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Interview with Janet Eyler

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Molly Dohrmann: This is Molly Dohrmann for the Peabody Oral History project concerning the merger with Vanderbilt in 1979. Today's date is Friday, December 9, 2005, and the interview today in the Peabody Library is with Janet Eyler, Professor of the Practice of Education, and at the time of the merger Assistant Professor of Political Science and Secretary of the Faculty. To begin, please talk about your connection with Peabody and the capacity in which you served at the time of the merger, with an overview of the Vanderbilt/Peabody situation at that time.

Janet Eyler: OK. I was a fairly new faculty member; I was in my third year. I was an Assistant Professor of Political Science. I had just been reviewed for promotion to Associate Professor by my department, and had been recommended for that at the time of the merger. The merger was announced in February of 1979, and the way we found out about it was that there was a headline in the Tennessean to the effect of, "Peabody to merge with TSU." And one of the things that leapt out at me was, the night before -- I think this was a Tuesday, but, you know, it's a long time ago -- but the night before, we had been in a meeting with a group of us at Peabody who were very concerned about the future of Peabody, and we had a series of recommendations to strengthen the financial situation of the college, because we knew that it was problematic. And the same people who were sitting with us -- Tom Stovall, among others, who was one of the deans -- were, of course, aware that everything was going to be hitting the fan in the morning, but they dutifully listened to us. When I came in 1976, it was at the time of something called the Design for the Future. I think it was created in maybe '75; it was right about that time. And so they went out and hired a bunch of new faculty that they hoped would offer leadership in this burst of new energy. And the Design for the Future was created by three faculty members -- under a rather firm hand, I believe, of John Dunworth, the president -- and that was Jack Allen, Ida Long Rogers, and Ray Norris. And it was -- the change was necessitated -- and I only have this by what everybody said at the time, you know, I don't have personal experience of it -- but apparently, for literally decades, the leadership of Peabody College had totally neglected development. And it had, because of its reputation in education and psychology, it had quite a reputation training teachers in summer programs; there was a lot of, you know, training of international school leaders. And so there was a kind of heyday -- and I'm not exactly sure when that was, but I'm estimating it was probably in the 50s and 60s -- when the place had a tremendous market; it had a tremendous reputation. And by the time I arrived in '76, it was definitely not a quality institution. It was running on fumes. And the Design for the Future was designed to redefine and retarget it, but it was an especially badly thought out design, because in the mid-70s there was a decline across the country in teacher education. This was a sort of dip in teacher education; it was a reduction in demand. There had been an oversupply of teachers. And at that very moment, the leaders of Peabody College, Dunworth and his merry men, decided to make this an expensive private school of education. And they did -- they redefined it as a private school of education; they got rid of all of the advanced degrees in other disciplines. That was sensible. We had no business offering a history PhD, or a political science PhD, or whatever. But -- so at the graduate level, it made perfect sense to target education. But at the undergraduate level, when I came in '76, there were, as I recall, about twelve hundred undergraduates. It was a small liberal arts college. Over half of the undergraduates were just your typical, pretty bright, interesting -- much more diverse than they were right after the merger; I would estimate that at least 15% of our students were minority. And it was just a little liberal arts college of medium stature. It -- we had good but not great students, for the most part, and most of them had a liberal arts orientation. When they made this into an ed school, it dropped from -- my recollection is about twelve hundred students to four hundred students in three years. Because when I came, I had these huge classes in political science. And then, literally almost overnight, suddenly the problem was, could your classes meet? -- there weren't enough students. And they literally made people unwelcome who were not in teacher training, at a time when nobody wanted to pay big bucks to go into teacher training, so they -- Dunworth got rid of departments, and had a matrix organization for Peabody, and if you were, say, coming here to get an English degree or sociology degree and just a liberal arts sort of student -- maybe to play football and get a sociology degree and, you know, play on the Vanderbilt football team or something -- you now were in programs for educators of youth with a non-certification major. Which, as you can imagine, was not a very attractive category. I mean, instead of -- you used to be an English major, and now you're a non-certification major in programs for educators of youth. So they simply put the sign up to say, "You're not welcome if you're not in teacher training." Not that many people were in teacher training, and so the college just -- it was like The Poseidon Adventure; the college just flipped over. As soon as the Design for the Future went down, it went into free fall. I brilliantly arrived at about this moment... And I will say, when I was being interviewed, they were talking about this sort of reinvigoration of the college. They hired quite a few people I knew; Alfred Baumeister was hired to come in for the Kennedy Center the same year I came in. And there were a bunch of folks. And the idea was they were going after people