Harley E. Flack
Richard H. Gallagher
Editor's Choice: Arthur A. Levine
The University at Buffalo is the starting point for countless careers in dozens of professions. In recent years, three UB graduates -Arthur Levine, Harley E. Flack, Richard H. Gallagher- have crowned their career climbs with appointments as university presidents. Each speaks enthusiastically about his position, candidly about key issues facing higher education, and fondly about his alma mater, and how it helped shape his life.
(UBT Spring 1995)
Arthur A. Levine, one of the nation's leading commentators on educational trends, was appointed president of Teachers' College at Columbia University on April 28, 1994. He is the ninth president in the college's 107-year history. Levine earned a doctoral degree in higher education and sociology at UB in 1976.
UB influenced Levine's career "in all kinds of ways," he recalls. "UB offered me one of the strongest programs in the United States in regard to the critical mass of its faculty. UB's was a program on the move," he says. In particular, he credits Robert O. Berdahl, former chair of higher education, for bringing him to Buffalo and helping him pursue a dual degree program.
Levine's career took off directly from Buffalo, as he was named to progressively more responsible positions at the University of California at Berkeley; Bradford College, Massachusetts, and Harvard University. As chair of higher education at Harvard, he "modeled that program and remade it to look like UB."
Like his counterparts at other universities, Levine states that his current position is the most challenging of his career to date. He also lists among his career highlights the position of president at Bradford College: "Being president of a small college was always one of my goals." He held that position from 1982 to 1989. During this time, in 1988, Dr. Levine was named a distinguished alumnus of UB's Graduate School of Education.
Demographic, economic, global and technological changes in American society are the major issues that challenge higher education today, according to Levine. "The university today was designed for an industrial society. We're experiencing demographic, economic, global and technological change of unusually large proportions. When society changes, all its social institutions, including colleges and universities, are left behind," he states. "What's required is a period of adjustment, a period of time, for universities to catch up. The last time higher education was faced with this massive of a change was during the industrial revolution. "Current changes are going to remake the nature of the university," Levine predicts. He uses technology as an example.
"We're now at the point where someone at UB can give a lecture and I can hear it in New York and we can have the sense of being in the same classroom. The question this raises is: 'Why do we need the physical plant we call the university?' Universities are being beaten up by all the changes," he says.
Affordability of higher education is, in Levine's opinion, "another huge issue. "The long-range issue is that higher education is changing fundamentally, and funding historically has been considered a problem. There are other priorities, such as highways, prisons and health care, where dollars are going instead. Higher education is a mature industry. Over 50 percent of all high school graduates go on to college, and I can't find a legislator who agrees that the percentage should be 60 or 70. Funding is not being put into mature industries." Well into his first year as president of Teachers' College, Levine continues to set ambitious goals. "Educational schools historically have not shaped the national agenda on education," he says. "I have a chance here to try and rebuild for the future of education."
By Diane Zwirecki