Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Harvard Raises $5 Billion in 15 Months

Harvard's Widener Library.
The Harvard Campaign received $5 billion in gifts and pledges in the 15 months ending December 31, 2014. This is:
  • Nearly 77 percent of the $6.5-billion goal announced in September 2013.
  • It is on top of $2.8 billion of prior commitments. 
  • The $5 billion includes $2.2 billion in gifts and pledges.
The $5 billion updates the $4.3-billion total announced June 30, adding:
  • A $350-million gift to the Harvard School of Public Health.
  • A gift of $60-$75 million (the total was not disclosed) from Steve Ballmer ’77 for a dozen computer-science professorships in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, announced in November. 
  • Gifts for the fall launches of campaigns by the Graduate School of Design, the Graduate School of Education, and the Medical School.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Financial History of Cambridge - Comments

Nothing like this for Oxford yet.
Not much has been published about the financial history of Oxford and Cambridge.

The exception that proves the rule is a book by Robert Neild (Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and Emeritus Professor of Economics) about The Financial History of Cambridge University reviewed in Oxford Today (November 2012).

This book was published by the Thames River Press, the website of which makes clear it specializes in recherché books. The Press reports that it relies heavily on its authors to do their own book marketing.

Meanwhile no similar history seems yet been published about the finances of Oxford, other than in a section of a book about the Oxford University Press. What is readily available is an aggregated endowment comparison showing Cambridge in first place among UK universities with an endowment of £4.9 billion as of 2013. Oxford is in second place with £4.03 billion; both university totals include their college endowments.

The lack of data is important, because negative consequences for students and faculty follow from the financial starvation of educational institutions or the misdirection of resources.

Alumni are in a position to improve that situation. Higher education has long been supported by democratic governments. Educated giving is twice blessed - for the graduates who give and for the universities who receive.

The Three Ages of Cambridge Finances

Neild writes about three ages of Cambridge University financing. I will give them my own names:
  • Medieval - from the original march of disgruntled Oxford scholars to the fens up to, say, 1939.
  • Meritocratic - from World War II to Margaret Thatcher.
  • Bitterly disappointing - from Thatcher's initiation of greatly reduced funding and tighter controls to the present.

I comment from the perspective of someone who has spent a lot of time officially reviewing government and nonprofit budgets - and unofficially as a curious student of university budgets and endowments on both sides of the Atlantic.

1. Medieval Practices - from the Migration of Oxford Scholars to 1939

The thrust of Neild's financial history seems to be that prior to World War II, both Cambridge and Oxford engaged in medieval practices compared with their modernizing private-sector contemporaries. The sunlight of information penetrated a growing share of capital-driven businesses,  but ironically not so much to the shadows of academic enclaves.

University investments tended to be in land, and agricultural land was still preferred - Cambridge and the colleges were slow to move away from physical estates to stocks and bonds. The name "Estates Bursar" is still used widely for the person who manages college endowments, an indicator of colleges' continued, perhaps wistful, focus on property rents as a source of non-tuition income.

For the 37 years between 1883 and 1920, agricultural land was not a reliable investment. The clever investing in stocks initiated by John Maynard Keynes at King's College was a rarity. Trinity College, Cambridge was just lucky, says Neild, that its exchange of one poorly performing agricultural property for another better-performing one turned out to be a financial coup. The 7th Duke of Devonshire showed what could be done by investing in steel and ship-building, and his money financed the Cavendish Lab.

Neild says that tuition policies were egalitarian. In 1842, a nobleman paid £16 in tuition whereas a student on financial assistance paid 15/-.  Fundraising is nothing new - appeals for aid were frequently made to those with deep pockets.

2. 1940s-1970s (World War II to Thatcher) - the Golden Age of Meritocracy

The equalizing influence of World War II led the British Government to seek to make the country's higher education system more meritocratic, and funded students to go to university.

Universities had suffered from price inflation during the war, and the British Government - like the U.S. Government with its G.I. Bill - sought to reward its military veterans, those who survived, with access to higher education.

The system of financial support for scholars that the postwar British Government put in place, along with National Health, came with some general guidelines to ensure that the elite universities were admitting their share of worthy commoners.

At some Oxbridge colleges (I know Trinity College, Oxford was one), dons seeking a more diverse student body went round to grammar schools to encourage them to attend their college. If it was a golden age, it was because the universities were given a third-party-funded source of tuition income from a broad range of graduating secondary-school students, and Oxbridge could pick from the best and brightest.

No wonder the medieval custom of appealing for money from well-off Old Members fell into disuse. (When I told an incoming President of Trinity College, Oxford that I, as the College's Rep in the USA, wrote an appeal letter in November every year on behalf of the college to American alumni, he asked me, seriously: "Why do you do that?" I have been assured that none of the Presidents since that one would ask this question.)

