Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John W. Oswald, August 12, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Index
X
00:00:02 - Background information on the Maine Chance Farm

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Dr. Oswald, I thought we’d start this morning by, uh, reviewing at least, uh, some of the--some of your recollections regarding the Maine Chance Farm.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. John Oswald discusses the Maine Chance Farm and why the University of Kentucky would want to purchase it. He talks about attempting to convince the owner to gift the land to the university.

Keywords: Agricultural experiments; Agricultural research; Coldstream Farm; Development Council; Farms; Gifts; Land; Maine Chance Farm; Newspapers; Publicity; Spindletop

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; Property--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Administration.; University of Kentucky

00:07:16 - Decision to purchase the Maine Chance Farm

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, so I really was, uh, uh, I must say, quite taken back as we approach, uh--that when it came on, uh, the market, uh, uh, I believe through a New York bank...

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the University of Kentucky's decision to purchase the Maine Chance Farm. He talks about the various supporters of the decision, including the state governor. He talks about his conversation with Louis Haggin, president of the Keeneland Foundation Association, about the reactions they could expect to receive when announcing this decision.

Keywords: Bull Hancock; Funds; Governors; Horse farms; Keeneland Foundation Association; Louis Haggin; Maine Chance Farm; Negotiations; Purchases; Robert Kerley; University of Kentucky Research Foundation

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; Property--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky

00:12:12 - Beginning of the controversy over buying Maine Chance Farm

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And, uh, and then, uh, to, to make a long story short, uh, uh, which, uh, it wasn’t a short story--

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the controversy that began surrounding UK's attempt to purchase the Maine Chance Farm. He talks about the allegations that funds were misused, and the suspicion surrounding the reasons for UK's purchase of the property. He talks about the resulting lawsuit and the attorneys involved. He talks about the people criticizing or questioning the purchase, and their reasons for doing so. He talks about receiving the support of the board of trustees and the press on this issue. He talks about the personal issues occurring at the same time that made the situation more difficult.

Keywords: Allegations; Arnold Pessin; Attorney General; Board of trustees; Controversy; Difficulty; Governors; Judge Joseph Johnson, III; Kentucky Kernel newspaper; Lawsuits; Legal trouble; Legislative Audit Committee; Legislative Research Commission; Louis Haggin; Maine Chance Farm; Misuse of funds; Objections; Operations; Opposition; Press; Publicity; Purchases; Rex Ellsworth; Rosanel Oswald; Support; Taxes; University of Kentucky Research Foundation

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; College presidents' spouses; College publicity; Property--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky

00:22:56 - Bidding on the Maine Chance Farm

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What about the controversy over the, uh, the bid process?

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses the process of bidding to purchase the Maine Chance Farm. He talks about when he found out about the other bidders. He talks more about the suspicions some had about why UK was interested in the property.

Keywords: Allegations; Arnold Pessin; Bid process; Buying; Justification; Keeneland Foundation Association; Louis Haggin; Maine Chance Farm; Purchases; Rex Ellsworth; Robert Kerley

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; College publicity; Property--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky

00:28:21 - Judge Joe Johnson's opposition to the university's purchase of Maine Chance Farm

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did you ever talk to Joe Johnson? Did you know him very well?

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses one of the people opposed to UK's purchase of Maine Chance Farm, Judge Joe Johnson, III. He talks about his relationship with Johnson, and discusses why Johnson may have been opposed to the purchase.

Keywords: Board of trustees; Frank McVey, Jr.; Friends; Irrational; Judge Joseph Johnson, III; Maine Chance Farm; Motives; Opposition; Politics; Purchases; Support; Taxes; Unanswered questions

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; College publicity; Property--Kentucky; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky

00:33:59 - Maine Chance lawsuit

Play segment

Partial Transcript: But now I honestly--we, we, uh, we decided that, uh, uh, this was serious enough and, uh, and, uh tr--and the, uh, uh--that, uh, that we ought to, uh, uh, get counsel beyond John Darsie, uh, uh, who was the University counsel.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the legal counsel the university hired to represent them during the lawsuit over the purchase of the Maine Chance Farm. He talks briefly about the attempts to discredit him before the trial began. He talks about the person in charge of the university's public relations, Glen Creech, and discusses how he felt about him.

