uh, then from there, you made your way through the, you made the great leap from being an alumni trustee to being a term trustee. Is that right?
[22:24] Beitzel: They call them life trustees.
[22:26] Fink: Life trustees, yeah.
[22:27] Beitzel: In those days, the rest of the board, 18 members as we have today, 12 were life trustees, on for their whole life. Today we have life trustees as a different definition. You don't serve on the board, you're a life trustee. Then, life trustees were only those who are on for the rest of their life. And we had a number of, of, most of the, other than six elected by the trustees, the rest were on for the rest of their lives.
[22:57] Fink: And the report that I was able to work on with you about the future of the College in the, whenever it was, the middle-’70s or thereabouts. [crosstalk]
[23:07] Beitzel: Well, let me ask you this: what did you think when we, you heard we're gonna try and do that report?
[23:13] Fink: Well, I was, [laughs] this isn't about me, Bob.
[23:16] Beitzel: No, it is because I, I really want to hear, you were a distinguished young faculty member.
[23:23] Fink: I was the rawest of the raw. I was a very young man, and it was a trustee-faculty committee, uh, it was called the Long Range Planning Committee. And we were charged originally with a very narrow scope by Calvin Plimpton, who was the President of the College at the time, and whose half brother was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at the time, Francis Plimpton, who had been and was for a long time, the permanent US representative to the United Nations.
[24:01] And the Committee was, the faculty on the Committee were Ben DeMott from the English department, who was a senior member of the faculty and a very high flying individual; George Kateb from Political Science, who was arguably one of the most intelligent people I've ever run across; and this clown from Chemistry, who was a very young man, I think I had just been tenured or promoted--‘67, just been promoted. And we instantly got together with Spike and other trustees and exploded the vision of the Committee much to Cal’s botheration I think, a little bit, but he was Olympian enough in his presence, bless him, that he dealt with that easily. And among the things we dealt with were issues like the nature of the trusteeship, which is what we're just speaking about now. And maybe we'll talk later about other, other Long Range Planning matters, like the use of the endowment, coeducation and other central issues that really have changed from what I said was the old Amherst to a more modern Amherst. And Spike, I have to say, was the catalyst for a great deal of this change, whether you will admit it or not, in bringing the College from this group of older life trustees, eternal trustees into a more flexible, better-listening, I think, group. I think there was more information that came, percolated up than trickled down subsequent to that period of time. It's an extraordinary 40 years in the life of the College. Intellectually, it's the same; organizationally, it may be different. But, this is about your leadership-- [crosstalk]
[26:20] Beitzel: Well, no, I think that they’re related, you see, because whatever extent, and I did, I remember asking, this was after I had been elected life trustee, I guess was four years as a alumni trust, I had two more to go. And for some reason, they said, “we’d would like you to serve as life trustee.” And I was flattered, of course, but then I thought about it. Here I wasn't 40, and if I lived to be 60, or 70, or 80, I really didn't see that would, that was a very good idea for me or for the College. So it wasn't just that I was doing a favor to the College, I was trying to do a favor to myself because of the nature of change, which I was quite used to. And so I began changing left and right. All the institutions that I'm familiar with were either changing or going out of sight. Uh, as they should.
[27:14] Fink: That's very interesting, because then there is, in some sense, an analogy between change or evolution, let me say evolution, at IBM -from being originally what it was to the evolution that you see at the College. It moves in a very, in at least a related or cognate way.
[27:41] Beitzel: That's my sense. And I think the country, fundamentally, is what drives that. They may not know they drive it, the average citizen, but I really think it's a citizen, as much as a leadership. And it was certainly true in IBM where we had a lot of, we had an open door policy and anybody could raise Cain about anything they wanted to without prejudice. And, uh--
[28:02] Fink: It was that accessible. I mean, that was, that was-- [crosstalk]
[28:03] Beitzel: Yeah, it's called the “open door policy,” you write to the chairman.
[28:07] Fink: Anyone could write to the chairman?
[28:08] Beitzel: Anyone. And I probably handled 150 of those inquiries when I worked for Tom Watson. And 85% of the time, management was quite, was quite correct. And we told the guy why and that was the end of it. Man or woman employee, but anybody could do that, without telling anybody else they were doing it. You just wrote a letter and it had a code on it so people didn't, the only guy that knew who wrote the letter was myself and then whoever I, I closed the loop with, recommended whatever they do. But I think that notion is a powerful notion for the electorate of the country and for the kind of democracy we have, because the, we got a law and people by and large, want to follow the law. That's the, you gotta have the theory of the game. That's my theory of the game. [laughs]
[28:58] Fink: Amherst, now, anybody stands up and as always, as you know, given the lunacy of the faculty--I’m a faculty member for 43 years, so I can say lunacy, you’re, he's a little bit more restrained [gestures to Beitzel]--and say anything to anybody at any time, about anything, clearly, with good and bad effect. The civility is, is something that, uh--
[29:23] Beitzel: Well, now you're being modest because you were not just a faculty member, you were a dean a number of times when the College really needed you in that slot. That was terrific. [crosstalk]
[29:33] Fink: Uh, I don’t know about that.
[29:33] Beitzel: And I keep referring to as a dean, you may have noticed that.
[29:36] Fink: Yeah. [laughs]
[29:36] Well, everybody can, everybody has a loose cog some, somewhere. Oh, it was, there was mainly, it was, when I was Dean of the Faculty, you were the Chairman of the Board and you empowered that office to do things that it had not been able to do before. So anything that we were able to do in the way of change derived from the support of you and other members of the Board of Trustees, which was a gift that many people in the administration and previously and subsequently, I must say, may not have been so fortunate to have standing behind them. Mind you, you were a great teacher. And several of your colleagues on the Board were also wonderful teachers for someone who had always been on the other side of the desk, ranting and raving about administration, to then be in administration and understand that at Amherst the lunatics are in charge of the asylum rather than anything else. But enough of, enough of that. When, when you came on the board, you had already, did you chair the, the $21 million capital fund campaign?
[31:04] Beitzel: No, I, I tell you what I did.
[31:05] Fink: Was that at the end of--?
[31:07] Beitzel: No, that was before I came on the Board. Uh, they have, I guess the history was that Amherst had a campaign in 1946, it didn't go very well, and I didn't know anything about that. And then, and before I came on the board, but, it was in, around 1960, I think, they started a campaign having had 15 years from the last bad experience. And, um, I was asked to, they had three tiers, the top tiers were the, for the big givers; the middle tiers were, were the next level who would give substantial gifts. And then I was asked to, I was asked to lead the campaign for what I call “all other.” [both laugh] [crosstalk]
[31:56] Fink: Which is the--?
[31:57] Beitzel: And, and, but, yeah, the “all other” really responded ‘cause I was trying to make sure we had the right participation. And out of that time, and we did and out of that time is when I think we really got going to where Amherst is today is usually in the, if not the top, tied with Williams or Swarthmore for 60% participation by the alumni.
[32:19] And, um, I think that's really important, much more than the size of the gift. I'm a great believer, believer in the notion that widow's mite is as much [laughs] for the cause of freedom as the, as a wealthy guy trying to get into heaven.
[32:36] Fink: Well, just so long as they keep giving is, is it worth, but then the amount that was raised in that campaign was--?
[32:46] Beitzel: No, we raised 21 million. [crosstalk]
[32:48] Fink: 21 million.
[32:48] Beitzel: We were at 18 million, then John J. McCloy, who was then running the Ford Foundation, got 3 million. So instead of stopping at 18, and I have nothing to do with this, I was down in the trenches working, but they had lifted it from 18 million to 21 million so that the residual, the 18, after the 3 would be the full campaign amount, not, not, not that we could take a deep breath because we got that big help. And $3 million in those days was a lot of money. And matter of, what we're sitting in here was a, was a function of that campaign, the Robert Frost Library. And you, you were here when Robert Frost came and dedicated it.
[33:32] Fink: An amazing moment. An amazing moment. The next campaign was for something like 40-some odd?
[33:39] Beitzel: Yeah, we started out with 40, I think we got 45. And I was involved in that, yeah, it was the, the, the Board agreed that we ought to start again and we did and we exceeded it. I keep thinking of comparisons and I use this one: in 1960, a dollar would buy what it costs $6 today to buy.
[34:04] So that, the one campaign that got 20, 21 million was really 126 million by that notion, and the 43 million was probably a multiple of four or five, maybe a couple hundred million. But I do think the College has done extraordinarily well in having people support it.
