SCARPINO: We are back on and just for the record I, once again, would like to ask you for permission to record the interview, to transcribe the interview, and to deposit the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives for the use of the patrons.
EHRLICH: You have my permission for all those things.
SCARPINO: Thank you so much and thank you for coming back after lunch to sit with me again. We were about to talk about your moving to Stanford University Law School and you actually said a great deal already about the time you served as a professor of law but I’ve been dying to ask you this question. I read somewhere that you and your family drove from Washington to Palo Alto in a car and camped along the way.
EHRLICH: We did.
SCARPINO: That must have been quite an adventure.
EHRLICH: It was great. Yes, it was wonderful fun.
SCARPINO: But, in 1971 through 1975 you served as Dean of the Stanford University Law School and the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law. What attracted you to the dean’s position?
EHRLICH: The chance to engage in what I call institutional architecture which I came to believe would be an interesting and challenging and I hoped rewarding experience to be involved in trying to figure out where an institution should be going and then help shape a future accordingly. As it happened the dean who I followed was the same former assistant to George Ball who had hired me and he took me under his wing to some extent while I was an untenured faculty member and a tenured faculty member and put me in a position to do, to head a program for curricular reform that exposed me to what a lot of faculty were thinking about the school and where it could be going and involved me in aspects of curricular reform at Stanford. When he decided to leave, I was lucky enough to be asked to be the next dean.
SCARPINO: Why do you think the search committee or the faculty of the school picked you over other possible candidates?
EHRLICH: Well they thought I could have had the abilities to lead the school to be a collaborative, engaged leader and a provost who was also instrumental in choosing whom I also knew very well. Stanford had gone through some quite yeasty times before that and I’d been active in, in fact Stanford only started a faculty council, called the faculty senate then, and I was much involved in that. I was vice chair of that. There were sit-ins at Stanford and a lot of damage was done and I was very active in trying to minimize the damage.
SCARPINO: These were sit-ins related to the activism of the late sixties and early seventies.
EHRLICH: Right. All about the war and Stanford’s role in the war. So I had been active in that. I had been active internally in the curricular efforts. So it was, I had some background that people thought would be useful.
SCARPINO: What do you think your successes were as dean?
EHRLICH: Well, when I came as dean, Stanford was in the, the law school was in the old quadrant of the original building built in the 1890s. Very little had been done to fix them up in the preceding 75 years and it really was a mess. We had plans for a new set of buildings but no funds had been raised. So I knew the first thing I had to do was go out and raise $12 million for four new buildings. Doesn’t sound like much these days but it was the first capital campaign that the law school had ever had and I also thought we needed to raise I guess $7 million for faculty support, for student support, for library support. So we launched this big campaign. Really it had begun to be designed but nothing had happened. Because my predecessor had lots of strengths but that wasn’t one of them. And we, I, for the first year, ran very, very hard to raise $19 million as it turned out for the new buildings and for faculty support and students.
SCARPINO: And you did?
EHRLICH: And we did. Yes, we did. I said, I ran as hard as I could for 12 months, from the time I was chosen to the time, for the next summer and fortunately in the late, actually late spring of next year we got our last big gift and most of the money came in.
SCARPINO: These were private donations?
EHRLICH: Private donations. Mainly by people who really didn’t have much to do with the law school before but I saw a chance to do something big and important. So that was the first and that meant I wasn’t, I was involved with hiring faculty but a law school’s a small place. You don’t really, it’s not a big administrative job and in six or eight months you can learn what you need to know about administering it internally. But I didn’t, I really did what isn’t an ideal thing to do which is spend virtually all the time externally for the first year. Having come from inside that wasn’t such a critical failing but it wouldn’t have been my preference but I needed to do that. Fortunately, it worked and we had the money and the next four years were spent finishing the design and then building the set of buildings that are now 37 years old but they seemed brand new at the time. Then the course of the rest of the time I worked on trying to strengthen the faculty and some other steps too. I was involved in a number of external organizations’ efforts too. But it was a time when I began to see, to look—because it’s one of the things a dean should do—where is the legal profession going 10 or 20 years from now and what do you need to do as the dean to prepare your students to best meet the challenges they’re going to face. And I saw something I knew intellectually, I just didn’t really have much feeling for, that a large share of our population was without access to legal services at all. At this time legal services was within the Office of Economic Opportunity. The last days of the Nixon administration congress passed the Legal Services Corporation Act which established legal services as an independent government corporation. Ironically, I think the only time I spoke out on a public issue while I was dean was the Saturday night massacre when Archie Cox was forced out and others in the justice department left with him and I and the Dean of Stanford and Yale were together and we jointly issued a press statement saying this was totally violative of the way we thought justice ought to be administered in the U.S. But in any event, Legal Services Corporation was started. It took a long time before a board was actually established and then. . .so the timing happened to be just right and this is a job I saw out there and I said gee, that’s something I really want to do. Fortunately I knew—you asked about networks—one of the graduates of Stanford Law School was Dean of the University of Utah Law School named Sam Thurman. He was a friend of mine from, because were deans together. The chair of the board was the Dean of Cornell Law School. He was another, I didn’t really know him but I got to know him. So, I got my name put in by Thurman and I lobbied for the job as much as I could and I had the, I was fortunate that the board that was appointed by Ford and had, it was a pretty good board. Cramton, the head of it, was very good and Thurman was very good. Some of them wanted somebody, some of them wanted an insider who had been in the trenches in legal services but most of them wanted an outsider but somebody they thought was of stature who could come in and I seemed to fit that bill and I had enough friends inside including one very good friend who had been the head of OEO Legal Services named Clint Bamberger who had been dean of Catholic Law School—another dean and my really dear friend and buddy whom I had invited to come to Stanford for a semester after he had finished being dean and he had done that. So we, and we were very close, our wives were close, we were good friends. I was asked to be the first president and I accepted. I knew right away though that if I was going to do this job effectively I needed a deputy who, from the inside, who could have instant credibility with a group that had been trampled on. Nixon and Agnew didn’t succeed but they really trashed Legal Services for all the time they were there. Agnew particularly, was just venomous.
SCARPINO: Because of who they defended?
EHRLICH: Who they defended, the very idea of having poor people have legal, and when I took over we had 6,000 lawyers, 6,000 paralegals. There are always some cases that one might have wished weren’t taken. Well, they were able to take various cases and highlight them but there was a constant drum beat from the right. A magazine that was very much in vogue then called Human Affairs. It was a hard right group and they were nasty people and blasting away day after day after day. So it was tough. So I needed somebody who had credibility with that group who was here as I this, “word inaudible” east coast, west coast, bow tie wearing—who is this guy. And Clint Bamberger was the ideal person. He was my buddy. He was my friend. He wouldn’t do anything that I didn’t think was the right thing to do collaboratively, but he had a lot of stature. It was terrific. I asked him to be the deputy under me and I cleared this with Cramton who talked to the other board members and he said fine. Do whatever you want to do. You’re the boss. So I had told this to, of course, to Stanford. They had a search underway had chosen a new, were choosing a new dean. They hadn’t chosen but choosing a new dean and I was scheduled to be confirmed at a board meeting on, in October I think—October or November. I was actually supposed to start the first of January. Bamberger and I put together, first I knew Byron Wright who was supreme court justice from a summer together in Salzburg and I asked him to swear me in and we were going to have a ceremony. We rented a big hotel space. We invited five or six hundred of our friends, a lot of people from all over Washington, to come to this event starting at five o’clock. We have this reception party and so forth. The board was meeting that afternoon and about a week before a columnist named James Kilpatrick who as a right wing, not hard right but pretty right, conservative columnist wrote a column saying that I was pretty bad as a choice because I had a lot of liberal leanings. I had been in Democratic administrations and what’s going on. But Bamberger was really terrible because he was totally pink and the board that had approved me unanimously was due to vote on, formally, on me and Bamberger together. So we arrive at the board meeting thinking we’re going to come in right after they have lunch—Bamberger and –and then this was maybe two o’clock and the reception would be at five o’clock. The chairman, Cramton, Cornell Dean, comes out during lunch and said well we’re having a little discussion so it’s going to take a little longer and came out at three o’clock and say we’re still having this discussion and I kept saying what’s going on, what’s going on and finally he said well, the board still thinks you’re terrific but they really don’t think that Bamberger necessarily is the right person, is going to send the wrong message and get you off to the wrong start and so why don’t we confirm you and then well, sometime later maybe but not now you’d have, but probably not Bamberger. So, it all in an instant kind of flashed before my mind what do you do and I knew what I thought I had to do which was say no and I asked Bamberger to do this. I agreed to take the job on the, but I told you that I needed somebody internally. I need this person. He’s the right person in my view. I’ve committed myself to him. If I’m going to do this I need him and if I don’t then I’ll do everything I can to help the new person you choose but he’s not going to be me. And Cramton, to his credit, didn’t try to argue with me. Didn’t say that’s a wrong decision though he had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Nixon justice department. I shouldn’t call, the justice department under Nixon and was a certainly a reasonably conservative Republican but never tried to dissuade me of this. He went back in, four o’clock came, four-thirty we, I called Byron Wright and said huh, we got a problem so please do whatever else you got to do but don’t come. We put in a telephone chain to call up our five hundred or six hundred friends and said don’t come. We had these mountains of food that we had to try to give away to homeless shelters. We went finally back to Bamberger’s home. I was living in a friend’s house but, and it turned out that the board was deadlocked 10 to 10. There were 11 members of the board. The only black member was a guy named Revius Ortique, a justice from New Orleans who couldn’t, who was delayed in coming. He finally came at 11 o’clock at night. He broke the tie and voted to confirm me and Bamberger. So they met again the next day and Bamberger and I were there and they voted to confirm us. But in some sense as you can imagine, I thought oh, god, what’s it going to be like starting off with a six to five vote. However, actually it turned out ironically to be a good thing in the sense that all the board members knew I was acting on my principles. They respected that. Once the decision was made they all, those who had opposed Bamberger as well as those that supported, said let’s get on with it and we never looked back and that was a good thing. They knew I was firm on the things that were really important to me.
