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The End of the Hutchins Era at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions

Harry S. Ashmore



[Reprinted from The Center Magazine, November-December 1984]


Harry S. Ashmore (1916-1998) was a Pulitzer-Prize-winning editor and author who was associated with Robert Maynard Hutchins and his Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions from its inception. In 1954, when he was executive editor of the Arkansas Gazette, he joined the Board of Directors of the Fund for the Republic, which in 1959 established the Center. He joined Hutchins in Santa Barbara that year. As executive vice-president and president, he served as chief operating officer until 1973 and continued as a Senior Fellow and board member until the Fund was liquidated in 1979. He authored many books, including Hearts and Minds: The Anatomy of Racism from Roosevelt to Reagan (McGraw-Hill).


Loyal alumni of Harvard, Oxford, the Sorbonne, or Heidelberg no doubt were prepared to dispute the claim Robert Hutchins made on behalf of the institution he headed for twenty-two eventful years. But this was a matter of degree; the dissenters had to concede that the educational reforms he initiated, and the distinguished faculty he recruited, had earned Chicago a place in the top rank of the world's great universities.

Nor was there much quarrel at the time with his appraisal of the Center, although there were those who contended that even one was too many. The educational enterprise he founded in 1959 in an old mansion atop Eucalyptus Hill in Santa Barbara was unique by its nature and remained so as long as it functioned under his control.

Because of this, the Center was always difficult to explain. Since there was no institution with which to compare it, some in the media misapplied the usual stereotypes; those on the left tended to dismiss it as an ivory tower removed from reality, while those on the right suspected it of being a hotbed of insurrection. Thus, almost a decade after its launching, Hutchins titled his Britannica lecture "The Truth About the Center," finding it necessary to explain to even so sympathetic an audience what his brainchild was not:

"It is not a think tank hired to do the planning that public agencies or private businesses cannot or will not do for themselves. Neither is it a refuge for scholars who want to get away from it all and do their research and write their books. It is an organized group, rather than a collection of individuals. It is an organization of men who are free of any obligation except to join in an effort to understand the subjects they have selected for study. It is a community. And, since its members are trying to think together, it may be called, at least in potentiality, an intellectual community."

Hutchins had concluded that there was no place for such an undertaking in a conventional educational institution. At Chicago he had acted on his conviction that the university should be a paradigm of what he called the Civilization of the Dialogue, a center of independent thought and criticism. The effort was only partially successful, but it made him the most celebrated, or, depending upon one's point of view, notorious educator of his time.

When he joined the newly enriched Ford Foundation in 1951 as associate director, he tried (and failed) to persuade the trustees to endow a permanent, free-standing institution where the world's best minds could be assembled to consider the basic issues affecting a rapidly changing society. In 1954 he left the Foundation to take over a not-unrelated enterprise for which he had obtained a grant of fifteen million dollars -- the Fund for the Republic, created by Ford to defend American civil liberties at a time when they had come under attack in and out of Congress.

Only a stern sense of duty could have prompted so experienced a controversialist to undertake such a mission at a #me when the anti-Communist excesses of the McCarthy era were being matched by the upsurge of racial prejudice engendered by the civil rights movement. Hutchins, however, saw it as a matter of defending the faith he inherited from a long line of Calvinist preachers and teachers:

"That was ... faith in the independent mind. Its educational consequences were belief in free inquiry and discussion. Its political consequences were belief in democracy, but only in a democracy in which the minority, even a minority of one, could continue to differ and be heard. Those who desire to conform, but are prohibited or hindered from doing so by intolerance and prejudice must be aided; the nonconformist conscience must not be stifled. Hence my interest in the Fund for the Republic."

