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Robert Maynard Hutchins: A Memoir
by Milton Sanford Mayer
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From Publishers Weekly
An outspoken American educator whose innovative ideas were enacted during his 1929-1951 tenure at the University of Chicago as president and chancellor, Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) lobbied increasingly for intellectual inquiry and the preservation of scholarly traditions. Mayer ( If Men Were Angels ), who died in 1986, was a friend and colleague of Hutchins. His well documented, affectionate and objective memoir (written mostly in the third person) outlines Hutchins's considerable achievements, including the introduction of the Great Books Program on campus and his fierce commitment to academic freedom. Mayer also details Hutchins's intemperate, seemingly pro-Hitler remarks before the outbreak of WW II, and the considerable neglect with which he treated his first wife and three children. Hicks is a retired English professor at the University of Massachusetts. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Those who know of Hutchins will delight in this sympathetic account of a friendship and association that lasted 40 years. Those who are not familiar with him will gain much insight into the true nature of one of the most controversial figures in American education. Dean of the Yale Law School at 29, chancellor of the University of Chicago, and Ford Foundation executive, Hutchins was, as Mayer calls him, "an unyielding absolutist." He championed the cultivation of the intellect through liberal arts education, campaigned for the establishment of a world organization, and abolished intercollegiate football--moves that earned him the condemnation of some and the adulation of others. Mayer is no hagiographer. He holds his scales fairly even. This exciting memoir deserves more attention than it is probably destined to receive. Highly recommended for most libraries.
- A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A biography/memoir of the extraordinary Hutchins--educational reformer, administrative genius, Great Books mentor, academic freedom-fighter, and liberal polemicist--that was edited by Hicks (formerly, English/UMass at Amherst) from 900 pages of a working draft left by Mayer (If Men Were Angels, 1971, etc.) at his death in 1986. Following two years each at Oberlin College, in the Army, and at Yale, Hutchins was appointed at age 23 to the daunting position of Yale's administrative secretary. Though he graduated from the university's law school in 1925 and taught law for two years, he hadn't even taken the bar exam when he was named dean of Yale Law in 1927. And he topped that by becoming president of the University of Chicago at the age of 30. As Mayer repeatedly notes, Hutchins felt he was a failure at most things and, despite his reforms and innovations and his astonishing fund-raising ability, ``never did get the college he wanted.'' As the force behind the controversial ``Hutchins Plan,'' which would evolve over his 26 years at Chicago, he revitalized undergraduate programs by taking them out of the hands of graduate assistants; battled specialization and departmentalization in favor of an idealistic university of interrelated studies; amazingly, convinced the school's governing board to drop intercollegiate football; instituted comprehensive degree-examinations for students who felt they were ready; and fashioned a modern pass/fail system. Throughout his tenure, Hutchins taught a history of ideas course that led to his chairmanship of the Great Books Foundation and, later, his stewardship of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. As founder of the Center of the Study for Democratic Institutions and president of the Fund for the Republic--a powerful anti-McCarthy organization- -Hutchins's influence was felt, and his wisdom sought, from the classroom to the Oval Office. Mayer (for decades an aide and ``hired hand'' to Hutchins) does his old friend justice in this admiring but critical biography. (Sixteen illustrations) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A most enjoyable read."
"Well documented, affectionate and objective memoir."
At age 28, he was dean of Yale Law School; at 30, president of the University of Chicago. By his mid-thirties, Robert Maynard Hutchins was an eminent figure in the world of educational innovation and liberal politics. And when he was 75, he told a friend, "I should have died at 35."
Milton Mayer, Hutchins's colleague, and friend, gives an intimate picture of the remarkably outstanding, and fallible, man who participated in many of this century's most important social and political controversies. He captures the energy and intellectual fervor Hutchins could transmit to others, and which the man brought to the fields of law, politics, civil rights, and public affairs.
Rich in detail and anecdote, this memoir vividly brings to life both a man and an age.
From the Inside Flap
"Mayer's memoir is by far the most exciting Hutchins book ever. His style, wit, and passion--and his insight--put it into a class by itself."--Studs Terkel
From the Back Cover
"Mayer's memoir is by far the most exciting Hutchins book ever. His style, wit, and passion (and his insight (put it into a class by itself." (Studs Terkel)
About the Author
Milton Mayer (1908-1986) was an educator, journalist, and editor who worked with Robert Hutchins at the University of Chicago. A prolific writer, among his numerous works are What Can a Man Do? (1964) and If Men Were Angels (1972). John H. Hicks was Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst until his retirement in 1986. Studs Terkel is a journalist and author of several best-selling oral histories. He was a student at the University of Chicago when Robert Hutchins was president.
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