SCARPINO: Do you think that’s an important quality of a leader?
EHRLICH: Uh huh. Absolutely. I think choosing which ones those things are and being, not saying everything is important and I’m going to go down in flames on everything. Legal Services happened to be an arena in which like many liberal causes in which I’ve been involved, there are lots and lots of people who would rather go down in flames on principle than get half a loaf and falling on their swords was a frequent practice. And it really, and one has to pick the issues.
SCARPINO: What were your goals as president after you were confirmed?
EHRLICH: Well, we started very quickly. The issue was who are we trying to serve here. It was poor people. How do we define poor people? Well, maybe those below the poverty line. How can we possibly serve 35 million poor people. We have just this, sounds big, but a small number of lawyers and paralegals. We’ve got to have a plan that is simple enough to explain to those in congress that relates to something that they know about and it is saleable. These were qualities that seemed to me was true in raising money for a new set of buildings or going to congress. Fortunately, I hired some good people who work with me. But maybe the most important single thing we did was say where is the American public today in terms of legal services. There are, I think this number is right. There were 10 lawyers per 10,000 poor people or 10,000 people, something like that. And we looked and we said well we ought to have at least one lawyer per 10,000 poor people. So we came up with what we call the minimum access plan and we said we want to provide minimum access. We’re not going to give luxury treatment here. We’re going to give minimum access and that means one lawyer per 10,000 poor people. Well, just imagine, one lawyer serving 10,000 people. You can’t say anything’s more minimum than that. So that was a pretty powerful case. And we had maps which showed where we needed lawyers. Of course, in some of the northern areas where the bar was active and supportive we had met that already. But there were a lot of areas, particularly in the south. . .so I spent the next year running really hard to establish the minimum access plan as a bipartisan initiative for anybody who thought that it was, as opposed to blood on the streets, it was better to have poor people have some minimum rights to legal services. That engaged a lot of time with Republicans and Democrats on the hill. The Ford administration was opposed to any of this so there wasn’t any help there. But traveling around the country to bar associations, it was an incredible eye-opener to me to go to Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri—less so in Missouri—but the southern states, to see what really racist bar associations were about and to hear, as the called them, nigger jokes, by leaders of the bar—judges—and to see what we were dealing with in terms of the real needs of poor people and that was an incredible eye-opening lesson for me. To have the experience, I had never walked into a room of hundreds and hundreds of people who were all black except for me or all brown except for me, certainly were all poor except for me. So I learned a lot. This was a wonderfully dedicated group of people. We built an organization. I was the first employee. But we built an organization so the institutional architecture was there and it was a great ride for three and a half years. Because as soon as we got this minimum access plan established, we had to figure out how we were going to serve the people who would be particularly hard to serve—handicapped people, people from oppressed minority groups, and so forth. So there was a lot to do and a totally dedicated group of people to do it.
SCARPINO: So you had to create the institutional architecture, hire the people to fill the slots, come up with an agenda, sell the agenda, implement the agenda.
EHRLICH: Right. Yeah.
SCARPINO: How did you serve particularly difficult and challenging groups—the handicapped, the rural?
EHRLICH: Well we did, once we got this minimum access plan which frankly we got the money from congress much faster than I thought we would. It just happened that was the right strategy at the right time, they were liberal Republicans who thought most of the war against poverty was a bad idea but nonetheless understood that this was an approach. I didn’t have to argue about Head Start or any of those other programs which I happened to believe in but they would believe in this and a lot of them wanted something that they could concur in on this side. So we got that quite a bit faster than, it was within two, two and a half years and we had then started on a new planning process called Next Steps which focused particularly on these hard to reach, harder to serve groups including native Americans and designed a set of strategies for each one that much involved, the key was as much as anything, involving those who were being served. So we did something that was, it sounds kind of obvious, but it was very controversial at the time. We said that we would have what were called clients’ councils which were groups of poor people and they would set the priorities for each area. The Boston Bar Association, for example, thought it was outrageous that we would ask clients to set priorities for the delivery of legal services when they knew a lot more about legal services than the clients who they said didn’t know anything. This was Walter Lippmann versus John Dewey all over again. And we said well that’s the way it’s going to be. It turned out to be a wonderfully rewarding experience. An experience where the journey is as important as the result and we learned a lot in the course of it and followed it again in doing this hard to reach group where we clearly weren’t going to be able to provide all the services that we wanted but in the same way in Boston, the priority might have been housing while in Hawaii it was native land claims. The Indian tribes would decide their own priorities and how to implement them and those with disabilities would do with theirs and it’s, these are a lot of issues where there weren’t “right answers” so the process was critical.
SCARPINO: Do you think that an effective leader has an understanding that sometimes the journey is as important as the end?
EHRLICH: Oh, yes.
SCARPINO: The destination?
EHRLICH: Absolutely. I’ve never been in any position where that hasn’t been true which isn’t to say sometimes the end, you can be clear where you really want to go and sometimes such as what are the best ways to serve native Americans. I don’t think there is, I certainly wasn’t clear—the beginning, the middle, the end. I think it varied from the Hopi to the Navajo to the, and so forth. But absolutely and the journey is always important. I’ve never heard of. . .
SCARPINO: Did you. . .
EHRLICH: . . .excuse me, but I’ve never heard anybody say or maybe not never but rarely do I say well I’m glad we got here but I really hated the way we went. It almost doesn’t happen that way.
SCARPINO: Did you, in this position, see yourself as a leader in your profession?
SCARPINO: What do you think, what made you stand out? What were you doing that made you stand out as a leader?
EHRLICH: Well, in my view it was—I’ve got a bad back so I’ve got to do this every once in awhile—the, with 6,000 lawyers, 6,000 paralegals, 35 million poor people, it was not going to be possible to provide serious access. We had this minimum access plan. It was a good idea. It worked well. Funding increased. But this wasn’t going to work unless we could marshal a lot of resources from the bar, the practicing bar. So I spent a lot of time proselytizing with bar associations that lawyers should be giving some of their time and talents pro bono. And wrote a lot of articles saying that, argued that since the bar has a monopoly on the delivery of legal services, with that monopoly comes the responsibility to give pro bono. Got in a lot of public arguments with some lawyers who said that this—I’m talking about indentured slavery and servitude—but I was the, fortunately not alone. There was the American Bar Association was very supportive and a lot of bar groups were very supportive. But nonetheless, I viewed one of my key roles as being a public spokesperson for civil legal services for poor people. And there were some on the hard, on one end of the spectrum in legal services who said that given that small number of lawyers we should be involved solely in taking reform cases. We can’t serve everyone so we better reform the system so that the system, and so they would be in favor of using the limited resources just for high impact cases. The other end, there were some who said there should be no such cases, that all we should be doing is giving individual service to individual clients. So, I thought I had to weave a middle road since I wanted to do some of both of those things. I thought there was a very important role for high impact cases and we did a set of maneuvers to get a set of institutes around the country that could do that but I also wanted to give direct legal services. I thought it was important for me as well as others to make the legal plight of poor people become understandable in the human terms in which it was, in fact, experienced. When you don’t have any resources and your Social Security check gets cut off it is not just very unpleasant but it’s a disaster because when the landlord throws you out on the street and you’re on the street. Creating the ways in which those stories could be told in powerful, convincing ways to a population that was skeptical that people who didn’t have a good job weren’t necessarily good people. We define good people sometimes by whether they had a good job. To do so to a congress that realized that poor people vote less often than the middle class or wealthy obviously contribute to the political arena less well. So I thought being the first president of the Legal Services Corporation involved all those things in the public arena as well as trying to craft an organization that dealt effectively as we could.
SCARPINO: In 1979 you made another career move.