that they thought would be strong leaders who would bring new blood, and so on, and they hired a bunch of folks at that time. I actually asked a bunch of questions, when I was here to be interviewed and so on, about the soundness of the college. And later, people told me, "Well, you asked the right questions, but everybody sort of lied, because we were hoping, you know, that this Design for the Future would work." So I was very na´ve. It really didn't occur to me that colleges that had been around for a couple hundred years would just flip overnight. And people all were very reassuring when I was being interviewed. And so I moved my husband out of a good job and made this big, traumatic move for the family, so I was not in a position then just to pick up and disrupt his career for a second time. So the whole thing was relatively personally traumatic for me. But at any rate, when the headline in the paper, "TSU to Merge with Peabody," or "Peabody with TSU," or something -- almost immediately, of course -- and we knew that for years there had been a certain courtship with Vanderbilt -- but of course, as soon as the TSU headline went up, some deal got done in some back room somewhere, and the deal with Vanderbilt was closed very quickly. And there's all sorts of rumors about that, that I think it's pretty clear that, you know, a dozen people got in a room and said, "Oh, I don't think so," and then formed this. OK, so then the Vanderbilt merger was on, but Vanderbilt University did not really -- the widespread belief of Peabody faculty at that time was that this was essentially a real estate deal, that because education was a limited market in an expensive private institution like Vanderbilt, that essentially after a few years this would be a small institute, kind of like VIPPS, you know -- maybe 15, 20, education policy researchers and so on -- but that the student population would be negligible or very small, very focused. And then all this land would be available for dorm space and expansion and so on, for the rest of Vanderbilt. And this was, I think, rather widely believed on both sides of the street, that this was the agenda, because no one believed that Peabody College could be equally viable. If it wasn't economically viable as a moderately priced private institution, how was it going to be economically viable as a very expensive private school of education as part of Vanderbilt? And so, you know, there was a widespread belief in that. And I think that would have come to pass, but for the kind of leadership that was offered at Peabody after. I don't know what the next stage is; I can talk a little bit about the first years after the merger, or maybe talk a little bit about what -- let's talk a little bit about the merger event itself. Because Peabody was organized in a matrix, it was difficult -- Vanderbilt apparently told Peabody, "Before you merge with us, get rid of excess faculty." They were not willing to take Peabody faculty into Vanderbilt University, outside of Peabody College. For example, I, as a political scientist -- our economists, our geologists, and so on were not welcome, categorically. And so at the time of -- before the merger could happen, the idea was that Peabody had to do the dirty work, so that Vanderbilt's hands would be clean. But then the question was, "How do you do that? How do you fire" -- I think it was 31 -- "roughly 31 tenured faculty without lawsuit, without problem? When you have a (inaudible) (concern?) with a university -- you can't very well argue financial exigency if Vanderbilt University is humming along, and so how do you get rid of 31 tenured faculty?" I think the total number that were dismissed was -- I think was -- it was in the forties. Either 41 or 46. And 31 of those were tenured, and about 15 were not tenured. That's an estimate -- I mean, I'm sure you have the actual numbers, but that's close. And so at any rate, what was done is that Peabody was reorganized by Dunworth into departments, disciplinary departments. And once -- and this was done -- not exactly sure on the timing, but it was in the -- reorganized into departments, at which time, then, whole departments were fired. And the theory was that if you got rid of departments that were not going to be acceptable as part of Vanderbilt, or of a new Peabody -- for example, a liberal arts contingent, social science department, whatever -- but you kept psychology separate, and you kept teaching and learning and school administration and library science and so on, (inaudible) P.E., separate, then you could take those in as departments of the new college. You could fire everybody in the departments of music, of the liberal arts -- can't remember what else there; those were the two big ones. And I can't remember if the liberal arts were divided up into sciences and humanities or not... Probably. But in any rate, they simply fired people by big categories. And then those who had tenure were offered a buyout that related to the number of years that they had taught, and the number of years they had to go before retirement. People who were non-tenured, as I was at that time, were offered -- our contracts were honored for one more year, so we had one more year to teach, and I think there was a two thousand-dollar payment that was made to those faculty, but basically we were just out of luck. So that created, of course, a lot of anguish. And there were attempts made by the college to assist people, but, you know, 55-year-old people who've been tenured at some institution forever are pretty much out of luck. A few of them were able to re-(sort?) themselves. Some people retrained; there was a faculty member in -- I think in English -- who actually went out and became a computer scientist, for example, and there were other folks that... But this was a fairly anguishing time, because the faculty was sort of divided between people who were having their careers trashed, while at the same time others were trying to figure out how they fit into the new system. So what else do you want to talk about?

