These interviews took place on February 9, 2007, on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California.Learn more about Tom Erlich
Part oneSkip to next interview transcript
SCARPINO: So we are on the record and I would like to begin this interview by asking you, on the record, for your permission to record this interview, to transcribe the interview, and to place the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives for the use of their patrons.
EHRLICH: You have my permission to do all those things.
SCARPINO: Thank you so much. I’m going to begin at the beginning almost and then what I’d like to do is work my way chronologically through your career with a focus on leadership and switch off between general career related questions and the specific leadership questions that we sent you ahead of time. So, I know that you were born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1934 and that you grew up in Cambridge until the outbreak of World War II and that you father spent a year in Washington working for the Office of Price Administration during World War II. Can you tell me a little bit about your parents? Who were they? What did they do?
EHRLICH: Yes. My father was born and brought up in Boston, Brookline, Massachusetts and his father was a retailer of clothes for men and women in Boston and my mother grew up in Philadelphia and when they got married they moved to Boston. My father was a, who worked before the war in retail clothing work, lived in Cambridge, knew lots of academics, but was not himself an academic. Meanwhile my mother, who had gone to the University of Pennsylvania but was unable to graduate with a degree in architecture because women were not allowed to take the necessary courses in sanitation and plumbing then, had to go to MIT, did graduate in architecture, couldn’t get a job, because it was in the midst of the depression, as an architect but started working at the Fogg Museum at Harvard and worked most of her adult life restoring works on paper at that museum. So had some connection over the years of my childhood to Harvard and I went to Harvard and Harvard Law School both. But my parents had no direct involvement with the academic world.
SCARPINO: I note that you attended Exeter Academy for the last few years of high school.
EHRLICH: Yes I did.
SCARPINO: Why did you end up at Exeter?
EHRLICH: Well, that’s a, for reasons that I’m still not totally clear. I was in the first year of high school, found it not particularly challenging, went to my grandmother and said I’d like to go to this boarding school and she agreed to finance it and I went and it was by all odds the best education of my life. Once I got over the loneliness of being away from home which I had not done except in the summers, I was with a group in every class of not more than 14 students in which we had a truly, deeply inquiring dialogue about the issues in the class and it was an exhilarating experience for me—transformative experience for me in a lot of ways and set my marker for what education ought to be though too rarely is.
SCARPINO: Did your experiences at Exeter in any way influence the leader that you became later on?
EHRLICH: I think it gave me a sense of what an inquiring mind can be. Not that I had that mind but I could keep striving to create it and exposed me to the riches of literature particularly. At that time Exeter used what was called the Harkness method because a man named Harkness gave a large amount of money so that the whole teaching approach at Exeter could be around a table called the Harkness table with not more than 14 students in which the students really led the class. The teacher would throw out a question and then the students were responsible for keeping a deep dialogue going. That exposed me especially to 19th Century literature—to Hardy and Dickens and other great authors that I grew to love and still love and still read but also gave, I think, some sense of personal responsibility for education that isn’t always true in schools that where one says it’s up to the teacher to do the learning, or ensure the learning, and at Exeter I came to see that student responsibility was enormously important and a sense of the potential of everyone in the class being some kind of leader for the session. I think that’s shaped my sense of collaborative leadership and learning in subsequent years.
SCARPINO: Do you think that an inquiring mind and personal responsibility are leadership qualities?
EHRLICH: Absolutely. I think both of those are enormously important as is a sense that one is responsible not only for oneself but for the group one’s working with as a team and creating, helping to create, that sense of shared responsibility, is an essential part of leadership.
SCARPINO: Did you encounter any teachers there who influenced you, particularly in areas of leadership?
EHRLICH: There certainly were teachers. The headmaster, a man named Saltonstall, a good New England name, was a particularly good teacher of history and that was an era in which the great person, a theory of history, was dominant. One read both ancient history and American history and everything in-between in terms of great men—they were all men I think—who shaped their times and so particularly in history one got a sense of leadership. I think it was a somewhat flawed sense because I no longer think that it’s only great men who shape history but certainly Saltonstall was one of those who was an important influence in my life.
SCARPINO: There was certainly a view of leadership rooted in the time in which you were in school.
EHRLICH: Absolutely. Absolutely.
SCARPINO: You went on to Harvard. You earned you’re AB in 1956, magna cum laude and you were Phi Beta Kappa and I know that you won the Eric Firth prize. Why Harvard?
EHRLICH: Well, I will say if I had to do it again I would not go to the same college and law school and I probably would go someplace further on. But everything I had heard said that Harvard was an extraordinarily good education and the only other institution I seriously considered was Swarthmore because it occurred to me that going to a smaller school might be better but as I reflected on it having gotten actually admitted to both, Swarthmore seemed too much like Exeter while I hoped that Harvard I would be stretched more. As it turned out, in fact, for the first year anyway I didn’t feel particularly stretched at Harvard and it was only when I really learned how to find the teachers who would do the stretching with me or for me that I felt I was going beyond where I had been at Exeter.
SCARPINO: What was the Eric Firth prize?
EHRLICH: That’s a prize for an outstanding work in political science. It may be more broad than that, maybe social sciences. I can’t remember. But in my senior year I did a honors thesis on how public opinion is shaped which I think totally serendipitously has had echoes through other parts of my life subsequently. But I looked at what the role of public opinion in a democracy and how public opinion is tapped. How do leaders learn public opinion? How do they mold public opinion? How do they pay attention to public opinion? And I used as the case study a massive—the largest ever at the time—a study of public opinion done by the Department of Agriculture in the U.S. It was called the Family Farm Study and literally hundreds of thousands of farmers were brought together in various town hall groups around the country to get their views on small farms and the future and the role of the government and there was a massive cache of tapes—audio tapes—of all these and transcripts in most of the cases, that had never been looked at by anybody.
SCARPINO: Oh my goodness.
EHRLICH: And my professor or my tutor at they were called, named Arthur Moss, who was a mentor—one of the really instrumental mentors in my academic life—said why don’t you go down and look at all this. I spent a week or so in Washington in their files and then got permission to take them all back to Cambridge and that had a, it was kind of an eye-popping insight into public opinion, how it could be shaped, and I wrapped around that a look at some of the contemporary seminal figures. Lippmann on the one hand—Walter Lippmann that is—who said that democracy can only work if their experts, those experts, need to shape the policy. You need elected leaders to pay attention to the experts. Yes, the public can throw out the leaders if they don’t like them in general but they shouldn’t muck around with trying to learn about policy because they’re not smart enough to learn or shape it because that will be a disaster. That’s what moms are all about. That’s a little caricature of Lippmann but that’s where at least. . .that was on the one side. John Dewey and those who said, but Dewey particularly, that democracy is about participation—an active, engaged, involved citizenry is instrumental to the success of a democracy and education and democracy are inherently related and of course he wrote a great book called Education and Democracy and so forth. I say that in part because my current project today at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is on how college students are and can be engaged in things political. Not just partisan politics but policymaking, public policymaking more broadly and as one who’s very much in the Dewey camp in that dichotomy that I just issued, it just mentioned it shows here I am over 50 years later going back to the same issues I dealt with as an undergraduate in my thesis, having written one book with my colleagues here at the Carnegie Foundation called Educating Citizens about Civic Engagement generally. Now we’re just finished a book called Educating for Democracy about this very same issue which may just show that if you wait long enough everything comes around again.
SCARPINO: (laughter) Well those ideas certainly reverberated through your career.
EHRLICH: Yes, yes. And that, Arthur Moss, the experience of writing that thesis which was by all odds the longest piece of work that I had done. I might just go back to say that at Exeter I won another prize and the prize as for a paper I did for Saltonstall, whom I mentioned, and it was about a man named Abner Kneeland who was the last person tried in Massachusetts for heresy which was a crime until the early part of the 19th Century. Abner Kneeland declared very publicly and very vocally that there was no god and I used this paper and newspapers that were available in the Boston public library to study how that was shaped. That whole experience also, doing a sustained piece of work about a figure who was in his own way a leader though one ultimately put in jail, also had an influence in my life. But the next largest piece that I did was my senior honors thesis at Harvard which is about public opinion.
SCARPINO: You went from Harvard to Harvard Law School, graduating in 1959 and once again you were magna cum laude and you were also an article editor for the Harvard Law Review. Why did you elect to go on to law? What was the attraction of law for you?
EHRLICH: I had wanted, for reasons I can’t certainly pinpoint at the time, but to be a teacher most of my life since I was a fairly early teenager and that was always a sense that that would happen. My grandmother whom I’ve already mentioned, was a very important influence. Though she never went to college, she was a voracious reader and teacher for me. I would visit her regularly. She would always give me a book. I would always read it. We then talk about it. And I think as much as anything, out of that experience came the sense that I wanted to be a teacher. And law, from a fairly early age, seemed a intellectually interesting, challenging arena. One of the books I read was a biography of Louis Brandeis. As a Jew myself, his career seemed a powerful kind of beacon on what one could do and that was one of the first really intellectual biographies I read as opposed to great men who did things. He did things too but the biography by Thomas Alpheus Mason that I remember reading was really how his mind helped shape American life and that seemed to me pretty exciting. So it was probably that as much as anything that pushed me into law. But it was my primarily and more generally at least, because law seemed a intellectually interesting, challenging arena.
SCARPINO: Did you think that you could use your mind to help shape American life?
EHRLICH: No. I don’t think I had anything as grandiose as that but it was rather that the profession offered an opportunity to use one’s mind in interesting and challenging ways that could be useful for other people. It certainly is true that, my father particularly, dedicated much of his time, mainly his advocational time, to community service. He was involved in a number of organizations in our community and the Jewish community more generally but, and for a year in Washington in public service. And I grew up thinking that that was an important thing to do. A good thing to do. When I was at Harvard I was, I’d been interested in politics from a very early age. When I was at Harvard I was very active in the Harvard Young Democrats. I was president of the Harvard Young Democrats and campaigned actively my freshman year for Adlai Stevenson. Cried when he lost.