SCARPINO: You were appointed by President Carter to direct the International Development Corporation Agency which was another new agency. Why do you think you came to the attention of and you were appointed by, President Carter?
EHRLICH: Short answer is that Warren Christopher was the deputy secretary. He had been a good friend and very active in Stanford affairs. Cyrus Vance was the secretary. He was another good friend who had been very helpful. When he was in private practice and I was the President of the Legal Services Corporation, he and Christopher both were two of the people who helped me and we became friends and I was an admirer and still am of Christopher but Vance is no longer alive. But we knew each other. More important, Christopher knew that I wanted a position in where I would report directly to the president if I could possibly do that. I, in my time in Washington—this being my second time—thought if I had a chance to have a position where I reported directly to the president I would really like to do that and I knew on the other hand because I had watched for a long time, the landscape is strewn with people who want presidential appointments and don’t get them and timing and good fortune is everything, networking. So it could well not happen. But if it happened I was going to grab it. Christopher had me in mind and actually he told me later initially to be ambassador to NATO which would have been an interesting job too. This job reported directly to the president. It was a new, Jacob Javits and some Democrats got together in support of a plan that the Carter administration said to bring coordination to our foreign aid efforts—that they were uncoordinated and disparate and we needed a single office that would coordinate the role. That Act passed but not by much. That was another one where it was kind of a cliffhanger and it did pass and, but I had been chosen ahead of time and agreed ahead of time before the, another time when I burned my bridges before I knew there was some place on the other side.
SCARPINO: So you were running across this bridge with the fire approaching from behind.
EHRLICH: Right, yes. It worked out and it, the legislation was passed. Then I was confirmed. It wasn’t a question of. . .
SCARPINO: . . .Confirmed by the Senate.
EHRLICH: . . .Confirmed by the Senate, yeah. It wasn’t a question of being confirmed. That was, assuming the legislation, I was a perfectly presentable person and there wasn’t going to be. . .so I was the new head. I had policy responsibility for all of bilateral aid and coordinating all multilateral aid, reporting directly to the president. That included the World Bank, all the regional banks and our Food for Peace and some other programs. Now that sounds terrific and it’s more than 10,000 people but then I started to learn how hard it was because the entire bureaucracy including my friends Christopher and Vance, really didn’t think we needed coordination and when I met with President Carter he said what I care about is long term economic development and human rights. Those are your objectives which were two objectives I deeply believe in. And I knew these were his. I mean this wasn’t a surprise when I talked to him about it. He said, you go after that. When you come into my office you’ll see a letter from him saying you’re the boss. Be bold and so I was the boss, I was going to be bold, I said these are our priorities but it was for the next almost two years—18 months I guess—really hard slogging. It was the only job I’ve ever had that wasn’t fun. While I enormously admired President Carter and still do—I think he’s a wonderful man and he was totally committed—the people in the State Department wanted walking around money for some Sheik. They didn’t really, they said we’re never going to get there if we don’t have some money to lubricate the lines. The Treasury didn’t want to give up authority over the international banks. The aid bureaucracy was itself hemmed in by congressional acts. It was just a lot of hard bureaucratic slogging and while again I tried to set out some priorities, I just really beat on those with, and of course I had to hire a staff. It was difficult. I really felt like Sisyphus. More than I’ve ever felt before or since.
SCARPINO: So you. . .
EHRLICH: But I also learned a lot about third world poverty and the great things that can be done with foreign aid.
SCARPINO: During your tenure in this position, is there anything you can point to that falls in the category of great things that can be done with foreign aid?
EHRLICH: The greatest things were lots of relatively small things. By all odds the most, yes there were successes in the sense that this was at a time when India was not food self-sufficient. We were helping, as was Rockefeller and some private sources too, promote new strains of wheat and rice and that transformed a lot of India into a food self-sufficiency. There was enormous push for pre- and post-natal health care and I saw that some pretty simple ways to reduce the disaster that diarrhea, the mortality from diarrhea.
SCARPINO: Among infants?
EHRLICH: Among new infants, yeah. And on the other hand, we built some dams and did some other things that I’m not clear made a huge difference. I saw the powerful impact of private, voluntary organizations, small aid, small is not always good but boy it sure, in this arena often is. I saw and one of the many things I learned which I just didn’t know before. I had a vision of missionaries trying to convert people but I spent time with Catholic and Lutheran missionaries in really pretty tough arenas where they were helping provide clean water or shelter and incidentally, Sunday, if you don’t have anything else to do we’ll welcome you to church but that’s not our primary thing. That was wonderful. I did not have responsibility for the Peace Corps but I spent a lot of time watching Peace Corps and seeing that we had just designed a stove that wasn’t open air, it was contained, and made out of mud and it used a tenth of fuel that an open air stove did and what a difference that made for deforestation. That kind of things were terrific. But also was in charge of a big delegation to some big international meetings and I hadn’t had that experience before. When I was saying the United States of America’s policy is this. Now we had to elaborate on that but there were always times when you get to negotiate and I mean you’re in a room and you have to put down a marker and say this is what the United States thinks. I hadn’t done that before and I wanted to do that. So I, I mean it was important to have that experience if I could.
SCARPINO: You spent about two and a half years or so in that position. What did you take away from it in terms of your development as a leader?
EHRLICH: Well, it certainly reaffirmed this basic and perhaps simple minded notion about keeping in mind a few key things that you really want to focus on because there there were pressures, centrifugal pressures in all directions, very intense, and a lot of hard bureaucratic slug. So I really had to say here’s what we have to have. This is my core essential which were rooted in long term economic development on the one hand, human rights on the other. We have to do that. We have to do that. So we are not going to give to this country because it has a bad human rights record. No. No. No. Or we are going to promote this one because it has a good human rights. And just keep my eye continually on that in spite of a lot of pounding from others. But because I was in this position I got to see Africa, Asia, Latin America, up close and personal. I stayed with 30 ambassadors around the world in their residences. I had some of them yelling and screaming at me because I didn’t want to do what they wanted to do When I left Brasilia, the ambassador had a big public ceremony to say goodbye and knowing I didn’t smoke and knowing that we had argued for most of the five days that I stayed in his residence, presented me with a huge ash tray (laughter) which even then I thought was so funny because he knew I’d have to lug this really heavy, I mean five or ten pound thing around, before I could trash it and I think he just thought it was just perfect and he was right. It was perfect. He really stuck it to me. So, and I learned that having a moral man as president is a really, good important thing. It’s not enough but it’s important.
SCARPINO: How would you assess Jimmy Carter as a leader?
EHRLICH: Well he wasn’t a very good president in the sense that he, I saw it in my small arena that he would call me. Not often, but I got calls. The White House operator said this is the president is on the line or, and I’d say yes Mr. President and he say, we have a program in Mali and my friend X or I see why, he would read the materials that I and my colleagues would prepare—some of which I hadn’t read very carefully—about what was going on and he got interested in Mali or he knew somebody in Mali or something but it wasn’t that he was widely knowledgeable about these places but he’d just read something and kind of got interested. So he’d say, you know, gosh this is really serious isn’t it. It’s less than 50 cents a day per, where are we, why can’t we do something here. But the whole world was moving along there and he was kind of focused on Mali. So that was a problem. He didn’t have very good people—he had a number of people who weren’t very good right around him in my view, Hamilton Jordan was one of the more public examples who weren’t, didn’t serve him well in my experience. But I admired him enormously and I thought and I got a chance to have breakfast with him, go to the White House dinner with him, talked to him about policy. I presented my budget to him. He listened, he asked really good questions about the budget. He knew a lot. It was that, all the experience of heading an agency and report to the president and know, there’s the President of the United of America sitting, asking you and holding you responsible for things. That was a, and a man I really admired, unconditionally admired. That was great.
SCARPINO: What did you admire about him?
EHRLICH: His character. His integrity. His sense of total dedication to doing the right thing and his incredible tolerance for the range of the human condition and his love. He really loved the people. I mean he’s just, he lived his faith.
SCARPINO: You left the International Development Corporation. You spent some time at the Brookings Institute and then in 1982 you made another major move and accepted the position of Provost at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m guessing that you were at the Brookings Institute looking around but that’s only a guess.
EHRLICH: Ah, yeah. We were, it was, Reagan won the election. My last day in office was the day before the inauguration and obviously I wasn’t asked to stay. The transition team came in and trashed everything we had done. I knew they would and they were, they were from the Heritage Foundation. They were totally uninterested in anything except their definition of national security. So I knew, unfortunately, the days were over. But we had kids in school. We weren’t going to go back to Stanford until the summertime but that’s what we planned to do. We rented our house for 21 years while we were away and we expected to come back to this house. I expected to teach at Stanford Law School. I was looking for another position. I had been asked about several. I had been in the finals for several and not been chosen which was a blessing but I didn’t know that of course at the time. There were, the Ford Foundation was one and then there were a couple of other universities—Duke, NYU, that I, there were a couple of others that and Yale—that I decided I didn’t want to do—Wisconsin and some others. But yes, I had been definitely looking. Nothing had turned right and I had thought of being a university president but I also had the feeling that somehow things would work out and we were going back to California. That was kind of the plan. And our youngest boy was still with us so he really wanted to go to California. Then I got a call pretty much out of the blue from either the search or maybe the president but I think it was the search firm saying would you come do an interview to be provost at Penn and my mother had gone to Penn and so Penn I knew was a great university and I went. . .