"A group of the most responsible, respectable, and successful business and professional men in the country have banded together in a Herculean effort to roll back the creeping tide of what is known as McCarthyism," Eric Sevareid said of the board of directors Hutchins assembled for the Fund. In 1954 I was invited to join that company, having attracted Hutchins' attention when I headed a task force on the prospects of school desegregation sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

As a grant-making philanthropy, the Fund for the Republic supported church, educational, and social service organizations when they came under attack for attempting to apply the principles of the Bill of Rights. This made Hutchins and his associates prime targets for the right-wing press, and prompted efforts to put the Fund out of business by lifting its tax-exempt status. The jousting with congressional investigating committees produced spectacular headlines, but amid the alarums and excursions Hutchins continued to work on his plan to establish a new institution to study the deeper issues he was convinced lay, unexamined, beneath the surface of the current turmoil.

In 1957 the board authorized him to recruit a group of part-time consultants to undertake a pilot "basic issues" project. The twelve he chose were representatives of the kind of "great minds" he hoped ultimately to attract to a permanent center. Among them were A. A. Berle, member of the original New Deal "brains trust"; William O. Douglas, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Clark Kerr, chancellor and later president of the University of California; Henry R. Luce, editor and publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune; the distinguished theologians, Reinhold Niebuhr of Union Theological Seminary and John Courtney Murray, S.J., of Woodstock College; and Isidor I. Rabi, Nobel laureate in physics, of Columbia University.

All but one of the twelve were, or had been, educators, and the range of their disciplines was significant, for a primary objective was to break through the specialization Hutchins considered the bane of the usual department-ridden faculty. All were strong-minded and notably articulate, having demonstrated interests and capacities that convinced him they were qualified to function in the realm of what he, borrowing from Aristotle, called "practical philosophy."

The initial charge to the consultants was to examine the extent to which the principles of freedom and justice set forth in the nation's founding documents could be said to apply to institutions and processes profoundly altered by two centuries of technological and demographic change, Each selected an area of study and was provided staff assistance; collectively they set out to consider the current status of the corporation, the trade union, the common defense, religion, the mass media, political parties, pressure groups, and professional associations.

With varying degrees of commitment, the consultants worked on their studies at their home bases and gathered periodically for open-ended joint discussion. The loose procedure had obvious short-comings, but these, as far as Hutchins was concerned, only supported his contention that a fully realized dialogue would require a residential center with full-tinie participants. These preliminary investigations, he felt, sustained his central proposition:

"No existing theory of politics, economics, society, or international relations can explain or account for the facts of contemporary life. Our situation has changed too fast for our ideas, and so our ideas have degenerated into slogans. ...Most of us retain individualistic, liberal ideas, but we live in a bureaucratic culture. It remains to be seen whether our ideals can be made applicable to our culture, or whether we can make our culture conform to our ideals."

In June, 1959, Hutchins reported to the board that he had located a suitable site in California for what was to become the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. He was authorized to shut down the philanthropic operations and devote the Fund's remaining resources to the new enterprise, thus ending the already remote prospect of further subsidy from Ford. The Foundation, as protective coloration, had always stressed the fact that its controversial offshoot was a wholly independent agency. Now, Hutchins observed, it was also wholly disinherited.

The new Center would require an annual budget of about $1,500,000, and the residue of the Ford money would guarantee three years of operation. If it had not by then acquired sufficient new support, liquidation costs would be covered by equity in the 41.4-acre Montecito estate the Fund had acquired at a bargain price of $250,000, with California friends of Hutchins putting up one hundred thousand dollars to convert the main building into offices and conference facilities.

By September what remained of the staff of the Fund for the Republic was installed in the Spanish-style edifice Hutchins dubbed "El Parthenon" in ironic acknowledgement of the suspicion that he was about to establish there some kind of highfalutin Platonic academy. At sixty, conscious that it would be his last stand, he at last had a license to create the kind of intellectual community he had conceived at least two decades before. But he did not yet have the means.

