Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center
Happenstance or Providence: How I found all my jobs
Page 8

Robert M. Hutchins.
Robert M. Hutchins.
Image courtesy of the University of Chicago.

We had made the acquaintance of a charming Irishman, Lally, the book editor of the Washington Post. I liked to stop in for a chat at his small office crammed with piles of books. In that early spring of 1943 I was there and as I was leaving Lally called me back and asked would I review a small book on higher education which had come in the day before. It was by Robert Maynard Hutchins, the youngish president of the University of Chicago. I was already interested in Hutchins and agreed at once. My review turned out to be twice as long as the Post's usual book reviews. I marked in red all the sentences Lally could delete if he wanted to cut the thing in half. Next Sunday the very center of the book page brought my entire review arranged around a humorous line portrait of Hutchins drawn by the Post's witty cartoonist. The left top of the page showed a slick photograph of Hirohito, above a short review of a book about the emperor. I mailed the whole page to Hutchins, saying that my review could hardly interest him but he might want to know that, according to the Post pictures, Hirohito was much handsomer than Hutchins. Within the week I had a nice note from Hutchins who said he wished we could meet. Now, in the summer, I looked for that note and wrote Hutchins I, too, would like a meeting and would come to Chicago at his convenience. It was late September when he sent word for me to come. He kept me in his office for two hours and was so clever in leading a conversation that I became aware only afterwards he had furnished himself with a clear picture of me. At the end he asked me would I like to teach a year in his by then famous program for young people recruited for the university two years before their high school graduation. The faculty of the program covered three fields, natural and social sciences and the humanities. I was to be in the latter, and the fall term opened within the week.

Back at College Park I asked Byrd for a leave of absence. He saw readily that I could not afford to turn down the honorable invitation which also reflected well on Byrd's own still growing university. He told me simply to cancel the philosophy courses at Maryland for the year.

It was a great year. Hutchins had a habit of looking at the university through the eyes of such visiting professors as myself, and he invited me to his office once a month.