SCARPINO: Oh, this was the university that hadn’t allowed her to take certain courses, right?
EHRLICH: This was the university that hadn’t allowed her, but still, you know, it had been nice. And as an aside, she was very sick for much of her life and had a lot of health problems—mental health problems as well as physical—but just after I’d been president about a year and I told the story naturally to a dean of art and architecture who happened to be a dear friend too, much to my surprise they awarded her with a master’s degree in architecture.
SCARPINO: That was nice.
EHRLICH: Honorary master’s degree in architecture. She walks down the aisle to get this, tears streaming down my eyes. It was really a surprise. It was just the loveliest thing and a week later she keeled over and died. So it was a very moving experience to say the least. Anyway, so I interviewed to be provost and the president of the university asked me to come up and talk with him and Ellen and I went together thinking it was very important to do it together. We had a, and we had an instant chemical connection with both the president, who’s name is Sheldon Hackney and his wife named Lucky Hackney.
SCARPINO: Sheldon Hackney the historian?
EHRLICH: Yeah. Sheldon Hackney, well you know, yes.
EHRLICH: He was, had been president at Tulane. Now a brand new president of Penn, chosen over the internal candidate whose name was Vartan Gregorian who was head of the Carnegie. Anyway, so, but we had instant connection and really liked each other a lot. Talked for four hours. Ellen and I left and I said, and she said if we get offered, let’s do it and we did and we did.
SCARPINO: What were your goals as provost? What did you set out to do?
EHRLICH: Well, I thought again. I had come after the very popular provost had been not chosen as president and there were a lot of unhappy faculty. So subtext was how do I get these people on my side or at least how do I explain that it’s not my fault that he wasn’t chosen. But the provost, Penn didn’t used to have a president until fairly recently and the provost, compared to other universities is very powerful. Had, responsible for just about everything internal except a few administrative things. But all of student affairs, academic affairs, everything more or less. So again I thought it would be good to have a plan of where we, but I didn’t have a set idea of what it should be. Fortunately, there was a person at Penn, you may have run into, named Bob Zemsky. I don’t, there’s no reason you would then. Anyway, he did a lot of planning for Penn and I heard about him. He came to visit me while I was at Brookings. We connected together. He started talking and started designing kind of a little planning process. I knew that the deans had an active, the strong group of deans. A lot of pressures between professional and non-professional. The way it’s true with IUPUI. But I had a lot to learn there and but I knew we’d want to start a big planning process. At least getting it going by the end of the year and get the deans to support. So I didn’t know where it was going though. Another journey, not the result, but I knew we needed to build on our strengths--identify our strengths, build on our strengths. So we started with deans, faculty, students, a big university-wide planning process over the course of the next 18 months, maybe started six months after I got there. Went that year and the following year. It came up with a plan to strengthen teaching, research, service and to build on strengths, ideally link those strengths. Every school was charged with doing its own academic plan and that took, that built on this one but, and that took another several years to get done. But I also learned then though in law school I was pretty sheltered. Here I learned something about every discipline. I set out to spend at least an hour, hour and half, at least an hour and half or two hours I guess that’s right, with every department and there were something like 112 departments. But it sounded like what a great way to get tutorials to say where’s the field now. What’s Penn’s comparative advantage and how can I help us get there. So I would go to every department and ask that and over the course of six years I visited every department actually and with the exception of one, nobody said you don’t know anything. You’re not, you’re not equipped to understand what we’re doing. They all thought it would be worthwhile for the provost to learn what we’re doing even though I wouldn’t understand astrophysics the way an astrophysicist would understand. Psychology was the one that said I wouldn’t understand. So I really learned a lot about the university and tried to, I had an ongoing seminar on What is Evidence that had faculty from a lot of different disciplines. So a historian was there but a lawyer was there, a sociologist was there, a scientist.
SCARPINO: And the glue was the discussion of what constitutes evidence?
EHRLICH: Yeah, what constitutes evidence and it was really fun and we just had a ball because each discipline talked about what is evidence in a particular circumstance and then we looked at a couple of cases in which historian and a lawyer and a scientist would have really very different views on what’s appropriate evidence to make the case for this as a piece of history or a legal argument. It was a lot of fun and in the course of that of course I learned a lot but I had a good time and I immodestly thought it was a good thing to have the interaction that we had.
SCARPINO: I read that you initiated a conversation about patriotism, abut what it means to be an American, about the meaning of citizenship as a provost at Penn.
EHRLICH: Well, I’ve been interested for some time in what it means to be, what it should mean to be a citizen and what it does mean to be a citizen and along about this time I became, and indeed to go back just a little, in Legal Services Corporation as I said I was trying to get the help of these private lawyers and over and over again I would run up against the argument—well, Tom, I really would like to give some time pro bono but you see I don’t know anything about housing law or family law or social security. I do arbitrage or banking or something like that and I’d say well, you know Phil, it’s not that hard. We have this week course. You take a few hours at night and you’ll be there. And as opposed to nothing you’ll really be a real help. Yeah, I really couldn’t do that. I mean I wouldn’t feel comfortable. Well it turned out what you were really saying is I wouldn’t feel comfortable with some poor people in the same room particularly if they’re black or brown. And it underscored to me a sense that I had that colleges and universities really needed to be involved in giving, in helping students to be publicly engaged and that’s part of what got me noodling to myself about what does it mean to be a citizen and what should it mean, and what are our obligations as citizens.
SCARPINO: You were involved in philanthropy?
EHRLICH: Well, I became involved in something called Campus Compact in part because my daughter was one of the early employees of it.
SCARPINO: Talk about networks. (laughing)
EHRLICH: Talk about networks, yes. And it had been started by a small group of presidents—Brown and Stanford and UCLA. But I became very early on, it started in ’85, and I was provost then but I became involved with it. When I became president at Indiana I became very involved with it. But all this made me think a lot about citizenship. I taught courses at Penn and at Indiana when, various undergraduate courses, but one of the issues we talked about was, you look at the current citizenship exam—actually it’s just been changed—but it used to be really, how many stars how many stripes. Easy questions, some not so easy. Name the 13 colonies which most of us can’t do. And some even harder. Where was Fort Sumter or something. Anyway, but it occurred to me it was “word inaudible” really interesting but substantively interesting too to say okay, okay this isn’t a very good test of what we’re trying to test but assuming we were going to do a test what would it look like if it was a good test. And if it’s so good why shouldn’t we do it for everybody? Why should it just be for those who weren’t ??? or were ??? born here? So, and I must say I have been thinking about that question ever since and I’m still thinking about it. So it’s a good, thanks, good question. Good issue. And I’ve talked about it with a lot of students. I’ve asked a lot of students to think about it. Campus Compact started as a way, first of all, simply because that era if you remember—you were a brand new assistant professor then in history but students were labeled the me generation and I thought it was a bum rap. I still do. And that students really wanted to give some of their time and talent but needed help in doing so. Initially I thought all we had to do was create the opportunities and we did that but quickly learned that faculty wouldn’t take it seriously, students really wouldn’t take it seriously unless it was connected to the curriculum. The move for service learning certainly started well before that. John Dewey and exponential learning and all that—experiential learning I mean. But I was head of Campus Compact for a period of time when it grew from a, to a big organization, it’s now a thousand campuses big. But that started to increasingly focus my external sense. If you’re provost you, and I particularly, I had a child at home and a child with a learning disability, I really wanted my primary attention from five at night to nine the next morning to focus on family and fortunately that was fine for Hackney but I was kind of gearing up. I knew I wanted to be university president if I could find the right opportunity. I found several other opportunities that I decided weren’t right but I decided I wanted to go to the public sector because I had never been there and it had all the issues of access as well as selective focus of excellence. But increasingly I thought when you’re president you have a chance to do one, maybe two, extracurricular things that are related to the university but are not. And increasingly a focus on citizenship, public service, became my thing. And I’m very glad it did. But it started then. I mean it started when I was born with my father and so forth when it started.
SCARPINO: Do you think you were successful as provost?