A primary problem, as it would be until the end of his tenure, was personnel. The senior staff of the Fund had been assembled for purposes wholly unrelated to the central function of the new Center, but those who elected to make the move to Santa Barbara had worked with the consultants on the basic issues program, and, in addition to their administrative functions, would continue to do so as participants in the dialogue.

What the new Center did not have was the undivided attention of the certified great minds the core activity obviously required. Only one of the consultants, the philosopher Scott Buchanan, was available on a full-time basis. Men of such standing could not be expected to make a career change unless Hutchins could find the means of providing an adequate income and a guarantee of permanence. The first he thought manageable; in those preinflation days the salary scale of the University of California, with a top around twenty-five thousand dollars, provided a comfortable living in one of the world's most attractive cities; that, plus the prospect of being freed of the more mundane aspects of campus life, should be sufficient to attract those with the cast of mind he sought. Without an endowment, or its equivalent, however, he could not provide the most cherished of academic emoluments, tenure.

The best he could do was to bring out some of the consultants for varying lengths of tune to work with the resident staff on studies now billed as an effort to "identify and define the basic issues of our time, and widen the circles of discussion about them." The second provision was a response to the fear of some directors that the new Center was in danger of becoming a place where elitist intellectuals spoke only to each other. The answer was to find a way to disseminate the dialogue beyond the reach of publications distributed without charge to a limited circle of scholars and opinion leaders. To that end Hutchins asked me to join him in Santa Barbara, and in October, 1959, I began the day-to-day association that was to continue for the rest of his life.

Hutchins had hoped to keep the Center free of the contractual arrangements under which "think tanks" received compensation from government or industry for specific services rendered. But now he felt constrained to accept an offer from his Yale classmate, William Benton, who had acquired Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1943 and made Hutchins chairman of its board of editors. Benton proposed that the Center collaborate in advance planning for a complete revision of the twenty-four-volume set. If this was something of a diversion from the Center's stated purposes, the effort to refurbish the ancient "compendium of human knowledge" at least was related to the idea of dialogue.

Over the next five years the $1,869,379 received from the publishing company made it possible to bring into the Center's orbit more than 150 of the world's ranking scholars. But, in the end, the new edition, scheduled for 1968 to mark Britannica's two-hundredth anniversary, was postponed for internal business reasons. As the encyclopaedia's interim editor-in-chief, I had assigned thirteen near-book-length essays to distinguished authors charged with appraising the "orders" of human society under a Hutchinsian injunction to deal with "man in his world, not academic man in an academic world." My tenure ended with their publication in the three-volume Britannica Perspectives issued for the bicentennial, and Hutchins asked me to stay on at the Center as executive vice-president.

Seven others who had been engaged in the encyclopaedia project were to become full-time participants in the basic issues program: Stringfellow Barr, historian and former president of St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland; Elisabeth Mann Borgese, essayist and daughter of the German novelist, Thomas Mann; Ritchie Calder, a Scots science writer and professor at Edinburgh University; John Cogley, author of the Fund's study on blacklisting and later religion editor of The New York Times; William German, general editor of the Syntopicon of the Great Books of the Western World; Harvey Wheeler, political scientist at Washington and Lee University of Lexington, Virginia; and John Wilkinson, philosopher-mathematician at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Although still imperfectly implemented, the dialogue was now beginning to take shape as Hutchins originally conceived it -- a continuing, open-ended interchange among twelve to sixteen full-time participants, augmented by visiting specialists as deemed appropriate. At the regular 11:00 a.m. session a discussion leader was given twenty minutes to present a topic, usually defined in a paper distributed in advance. Hutchins presided, but rarely felt it necessary to interrupt a tape-recorded conversation that proceeded at its own pace through lunch, and could be resumed the next day if the topic warranted.

Some of the consultants or other scholars of comparable reputation were usually at the table, providing the special perspectives of their disciplines. They were joined by younger academics who had attracted the attention of the seniors. Also at the table were participants with no claim to scholarly credentials -- journalists, public officials, practicing lawyers, and the like who were welcomed by Hutchins for the linkage they provided between theory and practice.