SCARPINO: It didn’t work well for Adlai Stevenson.
EHRLICH: It didn’t work well but I campaigned for him again in my senior year. Yeah, the fall of ’56 when he lost again and in his words I may have been too old to cry then but I certainly was deeply, I was very moved by Stevenson and this was a time still of great orators and they weren’t all Democratic. Everett Dirksen. But men who could speak powerfully, persuasively, eloquently, about the public interest. To me Stevenson certainly did that. But I also got involved I should say with, as an undergraduate, in Democratic politics in Massachusetts just because I was in this role. As a quick aside, one of the things we did was to invite the mayor of Boston who was named James Michael Curley who at that point was not in jail as he was subsequently but he was a very flamboyant, colorful figure and we invited him to speak to the Democratic club of Harvard which I was the president of and he accepted and I went to the place where I’ve agreed to meet him only to find that he wasn’t there. I waited for maybe an hour and I had several hundred people waiting to hear him because he really was a great speaker and a lot of fun to hear. Finally I went and called his office. In those days of course you couldn’t just pick up your cell phone. It was a deal to do it and to get the right person. And they said well he’s there. We got your call that changed the plan and said he was supposed to meet and I said there wasn’t any call to change the plan. It turned out that the Harvard Lampoon had called him and said they were me or the Democratic Club. Took him to the Lampoon building, put him in the building, said we’ll be right back to take you to the speech and locked the door and left and laughed and laughed and they thought it was voraciously funny that the mayor of Boston had been locked in the Lampoon room for an hour or more and I of course was, did not think it was funny although in retrospect it’s kind of amusing. At any rate, I was involved with some political figures. My senior year one of my teachers, a man named Wood who was a teacher of political science, suggested that I might like a summer job writing speeches for one of the gubernatorial candidates and I thought that sounded like a great job. So I spent the summer of my senior year writing speeches for a man named Foster Furcolo who ran for governor, was a Democrat—first American Italian to do that—and he won. I spent the next summer, which is the first year of law school, writing speeches for him as governor and it gave me my first exposure to a high level political figure. He was a good guy. He was not a great governor and he was also, unfortunately, indicted though never convicted. But it exposed me to the fun and excitement of political life and political campaigns. We went all over Massachusetts campaigning for Furcolo and I would write speeches and he would give the speeches. Now he didn’t give all my speeches and there were others doing this but it was a chance to see that I could do something in the public arena and it was fun and it seemed to me important to try to do and it certainly started to imbed in my mind that if I had the right opportunities I would like to spend some time in public service.
SCARPINO: Did you ever consider running for office yourself?
EHRLICH: Yeah, and I, there was never the time when I stopped and said here’s a perfect opportunity. To run for office, at least, less true in California than it is in Indiana or Massachusetts, you really need to have pretty deep roots so you can say I was born here, I know what the problems are of the community in a deep way and ideally my father and my grandfather or my mother and so forth. So it would have been in Massachusetts but in my senior year I met the wonderful woman I’ve been, or junior year I guess, married to for the, 50 years this year.
SCARPINO: And I’m going to ask for the record what her name is.
EHRLICH: And her name is Ellen. It was Ellen Rome and we met in a political science class and started talking and haven’t stopped talking for 50 years together and loving each other fortunately. But she was, she’s from Chicago, very eager to move away from Boston and I realized that I had spent too much time in too parochial an environment. That’s why I say in my, to do it again no question I would have gone to college some place else and gone to a different law school than the college. But I didn’t. But that then, those experiences I think shaped and showed me some picture of what, in Furcolo’s case, a leader could do even though he was not a particularly distinguished governor.
SCARPINO: I’m going to, to make I guess, a slight digression. Other than the people that you mentioned, were there any other individuals from your high school, college, or law school years who significantly influenced the leader you became?
EHRLICH: Well there were teachers—Arthur Schlesinger, particularly, as an undergraduate who, Louie Hartz as an undergraduate. These are great teachers.
SCARPINO: What was it like to sit in Arthur Schlesinger’s classroom? I have to ask you that.
EHRLICH: Well, it was wonderful and today I view Schlesinger as a, one of the remarkable figures. When I took his course it was actually his father who was known as the great figure because his father was the first to take—I think or one of the first—to take social history seriously to say the great person theory of history was inadequate and insufficient. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was—and my parents incidentally went in a circle of people who were heavily populated, not dominated, but populated by academics—and in that circle Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was known as little Arthur. So I had kind of a dual picture of, it wasn’t all that he was a great man and of course he was much younger then. But I admired him enormously and one of the nice experiences many, many years later was coming to give a speech at the Century Association in New York and having him come up and before the talk and I said he was in his class and he said I’ve followed your career and it’s been so influential and important and it meant a huge amount to me particularly because I remember this course. In all events, he was a breathtaking teacher. He gave a sense of a sweep of American history in social terms and cultural terms in ways that it never occurred to me that one could do because I had thought of history in the Morrison terms of. . .
SCARPINO: . . .Samuel Eliot. Morison?
EHRLICH: . . .Samuel Eliot Morison and I think we would do one of the American history books. But they were basically Washington, Jefferson, the founding fathers. It was American history through its presidents. Arthur Schlesinger talked about movements. And while he certainly talked about the age of Jackson and his first great book, it wasn’t about Jackson as much as it was about populism and how it developed and all that gave me a much richer textured sense of American life and history than I would have had before. Louie Hartz who was another one gave, it was more intellectual history but again the notion that ideas that cultural forces, that social forces, that economic forces, could all interact and merge with political forces seems pretty obvious to us now when we say of course that’s right. But it wasn’t clear at least to a 20 year old maybe 52 or three years ago and it was an eye-popping, wonderful experience. That was the time when I started to really get engaged in college because it took a leap ahead of where I had been at Harvard. So that was great. In retrospect I struck, and my wife Ellen, who was at Radcliffe, she took all, Radcliffe students took all the same course, or had available, as we did. It happened she majored in political sciences, as did I, then called government, still called government I guess. But there was not a single teacher who was a woman at Harvard that we had—she or I. The kind of most depressing part of that comment is that neither one of us thought it was unusual. Fortunately, some things have changed.
SCARPINO: What do you think makes a great teacher? You talked about Arthur Schlesinger Jr. as a great teacher.
EHRLICH: Well, and actually I wrote, one of the chapters in the, I wrote a little book about my experiences at Indiana University and one of the pieces, one of the chapters, is about great teachers and that probably says this better but it is their combination of abilities that enable students to think deeply and expansively in ways that they haven’t been doing and that go on thinking after the class or course is over. If at one end of the spectrum there’s a teacher who says I have a series of factoids that I’m going to transfer to the student and that’s my job and then when I’ve emptied my tank and filled her tank I’m going to go off. That’s the worst kind and over and over again I’ve seen over the years and in talking to Indiana students who remember nothing about those courses—nothing. And it’s as though they never happened and they remember it up to the exam and then that’s it. The best teachers are those who create an environment in which students say gee, there’s really an interesting set of issues that I can deal with and they’re useful to me. They’re not, I don’t necessarily mean in the utilitarian sense but it may be a aesthetic sense or a cultural sense that it’s really interesting to learn about art and to look at a picture and be able to think what the artist was trying to do, what it says to me, how it relates to my own experience or the life around me or a piece of music as well as some insights into the African American community in this area or whatever. Great teachers are able to turn on the switches that all of us have. They’re not all as big switches as others but all of us have those switches and it’s the teachers who are able to turn on those in ways that are exciting. So that takes some showmanship. It takes a deep understanding of where students are and knowledge about them which is I think probably the biggest stumbling block most of us have. We have a hard time just getting our minds back inside what it was like to be a student at that time and one only has to think of one’s children if one has children. Now my children, how hard it is really to think what it was like to be a 14 year old grandson who’s terrific and I, talking, reading the Odyssey, was talking about the Odyssey. I took a course last year in the Odyssey and I, it’s fascinating to me to watch relationship to my sense of what the Odyssey is saying and his sense. It’s hard work to get to be where he is but that’s what a teacher has to do.
SCARPINO: I’m going to step back one more time. Were there any events from your years as an undergraduate at Harvard or in law school at Harvard that shaped your character or your view of the world or shaped the leader you became?
EHRLICH: Well, sure. There were lots of those and I talked about the political side, the extracurricular side, but it was related to the curricular side. I was lucky enough to be able to do what I’ve later come to see I think is enormously important but as leaders of colleges and universities we usually don’t do a terribly good job of, merging the curricular and the extracurricular so that students, whether they’re at a commuting campus or a residential campus, most students have a significant amount of their energy and effort is not just related to the curricular side but I had a co-curricular experience that was very much related to my curricular experience and I came away thinking that’s an important goal and later that having student affairs on one side and academic affairs on the other was a mistake. Not an easily correctable mistake but a mistake. So that was certainly one in terms of my roles as a academic leader. At Harvard Law School I was fortunate enough to be on the Harvard Law Review and those were the eras, that was an era in which Harvard Law School gave everybody a grade in every course, the highest, an A was in the seventies and you got graded down to a tenth of a point I think and the entire class, 550 students, was ranked from one to 550 and you knew your rank. So the person who was number 550 knew he was 550. That, I believed at the time and believe now, was a truly barbaric system. It was, talk about reinforcing one’s self esteem. Just imagine what it’s like because these are all smart, overwhelmingly men. There were six women in the class. But I was lucky enough to be one of the very top group and that’s how the Harvard Law Review was chosen at the time. The experience of being on the Law Review which was for the first year an intense exegesis of text. We read court opinions, analyzed them, wrote pieces about them. We analyzed each other’s writing, we edited each others, we had a style blue book that was 200 pages long, we had to follow it. It was intense, close textual analysis and it was the first time I did very close, analytic work of text. I think a leader has to know how to do that kind of work for the 10% or 5% of his reading time while the other 90 or 95% is spent skimming through vast quantity of stuff but you have to be able to stop at the right time and really read very carefully. It’s the difference between reading a murder mystery and reading a poem. A poem you just can’t whip through. I happen to be a very fast reader for most of my life and, but that experience taught me how to stop—I don’t want to say I always do it at the right times—but stop and do a very close, careful reading. And that’s what the Harvard Law Review was all about for a couple of years. I learned a lot from that experience.
