March 10, 2004

Contact: Lynn Bretz, University Relations, (785) 864-8866.

Chancellor Hemenway's remarks at memorial for former Chancellor Wescoe

W. Clarke Wescoe Memorial Service
March 10, 2004

I am greatly honored to be asked by the family to speak in memory of W. Clarke Wescoe, KU's 10th chancellor.

I had the privilege of knowing Chancellor Wescoe. I greatly respected him. I always learned from him.

Being chancellor is a wonderful job, but it also can be a little lonely. No one can quite know all the pressures of the position -- the necessities of living a public life, the sacrifices a family inevitably makes, the plenitude of advice that one receives, surprisingly, not all of it constructive -- unless you have served as chancellor.

Chancellors come to treasure advice and counsel from those who have been there before. I had the opportunity to learn from Clarke, just as he was well advised by Franklin Murphy, his predecessor.

In his inaugural address, September 19, 1960, Clarke cited Murphy's parting advice as he left KU for UCLA. Murphy's advice was to adopt the philosophy of Satchel Paige: "Don't look back. Somebody may be gaining on you."

It was good advice. Look to the future, because the recent past in 1960 was contentious. Clarke Wescoe became chancellor at a time that the university was under attack by Governor George Docking, for a variety of shortcomings, most of which could be attributed to the personal conflict between Chancellor Murphy and Gov. Docking.

I never knew the extent of the conflict until I spoke with Clarke at my own inauguration in February of 1996. I complimented him on his inaugural speech, which I had read in preparation for my own. He laughed and told me that I should always remember his inauguration whenever I felt that things were not going so well. (He seemed to know there might be such a day.) "No matter how bad things get," he said, "they could be a lot worse, and they will get a lot better."

He proceeded to tell me that when he was inaugurated, the very morning of the inauguration the governor summoned the Board of Regents to his house, Cedar Crest, to try and persuade them to rescind their appointment of Clarke. He [Wescoe] was Murphy's choice as a successor and closely aligned with him. The governor saw more conflict ahead. The Board of Regents held firm. They recognized Clarke Wescoe's talents.

From the moment of his appointment, throughout his nine years as chancellor, Clarke Wescoe negotiated some tricky political straits. He served KU at a time, the decade of the '60s, when American society was subject to immense pressures. It was the Civil Rights era. The war in Viet Nam was escalating. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll summed up at least some students' primary interests.

Clarke Wescoe weathered the storms, opening up sails, battening down hatches, keeping a firm and steady hand at the tiller.

He did all the things expected of a chancellor and he did all of them well. He raised money, but he also raised the minimum wage for campus employees to $1 an hour.

His office was the site of a sit-in against racial discrimination, and the protesters were arrested and suspended. He also revoked the suspensions and established a KU human relations council to identify and eradicate discrimination. KU junior women, as well as all women students over 21, were exempted by Clarke from closing hours at the residence halls.

He smoked cigars, he smiled a lot and he was fun to talk to. He and his wife, Barbara, loved Japanese art and made major gifts to this museum, including a 15th-century Buddhist sculpture and the sculpture of Ju Ming in front of the law school.

He gave one of the most remarkable commencement speeches in KU history. Not because it was only six minutes long but because it was sung to the tune of "I Could Have Danced All Night."

"I could have talked all night,
I could have talked all night,
Been even worse a bore.
I could have spread my wings and said a thousand things,
I've never said before.
I'll never know/ what made me so retiring.
Why all at once I sensed your plight.
I only know when he, began to present me,
I could have talked, talked, talked all night."

Obviously, the chancellor's office has not been able to maintain a Wescoe-level vocal ability.

There are many Wescoe stories and you will hear some of them today. My favorite Clarke Wescoe story was told to me by a faculty member. A faculty group had identified an important issue -- I'm not sure why I think this, but I suspect that it had something to do with state support for faculty salaries -- and had summoned the chancellor to appear before the group to address the issue. Chancellor Wescoe was introduced by a faculty colleague who stated the fact and then said to the chancellor, "What are you going to do about this?"

Chancellor Wescoe's response was, "That is the wrong question. The question is what are we going to do about it?"

I think it is worth noting, in this context, that interviewed years later, he felt that one of the university's most notable accomplishments during his years as chancellor was raising faculty salaries enough so that KU was no longer at the bottom of the Association of American Universities list.

There were many such accomplishments.

 • During his tenure, enrollment increased from 10,000 to 17,500.
 • Faculty grew from 573 to 917.
 • Research grants increased threefold.
 • The Alumni Association almost doubled.
 • The fund-raising campaign, Program for Progress, raised about $20 million.
 • He also served on the board of directors of Hallmark Cards, and I am pleased to announce today that the auditorium in the new Hall Center for the Humanities will be named after him, a shared goal of both the Hall family and the university.

Such accomplishments, of course, do nothing to evoke the father, husband and human being who was Clarke Wescoe. They are the outer triumphs but not the internal values which define the person. To me, Chancellor Wescoe's obvious affection for students is the best symbol of those inner beliefs.

If ever there was a chancellor who was student-centered, it was Clarke Wescoe. As Jim Gunn put it in a memorable essay on the Wescoe years: "He dealt with people in human terms, and if there is one impression he would want to leave behind him, I think, it is of a man who smiled easily and cared deeply, whose door was open to all, who listened with his heart."

The problem for all of us in a memorial service like this is that our words always seem inadequate to summon up the man.

This is why, in the end, Clarke's own words are the best, and because he was a chancellor, there are many words available. He gave 200 speeches a year.

"What I have tried to do as chancellor," he once said, "was to maintain a sense of humor, to be [both] human and humane, to help individuals, and to achieve an equanimity which accepted success without pride, and setbacks without discouragement."

This is an eloquent summary of the chancellor's role. A chancellor is the focal point for a university, but success is measured in the accomplishments of others, your students, faculty and staff. When setbacks occur, you are not permitted the self-pity of depression, because those same people expect you to lead and find hope for the future.

Clarke Wescoe understood this well from his very first day in the job. In difficult times I always hear Clarke Wescoe: "No matter how bad it gets, Bob, it will get better." He was a great chancellor and a wonderful human being. He knew why he was good at the chancellor's job.

"It was my medical training," he said. "It taught me how to listen, and when I listen, to hear, and when I hear, to understand."


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