[34:30] Fink: Why, why?
[34:32] Beitzel: I gotta tell you, when I stepped down, I, you know, my theory, I--
[34:36] Fink: Oh, that’s true.
[34:37] Beitzel: Yeah, well I, so I had nothing to do with it. I, I’m a great believer when you're through, you're through. I come back to board meetings, I'm always invited to come. I only come back if the chairman asked me to come ’cause that might be of use to them or if I have something on my mind, but I haven't been to a board meeting in years. And I, I follow that in all places where I've been involved in leadership.
[35:01] Fink: A useful philosophy.
[35:03] Beitzel: Well, I don't know. It works.
[35:05] Fink: It works for both sides. It works for the individual and it also helps the institution-- [crosstalk]
[35:09] Beitzel: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[35:09] Fink: --kind of look over your shoulder in some sense.
[35:12] Beitzel: Yeah. I think, I think they've got, the Board has done a great job raising, you know, billions, 1,700,000,000 before the break, that’s a lot of money.
[35:20] Fink: Yes, I can remember, in 198-, I'm gonna say ‘83 or ‘84, the endowment became 300 million. And that was extraordinary, uh, and that's fewer than 30 years ago, roughly speaking.
[35:42] Well, um, when you became, how did you, how did you become in the position? How did you find yourself ultimately in the position of becoming the Chairman of the Board?
[35:56] Beitzel: Dunno, I, just elected. I mean, I don't know, no more complicated than that. And, uh--
[36:03] Fink: Isn't there usually someone that goes round and sort of gets the sense of what people--? [crosstalk]
[36:08] Beitzel: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah, the Board had a good process. I didn't invent it, I've used it. And I think we used the, the professor from Columbia then, who was president of Mount Holyoke.
[36:21] Fink: David Truman.
[36:22] Beitzel: David B. Truman, a wonderful man, a great help to me. He went around, I think, and asked, talked to people. And then when he came to me, I told him three or four people I'd be happy to see and work for as, if they were chairman. And, um, but out of that, I got the, I got the nod by the Board. [crosstalk]
[36:44] Fink: So an informal consensus of, of a few people that you were close to-- [crosstalk]
[36:47] Beitzel: Yeah, well, he goes around and then they, then he reports to the Board, I guess what, what it is, and the Board then votes and that's how, that’s how it worked.
[37:00] Fink: Were you the youngest chair? Were you the youngest person to be the chairman? [crosstalk]
[37:05] Beitzel: I have no idea. I have no idea. I really don't.
[37:08] Fink: ‘Cause I remember George Shinn at one, when he was chairman was-- [crosstalk]
[37:10] Beitzel: George is older than I am.
[37:12] Fink: When he became, he was your predecessor. [crosstalk]
[37:14] Beitzel: He was after me, he was after.
[37:15] Fink: Was he--?
[37:16] Oh, no, he was before me.
[37:18] Fink: Yeah.
[37:18] Beitzel: You’re right. Yeah, you're right.
[37:22] Fink: So I th--
[37:22] Beitzel: After that was, uh, was, um, Tom Wyman.
[37:25] Fink: Yes.
[37:27] Beitzel: Yeah, yeah, I had that mixed up. But I didn't know whether he was younger than I was or not. I've never, I've never looked at it that way.
[37:37] Beitzel: I would, I, no, I can’t answer that.
[37:40] Fink: The s--, it’s the Satchel Paige view of--
[37:42] Beitzel: Hmm?
[37:42] Fink: It's the Satchel Paige view of, of doing anything--don't look behind, you can’t tell who’s, who’s catching up.
[37:50] Beitzel: [laughs] That’s right, that’s right.
[37:50] Fink: And all of that. Well, while you were, while you were the Chairman of the Board, while you were on the Board, to be sure, uh, was the ‘70s and the ‘80s, uh, a thick time, a busy time. Um, was one of the first issues you had to deal with as chair the Westover sit-in situation, Vietnam war situation and all that? [crosstalk]
[38:21] Beitzel: That, that Westover Field thing, I was not Chairman. That would have been in, uh, maybe, uh--
[38:28] Fink: ‘68, ‘69? [crosstalk]
[38:29] Beitzel: ‘68, yeah. But I was here and I spoke up at that. And actually, my own view was, we had a new president who had been a faculty member, it was off to a good start and he was having trouble understanding the role of president versus faculty member. And the problem was that as president you cannot represent yourself. You can, [laughs] you, if you’re president of something, you represent the institution.
[39:02] And no one, there’s no one would tell him that, and it all snuck up on us all of a sudden. And so that's the way I viewed it, as part of the education of the, of the President. And we had some board members who were very upset about it, we had some big givers who decided they were not gonna support the College because of that, because they were having trouble understanding that he was not trying to say the College was against this. I mean, he was trying to say that himself, they had the same thing in reverse. And I thought they should know better, and the time would work it out. And it did, because he became a fine president and the people who were disaffected, over time came back.
[39:50] Fink: Yeah. We’re, we’re speaking of, uh, John William Ward, who had been a history professor at Amherst who came as Henry Steele Commanger’s successor, not that you'd ever seen, but followed into that position in history, who, as, as Spike says is, was making the transition from being an individual and an outspoken and very decent man to being the leader of an institution and working out the, the differences between the individual thing and, well it's a constant question isn't it?
[40:33] Fink: How does the individual act within the institution? And there were no real structures in place at a college or university for that, because Bill may have been the first faculty member--well, Charlie Cole probably was the first faculty member to be, become president in a time of great flux, where there was passion-- [crosstalk]
[40:58] Beitzel: Did Charlie teach here before? Or was he at, he was at Columbia.
[41:01] Fink: I think he was at Columbia, that’s right. [crosstalk]
[41:02] Beitzel: And so he came in as president.
[41:04] Fink: Yeah, [indistinguishable].
[41:05] Beitzel: The same year I, same year he got inaugurated, I heard him give his inaugural address.
[41:10] Fink: Really?
[41:10] Beitzel: 1946, over in the Chapel.
[41:13] Fink: Extraordinary figure in the evolution of the College.
[41:18] Beitzel: Oh, yeah, yeah.
[41:18] Fink: In a way of making, again, making it more modern. More modern--what does that mean? That means, uh, a greater integration of the eternal commitment to teaching in a younger faculty, as you were a younger blood on the Board of Trustees, with the idea of continuing scholarly engagement so that one of the changes from the ‘60s through the ‘80s was a significant change in faculty and their, their ways, their engagements. Less engaged, perhaps, with being Mr. Chips, and more engaged with being a first-rate committed teacher but also continuing their scholarship, which is something that was fostered by the administration at that time. Did the, did the trustees have a sense of that evolution?
[42:21] Beitzel: Well, I can't speak for all trustees. I certainly thought, see, the word I thought you might come up with is “relevant.” I thought the College must be relevant. And that that you, you said, in a much better phrase commitment to teaching and, and open, openness. But I think the College had to be relevant and one of the toughest things the College had, and the trustees had, was that Vietnam War, because I could see it was affecting how we gave out grades here.
[43:00] Fink: Oh, yes, great debates on that.
[43:03] Beitzel: And honest debates. And if I had a son who was a student, I certainly would like to not see him go to the service until at least he finished his year or whatever it was. And they all had drafts, draft numbers. So that, that, that relevance was very important. And then we had that, that terrible situation out there at Kent State.
[43:25] Fink: Yes.
[43:26] Beitzel: And the Board then was asked to come back to the College. I did come back for three days.
[43:31] Fink: Well, you were, you were actually out there sitting in with students, as I remember. [crosstalk]
[43:35] Beitzel: I did sit in with the students, yeah.
[43:37] Fink: What did you make of that?
[43:38] Beitzel: Well, I didn't make a lot of it at the time, but I've made a lot of it since because one of the students who was sat with me out of here on the common is now a trustee, and a fairly prominent one because he's a good author, and I'm sure a wonderful trustee. But Scott Turow, when I came back for one of the meetings years ago, maybe a decade ago, he told me he had gone to that meeting and, and sitting around the grass there and that I was answering questions or listening to what the students had to say. And the school, of course, shut down. I think we had no exams that spring or they were delayed or something. [crosstalk]
[44:17] Fink: They were optional.
[44:17] Beitzel: Optional, yeah.