SCARPINO: 1959 to 1960 you had the opportunity to serve as a law clerk for Judge Learned Hand, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Court, New York City. He was in his eighties at that point. How did you end up as Judge Hand’s clerk? I will tell you that I read another interview with you and you said as luck would happen but I’m having a hard time believing it was luck. (laughter)
EHRLICH: Well, ah, we make our luck to a degree.
SCARPINO: Sure we do. That’s true.
EHRLICH: On the other hand, I had not initially thought I would apply for a clerkship. Four of my friends and I decided we wanted to go practice law together for a period. I knew I wanted to go into teaching but I thought I’d do this first. I needed to practice before I went out and started teaching law. I better know something about how it’s practice. We looked for a firm that would take all of us. We were all on the Law Review. We were all, we thought, reasonably smart. The only firm, or there were two firms, but the firm we chose was one of those two in Milwaukee and I chose it particularly because I wanted a place that I could try everything—from trial work to counseling to everything—and I wanted to do it in a relatively quick space, although I didn’t tell the firm that, because I didn’t think I was going to stay there very long.
SCARPINO: And that was Foley, Sammond and Lardner?
EHRLICH: Yes and now Foley and Lardner which is a huge firm but it was then a small firm. And they said come do that, do whatever you want to do and so I was set to do that when a professor named Hall, criminal law professor, came to me and said Learned Hand had given me the assignment, as I’ve done for many years, of choosing his clerks and I think you’d be the right person for it. Would you like to do that? And so I went down and interviewed Judge Hand who was 87 and it was a pretty pro forma interview because I had been chosen. I had been anointed by Hall and the reason. . .
SCARPINO: Professor Hall’s first name was?
EHRLICH: . . .was, I’ll do my best.
SCARPINO: . . .Okay. I can look it up.
EHRLICH: Yeah, it’s ah, I can’t remember. From the criminal law though and I’d never taken a course with him. I knew him but not well. And when I say it was luck I think there were others who didn’t have that experience and it was certainly luck that I was with the man that was viewed the greatest judge of his time when, at that time, and I think in retrospect that’s fair. It was particularly good because he, within the couple of days, I moved, he had chambers in—as they’re called—in Foley Square is where the federal courthouse building is and these, each of the chambers were big, beautiful offices, paneled offices, with a office for the secretary and the clerk separately. But within a day or two Hand said I want you to sit next to me. So I literally sat at a desk next to him and much of the time was spent in talking to him or listening to him. He would very, he would sit on only about a third as many cases as other judges did. In the federal court system, at a certain age, one can become a senior judge and he was a senior judge which meant he could basically sit as often as he wanted to. He sat on a third as many cases but whenever he sat, he wrote the opinion in the majority if he was sitting in the majority, it was the dissent if he was in the dissent. So he wrote about as many opinions. He wrote them in longhand on pads of paper with a board to hold it up. But before doing that he would, I would often write memoranda for him. I don’t think more than a paragraph of my prose made it into his opinions but the experience was incredible because he would say okay, argue this, the plaintiff side of this case. So I would present the best argument I could and he would counteract it and then we would go the other way. And here I was getting tutorials, one-on-one, nobody else around, from this extraordinary mind who was also incredibly funny. He really had a wonderful rich and bawdy sense of humor. He loved Gilbert and Sullivan. He would sing Gilbert and Sullivan. He loved. . .
SCARPINO: There’s an image most people probably don’t have of Judge Hand.
EHRLICH: Well, there’s actually one of my Stanford Law School colleagues named Gerry Gunther wrote a biography of Hand that’s a, I think the best intellectual biography of a judge ever written. Gerald Gunther was the author. It does capture a lot of his flair. But he was very funny and very irreverent. At the time he had a, I came out of Harvard Law School I should say with what I now view as a very narrow, too narrow, view of law and its role in shaping the social condition of the populous which came from, particularly from the way those at Harvard viewed it and Hand was very much a part of that. Felix Frankfurter was very much a part of that. It was in opposition to Warren, particularly the Warren court.
SCARPINO: Earl Warren?
EHRLICH: Earl Warren who I have come to view as one of the really great heroes of American life but I didn’t understand that at the time. Hand called him the dumb Swede—not publicly of course—but to Frankfurter and he had a disdainful view of Warren’s intellect and in one sense Warren was not an intellectual. He wasn’t. He was an extraordinary leader and it took me quite a while to come to understand that there were different kinds of judges who could have a major effect. Hand, for 50 years, shaped every area of American law and we had a chance in the course of that—there weren’t any landmark decisions—but there were some relatively modest decisions that caused me to see how his mind could work. I’ll use one as an example because it stayed with me for a time. But a fellow was charged with two counts. One a forgery, forging a check and the second was passing the forged check. Passing means trying to cash it. And it was a jury trial. He, it was clear that if he passed the forged check he also forged it because there was nobody else to do that. He was convicted of passing the forged check and acquitted of forging the check. On appeal, his lawyer I thought quite cleverly argued that there was an inherent logical inconsistency here. He couldn’t have passed a forged check unless he forged it and since he was found not guilty of forging the check he should be acquitted of passing the forged check. And the logic of what I’ve just said I think is pretty impregnable. This was not a big deal case. It was fifty dollars or a hundred dollars or something. But Hand and I argued back and forth about this issue because we knew in the background what had happened which was that the jury said let’s split the difference. Some of us think he’s guilty of both. Some of us think he’s guilty of neither. So let’s have him guilty of one. Well, so this was a basic issue of do we allow juries to do that—to be illogical. And I think all of a sudden this quite pedestrian case became a really interesting issue that there wasn’t any clear rule and the answer incidentally that Judge Hand ultimately chose, which I think was the right answer, was we let juries do that. Juries don’t always act rationally. They don’t always have to act rationally. Though usually we’re not faced with such a blatant example of irrationally. That stuck with me because he spent, we spent, hours talking about this and thinking about it, looking for precedence, and trying to analyze it. Not because it was going to change the shape of American life but because it was interesting. And there were some other issues that just showed me what an extraordinarily inquiring mind he had. It was at the time he wrote a famous set of, just after he wrote a set of lectures one of which I heard at Harvard on the Bill of Rights in which he questioned the Brown decision. Not that it wasn’t right in some sense but that it wasn’t grounded in constitutional history the way it should be and that was a big dispute at the time.
SCARPINO: Whether or the Brown versus the Board of Education was appropriately grounded in the constitution is the question.
EHRLICH: Yeah, exactly. And I since then think Warren was right and Hand was wrong but, and Frankfurter went along with the decision. It was a unanimous decision which you know but, ah, it helped definitely shape my sense of what a craftsman could do. Of course Hand was ultimately a judicial craftsman.
SCARPINO: And that would be different than the kind of leadership exercised by Warren.
EHRLICH: Absolutely different, yes. Warren was not a judicial craftsman. He was a, one who tried to see where the law should be going and shape opinion that was appropriate for that. I don’t mean to say that he was anything but a smart man. He was a very astute man but I didn’t begin to understand the strength of his abilities until long after.
SCARPINO: Which one of these individuals had the greatest influence on your own leadership style?
EHRLICH: Oh, well, Hand no doubt did because I spent a year up close and very personal with him day after day after day. But I. . .
SCARPINO: We’ve talked a little bit about your brief practice in Milwaukee with Foley, Sammond and Lardner so I want to talk about your first sojourn into Washington. One of your teachers who you also described as a mentor was legal advisor to the U.S. State Department during the John Kennedy administration. His name was Abram Chayes?
EHRLICH: Right, Chayes
SCARPINO: C h a y e s and he invited you to join him and you did. You became a special assistant to the Legal Advisor Department of State from 1962 to ’65. Why did you decide to accept his offer?
