These interviews took place on October 23 and November 16, 2007, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.Learn more about Martin Jischke
Part oneSkip to next interview transcript
SCARPINO: The recorder is on. Today is Tuesday, October 23rd and I’m interviewing Dr. Martin Jischke in his office on the campus of Purdue University. As I said before I turned the recorder on, I’d like to ask your permission to record this interview, to transcribe the recording, and to place the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives.
JISCHKE: I do. (laughing)
SCARPINO: Thank you. That will cover it. (laughing) So, as we also said before I turned the recorder on, I’m going to ask you a number of questions related to your career and today we’ll get, probably get, you to Purdue. The next time we talk we’ll talk about your leadership at Purdue. I’m going to do this in chronological order and kind of start at the beginning and ask you when and where you were born.
JISCHKE: I was born in Chicago, 1941. My parents met there. My father was a—in a very real sense a product of the Depression. He grew up in a rural area in Wisconsin and at the end of the thirties, finished high school, and literally had to leave home to try to find a job in the big city and left Wisconsin, came down to Chicago, and met my mother. I was the first of six children of that marriage.
SCARPINO: What did you father do in the big city?
JISCHKE: My father was in the retail food business. Originally worked in meat markets, and I’ll come back to that later as an important part of my own background, but he worked in the retail food business, grocery stores, ended up in food distribution working for the independent grocers of America—IGA, then, later an import company that imported food products out of Italy for distribution in the Chicago area.
SCARPINO: What was the name of the company?
JISCHKE: I don’t remember. I apologize.
SCARPINO: That’s alright. (laughter)
JISCHKE: I mean they’d get the barrels of olives and all of that sort of stuff; worked in downtown Chicago.
SCARPINO: What did your mom do besides raise six children?
JISCHKE: Well, my mother was originally a secretary in a law firm. Then, when she got married and I was born, spent the next probably fifteen years, no, maybe the next twelve years as a stay-at-home mom for the six kids. At that point, it became essential that she bring some additional income in, so she started working part-time and then eventually went back to secretarial work for the Veterans Administration at Hines Hospital in Maywood, Illinois in the suburbs.
SCARPINO: Where did you go to high school?
JISCHKE: Went to Proviso High School in Maywood. It’s now called Proviso East and it was actually a very good high school. I took four years of foreign languages; five years of mathematics in high school. I took a full year of calculus in high school and it turned out that I had the equivalent of a year’s worth of college university level mathematics.
SCARPINO: Did you think of yourself as a leader in high school?
JISCHKE: No. All the way through high school, and even before in grade school, I worked. I had newspaper routes as a kid and then, starting in about the sixth grade, I worked with my father in grocery stores. Once in high school—worked in grocery stores all that time. So, I didn’t have a lot of time for extracurricular activities at high school and was not involved at all, to speak of, as a high school student. As I look back, that experience had an enormous impact on me in two ways. First, I developed quite a work ethic. I mean, I knew what it meant to get up at four-thirty in the morning and be in the store before seven and not come home at night until seven or eight o’clock. There were times I would come home so tired I couldn’t eat. I’d just go right to bed. So, I learned what it meant to put in a full day’s work as a very young man and it’s part of who I am. I have a very intensely developed work ethic. Second, after I finished high school and went away to college, I was determined that I was going to be involved in extracurricular activities. That’s when I really developed a quote/unquote leadership experience. But, I do think the time I was in grade school and high school working, I developed some of the leadership skills—not in the direct sense of being elected to something or being the head of something—but I had a pretty good sense of what it meant to work with other people to accomplish a goal. I understood what it meant to get a work team organized and I understood what it meant to have a successful sale and I learned what it meant to sell to people. I got very good at it and I think fast going forward a lot of years, I think one of the reasons that I’m relatively good at fundraising is that I have absolutely no fear of selling to anybody anything. I developed that as a kid.
SCARPINO: You learned that working with your father?
JISCHKE: Yeah. And with others. I mean, those experiences, as I look back now, were quite important but they weren’t the traditional leadership development. That, frankly, started when I was in college. Being the oldest of six kids, I had a lot of responsibilities in the family. I mean I did a lot of babysitting. I cleaned house. I helped cook food. I changed diapers. I mean, being the oldest, I had a lot of—I think in retrospect now—a lot of responsibility.
SCARPINO: Were there any events that took place during your high school years, in addition to your work experience, that helped develop you as the leader you later became?
JISCHKE: Found out in high school I was a pretty good student. I was smart and I could particularly do things related to math and science well and tested highly and so developed a certain self confidence about all of that. It ultimately led to the decision to go to college which was a huge decision. I worked in a number of different stores with adults and began to develop a sense of what competent people do and what incompetent people do. I mean, I began to differentiate.
SCARPINO: What did you learn about what competent people do?
JISCHKE: They pay attention. They get it done. They do what they say they’re going to do. They’re reliable. They’re thoughtful. They plan ahead; think strategically. They manage people. It was a—I had a couple of interesting experiences as a young man where in one case a downsizing had to take place. I was the one that went and I resented it and I thought it was quite unfair because I was absolutely convinced I was smarter and more talented than the other guy. But he was a friend of the family so I sort of came up full square against that. Another experience I had very young; I was a freshman in high school. I was working in a grocery store as a stock boy and six-week grades came out. It was the first set of grades. I had, I think, a D in algebra and I quit. I don’t to this day know where the priority came from but I just knew that that was not good. I didn’t even consult my parents. I just simply quit the job and ended up getting an A in the class. So I fixed it. But this commitment to being a good student, I think was pretty deeply rooted in me. I had a lot of success, academically, as a kid. Grade school I skipped a grade. I always tested very well and math was always easy for me. But that tradeoff between my studies and the work experience—there was a, as I say—I was a freshman in high school. I made the tradeoff for the studies.
SCARPINO: Were there individuals that you met or knew about when you were in high school that influenced the leader you became, in addition to your parents and so on?
JISCHKE: Well certainly my parents played a big role. My father, I mean, my father was a manager and he was the one who started me in all of this work—had a big influence on me and particularly this work ethic thing. I mean he—I’m very much like him in that regard. I worked for a couple of different fellows through this high school/early college period that I think were instructive; partly work ethic, to be sure. But one job I had was in a little bitty meat market. There were two of us. I was going to school and I would work literally six days a week: after school, five, and then all day Saturday. I got Sunday off. I essentially learned the business. It wasn’t that I was being trained to learn the business, sort of by osmosis, but I watched this guy order things. I watched him price them. I watched him sell them. I watched him deal with inventory and it was a kind of a business lesson. I watched him take responsibility for all of it. A guy named Frank Neidenbach [probable spelling but unable to verify] who was an interesting guy. I worked with Frank for, I think, about three years and learned a great deal from him. Then when I was in college I worked in a different store part time and that’s the one where I got laid off because the—but the fellow who owned the store is a guy named Anton Larson. His nickname was Tiny. He and his wife owned this IGA store.
SCARPINO: Grocery store.
JISCHKE: Yeah. But it was more of a supermarket. I mean it had all, produce, meats, and everything, and my judgment is it was very poorly run. That was another lesson; little things. He drank too much on the weekends. On Saturday night he’d walk up to the front of the store, open the cash register, and grab whatever he thought he needed then went across the street to the tavern with his wife. Janelle, I think her name was. They’d be there till nine or ten o’clock in the night, drinking a great deal, and over a period of about ten years he lost the store. The lesson of discipline, control, measuring money in and money out—he had absolutely no idea how he was doing and this decision about layoffs was a reflection of this lack of management skill. It was kind of a tragedy because this was a fellow with limited education, had worked very hard, and had a little store and then got a bigger one; then build a brand new one that I worked in. But I learned, one of the lessons I learned, in that that I have used everywhere I’ve been is—you got to pay attention to the budget. You got to watch the numbers.
SCARPINO: Do you think that discipline and control are important qualities for a leader?
JISCHKE: Control has got many meanings but discipline, at a personal level, I think is absolutely essential to really successful leadership. You’ve got to both apply yourself but apply yourself effectively and I think self discipline, knowing yourself, good work habits, are all part of that.
SCARPINO: I’m going to ask you one of our standard leadership questions because it just cries out to be asked right now. Do you think that leaders are born or made?
JISCHKE: I think they’re largely made. I believe that for a couple of reasons. One, I’m an educator in my soul so the notion that you can learn things is absolutely fundamental to how I see the world. The notion that leaders are in some sense naturals in it—you’re sort of born with the set of skills and it’s just a matter of time before they’re manifest—or not. I just resent that as an educator. Second, I think at the heart of the democracy is the notion that there’s opportunity for everybody. I also believe, I ought to add thirdly, that I think there are so many different ways you can show leadership, particularly in our very pluralistic democracy. That, I think there’s leadership opportunities for everybody. But I also believe, I would add quickly, they have to be developed and I’m a pretty strong proponent of that development not being strictly theoretical or, if you will, academic classroom kinds of experiences. At least for me these very practical, real life experiences of delivering newspapers and working in meat markets and grocery stores and ultimately hiring people and firing people and being held responsible at a relatively young age, I think had a big influence on my ultimate development of both leadership interest and confidence and skill. So, I’m a big believer in the experiences but I think the notion that you’re somehow a natural leader and it happens, you know, at birth, or genetically, I think is goofy.
SCARPINO: You attended the Illinois Institute of Technology; graduated in 1963 with a degree in physics?
SCARPINO: Why physics?
JISCHKE: Simple answer. I was a pretty good student in high school—got a lot of encouragement to go to college. In fact, I’ll tell you a very interesting story, two stories that grew out of these high school grocery store experiences. One of them is—I’m working with my dad in a meat market and I’m probably eleven or twelve years old. The shipment of meat shows up and in those days it was shipped in quarters, hindquarters and forequarters of beef, and a typical hindquarter or forequarter would weigh 160 to 180 pounds. This is a pretty heavy thing. The fellows who drove the trucks would carry the quarters, hindquarter and forequarter, into a refrigerator and then hook it on a hook. So these were men carrying 160 to 180 pound things and one fellow who was relatively modest stature, not a big man, bet one of the butchers in the meat market he could carry two at a time and hook both of them. They bet twenty dollars which, this is like 1951 or ’52, so I’m ten years old, twenty dollars was a huge bet. And this little guy did it. He put a hindquarter on one shoulder, a hindquarter on the other, walked in, flipped one onto a hook, flipped the other onto the hook and put his hand out for the twenty bucks and got it. My eyes were as big as saucers. I mean, I couldn’t believe it. I was very impressed and so, as he walked out to get on the truck, I traipsed behind him; this little kid. He turned around to me and he said—young man, get the hell out of here. He said—this is back breaking work. I do it only because it’s only what I can do. I can’t do anything else. Get an education. It is now nearly sixty years later and I can remember that experience and that moment. It was very riveted in my head because this sort of superman fellow, this guy of enormous strength who won twenty bucks, is telling me that this was a bad deal. I had a similar experience in that same grocery store with the manager and a stock boy, who, and I can’t remember the circumstance but I can remember the advice—get an education. So it was really, really important for me to go on to college. I’m the first person in my family to go to college.
SCARPINO: Did your parents encourage you to go to college?
JISCHKE: Yes, but there wasn’t a lot of pressure. I mean, it wasn’t like if you don’t go to college we’re going to be embarrassed or anything. I was encouraged but it was modest and I was a good student. I had relatively good grades. I wasn’t valedictorian but I had like a 3.6 or so average out of four. What was lucky is in those days there was an Illinois State scholarship that was worth, I want to say $2500, that paid most of tuition and then there was a Cook Foundation for Cook County—Cook County Foundation in Chicago that I also competed for and won. And then, the Illinois Institute of Technology gave me a scholarship. So my undergraduate education was largely paid for by these scholarships. I took out a few loans and my parents; it was almost no cost to my parents. Typically at the end of the year they’d give me a hundred dollars to pay up bills. But I went to IIT because of the scholarships, number one. Number two, while I was admitted to the University of Illinois and Northwestern, I was a little intimidated by the size of them. They were much bigger. I thought Northwestern was, frankly, a place for wealthier kids and I just didn’t think I had the resources to fit in there. So I ended up at IIT kind of a little by default but a little because of these scholarships. When I went there I didn’t know what to study. I had no idea what I should major in. I knew I was good in mathematics; kind of liked science. So I thought about engineering or science and I picked physics because it was the most general thing.
SCARPINO: Did you have any idea at that point where you wanted to end up after…
JISCHKE: No, absolutely no.
SCARPINO: …you were through with college?
JISCHKE: All I knew is I wanted to get a degree and I wanted to get a decent job. In those days, decent job to me—I remember one of my friends asking me how much money do you want to make. My goal was to get to $10,000 a year because that was a lot more than my father made at the time. So, I went to IIT. I chose physics because it was general. Signed up for physics, and I did reasonably well as a physics major. I graduated with honors but I, toward the end of my junior year, I found the physics kind of abstract and not very interesting. I found out about a decade later that it actually was interesting but at the time I decided that I wanted to do something that had a little more practical or hands-on feel to it. That’s when I switched to engineering in graduate school. But the IIT experience was a fabulous experience for me personally. It’s a relatively small institution, about 2,000 undergraduates. I’m a trustee there today—so a chance to give a little back.
SCARPINO: Is it still about 2,000 undergraduates?
JISCHKE: A little more now—about 2,500 and maybe as many as four or five thousand graduate students and professional students—law school and so on. But, I started out in the residence halls pretty naïve. My folks had no idea what the experience I was having was. I didn’t have much of an idea, frankly. But I worked very hard. That discipline paid off in the classroom. I was an honor student all the way through. At the end of my first semester I joined a fraternity and became active in student affairs. That’s when the…
SCARPINO: Which fraternity did you join?
JISCHKE: Delta Tau Delta. I’m a Delt. That’s when these extracurricular and leadership activities began to show up.
SCARPINO: Can you talk a little bit about those?
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah. I was vice president of my pledge class. Later, I was involved in all kinds of extracurricular activities. I played all the intramural sports. I sang in the inter-fraternity sing. I acted in the inter-fraternity pageant. I was an announcer for the local student radio station. I was on the student union board. I organized the first homecoming celebration ever at the university. I became vice president of the Delt House. I was social chairman, rush chairman, and maybe the biggest thing I did—I ran for president of the senior class and won. I organized, when I look back, a remarkable campaign. I was running against a guy named Larry Bacon who was the sort of classic, good looking athlete—tall Navy ROTC guy. He was in Phi Kap; he was a Phi Kap. I don’t know if it was Phi Kappa Theta, but anyway, the rival fraternity, the other top fraternity. Bacon was this tall, good looking kid from Florida and I waxed him. I wrote a personal letter to every member of the senior class. I had one of my fraternity brothers do a silk screen poster for me and I had posters all over the campus. I organized. I got free soft drinks and potato chips from a local distributor and distributed them to everybody so I could deliver a good party. That was part of the message. I had signs all…
SCARPINO: You were selling yourself.
JISCHKE: Oh, exactly. I mean, I was very good at that and they had never seen a campaign quite like this one at IIT. So, I became president of my senior class. That four-year period is when I became a student leader in a very public way and relatively successful and did a lot of things. As I look back on it, that was probably a pretty good setting for me. First generation college student and not been all that actively involved as a student leader before that. There was an opportunity and I took advantage of it. So I came out of IIT, I graduated with honors in physics, president of my senior class, one of the “Big Men on Campus.” I was a member of the senior leadership honorary called Black Knights. I mean, we met with the president of the university regularly. It was a decisive experience for me and the fraternity was a big part of that. But I think the setting, the size of the institution, the character of the student body, all leant themselves to it. I don’t, you can’t run the experiment, but I don’t know what it would have been like at Illinois where you’ve got 35 of 40,000 students or Northwestern where you’ve got a, frankly, a different social strata, different class of students at least in terms of income and wealth. So, it was a great experience for me—just fabulous experience.
SCARPINO: Because you went on with your career over the next several decades, did that ability to sell yourself work for you more than one time?
JISCHKE: All the time, all the time—including in the classroom. I was a very good teacher.
SCARPINO: What do you think made you a good teacher?
JISCHKE: Back to fundamentals—I worked hard. I gave every lecture at least twice. That is, I practiced it once in my office and then I gave it in the classroom. So, the notion of hard work, being prepared, discipline, all of that played a role. Second, kind of fearless in terms of getting up in front of people and talking. I mean, it’s the selling, if you will, and a certain intensity. I think part of my success as a classroom teacher was a reflection of the seriousness with which I took the responsibility. If you took a course from me, we didn’t fool around. When the first class began at the appointed hour we started and I had a reputation of being relatively demanding and I was demanding of myself. I think it goes back to these early experiences of getting up early in the morning, working hard, taking responsibility. Maybe I was too serious about it, but yeah, I think those early experiences had a big impact on my teaching.
SCARPINO: What did you learn about managing people as an undergraduate student?
JISCHKE: I learned a couple of big things. One of them was you can outwork most people. Most people were not prepared to work as hard as I was. Mr. Bacon, my competitor for the senior class president, didn’t put in the effort I did. I mean, and that was personal effort. It turned out that when I was running for senior class president I had the measles and I had to go home. I was told to leave the campus because, you know, I was a contagion about to be visited upon the student body and so those 500 letters I wrote to the senior class I wrote at home. Bacon didn’t work that hard. He was a party guy. So, I learned the lesson of you can outwork people. Second, I learned that ultimately getting big things done required the help of other people and so being able to call on others, being able to inspire others—my fraternity brothers, a guy named Tim Lutz, did the silkscreen poster. Another guy named Malcolm Allison helped put them up. I mean I just had all kinds of help from my friends and so organizing the team was a big leadership lesson.
SCARPINO: An important part of leadership… [few words inaudible]
JISCHKE: And, I think the third thing I figured out and it’s also a reflection in part of these early experiences, but, if you want to win an election you ought to start out by asking what do the people voting want from you. Or, what do they want from this position. So, it’s a kind of customer orientation. Or, it’s not what do I get out of being president of the senior class is, what does the senior class get out of my being president of the senior class is. It’s an orientation to those you are serving: servant leadership idea.
SCARPINO: Customer orientation an important part of your world view?
JISCHKE: Absolutely, absolutely. I think in a free enterprise system it’s absolutely bedrock and I think it’s bedrock in a democracy; that, ultimately, those who are in leadership positions are serving others and you better understand what that service is. You can make choices about whether you think it’s the right service to be delivered, or whether you want to do it, or whether you can do it. But ultimately you serve at the pleasure of those making the selection, be it the senior class voting, or the trustees electing, or shareholders. You ultimately have to ask yourself how you serve them and that—you can call it a customer orientation from a business perspective or a servant leadership perspective from a leadership point of view—but I think it’s pretty fundamental. It’s part of what drives how I think about leadership.
SCARPINO: Were there any events, other than the ones you already mentioned, that took place during your undergraduate years that had an influence on the leader you later became?