Dohrmann: Oh. (laughter) Well, can you talk about the key people in the merger?

Eyler: OK, well... John Dunworth, of course, was the critical player, the president. And he was pretty widely reviled by the faculty, because there was no confidence that he had led effectively. The Design for -- most of the people who were fired (in it?) were the people who said, four years earlier, "This is a bad idea, and here's why, and here's what'll happen. Moving to become an ed school at a time when ed school enrollments are going down is going to financially destroy the college." They were right, and they all lost their jobs. I think that's fairly typical. Tom Stovall was -- he was, like, the academic dean; I can't remember his exact title, whether he was the provost or whatever, but he was in the role that a provost would be in at a university. And he was in charge of moving the pieces around on the map. So he put some people in departments that weren't going -- for example, he put some of what we assume are his friends in school administration, rather than in social sciences, because that saved their job. And he did a little of that. There is a rumor -- I don't know if it's true or not, but there is a rumor that he awarded himself tenure and assigned himself to school administration. I know he assigned himself to school administration, but the tenure part I don't know. This created a lot of resentment, because his own major professor was put in a category that resulted in him being dismissed. So the people who were in positions of some authority, you know, managed to protect themselves. There was one faculty member that sort of made sure that a competing faculty member was, you know, in a cut group, because he was trying to... He managed to save three different potential spots for himself. So there was a certain amount of that kind of self-dealing going on that is predictable in this kind of situation. But Tom Stovall, of course, as the academic leader, was in charge of making this stuff work, and I think for a long time ahead of time knew it wasn't working. There was a guy named Ed Rugg who was sort of a financial person, and he had been sort of hinting around his friends for a couple of years that, "Well, you might want to be looking around." And, you know, "Don't get too comfortable here." So it was clear that the handwriting was on the wall, that things were not going well, for a while ahead of time. I don't think he was a key player; I mean, he was trying to make it work. But at any rate -- I'm trying to think who else -- there was a guy named Huckaby in the Dean's Office, but I just don't remember very much about what he did, or, you know, his involvement. Certainly Jack Allen, Ida Long Rogers, and Ray Norris, all of whom were well-regarded faculty members -- and that's why they were selected, presumably, to front for this rather ridiculous Plan for the Future -- I don't recall them being heavily involved in the merger details themselves. The faculty itself attempted to organize a little bit, to defend the interests of people who were involved, but hired a particularly ineffectual attorney who merely took money and really did nothing. I mean, it was sort of shocking. So they ended up really not having anybody sort of stand up for them. Nothing was done except for the buyout for the faculty. We had several faculty near retirement who were basically finding themselves basically on the street, and so a group of faculty got together and created a social event that kind of honored the seven people who were most close to retirement, and kind of -- and so on. Which, of course, created bad feelings for the people who felt like they weren't properly honored, so maybe it's one of those you can't win, (laughter) those kind of situations. But there were a number -- there was a lot of faculty activity that was largely feckless, except to provide a certain amount of emotional support to people going through the process. And then, at the time of -- once the merger went forward, there was a lot of -- I mean, there was a lot of really wounded feelings. I mean, people felt -- you know, in -- there were people who, like... Like, I was working (out?) my contract. I also had a child that April, during the merger time, and so I might have taken a year off or something, but, you know, I didn't really have that option, because I had one more year and had to figure out what I was going to be doing. During the transition period, there were many people at Vanderbilt -- I remember Wendell Holladay in particular, who was the provost, clearly was trying to be welcoming and civilized towards Peabody faculty. The dean of the graduate school, Ernie Campbell, on the other hand, was making cracks at cocktail parties. Again, I didn't hear this directly, but boy, were these rumors flying. And I have heard him make -- I did hear him make disparaging comments about Peabody faculty and their quality, and, you know, how they were going to maintain quality and not let these people, you know... And, of