Recollections of My Service as Dean
School of Music
University of Michigan
When my predecessor as Dean of the School of Music retired, he sent practically all of the material associated with his deanship to the Bentley Historical Collections. At the time, I considered his action to be presumptuous. Twenty-one years later when I retired, I sent almost nothing to Bentley, and my stinginess with such material has been the subject of some good-humored ribbing by Bentley staff ever since.
As of this writing, it has now been ten years since I retired. Even a decade later, at considerable remove in time and place, I remain content to let the record of my work speak for itself, and have undertaken these memoirs more at the suggestion of others than any instinct of mine to re-hash old times. Still, I was privileged to serve in an eventful era, was fortunate (or occasionally, not) to be close to the center of many of those events, and thus am possessed of a unique perspective that I offer herewith.
Because my earliest years at the University so strongly influenced my subsequent work as Dean, my account begins with my arrival in Ann Arbor in August 1962.
I had recently completed a M.Mus. degree in music theory at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and I had been deeply flattered by the offer of an instructorship there. But a piano professor in Madison, Tait Sanford, persuaded me to consider Michigan for a doctoral degree: she believed that I needed to be challenged by studies in a better school. I will be grateful forever for her advice. She knew the Dean of music at Michigan, James Wallace, and somehow arranged a teaching fellowship in music theory for me in Ann Arbor. I had wanted to pursue a doctoral degree in piano performance but could not afford the cost of a trip to Ann Arbor to audition. On the strength of my transcript and recommendations alone, then-Associate Dean Allen P. Britton admitted me to the Ph.D. program in musicology, in which I quickly fell under the influence of Louise Cuyler, then Chair of the Musicology Department, whose support and encouragement benefited me for years to come. She was a formidable presence in the school, and I somehow became her fair-haired boy, and I consider it reasonable to trace my rapid professional progress at least partially to that fortunate association.
In those days, Teaching Fellows were de facto half-time instructors. I taught two courses of basic theory (ten hours per week) and attended department meetings and was given complete authority over the classes I was assigned. I had wonderful mentorship from the theory faculty, most notably from Paul Cooper and Wallace Berry.
Dean Wallace appointed me to the full-time faculty in 1965. My assignments were four sections of music theory--at that time considered to be a full teaching load. In my first year, I was assigned a graduate course in analysis, in which it turned out that I was the youngest person in the room. I was also assigned the lecture position for the entire freshman class when that format change occurred in the late ‘60s.
To me it remains significant that during this period of time, appointments to the faculty—including my own—were not conducted with benefit of a formal search process. More often than not, individuals came to the faculty as a result of discussions between the department chair and the Dean, with little or no other consultation. I recall that Edward Chudacoff and Richmond Browne were simply introduced to the music theory faculty as new colleagues in this manner. All that would change dramatically during the later 60s when civil rights legislation, Title IX requirements, and affirmative action guidelines and regulations forever altered life in higher education. No longer were appointments simply made and announced as fait accompli. Search committees were formed to fill faculty vacancies, and it was required that minority and female candidates must be among those considered.
There was hard turmoil on the Michigan campus in the 60s. The beginnings of the Black Action Movement (BAM) were developing, and eventually led to a boycott of classes by black students who were demanding that 12% of the Michigan student population be black (reflecting the then-extant racial make-up of the State). President Robben Fleming worked diligently and with remarkable skill to maintain calm and order on the campus. A Target of Opportunity Program (TOO) was created in the early 1970s to address many of the issues that had been raised earlier in the decade. I mention this because the experience of those early years very much conditioned my attitude toward the recruitment and mentoring of black students and faculty in subsequent years. Two black students, Marcellus Brown and Dwight Andrews, were enrolled in my music theory courses and participated in the boycott mentioned above. They were both gifted, serious students in whom I had strong faith, and I provided private tutoring so they would not fall behind in their studies. I suppose that this obviated the point of the general boycott, but I’m proud to report that both went on to wonderful careers in music, Brown as professor of trumpet at the University of Illinois (Chicago), and Andrews as professor of music theory at Emory University.
The war in Vietnam also created serious tension on most American campuses, as is widely documented. I believed the war to be a fiasco, and did not hesitate to say so. I had distributed some anti-war fliers in faculty boxes. Dean Wallace found out about this, and ordered the fliers removed. This caused quite a stir, and Joseph Payne, then President of SACUA called me into a meeting wanting to raise the matter before the Regents. Of course, I was frightened that I might be fired. My situation was not made easier by the fact that my older brother, a recent graduate of West Point, was a young officer in Vietnam, twice wounded (once near fatally) in the war against which I was rallying.
The end of the 60s decade was tumultuous and highly momentous at the School of Music. James Wallace, who had demonstrated much talent for leadership during the early years of his deanship, became increasingly unstable as a result of excessive drinking. Faculty meetings were often useless owing to his unfocused, sometimes incoherent ramblings. Into this power vacuum, certain faculty members inserted themselves, and the operation of the school was gradually restructured. The chairs of departments assumed more leadership, and two powerful curriculum committees were formed (the charters for each essentially authored by Wallace Berry). By creating the Council of Departmental Representatives (for undergraduate curriculums) and the Faculty Council on Doctoral Studies (for graduate curriculums) some decision-making that previously had taken place in full faculty meetings was delegated to sub-groups.