JISCHKE: There were both successes and failures. I ran for president of the fraternity and lost; became vice president. That was a lesson to be learned about friends, allies. It’s really retail politics because in this case it’s a fraternity of about 60 guys and so there’s 60 votes and you need 31. It’s real simple and I learned, I mean, I hadn’t thought about it that carefully and I hadn’t thought about running until my pledge father, a guy named Ray Van Horn, said—you ought to run for president of the house. I’ll be your manager. So, he managed the campaign and I didn’t do much and I lost. Well, I learned something about—you’ve got to work at these things. I also, I think at that age, began to think more long term about my own personal development. There was a particularly poignant moment. I had been dating a young woman in Chicago and we had been dating for a couple of years and her college was having its big annual dance and she wanted me to take her to it and I ultimately told her I couldn’t because I had to study for an exam. It was the end of the relationship and it was a—as I look back on it—a pretty decisive moment because I was thinking about what I wanted to do more long term, my own success, and I was not prepared to compromise my success academically for social reasons. It distinguished me from my colleagues at the fraternity. I lived at the fraternity house. I had the reputation of being the guy that fell asleep at his desk studying. I mean I’d study regularly till one, two, three o’clock in the morning and I was one of the best students in the house. Regularly, had better grades than almost everybody and yet was involved in practically every activity. So, that choice as typified by this date issue, but the broader notion of being pretty focused on getting done what I had started to get done was there.
SCARPINO: Do you think focus is an important quality for a leader?
JISCHKE: It sure is for me. It’s part of who I am. It depends on the leadership issue and the complexity of the organization. So, I don’t want to generalize too much, but it seems to me, if there isn’t a certain focus or discipline or intensity it’s hard to get significant things done. I think there’s a work side to this or an effort side to being a leader. My experience is—the most effective leaders do work at it. I mean they don’t just skip their way through the experience. It may appear to be glib or spontaneous but I think, in fact, really effective leaders devote themselves to it. I think it is hard work, not in the sense that it’s unpleasant or un-enjoyable, but it requires effort. I also think, and I think my own experience in thinking was being shaped at this time, the more significant the leader should be aspired to, the longer term the commitment, the more strategic you have to become about developing skills and abilities. For me, and I still puzzle about where this comes from, but this deeper commitment to education is very deeply rooted in me and I’m not absolutely certain where it comes from. My father, for his whole life, almost resented the depression’s impact on his inability to go to college. He wanted to be a medical doctor and it just couldn’t happen. It was absolutely impossible and I don’t know if he transferred that to me and my intensity of wanting to take advantage of the opportunities—in my case, scholarships and so on. But, this commitment to education was deeply rooted in me. I was just absolutely convinced, at a pretty young age, that education would make a difference—I mean, the guy carrying the two hindquarters, the manager of the store, my father’s experience in the depression. All of that helped shaped a view that education was a difference-maker and I ought to take advantage of it. But I was always a good student. I mean, doing well came relatively easy for me.
SCARPINO: At what point did you begin to think of education as a career track for yourself?
JISCHKE: That was graduate school. I was finishing undergraduate school. I started interviewing and I had a number of job offers but I had this gnawing sense that I didn’t know very much. I performed well as a student but I didn’t see how I could take all this physics that I knew and do anything that was useful or people would want to pay for. I didn’t see the connection. I do now, but at the time I didn’t. I had some encouragement from my advisor to go to graduate school. So, I started thinking about graduate schools and I also decided that I was going to go into engineering or applied science in grad school rather than stay with physics. I just—I remember having these long discussions with my fraternity brothers late at night about—I can do quantum mechanics but I can’t see electrons. I mean I couldn’t develop an intuition about it and so I decided I wanted to do something more practical. I started in my junior and senior year actually taking some engineering courses as electives to see if that’s what I wanted to do. Then I applied to, God, ten or a dozen different graduate schools. I didn’t have any idea where I could get in and I knew I needed support because I didn’t have any money. So, I applied to, God: Minnesota, Illinois, Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, MIT. I spent a lot of time filling out applications and I got in everywhere and I think I got an assistantship or a fellowship everywhere. So, now I’m stuck with a dozen offers and what do you do? I went to my advisor and I had narrowed it down to Stanford and MIT. He said to me, he said, MIT is the best school in the world. So I went to MIT.
SCARPINO: Graduated in 1968?
JISCHKE: Yeah. Did a PhD at MIT and came under the tutelage of an absolutely remarkable professor, a guy named Jud Baron. The first day I was on the campus of MIT I met him. He was the graduate advisor in aeronautics. That’s where I did graduate work. This is Sputnik era so there was kind of an excitement about space and aeronautics and astronautics. I met him and he signed me up for his graduate course in gas dynamics and that began a nearly forty-year friendship. I became a teaching assistant for him.
SCARPINO: What is it about him that you found to be so remarkable?
JISCHKE: He was very clever. I mean, it was fun to watch him think and watch him explicate. There was a certain grandeur about his classroom. It was exciting to be there; neat stuff. Second, he was a pretty admirable person. He was very devoted to his students, very much a scholar, hard working, that theme of discipline. He’s a very disciplined person and we developed quite a friendship over the years and in addition to—I wrote my master’s thesis for him. I wrote my PhD thesis under him. We became friends. We talked about all kinds of issues, not just aeronautics or science but this was the sixties now and Europe—the higher education was up for grabs. There was a lot of unrest in the United States and we talked a lot about the politics of the time.
SCARPINO: Did any of that have an impact on the leader you later became?
JISCHKE: I think so.
SCARPINO: The unrest of the sixties and…
JISCHKE: I think so, yeah, yeah, yeah.
SCARPINO: In what way?
JISCHKE: I think the more emphasis on two things—a real belief in democratic principles, participatory decision making and second, a commitment to ethical behavior.
SCARPINO: In 1968, the year you graduated, there was a democratic convention in Chicago, your own city that…
JISCHKE: Oh, that’s right. My brother was in those demonstrations.
SCARPINO: …was violence and chaos. I mean did that sort of thing have any impact on your development?
JISCHKE: Yeah, I was pretty idealistic at the time and one of the reasons I decided to go into the academic world is I thought I could have a positive impact on the world. When I finished graduate school at MIT I could have gone to work for Bell Labs, for Boeing, for McDonald, for Douglas, ah, there’s another company in there, and I interviewed for academic jobs. I interviewed at Penn State, the University of Illinois, Purdue. While I was at this national meeting interviewing for these—and these were very casual first, you know, I’m going to be at the meeting. I’ll talk to you. Every one of them said—and I don’t know if you remember this, but at the time, the draft laws were being changed and deferments were being thrown out and a lot of universities were very fearful that their student bodies at the graduate level would be decimated. So, I remember a guy named Bob Goulard, who was on the faculty here at Purdue, saying gee we’d love to talk to you but our dean has told us we can’t hire anybody. So all of a sudden these jobs evaporated. I happened to run into a friend of mine from MIT days who finished his PhD at the University of Oklahoma, a guy named Charlie von Rosenberg. Charlie introduced me to the head of the department at Oklahoma and this fellow, Tom Love, said—what are you doing here? I said—I’m looking for a job. He said—well what do you do? I said—fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, that’s my background. He said—well we’re looking for an aeroelastician. I said I do the aero side, not the elastician side and he said well, let’s talk and we talked. Then I got an interview for a job and they offered me the job and I took it and passed up all of the industry jobs because I thought being an academic was very attractive. I enjoyed the idea of being in the classroom. My teaching assistant experience was very positive. Second, I liked the idea of being free to pursue the problems I wanted to work on. I liked the idea of being in a place where there were not only engineers and scientists but poets and historians and a more yeasty environment. I thought it was noble to be an educator. Baron, this advisor of mine, was a noble figure in my mind. Very much a role model and an inspiration and so the idea of being that kind of person really appealed to me. And practically, I’ve got to tell you this, my starting salary at the University of Oklahoma I believe was $10,200 for nine months and it was less than all of the industry offers, the highest of which was over 16,000. So this is like a $6,000, a huge difference. But my view was I was going from nothing to ten and that was a big jump and if I didn’t like the academic world the ten to sixteen would be a lot easier than sixteen to ten.
SCARPINO: As I recall from reading background information on you, you were married at the time you took that job.
JISCHKE: No, I wasn’t. I was single.
SCARPINO: Okay, I was going to ask you how you persuaded your wife to do this. (laughing)
JISCHKE: Oh, no. I was single.
JISCHKE: Showed up at Oklahoma in September of 1968—actually, August of ‘68, broke. I had to borrow money from the credit union to rent an apartment and started teaching. Toward the end of that year I took a summer job working for McDonald Douglas up in Washington; came back in the middle of that second year; met my wife, Patty. I was introduced by a faculty member. She was a graduate student in Library Science and we got married at the end of that year—in the middle of my third year.
SCARPINO: You mentioned that one of the reasons that you pursued an academic track was that you thought that likely you could make a difference.
SCARPINO: What difference did you think you could make as an academic [phrase inaudible, both talking at once]
JISCHKE: Well, in those days I saw it primarily through the students. As I say, I was a very good classroom teacher and had a—I won teaching awards—and I had a kind of following of some very, very bright students who—I would regularly volunteer to teach the introductory fluid mechanics courses. It typically would be taught to students at the beginning of their junior year. I always was able to find a couple of students in that class that were special; interested in the subject, highly motivated, I’d bring them into my research group. They’d later become graduate students and I’ve stayed in touch with some of them for over thirty years. I got an email from one of them a few weeks ago, a guy down in Texas working for a major oil company. But I absolutely loved being in the classroom, being with students. I liked the classroom environment. I had a very successful research program. I was not only doing what I did my graduate research in—high temperature gas dynamics, re-entry heat transfer problems—but I started to branch out into bio-fluid dynamics. I was doing geophysical fluid dynamics; applied mathematics work. I had a pretty rich research program going and patterns persist. As an undergraduate I was president of my class. As a graduate student I was president of the house I lived in, the Ashdown House, and won the Avery Allen Ashdown Award at MIT. At Oklahoma, I became active in the AAUP [American Association of University Professors]. I was the—became president of the local chapter. I got into the faculty senate. I was the president of the faculty senate. The youngest person . . .
SCARPINO: So you were doing all of this while you were regular faculty?
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah.
SCARPINO: On tenure track?
JISCHKE: Yeah, exactly. I was the youngest person ever to be chair of the faculty senate—first person ever from the engineering faculty. I was a hot dog; high performer.
SCARPINO: I’ve been dying to ask you a question. I don’t want this to sound wrong for the sake of the recorder here, but you received an education at MIT which of course is right next to Boston up there and you went to Norman, Oklahoma?
SCARPINO: That’s where the University of Oklahoma is?
SCARPINO: How did you make that adjustment?
JISCHKE: Relatively easily. I actually had a shot at a faculty appointment at MIT. My advisor said we’re looking for somebody to fill a position. I had mentioned the other schools I had interviewed at and he said—would you be interested? I said of course. Then, same thing happened. Draft laws changed. The dean said we’re not hiring and that opportunity evaporated. So it turned out that if I wanted to do an academic appointment Oklahoma was the only place I could go. So, OU was in that sense a default. But, once I got there I actually had a fabulous experience; had really good colleagues. There was a guy on the faculty there named Maury Rasmussen who was a Stanford graduate and a really bright guy. We wrote papers together. I started a huge research program on very high speed maneuverable missiles that, I think, over four or five years we had spent over three million bucks. That’s serious money in those days. I mean it was a big research program.
SCARPINO: High speed maneuverable missiles, you were doing defense department?
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah, absolutely as well as this other this other stuff. I mean, I—back to fundamentals about who I am—I worked harder than most people. I was better prepared than most people. I took my responsibilities very seriously and I’ve got relatively high abilities. So, all of that worked. Then, of course, I met Patty and Patty’s father was a distinguished professor of physics at OU—one of the super-stars of that faculty. So I married up academically and started becoming involved in these extracurricular things: on committees, faculty senate, AAUP. So, I mean, I would work a full day. I’d go home and have dinner and come back to the office. I was the only guy at the office at night. Students would come around. I mean, I was cut out of a different cloth. And while OU was not MIT, make no mistake about it—I sort of regretted not staying out at MIT and I looked at other places after I went to OU—OU turned out to be very good for me. I met my wife there. We started our family there. I became a full professor in six years. In those days you could move pretty quickly. At the end of six years I had been president of the faculty senate and then a very decisive thing happened. The dean of engineering was a guy named Bill Uptegrove [probable spelling but unverified] at that time and at six years you could get a sabbatical. So I applied for a sabbatical at Cambridge University with a very distinguished fluid dynamicist, Imperial College with Martin Lighthill and at Harvard with a guy named George Carrier. All of these people are world class fluid dynamicists; the best people in the world. The dean said to me—have you ever thought about applying for a White House Fellowship? One of his former faculty colleagues at the University of Texas had been a White House Fellow. I said no. He said—well why don’t you look at it? So I looked at it and I decided to apply. Now, the White House Fellowship Program was started by Lyndon Johnson at the suggestion of John Gardner as a way of bringing young people into government at a very high level to both encourage their public service and to develop their leadership. So I worked very hard on this application and—back to focus, discipline, hard work—I must have re-written that application thirty or forty times and had lots of people look at it.
SCARPINO: I’m going to let my students listen to the part of the interview, by the way. (laughing) Sorry to interrupt.
JISCHKE: And one of the things I did—and this is something I developed as a student that I’m very good at—is I was able to anticipate the questions of the White House Fellow interview process. As a student I got very good at anticipating questions on an exam. Not that I read the files but I learned early on to ask the question—if I were teaching this course or if I were conducting this interview, what would I ask? It’s back to a customer orientation or a service—what is the other person thinking of? So when I got to the White House Fellow interviews, regional and national, I was prepared; amazingly prepared. I mean, I could give fairly sophisticated answers to euthanasia questions. I could give sophisticated answers to how do you assess the Russian capability militarily compared to the United States. I could talk seriously about the world energy situation. So, I could not only talk about my engineering research and the stuff I did but I was much broader than the typical faculty member. So, I finished this White House Fellows interview and I’ve got a choice. I have a NATO Fellowship to go to either Imperial or Cambridge and Carrier has invited me to come to Harvard and White House Fellow. And I chose White House Fellow.
SCARPINO: So you were there ‘75, ‘76?
JISCHKE: That’s right, started out in the Rose Garden of the White House—Gerald Ford introducing the fourteen of us to the National Press Corps. That was a huge leadership development activity. First, competing—I think maybe most importantly the decision to apply and compete, because I was sort of ‘fessing up to myself—owning up to the fact that I was interested in these kinds of ideas and leadership development.
SCARPINO: How did the application process help you develop as a leader?
JISCHKE: Well they asked the question—why do you want to be a White House Fellow? What can you add to this? Clearly the purpose was to develop leaders and it’s that time that I began to think about becoming a university leader. That’s when I first entertained the idea of maybe becoming a dean.
SCARPINO: So, you’d leveraged your fellowship to advance your career.
JISCHKE: And by the end of the fellowship year I’d decided I wanted to be a university president. That’s the first time I thought about that idea. I was thirty-five. I actually, back to preparation and hard work, I actually laid out a game plan to get there by the time I was fifty. I gave myself fifteen years to become a university president.
SCARPINO: You made it.
JISCHKE: Made it in seven—about half the time.
SCARPINO: You were with the Secretary of Transportation.
JISCHKE: Yeah. Bill Coleman.
SCARPINO: What did you do? I mean, what were your duties as a Fellow? Let’s start with that.
JISCHKE: There are fundamentally two aspects to the White House Fellowship. One of them is an educational program that’s run by the White House Fellows Foundation and the executive director of that foundation. It’s a presidential appointee. It involved lots of meetings with leaders. I mean we met with the president, the vice president, essentially every cabinet member, Supreme Court justices, leaders of the congress, leaders of the private sector, leaders of the artistic community. I had dinner with Herman Wouk who wrote—he just had finished Winds of War and was in the middle of War and Remembrance. I had lunch with George Balanchine who led the American Ballet Theater. We met Boumedienne, the President of Algeria. I traveled on a diplomat passport—all part of this educational program. Then, second, you had a work assignment where I was a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Transportation. There I worked on landing rights for the Concorde, the French-German airplane. I worked on automobile safety regulations—Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208; airbags and passive restraints. I worked on truck safety issues—Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 121 which was about antilock brakes, organized hearings for the Secretary, wrote letters for him, briefed him. One of my earliest experiences—Bill Coleman’s a very famous guy. He was involved with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP and Brown versus the Board of Education. He was one of the young attorneys working with Marshall on that historic decision, a good buddy of Elliott Richardson’s, a Harvard law grad; a brilliant guy and an important figure in the history of American Civil Rights. Anyway, I’m told to look into this 208, this airbag regulation, and I get a call saying the Secretary wants you to brief him tomorrow morning at nine o’clock. So I put together a couple of page briefing and I handed it to him and I walked him through it and he said—sit down and just stay there. In came the head of the American Automobile Association or some lobbying group on that issue and Coleman listened to him and then responded by essentially spewing back everything I had told him and it scared the hell out of me. Because, I sat there and I thought, you know, if you had this wrong you just set up the U. S. Secretary of Transportation for a fall. Well, I didn’t have it wrong but it was an amazing experience and we ended up organizing hearings, doing all sorts of stuff for the Secretary—writing new regulations. It was an absolutely fabulous experience. There’s actually a third piece of the Fellowship and that is a lot of encouragement to think carefully about what are you going to do after you’re a Fellow. What’s the impact? Where are you headed? That’s the year I decided to become a university president. So I spent part of that fellowship year, the last six months, actually asking myself, what do I want to do and where do I want to go. I was encouraged to think about becoming the Assistant Secretary for R&D for the Department—so, moving to a political appointment.
SCARPINO: Research and Development for the Department of Transportation?
JISCHKE: Yeah, exactly, and I ultimately decided no and I went back to Oklahoma as a faculty member with the goal of becoming a university president.
SCARPINO: Did you ever think about politics at all?
JISCHKE: Yeah, but I’ve always rejected it on two counts. One, I’m not independently wealthy so I can’t afford it and second, may be more substantively, I think to be a really effective political leader, elected political leader, you absolutely have to know the jurisdiction and I grew up in Chicago. I studied in Massachusetts. I worked in Oklahoma. I mean, I’m an interloper. I mean, Hillary notwithstanding, I’ve always been hesitant because I don’t think I know the place well enough and as I’ve become a university president I’ve always been a little worried that the act of becoming a political candidate, which almost always means you’ve got to choose a party, will politicize the university. I think that’s—there’s a trust involved in being a university president and you don’t want to put the institution in play politically because of your personal ambitions.
SCARPINO: Gerald Bepko is in the room. Do you want to ask a few questions?
BEPKO: No. But I’m going to have to shift gears here so if we can just take a minute. I have to go back for Riley Children… [recorder turned off]
SCARPINO: We’re back on and we were talking about your White House Fellowship experience and I’m wondering if you met individuals there who impressed you as leaders or whom you later borrowed attributes or modeled yourself on, or…
JISCHKE: Lots of lessons—some big names. I was absolutely stunned by the energy of Ted Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey when we met with them separately. Kennedy just had so much power in his voice and it was commanding. Hubert Humphrey, he was dying of cancer at the time and was clearly in bad physical shape, and yet there was a passion and a twinkle in this guy’s eyes and the stories he told. It was—you could see the personal charisma in each of these guys and it reinforced in me the notion that communication, oral communication, verbal communication, was an incredibly powerful tool of persuasion and it’s different than the written word. I mean there’s just something very powerful about it. Bill Coleman, the Secretary of Transportation, impressed me in that he used a very judicial-like, lawyer-like, judge-like process for making big decisions. He invited briefs in, he heard oral arguments, he had hearings, and he put himself through the discipline of writing the decision down. I don’t think so much for archival reasons as a mental discipline of actually trying to write down the reasoning that lie behind consequential decisions. I was struck by Humphrey and a guy named Sol Linowitz for different reasons. These were two extraordinary public servants. Very, very effective leaders who several people said should have been President of the United States but historical circumstances, personal circumstances, conspired against it. I came around to understand, at least in part, that getting elected to or holding major offices is sometimes—there’s a bit of luck or circumstance or fate involved and you shouldn’t always take it personally. I also came around to understand that taking on these really big leadership jobs is a long term project. You don’t decide to become a United States Senator or Secretary of Transportation in January and get it done in June. It’s not a month or a year. It’s maybe decades long development and thinking strategically about. This was important and that had a big influence on my own thinking about becoming a university president. I learned two big personal lessons in all of this, in meeting these people, and having this experience. One of them was I could compete with people at this level.