Keywords: Controversy; Depositions; Discrediting; Duplicity; Glen Creech; John Darsie; Judge Joseph Johnson, III; Lawsuits; Legal counsel; Louis Haggin; Loyalty; Maine Chance Farm; Purchases; Robert Kerley; Rufus Lisle; Rumors; Scandals; Vice president of university relations

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; College publicity; Property--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky

00:41:08 - Attempts to discredit him before the Maine Chance trial

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, coming back now to Maine Chance and I’ll close off.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks more about the attempts that were made to discredit him before he testified during the Maine Chance trial. He explains the controversy that was caused because he purchased new dishes and other items for Maxwell Place, then purchased those items from the university nearing the end of his tenure as president. He talks about which members of the board of trustees and other people at the university were involved in discrediting him or giving him poor advice regarding the situation.

Keywords: Approval; Board of trustees; Controversy; Depositions; Discrediting; Dishes; Dr. Albert Kirwan; Glen Creech; Loyalty; Maine Chance Farm; Purchases; Ralph Angelucci; Robert Kerley; Scandals; Support; Testifying; Witnesses

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; College publicity; Property--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky

00:50:28 - Testifying at the Maine Chance trial

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, so, uh, the trial went on for, uh, for--I was on the stand for, uh, uh, for something like eight hours.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses the testimony he provided at the trial surrounding the purchase of the Maine Chance Farm. He talks about his experience being on the stand, whether the rumors that were used to try to discredit him were mentioned at the trial, and his explanations for the issues raised at the trial. He talks about why he left the state immediately after his testimony.

Keywords: Airports; Attorneys; Centennial; Chicago (Ill.); Controversy; Corrections; Discrediting; Dr. Albert Kirwan; Europe; Glen Creech; Haggin Fund; House rental; Illness; John Darsie; Judges; Jury; Leaving; Loyalty; Maine Chance Farm; Maxwell Place; Purchases; Recuperation; Robert Kerley; Rosanel Oswald; Rufus Lisle; Rumors; Scandals; Testimony

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; College presidents--Dwellings; College publicity; Property--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky

01:01:05 - Relationships with those involved in the Maine Chance issue after the trial

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, uh, now, Kerley I've kept touch with.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about how his relationships with Kerley, Angelucci, Kirwan, and Creech changed after the trial. He talks about some of the people he says were not aware of his purchase of the items from Maxwell Place that caused controversy during the Maine Chance issue.

Keywords: Board of trustees executive committee; Contact; Controversy; Dishes; Disloyal; Dr. Albert Kirwan; Family; Friendships; George Griffin; Lexington (Ky.); Loyalty; Maine Chance Farm; Married; Pennsylvania State University; Purchases; Ralph Angelucci; Richard Cooper; Robert H. Hillenmeyer; Robert Kerley; Sam Ezelle; University of California, Berkeley

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; Property--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; University of Kentucky

01:09:06 - More on personal controversy surrounding the Maine Chance trial

Play segment

Partial Transcript: If, uh--and, uh, this all was, uh, uh, disturbing.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about what it was like to be called back to Kentucky for the trial after moving back to California. He talks about Kirwan's opinions of his testimony during the trial. He talks more about the personal issues and rumors about him that were brought up around the time of the Maine Chance trial, including his purchase of items from Maxwell Place. He talks about the policies at UK regarding his phone bills and car rentals.

Keywords: Allegations; Alma Haggin; Bureaucracy; Business calls; California; Car rentals; Careers; Dishes; Dr. Albert Kirwan; Glen Creech; Jury tampering; Maine Chance Farm; Personal calls; Phone bills; Ralph Angelucci; Robert Kerley; Rosanel Oswald; Rufus Lisle; Rumors; Testimony

Subjects: Campus planning.; College facilities--Planning.; College publicity; Property--Kentucky; United States--Trials, litigation, etc.; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Universities and colleges--Public relations; University of Kentucky

01:19:03 - National social climate in 1967 and the effects on universities

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now, you want to go on to 1968? Or--

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the social climate in America surrounding the Vietnam War, the draft, president Johnson's social programs, and civil rights. He talks about the unrest this caused on college campuses with students becoming involved in social activism. He talks about student protests at the University of Kentucky and the University of California. He talks about how the draft for the Vietnam War changed the student body at the University of Kentucky, and what effect that had on the atmosphere at the university.