Finally, a group of senior faculty members met with Vice President Alan Smith, and Wallace was removed from the deanship. Allen P. Britton was named interim dean. And my role in the school was about to change dramatically.
I was elected chair of the Council of Departmental Representatives (CDR) and almost immediately became involved in a dispute with LS&A over the granting of credit for performance studies by LS&A students, a few of whom registered for lessons that were given mainly by music graduate student assistants. LS&A faculty pretended to equate studying the piano with basket weaving. We eventually grew so weary of arguing this point with LS&A that we formed what eventually became the Bachelor of Musical Arts degree approved by the Regents for granting by the School of Music. This degree gave opportunity to LS&A as well as music students to re-focus their studies in a new curriculum about half of which work was taken in music, half in non-music courses. The new degree caused a furor within the National Association of Schools of Music (which typically took about three decades to see the merits of any progressive initiative). Several years after I had retired, I was invited to speak at one of NASM’s national meetings to—once again—explicate the BMA degree. Yikes! I was quite prepared to allow NASM to kick us out over this matter (and several others over the years) if it wished to do so, at one critical point having gone so far as to secure President Duderstadt’s agreement in the matter. I think they might have done so except that Michigan was a founding member of the Association, and it must have been realized how foolish the appearance of such an action would be. Several decades earlier, it had booted the Juilliard School off its roster (which pretty much says it all).
I’ve always been proud of the Bachelor of Musical Arts degree and the strong dose of liberal arts studies it afforded a certain kind of student. Enthusiastic young musicians not destined for major careers in music who, absent the BMA would have forgone collegiate music studies altogether, benefited as undergraduates from the opportunity to prepare for advanced studies in business, law, and medicine among other pursuits, while sharpening their musical skills and knowledge. Eventually, corollary degrees in theater (Bachelor of Theater Arts) and in dance (Bachelor of Dance Arts) were instituted during my deanship. Happily, those programs of study have thrived.
In 1971 I was elected to the Executive Committee of the School—the first (untenured) Assistant Professor to achieve election. In 1970 the “interim” had been removed from the title of Allen P. Britton, who as Dean invited me to serve as Director of the University of Michigan Division of the National Music Camp at Interlochen in 1971. This post had usually carried with it the title “assistant dean”, but I declined it because I did not yet have tenure, and had strong reservations about compromising my professorial role as both teacher and aspiring academic leader.
The experience I gained at Interlochen would prove invaluable in my later administrative career. The administration of the camp was hopelessly out of touch with university values and expectations of student living (dress codes, early curfews, puritanical values, etc). I had many encounters with officers of the camp, but eventually negotiated notable changes in the quality of the faculty brought North by the University Division (all too often proposed faculty from Ann Arbor were considered “too liberal” to serve at the camp) and in regulations governing the conduct of University-level students. I served in this post through the summer of 1975, and the Division (including the All-State Program) thrived in enrollments and in quality.
In the fall of 1974, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Emil Holz, died suddenly. Allen Britton asked me to serve in the post on an interim basis while continuing my work at Interlochen. My regular appointment to the post began in July of 1975.
This Associate Deanship was at the very center of the management of the School largely as a result of the deterioration of the dean’s administrative capability during the last years of James Wallace’s service. All teaching loads were assigned by the Associate Dean (previously a responsibility of the Dean), I had responsibility for management of a sizeable scholarship program, I chaired the minority faculty recruitment committee, I had oversight of minority student progress within the School, and served as Executive Secretary of the Council of Departmental Representatives, among other responsibilities. It was a quite full-time administrative post (though I taught one course per term throughout that period).
Having negotiated the transfer of the Dance Department from the School of Education to music in 1974, I now had the responsibility of overseeing the development of a bachelor of fine arts curriculum for dance majors. Elizabeth Weill Bergmann, Chair of the Dance Department, was an energetic helper in this work. (This new degree in dance was a significant expansion of the degree offerings within the School, and presaged an easier development of BFA degrees in both Theater and in Musical Theater which would come about soon after my appointment as Dean in 1979.)
During the 1970s the University made a serious commitment to the recruitment of greater numbers of black students and faculty. Funding for this program came from a 2% tax on the budgets of the various schools and colleges. During its first few years, this program was inadequately conceived and poorly executed. This was not necessarily the fault of any person; rather, such an effort had not been tried before, and serious mistakes were made. Black students were given cash intended to cover tuition and living expenses. Sometimes this money was used for personal purchases (including cars).