SCARPINO: That’s an important lesson.
JISCHKE: Oh, it is, it is. Wes Clark was one of my White House Fellow classmates. Another one became Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. Another one…
SCARPINO: His name was?
JISCHKE: Dennis Blair. Marsh Carter became head of major bank in Boston and now is chairing—is it the SEC or New York Stock Exchange? These were impressive people and I could run at that level, run in that fast track. The second big lesson I learned was thinking strategically. One of the people I worked with at the Department of Transportation was a woman named Judith Connor who was married to Jim Connor who was the Secretary to the Cabinet. Judith was the Assistant Secretary for Environment and Safety at the Department of Transportation. One of the first projects I worked on was the Concorde landing rights which was a very interesting set of questions that ultimately came down to: would the United States permit the Concorde to fly over the United States and land in the United States? It had all kinds of environmental issues, emissions, noise. There were economic issues about competition with U. S. carriers and there were a whole range of diplomatic and political issues and of course my background is an aeronautical engineer. I was thinking about emissions, sonic booms, all of that stuff and I remember a conversation with Judith on a Saturday morning. We had had a meeting. The Secretary, I should back up, the Secretary asked this taskforce to write a report to him to give him a recommendation. He gave us a deadline for it and I was put on the taskforce and Judith was leading it. After we had this meeting on a Saturday, Judith and I were just sitting there talking, just the two of us. She said to me, she said—what do you think this decision is all about? And I said—well, God, it’s—there’s an enormous number of important technical questions: sonic boom, fuel efficiency, emissions. She said, now, she said—I’m asking myself as Assistant Secretary and head of the taskforce. What does the Secretary need from this taskforce? She said—I think he needs flexibility. I think he needs a report that lays out all of these issues but then gives him the flexibility to make a decision that ultimately fits in to the President’s agenda. It was like light bulbs flashing in front of me. I’d never thought that way to see that much bigger picture. That much longer range picture that—Gerald Ford was running for election. He was, you know—became President because of Nixon stepping down and I didn’t see the SST [super sonic transport or Concorde] as a presidential issue but in fact it was. It had all kinds of foreign diplomacy issues involved. The U.S. at that time was thinking about building an SST. So, there were competitiveness issues and Judith was a hell of a lesson. It was a wonderful lesson. Was saying, for herself, if I were the Secretary what would I want this taskforce to provide me and therefore, what do I as head of the taskforce need to get into this report? She needed to get all the technical stuff in. She needed all the information. But she had to frame it in a way that allowed, ultimately, a political decision to be made. That was very enlightening for me. So the notion of trying to ask the long term question, after you get this all done, what are the consequences, what are the uses; that sort of strategic thinking was a huge lesson for me—huge lesson.
SCARPINO: Were there any other individuals you met that had an impact on your development as a leader in the year that you spent at the White House?
JISCHKE: Well there were lots of people within the Department of Transportation that I worked with. There was a guy who was the Head of Administration named Bill Heffelfinger who was a Damon Runyon-like character. He was a very heavy, dark swarthy guy who wore black suits. He looked like an undertaker but he was a genius at running the bureaucracy. If the Secretary needed something done administratively or bureaucratically, he’d say—Heffelfinger I need this and Heffelfinger would salute and go get it done. This guy could play the personnel system or the purchasing system. He was a genius at it and he was so incredibly connected. I mentioned earlier that I had this chance to become Assistant Secretary for R&D. Heffelfinger called me into his office one day and he said—I hear through the grapevine that you’ve had discussions about becoming the R&D guy and I was stunned that he knew. He said—don’t do it. He said—you’ll ruin the White House Fellows program here at DOT. He said—if it’s seen as a steppingstone to a political appointment we’ll have trouble getting guys here. Don’t do it. I was dumbfounded that he knew. Another time I was working on this 208 safety standard and the Assistant Secretary for, or the head of NHTSA, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. There’s a guy named Jim Gregory. He was the administrator and he was not helping the Secretary deal with these issues. The Secretary said to me one day—call Gregory and tell him that I want to speak to him tomorrow morning at nine o’clock about 208. So this young thirty-five year old White House Fellow, Special Assistant, calls Gregory, the Administrator, and relays the message and Gregory blows up. I got a hold of him in his car as he was headed to it. He said—I’m sick and tired of all this goddamn pressure. You can tell the Secretary to go to hell. I resign. So I panic and I called the Secretary’s office and they plugged me through and I said this is what happened. He said fine, you did the right thing. I go back to my office. I’m shaking. I mean this is cataclysmic stuff. Heffelfinger calls me and he said—I heard what happened you handled that very well and hung up. I do not know if he had tapped all the phones. I don’t know if the guys who were driving the vehicles who he manages—I mean it’s—but he was incredibly connected. So I learned to respect people who run these bureaucracies. I met a number of people in Transportation; Barnum was the Deputy Secretary, really smart people. I came away from the experience with a view that while there may be serious policy disagreements at the national level in these cabinet offices, you’d make a mistake if you think the people are stupid. They’re actually pretty bright, well educated, I mean, they came from the best places in the country—Harvard, Yale. I mean, there were, and they were hard-working; pretty honorable. Some of them had different political philosophies to be sure but they were really bright people and I came away with much more respect for the people at the federal level working in the administration and also the complexity of the issues they deal with.
SCARPINO: Universities have entrenched, bedrock bureaucracies…
JISCHKE: Oh, exactly.
SCARPINO: …that don’t change as administrations change.
SCARPINO: So that’s actually pretty good preparation. But, it was a great experience and I met all of these superstars I mentioned earlier: Kennedy, Humphrey, Linowitz, Balanchine, Herman Wouk, Admiral Crowe who just died the other day. I met Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was at this time the Chief of Staff in the White House and he said something that I’ve never forgotten and it’s very useful information. Somebody asked him, how do you deal with the press? It’s a great question and he’s good at it. He said the following which I’ve never forgotten. He said—there are only three answers to any question. The first answer is I know the answer to your question and I will tell you. The second answer is I don’t know the answer to your question and I can’t tell you. The third one is I know the answer but I won’t tell you. What that was, it was about taking control of the interaction with the press. There’s no law that forces you to answer their questions and second, it’s really stupid to make up answers.
SCARPINO: Did you learn lessons about working with the press that carried over into your administration?
JISCHKE: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. All the time I’ve been a university president I’ve tried very hard to always respond to reporters, students and otherwise, and I’ve always remembered that one, don’t make up an answer. If you don’t know, say so. Now you can tell them I’ll get back to you if you want me to. Second, remember, you don’t have to answer their question. You really don’t. You make that choice. One of my fellow White House Fellows was a guy named Dean Overman and he worked for Nelson Rockefeller who was Vice President at the time. Rockefeller had this interesting habit in answering questions that all of the staffers, including Overman, began to characterize as the BOMFOG answer. B-O-M-F-O-G and it stands for Brotherhood of Man, Fatherhood of God and it turned out Rockefeller could answer any question under the sun with the BOMFOG. He could twist it and end up talking about the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God. The staffers would laugh about it but it was another one of these lessons that the really effective political leaders are pretty good communicators and they are in charge of the communication. That is, they’re managing it thoughtfully. They’re not victims of the press. They know how to deal with these issues.
SCARPINO: In the world we live in do you think the ability to thoughtfully manage communication is a mark of a leader?
JISCHKE: It’s essential in complicated organizations. I think different people have different communication styles. I’m not a believer that you can learn how to speak like Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton or Martin Jischke or Jerry Bepko or whoever but I think most leaders are very effective communicators and as the organization becomes larger and more complex the communication becomes more complex. It becomes more mass communication than personal but you always have to have the personal because you’re dealing with people all the time. But when—in the case, in my case, university president—you’re trying to communicate to a pretty large audience, at least a statewide audience, a national audience of alumni, maybe a national audience in higher education, and you’ve got to be skilled at that.
SCARPINO: Do you think part of the trick is knowing who your audience is; the composition of your audience?
JISCHKE: You’ve got to know the audience, you’ve got to know yourself, you’ve got to know the facts, and I’m back to fundamentals. Preparation—I’ve hardly ever been asked a question I haven’t thought about. I do a radio show, a call-in show, or I did it for twenty-two years. All the time I was a president or a chancellor. I took calls from anywhere in the listening audience and we did not set up calls. I mean, it was an honest call-in show in that sense and I never tripped up. The reason I think I never tripped up is one, I prepared. I really had thought about almost every question. I say it’s rare that I have been surprised, even in interviews as well as call-in. Second, I haven’t forgotten this Rumsfeld thing. So when somebody says a question that I don’t know the answer to, I don’t have any [word inaudible] to say, I don’t know the answer to that. I will get back to you. But it’s, I think there’s a self confidence that comes with being willing to say I don’t know.
SCARPINO: Did you self-consciously develop a communication style?
JISCHKE: No. I think it just happened. I tend to be one, prepared; two, fact-based. My kids will tell you, they joke about it, when I’m in a communication mode I’m doing one, two, three. I mean it’s a sequential. So there’s a style there but it’s a natural one. I’ve never tried to imitate somebody else or pick up someone else’s style.
SCARPINO: 1977 you went back to the University of Oklahoma?
SCARPINO: You held at least three administrative positions…
SCARPINO: …and you had obviously decided while you were a Fellow that that’s the direction that you wanted your career to take.
SCARPINO: You were a director and professor of the School of Aerospace, Mechanical, and Nuclear Engineering from ‘77 to ‘81. Is that the equivalent of a department chair?
JISCHKE: Yes. I was head of a department, I think we had twenty-two faculty and five or six hundred students.
SCARPINO: How did you exercise leaders as a director or a department chair?
JISCHKE: These are some themes that have followed all the way through my time as an academic administrator or leader—strategic thinking. I actually developed a strategic plan as a department head and I did as a dean and as a president. Strategic thinking, trying to think longer term, asking how can you make a difference, what’s going to make this a better place. Second, a focus on resources; I started a private fundraising effort as a department head. External relations; I put an advisory board together of prominent and successful alums to help. Third, lots of communication internally as well as externally. Patty and I would entertain every faculty member in our home at least once a year. I met with every member of the faculty at the end of the year for a review—department meetings where real information was exchanged. We talked about important questions, I regularly visited with people—a lot of personal interaction. I focused an enormous amount of attention on recruiting talented people. I believe that you strip it all away, nothing is more important for an organization, but particularly an academic organization, than the quality of the people in the organization. If as a department head or a dean or a president you can attract and retain talented faculty, talented staff, and talented students, you have an absolutely first rate unit. If you don’t do that the buildings can’t be pretty enough to make it up. So, people were a huge focus of mine and tried very hard to figure out how I can help people to be successful.
SCARPINO: How do you help faculty be successful? I mean, I would think that would be an important quality for a successful department chair.
JISCHKE: One, you articulate the measures of success. I mean, what is it that we’re looking at? Second, that you then try to facilitate that. Sometimes it’s through money. Sometimes it’s through appointments. Teach this course or that course. Get release time. I mean, you try to facilitate, encourage, help. Then, the third, deliver on the rhetoric. That is, reward those who perform and for God sake, don’t reward those who don’t perform. A corollary to all of this is don’t waste a lot of time on people who aren’t performing. While all the world loves a reformed sinner the odds of reformation are low. You’re much better off devoting most of your time to people who are having success and with help will have more. I think always, always articulating the sort of basic purposes, values, mission of the place. Why are we here? Talking about students, you know, talking about research, trying to be a good role model as both a teacher and a scholar, encouraging seminar programs. All of the things that lead to a vital intellectual unit and, as I say, trying to do the things that only you as the department head or the dean can do. Don’t do other people’s jobs and try to help. I did the same thing as a dean.
SCARPINO: Did you ever find yourself feeling as though you were maybe working at cross purposes while on the one hand you’re trying to foster vital intellectual community and on the other hand you’ve got to pay attention to the bottom line?
JISCHKE: No. I mean, I never saw those as in conflict.
SCARPINO: How did you make them work together?
JISCHKE: I think part of having a vital intellectual community is to not indulge those who aren’t very intellectual or very vital. Put in more positive terms, I think excellence is the quality of a department is defined by its best people not its average or its weak people. So, I made certain that the best people understood that they were loved and respected. I mean, I would say it to them. Tell them I admired them and when it came time for salary adjustments, if I had any flexibility, it would be to recognize that excellence. I was prepared to talk about this. This was not done in secret. I mean I didn’t hang people out to dry but I was prepared to talk about the principles that lie behind what we were trying to do and I worked very hard to bring in better people whenever we opened a position. It was done in a very open and a democratic process. We’d advertise everywhere. We’d call everybody. We’d try to get the best people. We’d bring them in for an interview. We’d give them a seminar. We’d bring the faculty together and say—what do you think? Who’s the best person here? Then, we’d try like hell to recruit them. I was pretty good at recruiting.
SCARPINO: Other than to referee publications, how did you make your judgments about what constituted a quality person? What did you look for?
JISCHKE: I tried to make it multi-dimensional and ultimately reflect the mission of the institution. So, we tried to look at, on the research side, clearly publications and indicators of quality. The journals they were published in. We would look at comments of referees, references. We tried to look at invited papers. We would look at levels of sponsorship of funding. We would look at how their graduate students did and the quality of the research that came out of that. On the teaching side, we would try to look at innovations in teaching new courses introduced. I would sit in on the classes of every untenured faculty member seeing how they were doing. Actually what I was really doing is telling them what was important by showing up. It was funny. Everybody was very nervous including the students. The students wanted to know why is the department head here? I had students actually come up to me and say, you know, Professor Jones is really a very good instructor. I mean they were worried that…
SCARPINO: That you were after Professor Jones.
JISCHKE: Yeah, exactly. I tried to help people by taking the student evaluations and reviewing them with them and saying these are techniques you can use. I had my own personal collection of books on teaching that I would share with people and sort of articulate what I thought lie behind good teaching. We’d look at student evaluations. We’d also look at service. Were they involved in committees? That didn’t carry near as much weight. Then the other thing that I tried to get at as a department head beyond these measurable, individual activities was the extent to which they contributed to the overall vitality of the program. There were a few people in the department who played a very interesting leadership role in setting standards and helping others. There was one guy, for example, that lots of people consulted with on research problems because he was particularly gifted mathematically. I mean, he could solve math problems that other people couldn’t. It never showed up in his own publications. It never showed up in his own teaching. But, he played a role as a force in the department that I thought it was important to recognize. So, I was willing to stick my neck out as a matter of judgment and say I believe this person is better than all these numbers would suggest. So, I always left room for interpretation and I was willing to be held accountable for it.
SCARPINO: Do you think that willingness to be held accountable is a mark of an effective leader?
JISCHKE: Yeah, I think so. I think so. At some point I believe you should answer the question. Okay, what difference have you made? That’s part of who I am. I’m a—I think that way. Every year I put together a list of objectives. I mean, I hold myself accountable and I think that’s part of how you achieve things. So, I think for people who have these leadership responsibilities or leadership opportunities, at some point there’s got to be an answer to the question what did you do with it. If the answer is not much then you probably ought to be replaced.
SCARPINO: In 1981 you became Dean of the School of Engineering at Oklahoma University or University of Oklahoma.
SCARPINO: What did you find attractive about a deanship?
JISCHKE: Well, it was the next step. I knew I was on a path to becoming a university president and I’d done a very good job as a department head. I was the internal candidate. That was the big question. Could I get it done as an internal candidate? There are pluses and minuses that go with being an internal…
SCARPINO: I think they ran a national search?
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah.
SCARPINO: You were the internal candidate.
SCARPINO: Yeah. It came down to me and a guy from Oklahoma State and the President of the University at that point called me in and talked about it. I had been on the search committee that selected him as president and had opposed his appointment.
SCARPINO: Did he know that?
JISCHKE: Yes. He knew it full well. He knew everything and to his credit he said after this conversation, and I think he was teasing me a little bit because he talked about how good this guy from Oklahoma State was, he said they would appoint me. I did a hell of a job. The faculty in engineering at OU is about a hundred people. We hired fifty-two faculty in four years.
SCARPINO: In the four years that you were dean?
JISCHKE: Yeah. Quadrupled the endowment, helped build a brand new multi-million dollar energy center, started a program to recruit National Merit Scholars, a lot of the endowed professorships were raised.
SCARPINO: Had fundraising been a culture of that school before you became dean?
JISCHKE: Not like I did it. Yeah. Really notched it up and so it was a very successful term. I was the young hotshot of OU at this point.
SCARPINO: To what do you attribute your success as a fundraiser? How did you do it?
JISCHKE: The fundamentals of fundraising are pretty simple. One, you’ve got to have an inspirational message. In the parlance of fundraising the key statement’s got to be good and thoughtful. You know, what are you going to do with the monies and so what? I give you a million dollars, so what? Second, Willy Sutton’s school of fundraising, you go where the money is. So, you’ve got to develop relationships with those who have money. You’ve got to cultivate donors, foundations, and others. Third, you have to have the courage to ask and you have to think statistically about the results of asking. If you get so heavily invested personally that you take it as a personal rejection when someone says no it’s too painful. So you’ve—and this is where, working in the meat market and selling lamb chops and hamburger and lunch meat—I mean, I was used to selling and I didn’t take it personally.
SCARPINO: So you were basically selling a case study or a case statement.
JISCHKE: That’s right. That’s right, and you’ve got to ask. You’ve got to ask and then finally, time on task. I mean, you’ve got to ask a lot of people. So, you’ve got to set aside time and work at it. Then ultimately, you’ve got to deliver on the promise. If you said give me this money and I will have this endowed chair and I will be able to improve the faculty which will improve the education of students, you’d better be able to close that loop and demonstrate to donors that in fact, it improved the quality of that faculty and yada-yada-yada. So, to my way of thinking it’s actually pretty simple stuff and it’s just a question of doing it. Now you can be more or less persuasive. I mean part of what I bring to all of this is I bring a high level of energy and enthusiasm—some passion about the work. I know how to deliver on the promise of stuff and work pretty hard. So, I put in more hours than most people.
SCARPINO: Were there differences in the way you exercised leadership between being a dean and being a chair or were there similarities?
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah. There were lots of similarities but the big differences were dean is full time; chair is not. So as a chair, I was still active as a faculty member—still had a research program going.
JISCHKE: Yeah. Now as dean I taught once a year. I taught a course a year and I did that in a course I could do literally rolling out of bed. But it got harder to do. Dean was more full time. Second, I moved from being, in some sense, an expert in a significant part of the disciplines that we taught in the department to being not an expert. I mean, we had six or seven departments and I didn’t know a hell of a lot about electrical engineering or chemical engineering or petroleum engineering. So, your expertise on the subject manner diminishes and your relationship to the experts changes. So, you provide more administrative management, strategic leadership than subject matter, intellectual leadership. Although, when it came to educational issues, issues of learning, issues of teaching, I considered and still consider myself an expert. But, when somebody says to me we’ve got a new faculty position open and I think we ought to hire somebody in drilling rather than reservoir engineering, I can quiz them on it but it’s really hard for me to say you don’t know what you’re talking about in reservoir engineering, I do—because I don’t. So, your relationship changes and therefore the kind of leadership you exercise changes. Second, you’re dealing with a larger audience. Instead of twenty-one other people that you can develop one-on-one relationships with, you’ve got a hundred faculty, a staff, a much larger alumni body. You can’t develop a personal relationship with everybody. So, the communication becomes, it’s not mass like a university but it becomes larger. So, more written communication, more public speaking events, that sort of thing.