course, this -- when the merger happened, all of Peabody's programs had to be approved by the faculty senate and the graduate council and so on. We couldn't just continue to offer degrees; each of them had to be defended and put through. And so there was this climate in which people were making extremely ugly comments about Peabody faculty and programs, in a time when we were trying to merge those two groups. Other folks were -- I was chair of the institutional review board before the merger, and of course there was just (one behavioral sciences?) board afterwards, and I remember -- I can't remember who it was, now, unfortunately, but whoever was directing the Vanderbilt IRB went out of his way to contact me and talk about what we'd been doing and how we might merge these two things effectively. So there were a lot of very sensitive, intelligent people trying to make this work. And then there were people who were kind of going out of the way, you know, not to be particularly welcoming in this process. I remember the women's group tried to reach out to women faculty and wives, but they were unaware of who'd been fired and who hadn't, so they were inviting people who had been fired, or who were just working out the last year of their contract. And then they were shocked when these people didn't want to participate, and why were Peabody women, you know, so unfriendly? And it was like, "Well, you know, you're talking to people who, you know..." So there were the -- I mean, here was a well-intentioned overture, which came across as, you know, kind of this horrifying assault to people who -- "You're fired; how would you like to come to the women's group?" just doesn't work well. And of course, the people extending the overture were attempting to be gracious, and it wasn't working. So there was a little bit of friction. But I think, on balance, there were a lot of people who... First of all, there were a number of ties before the merger. I mean, there were social ties, there were -- I mean, on a personal level, my baby-sitting co-op, you know, had several faculty from Vanderbilt in it, many of whom I still, you know, interact with today. And so there were personal ties, there were research ties among some folks, and so on. And so it was not unremittingly a negative thing, but it was very difficult. People at Peabody were feeling very bruised. And then there were certain people who, you know, had no sensitivity. But, you know, I think that happens, so... One thing that happened right after the merger, like, the day after it was official -- and I don't know exactly when this was; it seems to me it took a number of weeks, you know. My sense is this happened in July or so. But, so, you know, it was announced in the spring, and then it took a while to wend its way out, and towards the end of the summer it became official -- I'm guessing July of '79, approximately. And so the moment that it was announced, all of the highway signs that said, you know, "This exit for Vanderbilt University, Belmont College, Peabody College" -- somebody went out with a can of brown spray paint and spray-painted Peabody off those signs. The day. And no one expected that not to happen. But when it happened the day, like someone was so anxious to erase us from the face of the Earth, that that was a priority -- of all of the things we had to do, getting a can of spray paint and going and painting the highway signs was number one -- it really -- it's just one of those things that was very symbolic and created a lot of resentment. But at any rate, it was... I personally thought that the idea of a TSU merger actually had a lot of charm. I kind of could envision putting together a great urban university that involved, you know, the school of ed here, and the main TSU campus, and there was the downtown graduate campus, and then there was the (inaudible) law school, that could, you know, have been upgraded to be an accredited law school... And pretty soon you could have had a kind of urban university that Nashville didn't really have. And so I thought that was, you know, a potentially interesting idea. Clearly, given the geographical proximity of Vanderbilt and Peabody, it was kind of a natural -- and the fact that Vanderbilt didn't have an ed school -- that merger did make a lot of sense. And I think that the time to save Peabody as an independent college had passed decades previously. By the time we got to the point of the merger, there was really little chance to be viable and independent. And (inaudible) we look back in the long run, it's been very good for Peabody. Peabody's, you know, one of the top-ranked colleges of education and human development in the country; every one of our programs is in the top ten. So in the long haul, this has been a good thing for Peabody, but it was very traumatic to the people that were involved at the time.

Dohrmann: I was just going to ask you to talk about the positive outcomes. You just did that, and... Are there other things that you wanted to...