[44:19] Fink: It’s Amherst waffling-- [crosstalk]
[44:20] Beitzel: Yeah, well, that's all right. You gotta make trade offs.
[44:23] Fink: Well, it's Harry Truman, although, he’d like a one-handed economist better than ‘on the one hand this or on the one hand that.’
[44:29] Fink: It would have been nice to, to resolve what it was. [both laugh] But it was optional. [crosstalk]
[44:33] Beitzel: But you, you said that better than I did, so I accept your point. [crosstalk]
Fink: Optional, optional. [laughed]
[44:36] Beitzel: But anyhow, Scott says he remembered meeting me out there and listening to me, he went back and told his roommate, “well, I heard a trustee today and I've concluded all businessmen are not bad guys.” Something like that.
[44:48] Fink: Ah!
[44:49] Beitzel: So I, I really, that made the whole exercise a different dimension for me, because that's not why I was there, as you're trying to represent the, the Board with other Board members, but I, it was nice of him to say that and remember it.
[45:04] Fink: The idea of relevance, though, is, is, uh, the integrating factor in--
[45:11] Beitzel: Yes.
[45:11] Fink: --the education and the participation of the trustees.
[45:14] Beitzel: Exactly.
[45:15] Fink: I should say one other thing about Spike, and that is in the minds of the faculty or some faculty who are still here, he was one of the few trustees who actually “walked the grounds,” one might say, and would pop in and visit people in odd places at odd times.
[45:36] Beitzel: Tell ‘em about the time I caught you at the bottom of-- [laughs]
[45:43] Fink: I’m up working late one evening in the lab, but this is about you, really, but this is typical. [crosstalk]
[45:48] Beitzel: No.
[45:48] Fink: And, uh, I was in my lab underneath a heavy work table with the big, largest piece of apparatus on it that required a vacuum pump that did millionths of millionths of atmospheres of pressure, very low pressure. And it wasn't working and I'm on my back, trying to undo it so I can get it cleaned up and working. And I look out, I hear this voice say “what? What are you doing?” And I look out and I see knees and shoes. Now the fact that the shoes are well-shined tells me it’s not a colleague--and it turns out to be Spike.
[46:28] Uh, and I said, “you're gonna have to wait a minute, I'm doing all of this.” And, but he, the point of this is that he did go to classes, he sat in on people's classes, uh, he made the rounds. Uh, and it's not often before or since that many members of the Board, especially chair, chairs of the Board, actually do that. So there's, there's a history of this relevance. Uh, it wasn't spying, it was curiosity. It was wondering how the place is doing rather than in other individuals. That was a, that was an interesting, it was about 10:30 at night, I think, or 9:30 or something. [crosstalk]
[47:07] Beitzel: Yeah, but see, I'd forgotten all about that. That's really my point, as I had forgotten, I never knew about Scott Turow. So the fact that something did in the normal course of work was helpful to the people I was working with is useful. It gives me a little confidence that maybe it's not crazy to do some of the stuff I do, but I do it because what you said, I did, I have a huge curiosity about anything.
[47:35] Fink: The symbolism of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees saying to you “can I sit in on your class just to hear what you're talking about?” or showing up in the middle of the evening, alone in a lab, looking around and seeing what's going on, never was lost on the faculty. I mean, it shows an engagement and an interest is different from any of the caricatures one can make of a Board of Trustees, a manorial presence, looking from the manor house down on the workers or something of that sort, which has been the case, but it certainly was not the case, not the case with you. Was there any analogy, then, between the kind of Vietnam War experience that you saw at the College and participated in at the College and another issue that came really to the, to the foreground when you were the Chair, which was the college's investment policy, and in particular, investment policy in South Africa?
[48:50] Beitzel: Exactly. I remember that debate very well. The Board was split on it and some boards had said they’d stop investing in South Africa. Most people were silent, most boards. And I remember we had a meeting over here at the, uh, and you were prob--, you were probably Dean then?
[49:07] Fink: Yes.
[49:09] Beitzel: You were part of this whole thing. You, you were a participant and an observer and, and now historian of it. But I, I think that, that was a very important day. And it's funny, I thought about that coming up here because I thought about Ted, Ted Cross. I just finished reading, I went, I went to his service. Have you seen the book he, have you seen that water, water, water thing book, the water--
[49:35] Fink: I haven't, I haven’t seen it.
[49:36] Beitzel: I'm going to bring mine up. I meant to bring it up today, but I, but you and I will be seeing each other after we finish up this, this happy, uh, test together. But I thought of Ted because they also had the current issue of the Journal of, for Blacks in Higher Education.
[49:54] Fink: Yes.
[49:55] Beitzel: A memorial. Did you get a copy of that?
[49:57] Fink: No, I haven't, but, uh--
[49:58] Beitzel: Well I got it from the, I got it from the College, and I'm sure that they would give you a copy, I was going to bring a copy up, instead I’m gonna give it to my, my nephew.
[50:10] Fink: Can I, can I just say that Ted Cross is a, was a trustee. And, uh, I think you might characterize him better than I can, but he was a first-rate investment person, but even more importantly, was committed to improving the diversity of the college and in particular, in admitting more Black students and finding more Black faculty. Is that fair?
[50:46] Beitzel: He was, and particularly, even before the emphasis on the Blacks, he was very worried about the blue collar admissions.
[50:53] Fink: Oh, yes.
[50:54] Beitzel: And, and, and he voted against, or had us temper, the ability we had to price the education. And that cuts both ways, because of course, we support the faculty, support the grounds, and support tuition, students, scholarship students with tuition. But if you start supporting it with fa-- with, with the endowment, which is the point you were raising earlier, that's a whole different story because, it's different because the, the faculty feels that that's not a bad idea. It's not being cut out of the budget. And, and, and, and the people who give them money, can, can, can, can enhance the effort to have the middle class have access to the College, and then ultimately, minority classes who may or may not be middle class but, but they had also had a problem. There's one, we had one Black student here when I was at the College. And we had a Black trustee, the Judge Hastie, he was on the board and I was and he put his arm around me. He was terrific. He really helped me be a board member.
[52:11] Fink: And his daughter was--
[52:15] Beitzel: His what?
[52:15] Fink: Was his daughter not the marvelous lawyer? [crosstalk]
[52:17] Beitzel: Oh, yeah, well see, yeah. She's terrific. She's down in Washington.
[52:20] Fink: Yeah.
[52:21] Beitzel: I, she may still be a trustee.
[52:23] Fink: I, I'm not sure. But I know that she was for-- [crosstalk]
[52:26] Beitzel: But she’s a, she’s a talented, uh--
[52:27] Fink: She’s very talented.
[52:28] Beitzel: --leader in Washington.
[52:29] Fink: Yeah.
[52:30] Beitzel: But Judge Hastie was, was, was fantastic. And of course, we had that, the, the, the, the mentor of the Black Supreme Court--
[52:43] Fink: Thurgood Marshall.
[52:44] Beitzel: Yeah. Was mentored by, uh, Charles, was it Houston, I think?
[52:49] Fink: Yes. That's right.
[52:51] Beitzel: Charles Houston. So we've got a good tradition for that. But the, back to your point, your question was about investment in South Africa. And that in turn relates to how we looked at the admissions of minority, minorities here. And that was complicated by the debate on coeducation, because they all, they all converged on--
[53:18] Fink: At the same time, between ‘80 and ‘86. [crosstalk]
[53:20] Beitzel: Yeah, yeah.
[53:21] Fink: Well, you said you were thinking of Ted Cross--
[53:23] Beitzel: Yeah, I was.
[53:24] Fink: --on the way up here.
[53:25] Beitzel: Yeah.
[53:26] Fink: With regard to?
[53:28] Beitzel: With regard to investment, because he did a great job on that. With regard to being strongly, feeling that, strongly feeling that we should not invest in South Africa. So here's a fellow who’s helped the College greatly, took us from the bottom quartile to the top dec--, decimals? What do you call the top 10%?
[53:49] Fink: Decile.
[53:50] Beitzel: Huh?
[53:50] Fink: Decile, perhaps. I’ll make it up. [crosstalk]
[53:53] Beitzel: Decile! [laughs] Decile. You know, in late, in, in a dozen years.