Recruitment of minority faculty members was very difficult. Non-minority faculty often could not relate to the intellectual interests of prospective minority colleagues, and felt some discomfort with social and cultural differences during the interview process. In the School of Music, I exerted strong pressure to interview at least one minority candidate for each opening on the faculty. Because fields such as musicology, music theory, and composition had so few minorities in the pool in those early days, these interviews often were unsuccessful, and they created significant resentment among resident faculty. I note these early difficulties because during subsequent years as Dean, I enjoyed significant success in bringing enormously qualified minority faculty to our School—a matter in which I take a lot of pride. I was greatly assisted in this endeavor by the appointment of Willis Patterson (an African American Voice Professor) as Associate Dean It was my first administrative appointment as dean.
My appointment to the Deanship was announced in early April of 1979, approximately six months prior to my fortieth birthday. I had ridden a fast elevator at the University of Michigan, and I was excited—just couldn’t wait—to get to work as Dean. The beginning of my term coincided with the appointment of Harold Shapiro as President on July 1, 1979. It was a relatively smooth transition for the University since Shapiro had previously served as Vice President for Academic Affairs.
President Shapiro announced a 9% salary increase during his first month in office, and the faculty rejoiced. The Michigan economy took a nosedive, however, and Shapiro was forced to require the various schools and colleges to fund this salary program with a 5% reduction in their base budgets. This was an awful circumstance for a newly appointed Dean, who (like Shapiro) had ambitious plans that had to be shelved.
The recession of the early 1980s led to the establishing of a faculty Budget Priorities Committee. It was chaired by a Professor of English, Richard Bailey, and was authorized to make strategic recommendations to the President and to the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Those recommendations could include reductions in the programs of the schools and colleges, and even the closure of schools (Art and Education were under consideration) and programs (the Extension Service was closed). I was appointed to serve on this committee—the only Dean so chosen. I believe that I was selected for this committee because of an initiative I had recently taken in the School of Music—an action that I consider the most important procedural matter I addressed as Dean, and probably my most long-lived contribution to the health and vigor of the School.
I had overseen the development and eventual adoption by the music faculty of a document entitled “Criteria for Promotion and Tenure” that set forth specific, stringent requirements for the various professorial ranks. A corollary procedure for the annual evaluation of faculty for merit pay increases was also developed and adopted, which outlined specific criteria in teaching (50% of evaluation), research and professional activity (40%), and service (10% of evaluation). The School had never before had specific, clearly stated criteria that put “teeth” into the appointment, promotion, and merit evaluation processes.
These procedures strengthened the faculty over the twenty-one year span of my deanship in almost incalculable ways. At the time of my appointment to the Budget Priorities Committee, both President Shapiro and Vice President Frye were highly supportive of these initiatives and often cited them as setting a very high standard within the University. To this day I remain proud of those initiatives.
Although the School of Music was not under the threatening scrutiny that several other schools and colleges were, I was deeply frustrated that so many of the ambitious programs I had envisioned for the School were not possible to implement in such an economic environment. Consequently, I decided to undertake a Capital Campaign in 1981, and announced it in an edition of Music at Michigan. A feasibility study suggested that, with luck, we could raise about a million dollars. This daunting information notwithstanding, I appointed Jolene Hermalin as Director of Development. Our objectives were to raise funds for an addition to the Moore Building to house a new program I was advocating in Musical Theater, to provide display space for the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments, and a small concert hall to house a new Baroque organ to be built by Charles Fisk. We also had ambitious plans to increase the endowment of the music school. Jessye Norman (an alumna from the late 1960s) agreed to serve as Honorary Chair.
To my surprise (and his), Harold Shapiro had absolutely no prior knowledge of this campaign (although I subsequently learned that he was considering a University-wide campaign at the same time). He called for a meeting to ascertain where I was heading with this project, and noted that I had not raised a single dime as a nucleus fund upon which to build a campaign. On the day before my meeting with Shapiro, I had lunch with Margaret Towsley, explained my problem, and talked about my hopes and dreams for the School. This gracious lady wrote on a napkin a pledge for 1.5 million dollars (saying that she thought Mr. Shapiro would honor this). I took that napkin to my meeting the next day and received authorization to proceed on the campaign. Michael Radock, then Vice President for Development, was relieved of his responsibilities shortly thereafter, and I was told that he was fired because he had not informed Shapiro of my campaign plans.
At about the same time, another meeting occurred that I feel compelled to recount here. The Marching Band had for several years received a $3,000 subsidy from the Athletic Department to “defray” the considerable expenses of running such an ensemble. Money was tight, the artistic significance of a marching band seemed negligible to the School of Music, and I reasoned that its principal value accrued to the Athletic Department. I requested that a subsidy of $75,000 annually be provided from athletics to underwrite the band, and provided the administration with information clearly demonstrating that this amount was relatively small compared to other major universities and considering the national prominence of Michigan’s athletic programs. Shapiro called for a meeting to include Bill Frye, Richard Kennedy (Vice President for State Relations), Jim Brinkerhoff (Vice President for Business and Finance), Don Canham (the Athletic Director), and me. The meeting was scheduled for 11:00 in the morning, and at about 15 minutes past the hour, Shapiro asked Kennedy to call Canham to find out why he was so late. A little later, Kennedy returned to the room looking sheepish, and said that Canham told him to go to hell: that he was not attending the meeting. Shapiro did not react at all, but rather informed me that the money I sought would be added to the music school budget. I never did learn how this affront to a new president played out behind closed doors, but I can report that the annual transfer of those funds from athletics to music remained problematic for years. We always got it, but it was like pulling hen’s teeth.