SCARPINO: Your career as an administrator sort of was intertwined with massive changes in the way we do business at universities. It’s really the technical aspect.
SCARPINO: Did you have to discipline yourself to learn to use those new technologies or did it, did you become a computer person and an email person and a blog person easily?
JISCHKE: I adapted to the technology pretty easy. I used computers in my research as I did—I had to do a lot of numerical analysis of equations so that side of computers was relatively straightforward. I’ve always used them for communications. That part was easy but I didn’t see myself too much as a leader there. Where I was a leader and innovator is seeing the huge changes that were coming upon public higher education and its finance very early on. I mean, I was one of the very first people that was serious about fundraising at a department level, at a college level.
SCARPINO: So by huge changes you meant the reduction in state money.
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah, and the much more complex financing: the growing role of tuition, the growing role of private fundraising, the growing role of sponsored programs, the whole economic development agenda that major research universities have embarked on. I was at the leading edge of all of that.
SCARPINO: Did you see, as Dean, did you see your school in an economically competitive environment?
SCARPINO: You’re competing for resources?
JISCHKE: Absolutely. But, not internally; it was mostly externally. I mean, I concluded for twenty-five years that if you think your future as a major research university and getting better hinges on talking the legislature and the governor into a big check, you’re pushing a rope. I mean, you’re embarked on a strategy that one, you have little control over and two, is not likely to succeed. I was the sort of beginning of the external department head, the external dean, the external president.
SCARPINO: In 1986 you accepted a position as chancellor at the University of Missouri-Rolla which is in southern Missouri.
SCARPINO: It’s an engineering school as I recall.
SCARPINO: You remained in that post until 1991. How did you feel about leaving Oklahoma after all those years?
JISCHKE: Oh it was very sad. It’s a great story. I am the Interim President of OU. The President resigns; I’m the young Dean of Engineering, young hotshot Dean of Engineering. The seven member board of regents cannot decide on whether to appoint the Provost or the Administrative Vice President, Vice President for Finance, as the Interim President. They were divided, three for the Provost, three for the Vice President, and one who wouldn’t go either way. So in their indecision they turned to the young Dean of Engineering Jischke and named him Interim President.
SCARPINO: Were you surprised?
JISCHKE: Dumbfounded. Shocked—had no idea. I mean, I’m all of, I think I was forty-three, going on forty-four. I got a call a couple of days before Christmas to come to a board meeting in the middle of a meeting. I had counseled the board. I had been asked by some of them what I thought about all of this and I said get this interim appointment made and move on. Your job is to find a permanent president and the board has to be together to do that. So I get this call and I go over to the meeting and they say we want you to be Interim President and knocked me over with a feather. I mean, I was just—I was absolutely dumbfounded and I said well let me think about it. I want to call my wife and talk to her and called Patty and said you won’t believe what they’ve done. So I became Interim President and I think I can say this objectively—did a hell of a job, had the best fundraising year in the history of the university. The faculty got their first salary increase in three years. Enrollment was turned around and I was the favorite of lots of people.
SCARPINO: How did you turn enrollment around?
JISCHKE: Oh, we worked on it. I mean, I went out and helped recruit students. We organized phone calling trees. I mean, we just put some time on it.
SCARPINO: You sold the university.
JISCHKE: Yeah, exactly. About ten days before the trustees were, regents rather, were to come to a decision on a permanent president I had four out of seven votes and in the ten days one of the four switched to another guy named Frank Horton and I was not appointed president permanently. I was very disappointed, saddened, and I felt like I had done a great job and I had run into a political buzz saw on the board. So, I had a basic career choice. I was either going to stay at Oklahoma as dean forever or was going to have to move. Peter McGraw [actual name is McGrath] at the University of Missouri called me and said—we have this chancellor position open at Rolla, are you interested? I had interviewed at Kansas State for their job and the timing wasn’t—I was either going to go to Missouri or I’d have to wait to see how the Kansas State thing worked out and I took the job at Rolla. It was a good move. Was there five years. Did a good job for them. Again, turned around enrollment, grew the research program, started a fundraising effort, reorganized student affairs and, I think, did a pretty good job for them. Then, I had the chance to go to Iowa State which was a much larger, more complex institution.
SCARPINO: What did you learn from not getting the permanent position of president?
JISCHKE: I learned a lot of things. First, I learned that not every presidency is a good one because the guy who did get it didn’t last three years.
SCARPINO: Who did get it?
JISCHKE: A guy named Frank Horton who was Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. It took me awhile to actually come to this conclusion. But, I later concluded that I really was the best candidate but the politics didn’t allow it so I learned lessons about reality. Not all jobs are good jobs and maybe I was lucky I didn’t get it. Sounds strange and a bit of a rationalization, but as I look back now twenty-three years later maybe I really was lucky I didn’t get it because nobody at Oklahoma has been the president there and has successfully moved on to a better presidency.
SCARPINO: So, it could have very well have changed your entire career trajectory?
JISCHKE: Could have been a career ender. Could have ended in a heart attack. It was a very tough situation—politically tough, financially tough. I was the kid who grew up essentially on the faculty. My father-in-law was this very distinguished professor so I was very much of the institution. Patty is a graduate. Our kids were born there. So, it was very hard, but I think career-wise I was very lucky I didn’t get it because I got to go to Rolla. Rolla was a smaller, in some sense, easier institution to manage. I was able to learn a lot of things that I hadn’t previously had to deal with: housing, student affairs, physical plant—the non-academic side of the university.
SCARPINO: One thing that you didn’t mention and—when you talked about your administrative experience at OU—is big time college sports.
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah. I had to deal with that.
SCARPINO: As an interim president? I mean…
JISCHKE: Yeah. I mean Billy Tubbs, Barry Switzer, all of that was part of it.
SCARPINO: Football and basketball.
JISCHKE: Yeah that’s right. So, I mean, I went to Big Eight meetings and got the introduction although by and large I was pretty lucky that year that we didn’t have any serious scandals that went on in the athletic programs.
SCARPINO: What role do you think athletics should play in a major university?
JISCHKE: With all due respect, it’s the wrong question.
JISCHKE: Should is not the right answer.
SCARPINO: I was trying to leave it open-ended but…
JISCHKE: Yeah, but I think the answer is the role that intercollegiate athletics plays at a university is not determined by the university. The notion that it is—I think—is naïve. It plays to an external audience of alums, citizens, media. It’s not a university activity alone. It’s not driven by the university alone, for better and for worse. It gives you an opportunity to be connected to a larger audience. It gives a visibility to the university. It can be a metaphor for the university’s success. It can also be a metaphor for the university’s failings. But, the notion that the university in some autonomous sense, or more particularly the administration and the president in some autonomous sense, decides what the role should be is very simplistic. It just isn’t the way it is. So you have to play the hand you’re dealt and the hand you’re dealt at an Oklahoma is radically different than the hand you’re dealt at a Rolla is different than Iowa State is different than Purdue. These athletic programs have deeply rooted histories and audiences that you try to manage but the idea that you control it, I think, is overstated and the should is—it’s an interesting theoretical question. But it’s not a practical question. My view is you play the hand you’re dealt there and in some places it’s an impossible hand to deal—to play. I think there are places in the country where athletics is a presidency killer. Oklahoma can be one of them.
SCARPINO: Well, to be transparent, that’s actually the direction I was trying to push the conversation.
JISCHKE: Yeah. That wasn’t the issue with me though. Athletics—I’m a fan of sports. I get along with the coaches well and we didn’t have any big problems the year I was interim president. So, it wasn’t like it was the defining issue in that selection. In fact, a funny story, a little aside, the regents select Frank Horton who is the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and Horton gets a phone call from Barry Switzer.
SCARPINO: The football coach.
JISCHKE: Horton picks up the phone and says Frank Horton and Switzer says hi, this is Barry Switzer at OU and Frank says oh great, what do you do at OU?
SCARPINO: Oh, no.
JISCHKE: Honest to God. Honest to God. So, I mean it wasn’t that Horton was picked because he was an athletic guy or—that wasn’t an issue. I think the fundamental issue in the search for the president was controlled by the trustees, by the regents. I’m not absolutely certain I’m right but I think I’m right. I think there was a faction on the board, three of them, that wanted to take control of the university, in part, for political reasons. I was seen as somebody who was supported by the other faction, the other three, and had my own independent base of support because of my long history there and my success. So, I think I was seen as somebody that they couldn’t manage and they didn’t want to take that risk. They wanted to be in charge.
SCARPINO: When you moved to Rolla, how did you go about establishing a base of support in the new place?
JISCHKE: It was a small enough place, like 300 faculty, 6,000 students, so I just started meeting with every—I visited every department every year. The university faculty meetings, I had something to say. I mean I talked about serious issues. Patty and I entertained every member of the faculty in the chancellor’s home for dinner with their spouse. So I got to know everybody. Then second, I worked very hard to try to give a public image or presence for Rolla around the state. It’s an interesting institution. It’s rather specialized. It’s the old Missouri school of minds. It competes against bigger institutions around the state and I tried to brand and position it as Missouri’s technological university and I did a lot of public speaking. Any place they would put an audience together I would go and talk about the university, its importance to the future of the state, the role that it could play, quality of the students and then I tried to build a fundraising program which took a fair amount of time. Didn’t have much. They weren’t very good at it. Relatively small alumni base. But that was the basic agenda and one element of it was turning around the enrollment. The enrollment was going down and I got it backtracking on a growth curve.
SCARPINO: So once again you were able to just sell the institution and its reputation and attract students.
JISCHKE: Yeah. I’m good at that. I know how to do that. I’m very effective at that external communication thing and I devote a lot of time and energy to it. But I would tell you that people who don’t know the details of what I do think that’s all I do and I had a lot to do internally as well.
SCARPINO: What do you feel you accomplished internally?
JISCHKE: Built a whole student affairs division. They didn’t have one. They had a dean of students and no organization. We had a vice chancellor for student affairs, brought in a professional, reorganized it. We re-did the library. We built a technology transfer program. We raised the money for and built a new electrical engineering building. We did a lot of things internal.
SCARPINO: Paid for with private money?
JISCHKE: Yeah, private and state both. We build a new performing arts building for them. The biggest challenge I had there was an annual spring event the students put on in honor of St. Patrick which was a huge drinking celebration. A kid drank himself to death that year and I had to tackle this seventy year tradition. I told the students I would shut it down. I would eliminate it if they didn’t change. It was a huge battle with them but I told them you’re breaking the law and people are dying. I won’t brook it. So there were internal things I was dealing with as well. We had to find a new dean. I mean there were a number of internal activities that were built around strengthening the university.
SCARPINO: I’d like to spend the last few minutes that we have asking you some of our standard leadership questions.
SCARPINO: I did send them along but if you…
SCARPINO: That’s fine. And these are questions that we ask everyone we interview so that at some point in the future there’s some minimal basis for comparison.
SCARPINO: What do you read?
JISCHKE: What do I read?
JISCHKE: I read lots of things. I read several newspapers. I read the local newspaper, the state newspaper, the Indianapolis Star. I read the Wall Street Journal. I read the Sunday New York Times. I read the Indianapolis Business Journal. I read the Chronicle of Higher Education. So, I read a fair number of newspapers. I read several news magazines—In particular, Time and The Economist and Golf Magazine. I read Golf Magazine. Now that I’m no longer president at Purdue, I’m an emeritus, I’ve gotten back to reading more books. I’ve probably read ten books in the last three months. I read a pretty eclectic mix of things. Gosh, I read a collection of Robert Service’s poems, Sam Magee and Dangerous Dan McGrew among others. I read a book on Aging Well which is a subject of personal interest now. (laughter) I’m in the middle of Don Quixote, Cervantes’ book. I’ve read A Thousand and One Nights. I’m working my way through the Harvard Classics. I’ve got on, on my bed stand a book on entrepreneurship. I read a pretty interesting mix of things. I enjoy current events a lot and I pay a lot of attention to that through the newspapers and news magazines that I read. I subscribe to Foreign Affairs. So I read a lot of—a pretty eclectic mix of things.
SCARPINO: Do you think a leader should read?
JISCHKE: Absolutely. It’s part of refreshing and, I think again, it depends a little bit on the nature of your leadership responsibilities. For example, a couple of things I read that you wouldn’t guess. I read Transport Topics because I’m on the board of a trailer company. I read Real Estate News because I’m on the board of a real estate company. But I also try to read beyond the needs of today to constantly both broaden what I know about but maybe to open my thinking and perspectives on what I am thinking about. In the audience next to us I’d have four books on child development that I want to read. Patty and I, my wife and I, are interested in this issue of child development which kind of grows out of my interest as an educator. I am curious as to why 30% of the kids aren’t ready for first grade when they get there and why roughly 30% of the high school graduates, or the high school students, drop out before they graduate. I suspect those 30 percents are related but I’d like to know more before I conclude that. But I’m very interested in, right now, in the issue of how children develop school readiness. How they develop language skills. Because, I think there’s some evidence that we’re not doing a very good job collectively. Some kids are doing just fine but there’s a significant group that’s not. The country’s paying a big price as a country but most importantly these kids are paying a huge price in the kind of world we’re in today. If you can’t read you can’t learn and if you can’t learn you can’t succeed.
SCARPINO: Do you think that there’s a particular problem along those lines in Indiana?
JISCHKE: Indiana is certainly not any better than any place else and maybe a little worse. So, yeah, it’s an issue in Indiana to be sure.
SCARPINO: Do you ever read about other leaders?
JISCHKE: Yes. I’m a big fan of Peter Drucker who writes about—I think Drucker is as good as anybody I’ve read and I’m a big fan and I actually met Peter. I think he’s a remarkable guy and my experience as, at least a university leader, is the things that Drucker writes about and says are pretty much on the mark. I mean I find him very helpful and very useful. But yeah, I’ve read about other leaders, both positive and negative. I mean I pay attention to what so-called leaders say they do.
SCARPINO: What did you find to be inspiring about Drucker as you went about your duties as university president and board member and so on?
JISCHKE: Drucker I think is deeply rooted in the actual experience of real people and real organizations. He focuses a lot of the tension on human interaction and is amazingly able to weave together a lot of disparate ideas, trends, observations, into a coherency about knowledge workers, the effective executive, managing in turbulent times. He brings a coherency to this stuff that I find quite good and it’s almost always based on very real practical examples. I mean, well his stuff reads almost like a novel. It’s not theoretical. It’s quite practical. I’ve used his ideas in my own thinking and development. So of all the people I’ve read, he comes closest to being able to distill important ideas in a way that I can then use.
SCARPINO: Do you ever read biographies?
JISCHKE: Occasionally, occasionally. I’ve got a Truman biography by McCullough that I’m working on. I’m a big fan of Harry Truman’s. I think he’s fabulous. Merrill Miller’s treatment of Truman is just absolutely terrific.
SCARPINO: And you said you’re reading David McCullough's book on Truman?
SCARPINO: Who do you think are important leaders as you just think about the people you’ve met or the people you’ve read about? Who rises to the level of important leader in your mind?
JISCHKE: John Gardner in my view is a remarkable leader and talked a lot about leadership and renewal. He started the White House Fellows Program and he started Common Cause. Secretary of HEW, he’s somebody that I have an enormous regard for. He just died within the last year or so. Absolutely first rate. Drucker, in my mind, is an important leader in the whole management leadership context. Political leaders—I’m a sort of victim of my age. I think Truman was especially impressive. Kennedy was quite inspirational to me. I was very impressionable.
SCARPINO: John Kennedy?
JISCHKE: Yeah. I mean it was the right age and when I was a junior in high school I wrote a paper about him as a presidential candidate so I sort of paid attention to him at a very young age and there’s a certain romance about the thousand days of Camelot and then the assassination. So, Kennedy is someone who’s large. I don’t know if he’ll actually measure up by historical terms. I think Clinton squandered an opportunity. I think he was a very effective president actually but he squandered the opportunity to be a great president by his personal misbehavior which is sort of sad. There are some interesting corporate leaders, people who are quite innovative, that I like to watch. An alum of Purdue, a guy named Mike Eskew is stepping down as head of UPS, has done an interesting job in globalizing that business. It’s hard not to look at Gates and Google and be pretty impressed with the people that have been able to lead those. Walter Wriston was a great leader of Citibank. On the academic side Harold Shapiro who was president of Michigan and Princeton, I think, is one of the great academic leaders of my generation. Peter McGraw who was the president of SUNY Binghamton, Minnesota, Missouri, I’ve missed one—personal friend. I think he’s—and head of the National Land Grant Association, is a pretty important academic leader. Stan Eikenberry is another one that plays an important role. I think of the younger people today Graham Spaniard, Penn State, is pretty able guy.
SCARPINO: What makes people like that stand out as leaders in a panoply of university presidents?
JISCHKE: Well, a combination of leading institutions effectively and well and making a difference. Then, taking that experience and sort of creating, what, a knowledge base for the nation. I mean, Shapiro wrote regularly about it. I think Chuck Vest at MIT was quite good. I think Derrick Bock at Harvard. I used to read his Harvard’s President’s Annual Report regularly. Bock’s an impressive guy. So, they not only do a good job of leading their university but they do it in a way that others can learn from.
SCARPINO: Were there people who helped you along the way? Who particularly stood out as individuals? Who assisted your career development?
JISCHKE: Yeah. Although I don’t think I have a classic mentor but there have been a number. I mentioned one already—Jud Baron, my thesis advisor at MIT, was very decisive in my personal development. At the University of Oklahoma I had a number of friends. The head of the department, a guy named Tom Love, that hired me was very encouraging. Bill Uptegrove was the guy who said—apply to the White House Fellows Program. Paul Sharp was president when I was head of the faculty senate. These people all had an influence on me although I would tell you that in at least a couple of cases they weren’t always role models. That is, while they were friends and helpful and mentors in some sense, I did not model myself after them. Peter McGraw has been a friend for God, twenty years in higher ed and Peter and I still stay in touch. I was with him in Ireland about three weeks ago and so he’s had an influence on me. My wife and increasingly my kids have had a big influence on me. I value them. I love them. But in these terms, in career terms, they’ve been very supportive and I value their judgment on career-like issues. So they’ve been very, very important to me.
SCARPINO: Do you think that having a mentor or mentors is an important part of the development of a leader?
JISCHKE: I think the really honest answer is I don’t know. I have people who have been helpful to me, friendly, and have provided some advice and counsel in my career but I don’t have a mentor in the traditional sense of somebody that I always go to whenever I make big decisions. The only person that I can think of in the last twenty years is my wife. In that sense, I may be more self-contained. That is, I keep my own counsel. So the decision to go to Rolla or Iowa State or Purdue was fundamentally my decision, with Patty.
SCARPINO: Do you ever mentor other people?
JISCHKE: I try to. I try to, yeah, yeah. I’ve had interns in my office for years. In fact I was with—Patty and I spent the weekend or two days in Iowa. One of our friends had his seventieth birthday. One of the people at the party is a woman who I mentored in the president’s office at Iowa State. Yeah, I’ve always tried to have both faculty and students around that I could help and encourage in that regard. The president’s leadership class that I’ve had—it was at OU. I started it at Rolla, at Iowa State, and Purdue. I’ve had students that I’ve mentored in those programs. So I try to do that, yeah.