EHRLICH: Ah, another story, that he, giving a talk, actually met my wife and said I’ve been trying to find Tom. I want him to come. I’m a brand new legal advisor to the State Department. He had been my corporations teacher and second year of corporations course that I taught, there were, it was a large class of 150 but there was a very small group of us who were real excited and I was enormously intellectually stimulated by law school. I found it exhilarating. Much more than college. And I just loved it. This class I loved particularly and there were about three or four of us who spent most of the time responding and talking in the class and for us it was fantastic. For the rest of the class it must have been bewildering. But I got to know Chayes very well then and loved the way his mind worked and fortunately he seemed to like the way mine did too. So we became friends—teacher/student friends—but still friends and graduate, clerkship, practicing law in Milwaukee, he met Ellen and said oh, I’ve been wanting to get a hold of Tom to come be my special assistant. I initially thought well, I don’t know about this. I just started. I was having baby, trying to raise a family, can I really do this and I went to a young partner in the firm where I was at Foley, Sammond, and Lardner to ask if he thought it was right to take a leave to go do this. And as it happened, he—it’s not just accident because he was a man I admired and respected—he had just been offered the job of being General Counsel to the Controller of the Currency. Well today I have to say I don’t know what the Controller of the Currency does or why one would want to do this but I do know at the time he was passionately eager to do this and he thought it would be incredibly exciting. He was a corporation lawyer. And we’ll say he was, he said to me Tom, don’t take this job. Wait until you become a partner then you can take a leave and go do that and you can come back to the practice of the firm. Well I thought maybe that’s good advice. But I watched then over the next couple of weeks. He went to the senior partner named Lyn Lardner and said I’d like a leave to go to be General Counsel to the Controller of the Currency. I’m earning we’ll say $40,000 and my job there will pay 25, so if the firm could subsidize me that would be great but at least I want to be able to come back. Well, Mr. Foley and Mr. Lardner were very nice people, said Allen— Allen Taylor is this man’s name—you can certainly go if you want to do that but don’t expect you can come back and certainly don’t expect we’re going to subsidize you. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re practicing law here. So he was stunned. He had a young family and he said oh, I can’t afford to do it and he decided not to do it. I saw what happened to him and I said God, I don’t want that to happen to me. I’ve got to go. And so if there had been doubt—and there really was doubt as to whether I was going to go work for Chayes—this incident when it was as though somebody upstairs orchestrated this all because it made clear to me that Taylor was going to be in that firm for the rest of his life and frustrated that he didn’t have the chance, the one great chance, to engage in public service. So I immediately told Chayes I’d love to come, went to work for a lower salary as, to Washington and fortunately my wife said, was very eager, said you really ought to do this. This is a great chance to work in the Kennedy administration where you’ve been much moved by his inaugural address. As it turned out I arrived on what’s called Cuba Monday, the 22nd of November, October, yeah, October. Kennedy spoke that night to announce the quarantine and the legal advisor’s office was charged with preparing the legal brief showing that the quarantine was legitimate under international law and then making that case and the rules of the quarantine of engagement. How you would stop ships, what you would do. For the next six months, I came then Monday morning at eight o’clock and I didn’t leave for the next 36 hours and the whole next six months was spent—primarily, not exclusively—but primarily focused on the quarantine and it was a glorious, absolutely sensational. . .
SCARPINO: Did you help to author the document?
EHRLICH: Well, I helped to author the State Department’s legal brief that went to the U.N. and to others, yes, on the quarantine. I worked very close with Chayes and with one of his other assistants. But we did, and Chayes was, let me just back up one minute because I’ll lose it otherwise. When I worked for Learned Hand, while that was the great mentoring experience, there were several other judges—Sterry Waterman particularly—who didn’t have Hand’s view that he should write every word in his opinion and they allowed me, because Hand was not as active, so they allowed me to draft opinions for them. So I had that experience too with some other judges.
SCARPINO: So Hand basically loaned you out. (laughter)
EHRLICH: Loaned me out, yes. Loaned me out. I mean he said whenever you don’t have enough work or whatever, and I really wanted the experience of actually writing an opinion. I thought gee, I’ll never get this opinion chance again. So I actually wrote some draft opinions which of course were revised and made into their own by these judges—Waterman particularly I remember—but that was a good experience too. Chayes, coming back to Chayes and the State Department, had somewhat of a, what I call a white paper complex. He had a harder time writing the first draft. He was a brilliant editor and a brilliant theoretician, a brilliant analyst and I loved him. He was one of the true mentors in my life. But for him it was important to write a draft, get something down, which I could do and then he could revise it and then we’d make it our own. So we went back and forth doing that for a lot of different documents relating to the quarantine and the aftermath of the quarantine because the quarantine had to be defended and we developed, very quickly, a rationale under international law. I had never taken a course in international law and knew nothing about international law. Chayes had never taken a course in international law, knew nothing about international law. But we learned together and subsequently we did a book together on international law and I taught international law. So this was a major experience in my life. It exposed me early on to a number of very influential leaders in the Kennedy and then in the Johnson administration. George Ball, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara particularly. People in the CIA and. . .
SCARPINO: . . .For example, people in the CIA?
EHRLICH: Yeah, I don’t actually remember their names and most of them were, I didn’t deal with Allen Dulles or anybody who was, but I watched a number of people who, I was in meetings with CIA people, national security people as well as State and Defense Department.
SCARPINO: Have you seen the documentary on McNamara?
EHRLICH: Oh, yes.
SCARPINO: I’ll ask you for the record what you thought of it.
EHRLICH: I thought it was wonderful.
SCARPINO: Just The Fog of War is what I’m talking about.
EHRLICH: It was just absolutely wonderful.
SCARPINO: I had my graduate class watch it from beginning to end and we analyzed it. Yes.
EHRLICH: Oh, really. Well. Yes, we’ll get to my time with George Ball but that was spent in a good deal of combat with McNamara about Vietnam.
SCARPINO: What else, what other experiences did you have while you were working with Mr. Chayes that stand out besides the quarantine?
EHRLICH: Well, ah, I had a chance for example to, when there was a blowup in Panama it’s just the time Panamanians were getting very antsy about American rule of the canal and we had an agreement that both flags would be flown at a particular school. For a variety of reasons the Panamanian flag wasn’t flown. There was a riot. U.S. Armed Forces shot and, as I remember, killed, injured some Panamanians. Americans were accused of I think it was a shooting in a way that was violating international law. Group called the International Commission of Jurists came to hold a hearing in Panama. I went with, as the head of the State Department delegation, to fashion the legal argument and the—I can’t think of his name now—but the later Secretary of HH, Health and Human Services, went with me from the State Department. Anyway, that was a good experience for me to deal in an international arena. I did a number of negotiations for the State Department. One I remember, a couple I remember particularly. One was over the sale of Polaris missiles to British. Polaris missiles at the time were a brand new. . .
SCARPINO: . . .Now those are submarine base missiles?
EHRLICH: . . .Those are submarine based nuclear missiles, yes. This is, was at the time very hot stuff. We met in a secure room in the Defense Department. I was the State Department representative. And there were a bunch of admirals and other heavyweight people from the Defense Department there. The head of the negotiation, “word inaudible” U.S. negotiation team said at the very beginning to the head of the British negotiating team, let’s establish as a ground rule that we’ll have no notes taken of the meeting while the meeting is going on. We’ll come to an agreement on terms and then we’ll write it down. But we won’t try to play gotcha here. We’ll just talk in good faith and so forth but we won’t have any record of it. So everybody put down their pens and said great. And so the first day went and we went through the issues about the sale because there was, big question was who is really going to be responsible for the buttons that press that made these missiles go off and hit somebody. Day ends, the British leave, the admirals leave and they’re cleaning up. I have a big pile of stuff that I’m packing up and I see this young sailor come in, go underneath the table, grab a box that was attached underneath apparently, get, come out, open up the box, take out a set of tapes and start packing up and I said excuse me sailor. What are those? And he said oh, those are our tapes for the meeting. So I went back to Abe Chayes and I said I think this is not acceptable. And he and I then went to George Ball and told him this story and Ball called McNamara and said we shouldn’t be doing this and it was stopped. But it showed me that Ball had no question about nor did he question that maybe I understood or whatever. He just said absolutely no, we won’t do that. That was a marker, I think important marker, in terms of integrity that was good. Not that I think McNamara was responsible for the taping. I don’t think he probably knew about it.
SCARPINO: And George Ball was Secretary of the State.
EHRLICH: No. George Ball was Under Secretary.
SCARPINO: Under Secretary of State.
EHRLICH: At the time the number two person in the State Department was called the Under Secretary is now the Deputy Secretary. But Ball had initially come in as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. He was promoted to be Under Secretary, the number two person. Dean Rusk was the Secretary and he was Secretary throughout the entire period of both Kennedy and Johnson. But during this time Kennedy came and spoke to the senior officers in the State Department. I remember I felt ten feet tall when he spoke. It was such a great experience. My wife and I went to the first anniversary inaugural ball and watching Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, come down the stairs to the ballroom floor was like watching the king and queen. I mean it was Camelot. It was wonderful. And Louis Armstrong played. It was a great experience and I was a kid of course and it was very moving and I really believed in the potential of international collaborative efforts to reshape a world that was peaceful and prosperous for, that we were in the middle of however you say, a great struggle with the Soviet Union but that there was an end that we could foresee.
SCARPINO: Did that stay with you? Do you still believe that?
EHRLICH: Ah, well it certainly, this current administration puts me to the test I have to say and got more depressed by this administration than I have ever, ever, ever before, including by Reagan which was bad enough. Another experience that relates to integrity and leadership was Cyprus was a very, I guess actually this was a little later now that I think about it. After two years I worked on a whole series of things for Chayes. One of the things for example was when President Kennedy was assassinated the Warren Commission was established. I was the liaison from the State Department to the Warren Commission. So I was involved with all the issues about Oswald’s passport, what was he doing in the U.S. or what was he doing in Russia rather, what was he doing around, what did our records show, and initially you may remember there was a lot of question who else was with Oswald and how did it all happen and were the Russians involved, were the Cubans involved, what did the Cubans do, and all. So it was a massive ideally instantaneous search to find everything we could and it was an interesting process to be involved in. But Chayes after two years, Harvard has a very strict rule that if you want to stay on the payroll you have to come back in two years. I wanted to stay if I could and work for George Ball because I had come to admire him enormously. I didn’t admire—I admired some qualities of Dean Rusk but I really can’t say I admired him enormously. But George Ball was a larger than life figure to me.
SCARPINO: In what way?
EHRLICH: Well, starting, he was larger. He was six foot four.
SCARPINO: He was a big man.