[53:58] Fink: Ted Cross was deeply engaged not only in investment considerations, but also in the composition of the undergraduate student body in the way of more blue collar, so-called blue collar. [crosstalk]
[54:13] Beitzel: That’s correct, he was very worried about our tuition increases being absorbed. If it's, if it's 5% of a large amount of money and you're making a small amount of money, it may be 15% of your income, just to fund the difference.
Fink: Um hmm.
[54:29] Beitzel: And, uh, he was very worried about that. And may--, he was eloquent on it. In a couple years, we actually thought if we did not go up, our peers would not be able to go up because they wanted to be competitive with us as well.
[54:44] Fink: Yeah.
[54:45] Beitzel: And, and so, I don't know how, I never tracked the dynamics of that but I thought it was a good point.
[54:53] Fink: Did, uh, the College discuss the uses of the endowment in contrast with the way other institutions used theirs, and what comes to mind? And one of the reasons why it's interesting that Ted was involved, because he lived in Princeton--
[55:12] Beitzel: Right.
[55:13] Fink: --uh, is that Princeton has historically been pointed to as an institution that uses its endowment as if it were a bank, rather than an institution that uses its endowment for some social purpose.
[55:27] Beitzel: That's very interesting. Tell me more about that.
[55:30] Fink: Well, they, uh, their take down from their endowment policy was extremely restrictive, so they were-- [crosstalk]
[55:39] Beitzel: Were, they were, not, not less than 4 or 5%?
[55:41] Fink: Yes, indeed. So they really were running it, in principle, the, not the joke used to be but the characterization, false or real, was that their endowment was run like a bank. Whereas when you were on the board, it underwent a significant evolution from just being in debt instruments to being somewhat in debt, somewhat in equities to being, then with Ted and others, yourself and others on the board to expanding the investment universe significantly. [crosstalk]
[56:18] Beitzel: I think it's related to how well the investment is doing in the endowment. And when we were at the bottom 10th, I'll tell you a story on this, when we were the bottom 10th, I would go out and ask a guy to give me a million bucks for Amherst, and they'd say, “well, how, what is it gonna do with it?”
“Put it in the endowment fund.”
“Well, how are they doing?”
Answer: “bottom 10%.”
[56:38] [laughs] He would say, “look, Spike, I tell what I’m gonna do: I'm gonna take that million bucks, keep it until I die, and I'll make a lot more than, uh, than 3, 3%.”
[56:49] Fink: [laughs] Yeah.
[56:51] Beitzel: And I think that may be part of what was the, the difference between--Princeton, I don’t know how Princeton was doing versus their peers, let's say Yale and Harvard, in terms of growing the endowment, because if you’re not growing as fast, it's harder to take money out.
[57:07] Fink: Surely.
[57:08] Beitzel: And I think Ted really had us– that same fellow, by the way, three years later, we got from the bottom 10th to the top 10th, said, “Spike, can I invest some money with Amherst?”
[57:19] Fink: [laughs] Yes.
[57:19] Beitzel: And then turns out now today you can.
[57:21] Fink: Yeah. Yes. [crosstalk]
[57:22] Beitzel: So all those things have, as the saying goes, “it’s a long lane that never turns.” [laughs]
[57:28] Fink: The, the universe, the universe of investment is now very, very different.
[57:34] Beitzel: Yeah.
[57:35] Fink: I mean, it--
[57:35] Beitzel: Yeah.
[57:36] Fink: Uh, David Swensen, who's the, uh, over at Yale. [crosstalk]
[57:39] Beitzel: Yale guy.
[57:39] Fink: Yeah. Uh, really, his book on institutional investing really was quite an eye opener for, for many, to be sure, but Ted was even antecedent to that in his view of, of other modalities for [indistinguishable]. [crosstalk]
[57:58] Beitzel: He was antecedent to that. Yeah. And not only that, but he set himself, personally, by being very generous. And that's, you know, and you really have to do that if you're going to talk about fundraising, you gotta have leadership that, that steps up to the bar, and he sure did, and, and others on the Board. We, we were, matter of fact, he challenged us with a million dollar grant, uh, if the Board would raise a million dollars for the beginning of that 43 million you were talking about.
[58:33] Fink: Well, and that was very successful.
[58:35] Beitzel: Yeah. And the board did, the board did do it.
[58:38] Fink: Yeah. Let me, let me ask you about another issue that is intertwined that you have alluded to already, where many things came together at the same time. And that is, uh, the change of the College to be a coeducational institution.
[58:58] Beitzel: Yes.
[58:59] Fink: Uh, our, that old committee that we were on, recommended that but yet there were members of the committee who were not really quite convinced at the time, uh, and understandably so. The faculty, as you will remember, was unanimously in favor of it for years and years, but that's another story, a totally different story. Uh, and then Bill Ward more or less took the issue over because it was on his watch, uh, and established study groups and so on. Do you, would you remember what the processes were that were gone through in the consideration of coeducation? [crosstalk]
[59:48] Beitzel: Well, it's a long time since I've thought about, so my memory may be faulty, but I remember my own role in it, which I'll be able to say. The, I don't, when our committee gave our report, when did that report come out?
[1:00:02] Fink: I was afraid you're gonna ask that. [laughs]
[1:00:03] Beitzel: [laughs] Okay. Well, that's fine then. It came out before what we’re talking about now.
[1:00:10] Fink: Yes, yeah.
[1:00:11] Beitzel: I would say it came out maybe in the, maybe in the middle, um, middle-’60s. [crosstalk]
[1:00:18] Fink: Middle-’70s, early ‘70s, yeah. [crosstalk]
[1:00:20] Beitzel: Early, middle-’70s, yeah, yeah. But I was not chair when that came out.
[1:00:26] Fink: No, you were, uh, happily a member of the, uh-- [crosstalk]
[1:00:30] Beitzel: That’s right, I was a sit in the, sit-in-the-seat trustee.
[1:00:34] Well, I was not convinced that we had to go coeducation at that time because the Seven Sisters were not moving very rapidly toward that, and a lot of colleges were not moving that way. And I thought it was a very fundamental issue, so the first time around I, I did not vote for it. That must have been before Bill Ward came on the scene, I don't know, I don't remember the vote, I don't remember the debate very well. But when Bill Ward came on the scene, Bill wrote a paper stating both sides of this, of the case, because no one really had, I thought, better and it was great that he did that no one asked him to as far as I know.
[1:01:28] Fink: It's actually a, quite a courageous thing to do.
[1:01:31] Beitzel: Yeah.
[1:01:31] Fink: Because there was very little representation from the faculty for opposing coeducation.
[1:01:39] Beitzel: Yeah.
[1:01:39] Fink: And so you want to hear both sides of the issue. [crosstalk]
[1:01:40] Beitzel: But he, but he wrote, but he, I think he, he was involved in both sides, and he was for coeducation. So the faculty should have un--, I assume he knew that he was not changing flags when he wrote the other thing; he wanted to show the Board “you can make a case for it, do you want to make a case on this ground? If not, what do you like?” That's where I thought it was effective. But that, his paper then got me thinking, and I talked to Ted Green who was our history professor here, and a friend of mine, his, his brother, younger brother, was a close friend of mine there. And, um, and I asked Ted, “what do you think about this thing?” And Ted said, “I think we ought to have coeducation.” I said, “why?” He said, “we ought to have coeducation because I think I can teach better in a class of mixed minds.” Well, the game's over. The minute I heard that I flipped ’cause you can't have a college with a faculty that thinks they can do the job better. It's like telling a guy to dig a ditch--instead of having a jackhammer, give him a, a pick.
[1:02:51] Fink: Yeah.
[1:02:52] Beitzel: You gotta, and you can't have a college without faculty, and our faculty weren't, weren't a bunch of nuts. And the more I thought about it, ‘cause I knew I was going to get a big blowback from, from the alumni. But then I figured, half those alumni have daughters.
[1:03:11] Fink: Which they didn't seem to realize at the time. I mean, it, a lot comes together in the ‘60s and ‘70s. [crosstalk]
[1:03:17] Beitzel: [laughs] That’s right. A lot comes together. And, and, but the blowback was more than offset with the, with the alumni daughters raising their hand and moving in. And when you think about the vote in our country, it was, women didn’t get to [vote until the] early ‘20s, was it? I don’t know when it was, before I was born. And they look up now, the impact we have on our society with women and all over the world. You know, it's crazy not to have a class of mixed minds if the faculty thinks they can teach better. And you can't, you can't argue the point, I never have, that women aren't as important in the equation as men.