SCARPINO: Do you think that networks play a role in the development of a successful leader?
JISCHKE: Yeah. You’ve got to be connected for lots of reasons. I think you learn a lot from others, both their successes and their mistakes, and being engaged in network is very helpful. I found it helpful to know what other people are trying to do, wrestling with how they solve problems. That kind of networking is very valuable. Networks sure play a role in getting you considered for, appointed to—although I would tell you it is my personal opinion that people who have very successful careers are managing their own careers. They’re not relying exclusively on others or networks or mentors. They’re not sitting in their office hoping somebody will call them and say, you know, there’s a position open at X would you be interested. More likely they’re paying attention to where opportunities are and they call somebody and say, you know, I’m interested in this would you nominate me. I think successful people, in terms of careers, aggressively, deliberately, and consciously manage their own career and I’m one of those.
SCARPINO: Did you ever find yourself taking advantage of the contacts you made the year you were a White House Fellow?
JISCHKE: Yeah. The first phone call I had about the presidency at Purdue was from the chairman of the board who’s was a former White House Fellow. I believe Tim McGinley’s interest in me was significantly enhanced by the fact that I was a White House Fellow. So that contact has had an enormous impact.
SCARPINO: What do you think are the qualities that distinguish successful leadership?
JISCHKE: If you had to summarize it, it is that they make a difference. That is, there are consequences to their leadership that are positive for whatever organization or group they’re leading. The ultimate test is kind of in the results. That’s the single most important idea. Leadership in some sense is not an end in itself. It’s the means to another end and that end depends on the organization. So, yeah, that’s the ultimate test. Now, most leaders accomplish things because they bring a set of qualities, abilities, to their leadership efforts but I’m very much of a view that it’s not exclusively the qualities, abilities, of the leader that ultimately determine whether leadership happens. Leadership is ultimately a human activity that involves groups or organizations and leadership can only be exercised if there are those who can and will be led. I think leadership is, in that sense, always contextual. It depends on who and what are being led and I believe partly from my own personal experience that the effectiveness of a leader depends, I don’t know if it’s as much, but certainly depends on what’s being led. You can take a person who’s been very successful in one context and put him in another and they’re not successful.
SCARPINO: So do you think that part of sustained success is the ability to figure out the context and make it…
JISCHKE: You have to figure out the context to be sure and in that sense if it’s evolving and you don’t keep up you may not be a sustained leader. But, I also believe there are some organizations that don’t want leadership because they don’t want to change. I mean I see leadership as being about results and making a difference, therefore, I’m very much of a mind that leaders are change agents. But I believe there are organizations that don’t want to change to their detriment.
SCARPINO: Maybe the presidency that you didn’t get at OU…
JISCHKE: Well, that board. I think the university wanted to change. I’m not sure the change that that board wanted was a change that I couldn’t deliver for them. But, my experience—there have been big differences in my experience at Iowa State and Purdue and I think part of the difference is Purdue was more receptive to the leadership and change agenda that I was brought to exercise. There’s no question that there is issues of adaptation to be sure and people who don’t evolve as the institution or environment change are probably not going to last. But I still come back to a view that I think some institutions, if not impossible, are extraordinarily difficult to lead and there are circumstances under which leadership is very hard. To put it in a university context, an institution with a very strong reputation, with a highly tenured faculty, under financial stress, is very hard to lead.
SCARPINO: Do you think that part of being a successful leader in that context is being able to figure out which of those situations are likely to be where it might not be possible to lead?
JISCHKE: Absolutely. I mean some of the advice that I give to young people who aspire to be a university president is to try to assess the situation from the perspective of what is the institution need and can I do it and will the institution let me do it. I’m back to one of the lessons I learned at Oklahoma, is not every presidency is a good one. Not every job is doable. I think, I mean. I tell them directly you’ve got to make your best judgment as to whether this is a presidency you can succeed at and it’s something you’ve got to do in a period of a few days. I mean, you know, if you go through the normal process you’ll get an interview, maybe within a few weeks you’ll get a second one with the board, and if you’re the candidate they’re going to make you an offer in a few days. So you’re talking about over a two week period having to make a judgment about what the institution needs, whether you are capable of doing it, and whether they will let you do it. I mean, these are very hard questions to answer so your answer is almost certainly going to be an educated guess. My advice is think that way because you may be getting into a—I mean, Drucker talks—why did the last guy not succeed? I mean, ask that question. That’s an awkward question to ask trustees or a search committee but you’ve got to analyze the circumstance both to figure out what the issues are and what’s needed, whether you can do it and whether you want to. I think that’s another issue. I think ultimately really successful leaders bring a certain passion and energy, if you will, joy to the work. It’s hard to bring passion and energy and joy if you don’t believe in the enterprise. If there isn’t something about the purposes and the values of the enterprise, the organization, the university that you can really identify with because, I think, over any sensible period of time you can’t fake it. I mean people will figure out whether you really believe in this stuff or not.
SCARPINO: I’m going to answer one final question before I shut the recorder off and that is—in that compressed time period that you had to make a decision, and you’ve done this several times, how did you go about making that decision? How did you gather the information and think it through and come to a conclusion?
JISCHKE: The first thing I try to do is bone up on the institution. Read their annual reports, find out who’s on the board, you know, Google them and try to get a sense of what the issues are. Try to get a sense of how the previous person did, why they’re stepping down or why the position is vacant. Then, in the interviewing process I try to ask questions that will suggest these answers to these very basic questions. I’ll give you an example here at Purdue. The trustees at Purdue said they wanted to take Purdue to the next level. Cliché. So when I interviewed I asked every group I visited with, including the trustees, do you want to go to the next level? I’d say to people, the trustees have told me that the next president, the agenda, is to take Purdue to the next level. Do it in a way that makes Indiana a better state and to do that is going to require strategic planning and a fundraising drive. Do you want to go to the next level? Then I’d pause. Of course, everybody would say yes and I was trying to gauge whether they were genuine. It’s very intuitive. But then I asked the real question. Then I’d say okay, if you want to go to the next level are you prepared to change to get there? Because my view of the world is if you keep doing the same thing you get the same result. So are you prepared to change your behavior to take this institution to the next level? While nobody said no, they all said yes, I’m back to gauging. I’m trying to read body language. I’m trying to read intent. Then, when I got to the trustees I started asking them questions about the implications of this agenda. Are you prepared to re-think tuition? Who’s in charge of the budget? How does the money get spent? Are you prepared to change your behavior as a board to get to the next level? And again, it’s an interview process so you can’t be certain people are telling you, so I tried to ask those kinds of questions in different settings to different people. I tried to find out if the different members of the board gave me the same answer. I tried to ask it in different ways so that the same person repeated and find out if I got consistency. Then I believe there’s a leap of faith. I don’t think you can reduce this to a kind of algorithm or a calculation. I think you ultimately have to go with your gut or your intuition that what you’re hearing is sensible. It’s what you want to do. It’s what you can do and the environment will allow you to do what needs to be done. But it’s very much about figuring out whether the circumstances will allow for success.
SCARPINO: Well, I thank you very much for taking the time to sit with me and talk to me this morning…
JISCHKE: Great, great.
SCARPINO: We should be on. Today is Friday, November 16th and I’m interviewing Dr. Martin Jischke in his office on the campus of Purdue University. This is the second interview with Dr. Jischke. For the record I’d like to once again ask your permission to record the interview, to transcribe the recording, and to place the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives for the use of that institution’s patrons.
SCARPINO: Thank you very much. As I said this is the second interview and in the first interview we talked broadly about your career from high school through your chancellorship at University of Missouri Rolla and 1991 you accepted the position of President of Iowa State University?
SCARPINO: What attracted you to Iowa State?
JISCHKE: Oh, quite a number of things. First it was a considerably larger, broader university than University of Missouri at Rolla. Iowa is a state that historically has been very supportive of higher education and education in general. Standardized test scores in that state are typically in the top two or three in the country and Iowa State enjoys a very fine reputation in a number of areas; certainly in engineering and certain areas of science and agriculture and veterinary medicine. After I visited with the Board of Regents at the university in Iowa—they are responsible for the three universities: Iowa State, University of Iowa, and Northern Iowa—it was clear to me they were looking for somebody who had the kinds of skills and talents that I have. They wanted more emphasis on the impact of Iowa State on the state of Iowa including, in particular, economically. Second, they wanted a president who would be a bit more external than the predecessors. Third, fundraising, financial resources, were an important part of what was needed at Iowa State. They liked the fact that I had an engineering and science background. So it was a good fit. I had been at the University of Missouri Rolla for about five years. It just felt like a good time. It worked for my family. Our son was finishing grade school and so was about to start high school and a move once they’re in high school is a rather difficult thing for kids. Our daughter at the time was finishing the third grade, headed to the fourth grade, so it was a good time for us to think about a move and we found Iowa a very attractive place. The quality of the schools in Ames where we ultimately resided was just absolutely first rate and we wanted our kids to have a good education. So all of those factors came together.
SCARPINO: When you got there how did you go about establishing yourself as a leader of the university?
JISCHKE: It was an interesting thing in this sense—in that the Board of Regents in Iowa had approved a strategic plan for Iowa State literally three or four months before I got there. So in inherited a strategic plan and I thought a lot about whether I could live with that plan and whether it fit with I thought was needed and what I could do. I ultimately concluded I could. When I first came to Iowa State I tried to do a number of things to sort of demonstrate my presence. It turned out the first day of my appointment was a Saturday and I was in the office working. I held a press conference. One thing I’ve done both at Iowa State and at Purdue, the actual first thing I did, is I had the affirmative action officer come in to the office and I signed the Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action Statement of the university because I wanted there to be absolutely no question about my commitment to that. That was the first thing I did. I want to say that was either at eight or nine o’clock in the morning and the next hour, at nine or ten, whatever the time was, I held a press conference. Now it was an interesting press conference in that between the time I accepted the appointment as president and I actually started, a new budget had been passed by the legislature and it required cuts in the university’s funding. So the first thing I had to deal with was a tough budget situation. I tried very hard to put a positive spin on coming to Iowa and yet be honest and realistic about the budget circumstance that it was not happy. I was going to work hard to change it. We were going try to be very careful about making sure that the impact on the academic programs would be minimized. We’re going to try to raise some money privately and we were going to try to make Iowa State not only a better university for the students, that was our first charge, but frankly a better university for the State of Iowa. It was an interesting leadership challenge. One of the highlights of that first semester was after these budget cuts came through and I’m the new guy in town, making one of my first reports to the university senate. This is a largely faculty group that meets once a month to talk about academic policy. I made my remarks and was relatively upbeat about coming to Iowa. I was pleased to be there, pleased to be a member of the faculty, and after the end of these remarks one of the faculty in the back of the room raised his hand and he said how can you be so optimistic when the circumstances appear to be so bleak. Spontaneously, without a lot of thought, I said something that has lived with me ever since. I said to him, you can’t whine your way to the top. And I believe that passionately, particularly at a university. I don’t think you can get better by being a pessimist or whining. I’ve never been able to raise money that way. I’ve never gotten a governor or a legislative committee or a legislature to give me more money by complaining or whining. But that statement, you can’t whine your way to the top, sort of characterized the initial time I was at Iowa State and while we had a lot of tough issues to deal with, some of which became quite contentious, I’ve always tried to put a positive spin on it, on whatever the circumstances were. More to the point, I’m of a mind that you can’t let circumstances dictate what you do or your sense of what you can accomplish. I think part of leadership is creating an environment for progress no matter what hand you’re being dealt. Now, how much progress you can make and what the ultimate result is, is obviously conditioned by these larger forces, these budgetary circumstances and so on. But you can’t give up your spirit. You can’t give up your optimism. If you do then I think you should step aside.
SCARPINO: What were the magnitude of these cuts?
JISCHKE: Oh, gosh. It’s so long ago I can’t remember. They were not trivial. You know, in the five to ten percent range.
SCARPINO: And you mentioned there were some other tough issues that you had to face?
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah. The regents of Iowa very much wanted the universities to adopt more strategic visions of their work and in particularly wanted us to think very hard and carefully about whether we ought to continue all of the activities we were doing. One in particular at Iowa State that we focused on as a result of that kind of thinking was whether Iowa State should continue to own a television station. We owned a television station, WFYI, and it was the first television station in the state. It dated back to the fifties.
SCARPINO: Was this a public television station?
JISCHKE: No. This was a…
JISCHKE: …commercial television station that was networked. I have forgotten the network affiliation, whether it was ABC or CBS, but anyway it was a network station run on the campus of the university and by every sensible business measure it was not a very successful station in terms of audience size, in terms of profitability and there was a big argument or debate about its impact on the academic programs. Well clearly, some of the students had a chance to work at the station. It did not lead to a journalism or communications program that was nationally distinguished. It was unclear what the impacts were on the academic programs or more precisely whether they were substantial or not. Second, we estimated that the value of the station in the market was 10 to 15 million dollars which is not a trivial amount of money. So at the urging of the board or regents, particularly its president, we put the station up for sale. It occasioned a very tough, at times bitter, debate about giving away this crown jewel of the university, about the interference of the board in the inner workings of the university. It’s an interesting point of view. I mean, they are the governing board but there was a view that they were meddling too much and that I was a tool of this meddling as president and an argument about whether, let’s say ten or fifteen million dollars could make a difference. Then the process by which we bid it had problems in it that were, I think, a result of inexperience by some of our financial people. But we ultimately sold it for, my memory is fourteen million dollars in cash, and there are people to this day that think it was a mistake. But that was a tough issue because at least certain members of the faculty saw this as heavy-handed governance. They were concerned about my role as president and whether I was defending their interest or some other interest. My own view in the final analysis is that we could spend the fifteen million dollars, or fourteen million dollars, more effectively in other ways. We created an endowment so it was perpetual. I didn’t think it contributed much to the academic programs at the university. It was almost a diversion. We had another tough issue when I was president at Iowa State that involved the naming of a building. There is an alum of Iowa State named Carrie Chapman Catt who graduated around the turn of the century, that is the 19th to the 20th. Was a remarkable student—student leader, academically a super star—and ultimately went on to lead the effort to pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote in federal elections. She also founded the league of women voters, was also involved in the peace movement after World War II—an extraordinarily accomplished woman. My predecessor, the interim president, a man named Milton Glick who’s today the president of the University of Nevada at Reno, decided to name one of the oldest buildings on campus in her honor: Carrie Chapman Catt Hall. Then when he did not become permanent president and I did, I was stuck with finding the money to do the remodeling or the renovation of this building and it was a huge struggle. It was a five million dollar renovation and we really struggled to find donors. But we ultimately put the five million together. On the day we dedicated it, we had a huge ceremony, a huge luncheon, and one of the faculty in the drama department actually put on a one-act play about Carrie Chapman Catt. In the middle of all of this a group of African American students raised the issue of whether Catt was a racist based on a statement she made in the process of passing the 19th Amendment in which, I can’t quote her precisely but I can quote the gist of it, she made a comment that giving women the right to vote would not undermine the white supremacy in the south. This was seen as an utterly racist comment, that Catt was appealing to racist instincts in the south in order to pass this amendment giving women the right to vote in federal elections and it was part of a much longer argument debate in American politics about the tradeoff between advancing women’s interests and advancing the interests, quite specifically, of African Americans. It led to a group of students called the September 29th, I believe, 9/29 Group who lobbied, picketed, demonstrated, hunger-striked for a changing of the name and leadership of the university and ultimately me. I had spent a lot of time thinking about this. I actually read the specific speech that she gave and I tried to gain an understanding of whether Catt was, in fact, appealing to racist sentiments and what the nature of her statement was. I ultimately concluded that Catt was not a racist and that when read carefully and the entire speech, I concluded she was making a statement of fact, not a political statement and I think, in fact, it was true what she said. So I decided not to change the name of the building or at least I would not recommend that to the Board of Regents. They ultimately would make the decision. That controversy went on for years. There was a group in particular of three very bright and talented African American students who kept this issue alive and it was controversial. There was just no question about it. One of the lessons I learned in that, or think I learned, was that issues of race and gender, sexual orientation would fit in this, are so intensely personal and so incendiary in a community that very few people want to join in the debate. So it was largely an argument between me, as president, and the small group of students. Lots of people watching the debate and I think privately lots of people had an opinion but in the final analysis it was a pretty lonely argument for me.
SCARPINO: Do you think that’s sometimes the role of a leader?
JISCHKE: This is an example where there is a certain loneliness. In this case I concluded that the vast majority of the community wished it would go away. A large number of the minority community were sympathetic to the students and wished the name were changed. A large number of the majority women saw this as a symbol of a longer struggle for recognition of women’s rights in the same way that the United States had confronted the rights of ethnic and racial minorities. There were lots of subtexts of that sort but very few, precious few, people would step forward. The students went on a hunger strike. One kid ended up in the hospital which worried me enormously. I couldn’t be sure if this was a publicity stunt or whether he had the will to do something damaging to himself. It worried me dearly. I called him in the hospital and said Allan, whatever you do, don’t hurt yourself. He left the hospital and survived so I think my instincts are that he was not prepared really to die for this was right. But it was a tense and trying and deals with an issue that’s, as I say, intensely personal, intensely emotional and very difficult to talk about publicly.
SCARPINO: What do you think the role is of a university in dealing with issues like that? I mean there were people in the past like say, Thomas Jefferson, who were both brilliant leaders and absolute racists.
JISCHKE: I had two or three views on this. First, I did everything I could to defend the students’ right to raise these questions and to disagree. Believe passionately that it’s not only a First Amendment issue it’s an academic freedom issue. These students I think honestly and honorably had read the history and came to an interpretation that, while I disagreed with, I thought was legitimate and I thought they ought to have the right to say what they were saying and I tried to avoid ever shutting them down. I met with them. We talked about it. I met with lots of students and talked about it a lot. So that was my first point of view. The second point of view I had was that I thought ultimately I had to decide for myself where I personally stood on this and I had to read the history and come to some understanding. I did, and it turns out I didn’t agree with the students, and I thought I owed it to myself to be intellectually honest and to not treat this as simply a political issue. Then thirdly, I thought that there was a larger moral issue dealing with Catt that for me was an important consideration. It was, even if the students were right, which I didn’t think they were, but even if they were, I thought Catt had been such a remarkable political leader and such a distinguished alum of the university that when taken as a whole her life was exemplary. To dismiss all those accomplishments and unravel a decision that had been taken by the governing board that involved lots of donors contributing to the naming of this building, and had done very publicly and very openly, I thought was a mistake and I worried about the intolerance that was in the students’ view of all of this. The kind of arrogance of youth that one mistake was enough to condemn a person; that there wasn’t a charitable impulse. There wasn’t an impulse that said, you know, what you said was really bad and it suggested an attitude that was frankly awful, certainly by today’s standards. I think when she did it in the 1910’s and ‘20’s maybe the world was a little different but there wasn’t this instinct to forgive. I thought the lessons of Gandhi and the lessons of Martin Luther King, Jr. were that in forgiveness is the ultimate moral authority and the students didn’t understand that. When I tried to make that argument it was, I either was not persuasive enough, an argument they simply were not prepared to accept. I ultimately thought that the university, these kinds of decisions, these kinds of issues, are ultimately decided by the governing board and the properly appointed president, that the students don’t run the university.
SCARPINO: Did you find differences or similarities between exercising leadership as a chancellor and exercising leadership as a president?