EHRLICH: Big guy and he had very strong, clear views. His vision was a United States and Europe with Japan working together collaboratively, strengthening their economies and a vision of Europe becoming stronger. He was a close friend of Jean Monnet. He took me to visit Monnet for a day and that was alone a kind of eye-popping experience. It was so moving. And he was very forceful and articulate in this vision that he had of the world and he, I had done a number of specific projects for him. Enough so he knew who I was. When there was a legal question and he was a lawyer of course himself, I often did the work for him and when Chayes decided to leave I went first to his assistant because he had a very strong-minded assistant. I knew unless I got him as an ally I wouldn’t have a chance. And I went and I told his assistant I’d like to be an assistant to Ball, writing his speeches and other work. So the assistant first talked to Ball and then Ball and I talked and Ball said great—instantly in fact—so I was very lucky that that worked. For the next 16 or 18 months I worked for Ball writing a lot of speeches but increasingly in that time which was ’64-’65, the Vietnam War came as a dominant set of issues. Our troop levels were quite modest at that time but Ball thought that it would be a terrible mistake for us to become more involved, that we should extricate ourselves as fast as possible, find some way to declare victory and leave. He wrote numerous extensive memoranda to the president urging his case.
SCARPINO: President Johnson?
EHRLICH: President Johnson, yes I’m sorry. Johnson was the president. And I helped him on those and while his main interest was really Europe and Japan to a lesser extent, he became, this issue came to dominate what we did because it dominated American foreign policy. Ball was forceful, eloquent. There were a group in the State Department. Alan Whiting is one I remember but there were a couple of others who agreed with Ball. There were some strong opponents. Bill Bundy who was the George Bundy’s—George Bundy was Kennedy and then Johnson’s foreign policy advisor in the State Department and I had seen him at Harvard but didn’t know him. But he was viewed by Ball as one of the forces of darkness. Bill Bundy was even more an advocate on the other side. And of course and so was Gene Rostov ???spelling??? in the White House and particularly of course McNamara. I got an opportunity to watch McNamara in meetings, present the case about Vietnam, and McNamara was a supremely able advocate. One of the best I’ve seen in terms of marshalling facts and figures to present a case. Ball was very good—very, very good. But watching these two face off and realizing that—and I believe passionately in what Ball was saying. I became a total advocate but it was a enormously important experience in watching up close these two leaders face off and argue—mainly on paper—but some in, and at one point one of the peace plans that Ball had developed, Johnson thought enough of to say go to, this should go to “words inaudible” or Westmoreland in Vietnam. So one Friday afternoon when I was feeling lousy with a very bad cold, Ball called me and said you’re going Sunday morning to Saigon to present this plan that we had been working on. I mean it wasn’t a, it was a secret plan to. . .
SCARPINO: . . .and this would have been in 1964?
EHRLICH: . . .’64, yes. And so I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting the 13 shots that I had to get which you’re supposed to get over a period of X weeks and if I was sick before, as I was, I was really sick then. But I, fortunately the State Department had a rule that if you’re flying more than 12 hours you could fly business class and there was a Pan Am round the world flight. There was a Pam Am one to Bangkok and two from Bangkok back, so I booked around the world on that, got on the plane, drank two scotches and fell asleep. And fortunately woke up feeling actually quite recovered. The ambassador sent his fighter plane to pick me up in Bangkok and we flew low over Vietnam to—I’d never been in a fighter plane before—my ears popping. It was really exciting! Landed in Saigon. I had never been in a war zone before and there was this incredible contrast between these gorgeous French villas and all the weaponry of a city and got to the ambassador and immediately presented this plan and I could tell instantly that he was going to say no way. That the answer was more troops. We can beat these guys. We can’t put our tail between our legs and run away.
SCARPINO: We probably better drop the ambassador’s name in here for the record.
EHRLICH: Yeah, Westmoreland. I’m pretty sure it was Westmoreland.
SCARPINO: Westmoreland was commander of the troops. General Westmoreland. We’ll look it up.
EHRLICH: Okay. I may have conflated the head of the troops with the. . .
SCARPINO: . . .but you were presenting to the ambassador.
EHRLICH: . . .I was presenting to the ambassador. I stayed in his residence. And so I presented it, yeah, now I’m sorry.
SCARPINO: It’s okay. It really is. I can easily look that up.
EHRLICH: Anyway, I could tell right away that he was, he was not going to buck. I said well read this document which makes the case we think powerfully, persuasively. I’ll go to sleep. Next morning when going in. We went again. There were, I may have either been alone with him or maybe the, one of the troop commander was there too and that’s maybe how I, but it was a very small group because this was a document there were only five copies or four copies and so forth. But while I tried the next day for three or four hours, it was clear to me that it was, the answer was no. So I went back with my tail between my legs. It was an important experience because I saw here the arguments that Ball made that I thought were rooted in history and the cultural environment that he believed was there in Vietnam and as well as issues of American priorities were just disregarded by the military. Subsequently of course, it got much worse because we went from a relatively small troop strength—30,000 or whatever it was at the time. It escalated very quickly and very disastrously as it subsequently proved and it proved that Ball was absolutely right. As I wrote recently to the New York Times, which was printed, it has incredibly similar echoes today. The whole notion of escalation of the troops today. It’s exactly what we were dealing with I think, unfortunately, will be the same results. But the experience of working with Ball on those issues, on a number of others. Cyprus was a key question at the time. The Turks had invaded Cyprus, as you may recall, saying that the Makarios Regime was treating Turks unfairly at the time.
SCARPINO: The Makarios Regime was a Greek Regime, right?
EHRLICH: Well, a Greek Cypriot Regime.
SCARPINO: Greek Cypriot, yeah.
EHRLICH: Makarios, no separation of church and state there. Makarios was an archbishop in the Greek Orthodox church but he was also the secular leader of the country of Cyprus. Recently in the fifties, declared a separate country with a incredibly elaborate constitution that had protections for Turk Cypriots as well as Greek Cypriots and Turkey said that the Greek Cypriot majority was not abiding by the protections accorded them in the constitution, invaded to go over two-thirds of the country. It was a very hot issue because Cyprus was considered by us critical to our ability to, as a base, military base, to, in dealing with the Soviets—a key NATO base. But I remember one meeting with CIA people and State Department people and Defense people with Ball headed about what to do when one of the CIA people said well, wouldn’t it be convenient—these aren’t his words but that was what he I know meant—if Makarios was assassinated and because then we wouldn’t have this problem because he was a total thorn in our side. He was really a big pain. And Ball reared back, all 240 pounds of or whatever it was, and said, absolutely not. The United States of America does not allow assassinations. And, or does not do assassinations and I was struck by the force by which he said that. A clear marker in terms of where we stood on a moral issue which one could argue about. But he was absolutely clear what we should do and why it was so important. The discussion went on and that issue was. . .
SCARPINO: Do you think that having clear markers is an important distinction of a leader?
EHRLICH: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I know subsequently when the then leader of South Vietnam, Diem?
EHRLICH: Yeah, was assassinated and we were, we allowed that to happen, Ball was deeply troubled and he felt it was a, I mean he was complicit to a degree in that. I mean I don’t know what, he knew it was happening and in so far as I know he didn’t resist it but I know in retrospect he felt that was a mistake.
SCARPINO: I want to ask you a question about your time during the Kennedy administration. What was it like to be in Washington during what must have been a crisis—personal crisis and a crisis of leadership when Kennedy was assassinated.
EHRLICH: Well, first two pictures. One, Kennedy, I said I felt ten feel tall when he came and spoke. It was Camelot. We thought anything was possible in the public interest. Johnson came and spoke within days after the assassination to the same group of senior officers of the State Department and one of the lucky things, incidentally, was that here I was a young lawyer but just because of the position I was able to go and learn from all these experiences. But I watched, there was Johnson speaking and on one side was McCormack who was Speaker of the House who must have been in his eighties or seventies and the Speaker of the Senate whose name escapes me but he was. . .
SCARPINO: . . .Could it have been Everett Dirksen?
EHRLICH: . . .No, it was. . .
SCARPINO: No, that’s the wrong time period.
EHRLICH: Yeah, it was a Democrat and he was older. He was really old and I’m 73 so I shouldn’t say really old. But he seemed. . .
SCARPINO: (laughter) It’s amazing how old shifts doesn’t it?
EHRLICH: . . .Yes. He was drooling and I thought my God, here are the two guys who are going to, are in line to be president—and of course assassination was much in our mind—Johnson spoke and was not particularly forceful or eloquent. I felt not ten feet but five foot eleven and a half, which is what I am, and it was quite depressing. Subsequently, and my wife and I watched the funeral. I heard the news, I was in the State Department dining room—the State Department has a special dining room that on the seventh floor. I was there. I heard the news. I was with my aunt as it happened and we were all stunned. Everybody in the room was stunned. We just went home. We had to be with our family. That whole experience was, being there, we just couldn’t, it was all of a sudden life had stopped. But we had to be with people we cared about. This was true of course around the world. Subsequently we did go down and watch the funeral procession. I held our young baby up so that he could see it. Even though of course he couldn’t remember it but there was this, if you remember the horse drawn funeral coffin and it was very moving. The whole experience was moving. Then Johnson came in and even though Ball had been a Kennedy political operative in a loose sense of the term, hadn’t been close to Johnson—they had a very good relationship almost from the start or maybe from the start—and although they had sharply different views on Vietnam, Johnson and Ball really respected each other a lot. Slowly, I came to see that in fact the domestic agenda that had pretty well stalled under Kennedy was taking off like a rocket under Johnson.
SCARPINO: Johnson’s Great Society.
EHRLICH: And things I believed and came to believe even more deeply, were happening in enormously impressive ways under Johnson.
SCARPINO: For example?