The School of Music served as host for national meetings of the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory in 1982. The focus of these conventions was to be on the centennial anniversary of the birth of Igor Stravinsky, and we decided to mount a production of Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress” as a centerpiece for the assembled delegates and the general public.
I approached the noted film director, Robert Altman, to elicit his interest in stage directing this production. As it turned out, his career at that time was in decline, and after much back and forth between us, he finally agreed to direct the production. It proved to be a great boon for the School in several respects: Because of Altman’s fame, there was high interest, and the production was very favorably reviewed nationally (including The New Yorker and CBS Sunday Morning), it brought together faculty and students from the music school, the School of Art, and LS&A, and generated considerable controversy among participants in the conventions we were hosting, and within the University community. All this attention helped the School in various ways, not least of which was in fund-raising (because some major donors wanted to be associated with such a well known figure as Altman, who had accepted appointment as visiting professor during the term the production took place).
This first association with Altman proved fruitful; he returned to the campus many times, including shooting a film, Secret Honor, using theater and film students as production assistants. It also led to collaboration with William Bolcom, a distinguished composer on the Michigan faculty, in the creation of two new operas for the Chicago Lyric Opera (McTeague) and “A Wedding” (a musical setting of Altman’s film). Over several years I developed a friendship with Altman, his wife and family, and eventually discussed with him leaving his archival materials to the University of Michigan. This was achieved following his death in 2007. About six months before he died, I had dinner with him and Katherine in Sarasota, at which he commented on the importance of his Michigan experiences to his creative life, and expressed deep appreciation for those Ann Arbor times.
From 1983 to 1989 (the end of my second term as Dean) most of the significant programmatic achievements of my deanship were accomplished. The Musical Theater Program was established, the Theater Department was transferred to the School of Music, the Center for Performing Arts Technology was created, the American Music Institute was established, the program in Jazz and Improvisation Studies was created, and the music dean was given administrative oversight for all major auditoriums and theaters on the campus. The School de facto had become a performing arts college.
The transfer of the Department of Theater and Drama from LS&A to the School of Music took place over a period of approximately one and a half years. The Department had been under consideration for closure by Dean Peter Steiner of LS&A, and the matter was being discussed with Bill Frye at Steiner’s annual budget conference in 1982. As noted above, the Budget Priorities Committee (on which I sat) evaluated recommendations from the various schools and colleges regarding the proposed closure of departments and programs (geography in LS&A, for instance). Steiner was considering bringing a proposal to close the Department of Theater before the Budget Priorities Committee. It was a very problematic issue, however: Eugene Power, a former Regent of the University, generous donor, and great lover of theater had donated funds for the construction of the Power Center for the Performing Arts. His daughter-in-law, Sarah, was a Regent at the time.
I had been scheduled for a budget conference directly after Steiner’s, and was waiting outside the conference room where Bill Frye spotted me and invited me in to participate in the discussion (presumably as a member of the Budget Priorities Committee and as Dean of a school making heavy use of campus performance spaces). After listening to a summary of Steiner’s concerns about the theater department (including the so-called Professional Theater Program), I commented that whatever the outcome of the proposed closure, the School of Music would have continuing need for support from the Power Center shops (costumes, set construction, etc.). Bill Frye spontaneously floated the idea that transferring the program to music might allow dramatic changes to be instituted, and thus began a series of pointed negotiations on how a transfer might be achieved. At the request of both Frye and Shapiro, I undertook an analysis of the theater program, noting its history on the campus, and set forth a vision for what it might become under the aegis of the music school. (A copy of this report was forwarded to the Bentley Library.) Following thorough discussions, a strategy was adopted for presenting this transfer as a formal proposal to the Regents in 1984.
At the same time, certain shortcomings of theaters and auditoriums on campus became more apparent, and Frye decided to transfer oversight and authority for scheduling of these much-used facilities (the Power Center, Mendelssohn Theater, Hill Auditorium, and Rackham Auditorium) to the Dean of the music school. There was, of course, much consternation and concern among liberal arts faculty and, to a certain extent, within the music school itself about these significant changes. One of the most controversial decisions I made (aggressively covered in the Ann Arbor News) was to appoint all staff personnel working in the Power Center shops as lecturers. My purpose was to make these shops instructional units so that theater students could be taught the practice of design for the stage in sets, lighting, costumes, etc. That the maneuver rather neatly sidestepped potentially troublesome issues of union membership and representation was the topic that most interested the press, however.