[1:03:57] Fink: Certainly, certainly not.
[1:03:59] Beitzel: Yeah. So why not let them, let them have access to whatever they want to do. And out of that grows my notion, in our family, we marry for love. In our family, you go to a college where you'd love to go. That is, and that's, it’s that simple.
[1:04:18] Fink: The idea of being able to teach, uh, a class of mixed minds, even worked its way into the sciences in the sense--not that science has gender associated with it, physics is physics, chemistry is chemistry--but if you teach a course on technology, or if you teach a course on, an outreach course on genetics, let's say, or something of that sort, where you might deal with technologies of population growth or control. Not to have women, women in the class is insanity. Ralph Beals who was in the Economics department and I taught a course on technology once. And we did do a section on population, and the women and the men--mind you, you're dealing with 17, 18 and 19-year-olds or 20-year-olds--the arguments that took place in that class I wish we had taped, because never would that have happened and neither side would ever have received the education that they've gotten just from the classroom in that regard. And certainly in history with Ted, I mean, uh, from Abigail Adams onward not just in American history, American Studies, his field. It would be very, very different without that sort of presence, to be sure. What were, I mean, the main, um, elements that were not engaged by the idea of coeducation? Was it too much of a change, in some sense, from what old Amherst had been? Was it, was it going to change? Did some people think, uh, the way of the place, the, uh, sociology of the place--?
[1:06:20] Beitzel: Well, it’s hard to fault, I, I, my, that's long enough ago that I would only comment in this sense: every time I met a college graduate, when over the years, I was on the Board and in particular, when I was chair or raising money, when asked what's the best thing about col--, about Amherst? They would always say, “oh, it was just the right size with 600 people, 800 people.” So the, I think the average cat is very hard, since he’s not around, where the changes are going on it's hard to envision why, why since he had such a great experience here, everything was just right when he was here. It was, it was a very selective group of privileged young, young men. I often thought that way after World War II, never a better time to be a young American male and go through the experience I did, because everything was going right--good education, economy was good. Computers, medicine, the atom bomb, the whole mess of things. Just an exciting time to be around those 20 years. And, um, so for, to not have experienced that in the college setting, it's no wonder to me that they thought Amherst was just perfect when they were there.
[1:07:54] Fink: It's, it's the--
[1:07:54] Beitzel: And I never tried to change ‘em on that. I made the opposite argument which was “so that means the people who were running the College when you were there knew exactly the way the College ought to be run.”
[1:08:09] Fink: [laughs] Yes.
[1:08:10] Beitzel: And, and that seemed to disarm them when they thought about it. [crosstalk]
[1:08:12] Fink: [laughs] Yes. I think so.
[1:08:16] Fink: Or now. Or anytime. Absolutely. The, uh, the question of remaining, as other institutions--Harvard, Yale--other institutions turned to being coeducational institutions. Radcliffe, in a sense disappearing, ultimately, or Jackson, I think was Tufts. Um, if that's right, Tufts Annex, as it was called at the time. As other places changed, was there a sense that we should retain our uniqueness as an all-male institution?
[1:09:01] Beitzel: No, I don't really think that was the argument. I think the argument was a counter to that. Will we get the same caliber of all-male when the face of all this other places where the, it's a mixed crowd because there's nothing wr--, young men like to be around young women as much as they want to be around young men. So I, I never thought that was the issue. I thought the issue was the one I described which is “Amherst was not coed when I was here.” And the most tangible evidence, what I'm going to now say, is something you're very familiar with, but that is the fraternity system when I was here was unique. Everybody got a bid to an, to a fraternity. And there may have been somebody who didn't get the bid they wanted, that’s life. You never get the girl you want so you go out until you find you get the right one. But we never really focused on the fraternity dimension of co-ed until it came apparent from the bottoms up.
[1:10:16] Fink: Yeah.
[1:10:19] Beitzel: [coughs] The fraternities are not very hospitable to women, or at least to all the women. And that's when I remember walking down the avenue with, with my, with our interim president after--
[1:10:36] Fink: Oh, Armour Craig.
[1:10:36] Beitzel: Yeah, Armour. Down, we walked down the, uh, we went over and had dinner in that little town where the, the guy was at the horse and buggy prep school up here?
[1:10:48] Fink: Oh, Deerfield.
[1:10:49] Beitzel: Deerfield, Deerfield Academy. By the way, he offered me a job in, when I left, when I left college, I coulda gone there or I could have gone to graduate school. He was very tempting.
[1:11:00] Fink: Oh, Frank Boden?
[1:11:01] Beitzel: Frank Boyden.
[1:11:02] Fink: Boyden, Boyden.
[1:11:04] Beitzel: Boyden, yeah. He was a great Amherst fellow and had been an Amherst trustee for years.
[1:11:08] Fink: Yeah.
[1:11:10] Beitzel: But we walked down that street right past the door where the ax was still there from the massacre. And, and, and Armour said, “you know, Spike, we ought to really take a look at fraternities.” He was an Alpha Delt as I was, he’d always been supportive of me personally and a great teacher for me. And I said “why?” And then he told me about the tales of women coming here and not being, feeling part of the institution the way I did and most of my classmates did. And so out of that, we set up a committee to look at it. They came back with that report and we, we turned off the all-male fraternity system.
[1:11:56] Fink: It was convenient. It was the right person in the right place at the right time with Armour being the acting president.
[1:12:06] Beitzel: I think so. For that-- [crosstalk]
[1:12:08] Fink: Uh, because of all of his bona fides in being--
[1:12:12] Beitzel: Exactly.
[1:12:12] Fink: --old Amherst--
[1:12:13] Beitzel: Yeah.
[1:12:13] Fink: --for that matter, from--
[1:12:15] Beitzel: Yeah. And his wife was the sister of a, of a fraternity brother. I'm sure that's right. And, um, maybe not. His wife had some connection, I think maybe. But, but leaving that aside, he had a lot of bona fides and, and, and we went ahead and did it and it was the right thing to do. And, you know, that really is the way you got to lead institutions that are competitive. If you think that it's an atom's world, they're going to be competitive all their life, you know, American business, the list of the top 50 corporations in America 1910, one or two are there today. IBM had not been founded yet. US Steel was the top one, General Electric is the only one today of the 50 I can think of that is in, in, is still around. So, that’s--
[1:13:16] Fink: So the idea of being able to change and include, be more inclusive of different people and different ideas is key to that. [crosstalk]
[1:13:28] Beitzel: Yeah. I, I thought if we hadn't, if we hadn't, we, “if not now, when?” is almost the words, in my mind. Because it was still in a transition stage and we were one of many people doing it. As opposed to being an outlier, and you're the last major institution to finally change.
[1:13:50] Fink: There was some question that was hot and heavily debated about the effect of becoming coeducational on Smith and Mount Holyoke, uh, at the time. Bill Wilson, as a matter of fact was--Bill Wilson was the Dean of Admissions at Amherst College and was the Dean of deans of admissions in the US, for that matter, because of his many, many wonderful qualities and his longevity and leadership in that area. But he held at one time that we would be doing damage to Mount Holyoke College and to Smith College if we were to become a coeducational institution, because part of the attractiveness of young men and young women being being near each other to be sure, the decrease in the number of young men that it would mean at Amherst and so forth, would have an effect on Five College cooperation, and, uh, and that sort. But that seems, while being debated as a, an issue at the time, not to really carry much weight.
[1:15:07] Beitzel: Well, I don't know. I, I never spent a lot of time on that issue because it's very hard if you're running an institution to, to not use, you’re a great Harvard baseball player. If I'm trying to win the game for my team, then I will throw the fastest fastball I can develop, and if it hurts somebody else who’s not on my team, I'm sorry about that but that's not, I don't know how we manage that. I don't know who, how we’d ever measure the advantage that they gain by us not going coed. I mean, it’s almost like you’re trying to prove a negative.
[1:15:50] Fink: Yeah. No, I think it’s--
[1:15:51] Beitzel: And I, I think, you know, my view is: Dartmouth’s up there, they, they hadn’t gone co-ed then, I don’t think.
[1:15:59] Fink: They had a pretty difficult time.
[1:16:01] Beitzel: And so, no, I, I think we did the right thing. I think America did the right thing in getting more people into college, hopefully making it affordable through scholarships, that meritocracy thing works. And I, I think it's wonderful how many people in the Amherst class are probably first in their family to go to college. Still.