Keywords: "Gripe sessions"; Activist movements; Age; Army; Arthur Goldberg; Avoiding draft; Changes; Controversy; Draft; Finance; Free speech movement; Graduate students; Idealism; Korea; Lyndon B. Johnson; Picketing; Social attitudes; Social programs; Student demographics; Turmoil; University of California; Unrest; Vietnam War; Violence; Young faculty

Subjects: Campus violence; College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Political activity.; College students--Social conditions; College teachers--Political activity; College teachers--Social conditions; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Student protesters; Universities and colleges--Faculty.

01:31:17 - University presidents' relationships with politicians

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, during the, during the, uh, during the, uh, uh, election, uh, of, uh, of 1967, particularly in the fall...

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the Kentucky elections in 1967, during which Louie Nunn ran for governor. He talks about Happy Chandler's support of Nunn and discusses rumors that Chandler would be the next president of the University of Kentucky. Oswald talks about Nunn's opinions of him. He talks about the political issues his mentor Clark Kerr was involved with at the University of California, including Ronald Reagan's appointment to the board of trustees. He discusses Kerr's dismissal as president of the university.

Keywords: Chairman of the board; Clark Kerr; Controversy; Dismissed; Governor Happy Chandler; Governor Louie B. Nunn; Governors; Henry Ward; Issues; Liberals; Maine Chance Farm; Political campaigns; Removal; Ronald Reagan; Rumors; Student unrest; Supporters; University presidents; Vote of confidence

Subjects: College administrators--Rating of; College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College presidents; College students--Political activity.; Politics and government; Universities and colleges--Administration.; University of Kentucky

01:41:55 - Fighting attempts to ban a Communist speaker on campus

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And at the same time, uh--generally about the same time, uh, as, uh, as speakers were coming on campus, uh, and there were different types of events held on campus that began to get the attention of, of, uh, the public, uh, the SDS meeting on campus and--

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the controversy that occurred when an author who had written books on Communism came to speak at the University of Kentucky. He talks about the people who wanted to ban the speaker from campus and talks about the stand he took against the ban.

Keywords: Activists; American Legion; Banning; Book burning; Communism; Communists; Controversy; Dr. Herbert Aptheker; Educational opportunities; Julian Carroll; Legislators; Librarians; Open forums; Speaker ban law; Stuart Forth

Subjects: College environment; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Political activity.; College students--Social conditions; Universities and colleges--Administration.

01:48:09 - Fighting attempts to ban the Students for Democratic Society

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The next one was even more serious.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the beginning of a group called the Students for Democratic Society, and discusses the reactions to the group. He talks about legislation created to ban the group and to fire professors who encouraged draft-dodging. He talks about the stand he took against these legislative acts.

Keywords: Activists; Age; Avoiding draft; Banning; Conferences; Draft; Firing; Freedom of speech; Graduate students; Legislation; Louisville Courier-Journal; Newspaper articles; Rationale; Role of universities; Statements; Student leadership; Students for Democratic Society (SDS); Support; Vietnam War; Wendell Berry

Subjects: College environment; College publicity; College students--Political activity.; College students--Social conditions; College teachers--Political activity; College teachers--Social conditions; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.

01:52:31 - Controversy over the Committee on Un-American Activities

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The third was the--uh, during this same legislative session the Kentucky Legislature formed a Committee on Un-American Activities.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the formation of the Kentucky Committee on Un-American Activities and the position he took on the issue. He talks about Governor Nunn attempting to have a UK professor fired for bringing a lawsuit against the committee, and talks about the statement he gave defending the professor's position.

Keywords: Committee on Un-American Activities; Dissent; Governor Louie B. Nunn; Kentucky Legislature; Law school faculty; Lawsuits; Public issues; Robert Sedler; Statements; Support

Subjects: College environment; College teachers--Political activity; College teachers--Social conditions; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.