The early years of integrating theater into the School of Music were admittedly difficult. John Russel Brown, a noted Shakespeare scholar, was brought to campus to head the theater department, but proved to be an inept administrator and untalented director of plays (which he dearly loved to do, unfortunately). The distinguished British theater critic, Benedict Nightengale, was appointed to head the undergraduate program. He left after a couple of years because he could not persuade the Executive Committee of LS&A to incorporate meaningful theater studies in the BA curriculum. This led me to propose establishing BFA degrees in Theater offered exclusively through the music school (somewhat similar to the BFA degrees already authorized in Dance). I relieved Brown of his responsibilities, and hired Erik Fredricksen from the California Institute for the Arts to run the theater program. He deserves enormous credit for focusing the program, bringing together a capable professional faculty, and establishing the still-growing stature of the department. Yet I have occasionally wondered what might have happened to theater on the Michigan campus had I not been sitting outside Bill Frye’s conference room on that fateful afternoon.
Musical theaterin the School had a much less dramatic advent than the one just described, yet even it met with some resistance from the most conservative members of the faculty when we initiated discussions in the early 1980s. At first, I kept development of the program more or less “under the radar” with part-time appointments and a few others, with Robert Chapel being the most significant. Support for the program from within the faculty came principally from Richard Crawford, Leslie Guinn, Katherine Hilgenberg, and Willis Patterson. Eventually we appointed Brent Wagner as Director for the Program, and the simply enormous success the Department of Musical Theater now enjoys is a credit to his talent, energy, and single-mindedness. My latest information is that admission to this program is now the most competitive of any in the University of Michigan.
As part of the School of Music Capital Campaign, I approached the Katherine Tuck Foundation for a gift to support the study of American music in our School. The Foundation’s grant of $500,000 allowed me to endow the American Music Institute. Owing principally to the special talent and expertise of Richard Crawford, the most highly respected scholar in American music, I had long believed that Michigan’s musicology department should establish a special Americanist focus. I was certain that Crawford’s work in a tightly organized, strategically supported enterprise could reap a great harvest and earn deserved respect for an institution willing to support it. The Music of the United States of America (MUSA) series decidedly realized that dream. I persuaded Ed and Mary Meador to give the school an additional $500,000 to purchase the Edison Collection of American Music (several thousand pieces of ephemera music of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries) to further enhance important holdings so that a reservoir of research materials would be available for graduate students and others.
At about the same time, I became convinced that the School needed more control of the Music Library (a branch of the University Library system); I negotiated a change in the status of the Library Director from a staff position within the Library System to a half-time appointment as Assistant Professor of Musicology in the music school. It was my goal to more directly link the Music Library management to the priorities of faculty scholars and student needs. During this period I also provided funds to acquire the Ethyl Smythe Collection of Music by Women Composers. Michigan hosted early conferences on Women in Music (organized by a wonderful staff member, Doris Humphrey), partially owing to the availability of the Smythe Collection.
The Center for Performing Arts Technologyfollowed a peculiar path into the School. My own involvement was primarily on faith. Whereas I had played pit piano for musicals as an undergraduate, had occasionally earned money playing for dance classes, certainly was comfortable with the musicological apparatus as it pertained to American music, etc., about technology I was—and sadly remain—innocent as a new-born babe. The only credit, if any that I deserve with respect to the founding of CPAT is that I somehow imagined it to be a good thing.
I had become deeply concerned about quality issues in the Dance Department when Elizabeth Bergman, its founding Chair, resigned to take a post at Cal State Northridge in 1982. Vera Embree, the interim chair, was not suited for administrative responsibility, so I chose David Gregory, a composer for dance from Arizona State University, to head the Department, thinking that he would be the best facilitator of interaction among the dance and music faculties. As it turned out, he was a computer geek who had invented a program entitled the Computer Dance Laboratory. Gradually, it became reasonably clear to me that technology of such types would be playing an increasingly important role in the arts in future years.
I also had a transforming experience in Los Angeles at the recording studio of an alumnus, Richard Perry. A young, very talented synthesizer player impressed me with his astonishing musicality. I was curious about this young man’s background, so during a break I engaged him in a conversation—one that greatly altered my view of how our School might evolve. I told this fellow how much I admired his musicianship, and inquired where he had studied music: Mostly on his own, it turned out. When thinking about collegiate work, he had considered only two schools, and had been rejected by both because of a lack of formal exposure to classical composers—rejected despite what clearly were enormous musical gifts. The two schools rejecting this young man’s application: the Toronto Conservatory, and (to my utter dismay) the University of Michigan School of Music. I came back to Ann Arbor determined to address this issue.
David Gregory and David Crawford were my earliest comrades in plotting the future of technology in our School. David Gregory had an especially exciting vision of what might evolve, so I met with Bill Frye requesting an $800,000 seed grant from the Thurnau Trust to establish a rather grandly-named Center for Performing Arts and Technology. During the earliest years, the focus was on basic non-credit courses for faculty and students. Largely as a result of strong student interest, credit-bearing courses eventually were authorized, and slowly a curriculum emerged leading to an undergraduate, and subsequently, a graduate degree. At a crucial point in its short history, Mary Simoni proved to be an ideal leader for CPAT. She negotiated strong alliances with the College of Engineering and with the School of Art and Design, and defined the structure of cross-disciplinary faculty appointments that have yielded rigor and quality in the program. I have been thrilled with the high prominence this program has achieved, and congratulate it on the twenty-fifth anniversary of its founding next fall. The music school’s leadership in technology in the arts had significant influence on the developing plans for the Duderstadt Center; and likewise, close proximity of “The Dude” makes an enormous contribution to CPAT’s vigor.