EHRLICH: Well, the whole Great Society Movement that dealt in a focused way with the problems that Kennedy and Harrington had first talked about in terms of the other America. But Johnson was really doing something about it and I didn’t have direct relationship but I, because I worked for Ball I went to meetings with Bill Moyers and others and saw little glimpses of this going on and thought wow, this is amazing and wonderful and important and while there was the Camelot glitter of the Kennedys was gone, substantively we were really moving forward in civil rights, the Civil Rights Act of ’64 and the Civil Rights of ’65, Great Society Movement and were making a terrific difference. Meanwhile, we were getting more enmeshed in this war. Although when I left in the summer of ’65 the war was just escalating. But Ball wanted me to stay. I felt that I really had to go teach if I was going to teach. I was then 30 years old and I had two children and was I really going to be able to make it. Ball, with the last big effort, we went to Paris together to a NATO meeting which was, I had work there to do but it was primarily to try to persuade me that I could stay. (laughing) Which was of course nice to be wanted but it also exposed me to a big, international, very high level meeting of NATO leaders and what went on there and that was fun to do. Great experience. But I thought I’d better teach if I’m ever going to do it and I had been offered a job when I was at Foley and Sammond and Lardner to teach at Northwestern for which I reflected on for awhile and decided I wanted more experience before I did that. I thought I could probably go to Northwestern which is a very good school but by happenstance Ball’s previous special assistant who had had a pretty disastrous time with Ball because he, they just didn’t get along with each other but he was a friend of mine. He was the dean at Stanford Law School.
SCARPINO: His name was?
EHRLICH: Bayless Manning. And he and I became good friends and very good friends and so I wrote him and it happened that there was only the former dean whose name was Spaeth had been teaching international law and had, was by then very low energy in this effort. So there was nobody really teaching public international law. So I could do that. Of course I’d never taken a course in it but I thought I could do this nonetheless and I said I could do this. I came out and interviewed at Stanford. This was in a time when the idea of bringing your spouse and doing all of this together didn’t happen but Stanford offered me a job and I came, we came.
SCARPINO: And you came to Stanford really to teach international law at first. Is that right?
EHRLICH: To teach international law, yes. I also thought and wanted to teach contracts. Teach a first year course and most teachers taught one of the first year required courses—contracts, torts, property procedure, criminal law but also then a specialty and mine would be international law. Which fortunately nobody else on the faculty knew anything about so I could talk about it and it would be comforting knowledge that I was not talking to a knowledgeable.
SCARPINO: You’d also been there.
EHRLICH: And I’d been there and done it, yeah.
SCARPINO: I want to ask you one more question about your, actually two more questions about your time in the State Department. The first one is here’s President Lyndon Johnson trying to, in a sense, juggle the Great Society with an escalating war in Vietnam. Why do you think he ultimately decided to follow the path of escalation?
EHRLICH: Well, everything I heard and subsequently read said he felt that the domino theory was really the right theory. Dean Rusk was there. Dean Rusk, whom I liked quite a lot personally. He was a really lovely, caring man. A very decent, honorable man. He had worked in the second World War in China of course and watched China fall and he thought that was the model of way things would happen. I got close enough to him to, a little story too that taught me quite a lot. He called me one day and said there was a quite a big flap about leaks from the office of a man, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs called Abba Schwartz who is a good friend of mine too. I mean I came to be a friend because I was his lawyer and incidentally during that time as his lawyer, this was while Chayes was, I was working for Chayes. He went to testify before the Internal Security subcommittee and the House on American Activities committee which were very active at this time, and I had prepared his testimony and was his lawyer all during that. So that taught me a lot about that whole dark, dark side of the international experience. But the House Internal, or maybe it was the Senate, Committee was getting leaked information from his office was clear. We didn’t know how it was happening and it was a big deal. There were two of Schwartz’s former employees who were in London doing security work and somebody had the idea that they would be able to tell us how the leaks were occurring because they were no longer in the office. So Rusk called me and said take the night plane to London and go interview these two guys. So I took the plane, I arrived at eight o’clock in the morning, I called them into this special office that had been created and I started grilling them one at a time actually. They were in separate offices. And I viewed myself as this hotshot interrogator and I kept asking, and the theory was that the telephones had been tapped. So I kept asking in every way I could about tapping telephones. I came at the end of the day convinced this hadn’t happened. And incidentally this is a crime that we’re, tapping the phones was a crime. So these guys were being, but I was able to offer them immunity and, so I took the night plane back and came into Dean Rusk and had to say I’m sorry I examined them every way I could and I’m absolutely sure that they weren’t tapping the phones. Well three days later I get a call from a guy who says he’s a lawyer representing them and he’d like to come in and discuss a deal. So, a deal for what? Well, he came in and it turned out they hadn’t been tapping their phones, they had been bugging the offices. And it never occurred to me to ask about bugging. I had only asked about tapping. Now I didn’t know a lot about anything of course but it was one of the many experiences that I had over the course that convinced me that asking the right question is absolutely critical. (laughing) It’s usually a lot more important than what the answer is. It’s knowing what to ask and I, of course, had to, we worked out an immunity deal, plugged the problem. I went to Rusk and told him what had happened.
SCARPINO: So they had bugged the offices of their former employer.
EHRLICH: Yes. They had been, they had known about it actually. A guy named Otto Otepka had been the bugger.
SCARPINO: And what was his name?
EHRLICH: Otto Otepka. And it was a sufficient, this made the newspapers and it was a guy named Sourwine was the, it’s a wonderful every man name, was the head of the internal security committee.
SCARPINO: During your years in the State Department, what did you learn about the exercise of authority and power?
EHRLICH: Well, how, I saw how it can be done with integrity and decency and, but also how it can be done. . .the way McNamara operated was not, was that he could, he was like a lawyer defending his client while, with a result in mind that he wanted without much regard to—I came to believe deeply—without regard to what were realistic estimates of what was going to happen. So I thought he manipulated the facts to serve the ends and in retrospect I believe that was right and actually so does McNamara.
SCARPINO: It was actually some amazing self-analysis in that.
EHRLICH: Yeah, absolutely and this was, if you saw him in his prime then, he was a supremely confident man. Just to the point of arrogance. When I went back into the government to work for President Carter in charge of foreign aid, McNamara was at the World Bank and he was enormously helpful to me and he remembered me and he was extremely helpful and thoughtful and I came to admire him and his work in the World Bank enormously. I had a very different view of him in the World Bank than I did his, in the Defense Department with whiz kids that were behind him. But I came to see that, I could see many times that smarts are important and all things considered, I’d rather have smart people than less than smart people in leadership positions but it’s only one of the qualities and it’s not really the most important.
SCARPINO: What do you think is the most important?
EHRLICH: No, I think integrity is absolutely the most important and the ability to, yeah, the ability to work through a position with those who are collaborating with you in a way that takes full account of all dimensions but certainly is true to a set of virtues that one has established and deeply rooted in your being. Some people are able to change as I, looking at the arch of the Kennedys, I think they changed enormously. Robert Kennedy in some ways even more than John F. Kennedy and I think McNamara changed.
SCARPINO: Do you think that’s the mark of a successful leader is somebody who has the ability to change?
EHRLICH: That’s certainly one of them, yeah, to be able to grow as it may be a better word than change. Grow and learn from one’s mistakes. Certainly over the years I’ve made plenty of those and being able to try to learn from what you did. I gave you a silly little example with the tapping and the bugging but that happened to me when I was a private lawyer and it happened to me in most every part of my life that I’ve made a really big blunder and tried to learn from doing it.
SCARPINO: Do you think that you took a risk moving from a little practice of law in Milwaukee to Washington and then from Washington to Stanford?
EHRLICH: Sure, there were, my wife said I couldn’t hold a job.
SCARPINO: (laughter) That’s not what I was asking you.
EHRLICH: But sure, there were, I didn’t know but that was an era of much more than is true for my children I think where I really believed things were going to work out and my wife and I had deep faith that they were going to work out though we didn’t know exactly how. Going to Washington was a great adventure and it was a chance to be engaged in public service. Well, it was wonderful for me. It was much less wonderful for my wife. For one thing I was traveling a lot. Went away and she had two and three children. We have three children. But it was harder in Washington as a, it’s not an easy place to have roots. We established them and we had very close, dear friends, but it’s, but sure there were some risks involved and then going to Stanford I didn’t know for sure this would work. I had never taught a class. I had no experience in teaching. I was told to teach contracts and international law. Contracts at least there was a book I could use. International law I had the hubris to think I could create the materials and spent a few months in the summer putting together a set of materials from my own experiences and others’ experiences that I used and this former dean was very supportive of my doing that. I mean he, in a sense he said that’s. . . but I presented the class with, each week with a new set of materials that I had just put together the week before with no real idea how we would do this and so when I had a class of 150 students who were paying attention to this and it seemed to me I could do all that, that was, yeah, that was a pretty risky. . .I knew that my former teacher, Abe Chayes wanted to teach international law and so, and he immediately agreed to be co-author with me of this book and another friend who worked who was, his assistant who went to NYU named Lowenfeld was a third and the three of us together did it but I wrote, I did it first. So I had to do the whole thing first and then subsequently they spent the summer with me going over it and we got a chance to put it together and it was the first book that I did.
SCARPINO: Do you think that a good leader knows when to take a risk?
EHRLICH: Oh, yeah. Well, you have to take risks and you have to, and sometimes you have to put everything behind it. And you, one of Learned Hand’s favorite phrases was Cromwell’s on the eve of battle, oh, think ye in the. . .
SCARPINO: . . .Oliver Cromwell. . .
EHRLICH: . . .Oliver Cromwell, ‘think ye in the bowels of Christ you may be wrong’ but you’ve still got to act. Yes, I think that’s. . .by calculating what the odds in doing that in a principled way that you can feel good about yourself even if the risk turns out to be, turns out to be, turns out in retrospect you made a mistake. That’s important but sometimes you have to take a risk.