01:57:43 - Statement on academic freedom

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The fourth issue was the one that I think stimulated me to, to put together this document.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about the Fayette County Grand Jury's attempts to control the activities of the University of Kentucky, which resulted in him making a public statement on the purpose of universities. He talks about the importance of academic freedom at a university to allow research and scholarship without fear of repercussions. He talks about the reactions of the board of trustees, the press, and other universities to his statement. Oswald talks more about Happy Chandler's opinion of him.

Keywords: Academic freedom; Alumni; Athletic directors; Attitudes; Board meetings; Controversy; Dissent; Fayette County Grand Jury; Functions; Governing board; Governor Happy Chandler; Land Grant Association; Louisville Courier-Journal; Opinions; Public; Purpose; Relationship with students; Statement; Support; William McCubbin

Subjects: College administrators; College environment; College presidents; College students--Political activity.; College students--Social conditions; College teachers--Political activity; College teachers--Social conditions; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Student protesters; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.

02:08:46 - Resignation from the University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Tell me about getting to know Louie Nunn.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about his relationship with Governor Louie Nunn. He talks about the rumors that he was going to leave the university, and talks about the reactions when he announced his resignation.

Keywords: Advice; Board of trustees executive committee; Conservatism; Governor Louie B. Nunn; Progress; Ralph Angelucci; Reactions; Relationships; Resignation; Resigning; Statement; Student demonstrations; University of California

Subjects: College administrators; College environment; College presidents; Universities and colleges--Administration.

02:16:47 - Reasons for his resignation--Part I

Play segment

Partial Transcript: If you could, uh, you know looking back on it after these many years, uh, you know, try to think back to when you made that decision to leave.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald discusses his reasons for leaving the university as well as the factors that did not affect his decision to leave. He talks about leaving the University of Kentucky for the University of California, which he says he knew would be a more difficult position. He talks about other job offers he received over the years. He talks about how his wife's illness factored in to his decision to go to California.

Keywords: Board of trustees; Chancellors; Charlie Hitch; Clark Kerr; Contact; Criticism; Decisions; Entertaining; Faculty; Finance; Heart attack; Illness; Issues; Leaving; Pennsylvania State University; President's house; Pressure; Problems; Progress; Rapport; Reasons; Relationship with students; Relationships; Resignation; Resigning; Responsibilities; Ronald Reagan; Rosanel Oswald; Salary; University of California

Subjects: College administrators; College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College environment; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; Universities and colleges--Administration.

02:28:47 - Reasons for his resignation--Part II

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let me ask you this, Dr. Oswald. When, when you came to Kentucky, how long did you want to stay? How long did you think you’d stay?

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about how long he had planned to stay at the University of Kentucky. He talks about the controversial issues surrounding him that made him less effective. He talks about the tenure of university presidents at the time, and discusses his philosophy of opening himself up to opportunities. He talks more about knowing he was leaving UK and going to a more difficult position in California.

Keywords: Changes; Clark Kerr; Controversy; Effectiveness; Factors; Free speech movement; Governor Happy Chandler; Governor Louie B. Nunn; Illness; Opportunities; Pennsylvania State University; Prognosis; Progress; Quality; Reasons; Resignation; Resigning; Retirement; Rosanel Oswald; Speculation; Staying; Steve Diachun; Support; Tenure; University of California; University of Michigan

Subjects: College administrators; College administrators--Selection and appointment.; College environment; College presidents; College presidents' spouses; Universities and colleges--Administration.

02:43:12 - Greatest contributions to the University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now if you, i--you know, if you--I had one other little element here and I don't know if you want this or not but, but, uh, you're o--I'm, I've been often asked what do I feel my greatest contributions were.

Segment Synopsis: Oswald talks about what he considers to be his greatest contributions to UK. He talks about increasing interest in the university, improving the faculty and curriculum, and beginning the community college system, among other contributions. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Board of trustees; Curriculum; Deans; Impact; Interest; Leadership; Liberal arts education; Pride; Progress; Quality of education; Support; University of Kentucky Medical Center

Subjects: College administrators--Rating of; College environment; College presidents; College teachers--Rating of.; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Educational change--Kentucky; Educators; Universities and colleges--Administration.; Universities and colleges--Curricula.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; Universities and colleges--Ratings and rankings.; University of Kentucky. Community College System