3. Since the 1970s - Bitter Disappointment

Neild was appointed a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1971 and may be reflecting his own disappointment in describing what happened to Cambridge finances in the third phase. When "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, bent on making Britain more efficient and reduce the burden on taxpayers, she was determined to make higher education less dependent on government aid.

She - and subsequent Prime Ministers - told British universities that they should emulate the American model and view perennial fund-raising from alumni as a natural way of getting back from university graduates the proven contribution to their lifetime incomes of a university education.

Government grants to universities for research were subjected to more rigorous competition at the same time as money was cut from tuition support.

An increasingly desired attribute of a prospective Head of College was an ability to bring in money from alumni, corporations, foundations or governments. Universities by the 1990s had formidable fund-raising arms, replicated at the college level by alumni relations officers and development officers.

While a new equilibrium may be emerging, and recent fundraising successes at both Oxford and Cambridge suggest that they have adapted well to the post-Thatcher climate - newer universities are having a more difficult time - the new environment may not be to the satisfaction of those who liked the Golden Age.

Certainly, something had been lost from the calmness of the pre-Thatcher days when careers of all kinds were less competitive and academics one could think at one's own pace and with a wider latitude for eccentricity and introversion.    

Financing of the Cambridge Colleges

Neild's comments about the financial practices at King's College under Keynes and at his own college, Trinity, have led me to wonder whether it would be possible to compare the Cambridge colleges over time.

As a first cut at this question, I have used a spreadsheet to look at data on the fixed assets of the Cambridge colleges based on how old they are, using Neild's cutoff of World War II rather than the traditional distinction at Cambridge between the 16 "old" colleges being only the ones founded before 1596.

My hypothesis is that the older (pre-World War II) colleges were better able in general to cope with the cuts during the Thatcher era because of their larger resources, but that some newer colleges with special missions had a few advantages because they were known to be addressing weak points in the Cambridge university college structure, such as lower accessibility to higher education for women and older students.

In about 2006 - based on available data - Cambridge colleges had 11,802 undergraduates in residence and 6,489 graduates - 18,264 total students (components don't add up because students can be counted twice if they change status during the year).

The colleges had £4,375 million in fixed assets. In the United States, we would call that £4.4 billion - an average of £240,000 per student.

Of the total fixed assets, £3.9 billion represents the fixed assets of the 21 colleges established before World War II. That amounts to an average of £187.2 million per college.

The next group of colleges are three established as institutions in the City of Cambridge but not brought within the university until after World War II. These three colleges had an average total fixed assets of £61.8 million.

Finally, seven colleges were newly established since World War II. They had average fixed assets of £37.1 million.

I plan to drill down on this some more, but in the meantime would be interested in comments - either posted, or sent direct to me at john (at)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

OXFORD BOOKS: Blackwell's Office

Peter Berry showing how Basil Blackwell (see
portrait) would whistle downstairs for help. 
OXFORD, UK– I was one of only two people to take the half-hour tour of Basil Blackwell's office in Oxford one day last week.

So I can tell you what a great tour it was without fear that for the time being it will be too crowded when you show up (tour times are at the end of this review).

First, our tour guide, Peter Berry – an official Oxford guide – showed us the original footprint of the Blackwell's second-hand bookshop founded in 1879 by Basil Blackwell's father, Benjamin Henry Blackwell (1849-1924). It is marked on the floor in black.

When more than one customer at a time came into the original shop, says Peter, the piled-up books left no room for Mr. Blackwell. His solution was to retreat through the rear entrance and wait until it became clearer which of the two customers was serious about buying a book.

Blackwell's expanded first by taking over the shop next door.
The Whistler tube. A photo of the
Merton crew on which Basil
Blackwell rowed is on the wall.

Basil Blackwell

It was left to Basil Blackwell (1881-1984), Benjamin's son, to turn the company into an empire.

Basil was the first in the family to go to university. He attended Magdalen College School and then Merton College, where rowed for the first eight.

From various accoutrements of his office it is clear he was proud of his rowing days.

Basil Blackwell's Merton
College oar as pen.
Basil Blackwell apprenticed to booksellers in London, then joined his father's firm in 1913. He stayed on in his father's business and brought it upmarket, selling new books and then becoming a publisher of b ooks and journals, to the point where it became a giant conglomerate within the English-Speaking world.

Benjamin Blackwell died in 1924. Basil  Blackwell went to work adding shops, expanding them, and publishing books and journals.
The Gaffer's fireplace, with Delft
tiles all round.

Basil Blackwell was called "the Gaffer", an English colloquial reference to someone who is older and is the boss. J. R. R. Tolkien has a character in The Lord of the Rings named Gaffer. The character is probably named after Basil Blackwell because Blackwell was Tolkien's first publisher. They both went to Merton...