EHRLICH: Ah, yes. I guess that’s my honest, immodest answer. Yes. It was a wonderful time and it, I truly, I had a president whom I had, I really was as close a friend as could be. He trusted me. He really left me to do everything internal in terms of the academic arena. I always checked with him. I viewed my role, one of my important roles as being sure he looked good and he is good. He’s a wonderful human being. He’s really just a great person. And we developed an agenda. I didn’t know where it was going to go. It went. I think we strengthened the academic arena. There were some arenas like admissions which were under my responsibility. I didn’t know anything about it. I learned that Penn was drawing from a very narrow base in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and those areas were drying up in terms of students that we had to have a real network across the country. So, I’d never done a marketing campaign before but we designed a marketing campaign with help. We reached out across the country. We put an office in California. We expanded that effort. And that worked. Not everything worked but it was a wonderful experience. I learned about what’s a medical school. What do they do. What’s a veterinary school. What’s a dentistry school. How do they operate? How are they the same? How are they different from the law school? And law school was smaller than a lot of the departments in arts and sciences or medicine and it was just really fun. I loved it.
SCARPINO: By the middle of the 1980s you had served as a leader in high level positions in both government and private sector and you held significant positions in two major universities. You headed a federally established not-for-profit in Washington and a federal agency. I’m wondering if you can talk about the similarities and differences between leading a government agency and a private sector organization?
EHRLICH: Well, size is certainly a factor because I never had the feeling at IDCA or DCA that I was really able to lead it. I could help not only set but keep a few key priorities center stage. I could be a cheerleader for those. I could promote some things. I could stop some bad things from happening from time to time but it was so big, so diffused, so politically charged, bureaucratically charged that much of the time was spent simply on bureaucratic infighting. And saying to the secretary of the treasury, that this assistant secretary of the treasury is doing the following and that’s not acceptable according to the charge I’ve been given by the president, having him say well that’s, we each have our problems. That’s your problem. And my then going to, trying to go the president or going through X or Y in the White House and getting. . .and that kind of stuff. So that’s what I call bureaucratic infighting as opposed to leadership. While at Stanford and at Penn, much smaller, much less public, I really had a sense that I was engaged in what I call institutional architecture. I think if I had another four years in the Carter administration we could have sunk deep roots. And that would have been a worthwhile thing whether I would have had the stomach for it is another question which I didn’t have. When Reagan won, part of me, not the majority, but part of me in honesty had to say whew, I don’t have to do this for four more years because I was so tired. And that’s why the average life expectancy of a presidential appointee is less than two years. It’s a disgrace. The whole thing is but it’s true and you’ve got a family and you have some idea of wanting to spend time with them. That’s tough. On the other hand I met people like Lee Hamilton and Richard Lugar who become good friends.
SCARPINO: Senator and congressman from Indiana.
EHRLICH: From Indiana and people I admired and who were unfailingly supportive, before I had the slightest idea of going to Indiana, of what were doing. So that was good.
SCARPINO: When you look at government service as opposed to service at a university, are there differences in the way a leader exercises authority and power on this?
EHRLICH: It depends—who you are and what you are. I think watching George Ball and his leadership, he and Dean Rusk, they exercised a tremendous amount of, they made a huge difference and I admire them enormously and I would have, so I don’t think it’s fair to compare their positions with my position with President Carter. It’s very different. They had a bureaucracy with a history and a structure. At the same time it is true that with big bureaucracies scattered all over the world as the State Department is with, it’s very hard to get things done. You really do have to pick your issues and really focus on those and try to, and everything I said about leadership before on a few key issues is just all the more true and in those. I’ve never been in a for-profit leadership position. All the leadership positions I’ve been in, have been in the private sector have been, but I think size has an enormous amount to do with it as well as the public/private dichotomy.
SCARPINO: In 1987 you accepted the position of President of Indiana University and we talked a little bit about how you got there but before I talked to you about IU which is kind of what I want to use to begin to bring this to a close, I want to ask you a few more of our standard questions. How would you characterize your idea or concept of leadership? Who’s a leader? What constitutes leadership?
EHRLICH: It has a set of components, some of which are related to the character of the person and some of the, related to the character of the position, the person that is in. That position may be wholly self created as in I’m starting a new start up for whatever. Or it may be a new organization that doesn’t have any character until you get there as its first employee as was true for Legal Services Corporation, International Development Cooperation Agency. They didn’t exist until, I mean I was the first employee. So I was there at the creation and that makes institutional architecture easier except when you’re dealing with a lot of other institutions that have barnacles all over. But certainly some is the particular position that you’re in. Whether there’s a single overwhelming mission—getting to the moon—or whatever that drives everything. Or it is a multitask potential as is true for foreign aid and you have to, or legal services, you have to pick and articulate what those particulars are. So that’s part of it. The other part are what are the key things that you bring that you really say here are my principles—how I behave as a person, how I treat other people, what I am willing to do to get where I want to go, how much am I willing to compromise, how much am I willing to say I give up on this and go off to that. I think those things are all built into yourself over time so when you have the occasional opportunity where all of a sudden right in your face is a key issue of leadership as was true for me when the chair of the board of the Legal Services Corporation came out and said I don’t think Bamberger is going to make it but you will so jettison him and let’s get on with it. He didn’t quite say that but he would have been delighted if I had said that. I couldn’t do that and I knew that was the right decision, however it turned out even if it meant going back to Stanford which I didn’t want to do. I mean I wanted to do this job a lot. I really lobbied for it. So, but that didn’t just come in 30 seconds, I think it comes in a slow arch of preparation. And if one is lucky in one’s mentors and apprenticeships and experiences, you’re able to do that a little better than if you hadn’t had those sets of experiences.
SCARPINO: That actually segues into one of our standard questions that I was going to ask you later on but do you think leaders are born or made?
EHRLICH: It’s a combination of both but I certainly think that most of it is being made. I think each of us has a certain set of qualities. Some of us are very introverted. Some of us are very disinclined to engage in controversy of any kind. My colleague and partner whom you met briefly, Anne Colby is really one of the most brilliant people I know and she’s a fantastic colleague. She’s very, dislikes controversy and I see it all the time where we’re in a situation where the question is standing up to our publisher or whatever it is, she just doesn’t like controversy. It bothers her. It psychologically upsets her. I think it’s hard to be a leader if that’s, that because, not just in a public university like Indiana or a public job like a government job but almost anyone, if you really, if it really bothers you to, nobody necessarily likes it but it really bothers you, you have to be able to withstand it. It’s just too much. So those are some of those things that you’re born with. But I certainly think that nurture is at least as important as nature there.
SCARPINO: How would you characterize your style of leadership? Or what distinguishes your style?
EHRLICH: I hope it’s a collaborative, working, trying to be as sure as I can that those around me with whom I’m working feel that they are part of a leadership team as opposed to being a leader and a group of followers. That there is a team of those who are engaged and at a university that’s got to be a very large group.
SCARPINO: As you reflect on your career, what has worked well about your concept and style of leadership?
EHRLICH: Well I think the focus on a few things at a time, trying to treat people, particularly those who work for you, with dignity and never, ever, ever, ever get mad publicly at anybody who work for you.
SCARPINO: Is that hard?
EHRLICH: Oh, yeah. But, yes, but particularly it’s, and I, I was at Indiana once and I can’t remember what it was but we were in some meeting and I got mad and I took it out on some, this is really a secretary and then I caught myself and I said, God, this is terrible. And fortunately I had a wonderful administrative assistant who said yeah, that really is terrible and we just can’t have that anymore—Marilyn Saunders I’m referring to. Anyway she. . .
SCARPINO: . . .I’ve met her.
EHRLICH: . . .She was terrific, is a terrific person and she said yeah, you just can’t do that. You just, you know, you go get, at least you could get mad at somebody who’s on equal terms but if you get mad at a subordinate who just has to kind of suck it up and take it, that’s not acceptable.
SCARPINO: What has not worked so well for you in terms of your concept or style of leadership? I mean you mentioned a few things and I’m not asking you to repeat those but. . .
EHRLICH: Yeah, well certainly I didn’t succeed in all the things I can imagine doing and the time with Carter was, in some sense, the most disquieting for that reason because it was uncomfortable and was not pleasant. It wasn’t fun. It was hard. I couldn’t see daylight. (laughing) It was just dark. And much as there were good points. Then I think Herman had, was right that the long distance runner. . . . .
SCARPINO: . . .Herman Wells. . .
EHRLICH: . . .Herman Wells, as a long distance runner gets an enormous amount done that can’t be done any other way and for whatever sets of reasons that had to do with ambition and family and, I’m not a long distance runner.
SCARPINO: Does a good leader have ambition?
EHRLICH: Oh, yeah. It’s hard for me to imagine being a leader of anything unless you have some ambition to utilize your whatever—talents and abilities you have and have garnered to some cause beyond yourself.
SCARPINO: Do you see a distinction between leadership and management?
EHRLICH: Ah, not nearly as much as the, some of the literature I have read. I haven’t read, God knows, nobody can read all the literature about management but the notion that there’s a sharp dichotomy between this visionary leader who floats in and sets a broad agenda, hypes the troops to follow it and then floats away to the next one as opposed to somebody who’s in there. I’ve never seen such a thing possible. So my basic answer is no, I don’t.