Jazz and Improvisation Studiesslowly inched its way into the fabric of music school life. Although there had long been a little jazz band, it was never taken seriously by anyone, and actually was squelched during the Revelli years. Then came Ed Sarath. I’ve sometimes claimed that the most important appointment I made to the faculty was he. A talented dreamer, gifted jazz artist, and something of a “space cadet”, I’ve often been moved and captivated by his ideas about teaching. I appreciate his transforming notions about teaching basic musicianship in the theory curriculum.
He created an ensemble called the Creative Arts Orchestra that many faculty colleagues regard as uniquely helpful in the musical development of their performance students. Recently, Sarath has developed more of his ideas on creative consciousness courses that may be path breaking in the University. Ed is not particularly skilled in organizational matters, but fortunately another highly regarded jazz artist and teacher whom I appointed is: Ellen Rowe, a wonderful pianist, now manages the undergraduate program. Together with a select group of newer colleagues, they have led a program to significant national recognition.
Early in my deanship I benefited from the friendly guidance of Alan F. Smith, a Professor of Law, Dean of the Law School, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and later Acting-President of the University. I asked him what actual authority I had as dean. He outlined the formal responsibilities, noted some ambiguities in the role, and basically said I should do “anything I could get away with” but under no circumstances to “(expletive deleted) with the curriculum”: that was the faculty’s responsibility. I understood this dictum, but it didn’t keep me from prodding occasionally when concerns arose. In the late ‘80s, I appointed a committee, chaired by Associate Dean David Crawford (a musicologist), to reconsider the structure and content of the courses in music history that were part of the core curriculum. I charged this committee to address the needs of students in the 21st Century. I posed questions about a proper balance in the study of the traditional canon of Western European art music as dramatically augmented by a sincere and serious consideration of other music of the world—including that of the American continent. I was happy when this committee recommended significant modifications to the core curriculum: A first term introducing students to the music of various non-Western cultures (initially taught by a flamboyant ethnomusicologist, William Malm); and a second term celebrating the music culture of the United States (originally taught by Richard Crawford, the persuasive scholar of American music). Not until after this initial immersion did the second year pursue a somewhat condensed history of traditional Western European art music. Somewhat comparable to the introduction of the Bachelor of Musical Arts degree, this curriculum change had a national impact as sister institutions learned of the Michigan plan and began emulating it.
In the latter ‘80s, I was invited to several important responsibilities not normally associated with a music deanship. I was flattered at the time, and retain considerable pride to date in the accomplishment of these assignments.
For decades, there had been a perceived need for a campus police force. I was asked to chair a Task Force on Campus Safety and Security, work that would occupy me for almost two years. At least four attempts had been made in previous decades to address the issues of student, staff, and faculty safety on the campus, but these always faltered because of suspicions about the police, and the paranoia about any kind of authority frequently cultivated among academics. With helpful information from a monumental study undertaken by the Institute for Social Research, excellent staff support provided by Bill Sturgis, and the steadfast support of President James Duderstadt and Vice President Farris Womack, the final recommendations of this committee led to the establishing of a campus security force. The report generated enormous controversy on the campus and all the Detroit television stations sought interviews with me to defend our recommendations. Of course, the Michigan Daily was outraged that there were going to be campus cops. Contemplating now the several harrowing experiences that have occurred on other campuses, I consider the adoption of this task force’s report to be one of my most significant contributions as a citizen of the University. Throughout the deliberations of my committee, I never told anyone that my father was the Sheriff of Columbia County, Wisconsin, for many years.
I also chaired a Task Force on University Events. This committee came about largely as a result of Regents’ discontent over rowdy student behavior at commencement ceremonies. I recall that Regent Tom Roach said that he would not participate in another commencement unless something was done. In charging our committee, President Duderstadt asked us to look broadly at many of the University’s events for students. We eventually recommended the decentralization of commencement ceremonies to the schools and colleges (which continues to date). We also noted the inadequacy of student recognition ceremonies such as the Freshman Convocation, the Honors Assembly, and, in general, we were highly critical of the Office of Student Services in the University. Much to his credit, President Duderstadt took decisive action, moving Henry Johnson, the incumbent Vice President for Student Services, to the Alumni Association, and appointing a talented, energetic Vice President, Maureen Hartford, to transform that office.