Eyler: Let me tell you a little bit of how it worked, because at the time -- because I was very involved in that, so I actually know -- at the time, the assumption was, by almost everybody -- people said this openly -- that this is, you know, "It's going to end up being a research institute, a policy institute, or it's going to be very small. And this is essentially a real estate involvement, because there's no way this place can be viable as, you know..." It's as big today as it was -- bigger today than it was before the merger. So?, "There's no way that's going to happen, because all of the forces -- giving each (inaudible) -- all of the forces that made Peabody unviable are going to make it unviable as a school at Vanderbilt." And the first dean after the merger was a caretaker named Hardy Wilcoxon, and he was a well-regarded senior on the verge of retirement -- maybe already retired, right at that moment -- a psychology professor who was widely, you know -- people had affection for him, had respect for him as a scholar, and so on. But he had no particular interest in leadership, and he was literally a caretaker, you know, keep things going. And he really did not lift a finger. I mean, this -- (laughter) he just sort of kept the place glued together temporarily. And the first dean that was chosen was Bill Hawley, who had been brought in at VIPPS-- he was a researcher into school segregation issues, integration issues, and he was brought in as a scholar at VIPPS with a courtesy appointment in political science. And I think there was an agenda, perhaps, on the part of Erwin Hargrove's part and others', that he might make -- because of his education and disciplinary background and his scholarship -- might make a good dean. And so I don't know that that was planned ahead of time, but I think that, you know, it makes sense. And so they brought him in. And the reason I'm here today is that -- this was at the end of that first year, and I was now basically out of a job, and I got a job working with him at VIPPS. And he's an old footnote of mine; I didn't know him personally, but we had done similar kinds of work, and I was able to do that kind of work for him. And so, you know, we worked very well, very quickly, together. And so when, six weeks later, he was appointed dean of Peabody College, then he brought me across, both to continue his research project and to work part-time helping him put Peabody together. And I can tell the long story or short, but I'll just shorten it up, but basically the problem was, "How do you strategically look at the mission of this college in the context of what Vanderbilt is, and in a way that is economically viable and intellectually viable?" Because Peabody at that time was intellectually not respectable, and certainly wasn't financially respectable. The board had committed a subvention of, I think, 750 thousand dollars a year for ten years, and then we were supposed to pay it back and be viable. The first year that Hawley was dean, I believe the deficit was about a million and a half. So that was twice what the subvention was. That first fall after the merger -- and I may be confusing that first year under Wilcoxon and the first year under Hawley, but I think the first year under Wilcoxon we had, like, 140 new freshmen in the fall, and seventy of them transferred to arts and science in January. (inaudible) what's called "back-dooring" -- it was easier to get into Peabody, so they'd come in and then transfer immediately out. So, clearly, the place was crashing and burning. And so Hawley had to ask, "OK, how do we make this place intellectually respectable and financially viable?" And so his first plan was to recruit senior research faculty who could bring in grant money and who could attract graduate students and who could begin to attract other colleagues and build the intellectual muscle. As an aside, I was in charge of getting the PhDs approved at Vanderbilt -- we couldn't get our PhDs approved at Vanderbilt. We ended up having to recreate -- instead of having several different PhDs in education -- we put psych through by itself -- but in order to get our PhD approved, I had to write up a new PhD degree in education. And then you could specialize. So that pulled special ed, school of admin, and teaching and learning in one degree; I had to do that because I could not get enough faculty members who would be acceptable to the graduate school except by combining and basically letting the special ed faculty, which was a good research faculty, carry everybody else. Because we had very few research faculty in K12 and administration. And years later, you know, I've been meeting some people who're saying, "Well, this is such a stupid idea! Why'd they do this?" Well, it is a stupid idea, but that was what we had to do in order to get our PhDs. And so we're now breaking them all out again, because it never made any sense, but it was politically strategic. And even then -- I was actually at the meeting when the Graduate/Faculty Council approved this, because I was (inaudible) the administrative staff (inaudible) -- and nobody would move to have it approved. So finally, Charlie McCauley, a psych professor from Peabody -- who of course didn't want to be the one to move, because it was his school -- moved, and somebody finally seconded it. And then they started in on, "Well, if we've got no faculty..." Some of the people saying that hadn't published anything in 15 years. I remember a particular faculty member involved in this who -- I happen to know his work, and he literally had not published in a decade, and yet he was sort of, "(inaudible) something scholarly and not faculty..." And then we (laughter) -- and then my very favorite, because this was sort of the catalyst for the vote -- a faculty member said, "Well, I don't see a foreign language requirement here. I don't think we should approve this without a foreign language requirement." And somebody in the group turned to him and said, "Your department hasn't had a foreign language requirement in 15 years!" And he said, "Yeah, but it should." And that little arabesque of insanity -- somebody