SCARPINO: Can you think of an event or incident that best illustrates your style of leadership? What happened? How did you handle it? That kind of thing. An event or incident.
EHRLICH: Well, at Indiana, trustees said that they wanted a strong academic leader. They had a sense that the academic enterprise was slipping and that it needed reinvigoration. I was fortunate that there was a wonderful chair of the board, Richard Stoner, and a very good vice chair, Harry Gonso and they were particularly forceful on this point. They said we want you because we think you can do that and we are going to support you in that. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear because that’s exactly what I wanted to do at a public university and I could imagine public universities that had other big challenges but this was the one that really interested me because it was that tension between access and excellence and how you balance those in a state where a remarkable leader, John Ryan, had been president for a long time and under the shadow of a giant, Herman Wells, for a longer time. So I knew before I really got there that we were going to engage in another academic planning process. I had no idea where it was going to go or how we were going to do that and I thought the process of doing the academic plan that we did for the first couple of years worked pretty well. Not perfect, but pretty well in getting a sense of self esteem about some things academic and self concern about some others. And part of that was talking about one university with eight front doors which was one of those things when we kind of floated it, it got met with a certain amount of derision and had the issue of whether to drop it or keep at it and just keep pounding away that we were one university. I didn’t want to hear that one part of the university was inferior and the other part was superior. And decided, I thought rightfully that we would really keep at it and just say I’m sorry this is one university and you’re part of the university and you’re part of Indiana University. You’re not just part of Indiana University South Bend or Bloomington or whatever. That whole process I thought, which were tied together, and trying to say each part of the university is together but absolutely some, we only have one medical school, history may be a little different at different campuses but that worked pretty well. It worked less well to have history departments in each of the campuses really talking to each other and but and I don’t honestly remember history but I remember in general the idea of having a more collaborative cross campus efforts were harder and so but that process which I loved doing and on the whole I thought worked pretty well and I thought what was seen, not by all, but by many inside the faculty particularly, which was the key part.
SCARPINO: Some of the literature on leadership argues that the concept and practice of leadership on the part of individuals is often forged in a particular crisis or a particular event. Can you think of any events or crises in your career that had a profound impact on your understanding and practice of leadership?
EHRLICH: Well, each time there’s a crisis, every time we had a sit-in at Penn, we had to make decisions and they were in my office most of (laughing) had to make decisions about whether you’re going to negotiate or call in the police and to negotiate, what are your terms, what are the things that are non-negotiable, and you do so in an environment where everybody’s watching. There are no secrets. You can’t say let’s have this off the record. So if you make a mistake it can be a very public black eye. So all those were ones I learned from. At Indiana, I don’t know particularly you remember but the closest it came to something just like that, apart from Bob Knight, where it was also a learning experience and learning experience I should stress because I really thought that the next six years he was pretty “word inaudible.” He was like a little boy who was testing whether he could, how far he could go before his parents would slap him down but once he found out where the line was it wasn’t an issue. But we were given a farm in Minnesota, I’m sorry, in Mississippi for the IU Foundation which was valued at a million dollars or more. It was a, and when I got there I noticed we were spending, I don’t know, a hundred thousand dollars a year, something like that, to keep it going and I said why are we doing this. Well, it turned out that it cost a lot to keep a farm going and it wasn’t earning much. So I said well, why don’t we sell it? Well, the best buyer turned out to be a waste disposal plant that offered a very good price—more than a million dollars—and promised to do all sorts of good things for the area in Mississippi that was totally populated by black people and we were going along fine. There was the only bidder for this but all of a sudden an environmental group said this is outrageous. This is environmental racism. You are going to dump all this waste and destroy the lives and livelihoods of all these poor black people. And we said oh gee, we have the city council support. Well, of course they’re for it. They’re going to be on the dole. But all the issues in this particular arena that you can imagine were kind of being blown up and that was in the paper and that was the only time I had a sit-in in my office. We had the march when Bob Knight said he was going to leave but, and the question there as it so often was in the other ones, how do you turn this into a teachable moment for yourself of course but also for those around you—the students. And fortunately, we had a wonderful guy on our, one of the advisory boards who was really a very, I can’t think of his name though, a very wise, humane, thoughtful person. So I said to the student group. These are really serious concerns you have raised and I’m very glad you’ve raised them and it’s important that these be raised and they weren’t raised adequately and you’ve done it and I thank you very much and I’m going to ask this guy whose name I can’t remember, to lead an investigation and come up with a judgment, a report, and propose what to do and I can’t speak for the whole board of the foundation but I can say I’m going to follow what his judgment is. And of course I talked to him ahead of time and said I don’t know what, whatever you decide. But just have a process that is open, fair, listens to everybody, and this guy was a true master of doing that. And he did that for three or four weeks. Went down and investigated, got reports, listened to all the students, and it was like having a special master and in the end he said sell it and it pretty much dissipated the whole issue and that was that. I wouldn’t have known how to do that if I hadn’t gone through a bunch of these other things and they don’t always work of course. Sometimes there’s nothing much you can do except hope it eventually blows over but that one worked well because of experience.
SCARPINO: And sometimes the special prosecutor ends up, it was impeachment. (laughter)
SCARPINO: I would like to talk to you as we begin to wrap this up about your time at Indiana University but once upon a time I had the opportunity to interview a senior bureaucrat in the national park service about his bureaucratic agenda in cultural resources and one of the things that he told me is that he, I was trying to figure out why he’d been so successful and he told me that he had developed the skill of identifying and capitalizing on targets of opportunity. As I look at your career and you’ve changed positions quite frequently and sort of generally moved up the ladder so to speak, did you have a plan in mind or were there points on the horizon or were you taking advantage of targets of opportunity in moving yourself from one thing to another that looked interesting and rewarding?
EHRLICH: Both. And if it’s the head of the park service who used to be at Indiana University, I know him.
SCARPINO: No, it’s not. It’s one step below him.
EHRLICH: Both. I had no thought of becoming a dean when I went to teach but once I became a dean I thought it would be fun to be a provost and then maybe a president. Or a president without being a provost and certainly I had no, I hadn’t initially planned to go into government but then I thought gee, that would be, once I was there if I could come back and certainly with a presidential appointment and then it became appointment reporting directly to the president. So, and having been in private university, a public one had a strong appeal to me if I could find the right opportunity. Being one that had the whole state as its palate. But those are also targets of opportunity. They really, you just, timing is everything and you just can’t say well now I’m ready to go do this and much more in government service. I’ve seen literally hundreds of people who were dying for positions of prominence—positions in government, I don’t say necessarily prominence. But they said gee I would love to give back or whatever the term is but it just hasn’t come along. In my experience, you can’t just wait for it to come along. You really have to try to be prepared and to be ready so that you can, I mean I said I lobbied for the Legal Services job. I didn’t lobby for Penn because I didn’t know about that but I think I was ready to grab it when it came and it’s some combination of those things that I think and I, particularly lawyers I hear who are young partners or middle aged partners in firms and like my friend Allen Taylor at Foley, Sammond, and Lardner are stuck there and they’re going to be stuck there forever and unhappy forever because they may have talents but they haven’t gone out there and grabbed the ring.
SCARPINO: I’m going to, I hope this comes out right. When I think about public presentation or even about comedy, timing is everything. Do you think that one who becomes a successful leader also masters timing?
EHRLICH: Oh, it’s certainly one of the qualities but I don’t know that it’s, it’s the only one, but it’s a very important one knowing when to hold back and when to go forward, when to put your cards down and when to hold, when to bluff. You know, I think timing is a lot. It’s not everything and it’s certainly not as important as integrity but it’s darned important.
SCARPINO: Some of the questions that I was going to ask you about IU we’ve covered but just so I have them in the record I was going to talk to you about what attracted you and why you think the trustees picked you and so on but and what were your goals as president? What did you set out to accomplish?
EHRLICH: Well initially as I said I was asked to promote the academic agenda and strengthen the academic agenda was seen as had been “slipping” in the trustees minds.
SCARPINO: Do you think it was?
EHRLICH: Not uniformly but in places I think it was. And so being a part of a big public university with all of the challenges there sounded like what I wanted to do. I had no idea what that really meant. I had only experienced a single campus and its diversity. So I didn’t really begin to understand the complexity. I think the plan to merge Indianapolis and Bloomington and, was truly genius. Not just brilliant but genius. When I look back in history and this was John Ryan, the seminal events in Indiana University history, I think that was. . .
SCARPINO: . . .you’re talking about the creation of IUPUI?. . .
EHRLICH: . . .creation of IUPUI, yeah, was a master stroke and. . .
SCARPINO: . . .and why do you think it was a master stroke?
EHRLICH: . . .Because I think otherwise we would have a separate university and for some this might have been better but I think for the state as a whole at least as I saw it, it was better not to have a separate university. But I don’t think I ever would have had the ability to put together such a byzantine set of arrangements (laughing) as ended up with, between Indiana and Purdue. It was pretty masterful.