SCARPINO: Before we break for lunch, if it’s alright for you, I’d like to drop in some of our standard leadership questions I think gave to you ahead of time.
SCARPINO: It’s a couple minutes to 12, do you?
EHRLICH: Yeah, I’d just soon go till that, close to 12:30 if you don’t mind.
SCARPINO: Okay, that’s fine. That would be more than fine with me. And I gave you some of these ahead of time and what we’re trying to do here is that over the course of a number of years as we interview people that if we drop in these standards questions, we have some common reference points.
SCARPINO: So, what do you read?
EHRLICH: I read a lot of fiction and a fair amount of history. My favorite 19th Century authors, I said that’s where I was shaped at Exeter. Thomas Hardy is one of my favorite novelists and one of the great poets. But Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, early 20th Century as well as 19th Century—George Eliot. I read a fair amount of history. I’m listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. I just listened to 31 Days which is the story of the time between Nixon’s departure and Ford’s pardon. And I’ve read David McCulloch’s work and a number of other works of American history. Less so of world history but some there. But fiction, including a lot of contemporary fiction as well I read a lot of and some poetry.
SCARPINO: Do you think that a leader should read?
EHRLICH: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And every time I hear someone say oh, I wish I had time to read I say well, you’re not a very good master of your time if you don’t. And time for reading things that aren’t just about whatever it is that is your occupation but can put that in some context so that you can experience at least vicariously what others are doing I think is enormously important.
SCARPINO: Do you ever read about other leaders?
EHRLICH: Yes. I certainly read about other leaders in the American political scene. A lot of biographies. I enjoy reading biographies and I’ve read lots of biographies. I also read literary biographies. I’m reading one of Thomas Harding right now as a matter of fact, brand new one. Lesser so, but some of leaders in other fields. Too, I’ve certainly, over the years, read about some leaders in higher education. There were three great men in my formative period in higher education—James Conant at Harvard. I was a student, started as a student when he was still president there. Didn’t know him but I knew of him and have certainly read about him and admired him. Clark Kerr who was the leader at the University of California and who became a friend, a man I much admire. I wrote a book for him in his series. And Herman Wells who was the third of that triumphant of truly internationally renowned leaders of American higher education who shaped American higher education.
SCARPINO: What do you think made Herman Wells an internationally renowned leader of American higher education?
EHRLICH: Well, his extraordinary personality that I had the good fortune to know and admire and get advice from but watching his experience he did something that I wouldn’t. I think he was a long distance runner and I’m more of a short or medium distance person although his advice which is you never get anything done out of office is absolutely right. He stayed in office for 25 years and during that time he was able to shape the university in extraordinary way and then use it as a platform—I mean this in the best sense—to reach out around the world. He realized that much as he and I love Indiana it is not on the crossroads anymore anyway for most people coming from around the world who may go to Chicago or New York or Los Angeles but they don’t really very often come to Indianapolis let alone Bloomington unless they’re invited. So he said my task is to figure out how are they going to be invited here and he set up a network as you know, of programs and arrangements and linkages with universities all over the world, with figures all over the world. He made Indianapolis and Bloomington really places that people wanted to come. He set up great, not by himself of course, but he was the one who chose the people who made international studies at Indiana so important and he said if you’re a Hoosier kid, you’re not getting it exposed to international affairs unless we work at it. So we’re going to work at it and that’s why African Studies is such a wonderful field, why Soviets and Slavic Studies and so forth. They didn’t all work out well as he would have been the first to say but a lot of them did and it really became, and he set up, of course, programs and his successor, John Ryan, did a lot too but Herman was the one with this great vision of what a university could do internationally. His work in the post world war, I think, just added luster to that effort. And was the time I arrived he was an icon figure to the extent, but he also became a very dear friend that I could say Herman I really want to do this and if people argue about it I’m going to say you think it’s a good idea. And he said, of course, absolutely. So I listened to what faculty said sometimes and said well, it’s a good point but I’ve got to say Herman said this and that was very often helpful. I didn’t, I don’t think, abuse it or overused it but it was fun.
SCARPINO: Who do you think are important leader? I mean you’ve mentioned a few but as you. . .
EHRLICH: Who are important leaders?
SCARPINO: . . .important leaders but either leaders that you’ve read about or leaders that you have known.
EHRLICH: Well, certainly, we’ll say related to that, my experience has been significant shaped by being a, by having mentors. I mentioned my father was my first great mentor but Abe Chayes was a key mentor. Learned Hand was a mentor. George Ball was an incredibly important mentor and Herman was, Herman Wells was a mentor. In my lifetime I think, or in experience close up Ball was a remarkable leader. He wanted to be president of the United States. His wanting never got very far because he didn’t have a campaign base but I mean all of this time I stayed fairly actively involved in Democratic politics. I might, just as an aside, say when I was working for him I was offered the job in ’64 of being research director for the national campaign and. . .
SCARPINO: . . .The Johnson campaign?. . .
EHRLICH: . . .Yeah, and I thought about it really seriously because I thought God what a wonderful thing to do. It would be a chance to really be, but I also said gosh, I’ve got a family and we’ve really got to get roots and if I’m going to be a teacher I better do, so I didn’t do that. But I was sufficiently close to Democratic politics that I could, that was a possibility for me and it sounded like really fun. But Johnson I thought was an incredible leader and still do. I think he was. . .
SCARPINO: What do you think made him an incredible leader?
EHRLICH: Well, the power of his person to personality was so forceful, so ambitious. He had, and it’s hard for me now to know because I read Caro and other writers and how much is what I knew then but he was, he had a great vision for the country and what it could be and how it could ensure that all people in the country had a decent meal and place to live and an education and health care and that that was all possible in a democratic capitalistic country but one in which it really took care of you. And that vision which was so expansive and so right on for me became corroded by the war and then by a group of Republican leaders who had a very different view.
SCARPINO: Without making it seem like I’m leading the witness here, do you suppose that that’s one of the tragedies of Vietnam is that it corrupted our vision?
EHRLICH: I think so, yeah. Totally. It’s so clear to me that the country could have gone if but for the war, Johnson would have run and been reelected and he was the overwhelming—I can remember how he’d just trash Gore—and the Great Society was such a great vision that brought out the best in everyone and it could have happened. Not perfectly. There is, but it could have become embedded into our fabric in a way that didn’t happen with some exceptions for particular programs. But it didn’t happen for most of them.
SCARPINO: What were the exceptions?
EHRLICH: Well, I, when I left Stanford I left to head a brand new entity called Legal Services Corporation and it grew out of the OEO, Office of Economic Opportunity programs. All of those were headed in the White House under Johnson as you know and Sargent Shriver. But one of the early ones and in my view one of the most successful ones was the Legal Services Corporation which was designed to fund civil legal help for poor people and it still does that and it still does for now 35 plus million poor people gives some chance to use the legal system so that they’re not outside the area of our justice and while every portal of every courthouse in America says equal justice under law for everyone that just doesn’t happen without a lawyer. So this program was a great step forward and a very controversial one. People all over the country thought it was a terrible idea that poor people have a chance to use the legal system and why would we do that. Why would the government pay for it? So it was a great step forward and fortunately it has survived. But many of the other programs haven’t.
SCARPINO: Do you think it’s important for an effective leader not only to have a vision but to be able to communicate and attract people to it?
EHRLICH: Oh, absolutely. To be able to articulate and Johnson was able, I think Kennedy over time came to care. Robert Kennedy certainly came to care. But Johnson who grew up in this hard scrabble arena had it and was able at his best to communicate it and of course Moyers and others helped with that but yes, we gained a sense of a great society and a leader needs to be able to develop that and to be able to express it clearly, convincingly, and goodness knows, repeatedly.
SCARPINO: We’re talking about mentors. Have you mentored other people?
EHRLICH: I tried, resisted for awhile having a special assistant because I had such a wonderful experience with Hand, with Ball, I couldn’t imagine ever giving anybody else such a good experience. But over time a teacher is also a mentor. Not for every student of course. You can’t if you have large classes but trying both in terms of whatever it is you’re teaching but also in terms of the way you live your life. I think teachers should try to be role models for their students and it’s not enough to mouth off what you think. You have to be able to try in some ways to live it.
SCARPINO: How have you done?
EHRLICH: Well, imperfectly is the answer.
SCARPINO: No, I wasn’t looking for qualitative.
EHRLICH: But, I’ve tried to say I think it’s important not only to, I think it’s important to find the chances to be in public service and to be active and involved in your community. But I think that means that I need to do that too and to find opportunities to make that happen. Then to try to speak out on issues you care about, that are important.
SCARPINO: Do you think that networks play a role in the development of successful leaders?
EHRLICH: Absolutely and I think all the evidence that from Bowen and “word inaudible” write about in their work about networking and the importance of it for college students is absolutely true and today at any one time one of the reasons I’m able to write letters for students I’ve had or people I’ve know and to recommend it is that I find myself only a degree of separation away from most positions and institutions around the country—particularly nonprofit and universities—less so in business but even in business and that’s because of networks. It’s because I’ve had the good fortune through schooling, Exeter, Harvard, Harvard Law School, through the State Department, Stanford, government service, University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, to have a large network of people I know and I hope respect my opinion but at least will listen to it and in turn when there’s something I feel is important I can turn to them. So networking is absolutely critical and trying to keep up one’s networks over time.
SCARPINO: What do you think are the qualities that distinguish effective leadership?