JISCHKE: There’s a couple of huge differences. Practically, as a president, you report to the board not to another administrator. As Chancellor of Rolla, I reported to a president. So in that sense I didn’t have the full range of responsibilities of an academic leader and certainly in terms of relationships with the board. Second, what I would characterize as the bully pulpit that comes from being the leading administrator, academic, of the university, the chancellor doesn’t have quite the same status as the president does. So, one’s interest, one’s platform is, in some sense, smaller. I decided, by the way, in that experience, that I never wanted to be president of a system. While it has a certain authority—it’s a higher position at least in an administrative hierarchy—it’s so removed from students, from alumni, from the real work of the university I never wanted to be a system president. I found it unattractive. So Iowa State, I was president of a campus. Purdue—I was president of this campus in West Lafayette, and while I had system-like responsibilities in Calumet, Westville, and Fort Wayne, I was deeply involved here at Purdue in the student body, with the faculty, with the alumni, with the academic programs—I found that the exciting part of being a university president. I mean, it’s the real stuff of the place and I did not want to be removed from that. So there’s a huge difference, in my view, between being chancellor at Rolla and being president of the University of Missouri but there was more similarity with being president of Iowa State.
SCARPINO: How did you go about establishing goals for Iowa State University?
JISCHKE: I feel strongly about that. I’m a list maker. I mean I’m almost compulsive about preparing objectives and trying to accomplish them and, as long as I can remember as an administrator, I develop annual goals for myself. Initially I just did it personally. I mean I wrote it down and used it as a guide for what I wanted to do. As I became older, more experienced, more mature, I started to open the process up to allow for input from others and by the time I got to Purdue it was a process that ultimately involved the governing board. I’d make my first, with consultation with others inside the university, I’d develop a list of presidential priorities. I’d share it with the board. We’d talk about it. Then we’d change them and ultimately those priorities are what I focused on. I do the same thing on a daily basis. So I’m very much a believer in the idea that accomplishing important objectives, accomplishing a mission or a vision is facilitated by having explicit goals or objectives on reasonable time schedules. In some cases daily, by semesters, certainly on a yearly basis because I’ve come around to a view that first if you write it down and commit yourself to it you’re much more likely to accomplish it. You won’t forget. There’s a certain sense of accountability at a personal level to what you said you would do. You’re putting yourself in the position of having said I’m going to do A, B, and C and when you let other people know, for those of us that are kind of achievement oriented, goal oriented, it’s pretty compelling. Second, maybe even more importantly, my experiences, by carefully setting explicit goals you shape the environment to accomplish those goals. Particularly when you’re president or leader of a complex organization, you don’t get very much done alone. It requires the efforts of a huge number of people, some of whom are in the organization and some of whom are not. One of the ways you marshal those talents and those commitments and that support is by letting them know what you are accomplishing. So I think the act of setting goals helps accomplish those goals by sharing them publicly, by talking about it, by getting buy-in, by giving people a chance to shape those goals and to argue about whether that’s the right one and so on. I just think it conditions the institution for a much more likely set of—more success. The third thing I would tell you is my experience is in setting goals, if you’re good at it and do it cleverly, you’re positioned to take advantage of opportunities that you never saw coming. That’s happened to me, I can’t tell you how many times. By having a strategic plan or an annual set of goals or an explicit set of priorities, new opportunities will come along that sort of fit in a way that I’m not sure we would have recognized had we not gone through the process of establishing priorities and goals and plans. So I think thinking ahead, trying to understand where you’d like to go, what you’d like to accomplish collectively, better positions you to recognize opportunities when they come up. You’re sort of prepared for the uncertainty that’s in the nature of things.
SCARPINO: Can you think of an example at Iowa State or Purdue where one of these opportunities came your way that you capitalized on?
JISCHKE: Oh, we’re sitting here in Discovery Park. Discovery Park happened because I tried to raise some money with the Lilly Endowment. For those who know anything about the Endowment, it’s a huge fund, but they tend not to respond to proposals. They tend to invite them. So I innocently, as the new president, went in and say—gee, we’d love to be able to do something with the Endowment. They thanked me and I went home. But then I got a call from them and they said they wanted to talk to me and ultimately said they’d like to help advance the strategic interests of Purdue. You know, whatever the new president’s strategy was, they wanted to be supportive and out of that came Discovery Park. Interdisciplinary, large-scale research effort that was focused on selected areas where Purdue had a chance to be really good like, nanotechnology, the biosciences, and so on with the added impetus to do things that had potential economic consequences for Indiana in the long run. So economic development was an integral part of that Discovery Park idea. So we get Discovery Park going. Today’s it’s a $400 million venture roughly half in facilities and equipment and the other half in programs. After it started, the first initial effort at Discovery Park, we had a nanotechnology center, a biosciences center, a center for e-enterprise—think of that as applications of digital communication and computation—and then a center for entrepreneurship. That was the original concept. Today there are 10 centers and I might have anticipated several of those back when this started. But one that absolutely nobody at Purdue had on their radar screen or thought of, was the Center for Health Care Engineering. We got a call from the Regenstrief Foundation leadership and they wanted to visit with us. They were thinking of starting a second Regenstrief Center. There was a Regenstrief Institute at the Indiana Medical School. It was focused on a huge clinical database. One of the most extensive such databases in the country. They’ve been supporting this for like 30 years and the board of the Regenstrief Foundation decided they might want to do a second one and we had extensive conversations with them. The first suggestion I made they dismissed out of hand. They didn’t want to do it. We ultimately came around to this idea of a Center for Health Care Engineering focused on using modern systems engineering, modern management principles, to try to re-think the organization of health care delivery. That idea and that proposal would not have been funded without Discovery Park. One of the things that persuaded the Regenstrief Foundation to fund Purdue rather than Carnegie-Melon or Michigan or Northwestern and whoever else we were competing with, was Discovery Park. So Discovery Park created this opportunity that I had absolutely no concept of back when we started Discovery Park. But having created Discovery Park and having created this new capacity, the opportunity of a Regenstrief Center for Health Care Engineering came along and that’s what I mean. Thinking about the future, planning strategically, positions you to seize opportunities that you might not otherwise even know about if you hadn’t done that. I think people who try to think ahead, who try to think strategically, who try to understand the future, tend to have a more sensitive set of antenna, a radar that’s looking out rather than in. Great strategic planning, in my view, ultimately confronts the question of for whom do we exist, who do we serve? It’s particularly important for a public university. In that process you begin to look for allies. You begin to look for problems, needs, opportunities. So when things come up, you’re better positioned for it and if you build that kind of culture in an institution you can make magical things happen. Not only you as the leader think that way, everybody thinks that way.
SCARPINO: Is that part of your role as a leader?
SCARPINO: Shape the way…
SCARPINO: …people think?
JISCHKE: One of the things I’m proudest of in my work at Purdue is, I think, Purdue became a more outward looking, a more entrepreneurial, a more nimble, a more exciting university. Because this kind of thinking that I’ve just described became part of the thinking of lots of people. A lot more people looking for opportunities. A lot more people understanding that they could shape those opportunities. That you can control your own destiny. You can shape it. As opposed to the view where you sort of sit in the office, wait for the check to come over the transom every year after the legislature acts. I mean a kind of passive view of moving the institution to a much more active, engaged, energized, approach that is tremendously exciting and it’s very much who I am. I mean I think that way.
SCARPINO: As you involved Iowa State and then Purdue in economic development were you conscious of the fact that you were breaking molds?
JISCHKE: Not as conscious then as I am now. I started thinking this way 25 years ago when I was in Oklahoma. I’m not certain it was the Midwest that I was talking about but it was my view in Oklahoma that that state needed to think more strategically about its economy. It was driven by natural resources, oil and gas in particular. I saw similar things in Missouri. It was unmistakably clear in Iowa. The difference between Oklahoma, Missouri on the one hand and Iowa and Indiana on the other is the leaders in Iowa and Indiana understood that, at least the leaders of the governing boards. The regents in Iowa understood that and wanted the universities more engaged. Without question the trustees here at Purdue made that utterly explicit. Their language was we want a new president to take Purdue to the next level in a way that makes Indiana a better state. They understood and were quite explicit in our private discussions that they thought there was a huge opportunity for Purdue to play a leading role in Indiana economic development. What surprised me about Indiana is there wasn’t very much of that thinking. I was stunned because it seemed to me transparently obvious and what was also clear to me relatively soon after I got here and started going around the state talking to people, talking about the university, is that a lot of people at the local level knew that something was happening in Indiana’s economy, particularly the automotive industry, that unless we started doing some things differently, the future could be rather bleak for Indiana and they were looking to Purdue to do something. Purdue was seen as a statewide asset. So I knew I was plowing new ground at Purdue. That was clear to me. What was surprising to me is how much new ground I was plowing outside of Purdue. I just assumed that governors, legislators, mayors, business leaders, understood this but my sense now looking back is this was very embryonic and there are a lot of people in Indiana who had not yet made the connection between education in general and higher education in particular, and especially Purdue and Indiana’s future. I think one of the things I was able to contribute is a deeper understanding of that. The building of partnerships, the beginning of a set of attitudes in Indiana that saw this connection between education, the private sector, and government as the key to shaping a new future. I enjoyed doing it and I think in that sense I did break a mold. I would add a second thing that I think I broke the mold on. Not just the role of higher education and economic development but I think I broke the mold on the role of a university president as a public figure speaking out on these kinds of issues. If you will in the language of higher education, was a much more external president than people at Purdue or in Indiana were used to.
SCARPINO: You, I’m looking ahead in my notes here, you had a goal at one point that you were going to visit numerous communities throughout the state.
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah.
SCARPINO: Sixty day-long visits to Indiana communities.
JISCHKE: Yeah. I averaged between 350 and 400 speeches a year, essentially one a day.
SCARPINO: Mostly in Indiana?
JISCHKE: Yes, overwhelmingly in Indiana and I was all over the state. I’ve been in a lot of communities and I enjoyed it, number one. I mean I enjoy meeting people and overwhelmingly people were very gracious and hospitable. For a lot of communities a visit by the President of Purdue is a big deal and they were honored to have me there. It was a way of, on the one hand, telling people that we were interested in them and their needs and as a public university we wanted to serve them and we wanted to listen. We wanted to know what they thought we could do to be helpful. It was also marketing the university. I’m shameless about that. I mean I would tell people about what things we were doing well and why they ought to be proud of Purdue. Certainly wanted to reinforce their instincts to encourage the legislature to be generous to us and to try to act as one of the many linkages between the university on the one hand and the citizens of Indiana who own the university. I would come back from these day long visits, almost without exception, with a community leader or a company or a prospective student that I would pass on to the appropriate person in the university. So I was not only doing but in a sense being a role model for everybody at the university about this engagement idea. This notion of being connected to the people of Indiana and my perhaps self-serving but total, I’m convinced that it did a lot to help position the university favorably with the citizens of Indiana and I think it made Purdue a more vital place.
SCARPINO: Consistent with your emphasis on engagement by which you set an example yourself, do you think that the university during your presidency figured out ways to reward people, reward faculty, for engagement?
JISCHKE: Yes. It’s a work in progress so I wouldn’t say we’re finished on it. But yeah, we have awards for faculty. We have special fellowships. We have grant funding for engagement activities. We have people who have gotten promoted and tenured with a special emphasis on engagement. So, the usual set of rewards are there. The usual incentives are there. It’s still not nearly as predominant a factor in the success of faculty and others as teaching and research but its relative emphasis has grown. There’s no question about it and I think two very positive things have happened. One, I think there is a consensus within the university that while not everybody is involved in engagement, that it’s overall a good thing for the university. That it’s a positive thing in terms of very practical considerations about public support, financing, private fundraising, jobs for students. I mean lots of good things happened because we’re more engaged. Second, I think a surprising number of faculty have found out they enjoy doing it. The most interesting place for me that this has happened is in our College of Liberal Arts where…
SCARPINO: I’d like to follow up on that, actually.
JISCHKE: ..most people…
SCARPINO: How did you see that happening?
JISCHKE: …most people think that engagement by engineers or technology or agriculture or veterinary medicine, consumer and family sciences, all of that, pretty straightforward. But how do you relate liberal arts—modern languages, history, sociology, anthropology, etc.? We hired a new Dean of Liberal Arts and I—when she showed up—I called her in and said I’m prepared to give you an additional $100,000 a year to facilitate engagement in the College of Liberal Arts. The idea is let’s find a way to reward faculty for going out and talking about their scholarly work in a way that would be relevant to the people of Indiana and I gave a couple of examples. One of them was a historical example: the great debacle of 1815 when the State of Indiana went bankrupt. It borrowed a staggering amount of money to build canals just at a time when railroads were becoming the dominant mode of transportation and the state literally went bankrupt. As a consequence of that, the state of Indiana has rather conservative laws regarding debt and borrowing. I thought, given the interest in economic development and then questions about the role of the state in such efforts, that discussing that historical example as an example of Indiana trying to be very progressive, making a huge investment, and betting on the wrong technology was a useful thing for things like Chambers of Commerce and others. The second example I gave was to talk about the role of immigration in the history of the United States. This was based on my traveling around the state and seeing this, what I think is an exploding Hispanic population in Indiana and helping communities understand both why this is happening – the kind of underlying economic forces that are driving people to migrate, and second, what do we know historically about immigrants? I mean what challenges do immigrants bring to a community? Not Hispanics but maybe Irish immigrants or Polish immigrants or whatever. Well, initially the dean suggested that we give faculty a certain amount of money if they made such a presentation to a community organization and that the money would sit in an account and at the end of the year they could use it for summer salary or for research travel. So it would be support money. That was a great idea. She couldn’t get the money spent in a year. There were so few faculty who were willing to do it that in fact she couldn’t spend $100,000 and this is a faculty of four or five hundred. I mean it’s a huge faculty. Well, I watched this for a couple, three years and when that dean left I took the money back. Then a new dean came and after about three or four months he came to my office and said would you please let me try again and I think I gave him $75,000 a year. Now, there’s a huge program called PLACE, something Liberal Arts Community Education—Program of Liberal Arts Community Education. It’s focused in the larger sort of Lafayette/West Lafayette/Tippecanoe County and surrounding counties focused on guess what? Immigration. They did it last year and it was so overwhelmingly successful that the communities have asked them to continue it this year on the same topic because, in fact, immigration is a huge issue in this region. There are large numbers of Hispanics that are in the manufacturing industry and are changing communities. Communities are struggling to deal with these issues and it’s added a vitality to the sense of connectedness. Research programs have grown out of it. Student internships have grown out of it. So even in Liberal Arts we’ve been able to create this engagement. It’s very different than the kind of engagement that goes on in engineering. In engineering it’s largely engineering faculty and students working on technical problems within companies and industries. This is a more community focused thing and it’s on this, at least for now, on this big issue of immigration. But I think it has made our Liberal Arts College more vital, more exciting, and the hidden bonus, more welcoming of minority students. There’s a deeper understanding within the faculty, the administration, of the College of Liberal Arts about this new population and we at Purdue were, frankly, underrepresented in Hispanics. So this is an area where we need to work. So it’s had an impact all across the university and essentially every college and school at Purdue has somebody at the dean’s office level that has engagement as their primary responsibility.
SCARPINO: I want to ask you one more question about Iowa before I commit to Purdue for good.
SCARPINO: I read that you established or inherited a strategic plan with the goal of having Iowa State become the best land-grant university in the nation.
SCARPINO: Were you successful?
JISCHKE: We were successful in the sense that we accomplished a lot of the goals of the strategic plan. We improved the learning environment for students. We added more high ability students. We reversed a trend on the size of the faculty. We grew the research program. We grew the minority student population. We were much more involved in economic development and we raised a fair amount of private money at least by Iowa State’s standards. We had the largest capital campaign in the history of the university. Whether we actually became the best land-grant university, I think objectively and candidly if you were to take a careful poll we probably weren’t but we became a better land-grant university. The idea of trying to be the best I think was salutary. It did two things. It reinforced our historical commitment to land-grant values and sort of defined us uniquely within Iowa. Second, we said we weren’t happy with just better than we were last year. Our goal was to be the best and while it’s lofty and we can argue about what the measures of best are—I’m going to come back to that—I think saying we wanted to be the best was a way of elevating everyone’s sights. One of the subtleties in saying you want to be the best land-grant university in the country says that a comparison with other land-grant universities per se is not the measure of excellence. Land-grant universities are universities that have a special commitment to the place they are, the state they are in. So the best land-grant university in the country in Iowa is a different university than the best land-grant university in the country for California or Michigan. So in that sense a comparison solely with other universities misses this contextual point that land-grants are designed to serve the needs of their states in a very unique and special way. For example, in Iowa agriculture and specifically corn, soy beans and hogs are really, really important. Much more important than they are, for example, in New Hampshire. So the excellence of Iowa State in agronomy, in veterinary medicine, does not necessarily have its counterpart in New Hampshire. So just comparing academic programs misses this point. There’s a point about emphasis, about the program selection, and about the connectedness to the state that makes these comparisons if not problematic, more complex. But it succeeded in the sense that I think Iowa State became a better place. It energized people. It better connected us to the state and a lot of the specific objectives and metrics we had were achieved.
SCARPINO: With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently as president of Iowa State, leadership-wise?
JISCHKE: It’s a hard question in the following sense. I don’t think I have ever made a decision, ever, that at that point I thought was the wrong decision. I’ve never deliberately done that. So in that sense, given what I knew at the time, I can’t think of something I would have done differently. However with hindsight, after I learned some things, I might have done some things differently. I worried about a lot about this Carrie Chapman Catt thing because it took a lot of my personal energy. It took a lot of energy of the institution. While I still believe to this day that I made the right decision, I probably would have been better served had I reached out to these students more and been more forthcoming in talking to them and in putting the issue out more publicly, personally. But I don’t know that the conclusion would have been any different but maybe a little different process, a little different style. That’s one thing I probably would have done differently. A second thing, all in hindsight, we got the largest gift ever in the history of the United States for a college of agriculture. We got an $80 million gift. The story of that fundraising is a wonderful…
SCARPINO: Single gift?
JISCHKE: Yeah, single gift from a couple—$80 million and I asked them to give it for our Agronomy Department because I knew that’s where their interest was. Once the couple died and the gift matured, for two years we tried to talk the Agronomy Department into being bold about this $80 million gift. It effectively doubled the budget of the Agronomy Department. I mean they had a four million dollar budget and they were going to get four more. I mean this hardly ever happens and it was pretty unrestricted and that Agronomy Department only wanted to do more of what they were already doing. They had this once in a lifetime opportunity to literally redefine the field. I put together a group of really outstanding people nationally including a National Academy guy from Purdue, John Axtell. He’s now dead. We tried to get them to think about what about a huge thrust in the sort of molecular biology genomics side that would go beyond corn and soy beans and really try to get at basic scientific questions. Or, what about a big thrust in sustainability—the underlying science of sustaining agricultural productivity as we think about water shortages and climate change? I mean really big issues and we absolutely failed. I mean that department was not capable of, excuse the cliché, thinking outside the box—doing something really big and bold and distinctive. Now, in hindsight, I wished I had asked for a program in the plant sciences. Something interdisciplinary that couldn’t be stonewalled by the people in a department. At the time, I thought it was such a spectacular gift that it was an almost no-brainer that we do something bold and we didn’t.
SCARPINO: While you served as president at Iowa State or even at Purdue, were there ever any challenges to your leadership that caused you to have to defend your style or your decisions?