called the question and they passed it (laughter) -- so it was -- we were having a lot of trouble. We really did not have a solid senior faculty. So Bill Hawley came in, and he hired Jane Stallings, a noted expert and researcher, and he hired Jack Glidewell, who was a well-known psychologist, and he hired Carolyn Evertson, a little bit later, but in that early thing was also a well-known researcher in K12. He hired John Fogler, who was well-known, especially in Tennessee higher-ed circles. And he had people that could bring in some big research grants, and a bunch of other folks. So he was very systematic, and there was a lot of wining and dining and very aggressive recruiting, and focusing almost entirely on bringing in a core of senior faculty who could make things happen. And he had kind of a -- he was the kind of person that wanted to let a thousand flowers grow. I mean, he just wanted to get people in and get them going and make things happen. And he hired Terry Deal, who, you know, was a well-known person. Although I don't know if, actually, if Bill Hawley hired him or not. He was hired during that period, but I think he actually was somebody else's initiative. But at any rate, he got a lot of people who were well-known. Some of them scholarly, some of them not, but, you know, people who could give some clout to the school. Then, at the undergraduate level, it became clear that we needed a big undergraduate population to financially support the college. You can't support college on graduate students, because you have to pay graduate students, for the most part. So we had a two-pronged student approach to increase numbers. One was to establish a series of Masters' programs, which are very cheap to run, that we'd use the talents of our faculty, would be popular, would build some interest. So we created several. One was Human Resource Development. What else... Anyway, there were several -- you know, some (went?) and some didn't. And then -- but the big question was undergraduates. Now, we are barred by the merger agreement from offering anything that duplicates (for?) the College of Arts and Science, and so we could not offer a psych degree, although we were qualified to. We could not offer, you know, stuff that was not education. And Hawley looked at the thing and said, "Well, we're a school of education and human development. We have education programs; where's our human development program?" And so the choice to develop human development as a major was based on the broad mission of the college, but also strategic. And he had it -- Duke had been involved in an interdisciplinary policy program, which was his model for this. He thought we should have an interdisciplinary program that drew on the fact that our faculty are not education -- they're all sorts of things -- and we have the ability to provide an interdisciplinary program. But the people that -- I mean, the talent here, and Bob Innes in particular, who had already done some human development programs, called upon him to take the intellectual leadership in that. And given the people we had, policy wasn't our thing, but human development was. And so Bob took the -- I think of him as -- he's the intellectual father and I'm the bureaucratic mother of this program. He, working with other faculty, put this program together, and I figured out how to get it through the University, which we eventually did. And it was designed originally to, you know, be 100, 200, students, and of course we all know what happened. (laughter) It became instantly popular. We didn't get it through the system until summertime, and so we weren't in the recruitment cycle for the first year, and yet that first fall we had, I think, ten sophomores and fifteen freshmen. We had attracted people that quickly. So this was already people in the University that, you know, wanted to do it. And then as soon as that started, we immediately, immediately, was up to 50 or 60 a class, and so on. It just immediately became popular. And that, of course... That in particular, and the Masters' degrees partially, are what made the college financially viable so it could continue to exist as a college and not just as a little research institute or something. And then, of course, in terms of -- the effort to recruit first-rate faculty meant that we were able to start to really be able to bring in research grants, not only in psychology and special ed, which had already been strong, but in some of the other areas too. I know my department -- God, last year I think we generated close to 20 million dollars in grants. And this is a department that I don't think got any dollars in grants at the time of the merger, its predecessor department. And we have very strong scholarly leadership in all of the departments, and that's kind of a legacy of Hawley's approach to this process. And it took about ten years, I think, before we were in the black, but we have been ever since. And we did it in a way that meant a high-quality school that is sort of a jewel in the crown of Vanderbilt. You know, I think no one would have predicted twenty-six years ago when this merger happened -- no one would have predicted that Vanderbilt's most distinguished school, by some measures -- I realize we can all argue; I'm sure the medical school thinks they're the most distinguished school. But certainly the -- Peabody having all of its programs in the top ten -- I don't think anybody else at this college is in the top ten. I'm not sure about the medical school, they may have some programs... But at any rate, I think it's been remarkably successful, and it goes back to very thoughtful strategic planning on Hawley's part about how to make the school economically and intellectually viable. And I think without that leadership this would have failed. I think it was definitely not a done deal that this was going to work, and it had a lot of things going against it. And I think Vanderbilt's probably pretty pleased about how it's all come out -- not everybody, but I think for the most part. (laughter) But, you know, I don't think it was entirely predictable at the time that that would happen. What else?