[1:16:29] Fink: Then we are fulfilling the, uh, what is the motto? “A college for indigent young men,” at the time. Indigent young people of piety. [crosstalk]
[1:16:41] Beitzel: That's right, that’s right, that’s right. [crosstalk]
[1:16:42] Fink: So, men and piety are not necessarily still there, but the indigent part probably is. [crosstalk]
[1:16:47] Beitzel: Yeah, but I'm not, but even that today, I think I can't defend that today because I had classmates who did go into the ministry. But I think service is a much broader category than just ministry. It wasn't when the College was founded, we had two categories, farmers and professionals. And most professionals, there were probably more ministers than there were educators in that, in those days. Or doctors.
[1:17:17] Fink: Sure.
[1:17:18] Beitzel: So, but today, my sense is that the mission of the College is to be, is to perform the best thing it can for the people it can attract, the best people it can attract. And that has to change as our country changes. You may not like it, but if you don't like it, then you're not going to be connected with something that is going to really serve, serve the, serve the country.
[1:17:48] Fink: What, what was the view of the trustees because another issue that, uh, developed more rapidly when you were on the Board was the idea of a Four College then Five College exchange or cooperation. Do you think that was, at least in some ways economically driven or will it, will increase in being economically driven? [crosstalk]
[1:18:22] Beitzel: You know, I never really understood how we measured why we had Five College cooperation. It's very hard to measure it when they're not all being measured the same way. And there's someone, that’s the captain of the ship that can say, “we've done this, by doing this, we've done this and here's why we're better off doing it than not.” I think the practical matter is that there are good professors, good faculties at a lot of schools, we can't be everybody. Everybody's business is nobody's business. So we oughta better make sure we understand what we're doing. But if we do that, and someone else wants to use our faculty to do it, and our faculty is willing to do it, I think that's a plus. That's the old simple modern idea of “if I have a dollar and give you $1, we each have $1.” If I have an idea, you have an idea then we each have two ideas. It’s a simple minded notion, but it really, I think, appeals to people, because it's hard to measure the efficiency or the effectiveness or the economics of these institutions.
[1:19:35] Fink: Well, they are very different. A large university, a small college that is very--Hampshire--that is very idiosyncratic. And Smith, Mount Holyoke that are single sex, and then Amherst. So they're, the metrics may be, may be different. Uh, there are advantages, though, as you point out in not trying to be, say, Amherst, representative of everything on the map of knowledge. [crosstalk]
[1:20:08] Beitzel: That’s right. That's exactly, that's really my point. And I think that's true with companies as they get bigger, as countries do, maybe even families, I don't know. But at a certain point, things get so diluted, it's hard to tell who's in charge.
[1:20:25] Fink: Or to keep, or to keep levels of excellence--
[1:20:29] Beitzel: That's right.
[1:20:29] Fink: --uniform levels of excellence. [crosstalk]
[1:20:30] Beitzel: That's right, that's right. It gets diluted. But on the other hand, by having a Five College cooperation, you have a vehicle, that if someone really wants to learn, and I think, I think they had a great astronomy professor somewhere, I forget what, but it was something I hadn't thought about. And we didn't have it here or we didn't have the best way or whatever it was. And we could shoot the people over there. That's kind of like “I have an idea, you have an idea,” and it helps the process.
[1:20:58] Fink: That's, that's a very good example because I think the first Five College department came about when the astronomy departments that were very small at Smith and Mount Holyoke and Amherst coalesced with a much larger department at UMass.
[1:21:15] Beitzel: I had forgotten. Well, that may be what happened. [crosstalk]
[1:21:17] Fink: So that people could mit--, could major in astronomy and still be at the individual institution that they, at which they had matriculated. And it worked very well. I mean, research opportunities--
[1:21:30] Beitzel: And you know, that really raises the point that it's not right for the faculty to not have tools that they need for you, for those atmospheres you were chasing.
[1:21:39] Fink: Yeah.
[1:21:40] Beitzel: But to have and, you know, I'm delighted that we're, we have plans underway here to get a new science building. We are overdue. My, my classmates tell me that.
[1:21:50] Fink: Yeah.
[1:21:52] Beitzel: Frank Austin tells me that.
[1:21:52] Fink: Well, it's, it has stood, we moved into it in ‘68, which is 40, God, 42 years ago.
[1:21:59] Beitzel: Yeah.
[1:22:00] Fink: And started planning for it in ‘65. And the old chemistry building, which is now the Moore dormitory, lasted about 40 to 50 years, and then it's the infrastructure, the internal structure that, that needs, sizeable replacement with, with change. Now, it's a very nice idea. If it's done at the right time with a responsible-- [crosstalk]
[1:22:26] Beitzel: Well, it sounds, see, history--my, my subject--may not have changed a lot. I think the only change I ever remember reading about was the Germans tried to have scientific history in the middle 1800s and apparently didn't go very far. And the whole notion of a scientific approach, the four or five principles of science approach, don't really hold up in human dimensions, in my view, the way they do in chemistry or physics. And so you don't need a new history building all the time; you may need a new subject. But, but this science thing is very important. And that will affect our ability to get, to get bright young scientists to come.
[1:23:11] Fink: And, both faculty and students.
[1:23:14] Beitzel: Yes.
[1:23:14] Fink: And also-- [crosstalk]
[1:23:14] Beitzel: Particularly faculty ‘cause they’ll bring the students. [laughs]
[1:23:17] Fink: The, uh, boundaries have changed. It isn't just classically biology, chemistry and physics; they're all inextricably intertwined now. And so that requires a different kind of instrumentation, a different kind of equipment, different approach to instruction than one had before.
[1:23:37] Beitzel: I'm very impressed the way you keep the, ‘cause I think that's exactly right. That the, and, and it's not complexity. It's only complex if you don't manage it right, but all things, they're all, all action’s interactions. And in today's world, technology is allowing that, a lot of that and the worldwide politics are a lot different than when Britain ruled the waves or the American Century call it what you will. But I do think the intersection of all these vectors are what Amherst oughta do well, and if we don't have the scientific vector in there with the people who come here, I think we're, we’re at great risk.
[1:24:21] Fink: Is there any sense, uh, of how the student body ought to be determined? I don't mean admissions policy as such, I mean in broad strokes. Uh, they should pay attention to more or fewer, I don’t know, pre-medical students or more or fewer people that say they want to go to law school, or should they just admit the best people? I don't know how they determine that from 8000 applicants for 400 positions but whatever best means, in, in that sense.
[1:25:07] Beitzel: Well you know, I tell you, I think that we are best able to navigate that minefield by deciding what it is we're trying to do. And I think it's, there's very little we can do in four years. This may not win me plaudits with my associates, faculty or board or anybody else, but I do think that we should be very careful to really understand what we do well and excel in that and, and that will change the definitions over time. When you look at our, the, the landscape we talked about today, and the new issues that came up, well Amherst has somehow adjusted and still looks pretty good to the outside world, worth trying to come to. And, uh, you know more about this than I do, but I know at Harvard they said they turn away two classes for every class they take.
[1:26:11] Fink: Oh, yes.
[1:26:12] Beitzel: So it's pretty hard to screw it up.
[1:26:14] Fink: Yeah.
[1:26:15] Beitzel: And therefore the important thing is to decide what the objective is and hold people accountable for measuring that, who run the, run the place.
[1:26:25] Fink: Yeah, how you measure, that's, the metric of measurement of success for a place like this is very slippery. It's very difficult to pin down. It's nothing you can say, well, that's 93% or something like that. You can do it in terms of where people go. But whether you are inculcating in them the habit of rationality that we were talking about, or the ability to be flexible, that you were speaking about was so important. [indistinguishable] [crosstalk]
[1:26:54] Beitzel: But you see that that's this brouhaha going on about lives of consequence. And that's very hard. I think there's nothing wrong with that notion. But it's very hard to then define what that means. And you were, I don’t whether you were in Johnson Chapel, the class of ‘75? Were you there when, when, uh, Tony talked?
[1:27:18] Fink: No, I wasn't there.
[1:27:20] Beitzel: Well I, this, you’ll love this. Class of ‘75 was there, so that would have been, what? That would have been 25, they were there for their 40, 45th, 35th reunion, right? And they had a big banner up on the second floor. And it said, “we are the results of lives of consequence.”