SCARPINO: I will say for the record that I’ve done two major oral history projects related to the creation of IUPUI.
EHRLICH: Oh, really?
SCARPINO: So if anybody’s listening to this in the future they can go to the IUPUI archives and special collections and look those up.
EHRLICH: I want to pass my hat to that while I did say I thought the academic enterprise had been slipping.
SCARPINO: In addition to your emphasis on the academic enterprise, you engaged in a number of other activities as president of IU. I think of our responsibility centered budgeting for example, our responsibility centered management. I mean, what, why that and why did you bring that to Indiana University? What did you hope to accomplish with that?
EHRLICH: Well, when, before I even got there the then Vice President for Finance, a lovely guy named Ed Williams, came to brief me when I was a provost at Penn abut the budget and he said, he’s really terrific. Here are the books that we show in public of the university and then here’s the real books. And if you can see you have all this money and nobody knows where anything really is except you and me and a couple of people in the budget office and it immediately struck me that as a public university this was, in my view, outrageous. Not that Ed Williams was outrageous. Ed Williams is a lovely guy but that’s just the way he had been trained and that’s the way the budget had been done. I had at University of Pennsylvania which had what it called responsibility centered management which simply said that we are going to be very transparent about where the money was coming from, where it was going, what parts of the institution were getting support from the center and there was a premium on trying to articulate why the history department was getting more money per student credit hour than the business school or whatever and that if we were going to do that we ought to have some rationale for doing it and we ought to be very public about it. That seemed to me actually a pretty basic tenet of what I wanted to bring to Indiana University and it seemed to me very important to establish in a regime in which academic enterprise was going to be emphasized that some places were going to get better treatment than others. It was just going to happen. And we’d better have a good set of reasons for why. And in some cases there would be some departments that had been sheltered from much scrutiny that were not going to be able to be sheltered anymore because they didn’t have any students or whatever the other reason was and we’d better have a good set of reasons for why we’re doing what we’re doing other than caprice and fortunately at Indiana University at the time was a wonderful head of the budget office named Ed Whalen who was quite sympathetic with this, although I must say I don’t think probably if I had taken a vote at the time, which I didn’t do. I mean it really seemed to me essential to further the academic effort in a public university particularly but I hadn’t known fully the challenges we would take. I talked to the chancellors of course and to the deans. By all odds the place to start it seemed to me and to Jerry Bepko, fortunately, was IUPUI because first of all he was the best manager by a long shot. He’s terrific. He and Bill Plater did an exemplary job. As far as I was concerned the whole time I was there they were wonderful and still are wonderful.
SCARPINO: They were the chancellor and dean of faculties for IUPUI.
EHRLICH: They were the chancellor and dean of faculty. They wanted to enhance the academic enterprise. They wanted to be open and direct. They were themselves in their personal dealings with everybody. I don’t think there was anything else. So this made a lot of sense to do this at the most likely to succeed place. Bloomington was run by a person who became a very close friend, Ken Gros Louis, but he had a much more byzantine mode of operation in his own way and also incidentally was much more at odds with the then vice president for finance and that made it even more complicated. So, but Whalen worked out with the head of budget for IUPUI how to do this and it isn’t either you do it or you don’t do it. It is to what degree do you have responsibility? To what degree are there cost centers? To what degree do you take issues like space and make that, translate that into a cost so that when I took over as president nobody was paying anything for space which sounded bizarre to me but it meant that if you were a school or a dean you wanted more space and more space and more space but you didn’t have to pay for it. So the idea of being able to trade space for scholarships or faculty support was just not on the table. And the same was true for other kinds of facilities and support systems and so forth. So we tried to cost those out—not perfectly but reasonably—and some faculty were more worried about this as you’ll remember than others. Those in small departments said oh, this is going to be our death now because we don’t have students. Well, we’re going to have to see if you have arguments for why Uralic and Altaic is important to be taught at Indiana University Bloomington, which I happen to think it is and still is. We’re going to do it even though we only have a handful of students. Less students than we have professors. But if when we look at the physics department and we find there are more undergraduate physics majors at Oberlin than there are at Bloomington are and they really don’t pay any attention to it, we’re really going to have to ask about that next position in physics. So the danger is you can overdo that and you can become a totally entrepreneurial operation where it’s sharp elbow and that is a real danger. What we try to do is get a balance.
SCARPINO: Did you see the responsibility centered management as a leadership and managerial tool or as a mechanism of accountability or all of above?
EHRLICH: Yeah, it was mainly as a tool for promoting academic strength or being sure that we made as clear judgments as we could about what was academically, what our academic priorities were. As a tool to be sure as we could that budget would follow, not lead, academic priorities and it wasn’t doing that in my view before.
SCARPINO: As I recall as president, you initiated discussion of the meaning of the baccalaureate degree?
EHRLICH: Yes, that was a part of this big academic plan we did. We said what should be the, what are the core competencies—knowledge skills, motivation—that you should come away with as a Indiana University graduate. That was one in which I thought the discussion was, I mean the journey was absolutely as important as the outcome because probably we could foresee most of the outcome, 80% of the outcome anyway. But I thought it was important to come together to talk through where we were and where we were going.
SCARPINO: During your tenure at Indiana University, did you meet any individuals who stood out as leaders, who shaped you as a leader?
EHRLICH: Herman Wells certainly. Dick Stoner as chair of the board, as good friend of Bob Knight’s, and as mediator. Ed Williams was an incredibly important mediator in the horrendous times with Bob Knight in terms of getting through all that. There were some presidents I came to admire a lot. Harold Shapiro who was then at Michigan, later at Princeton, I admired greatly. Hunter Rawlings I admired a good deal. Jim Freedman who went from Iowa to Dartmouth I admired.
SCARPINO: You mentioned him earlier as the man who got tangled up in issues related to athletics.
EHRLICH: That was Hunter Rawlings.
SCARPINO: I’m sorry, yeah.
EHRLICH: Not Jim Freedman. But, I guess in a harsh reality was and from my perspective there weren’t a, I don’t know whether there were in an earlier era, a number of Clark or Herman Wells, James Conants, but I didn’t see a lot when I was president.
SCARPINO: Do you think maybe there was a leadership vacuum?
EHRLICH: No. I, and I, God knows I’ve read all the literature that says oh, well, university presidents become managers, they just become fundraisers, they just become this or that. I’m not sure any of that’s very true but and indeed I’m certainly not sure that in the Conant era there were many Conants and I certainly wouldn’t suggest I had any of those qualities but it was really hard—Conant was there for 20 years, Herman was there for 25, Kerr was there for a much shorter period but he was still there for a good deal and he built on his experience in the Carnegie Foundation afterwards of course.
SCARPINO: Kerr’s first name is?
EHRLICH: He was the chancellor at Berkeley when Reagan, remember he’s the guy who said I was fired with enthusiasm.
SCARPINO: Yeah. You had to represent Indiana University before the legislature.
EHRLICH: Uh huh.
SCARPINO: How would you assess that?
EHRLICH: First of all I enjoyed it enormous. I really liked that. I like, I’m one of the people who likes asking for money. I believe in something I view it as a privilege so I like to ask private donors, I like to ask the legislature. I felt early on in part influenced by Herman. That is was very important to collaborate closely with Purdue and to do things together with Purdue. Steve Beering, who was the then president of Purdue, and I had different styles, different personalities, but I tried always—that was a big advantage because he had been dean at the medical school—I tried always to say yeah, we’re rivals on the athletic field but in really important things we’re collaborators and we’re going to do everything together. I thought it was important because we were the biggest players in the, to be sure we included all the other publics and that we went to the legislature together. That had not been done before since Herman’s time. I thought it was important to do. And I loved all that and early on a legislator said to me, Tom, you’re a nice fellow but until my constituents start coming to me and saying this is important I’m not going to pay much attention. So with the trustees support we hired a very professional grassroots organizing group from Washington who came out and helped us design Hoosier for Higher Education and that was a lot of fun to do and putting captains in every district and all that. I really loved all that. And then I went and spoke in just about every little town in Indiana. I visited most of the rotaries and Lion’s Clubs and learned a lot about what decent people are doing in the state and how they lived and what their concerns are and as you know, pretty hard to see any group of more than three people who don’t have a son or daughter or brother or sister who went to one of our campuses and who really have deep affection for it. Much more than on the east and west coast in my experience. People in Indiana really want you to succeed. So when I stumbled, even when I really stumbled as in the Bob Knight incident, people still wanted it to work and they really would be very helpful to try to make it work and that was great.
SCARPINO: I’m going to wrap up here in a second with a couple more of our standard questions and then just ask you something about what you’re doing now but before I do that is there anything that I should have asked you about your tenure at Indiana University that I didn’t have enough insight to ask, particularly related to leadership?