The search was not for solutions, but for clarification. "We are not here to tell people what to think," Hutchins said. "If we succeed, we may tell them what they should be thinking about." To a limited extent that goal was achieved in the notable publications that emerged from what some still look back on as the Center's "golden age." But the available talent still fell short of providing the sustained meeting of great minds Hutchins sought, and it did not attract the financial support the ideal dialogue required.

When it became clear that no other foundation was interested in picking up where Ford left off, the board approved a series of highly publicized convocations in major cities featuring speakers and panelists celebrated enough to attract wealthy individual donors. But the participants, Hutchins insisted, also had to be qualified to deal seriously with the basic issues as they were being defined in Santa Barbara. The format had a successful test run in January, 1962, when a blue-ribbon audience of 1,500 assembled in the ballroom of the Americana Hotel in New York City for a day and a half of addresses, followed by a panel discussion.

With the more notable Center directors and consultants ornamenting the platform, the guest speakers included United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson; Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy; Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz; Arthur F. Burns of the Federal Reserve Board; Admiral Hyman Rickover; Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minow; U.S. Senators Clifford P. Case, Joseph Clark, and J. William Fulbright; Pierre Mendes-France, former Prime Minister of France; Jose Figueres, former President of Costa Rica; Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish economist; and, from Great Britain, Lord Hailsham, Minister of Science; Lord James, vice-chancellor of York University; and Lord Francis-Williams, journalist and critic.

The international character of the guest list reflected Hutchins' growing conviction that the basic issues could not be considered solely in terms of domestic concerns. He had long been a leading figure in the effort to establish a world order under an international rule of law. Now the cold war had chilled the hope that the United Nations might provide the beginning step, and the peril posed by nuclear weapons was much on the mind of the man who had brought together at Chicago the scientists who split the atom.

Within the year the Center was preparing for the first of a series of convocations taking their title from the Pacem in Terris encyclical of Pope John XXIII, which called for new dialogue between East and West on the requirements of peace. On a more modest scale donors were also sought at luncheons, dinners, and receptions hosted by directors and other supporters. Hundreds of "founding members," mostly from Southern California, pledged a thousand dollars a year for five years. Major gifts came from new board members attracted by the visibility the Center attained through this outburst of highly publicized activity.

Still, it wasn't enough. Gross income was up, but so was overhead, and annual deficits had whittled away the residue of the Ford money. I began to investigate the possibility of using direct mail to acquire a broad-based membership that could, through a modest annual subscription, provide a steady source of income. This would require a periodical publication to replace the pamphlets, bulletins, and occasional papers distributed free.

There was automatic protest from some academics at the Center who thought they detected a whiff of "publish or perish." Hutchins had no objection in principle, but doubted that a magazine could pay its own way. The project was saved by an angel who appeared in the wake of an unexpected telephone call from Linus Pauling, the distinguished scientist whose antinuclear crusade had put him at odds with the administration of the California Institute of Technology. When he inquired if the Center would like to add to its company, without cost, a two-time Nobel Prize winner, Hutchins concluded it was a proposition he couldn't turn down.

Chester Carlson, a former student of Pauling who made a fortune out of his invention of Xerox, had offered to provide an adequate income for his old mentor if he elected to resign from CalTech. In September, 1963, Pauling moved to Santa Barbara, but his interest in the Center never extended beyond its concern with arms control. His sponsor, however, was fascinated by the dialogue, and interested in making its results widely available.

Over four years Carlson made annual gifts totaling $4,103,758.27 with the understanding that they should make possible a national membership campaign. The Center Magazine was launched, with John Cogley as editor, and within two years it had a hundred thousand subscribers who each contributed ten dollars or more in annual dues. Pleased with this result, Carlson offered an additional five million dollars to establish a subsidiary communications corporation to extend the Center's reach by all feasible means, including television. He died suddenly before the arrangement was completed, but his will included a bequest of $4,621,401.96. This is as close as the Center ever came to solvency. It now seemed possible that half the projected budget might be derived from membership dues, and the board agreed to launch an endowment campaign to guarantee the other half. For the first time Hutchins could look to the future with some assurance that there would be one for the institution he had created.