[1:27:40] Fink: I see. [both laugh]
[1:27:40] “Lives of consequence” is the motto or the, the name of the present capital fund campaign, which is why it comes into conversation.
[1:27:54] Beitzel: So, uh, but my view is, in four years, you really can't tell what's gonna happen. And I think, I think we oughta be very careful to think that we're going to do something here in four years, that's going to be the difference between huge success or huge failure.
[1:28:11] I mean, I look at my fraternity brothers, and they're, they're, they, they’re, they’re, and I don't think any of them have failed as an Amherst student to do the best they can in life. And they, the ones who have been most successful and ones who went after what they really were good at. And that could be a teacher, could be a preacher, could be a doctor. It could be a politician, a worthy politician, could be all kinds of things. And I think, to try to measure why our lives of consequence are so many this and so many that is a very hard and, and, and probably not a very compelling notion. That we are what we are, and we are lucky to have been here. And if we really are trying to, to help the world because of this education, that's no question about that. But how will we do it? I don't think I can say, anybody, I don’t know anybody who would say the four years here have made a difference in the life between their view of success and their view of failure. Now--
[1:29:31] Fink: But I think everyone would say they were arguably the most formative years of their, of their lives. [crosstalk]
[1:29:40] Beitzel: That’s correct, that’s right. “Most selfish” is what I characterize it. [laughs]
[1:29:43] Fink: Well, that's understandable. It’s, it’s a time of great flux.
[1:29:49] When, as, just to return to the, the chairman seat of the Board or the Board in general, what would you say, what would you say is, what would you say are among the more important things, the two or three or one or whatever number, important things that the Board does, uh, for, for the institution?
[1:30:15] Beitzel: Well--
[1:30:16] Fink: And you, you’ve served on corporate boards and they may be a bit more straightforward there because there's management and there’s management and–
[1:30:24] Beitzel: And you’re up for annual re-election.
[1:30:25] Fink: Exactly.
[1:30:26] Beitzel: And you're measured on your results of, of the institution.
[1:30:29] Fink: Right.
[1:30:30] Beitzel: Um--
[1:30:30] Fink: This being on the board of an, of an institution is-- [crosstalk]
[1:30:32] Beitzel: But I’ve been on nonprofit boards--
[1:30:33] Fink: Yeah.
[1:30:33] Beitzel: --and foundations, the best example probably Colonial Williamsburg. Um, but I, I think the most important thing a board can do is, and I'll tell you, I'm really proud of this, but at Amherst, we really made it tough from a collegial standpoint if you didn't show up at meetings, and we scheduled our meetings three or four years out in advance. So it's pretty hard to say if you were going to join the Board, that you couldn't control your calendar. So, personal matters of life and death, but--
[1:31:20] And I think we had most of the years that I was there, and we talked about this, and I gave a report on everybody who wasn't there. And they knew I was going to do it. And they were not offended, matter of fact, they were defended by the fact I said it, but I think most time we had over 90% attendance, many times we had, for a year or two, we even had 100% attendance. I did same thing at Colonial Williamsburg, and we had, for the years I was Chairman, I think we had almost 100% attendance because it showed the board had enough respect for the institution and for each other, that they would, they would not be on that board unless they could show up.
[1:32:06] So I think that's the first thing. It's not just showing up, but it's participating. And I think we always had enough variety in the boards that we could hear views on all sides. And we had a wonderful guy named Walter Gellhorn, you remember him--
[1:32:25] Fink: Very well.
[1:32:25] Beitzel: --who was, I think, one of the most useful board members I've ever been associated with.
[1:32:31] Fink: One of the most intelligent people I've ever run across.
[1:32:33] Beitzel: Yeah.
[1:32:34] Fink: You had to answer, he wrote long letters, he didn't do telephones. And you had to answer with a letter. More hours spent writing draft after draft of the letter that was going to go through the mind--Walter Gellhorn is the man who wrote the, essentially the law for Japan after the Second World War. It was his enormous gift to that society and to the world. But in any case, he was an Amherst trustee and a very, very, brilliant law professor. [crosstalk]
[1:33:08] Beitzel: Yeah, and his brother was the head of the medical school at Penn, his sister married Hemingway. And it was a very wonderful family, talented family. But Walter would always speak up and be helpful, and I think the Board needs people like that. And he, because he would sometimes bring a new perspective to it that people hadn't thought about. And when he did that, then people did think about it, and that enhanced the value of the Board.
[1:33:43] We certainly have a fiscal responsibility to manage the College we're, we’re responsible to the Mass--, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the security of the assets and, and the other respon--, legal responsibilities. So, but I think the main thing is to, to know what's going on and make sure that the leadership is doing the right job.
[1:34:12] Fink: How about, how about the choosing of the president, that must be a, a seminal job?
[1:34:19] Beitzel: Well, I don't know, I can only tell you what it was when I was on the Board. I've haven't been involved in choosing presidents for two or three decades. But what we did was have a committee. In some cases, the chairmen run that committee, they chair it themselves. I, I did not think that was the right idea because I thought it would be less, I thought it'd be better to unify the Board if they heard from their peers who they thought was best than if they heard from the chairman because then it's pretty hard to go against the chairman without, without arousing, arousing hard feelings one way or the other.
[1:35:04] Fink: That is, the advocacy by the chairman might make a president-elect appear to be the chairman's person rather than the Board’s person. [crosstalk[
[1:35:11] Beitzel: Yeah, well, yeah, whatever.
[1:35:14] But I hold no grudge against anybody who looked at it differently, and others have. And we, when we've had, I think, well, by and large a string of very good, very good presidents. And we had emergency presidents when, when we lost our, our President a week after I was with him in Chicago.
[1:35:35] Fink: Oh, Julian.
[1:35:36] Beitzel: Julian Gibbs.
[1:35:37] Fink: Oh, that must have been, that must have been an extraordinarily difficult moment for the Board. How did--Julian Gibbs was president of Amherst for two or three years and died suddenly on a weekend after skiing. And that represents an entirely different kind of emergency situation. How did the board handle something like that?
[1:35:59] Beitzel: Well, in that case, we happened to be having a meeting anyhow two weeks after he died. So the week before our meeting, one week after he died, we had a meeting of the, uh--I was up there, in the College--and we had, we had a board meeting, the same as I was used to having at IBM when we got everybody on the telephone. Everybody had material, we talked about it, we came up with a plan. And the plan was to, to assign the dean as acting president, which is normal in these situations.
[1:36:36] Um, the act--, the acting president to carry on responsibilities of the College until the Board got together and decided what to do next. And so that took place. and then we had a meeting, and we had discussions among the Board. Some of the faculty were very helpful in, in this discussion. And we wanted to not wait around if we could avoid having a long search period, because then you really tread water and the interim guy--or girl--cannot do much. And anybody you're talking to about coming in has got a look at not what the deceased president was doing, but what the interim was doing. And it gets very complicated. And so we tried to see if we could reach a decision. And what we did in this case was pick, pick a very well known member of the faculty and a leader of the faculty many ways over the years, one of the leaders, in Armour Craig and asked him would he be interim president which is different than an acting president. We merely made him president.
[1:37:57] Fink: Yes.
[1:37:58] Beitzel: Not acting. And that lends a certain dignity and power to a slot that you don't have if you're, if you're just a placeholder. He was a placeholder for, until we found someone to replace him, but he was not, he was also an incumbent in the place. There's, there's a difference.
[1:38:21] Fink: Well, and as you mentioned earlier, he was possibly within the institution, the motive, a motive force for getting rid of fraternities. And the right man, the right person, rather, at the right time in the right place. That must have been very difficult, a very difficult time given the complexities of personalities of the Dean of Faculty then and the, uh--
[1:38:54] Beitzel: Well, that's, that happened a long time ago, so it doesn't seem quite as complex and contentious as it may have been with various people and people have written their points of view on it. But I know we made, I'm very much, very relaxed, we made the right decision getting Armour there. And then out of that came, I think Peter Pouncey was the, was the, was the president we elected after a year.
[1:39:19] Fink: An excellent– [crosstalk]
[1:39:20] Beitzel: And we had a very good, a very good, we had two, three very good candidates for that. And the Board, as they have done ever since I've been here, decides who they want to have, has a vote and then the vote is always unanimous.