EHRLICH: Well, we did face one big set of issues that I had no knowledge of until I got there which was about 18/20.
SCARPINO: That’s the retirement program.
EHRLICH: 18/20 is a retirement program at Indiana University that basically said that if you’ve been around long enough at Indiana University you can retire at age 65 and get paid full pay, not draw on your retirement until you’re 70. And Herman Wells put that into effect because he thought this would help encourage turnover and enable the university to attract more of the best people. I’m not, all of us make mistakes and I personally think this was one of his. But whether or not it was a mistake at the time, of course I wasn’t there but I was sure by the time I got there we were bankrupting the university by doing it and we couldn’t continue. As soon as I really looked at the books and I was a little cranky frankly because it could have been dealt with sooner and so it wouldn’t have been on my watch but there it was. It was on my watch so we had to deal with it. So of course we had a little commission and faculty were involved and so forth and we had sensible faculty who said that we can’t continue is. So then the question was how to do it in a way that grandfathered the faculty, we couldn’t change the contract but we had to revise it. That was for the matter of multiple months that it was an issue, went through the faculty senate, and then the trustees, that was a big issue. It wasn’t on my agenda. It wasn’t one of my three or four things I really wanted to get done. I knew if I screwed it up I couldn’t get these other things done though so I had to pay attention to it. There were others but that was probably the one that most faculty felt most sensitive about.
SCARPINO: A couple of our wrap-up general questions here. Do you think it’s important or necessary for a leader to have a positive, reasonably well-supported set of goals and projected outcomes?
EHRLICH: Yes. And I don’t, well let me say yes with a caveat. I don’t think going in you need that. In other words, it’s perfectly reasonable to get away for the first six to nine months by saying I’m listening, I’m learning, I’m building my staff, some other things, and state your goals at a level of generality—academic excellence, serving the public, the needs of Hoosier and so forth, that if they’re listeners of good will they’ll accept that. But boy if you don’t by then have a pretty clear set of articulateable goals and articulate them with a sufficient degree of precision that they don’t sound like smoke let alone bull, they sound like serious stretch goals that are attainable but really are going to move forward in a direction that can be understood and appreciated, I don’t think you can ever succeed.
SCARPINO: Do you think there can be a great leader who pursues goals or outcomes of questionable utility or morality?
EHRLICH: Not at an institution I’ve been involved with.
SCARPINO: Was Adolph Hitler a leader for example?
EHRLICH: Oh, well, yeah, I thought you said a great leader. Maybe, yeah.
SCARPINO: Well, I was, don’t mean he was, well he’s well known but I mean, what we’re trying to drive at here is there’s certainly a body of literature related to leadership that says that a person really can’t be a leader if they’re engaging in activities that are morally questionable so was Al Capone a leader? The question was, can there be a great leader who pursues goals or outcomes of a questionable utility or morality.
EHRLICH: I wouldn’t call Al Capone, I wouldn’t call Adolph Hitler a great leader. You can be effective within the realm in which you’re operating. Al Capone was very effective. Hitler was, unfortunately, supremely effective but, so if we’re, we’re talking about semantics at some place here but I do think in the realms that I’ve been privileged to be involved with a strong moral compass and the ability to understand what its points are when you’re deviating, how much you’re deviating, as, may not have been clear but no question that I engaged from time to time in issues and had to deal with issues when I thought the decision on behalf of Indiana University in an ideal world we wouldn’t have quite done this. It wasn’t perfectly pure. It wasn’t immoral but it wasn’t perfect. There are some other issues that I learned about that I didn’t immediately go to the press and say hey, I’ve got to confess that Indiana University engaged in X, Y, or Z. I’m just using Indiana because it’s the most recent. Same was true with Penn. There are judgment calls of what you make public, what you do. I think though that it’s, Jimmy Carter will be known I think as a very moral man. His most recent escapade with Israel notwithstanding. And when I left in January of 1981, people in Africa particularly, but Asia and Latin America would say that the United States was a moral country and that’s pretty important.
SCARPINO: Do you think that an institution can exercise leadership as opposed to an individual?
EHRLICH: Sure. Indiana exercised leadership in higher education in the State of Indiana and exercised leadership on economic development, exercised leadership on lots of issues.
SCARPINO: Well, you left Indiana university and you were a visiting professor at Duke in the fall of 1994 and then from 1995 to 2000, distinguished university scholar at California State and then from 1997 to the present, senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation. I read somewhere that, as you left Indiana University and moved into, I guess a semi-retirement, that you left on your own terms and I heard from you that you’re living in the same house that you owned since the time you were a professor here at Stanford. Do you feel kind of like you’ve come full circle?
EHRLICH: Well, not quite. It’s more like a spiral. It’s come back at a sense but it’s also at a different level, different age, different time. My wife had heart surgery, our youngest son had heart surgery, both of which made us a little more aware than we might be of human frailties. We had seven wonderful years, one of the best things about Indiana University which I hadn’t really emphasized strongly enough was that Ellen and I did everything together almost. Not everything but an enormous amount together. Very public. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Unlike being provost which was, at Penn, pretty private most of the time. Very early on I went out in my shorts and a T-shirt to Kroger’s in Bloomington and I hadn’t been home, back in our house an hour before somebody said I hear you were in Kroger’s in your shorts. As it happened, my predecessor never went anyplace without a three-piece suit and it just struck me that this is a different environment. But we loved it. And we grew together, we grew up, we learned a lot, it was fun. It was fairly intense but it was fun. But it seemed time. Then I had, I wanted to do something after being president, professionally but I wasn’t sure what. I really, I kind of assumed I could go back to Stanford Law School and teach there. After all, I, dean here and built the buildings. So I called in the spring of that year my friend who I helped to hire who was then dean. I said we’re coming back and I’d like to teach. And he said well I’ll talk to the faculty and he really said to the faculty he would find a way to pay for it so all they had to do was approve me. But the faculty, a few of whom, I mean I didn’t know these people mainly. I knew some of them though. They said you’re a nice fellow, Tom, but you’ve been away 21 years and yes, you’ve been teaching undergraduates in courses in professional responsibility and law and society and some other things. I had taught at Indianapolis and Bloomington and taught a lot of different courses. But you haven’t been a serious scholar for 21 years and we really, we’ll give you an office and you can teach courses in adjunct but you’re not going to be a member of the faculty. Well, my feelings were very hurt for awhile and but, the more I thought of it the more I thought gee, no, this is really a good opportunity. So why don’t I decide what I really want to do instead of kind of sliding into that because that’s where I was. So then I said what I really care about is promoting notions of citizenship in public service among students, among undergraduates particularly, promoting the ideals of Campus Compact and the efforts I’ve been involved in. So if I can find a chance to teach undergraduates in courses that involve community service learning and, that would really be terrific. So as it turned out I could have done that at Santa Clara but I could do that also in the Cal State system which is 23 campuses and I could be part of that whole system and build up a program of community service learning and so that’s what I did and that was very fortunate. It would have been a big mistake to go back to Stanford Law School, although I did teach there a couple of years—a single course, when I came back, in human rights but and in some ways you can’t go home again. That’s why I’m answering long-winded. I don’t think you can go home. I don’t think you can just go full circle. You’ve changed. It’s changed. Life changes. And this was the best thing that could have happened although I didn’t realize it initially and after I got over feeling with my pride wounded and all that, I’m so fortunate and I did that for five years and had a wonderful time helping to build the only system-wide office of community service learning that really has an all-campus active program.
SCARPINO: So you really were a leader in that movement.
EHRLICH: Yeah. And it was a great opportunity to do that and I taught undergraduates there and had a good time there and then by good fortunate I had started talking to the person who was chosen as the head of the Carnegie Foundation and he asked me to spend a little time and I said I’ll do that but I’m not going to run anything. So you’re going to run it. I’ll give you advice and whether you follow that I’ll do it but mainly I want to do my own projects because by then I had become more and more focused on civic responsibility and moral responsibility and undergraduate education and what could be done to make those dimensions of undergraduate life stronger. And fortunately I met Anne Colby. When I had been at Indiana I taught a course for seniors on altruism and philanthropy with our philanthropy center and a book she and her husband wrote had been one of my texts and I wrote a fan letter just saying how good it was and she wrote back and said could she use that blurb and we corresponded and then we found ourselves both here and so I helped her arrange a position here and we set out to, first do the work that led to our book called Educating Citizens and then we’ve done another book called Educating for Democracy and we’re going to finish that this year and start a new project. This is an environment, you could tell at lunch, this is what a university should be but frankly too often isn’t.
SCARPINO: Sometimes it’s not.
SCARPINO: Is there anything on the subject of leadership and your career that I have not been perceptive enough to ask you about.
EHRLICH: Probably but I’m not perceptive either.
SCARPINO: Okay. Well, then I’d like to thank you very much for taking the time to sit with me today and to share with me and with the tape recorder and with everybody who will listen to this in the future, your observations on leadership.