Although he always spoke of the Center as an intellectual community, and gave its members wide latitude in determining the style of their individual contributions, Hutchins appointed the participants, and, through sheer force of personality, determined the scope of the program. The most senior of the resident scholars, Scott Buchanan, noted that his old friend possessed "an almost overpowering air of authority."

Now, at sixty-five, recognizing that there were actuarial limits to this one-man rule, Hutchins began insisting that the board launch a search for his replacement The directors, winnowed by controversy of all but Hutchins loyalists, paid no attention. They were waiting for the founder to indicate his choice, which he refused to do on the ground that this would be "laying the dead hand of the past on my successor." The impasse was never to be resolved.

Hutchins concluded that the solution might be to make the "faculty" of the Center so truly autonomous the dialogue would continue on its self-determined way no matter who might hold the title of president. To that end he imported a dean -- John Seeley, a gentle nonconformist sociologist from Brandeis University -- to seek improvement in the loose organization of the eighteen regular dialogue participants, now designated as "Fellows."

After months of maundering discussion, the president handed his dean a note: "I am gradually coming to the conclusion that, much to my regret, self-government of this group as it is at present is impossible. Members of the present group are not by mere membership -- in many cases accidental -- qualified to 'be' the Center. Members are not actuated (in all cases) by a desire to achieve the common good. They are expressing their 'individuality* or individual prejudices often without regard to the topic under discussion...."

On May 7, 1968, Hutchins announced to the assembled Fellows that the time had come to "refound" the Center. The method would be for him to name himself a Senior Fellow, choose one more, and then by unanimous vote select others from the present body and from outside. Remarkably, there was no audible dissent. Two days later the board unanimously approved the scheme, and provided generous severance pay for those who would be removed from the payroll.

The reality of pending unemployment soon erased the aura of amity. Hutchins' choice as the second Senior Fellow, Harvey Wheeler, moved to block the refounding procedure. He didn't consider any of the current fellows worthy and refused to concur in any appointment until Hutchins agreed to seek acceptance by leading scholars of the Western world. The effort was made, by telephone and cable, but none was available on such short notice. When Wheeler finally yielded, Rexford Guy Tug-well, John Wilkinson, Elisabeth Mann Borgese, John Cogley, and I were anointed. Two others doubtless would have been, but Scott Buchanan was dead, and Stringfellow Barr was anxious to get back to Princeton.

Some of those passed over were kept on the payroll in administrative or associate status. Five others, including Dean Seeley and Bishop James Pike, reluctantly accepted severance pay. But W. H. Ferry, the original vice-president of the Fund, who had been instrumental in its creation by Ford, refused the two years' salary he was offered, and went to court to challenge the Center's right to fire him. The litigation, after producing voluminous depositions, much unfavorable publicity, and substantial legal fees, was finally settled on the basis of the original offer. It was not, one of the lawyers observed, a quarrel over money, but a divorce action, marked by the usual bitterness.

With seven Senior Fellows in place, and consultations proceeding with leading scholars hi the search for others, Hutchins returned to his effort to "constitutionalize" the Center. The board agreed formally to vest control of the academic program in the Senior Fellows, but it pointedly did not extend this self-government to include budgetary or administrative matters. I was named president, but this was only a change in title; Hutchins, as chairman of the board and of the Senior Fellows, was designated chief executive officer.