JISCHKE: Oh, I think the sale of the television station was such an example where I think there were people on the faculty who thought that I was not representing the interests of the university properly. That I had caved in, as it were, to the Board of Regents, and that I was a party to a cabal and didn’t like what I was doing. There were serious arguments among some about the emphasis of the fundraising and the emphasis on economic development and that we weren’t paying proper attention to undergraduate education and I argued with them. I mean I argued based on what I thought I was doing. I argued with them based on the facts and we had a disagreement. There were some who thought I was too argumentative and I like to think that I listen well. I may be naïve and self servicing but I think I do. But I do also know that I’m not afraid to take on an issue on which I feel strongly and think I understand the facts. One of the things I have learned as a leader over the years is while I think effective leaders give people the opportunity to weigh in on important issues that affect them that there’s an open dialogue and openness, I have no illusions about coming to agreement. That on some issues there will ultimately not be agreement and that that is not a reason for inaction. There are times when you make decisions even in the face of opposition. You have to do it selectively. You can burn up a lot of capital in the process but effective leaders sometimes have to make decisions that those affected by the decisions don’t like. There was a sense on the Board of Regents at Iowa State that the university had kind of lost its way and had lost its competitive edge, that it was trying to be too many different things to too many different people. So part of the agenda that the board had for me was to reassert excellence in areas for which Iowa State was not just well known but for which the State of Iowa utterly depended on Iowa State. Agriculture would be one example. Engineering would be another one. Veterinary medicine would be a third. So, the regents as the legitimate representatives of the people of Iowa, appointed by the governor—I mean these were, they governed—had an agenda for the institution that I was brought in to pursue and frankly agreed with. There were those who were not in engineering, agriculture, veterinary medicine, science, particularly in the liberal arts, who objected to this reassertion of the importance of these areas. It boiled down to tough decisions about budget allocations and who got the money and for whom did we raise money and what kind of projects did we pursue. There were people who disagreed with that and so they challenged me on it but there was never a question of my being deposed if you will or injured by it. The regents were very happy with me and didn’t want me to leave but that was part of the struggle there. There wasn’t, at Iowa State, the same consensus within the university community and the faculty in particular about the direction of the university that there has been at Purdue. That’s a difference.
SCARPINO: You inherited a consensus here that—or the focus?
JISCHKE: It was here. The trustees had done a very good role in preparing the institution and I think as I became older and more mature as a leader I was probably more effective in building the consensus than I had been when I was younger. But this whole question of is there agreement on the basic direction of the university? There was a basic disagreement in Iowa, in particular in the liberal arts side of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
SCARPINO: In August of 2000 you made another career move.
SCARPINO: Accepting the presidency of Purdue University where you replaced Steven Beering who had served for a number of years. What caused you to move or decide to move from Iowa State to Purdue?
JISCHKE: A couple of things and later I recognized a third one. First, the trustees of Purdue aggressively recruited me. I told them no three or four times and they still came back and I liked their persistence. I liked the idea of taking Purdue to the next level. Purdue is a very fine university with an excellent reputation and yet to have a governing board say—we’d like it to be better. I liked that kind of thinking. It appeals to me. They wanted a strategic plan. I like strategic planning. They needed more fundraising. I’m a good fundraiser. So it was a good fit for me. Second, the environment in Iowa had changed. A new governor had been elected the year before.
SCARPINO: What was the governor’s name?
JISCHKE: Tom Vilsack. After a year, a little more than a year, I concluded he would not support higher education. I concluded he was not very interested in Iowa State in particular and that it would be quite difficult to make progress at Iowa State. That realization about the political environment in Iowa became clear to me early in 2000, January or February. There was a specific incident that really drove it home. I had been working in the legislature to get a new building for our business college. The Board of Regents had approved the project and the request. It went from them to the governor and the legislature and the governor did not recommend it but with a lot of work with alumni friends and others I got it into the legislature, into their budget, and it was ultimately approved and because it was part of a large budget package the governor had to sign it. It was a challenge grant. The state put up ten million and I had to raise ten million privately which I had already done. So I was ready. My wife and I and our kids were in Kansas City at the Big Eight basketball tournament. This is around March and I got a call from the chairman of the Board of Trustees—Board of Regents, excuse me, in Iowa, saying that the governor was very angry that I had successfully lobbied for this new building and he wanted me to stop. I said to the chairman, I said—but the Board of Regents approved that project and my understanding is we are allowed to lobby for anything you approve. But the governor is angry. So I thanked him for the phone call and I hung up and I turned to my wife and I said—maybe the job at Purdue is more attractive. Now, so part of it was the environment in Iowa and part of it was the appeal of the trustees and of Purdue. Thirdly, and this became clear to me after I came to Purdue that after almost ten years at Iowa State which is the longest I’ve ever held a job. I typically made moves every five years. I was department head for five years, I was dean for five years, I was chancellor for five years; Iowa State almost ten. I was ready for something new and I didn’t fully appreciate it while I was in Iowa that I’d done a lot of good things but I was at a point where it was becoming a little repetitious. It was becoming not as much fun and I became more conscious once I got here in Indiana and found how much I was enjoying the new job.
SCARPINO: So you really like the challenge of a new opportunity and…
JISCHKE: Yeah, exactly, exactly. The Purdue experience is probably the best job I’ve had, certainly as a president.
SCARPINO: When you took this job did you think in your own mind that this would be the capstone to a career as an administrator?
JISCHKE: Yeah. Yeah, I actually thought initially I was going to retire in Iowa.
SCARPINO: How old were you when you took this job? I mean I can go back and figure it out but…
JISCHKE: I was sixty.
JISCHKE: Fifty-nine going on sixty within a month if I remember correctly. So essentially sixty and yeah, I actually didn’t think I would take another job in higher ed but I took it and initially the board asked for a five-year commitment. I gave it to them and two years into it we renegotiated it for another two to make it a total of seven years which fit nicely at several levels. We had a capital campaign going that ended June 30th of this year. We had a strategic plan that initially had five and we made it a six year time horizon. It took us a year to develop it. So that ended on June 30, 2007. Third, I turned sixty-six on August 7th of 2007 and the policy of the board of the university is that administrators retire before they reach their sixty-sixth birthday. You can’t be reappointed after you turn sixty-five and while the board was quite willing to waive that for me I had, after twenty-three years, done enough and I’m a believer in mandatory retirement policies. I think people eventually run out of gas or energy or interest. I mean there’s a time for all things. For all things there’s a season and I think that’s true for university leadership. If you don’t recognize that you run an enormous risk that you stay too long until you’re doing it badly and then you’re forced out and there’s enough ego and sense of self. I didn’t want to have to leave. I’ve never had to leave a job. It’s always been under my terms. Second, I also think that you can back the place up and young people need opportunities. I mean that’s what a university is all about. They educate students, they graduate, they go on. I think similarly in leadership positions you’ve got to create opportunities for others. That’s one of the major responsibilities of a leader is the succession idea. This idea of giving others an opportunity including an opportunity at the job you have and at least for me there is a point at which it starts to get a little, routine is the wrong word, but there is some repetition and the newness wears off. You’ve tried your ideas. It’s time to do something else and Patty and I have been planning this for a long time. We pretty much knew this was the time to do it.
SCARPINO: When you got to Purdue and you replaced Steven Beering who I believe had been the head of the university for seventeen years.
JISCHKE: Right. A long time.
SCARPINO: Were there any leadership challenges to replacing somebody who had been here that long?
JISCHKE: Not any serious ones. The board had done a spectacular job of preparing the community for somebody like me. I mean they talked about next level and about strategic planning and change. So there was a sense at the university that whoever the new person was they were going to come in with this kind of agenda. Second, the most thoughtful people at the university, the board, senior faculty, alums, really had the sense that it was time for a change. They all admired Steve and thought highly of him but it was time. The environment at Purdue, the needs of Purdue, the needs of the State of Indiana, the preparation of the trustees, all played to what I can do well. So it was a really wonderful match. The only initial challenge I had is I think my predecessor struggled with stepping down. I think it was hard on him. I don’t think he wanted to. So that was initially a little awkward but frankly we got through that without much trouble.
SCARPINO: How did you go about organizing your administration and establishing yourself as the leader here?
JISCHKE: Well I was appointed, I want to say in April to take over in early August. So after I was appointed and had my press conference and uttered the generalities, the banalities that all new presidents do. Upward and onward, all of that stuff.
SCARPINO: Like being a first round pick in a draft. (laughter)
JISCHKE: Yeah, exactly, exactly. There was about a three or four month period and I scheduled a series of visits to Purdue, typically a couple, three days. And I interviewed everybody who reports to the president. I interviewed all the deans. I interviewed the leaders of the faculty and staff groups and I would typically ask them two or three questions. One, what do you think the most important issues facing the university are? Second, do you have any personal plans that I ought to know about? Are you going to resign and go somewhere else? Third, are there any issues that I need to pay attention to right now? What do you think I ought to focus on in my first year? I took a lot of notes. I was also trying to assess these people and whether they thought this way. How good were their answers? Did they make sense in terms of what I already knew? Second, I tried to establish an agenda for that first year, well, for the first three months of the first year. Shared it with the board. I got their ideas so that we were all singing from the same sheet of music. Third, I scheduled in the first, I can’t remember if it was 30 days or 60 days or 90 days but I just packed it with stuff to do: speak to the student government, speak to the faculty senate, visit major donors. Very early on I had a retreat, one day retreat, with all the people who reported to me and were on the cabinet. We went around the table and I asked people again—what do you think the big issues are? I told them what my agenda was. This is what I intended to accomplish in these first few months. So I made it quite clear that I had a game plan and that while I was eager, willing, open to suggestions and changes and I made some, ultimately this was not just my agenda this was the leadership agenda. The unspoken message being—get on board. They overwhelmingly did. One exception, who was gone after six months. The other thing that I did, and this was luck—there were a large number of open positions. The Chief Academic Officer had announced he wanted to retire and I begged him to stay until I could find a replacement. So the Provost position was open. The Chief Development Officer was open. Five or six of the deanships were open. So we had a lot of vacant positions that with one exception I didn’t have to dismiss anybody. So there wasn’t blood being spilled. But it gave me a chance to shape the leadership team because everybody who came in came in understanding what we were trying to accomplish.
SCARPINO: Did you pick your deans internally or did you bring them in from the outside?
JISCHKE: Oh, every search was a national search. I remember the first search we launched was the provost search and I appointed a committee with a lot of input and we had our first meeting. I said—this is a national search. I want you to get the best person. If the best person lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, so be it and if they live in Berkeley, California, so be it as well. One of the committee members puts his hand up and says—Dr. Jischke, Purdue has a reputation for appointing insiders. How can we convince people that you are serious that this is an open, national search? To which I said something like—one, I mean what I say and if anybody doubts me, have them call me and by God we appointed the dean of Arts and Sciences from the University of Kansas and a woman. First woman in the history of the university to be Chief Academic Officer.
SCARPINO: What was her name?
JISCHKE: Sally Mason. She’s now President of the University of Iowa. So, broke another mold. These searches weren’t wired for internal people and we were prepared to bring in a more diverse leadership team. So all of those were aspects of that initial leadership and then I started visiting everybody. One of the things I’ve done everywhere I’ve been is I visit every college or school for a full day once a year. First one was Agriculture and I had an open forum. That’s part of these things. Nearly four hundred people showed up to hear the new guy. Now Agriculture thought they were first because they were the most important college. I pointed out to them later that they were first…
SCARPINO: It’s an A. (laughter)
JISCHKE: …in the alphabet. Exactly. So I visited with every school. I started my community visits. I did a radio show. On the air, open phone, call in and ask the president questions. Scared the daylights out of the public relations people and, you know, it wasn’t scripted but it all worked. So a lot of emphasis on communication and repeating, repeating, repeating, the basic message. We wanted to get to the next level in a way that made Indiana better. We were going to do it through a strategic plan and we were going to increase the financial resource base of the university.
SCARPINO: I want to ask you about your strategic plan but there are a couple of things that I noted that happened quite quickly after you assumed the presidency. November of 2000, Purdue launched the Indiana Resident Top Scholars Program.
JISCHKE: That’s right.
SCARPINO: Was that your idea?
JISCHKE: The details of it came from within the administration but the request came from the board. The board said we want a scholarship program to go after high ability students.
SCARPINO: So this was an attempt to really raise the…
JISCHKE: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. One of the things that characterized the seven years at Purdue was a fabulous relationship with the Board of Trustees—all Purdue grads, brilliantly led by Tim McGinley. He’s just a wonderful human being and a great board chair and they were very engaged. That’s part of what attracted me to Purdue. They knew what was going on at the university. They were amazingly well informed. In the interview process I asked them lots of different questions and I asked the same question in different ways of different people and I got back the same message. So they were together from what they wanted to accomplish and as a result it’s the best board I’ve worked with. Quite unified. Quite supportive. In the seven years I was president I never lost a vote with the board and they were all unanimous except one and it was nine to one. So this wasn’t a rubber stamp board, they knew what was going on, but the communication was fantastic. Very candid, very open, very honest. I mean it’s one of the things I tell young people who want to become university presidents or for that matter presidents of organizations with boards. Pay attention to the board and the fundamental issue is trust and communication. No surprises. People understand what they’re trying to accomplish and a commitment to the enterprise not to, sort of, personal or individual agendas. The board here has been fantastic.
SCARPINO: In August of 2001 you established or launched the Office of Engagement.
SCARPINO: What was its mission and how did that fit in with where you wanted the university to go?
JISCHKE: Well, back to fundamentals. Take it to the next level in a way that has an impact in the state of Indiana. I’m nationally known as a proponent of engagement. I wrote the engagement report for the Kellogg Commission and won the first Peter Macgraw [Macgrath] Award for Engagement so that’s part of what I have done as a university president.
SCARPINO: That’s when you served on the Kellogg Commission on the future of state and land-grant universities?
JISCHKE: Right. Exactly. I knew here at Purdue that the top item in engagement was economic development but I was also very interested in K-12 because frankly that’s one of the weak links of this state is K-12 system is not performing at a level that it should. So I wanted to do something at a university level that went beyond what was going on individually in schools and colleges like extension in agriculture. So I established the Office of Engagement. Put some money in it and talked about it and took one of the deans, Don Gentry, who was Dean of Technology and appointed him the first Vice Provost for Engagement. Subsequently after he stepped down Vic Lechtenberg did it. Vic was Dean of Agriculture, one of the premier deanships of the university. So we gave it a higher prominence and began to launch programs related to economic development, related to K-12 education, that garnered a lot of attention and unleashed an interesting level of energy at the university. I don’t want to tell you that everybody at Purdue likes engagement. I’m sure there are those who are prepared to tolerate the president’s interest in this. But there are some for whom this was quite liberating and very exciting and we started a number of efforts, expanded the research park, added research parks and technology parks, the Science Bound program in Indianapolis—all engagement activities.
SCARPINO: Science Bound related to K through 12?
JISCHKE: Yeah. It gave a lot of energy to Purdue and was part of this larger connecting of the university to the state of Indiana. One of the things I heard when I went around the state asking how can we make Purdue better and one of the comments was make it easier to interact with Purdue. It’s hard. It’s a very large complex organization. I, the mayor of Kokomo, or Anderson or wherever—I don’t know how Purdue is organized—how do I find somebody? I had one phone number—the Office of Engagement. So it was all part of a positioning of the university and part of reinforcing this basic agenda that I was brought here to carry out.
SCARPINO: September of 2001, the university announced plans for Discovery Park.
JISCHKE: Yep. Lilly Endowment.
SCARPINO: Right, which you already mentioned but again, that was a—you described that as a target of opportunity.
JISCHKE: The target of—the background was it was—one of the early conclusions I came to is that Purdue’s research program was relatively small for the size of the university and second, it was very weak when it came to interdisciplinary activities. There were very few centers. No money in it. So I knew that we had to grow the research program. We had to grow the interdisciplinary part of the research program. So that was on my mind from the get go. That kind of strategic thinking then made it possible for me to shape the Lilly Endowment proposal and then the opportunity came up. So I was ready to go and once the Lilly Endowment started the conversation I was already fundraising to get matching money so that on the one hand I was telling donors if you’ll make a commitment I’m hoping I can get the Lilly Endowment to buy in. I’m also telling the Lilly Endowment if you give us this money I’ll match it. So, this was very much part of this effort to move the strategic thinking forward.
SCARPINO: Did you get 100 million to get it going?
JISCHKE: Oh, initially they gave us 25 million, 26 million and I had already raised, gosh, I want to say 60 for the nanotechnology center in particular. So I had 25 plus 60, I had like 85 and I’d have to go back and read the proposal. I can’t remember whether I promised them three to one or four to one or five to one but I promised them a significant leveraging and I had most of it there if they came through.
SCARPINO: In November of 2001, just a little over a year after you became president, the trustees adopted a five-year strategic plan. Could you talk a little bit about the goals of that plan?
JISCHKE: Yeah. That there would be a strategic plan was a foregone conclusion when I was appointed.
JISCHKE: That was a given. So initially the trick was to gear up for it. We started a search for a director of strategic planning. Hired a guy named Rab Mukerjea to do that. Then appointed a committee. They got started. Then we hired a provost and the provost became chair of that committee in time for her to play a role in shaping a final report to me that then I sent on to the trustees in November.
SCARPINO: What kind of a role did you play in shaping that plan?
JISCHKE: I appointed the committee. The staffing of it by Mukerjea. He reported to me. So I was constantly being made aware of what was going on and when the report was, first draft was written, I reviewed it and made some changes that got built into it. So I played a role but I didn’t write the thing. It reflected the taskforce and then we did open forums where we had hundreds of people show up to talk about this and we made changes in the strategic plan based on it. But I had direct input and in particular, I was the source of one of the major goals which was to add 300 new faculty positions. The plan itself had seven goals. First, improve the learning environment and the key thing there was the 300 new faculty positions. It would take us from roughly 1800 to 2100 faculty. Second, double the size of the research program. Discovery Park plays a key role in that. Third, a more engaged university. Office of Engagement, more engagement activities. Fourth, a substantial enhancement in the infrastructure of the university, largely facilities, but it also included upgrading of the computer systems. We ended up spending over a billion dollars over seven years on that. Fifth, more diverse university. Record numbers of minority students, minority female faculty, much more diverse Purdue. Sixth, more competitive faculty salaries. We enhanced the competitiveness of faculty salaries. We did not achieve the objective. The slow down in state funding crippled that. Then, the last seventh goal, enhancing student financial aid. We increased financial aid by about 70%. Back to land-grant access and opportunity. Launched the Science Bound program; a program called the Opportunity Awards.
SCARPINO: Opportunity awards for students who have intelligence but need.
JISCHKE: Exactly. High need, high need. So those were the seven goals of the strategic plan and it worked. We reported every year to the board. We had metrics. We didn’t measure everything that moves but we measured most things. So we had a pretty complete picture of the university and while in the middle of the strategic plan we did what we call mid-course corrections. We adjusted the strategic plan. We pretty much accomplished it all. One of the most distinctive aspects of our strategic plan is in addition to these goals and the metrics that go with them, we also developed a financial plan to go with it. So when we launched the strategic plan, we knew in broad terms where the money would come from. It led to a $1.3 billion capital campaign that ultimately raised 1.7 billion. It led to an increase of tuition, a thousand dollar increase on every student that generated nearly 40 million bucks that helped fund some of these initiatives. It led to a goal for enhanced sponsored programs, largely research by faculty. It led to reallocations. We reallocated roughly 2% of our budget every year from lower priorities to strategic plan priorities and what’s the other one that we, we paid a lot more attention to alternative sources of income, auxiliary enterprises, to make sure they were covering their fully loaded costs.
SCARPINO: Now was this because the state legislature became increasingly…
JISCHKE: Well, that was one of the…
SCARPINO: …reluctant to fund higher education?
