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Proof and Memory
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Words for Fraud
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No to Guzek Case
Letting it Go
In Cold Blood I
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Walk the Line
Portland Community College
Bill Long 10/13/05
In Honor of Dr. Daniel F. Moriarty
I learned something about personal history yesterday--that sometimes it is possible to revisit the past, review its "meaning" with other people, renew connections long dormant and, at the end of the afternoon, tie up the past as if in a package with a little bow, wish it well, and then return to living. The occasion for this instructional moment was the dedication, at the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College, of the Daniel F. Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building. Dan was President of PCC from 1986-2001, and I was on the Board of Directors that hired him as President. Though people will little note nor long remember what was said at this dedication, I hope they will never forget what was done that led to the name of Daniel F. Moriarty, a person who never had set his foot on Oregonian soil 20 years ago, being affixed on a prominent building of one of the leading community colleges in America.
Taking you Back to 1985
In March 1985 PCC was confronted with a new reality on its Board of Directors: a majority (4/7) of new directors were elected in one election. The four of us (Dana Anderson, Norma Jean Germond, Dick Springer and myself) were relatively youthful: three in our 30s and one in her 40s, while the three continuing members were in their 60s or 70s. All of the younger board members were energetic and progressive, shaped by myriad forces in Oregon and national politics of the 1960s-1970s. We believed that strong neighborhoods and schools were a key index to the strength of a city.
Fueled by this optimism, we all took office in May 1985 (two months early, actually) because the President at the time, John Anthony, said he had something very important he wanted to do with the "new board." Like lambs led to slaughter, we eagerly took our seats on the Board. Within fifteen minutes of our being sworn in, Dr. Anthony asked us to declare the institution to be in financial exigency. 'Sure, John,' I thought, 'I don't know my way to the men's room, and you want me to declare the place on the ropes.' I neither knew the legal nor practical implications of that declaration (can you break labor contracts? will we lay off staff? will we cut back in operations?), but that was the way we were introduced to the college. After a divided vote to declare exigency, John thanked us and then, in the next meeting, announced he was going to become President of a new community college in Texas that Ross Perot would be building (or, at least, Perot would be building the community which would then build the college). By August he was gone, we were in exigency, I was still trying to find my way to the rest room and college constituencies were beginning to ask us, in increasingly more insistent voices, what we were doing. I knew that I didn't know what I was doing.
So we groped along as a board, hiring a superior interim President, getting bad news on a lawsuit we pursued about a tax measure submitted to the voters, and then deciding that we would pursue a "dual pronged" approach in 1985-86: (1) spend a lot of time on Presidential search and (2) go to the voters of the district for a permanent tax authorization of double the amount we had asked for unsuccessfully in August 1985 (and the August 1985 measure asked for a temporary--3 year--authorization). We hired Dr. Don Leu of Portland State to be our search consultant, and asked the talented Jerry Bieberle to staff our ballot measure (which voters approved by a wide margin in May 1986). I chaired the latter committee* and the other new board members were instrumental in visiting campuses of presidential finalists and getting crucial information on them to the rest of the board.
[*While at the building dedication yesterday, one faculty member, Michael Dembrow, mentioned that he remembered that I was on a sabbatical from Reed College while chairing this effort and that he thought the passage of the tax measure was the crucial factor in PCC's restoration of confidence. As to Michael's recalling I was on sabbatical, I know that only another faculty member would have remembered that, and only another faculty member would appreciate the trade-offs implicit in spending one's sabbatical in political activism rather than in the quiet of a library. When I got my dismissal notice from Reed College 18 months later, I wondered only for a split second whether I had made the right decision in 1985-86 to spend hundreds of hours on the tax measure rather than writing articles on ancient rhetoric and the Book of Acts. No question it was the right decision. As I look at it now, thousands of people can teach well at Reed College--and a former student of mine, Michael Foat, now ably occupies my "chair" at Reed-- but I was the only one, I believe, who could have played the role I did in 1985-86 in the tax measure's passage.]
We had three outstanding Presidential finalists of quite different temperaments and experience. What struck us most about Dan, and what in fact endeared us to him, was his combination of political savvy, humanistic commitments and deep knowledge of all aspects of community college operations. But I think it was his clarity in articulating a philosophy of community college education that swayed me. He repeated it yesterday in the dedication ceremony--that everything we do on campus, from security to parking to library to classroom space, must be driven by the concern of how it affects and whether it enhances student learning. In all my years in "elite" private higher education I have never heard anyone articulate such a refreshing, clear and obviously correct philosophy of education as had Dan Moriarty. In private higher education teachers are usually more interested in their next sabbatical or article than in the teaching/learning process; deans are more interested in how well their school is known so it can "rise" in the US News & World Reports rankings next time around; presidents are more interested in raising money, keeping a lid on the ugly stuff that happens on campus, and raising the 'image' of the school in a variety of media. But Dan Moriarty brought us all back to our roots, to the fundamental task of what we were about in higher education, and in uncompromising but winsome fashion he said it over and over again.
And he lived his philosophy. He lived as one believing in the integrity of each person, in the importance of each person's quest to keep learning, to improve the self, to be a person of dignity in that search and to enhance possibilities for economic as well as personal satisfaction through learning.
Conclusion--Getting to the Building
But, as I said before, Dan also has political savvy and knowledge of community college operations. He saw that what PCC needed in 1986, when he began, was clarity in our mission statement. And so he guided the Board to a decision in 1987 where we declared the mission of PCC to include three comprehensive campuses and one "open campus." Cascade campus, in the heart of the African-American community, would be such a comprehensive campus. And then, with the unerring precision that you don't really expect in a board of directors, for the next 18 years the board has kept to that vision. The Cascade Campus in 2005, now double the square footage it was just a few years ago, is such a comprehensive campus.
Returning to the campus yesterday, twenty years after our crucial decisions were made, brought back nostalgic feelings, gratitude for Dan's labors at PCC, a sense that concerned citizens can effect change and a feeling that I could both enjoy the past very very much but leave it where it is, deep in the memory. As Dan and I were chatting after the dedication, he said in his typical humble way that in a few years, if not already, no one will know who the "Daniel F. Moriarty" is whose name graces the building. I mused in response that no one knows the "Hodge" of Hodge Hall at Princeton, where two of his sons went to college.* Then, as we parted, I realized that I was wrong. Books have been
[*Hodge Hall, to be clear, is on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary, which is distinct now from Princeton University.]
written about Charles Hodge, certainly not because his name is on the building but because he was etched in the consciouness of a place.
And so, Dan, my final words are that you are etched in all of our hearts and in mine, too. I thank you and whatever forces control our destinies that our paths crossed in such intimately meaningful ways long ago. Human memory, certainly a mixed gift, is only playing its major chords for me today, and you, indeed, are the reason for it.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long