Despite the internal dislocations, the Center continued to produce papers that attracted favorable attention to The Center Magazine, and edited tape cassettes of the dialogue sessions were in demand by institutions and individuals. Its "external affairs" received respectful media coverage, including extended broadcasts on public television and radio. The first Pacem in Terris convocation, scheduled over three days in New York City in February, 1965, brought together wbat Life magazine described as "an extraordinary assemblage of the world's shakers and movers" from both sides of the Iron Curtain, marking the first time intellectual leaders from the Soviet bloc had exchanged views with their opposite numbers in an unofficial public setting.

But the Vietnam war was heating up, and the country entered another season of polarized public opinion. President Lyndon Johnson sent Vice-President Hubert Humphrey to open the first Pacem in Terris convocation, but, by the time the second was convened in Geneva in May, 1967, the Johnson Administration was actively trying to sabotage it. Like all those who began to question the validity of the nation's intervention in Vietnam, the Center came under new attack from supporters of the war.

A radical "New Politics" meeting in Santa Barbara attended by militant young black leaders, with which the Center had nothing to do, brought on an eruption by Everett Dirksen, the Senate Republican leader, and the Chicago Tribune chimed in. "The Justice Department should stop fiddling and go after those who are working toward the friction point of revolution and all their 'angels,' not excepting the Santa Barbara clique and rich patrons, with more money than brains, who enjoy conniving at their own destruction."

Few at the Center responded to the "radical chic" appeal of the black militants, but a good many felt a tug of sympathy for the campus-born counterculture. One of these was Dean Seeley, who cherished the notion that the young, by rejecting the structures and most of the restraints of contemporary society, were ushering in a new, more humane era. But any notion that this was the dominant theme of the burgeoning youth movement was rudely dispelled when the Center brought together a group of student leaders from leading campuses to explain what they were really about.

The Santa Barbara News-Press reported that "a master plan of how best to destroy the American university system as it is today seemed to be the goal of [the] conference...." The student body president of staid Washington University in St. Louis explained that this was only the beginning of an effort to overthrow the entire government, and called for terrorism on a scale that would "demoralize and castrate America." The Center had agreed to hear the students out before their seniors offered comment, with the result that the rejection of this kind of radical cant by most of the Fellows never effectively caught up with news reports that featured the most incendiary statements by the young rebels.

By the close of the turbulent sixties, the Center was under fire from the New Left as well as the Old Right. There was irony in this, for Hutchins had always preached Utopian ideals to the young, and in that sense he had been a generation ahead of the movement that wracked the nation's leading campuses. In the Depression year 1935 he told the graduating class at Chicago:

"I am not worried about your economic future. I am worried about your morals. ...Believe me, you are closer to the truth now than you ever will be again. Do not let 'practical' men tell you that you should surrender your ideals because they are unpractical. Do not be reconciled to dishonesty, indecency, and brutality because gentlemanly ways have been discovered of being dishonest, indecent, and brutal. …Courage, temperance, liberality, honor, justice, wisdom, reason, and understanding, these are still the virtues."

But these virtues were conspicuously missing in a movement that exalted the sensory at the expense of the rational. To Hutchins, reason and morality were inseparable. Education, as he defined it, was not possible without self-discipline; its purpose was a quest for the good life, which was also the virtuous life.

This view, presumably shared by all those chosen as Senior Fellows or Associates of the refounded Center, did not preclude participants who might be labeled liberal or conservative, or, as was the case with some, essentially apolitical. But there was no effort to guarantee ideological balance, for Hutchins felt strongly that this would only result in the kind of meaningless standoff that characterized television talk shows and campus conferences that made a fetish of "presenting both sides."

In September, 1970, the Center published the thirty-seventh draft of a model constitution written by Rexford G. Tugwell, the onetime New Deal brains truster and governor of Puerto Rico. The elegant nee-Federalist Papers in which he set forth the results of years of processing his ideas through the Center dialogue represented the culmination of the original basic issues program. The dialogue had moved beyond constitutional matters, or at least had begun to project them on a supranational scale.

