The Michigan Alumnus 18
After five years at Minnesota, Jim Brinkerhoff is 'home' again as VP and chief financial officer .
His Mission: Keeping Michigan Number One
Jim Brinkerhoff has a favorite motto by which he likes to operate. "If it weren't for them," it runs, "there'd be none of us."
What he means, obviously, is that, if it weren't for the Univer sity's faculty, there wouldn't be any need to have administrators be cause there wouldn't be any stu dents to teach.
James F. Brinkerhoff has "come home" to the University of Michigan as vice president and chief financial officer (succeeding Wilbur K. Pierpont), a position most would acknowledge as among the top ad ministrative jobs at the U-M.
Brinkerhoff "came home" after five years at the University of Minnesota as vice president for finance and development. He holds an MBA (1948) from Michigan and had been an administrator here before the Minnesota offer came.
Was it a difficult decision, elect ing to return to Ann Arbor? "Both Marge (Mrs. Brinkerhoff) and I enjoyed the Twin Cities, the state of Minnesota and the University very much — but Ann Arbor has really been our home since 1947. I told the president of the University of Min nesota that the University of Michi gan is the only institution that I would have considered leaving Minnesota for."
Filling up his battered old pipe (with Amphora), Brinkerhoff said that his decision to return to Michi gan was largely based on "which was the most interesting manage ment challenge — to keep Number One as Number One or to be in the middle of the pack and driving for the Number One status. Obvi ously, I thought that keeping Number One on top was the tougher of the problems."
Asked what he sees as the major problems facing the University to- day, Brinkerhoff mentioned first "the obvious problem of morale in the faculty and staff. Trying to achieve a high morale when everyone has been operating under more and more stringent budget conditions creates a problem — and yet, I don't think it is in surmounta ble. Dollars need not be the primary force in order to achieve a high level of incentive, a high level of initia tive and a strong drive to succeed and to maintain top-flight academic departments."
Will the Brinkerhoff approach differ significantly from the Pierpont approach?
"The key difference, I suppose, would be the product of our dissimilar backgrounds. Bill came more through the academic enter prise, rather than from industry, as I did. He came out of the cost ac counting area and that may be con trasted with my background in labor relations and general man agement. I have always been more substantially at ease in the fields of personnel management and labor relations, but less at ease in the fields of accounting, cashiering functions and the investment area. That is not to say that Bill was insen sitive to the personnel and human relations factors, nor is it to say that my five years at Minnesota didn't sensitize me to the needs of the ac counting and financial operations of the institution.
"I guess that would pretty much highlight the difference in our approaches to the job. I suppose one other factor is that, in the last five to eight years, Bill has not participated as directly in the legislative or ap propriations processes, where as I was thrown into that operation on a first-line basis at Minnesota."
Do you expect to be involved in those processes here? "That depends on what the president wishes in terms of the structure here, but it would cer tainly indicate an area in which I've had some practical experience. "
"My initial objective is to famil iarize myself with the internal op erations that report to me. I will be spending a good deal of time with each of the deans and some major departments ... to find out how they visualize what's going on in their shops, both the good things and the bad things."
Brinkerhoff said he wants to be sure "there is a minimum of redun dancy in activities on the campus. One of the things that concerns me is that, over the years, there's been a fairly substantial increase — quite appropriately — in the administra tive capacity of the various deans' offices. I'm not sure that that has been offset by reductions in the central offices. I'm not dedicated to the concept that it's more efficient to do everything centrally because, as soon as you move along that line, you tend to lose the incentives which tire appropriate for the development of the capacity of the academic units."
As for his side interests, Jim Brinkerhoff likes golf and small boat sailing (they've maintained a cot tage at nearby Base Lake, but unfor tunately it burned to the ground while the Brinkerhoffs were attend ing the Rose Bowl game).
"I'm always having some novel or another going, but my primary at-home reading is business read ing because my days are pretty well taken up by meetings." Do you watch TV? "Basically I watch foot ball, Big Ten basketball and Baa Baa Blacksheep. I enjoy that since I was in the Pacific during World War II."
In his earlier days in Ann Arbor, Jim Brinkerhoff served on the Ann Arbor City Council (as a Republican), as chairman of the United Fund, as president of the Rotary Club, and in many of the chairs at the First Presbyterian Church.
If you had your absolute choice, Jim Brinkerhoff, what job would you be in today? " I would like to be vice president and chief financial officer of the University of Michigan — in Cored Gables, Florida."
His battered pipe in place, James Brink erhoff (left) discusses his goals as the U-M's new vice president and chief financial officer.