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Earning My Degree

Memoirs of an American University President

David Gardner

Publication Year: 2005

David Pierpont Gardner was president of one of the world's most distinguished centers of higher learning—the nine-campus University of California—from 1983 to 1992. In this remarkably candid and lively memoir he provides an insider's account of what it was like for a very private, reflective man to live an extremely public life as leader of one of the most complex and controversial institutions in the country. Earning My Degree is a portrait of uncommon leadership and courage and a chronicle of how these traits shaped a treasured, and sometimes mystifying, American institution.

Before his tenure as president, Gardner spent seven years at the University of California, Santa Barbara, during a tumultuous era of culture wars, ethnic division, and anti–Vietnam War protests, leaving his post as vice chancellor to serve as vice president of the University of California from 1971 to 1973. In 1973 he was named president of the University of Utah, and while there he chaired the National Commission on Excellence in High Education, which authored A Nation at Risk, regarded today as the twentieth century's most telling report on the condition of American public schools. As president of the University of California, he contended with intense controversies over affirmative action, animal rights, AIDS research, weapons labs, divestment in South Africa, and much more. This memoir recounts his experiences with these and other issues and describes his dealings with the diverse cast of characters who influence the university: U.S. presidents, governors, legislators, regents, chancellors, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors. The epilogue of Earning My Degree is a thoughtful and engaging account of the ten years since Gardner's retirement that includes his personal views about what has truly mattered in his life.

Published by: University of California Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

As I read Gardner’s memoirs—which are also a deep, heartfelt, and loving appreciation of the University of California, which he presided over as president for almost a decade—I was reminded of what a complex, exhausting,exasperating, and yet exhilarating life one leads when one chooses to spendWhile at Brown University, I came to appreciate the former Brown pres-...

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pp. ix-xiv

The title of these memoirs, Earning My Degree, carries multiple meanings and,therefore, warrants an explanation. The significance of any degree is in the earning of it; and, by way of a rough simile, this is true of life experiences in general. For example, applicants “enroll” on accepting a job offer. There are“grades” for performance as they “advance” from one assignment to another,...

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pp. xvii-21

Not long after my retirement as president of the University of California in 1992, Ann Lage of the Regional Oral History Project at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library asked if I would be willing to be interviewed for my oral history. I agreed but asked that the interviews be scheduled after two or three years had lapsed. The resulting interviews were conducted in 1995 and 1996...

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pp. 1-6

In 1933, the year I was born, Berkeley’s population was some 83,000. Most of California’s approximately 6 million residents were clustered around the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, Greater Berkeley was still recovering from the effects of the Great Fire of 1923,which burned most of the area north of the University of California cam-...

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1. Youth and Lessons Learned

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pp. 7-29

Centered on the spine of America’s western coastline, the city of San Francisco is a fabled place of surpassing beauty and wealth, intellectual and cultural riches, accommodating nearly every taste and lifestyle and welcoming the world’s trade, commerce, peoples, cultures, and ideas through its Golden Gate. Since the gold rush of 1849, San Francisco has dominated the great...

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2. The Apprenticeship Years

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pp. 30-71

Our family arrived in Santa Barbara on October 1, 1964, ready for a change, excited about the city and its strikingly beautiful environs, and prepared fora new and promising professional opportunity. We bought a small but pleas-ant home in the Goleta Valley up the coast from Santa Barbara, in a neighborhood with safe streets and younger children with whom our own could...

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3. Serving the University of Utah

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pp. 72-103

The decision to step away from my position at the University of California and into the presidency of the University of Utah may seemed to have been a perfectly logical step, but it was not. We would be leaving our native California, family, and friends as well as the university that was such an enriching part of our family’s cultural, intellectual, and social life. Moreover, our...

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4. A Nation at Risk

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pp. 104-141

Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected president of the United States in November 1980. To the astonishment of his party and perhaps himself as well, in the latter part of his first term he traveled to public schools across the nation, advocating their cause and seeking to improve both the work of and support for education in kindergarten through grade twelve. He abandoned...