Unprecedented issues raised by the technological revolution were typified by the conflicts of interest that arose when new techniques made possible exploitation of the mineral riches of the seabeds. Recognizing that this was bound to alter the historic concept of international waters devoid of national sovereignty, the Center sponsored a Pacem in Maribus convocation in Malta that became the first hi the series Elisabeth Borgese was to organize over the next decade.

It was a busy and reasonably successful time intellectually, less so financially. The membership, leveling out around one hundred thousand, covered the cost of an expanded publications and external affairs program. The endowment campaign, however, never got off the ground, and the inhibiting uncertainty as to the Center's future was accentuated when Hutchins developed an aneurism and had to undergo open heart surgery. He fully recovered, but was soon plagued by a bladder tumor that required radical treatment.

The board reluctantly yielded to his insistence that the Center's survival required new leadership, and a search committee began actively looking for possible candidates. In October, 1973, at the Pacem in Terris III convocation in Washington, the choice was announced: Malcolm Moos, political scientist and former speech-writer for President Dwight Eisenhower, who was scheduled to step down as president of the University of Minnesota the following July.

In the published record of the debacle that followed there is a Rashomon effect, as in the Japanese movie in which heroes and villains exchange places in each participant's account of events in which all took part. This is my version. The new crisis was precipitated when Harvey Wheeler persuaded his old friend Malcolm Moos to support another effort, to be launched even before Moos took office, to clear the decks at the Center. For the Senior Fellows it was a rerun of the "refounding," and it produced a split in the board that proved impossible to heal.

First came what appeared to be the forced resignation of Norton Ginsburg, the Chicago geographer who had replaced Seeley as dean. Then I was notified that the external affairs program, including the Pacem in Terris IV convocation announced in Washington, would be abandoned and that Sander Vanocur, who had been retained as television consultant, was to be fired.

In January, when I finally managed to arrange a meeting with Moos, he received me in the president's house at Minnesota with Harvey Wheeler at his side. I was informed by Moos that all the Senior Fellows were to be immediately terminated except for Wilkinson and the most recent appointee, Alex Comfort, a British gerontologist whose pay at the Center was offset by Comfort's assignment of royalties from his best-seller, The Joy of Sex. It was a procedure I could not possibly support. Neither, I was sure, could Hutchins, and, pending the installation of Moos six months hence, he and I remained the responsible officers of the Fund.

I also considered the proposed changes an exercise in fiscal unreality. To curtail the external affairs program meant curtailing the income it provided, including substantial amounts contributed by directors who strongly supported it. At the same time Moos and Wheeler were outlining a plan to create a "communiversity" -- described as a sort of Rockefeller University of the humanities complete with faculty and students -- which would not only have required major new income, but would have represented a departure from the Center's basic concept.

When the president-elect made his first appearance before the board in February it was evident that his effective support was limited to a minority led by J. R. Parten, a senior board member who had chaired the search committee and felt constrained to support his nominee. Differences within the board were papered over, however, after Moos agreed to a compromise on the outstanding issues.

With no new funding coming in, a drastic reduction in personnel was inevitable. But, under existing policy, this would require a substantial outlay for severance pay and further reduce dwindling resources. Parten had been persuaded that Moos was being undermined by a cabal within the staff, and this provided a rationale for an effort to reduce the severance claims of those targeted for dismissal. A showdown took place at the next board meeting, where there was an unsuccessful effort to remove me for "disloyalty." In May, 1975, the board requested, and received, Moos' resignation, and summoned Hutchins back from retirement.

Insolvency now forced a reorganization that retired the Senior Fellows and most of the administrative staff, leaving on the payroll only seventeen of the sixty-four full-time employees. Severance costs were to be covered by the sale of some of the Santa Barbara acreage. The dialogue would be continued with uncompensated academic participants drawn from university faculties in Southern California and Chicago, where one of the directors, Bernard Weissbourd, offered to provide quarters and underwrite expenses.

