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Gordon Grant Oral History Interview - Part 2, October 10, 1997

Oregon State University
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Gordon Grant: The leadership transition occurred when Jerry would be off somewhere, and then Fred would take over. Or the group would have to choose who to send to a coordinating committee meeting, and there would be a short list of people who everyone wanted to make sure attended. In this line of work there are people who want very much to be involved when there are a lot of people who are interested in the process and interested in the outcome, but are not themselves willing to advance themselves forward into leadership roles, except where certain things come up. So I think the transfer was, really very smooth, because the group had experience with, people like Fred operating in that role prior, 00:01:00and the transition stage with Jerry was not an abrupt one. It was a gradual one. So, the gradual nature of the transition was what allowed it to happen without any kind of formal thing, and at some point, I think someone said, "All right, I'll be PI," and I think Fred was ready to serve in that role. Fred has a very nice way of phrasing those things in ways that make it easy for you, to go along with, "Unless there are strong objections to that, I'll just continue in that role." They just nod their heads. That's kind of how it happened, and again, it fit within the general strength of the group of not bringing these things into a sort of contentious place and finding the course of least resistance and following that.


Max Geier: As you say, if that's essential for success in an LTER program, is there any conscious effort on the part of the group now to identify people that are likely possible candidates for?

Grant: I think probably more so than I am fully aware of. The thing is that everybody, we're all grown-ups now, and we all look around the room, to see who is playing a role in which they're likely, in which that role is likely. And again, people who step forward and say, "I am sufficiently attached to this enterprise and I'm going to make it a main piece of my focal point." There is a very short list of people who do that. So yes, those people are identified and are identifying themselves, and for the most part I think the group accepts that. To not accept that would be, either means that you yourself would have to step forward, or else you would have to challenge somebody else, neither one of 00:03:00which are most people's inclination, particularly "if it ain't broke." I suspect that Fred thinks about that, and I'm sure it weighs on him, that "If I get hit by a truck, what's going to happen?" And it's like, if you have a feeling for the enterprise as being greater than any one person or the sum of its parts, you have to look to how we do that. I don't know, but that's where I think things stand now. I don't think there is a clear, designated, heir apparent. I think there are people who are operating in a way that would let them step into that 00:04:00role if they needed to. I think the group, I think any transition, in part because the nature of the enterprise has become more diffused over a wider group of people, wider set of disciplines, less geographical identity to the Andrews itself, or participants because they want to participate, that the next transition might be a little more bumpy. Even with somebody sort of working in the same way as the past, just because there might be some discussion about how we want to do it. Do we want to do it the same way we've done it? I could maybe project that a little bit.

Geier: As you suggested, it's not been a contentious process, and as you noted, if there is a conflict, the group doesn't have a lot of experience dealing with that. I guess Jerry Franklin and Dick Waring would be one example of how a 00:05:00conflict was resolved without disturbing the structure.

Grant: Right. That predated me, and to this day I don't fully understand that, and part of my personal thing is, my wife is a social worker. She lives her entire day in process and is entirely focused on it, and she has experiences in which all people talk about is the process by which they interact. We're not likely to do any of that, or if we do, it's only in a very artificial and almost, ludicrous fashion. We're not, we ain't good at it, and we've never been good at. And we don't have people who are naturally, are leaders in that way, although there could be. I suspect there are people who actually could play more 00:06:00of a role in that than they've been allowed to, in part because we don't acknowledge that something is an important ingredient. Where was I going with that? I think, well I was talking about Jerry, and so it's like a conflict that happened in the past, and we don't really look to that part of the history. It's like, that was then and this is now. It's a little bit like a family that wants to just forget about feuds, or divorces, or what have you.

Geier: Sounds like some discussions do take place take place between individuals.

Grant: That's exactly right.

Geier: Well I've taken up two hours of your time.