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5. Back to the Blue and Gold

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pp. 142-173

At the dinner table shortly after my appointment as president of the University of California in early March 1983, the family was talking about what this would all mean especially for our daughters: Karen, a senior at Stanford; Shari, a sophomore at the U; Lisa, a junior in high school; and Marci...

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6. The Workings of the University and the Crucial First Year

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pp. 174-209

The role of the president of the University of California is pivotal to the sustainability of UC as a single institution, the effective functioning of the university’s Board of Regents and of the Academic Council, the securing an allocation of UC’s resources, the appointment of its key officers, the coherent exercise of its executive powers, the preservation of its constitutional au-...

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7. The University on the Move

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pp. 210-246

As noted in chapter 5, the University of California in 1983 was a complex and far-flung enterprise. Its nine campuses stretched the length of California, carefully sited and planned, housing a world-renowned professoriate numbering some 6,550, employing nearly 100,000 others, and teaching more than 141,000 students. In addition to its five major medical centers and as-...

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8. Bumps and Barriers Along the Way

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pp. 247-291

This chapter’s title intentionally distinguishes among and between bumps, by which I mean uncommon digressions and unforeseen interferences amenable to resolution with little more than careful and persistent attention to the personalities and problems presented; and barriers, by which I mean not mere inconveniences but real and persistent obstructions to the...

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9. The Public and Diplomatic Life

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pp. 292-320

The presidency of the University of California set me on a large stage. Its domestic and international cast included government officials and legislators, alumni and donors, diplomats and heads of state, scientists and scholars, business leaders and heads of the nation’s major foundations, presidents,vice-chancellors, and rectors of the world’s leading universities. To interact...

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10. Tragedy and Tribulation

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pp. 321-361

As the twentieth century’s final decade began, life was good for me both at work and at home. The University of California was moving forward on all its nine campuses and planning for a tenth. UC’s academic reputation was on the ascendancy. Students were enrolling at unexpectedly high rates. And considering all sources of support, funding for the university had never been...

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EPILOGUE. Years of Renewal and Personal Reflections

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pp. 362-376

To move abruptly from the very public presidency of the University of California, with its 166,000 students, 155,000 employees, 9 campuses, 5 medical centers, 3 national laboratories, and an annual operating budget of $10 billion to the very private presidency of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in Menlo Park, a California-based charitable grant-making founda-...

APPENDIX 1. UC’s Long-Range Planning Estimates for 1988–2006 by Campus

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pp. 377-380

APPENDIX 2. Text of the Regents’ Action on the Separation of David P. Gardner as President of the University of California, in Special Session, April 20, 1992

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pp. 381-384

APPENDIX 3. David S. Webster and Tad Skinner's “Rating PhD Programs: What the NRC Report Says . . . and Doesn’t Say” on the UC System

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pp. 385-386

APPENDIX 4. University History Series, Regional Oral History Office

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pp. 387-388

APPENDIX 5. Education, Professional Activities, Honors, and Awards, with Bibliography of David P. Gardner

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pp. 389-395

APPENDIX 6. Samples of Articles about or Conversations with David P. Gardner, 1983–1992

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pp. 396-449


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pp. 397-412

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pp. 413-414

The following publishers and authors have generously given permission to use ex-tended quotations from copyrighted works. from Transformations: UC Santa Barbara1909–1979 by Robert Kelley; copyright 1981 by the Regents of the University of Cali-fornia and the Associated Students, UCSB. from The Thirteenth Man: A Reagan Cab-inet Memoir by Terrel H. Bell; copyright 1988 by Terrel H. Bell; published by the Free...


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pp. 415-161

Plates [Image Plates]

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pp. 162-485

E-ISBN-13: 9780520931114
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520241831

Page Count: 452
Publication Year: 2005