The Hutchins loyalists among the retired Senior Fellows continued to participate without pay, and most of those who had signed on as Associates were still willing to take an active, if intermittent role in the Santa Barbara program, with Otis Graham, a history professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, serving as part-time director. In Chicago, Ralph Tyler, a long-time associate of Hutchins, brought in a number of distinguished participants from institutions in the area. This served to maintain an adequate flow of material for Center publications.

It was, of course, no more than a holding operation intended to maintain a base upon which an intellectual community still might be built. Despite the adverse publicity, the prestige of the Center proved about as high as ever when Hutchins insisted that the most effective demonstration of the pared-down institution's viability would be to go ahead with Pacem in Terris IV. In November, 1975, leading figures from both political parties took part in a two-day convocation aimed at defining the foreign policy issues to be faced hi the coming Presidential campaign, and Center members from all over the country came to Washington to swell the audience.

By this time Hutchins' strength was ebbing, and the search for a new leader to take his place seemed as futile as ever. He was still the Center's chief, and indeed only, executive when he died in a Santa Barbara hospital on May 14, 1977.

I was called back by the board as acting president to continue the search for a means of rejuvenating the Center. There were still tangible assets: most of the severance obligations had been paid off, there was valuable equity in the old mansion, and the publications were still a going concern. This turned out to be enough to attract a former colleague of Hutchins' and mine, Maurice Mitchell, who had headed the Encyclopaedia Britannica company, and, for the last decade, had been chancellor of the University of Denver.

Mitchell again made the rounds, but by the spring of 1979, he had concluded that there was no hope of bringing in enough new revenue to make the Center a free-standing institution. In June the board recognized that its choice was between closing down and finding some appropriate institution interested in carrying on, in part at least, the Hutchins tradition. In recent years several such possibilities had been explored, and two of these -- proposals by St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the University of California at Santa Barbara -- were presented for consideration.

The directors chose UCSB, and proceeded to dissolve the Fund for the Republic, Inc., turning over its assets and liabilities with the understanding that the Montecito property would be sold and the proceeds used to establish a Robert Maynard Hutchins Center on the campus at Goleta. None of the directors, except the last chairman, Morris Levinson, and Vesta Hutchins, the founder's widow, was carried over to the new board. The Hutchins era was over.

Any postmortem on the Center as it existed on Eucalyptus Hill must recognize the impossibility of considering the institution apart from its founder. His own public and private appraisals are not much help, for he was a rational moralist who always deprecated his faith and works with a touch of irony. In the absence of divine inspiration, he said, he could never be sure whether he was acting out of conviction or stubbornness. He needed both to maintain the Center as long as he did.

Measured by the terms in which he conceived it, the Center clearly was a failure -- or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it never existed at all. To maintain absolute independence, and attract and hold great minds, it required the guaranteed income it never had. Without the lifetime commitment of men and women of recognized standing it could not achieve the institutional status that might have given it a sustaining reputation in its own right.

Measured by the standards circumstances forced upon it, the Center can, I think, justify its existence. One who goes back over its publications and video-and audiotapes will note the early emergence of a good many seminal ideas that have since gained currency in intellectual circles, and to a lesser extent among the general public. The actions of some of the public figures the Center brought into its orbit surely were influenced by an experience most of them found unique. And, once the ground was broken, there followed a proliferation of institutes where the idea of dialogue is kept alive, even though it has nowhere been exalted to the heights Hutchins sought for it, and often is honored only in the breach.

That was the architectonic idea that shaped Robert Hutchins' life and thought; he used capital letters when he declared that mankind's goal must be the Civilization of the Dialogue, and insisted that the educational system's mission was to prepare us for it. To those who questioned the feasibility of such a notion in an age of cultural fragmentation, he had a standard reply:

"I would remind you of the words variously attributed to William the Silent and Charles the Bold. I have quoted them over and over: 'It is not necessary to hope in order to undertake, nor to succeed in order to persevere.'"