The original two Blackwell's shops.
Gaffer had his office on the second floor of the original bookshop, overlooking the Broad and the Sheldonian Theater. He had a sign saying "GAFFER" on his desk. He used a whistling tube to call for help from the staff downstairs. He had his own telephone switchboard, which had toggles for answering, muting and transferring.

The Record-Setting Norrington Room

With nowhere to go to the left or the right (hemmed in by the White Horse on one side and the New Bodleian Library, now called the Weston Library, on the other), Blackwell's was forced to expand to the rear.
The Gaffer's desk.

Eventually, Sir Arthur Norrington, President of Trinity College when I was in residence there, negotiated a hugely beneficial deal for both the shop and the College. The Norrington Room is built underneath Trinity College's library – a solution to Blackwell's space needs that provides a healthy source of rental income to Trinity.

The Norrington Room is listed by Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest single room selling books, with 160,000 books for sale on three miles of shelving.

At its peak in perhaps 2002, Blackwell's had 70 bookshops and at least 800 journals.

The other member of our tour
checking out the phone system.
Sir Basil's Honors

Sir Basil Blackwell died in 1984. He is remembered and honored for many causes, mostly public-spirited, that he championed:
  • He was the bookseller who helped break the infamous "Ring" that colluded to close off open competition in auctions, "taking bread from the mouths of the widows and orphans" of Oxford scholars. 
  • He was knighted in 1956 by Queen Elizabeth II, the only bookseller ever to receive that honor.
  • That year he was given the honorary Freedom of the City of Oxford. 
  • In 1959 he was elected to an honorary Fellowship at Merton. 
  • In 1979 he was awarded a Doctorate of Civil Law honoris causa at the Oxford Encaenia.
  • In 1966 he was a prosecution witness in the private prosecution attempt to bar the book Last Exit to Brooklyn from UK publication
The Sheldonian, viewed from the Gaffer's office. 
After his death,  Basil Blackwell's heirs sold off the journals publishing arm to Wiley-Blackwell for close to $1 billion. Only one member of the family, Toby Blackwell, was eventually left in the business, which is now partly employee-owned.

Tour Information

Tours are conducted from mid-January through the last Friday in March. They are offered six times per week - Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, at 11 am and 2 pm. The tours meet in the front of the original store, marked out in black on the floor.

More Oxford Bios.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

OXFORD RIOT | 93 Dead on Feb. 10 (Updated May 11, 2016)

St. Scholastica (480-542), Twin Sister of St.
Oxford was the scene of a riot on Feb. 10, St Scholastica Day. That was in 1355, 660 years ago.

It all started with a heated argument over drinks in the  Swindlestock Tavern, where St Aldate's now intersects with Queen Street. I have provided a photo of the current location below.

Two University students – Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield – tangled with the tavern owner, John Croidon. The students had the temerity to suggest that Croidon was a swindler, that his drinks were of poor quality.

After an argument they threw their drinks in Croidon's face. He retaliated and then followed armed clashes.

Centuries later, in the 1850s, students continued to view St. Scholastica’s Day as an opportunity for confrontation.

Why Would Scholastica Cause a Riot?

Marker of the Swindlestock Tavern
location in Oxford. Photo by JTMarlin.
Was there anything about Scholastica (c. 480-542) that would inspire students to complain about their drinks to a tavern owner?

Not obviously. A saint of the both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia, Umbria, after whom the Popes through Benedict XVI were named. She and Benedict were raised  in a wealthy family until the time he left to study in Rome.

Benedictine tradition holds that Scholastica lived in a convent at Plumbariola about five miles from Monte Cassino, the first Benedictine convent. Scholastica would visit her brother annually at a location near his abbey, and they would spend the day together, worshiping and discussing sacred texts.

Scholastica Didn't Take No for an Answer

A story that might inspire a student is one about her brother Benedict's paying her one of his visits, when they are both elderly. He decides it is time to leave according to his own Rule. She asks him to stay and he says no.

Then Scholastica closes her hands in prayer and a storm then immediately starts outside their guest house. Benedict frowns and asks: "What have you done?"

She replies innocently: "I asked you and you would not listen. Then I asked my God, and He did." So Benedict is unable to return to his monastery, and they continue their discussions long into the night.

According to Gregory's Dialogues, three days later, from his cell, Benedict saw his sister's soul leaving the earth and ascending to heaven in the form of a shining white dove. Benedict had her body brought to his monastery and laid in the tomb he had prepared for himself. Scholastica is now the patron saint of nuns, and convulsive children, and is invoked against storms and rain.