I chaired a Committee on the Renovation of Hill Auditorium over an intensive period of many months, and now and again for several years afterward. At the conclusion of our work, we submitted a formal proposal to the Regents for renovations and expansion of this landmark facility. It was an excellent proposal, in my opinion, including significantly expanded space to the North of the existing hall providing urgently-needed backstage space, and a complete renovation of the existing interior and exterior of the building. Oddly to me, the single largest cost in this proposal was the cost of air conditioning the hall. Albert Kahn Associates, original architects of Hill, the Ann Arbor firm Quinn-Evans Associates that are world renowned for the excellence of their restoration work, and (after a “hissy fit” thrown by yours truly when a second-rate acoustician was proposed), the distinguished acoustician Lawrence Kirkegard were members of the team working to restore the glory of what some persons referred to as the “University’s front room”. The initial projected cost of construction if the work had been authorized in the early 1990s was approximately twenty million dollars. Unfortunately, the project was delayed for several years (until after I had retired in the year 2000) and even then the project had to be scaled back significantly.
On a personal note, I acknowledge being disappointed and offended that I was not invited to the re-dedication ceremonies when the project finally was completed. I had spent years in pursuit of this goal, and it would have meant a great deal to me to be present at its realization. I’ve come to view this as typical ingratitude by the University. It would probably require a modern-day Thorstein Veblen to explain organizational behavior of this sort, but I have witnessed time and again how Michigan uses talented and dedicated people until it has exhausted them, at which point it moves on without a backward glance. It seems to chew people up and spit them out. It may be that dynamic organizations in pursuit of the ultimate in quality simply can’t waste time and effort on sentimentality. It’s an unattractive fact of U-M life in any case.
The final decade of my deanship involved a considerable change in responsibilities. Practically all of the innovations I had advocated had been implemented. My focus was now on bringing stability to these programs. I concentrated on the recruitment of minority faculty members, eventually bringing almost two dozen to the faculty. I appointed the first female senior administrator, Lynne Aspnes, as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
In the University, this was an exciting time. The appointment of James Duderstadt as President brought a new energy and focus to that office not seen since the presidency of James Angell. He transformed the research environment at Michigan and made the University a pre-eminent research powerhouse on the national scene. In my opinion, the value and importance of this work could scarcely be over-stated. He led a billion dollar capital campaign that transformed much of the physical plant of the campus, and with the help of Farris Womack, greatly expanded the endowment supporting the University’s teaching and research missions. He created important, effective incentives for increasing the number of minorities on faculties, and provided increased support for minority students. He was practically obsessed with the benefits of cross-disciplinary programs, and since some of them made a positively transforming impact on the School of Music, I was too. While acknowledging that I am still in the minority on the topic, I believe that in the long view of history, James Duderstadt will be seen as one of the three or four greatest presidents of the University of Michigan. I was devastated when he resigned the presidency, not because we were close friends (we weren’t), but because I thought that he was doing stellar work. I deeply regret the ignominy of his last days as President. I never understood the antipathy that developed between him and the Regents; it may be that Jim is just so intellectually agile that he could scarcely mask his disdain for certain of those elected officials.
I was asked by Provost Gil Whitaker to chair a committee to oversee policies and procedures for the fundraising campaign Duderstadt was undertaking. This committee provided a significant contribution to the success of the campaign in that it addressed contentious issues of access to major donors (often schools and colleges were competing for the same donors’ attention), it established a hierarchy of priorities for fund-raising (bricks and mortar projects, scholarship endowments, endowed professorships, et al), and brought a cold dose of reality to the fund-raising aspirations of the schools and colleges, many deans of which had far more grandiose plans than their prowess could possibly produce. The campaign was a smashing success, more than meeting its billion dollar goal despite a notable lack of leadership in the critical office of the Vice President for Development (three individuals served in this post during the course of the campaign!). I’m very proud of the role I played, and of other committee members’ contributions to the success of the campaign. Our committee was kept active with me as chair for a full decade; after the campaign concluded, we addressed key issues and provided much-needed coherence in fund-raising priorities for the University.
President Duderstadt instituted a lecture series on ”University Values” that was viewed as fairly prestigious. I was gratified by an invitation to speak, and worked hard on my lecture. I chose the topic “Artists in the Academy” and sought to offer a powerful, persuasive appreciation for the role of arts in a university. Almost as an aside, I took this occasion also to address a contentious issue then before the University community: that the Regents should provide for protection against discrimination against gays and lesbians comparable to that guaranteed to other minorities. As a courtesy to the executive officers of the University, I provided copies of my text well in advance of the speech. My boss (yes, such a role exists in a university, whether academics care to acknowledge it or not) was the Provost—at that time, Gil Whitaker. He was not entirely comfortable with my quite brief aside about gays and lesbians, concerned that it might offend some of the more conservative Regents. I proceeded with my statement anyhow, received heartwarming appreciation from gay colleagues throughout the University, and was extremely pleased when such discrimination was expressly prohibited by Regental action in subsequent years.