EHRLICH: At any one time, the most important thing I think is to say given the arena in which I’m seeking to be a leader, what are the three or four key things that I really want to get done and that are important to get done, they’re top priorities. Then setting one’s agenda in a, choosing those in a collaborative basis with the people with whom you work. So these are not just yours, they are ours. They’re not just ours, they are the institution’s. At Indiana University or wherever saying, in a way that can be genuinely respected as coming through a process that is deliberative and open and collaborative but results in a few key areas that you can say this is our agenda. And the leader can say to those around him or her, these are the things we have to get done now. I’m going to be pushing for those and I need your help. I’m also fully prepared to help you get your particular thing done but it’s not going to get done unless these three get done with it and you have to understand that. And that’s the grammar. That’s done in an environment of integrity, one; openness, two; ideally articulateness and passion and caring and, but it is that ability to keep one’s focus when there are a lot of pressures around you to deal with something that is actually usually pretty darn important but not one of those three things or four things. So you’ve got to contain those other ones. Try to resolve them. If you can’t resolve them, contain them so they don’t blow up in your face. Most of the leaders I’ve seen who have failed, fail not because they didn’t get one of those key things but because of some secondary issue. It’s true all the time in higher education that it’s because of athletic scandal or you spent money for your house that shouldn’t have been spent or you. . .
SCARPINO: Have you faced any issues like that that got out of control or nearly got out of control?
EHRLICH: Well, certainly my set-tos with Bob Knight were exactly that in my view. That my first year we had one explosion when he pulled the team off the court when they were playing against the Russians because he got in a snit and I rebuked him but then when he was being interviewed by Connie Chung and she snookered him and he said on national television as she, that this is like rape. If you can’t avoid it spread your legs and enjoy it which is a disgusting thing to say and not untypical necessarily but was disgusting and not acceptable, simply unacceptable. When I not only said that publicly and rebuked him publicly but he felt hadn’t given him a chance to explain his side of the story, that was a major snit that blew up and for seven days in May was, made it impossible to do anything else but respond to press queries and everybody’s queries. The governor called me, everybody, thousands of players came in and it stopped for seven days going forward on the academic agenda that I thought was the important one. Fortunately, we worked through that but there were others who could have argued that that was, that should have been my number one agenda. As it happened it kind of worked in my ironically favor in the sense that the faculty of Indiana University was pretty unanimous in supporting me and it was very helpful in saying, in promoting the academic agenda subsequently but it wasn’t pleasant.
SCARPINO: What was your leadership take away from that?
EHRLICH: An affirmation of trying to, that was a very difficult time. Emotionally it was wearing. We really did get thousands of letters and calls and there was this. . .
SCARPINO: Had you ever been in the public eye quite like that before?
EHRLICH: Not quite like that. I had had, at University of Pennsylvania I had a sit-in in my office every semester about some issue. So I was more or less used to sit-ins and the student newspaper and to a lesser extent the Philadelphia paper. But this was the hottest thing in Indiana for a week or ten days and I got, as I said, thousands of letters and calls from everybody who were pretty, I mean he had won the national championship the year before and here he was saying he was going to go off to New Mexico and I was the cause and this was going to be disastrous. And I believed that Indiana University’s priorities were to strengthen the academic enterprise and I had to try to maintain, be true to that. I didn’t want him to leave because I thought it would be, not, I thought it would be, a result would be that we would be weakened in our efforts to march on what I perceived as a set of ways to strengthen the teaching and research at Indiana and that the spillover would go on for awhile, for maybe a long time, and so it was important to try to keep it and I really worked hard to try to keep it but I didn’t want to say that I thought basketball at Indiana was more important than athletics. Ironically Bob Knight would have absolutely agreed with that.
SCARPINO: If we take Coach Knight and just put him on hold for a minute and ask you a question. In a university in your opinion as a university leader, what do you think the role should be between athletics and academics? The balance, the interplay?
EHRLICH: Well athletics can be a, serve two useful roles. One is a general outlet for students to engage in an extracurricular activity they like and they can do well and learn some dimensions of team participation though I think that’s way overstressed most of the time I think. Bill Bowen’s work on the game of life, if you’ve seen that, is pretty compelling. And there’s a festival dimension. A lot of people just enjoy watching and it gives you a sense that there’s a window of the institution that is festive. But I think in terms of the primary roles of the university—teaching and learning—it doesn’t have a lot to do with it and unfortunately in basketball and football it’s gotten totally out of hand. So it’s been quite corrosive and in some cases of the values of the university. But I watched and my first year I guess a man I much admire and respect—then president of Iowa University, Hunter Rawlings, and became president of Cornell and a wonderful person and wonderful president. But his first year he said publicly that one of his key issues was saying that freshmen should not be eligible to play intercollegiately in the Big Ten. Well, and actually I think he was right but I watched while he got beaten up on this issue for a year or however long before he finally withdrew it, I mean dropped the proposal. But it was, I don’t say consumed his life but it was an example where I think he was right on merits and it’s not a trivial issue for the life of the freshmen players. But at least in from my vantage point, there are a lot more important issues to deal with and because he was dealing with this one he was he was pretty incapable of dealing with any others and I found it hard to believe that this was truly one of his top three University of Iowa issues although he might have told me it was. At least they wouldn’t be my priorities.
SCARPINO: Okay. Again, with Coach Knight off somewhere on hold, generally speaking do you think that a good leader knows when to engage in a fight so to speak or when to engage an issue universally?
EHRLICH: Yeah. A good leader will have a good athletic director in terms of athletics. A good chair of chemistry and a good dean of arts and sciences but periodically you need to get yourself involved directly I think and to put your markers down about what you think are important in terms of quality. Sometimes that means going against the view of whoever it is there if you could do that in a way, you decide you can do that in a way that a person can come to feel it’s a learning experience for him or herself and a growth experience and that that person is worth trying to keep then you should do that. If not, you should part company with that person and I think that’s, but for me in athletics, the key was finding a first rate athletic director and saying you’re in charge of this, except for broad policy, which the presidents are supposed to attend to.
SCARPINO: Who did you find?
EHRLICH: Clarence Doninger who had been a lawyer in practice and we had, when I came we have a very nice man named Ralph Floyd who was a lovely former football player from South Carolina and a very nice man but he was of the old school of athletics that I thought had way passed its time then and I wanted somebody who would be a sensible leader. I also wanted somebody who could deal, I thought, reasonably with Bob Knight. I didn’t want to do that and Doninger seemed exactly the right person and for the first, for the years I was there actually, he did a very good job and Bob Knight was never an issue. But my first year, just one other example, I made a mistake. The, as president of Indiana University at any one time there are dozens of buildings going on or being proposed. Well it happened the very first new facility that was proposed under my presidency—and I came in saying I’ve got an academic agenda and so forth—was an expansion of the football facility.
SCARPINO: On the Bloomington campus.
EHRLICH: On the Bloomington campus and a group of donors said that they wanted to go out and raise money. They’re called the 12th Man Club and there’s some very good people and some maybe people who are not quite outgrown the fact that they were football players 40 years ago. Anyway, they wanted to do this and I said to myself, gosh, how can I go around saying that the first building I want is this. So I tried to say that we could only, we would only, I would only agree to do this if they would also raise as much money for the academic, some academic facility. I forget what it was. And there I was, I was making a principle view and I think in principle it was right but in practice it ended up taking a bunch of months to work through and we finally worked through so they did do this more or less. But they were very grumpy about it and it didn’t really further the academic enterprise at all and it was a great, it diverted my attention—not as much as the Bob Knight incident—but it diverted my attention from the big picture. So, I hope I learned something in the same way, one more athletic one. Early on it was decided that we would have a new scoreboard and we would have a. . .
SCARPINO: For the football field.
EHRLICH: For the football field at Bloomington, we have it paid for by a private company that would have advertising. I thought that was a pretty big issue but we worked through that issue publicly with a lot of discussion of whether we were going down a slippery slope that would end in corporate take over.
SCARPINO: The Exxon School of Liberal Arts or something.
EHRLICH: The Exxon School of and this course is brought to you by. . .and incidentally I worry a lot about those issue still, but I decided that, we decided that and the faculty went along with that but this is one of those issues that could come up and bite you, kind of thrown in as a freebie by the company that made the sign was a big sign that would go as you come up, get onto off the whatever that road is that runs between Indianapolis and Bloomington. You turn off it. I can’t remember the. . .
SCARPINO: I think it’s State Road 37, I think. I hope so.
EHRLICH: 37, okay. Come off 37, you see the athletic field and there would be a sign that would say welcome to Indiana University and it would, in neon, tell you events that were going on. It was free. Why not? Well, so I didn’t consult. I just, we just kind of accepted it and the faculty heard about it and they were outraged that we would mess up the beautiful scene. Well to me, I had to say, it’s not so beautiful when the first thing you see is the football stadium and assembly hall—neither one of which is any model of architectural attractiveness. So I resisted and the faculty at Bloomington really got exercised about it and I found gee, they really care about this and it’s really important to them. So I said, fine, we won’t do it. Just dropped it. And I think that was the, who knows whether it was a right to have a sign on. That’s kind of trivial. But it was one of those issues when I could have said well, you’re wrong, this is important, we’re going to do it. Or, okay. Thank you for being environmentally conscious for raising my consciousness and telling me what is bad and I think I made a mistake. And so I went into the faculty meeting and said I made a mistake. We’re not going to do it. They all cheered. They said great. Thank you very much. And being able to say I made a mistake, I was wrong, you corrected me, thank you for doing that, is very much part of being a good leader. Knowing when to do that and when not to do that is absolutely, of course, key.
SCARPINO: What do you think are the, what criteria do you personally use to define successful leadership?
EHRLICH: Well, you have a vision. Are you able to realize that vision? Are you able to reshape it and change it of course but ultimately be true to yourself, be true to your ideals and make a difference in the lives of those around you and the things you’re trying to make better for your children and your grandchildren.
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.