Emory Report

April 27, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 30

Chace: Frye's suggestions
will strengthen Emory

The professional academic administrator can be a success in every aspect of his or her career-a wizard at finances, a master of the curriculum, a past master of juggling personnel, a tireless chair of committees, a patient counselor to faculty and students alike, and a Job-like presence amid endless crises-and yet somehow not become wise.

To gain wisdom, that last necessary ingredient to true success in the world of academic administration, is to have been able to create and then sustain a secure vision of what the entire enterprise of learning and teaching means.

The gaining of that wisdom is the fruit of experience, but it is more than that. It is the result of experience coupled with the ability to subject that experience, steadily and consistently, to a high standard of interpretation that asks the same important questions again and again: what are we doing and why are we doing it? To what good educational end are we employing our scarce resources? How will the students benefit? How will the faculty be encouraged and rewarded? How will posterity judge us?

The document that follows is one part of the considerable wisdom of Chancellor Billy Frye, for nine years the provost of Emory University and for six years before that the occupant of this same position at the University of Michigan. The author, in 1994, of Choices & Responsibility, Dr. Frye now suggests ways in which the university could rely upon the values of that earlier document in order to bring forward a stronger Emory.

Dr. Frye's vision, as articulated here, is also meant to serve as a stimulus for further debate and discussion about the true mission of a strong research university. To that end, he inquires into Emory's history during the last 162 years and imagines the next steps that it could take if it is true that the past of any institution is but the prologue to its future. He correctly touches upon the Methodist heritage that is one of Emory's most precious assets in its development as a university with a moral conscience. He sees the ways in which collaboration across scholarly disciplines will reinvigorate or even revolutionize research and teaching. He notes that new digital technologies will change our ways of doing things and that what we do will become more international while, at the same time, we will become more cognizant of our nearest neighbors, the citizens of Atlanta. And he adds his voice to those who are aware of the immense duty we have to our own place on the face of the earth: our campus home, its buildings, its open spaces, its beauty and its vulnerability, its value as a haven for reflection. At the end, Dr. Frye's vision can help all of us see what he has seen: "an excellent institution that is at once powerful in its intelligence, moral in its sensibilities, global in its perspective, and distinctive in its cast."

Billy Frye's wisdom also consists in his recognition that this document is meant to open our eyes to the prospect of an Emory that is stronger, richer in its intellectual resources, and more coherent than the Emory of today; it is not meant to dictate the precise steps that must be taken to create that better Emory. As he says, A Vision for Emory is "not a map, but a compass." The faculty of today should let the document serve as one important means to orient themselves to the academic world of tomorrow. Students should read the document as a way of understanding the complexity of all those circumstances that together can create the best kind of teaching. Trustees should let the document remind them of both the history of the institution and the many options for how the next chapters of its development could be written. And friends of Emory-alumni and others-can read A Vision for Emory as a mirror reflecting their memories of the university and their hopes for its future.

For everyone who cares about Emory, the ultimate value of this document resides in the valuable wisdom of a witness to the academic world for half a century. That witness-a teacher, scholar, and administrator-has seen much of what has been good at Emory as well as what has been good elsewhere. He now sets forth his imaginative and visionary grasp of what could be even better.

William M. Chace

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