[1:39:37] So the Board is always behind the new leader, no matter whether someone else had another horse they were betting on or whatever, makes no difference, we always converge at the end. And that's a very powerful way for boards to operate. A friend of mine named Marty Lipton, who invented a lot, so he's a great guy. He’s now chairman at NYU, but a great New York lawyer, once gave me advice on a board, he said, this is a commercial, a business board being sued. He said, “as long as the board's unanimous in what they do, no one can defeat you.”
[1:40:19] And I really followed that advice, because it's right. There's no one else to talk to if everyone's agreed on it. And if everyone can’t agree on it, then you probably, may not be making the right decision.
[1:40:30] Fink: Or the problem may not be well defined.
[1:40:32] Beitzel: That's correct.
[1:40:35] Fink: Just defining the problem moves you right toward the, moves you in the direction of the, of the right solution, yeah. [crosstalk]
[1:40:41] Beitzel: Well, I’ve talked to you about my boss, Kettering.
[1:40:43] Fink: Yes, that's a good story.
[1:40:45] Beitzel: Boss Kettering. Boss Kettering was a fellow at the Sloan Kettering, helped General Motors and he's the one who saved women many broken arms because he invented the electric starter for cars in Dayton, Ohio, where the Wright brothers came from. So it must be the water in Dayton or something. [both laugh] His, his idea was “a problem well-defined is a problem half-solved.’ And I, that, I was lucky to get that advice early in the game because I think it's very right.
[1:41:18] Fink: You’ve, you’re, you had many predecessors on the Board as chair and there are many people, not many, some before and some after. Would you mind talking a little bit about what it was like to have probably the man who was “Mr. American Establishment,” John J. McCloy as your introduction to the, to the Board? I mean, a man who, advisor to practically every president, High Commissioner for Germany after the war, a man of, an assistant to Henry Stimson as a Secretary of War.
[1:42:07] And a complicated man, presumably, given various decisions that people would say were admirable or not necessarily admirable, under conditions, certainly, of great pressure. Was he, uh--
[1:42:21] Beitzel: He was, he was a strong bulwark for, when I was there. One of the problems we had was the Cross Professorship, which was going to go to--Ted, I think, had it always be, he wanted to have a series of scientists of color at a reputable institution to attract young Blacks to it.
[1:42:51] And I think that emerged over time to where the faculty, which was based on merit, legitimately said “well, that's a problem because that's why we don't let the Maharaja of India or somebody have a, or some potentate with their oil country, have it because the incumbent’s always going to be a spokesman for that, for that position.” And, um, what, um, what we did was, they decided to have the first, his name was Richard?
[1:43:33] Fink: Dick Goldsby.
[1:43:34] Beitzel: Yeah, Dick Goldsby. And he's in that edition of the Higher Education for Blacks [Journal of Blacks in Higher Education] review I mentioned to you that was published in honor of Ted Cross’s life. But, but then after that it would revert to the normal. So having set the stage that it was a job, it was a job that was worthy of, of anybody and to find someone who was--anybody qualified--then to find someone of color to take that job really broke the ice. And then after that, we, I think we've had Amherst positions, we've had people of color and race and all kinds of stuff. I think it really opened the door.
[1:44:21] Fink: McCloy was very supportive of this?
Beitzel: [leans in questioningly]
[1:44:26] Fink: I said John McCloy was-- [crosstalk]
[1:44:26] Beitzel: Yeah, John J. McCloy was very supportive of this, and so was Walter Gellhorn. And John J. McCloy used his influence to support it, because it was the right thing to do. And later on, I had a couple other tight situations. He was in the hospital, 92 years old, I think, when he told me this. He said, “well, I'm,” “Spike,” he said, “I'm out of the hospital.” I said “well, that’s great, Walter,” I mean, uh, Jack. He says, “yep, I’m coming up for air for the third time.” [both laugh] That’s the way he portrayed--
[1:45:11] Fink: Well, he had a, he has certainly had a long and very influential life.
[1:45:14] Beitzel: He sure did.
[1:45:15] Fink: Very, um, it's interesting that he opposed the dropping of the atomic bomb on human population centers, if you remember. Uh, he and Francis Biddle and Joseph Grew, the three of them--
[1:45:32] Beitzel: I'd forgotten that.
[1:45:33] Fink: --were really quite opposed to--
[1:45:36] Beitzel: --dropping it on--
[1:45:36] Fink: --it being used for, against civilians. They wanted military targets rather than civilian targets.
[1:45:42] Beitzel: You’re talking about Jack McCloy?
[1:45:43] Fink: Yeah. To his great, to his great credit. He also was influential in convincing Stimson to cross Kyoto off the target list-- [crosstalk]
[1:45:56] Beitzel: Yes, I knew that. He told me that.
[1:45:59] Fink: --that were involved.
[1:46:00] But then on the other hand, there was his unfortunate involvement--as happened in England, and in Scotland with the internment of Germans on the Isle of Man--the internment of Japanese in the West, during the, during the Second, the early part of the Second World War.
[1:46:21] Beitzel: But he got the Supreme Court to approve that before he did it.
[1:46:24] Fink: Yeah. But again, it's just the, the general idea. [crosstalk]
[1:46:28] Beitzel: It’s part of the history.
[1:46:28] Fink: Part of, part of our history. [crosstalk]
[1:46:29] Beitzel: What I think is, I think, as I recall, what he told me was that happened because they didn't know where the Japanese fleet was after Pearl Harbor.
[1:46:39] Fink: Ah.
[1:46:39] Beitzel: And the fifth column was a big deal in those days.
[1:46:42] Fink: Oh, gosh yes, that's right. That was, uh--
[1:46:43] Beitzel: And they had 70,000 Japanese in California. Some of whom, inevitably, would be either recruited or were part of a fifth column, and nobody knew which.
[1:46:57] Fink: Well, the English-- [crosstalk]
[1:46:57] Beitzel: And the, and the military said “that's a real problem for us because we may be fighting here to protect our shores.” And that's why he took it to the Supreme Court.
[1:47:09] Fink: That was taken over from, really, from the English who did the, it much earlier with a German population in, in England using the same fifth column notion which derives from the Spanish Civil War and the General who was advancing on Madrid with four columns and said, “there will be a fifth column from inside that would join me.”
[1:47:35] Beitzel: We forget really, I, just I, you know, I was at Oshkosh this week for the big air show, flew out there with my son and a bunch of others, but we went there and saw the battle, the planes going over Berlin in April, I think, of 1944. And it showed the number of, we had five, 300 airfields in London and we're going to bomb Berlin. And it showed all the B-17s, the B-24s that were lost and the pilot’s name. And it was about 50 planes never came back from just that one attack.
[1:48:17] Fink: Yeah.
[1:48:18] Beitzel: And I, you know, I, uh it takes your breath away when you look at that.
[1:48:23] Fink: So you've, you've run the gamut from immediately after the dropping of the bomb that ends the war to, to today.
[1:48:35] Fink: That's more change than most people, I think, really, really will ever experience. Uh, has it been fun?
[1:48:48] Beitzel: I've been a very fortunate man, been a lot of fun. And I've enjoyed every minute of it, but I've been very lucky. I've had a chance to do things that I enjoy doing and I was raised in notion, in the family with the notion of “well, that's the right thing to do.” The institutions I was involved with growing up, supported helping others. And I've really enjoyed it. And I've never viewed it as a task. I viewed it as an opportunity, including this session today for which I thank you very much, Dean.
[1:49:27] Fink: [laughs] Uh, Mr. Chairman, uh, you're very kind to have done this today. And I, I, not just I but the, the future that gets a chance to look at this will, I think, profit greatly from it. Thank you very much.
[1:49:40] Beitzel: Thank you, sir.
[1:49:42] Fink: Pleasure.
[1:49:43] Beitzel: [pointing to those behind camera] And thank you, and you. [crosstalk]
[1:49:43] Unknown: Thank you.
George B. (Spike) Beitzel, class of 1950, graduated from Harvard with an MBA and served as an LTJG in the U.S. Navy. He had a 32-year career at IMB, retiring in 1987 as a Senior VP/director. He served as a trustee of the college from 1966-1987 and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1980-1986 when he became a Life Trustee. During his time on the board, Amherst went co-ed, abolished fraternities, and experienced anti-war protests. He has also served as a Trustee of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, FlightSafety International, and the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships.
Richard Fink arrived at Amherst in 1964 and was a George H. Corey Professor of Chemistry before his retirement in 2007. He served as Dean of the Faculty from 1983-1988.
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