Dohrmann: The last question would be, "Do you have any other stories about the merger?"

Eyler: (pause) (laughter) One of the funnier -- this is a terribly personal story; it really has not that much to do with the merger. But I remember years ago -- I was kind of an advocate early on (at?) the TSU merger. I mean, I was positive, first, that I wasn't opposed to a Vanderbilt merger, but I thought that we should, you know... And the faculty was kind of not, you know, some thought it was a good idea and some didn't. And there was a faculty member on -- a senior faculty member who really didn't like the idea. Which was fine; I mean, we were in different places. He also was in one of the departments, however, that was being kept. And so he had more, personally, to gain from the Vanderbilt merger; I would have had more, personally, to gain from the TSU merger, or so I thought at the time. But I remember, many years later, I was at -- just some social event in Nashville -- and his wife came up and just started berating me about, now, didn't I think it was so much better we'd gone with Vanderbilt? And she's going on -- and this is really ugly, it's the kind of thing -- people in the room are looking and wondering -- and finally after she walks off, she said, "Oh, is she one of the people whose husband -- did her husband get fired in the merger?" And I said, "No, I did!" (laughter) You know? She's mad at me! But, you know, it worked out great for her. But I just -- I thought it was, you know, kind of an amusing thing. And actually, I, you know -- accosted like that, I couldn't help but naturally say, "Oh, well, I think it would have been just wonderful if we'd gone with TSU, it would have been this great urban university." And, of course, this just set her off like a rocket. Of course, you know, I think that -- partly because of the way this was handled by some -- you know -- I think my sense is -- I don't know this directly, but my sense is that Alexander Heard offered some real positive leadership during the merger period, and went after a good strong dean, and provided support. And my sense is his support was not grudging. Because I think that the powers that be -- if Wendell Holliday and Alexander Heard and -- I'm blanking on the president's name --

Dohrmann: Emmett Fields.

Eyler: Emmett Fields. If they had been real hostile to this, they probably could have torpedoed it. They could have chosen a weak leader; they could have been non-responsive to the attempts that he was making to make it work. And so, although there were those who were very difficult to deal with, I think that the leadership on their side -- it may not have been their dream, you know. I think it wasn't their dream to have Peabody College as a college at Vanderbilt. I think they would have probably been perfectly happy to have a research institute in education and use the land for something else. But they were -- my sense is that they were very honest, ethical, supportive... that they did their best to make it work and deserve a lot of credit for the fact that it worked. Because I think it would have been fairly easy -- I think this was fragile, and I think it would have been easy to make it not work and to have to -- five years in, or ten years in, to have to completely revise it and make it something else. So I think the fact that we were successful was very much the fact that it was very carefully worked on, and there was a very thoughtful, strategic plan, and that the leaders at Vanderbilt were, for the most part, very supportive and -- you know, they had that kind of historic judgment, you know, they weren't making petty, short-term decisions. I think they really gave the dean a chance to make this work in the long run and to realize a vision that wasn't the vision of Vanderbilt initially. And I think that, you know, is laudable. I think that it would have been easy to make this not work.

Dohrmann: Thank you very much.

 

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Last updated April 9, 2007 by Chris Benda.