JISCHKE: One of the assumptions in our strategic plan was that the state would provide inflationary adjustments only. Anything beyond that would be a targeted specific investment for specific purpose. That turned out to be rather prescient. Initially the state kept up with inflation but there was a three or four year period where they didn’t and we, nonetheless, were able to accomplish most of our goals because, frankly, the plan did not rely very much on state funding. I think that was a really smart thing that we did. We really pegged it. We really understood what the financial environment was that we were in. So we made all of this progress at a time when state funding was basically flat. If you look over the seven year period I was president, state funding was essentially flat. Everything else went up at very substantial rates and we increased the overall financial base of the university by 70%. Went from one billion to over 1.7 billion in seven years.
Scarpino; Now, by financial base, you’re talking about the endowments that the university has or just cash?
JISCHKE: The total operating budget. The endowment similarly went up. But the total operating budget for all of Purdue went from about one billion to over 1.7 billion. Seventy percent increase in seven years. There are very few public universities in the country that can say that and the fact that we did it with flat state funding makes it almost miraculous.
SCARPINO: In September of 2002, Purdue and a partnership with the Purdue Research Foundation, the City of West Lafayette, comes up with 2.2 or a commitment of $2.2 billion to develop 50 acres in Purdue Research Park?
JISCHKE: Two point two million, not billion.
SCARPINO: Oh, alright.
JISCHKE: Yeah. One element of our efforts to play a larger role in economic development was to grow the Purdue Research Park which is a park that has today about 140 companies, about 3,000 employees. Most of the companies are technology companies. Most of them come from Purdue technology. So that expansion was related to the Purdue Research Park here in West Lafayette. Second, we developed research or technology parks in Merrillville, Indianapolis, and New Albany which is a nationally pioneering effort. There aren’t many universities that have satellite…
SCARPINO: Research parks…
JISCHKE: …research parks. Third, we partnered with the certified technology parks all around the state. So we tried to not only grow what we were doing here locally but to have an impact all over Indiana. It was all part of this basic vision—make Indiana a better place.
SCARPINO: In the time we have left I want to ask you a few, the last few of our leadership questions…
JISCHKE: Sure, please…
SCARPINO: …and then ask you about leaving the presidency and so on. But just for the record I’m going to ask you the last few of the Tobias Center standard leadership questions. How would you characterize your concept of leadership? What do you think constitutes leadership?
JISCHKE: I think, at its core, leadership is about accomplishing important objectives and organizing people, groups, to do that. Effective leaders have a range of talents, communication skills. The best of them have this capacity to see beyond today to develop a vision. They have the tools of strategy of working with people, interpersonal skills. I think the best leaders have energy, personal energy. They work hard at it. I think that’s one of the things that distinguishes me. I work hard and bring a lot of energy to what I do and some passion. I think at its core it’s about advancing society, at least for me. The opportunity to lead a great university that educates students that plays a role for progress and good in a society is an absolutely splendid thing and a chance to be a catalyst for that, to help lead it, is at its core a noble thing. For me personally, I kind of like the challenges that go with it.
SCARPINO: That’s a word you use a lot—challenges.
JISCHKE: Yeah. It takes energy. It takes insight. It, at times, takes courage. It takes all the talents I have. I like to tell students that this kind of leadership opportunity is the most amazing combination of interesting work, challenging work. I mean it’s hard and you’ve got to devote yourself to it. It is enormously rewarding and it’s important. I tell students that from my perspective if you can figure out how to gain that opportunity to do things that are interesting, challenging, rewarding, and important, you will lead a rich and satisfying life. For me, that combination has led to leadership. Leadership is a means to an end not just an end in itself. I mean, I’m one of those that believes if you don’t accomplish something in a leadership position there’s no point in having it.
SCARPINO: How would you characterize your style of leadership?
JISCHKE: Proactive. High energy. Pretty demanding. I’m pretty intense, pretty serious. I like to think I can laugh but I have no doubt that I’m pretty serious about what I do. I take it seriously and I put a lot of focus on what I do. I think I’m an ethical leader. I think the most important quality leaders have is trust, that people trust them, and that has its roots in ethical behavior. Proud of that but it’s partly who I am. I’m just not capable of deliberate lies. I mean I can avoid questions but it’s just not in me to lie and I think that leads me to be trusted by people. I think I’ve behaved honorably and I think now over a long time as a leader I’ve also been able to develop other people—initially students, subsequently colleagues. I mean I have, I just learned the other day that one of my PhD students became a dean of engineering and he had a chance to watch me as an administrator. One of my colleagues is now a university president. I take a lot of pride in that development of people. Every place I’ve been president I’ve had a president’s or chancellor’s leadership class for freshmen to emphasize the development of leadership among young people. So I feel like I have not only been a relatively effective leader, I’ve helped develop other leaders. Passed the gift on.
SCARPINO: What do you think has worked well about your concept and style of leadership for you?
JISCHKE: Well, I think you get more things done if you work hard and bring energy. I mean there’s a sort of pace. Second, I think this idea of being proactive or strategic or trying to think ahead, works. It’s worked for me and I think it’s part of what effective leaders do. They sort of see beyond the immediate and it’s a skill, a talent, that you can develop through practice. It’s never precise. It’s not about predicting the future. It’s about trying to shape it and being ready to adapt to whatever it is. I think I do that well. I think this issue of trust, honesty, integrity, ultimately has served me very, very well.
SCARPINO: Is there anything about your concept or style of leadership that hasn’t worked well for you?
JISCHKE: I have occasionally wondered whether I was naïve and idealistic. My first presidency was an interim presidency at the University of Oklahoma for a year and I did some awfully naïve things that were based on an assumption that everyone was playing honestly. That what people said is what they meant. Their interests were honorable and very much about purposes of the university. It’s a kind of idealistic view of things and I learned some hard lessons. Although I think I’m a lot more mature today and in that sense a bit savvier and less naïve, I still err on the side of optimism. I still err on the side of thinking the best of people. I had a relatively well known guy in Indiana, who you probably know, John Mutz…
JISCHKE: …once say to me don’t ever lose your idealism.
SCARPINO: I interviewed Mr. Mutz for six hours. He was our first.
JISCHKE: Yeah, and I think John saw in me this kind of idealism. I think he saw it from the perspective of my view about the role of education in economic development, in my maybe idealistic view that Indiana can change and become more than it is. But his comment to me is—don’t lose it and that was a comment made in the last three or four years. So, I don’t think I’ve lost it all.
SCARPINO: Do you think you helped Indiana change?
JISCHKE: Yeah, I do. I feel very good about what I’ve accomplished at Purdue and I feel very good about what I have accomplished through Purdue for Indiana. I think it’s been a great run as I like to say to people and I think I made a difference and enjoyed myself along the way. I’ve gotten an enormous amount of gratitude expressed to me in the last year or so. It happened to me last night. I was a basketball game. It was the first game of the year. Sitting, watching…
SCARPINO: Purdue basketball.
JISCHKE: …Purdue beat the Bethune-Cookman. The fellow who was sitting next to me, who I don’t know, said—are you Dr. Jischke? I said yes and he said, he stuck out his hand and shook my hand and he said—thanks for all you’ve done for Purdue and for Indiana. So, I’ve had that happen to me. So I feel that I actually did make a difference.
SCARPINO: Well, there’s a street out here named after you.
JISCHKE: That’s right. That’s right.
SCARPINO: It used to be Intramural Boulevard and now it’s Jischke.
SCARPINO: How do feel when you drive under that sign?
JISCHKE: Absolutely stunned. I mean I think I said at the beginning of this interview that I come from pretty ordinary circumstances. I mean I’m the first person in my family—it’s been in this country for well over a century—first person in my family to have a bachelor’s degree, a college education. Certainly the first person with a PhD and to end up president of some great universities, with buildings named after you and streets named after you, is utterly amazing. There are times that I think it’s quite improbable and quite lucky and then there are times I think maybe it’s the result of a lot of hard work and I conclude that it’s probably both. Hard work, talent, but also a little bit of luck along the way. Spectacular wife, very supportive parents, I mean great teachers. This all isn’t, I mean this doesn’t happen in isolation. But when I step back I’m stunned and very grateful.
SCARPINO: Do you see a distinction between leadership and management?
SCARPINO: What do you think the distinctions are?
JISCHKE: The cliché is managers do things right, leaders do the right thing. Leadership carries with it the idea of setting a direction, of inspiring, of enabling groups to accomplish things and at least at its most profound level, leadership is both about the things—what is it we will try to accomplish, and second, enabling that to happen. Management pretty much takes for granted what’s to be accomplished and it’s much more about organization and accounting and things that are very important but lack this vision component, typically. This notion of trying to ask carefully what is it we want to, what are our basic purposes. What’s the vision of this activity? Well I think really superb management gets very close to that vision because underlying great management is an understanding of people, of empowering people. I mean there are elements of management that kind of touch up against leadership. But leadership takes it to a different level. It takes it to a level of vision, of inspiration, of direction, ultimately of goals and purposes and values. Management, while not value independent, typically accepts the values, accepts the objectives. Leadership is about articulating and establishing them. Great leaders, in my view, have good management skills. Good managers are not necessarily great leaders.
SCARPINO: Do great leaders have a knack for picking good managers?
JISCHKE: Absolutely. I mean, you could make the case that the single most important thing that great managers do is picking people. Great leaders also do the same thing but more. They not only pick great people, they set a direction for those great people and they create an environment where those people can achieve their greatness.
SCARPINO: Some of the scholarship that relates to the field of leadership talks about leadership and understanding of leadership being forged in a crisis or a key event. Were there any events or crises in your life that helped to forge your understanding of leadership?
JISCHKE: I don’t know if—there were a lot of experiences that I’ve had. I mentioned the one about the fellow winning the bet and hauling the beef into the cooler. The White House Fellowship. I was president of my senior class in college. I was officer of the residence hall I lived in at MIT. So, I’ve had a lot of those experiences that have shaped me. Crises, not too many, but a few. The fact that I was Interim President of Oklahoma and not the permanent president was a great disappointment. I’m not sure it rises to crisis. But I learned a lot in that disappointment. I learned something in the Carrie Chapman Catt experience and the sale of the television station at Iowa State. But I don’t, I haven’t had, in my view, what I thought were crises that sort of forged-in-the-heat-of-battle kind of. I’ve worked hard. I think I’ve been relatively thoughtful and I’ve tried to always learn and grow. That’s another aspect of my leadership. I’ve never, to this day, thought I had it all figured out and I continue to educate myself. I continue to learn. I take short courses, workshops, seminars. I read outside of my background. There’s three books over there, four books, on early childhood education that I’m interested in. I haven’t read an early childhood education book ever before but I’m now interested in it. So, I’ve learned. But I don’t know that I could point to a crisis in which that made, you know, that was a defining experience.
SCARPINO: Let me see if I can frame this last question in a way that is going to come out right. Do you think that it’s, thinking about leaders and leadership, do you think it’s possible that a person can be a great leader while pursuing goals or outcomes of questionable utility or morality? Were Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin leaders?
JISCHKE: It might be a definitional question. If you think leadership is about organizing groups to accomplish objectives then the Hitlers of the world are leaders and I accept that. But the element of leadership that I add that disqualifies him is—you ultimately have to add a value judgment about what’s to be accomplished. If the ultimate goal is an evil one and immoral one then I reject that as the ultimate test of leadership. I mean, leadership is not just about accomplishing things. It’s about accomplishing important or noble or valuable things. So there’s a value side to all of this that ultimately has to be faced. So it’s a little bit of a definitional question. Do you add the issue of values or morality to the results of the leadership activity? If you do, then these people don’t quality. I actually, in talking to students about leadership, give them the first definition without the value side of it and make the point that Hitler’s the classic example in the western world. But others qualify as leaders by that measure. Chainsaw Al Dunlap qualifies and so on. But I add to them that if that’s your measure of leadership then you have to accept this potential that it can be used for absolutely awful ends. That is, talents that are misused or skills, abilities and that’s true about a lot of things in the world. So ultimately the human measure of leadership has to confront the question of value and that’s where, I think, it’s one of the reasons trust is central to leadership. Most leaders either have a sufficient amount of power, authority, or are involved in such complex activities that it’s very difficult for those who are led or those who empower that leadership to hold them accountable at every step, at every detail, and they ultimately have to take a leap of faith. They have to trust that that person will use that authority or that power or that complexity, that lack of transparency, in an honorable or trustworthy way and I think over time most of us come to that conclusion. When you appoint a new president of the university, how do you know whether they’ll steal things or appoint cronies or not hold people accountable? You don’t. You absolutely don’t and I think that’s become a kind of common sense measure and it tells me that overwhelmingly people do include the issue of morality or honesty or integrity. They add values to the definition of leadership.
SCARPINO: As you were approaching the end of your tenure at Purdue, the honors just began to rain in and I’ll mention a few for the record here. Inside Indiana Business and Indy Men’s Magazine named you as one of Indiana’s Keepers which are people who made a difference and should be kept in the state. You were named Chairman of the Association of American Universities which represents the country’s big research universities; Indiana Chamber of Commerce chose you as Volunteer of the Year; and finally, in March of 2006, President George W. Bush appointed you to a seat on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology [PCAST]. Now in that last position were you able to leverage that position to the benefit of the university or the State of Indiana?
JISCHKE: I don’t know is the real answer to that. I should tell you that I didn’t take it for that purpose.
JISCHKE: I took it to serve the country and I think in that sense I’ve accomplished something. I helped shape a report on alternative energy which is an important issue for the country. Was in the Oval Office with the president and many of his top advisors. There were just five or six of us from PCAST and so I feel like I was serving the country’s interest. Whether it will narrowly benefit Indiana, I don’t know. That wasn’t the purpose of it. All of those recognitions were absolutely wonderful. I think I’m at a stage of my life where I do these things, like the presidency at Purdue, not to gain the recognition or the honors. I’ve gotten a lot of them in my life. I really enjoy the work and the opportunity to make a difference. I’m back to interesting, challenging, rewarding, important. Recognition is not part of that. Having said that it is, I’m human and it’s really nice to know that others appreciate what you’ve done and recognize it and are willing to say thank you. I would add one other; quickly add one other, comment. In an organization as complex as Purdue University I’ve got thousands of colleagues that contribute to this and I’ve never been disillusioned that I’m the sole actor and a lot of this recognition is really recognition of a whole team of people, some of whom are employees of the university and some of whom are not.
SCARPINO: And some of them were your team that you put into place.
JISCHKE: My family, the trustees, as well as obvious colleagues— vice presidents, provosts, deans, etc. I take it as much a recognition of all of us together as me personally. I understand that I’ve played a role and I’m proud of it and I know I’ve made a difference but it’s a recognition of the efforts of a lot of people and it’s one of the things I think effective leaders do is they don’t lose sight of the team. They take time to recognize others, support them, thank them. It’s a quality of effective leaders. If you ever start taking people for granted or worse, abuse them, that you’re in trouble.
SCARPINO: Do you think that you are a good team builder?
JISCHKE: I think so. I think so.
SCARPINO: August 4th, 2006, you announced that you would be leaving the presidency of Purdue at the end of that academic year. But I note that you had been on the board of directors of something called the Wabash National Corporation since 2004 which is one of the leading manufacturers of truck trailers, composite trailers.
SCARPINO: What took you from Purdue to the Wabash National Corporation?
JISCHKE: Well, I was the president of Purdue at the time they invited me on to the board. The company was undergoing a transition of leadership and they wanted to add new people to the board and Wabash is one of the leading employers here in the greater Lafayette area and so I thought it would be a good thing to help an important company in the area. Second, I enjoy that kind of activity, being a board member, and so I joined in 2002. I remained on the board. I’m now serving as chairman of it which is a…
SCARPINO: Chairman of the Board?
JISCHKE: Yeah, an interesting responsibility but I serve on, right now, three corporate boards Wabash being one of them.
SCARPINO: What are the other two?
JISCHKE: Duke Realty and Vectran Corporation. I enjoy doing that. I enjoy the—it’s a different kind of leadership challenge. It’s a more collective leadership. The board acts only as a group but some of the issues of what are we here to accomplish, how do we do it, how do we measure it, on behalf of shareholders, is something I just enjoy that kind of activity.
SCARPINO: The time that you’ve given me is about up but I want to ask you one more question.
SCARPINO: As you think back over the four hours we’ve now spent together and the interview that we’ve had, is there anything that you wished I would have asked you that I didn’t or that I should have asked you or just didn’t have the insight to ask? Is there anything you’d like to add?
JISCHKE: I’ve talked a lot about strategic planning for Purdue, Iowa State, organizations. I’m a believer that that process works for individuals and I try to encourage students in particular, but people in general, to try to think strategically for themselves, to think over the long run. Why are you here? What are you trying to accomplish? What measures do you use to know whether you’re doing it or not? And I hope that it always includes the issue of leadership because, at least in our society in this democracy we have here in the United States, it hinges for its success, on lots of people exercising leadership and often in a voluntary way. Many of our most vital organizations are voluntary organizations—churches, youth serving organizations, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, United Way, in some real sense, universities. No student has to come here. They do it voluntarily. No faculty member has to be here. They do it voluntarily. All of these activities that involve more than one person have a leadership element in them. So I hope as young people and those not so young, think about themselves and their futures, they’ll think strategically and include leadership. I try to do that myself. You know, what are you going to do when you grow up kind of question. I even ask that now. What am I going to do with my life? I think it’s a good way to think. I think you raise the likelihood that you will have a satisfying life and you will raise the likelihood that you will have a meaningful life. One of the people I admire enormously is George Washington Carver, an amazing American, and Carver once said—it’s simply service that measures success. So leadership that has an element of service in it is the ultimate test of success in life. Another amazing African American, I think it’s Booker T. Washington who headed Tuskegee where Carver was on the faculty, said if you want to lift up yourself lift up somebody else. This idea of service as the ultimate definition of a rich and rewarding life I think is a powerful idea and leadership as a means to that is very powerful. It gets back to our comments about morality and values. If ultimately the leadership is in the interest of others, serving, that may be the ultimate accomplishment and I think individuals are much more likely to get there, to have that sense of accomplishment, if they think a little longer term, a little more strategically about them, about themselves. Then the last comment that you haven’t asked about is that strategy also includes understanding when it’s time to let somebody else lead. The issue of transition of succession. It’s an important question not only for organizations but for individuals. No one can lead forever, at least in a specific leadership capacity. It almost certainly will undermine the long term health and sustainability of the organization. To understand yourself well enough to know when that’s the right thing to do is something I’ve been wrestling with for the last few years as I thought about my own transition and I’ve watched a number of other people do it and I would tell you I think a lot of people really struggle because leadership, at least of large organizations, brings with it attention, notoriety, stature, money. I mean there’s lots of rewards of effective leadership and the notion of giving it up which may be ultimately confronting one’s mortality is, I think, an interesting human dilemma. And I’m back to strategic thinking again. What’s the strategy post-leadership or are you going to move on to a new leadership opportunity. There are examples in the public sector of people who have done it very well and others who haven’t. I mean to me one of the interesting examples is Carter, President Carter, who I think a lot of people feel may have been better at former-president than president. I mean I’m not going to make a value judgment but he’s an interesting example of someone who has quite deliberately gone down a path of leadership after what some might characterize as the ultimate leadership challenge in our country—being president. So this issue of transition from leadership I think is an important one and my personal experience, not only in doing it myself but watching others, is that it requires thought and self-awareness, self-understanding.
SCARPINO: I thank you very much…
JISCHKE: Thank you.
SCARPINO: for taking the time to sit with me for two…
[end of second interview]