The Oxford Riot

The Oxford riot back in 1355 was actually no laughing matter. Oxford's Mayor, John de Bereford, asked the Chancellor of the University, Humphrey de Cherlton, to arrest the two students who had complained about the tavern owner's wine. Instead, 200 students came to the support of the two students (Spryngeheuse and Chesterfield). Then locals poured in on behalf of the tavern owner. The Town-Gown riot lasted two days.

The aftermath was 63 scholars dead and 30 local residents. The riot was on top of earlier riots in Oxford that resulted in another 90 deaths.

The rioting scholars were eventually pacified and the University was in due course judged to be the victim. As penance, every year, on February 10, the Mayor and Councillors of Oxford were required to march bareheaded through the streets. In addition, each year they were required to pay a fine to the university of a penny for every scholar killed, 5s/3d annually. The penance ended in 1825, when the Mayor of Oxford unilaterally decided that this had gone on long enough and refused to comply any more.

On February 10, 1955, on the 600th anniversary of the riots, Town and Gown were reconciled:
  • The Mayor of Oxford was given an honorary degree.
  • The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University was made an Honorary Freeman.

Butler, Alban. "St. Scholastica", The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, Vol. I,
   D. & J. Sadlier, & Company, 1864.
Gregory the Great, Dialogues, Book II, Chapters 33 and 34.
Koenig, Chris. "Rioting over wine led to 90 deaths", The Oxford Times.
Miller, Carol M., The St. Scholastica Day Riot: Oxford after the Black Death, Tallahassee (Florida)
   Community College, USA.
Morris, James. Oxford. Harcourt, 1965, 69.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

TRINITY: Pitt Society lunch, 2015

Here I am at Trinity College, Oxford for the William Pitt
Society Lunch today. The College's chapel is behind me.
Photo: Alice Tepper Marlin.
OXFORD, U.K., Feb. 7, 2015 - Today I attended with Alice the William Pitt Society lunch, honoring William Pitt "the Elder", 1st Earl of Chatham.

Pitt is one of three British Prime Ministers who studied at Trinity, the other two being Lords Wilmington (Spencer Compton, the second Prime Minister after Robert Walpole) and North. Pitt's portrait hangs over high table; Lord North's portrait is less prominently positioned.

Pitt is the visionary who assembled the British Empire. He is "remembered as the architect of the victories of the Seven Years War, in which  Canada and parts of India and Africa were conquered", says the Pitt Society program.

In the Trinity chapel, at an excellent
music recital (piano, choir, cellos) by
students. Photo: Alice Tepper Marlin.
In the 13 American colonies, Pitt's troops chased away the French and hostile Indians, under the leadership of Scotsman General Edward Braddock, George Washington's military mentor. Braddock died in the assault on Fort Duquesne, near what is now named (after Pitt) Pittsburgh. On his deathbed, Braddock gave then-Colonel Washington his battle sash. Washington wore it the rest of his life and some of his best-remembered portraits show him wearing it.

Alice and Paul Gunn. Photo by JT Marlin
Pitt the Elder made possible the independence of the 13 colonies. Lord North, Trinity's third Prime Minister, made it, shall we say,  inevitable.

The Pitt Society lunch was created in 2007 to thank, during their lifetimes, those Trinity alumni who have included a legacy to Trinity in their wills. Sir Ivor Roberts, President of Trinity, kindly noted that a letter I wrote launched the Pitt Society in 2006.

In the first year, the Society had 21 members. It now has more than 100.
Chris and John at the former Red Lion. Photo by Alice
Tepper Marlin.

Some of the alumni that Alice and I spoke with at the lunch were:
Ian Senior (1958)
Nigel Armstrong-Flemming (1958)
Mark Pellew (1961)
Arthur Thorning (1962)
Mike Baldwin (1963)
Paul Gunn (1963)
Roger Baresel (1966)
Postscript 1: I was curious why William Pitt the Younger, the 2nd Lord Chatham, was not Trinity's fourth Prime Minister. Not only did he attend a different college, he migrated all the way to Cambridge, where he took up residence at Pembroke College. The hike over the fens must have worn him out. Because he was so thin, he was called "the bottomless Pitt".

Postscript 2: That evening Paul Gunn joined Alice, Chris and me at what used to be called the Red Lion in Wolvercote, just outside Oxford. Paul lives in Stratford-upon-Avon. Back in 1962-64, Paul was on the same staircase as me at Trinity - Staircase 5 on the  front quad. (Staircase 6 is the one, I understand, where Bill Clinton attended a party at which he did not inhale.)

The late Bede Rundle, a philosophy Fellow, was also on the same staircase. I just heard that his wife has sadly also died.

The name of the Red Lion was changed - the establishment is under new management. I will some day finish this postscript 2 when I have found out the new name.