In 1993 I accepted an ancillary appointment as Vice Provost for the Arts. In retrospect, I think I was invited to a smallish role in the central administration of the University mainly because the President was a nuclear engineer, and the Provost was a business administration economist. They needed a humanist, and I was close enough. My vision for this post was never realized, mostly because of excessive turnover in the office of the provost, and the resignation of Duderstadt. But for the record, I note that as Vice Provost for the Arts I appointed Bryan Rogers as Dean of the School of Art and Design, and he has provided remarkably fine leadership for that school. I also brought in James Steward as Director of the Museum of Art, and he too proved to be a wonderful academic leader for the museum, a skilled fund-raiser, and a formidable advocate for improved facilities, overseeing construction of the sizeable addition to the museum.
Because we had serious difficulty attracting a Director for the new Media Union, I was assigned administrative oversight for this facility during the early years of its operation. Happily Randy Frank and Michael Miller were highly capable professionals, so my responsibilities were mostly centered on keeping fiscal order, and refereeing occasional conflicts between users over access to the wonderful facilities. I was thrilled when this fine facility was named for Jim and Anne Duderstadt. It was totally his vision and support that lead to its creation. I think Jim likes that students refer to it as “The Dude”.
When the committee searching for Duderstadt’s replacement as President named Lee Bollinger to succeed him, initially I was very pleased (as most of the campus seemed to be). Years before, when Bollinger was new in the deanship of the law school, I had been asked to serve as a mentor, and so I was highly complimented but not especially surprised when he asked me to preside at his inauguration ceremony as President. I thought that I knew him well, appreciated his interest in the arts, especially music, and I admired his intellectual curiosity and breadth. His initial focus on the life sciences seemed important to me at the time, but in retrospect, it proved derivative—the fashionable undertaking of every major research university in the country.
It’s my opinion that something veered horribly wrong in his presidency. For a man with sterling academic credentials and experience, he seemed weirdly obtuse about how to be a good, effective president. The old saw that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” began to make sense in Ann Arbor. First off, anything that had ever been on Jim Duderstadt’s agenda—and there remained some splendid items there—was automatically anathema. I found Bollinger’s self-promotion relentless, and his arrogance insufferable.
His whining about the inadequacies of the Fleming Building as location of his office seemed shallow, insulting to Bob Fleming, and an affront to the Towsley family that has been tremendously generous to the University in time, talent, and dollars, a member of which, Alden Dow, was architect of the Fleming Building. During his time at Dartmouth, Bollinger had become enamored of the theories and processes of architects Venturi Scott Brown. I emphasize the words “theories and processes” because, for a fairly well known design firm, the portfolio of its work actually built is notably thin. Some wags thought that Bollinger and the husband-wife team of Venturi Scott Brown were compatible because the architects were as dismissive of others’ ideas as was the President. Bollinger soon loosed them on the Michigan campus to trample rough shod over various Plant Extension officers on all sorts of quixotic design missions, the most infamous of which was the “halo” surrounding Michigan Stadium (later removed). My desultory experience with them came about during the earliest planning for the Arthur Miller Theater, during which they demonstrated scant interest in what users of the theater might need and want, in favor of their own insular ideas. At the time, I was chair of the theater building committee (at least in name; with Bollinger, one never quite knew “who’s on first”). As with the renovation of Hill Auditorium, the Miller Theater project did not reach completion until several years after I had retired, but in this case I am glad of it since VSB and its cockeyed notions were long gone by then.
In my rather long history with Michigan central administrators, I’d had only the highest respect for their probity, and kindest regard for their generous instinct to serve. It was an honor to be associated with them. After Bollinger came, that began to change for me, and for others as well. He surrounded himself with a cadre of defensive (some might say “offensive”) vice presidents who no longer saw their principal role as supportive of the academic mission of the University, but rather occupied themselves building fiefdoms and trying to exert their authority where they had no business doing so.
I thought his appointment of Nancy Cantor as Provost was especially ill advised. From the first it seemed to be a cynical political gambit calculated to neutralize the former supporters of Edie Goldenberg’s recent candidacy for the presidency that Bollinger had won. He and Cantor never seemed compatible in administrative style, academic priorities, or temperament. They clashed. She was aggressive, often ill tempered, frequently intrusive in all the wrong ways into the affairs of the schools and colleges, making life tedious for the deans.
For me, it seemed time to retire. I would soon be sixty years of age. I had been at Michigan as student, teacher, and administrator for thirty-eight of those years—twenty-one of those as Dean. I had been given opportunities to serve for which I will never be able adequately to express my gratitude. I felt that I had done good work for the School of Music. In the year 2000, the School was (and I believe, remains) a vibrant pinnacle on the landscape of the arts in American higher education. Its endowment, less than a million dollars when I became Dean, now stood at more than fifty million: a strong bulwark against mediocrity. Now it felt like time to say good-bye. I ended my last “Message from the Dean” to readers of Music at Michigan in May 2000, with four words. They’ll do nicely here, too: Ars longa. Go Blue!
Given the tenor of my penultimate paragraph, any reader who will have pushed through this far will not be surprised that I was comforted when my retirement memoir from the University arrived in 2002, signed by my friend and long-time colleague, Joseph White, who was then serving as Interim President of the University. Things were in good hands again.
March 23, 2011