Can you tell us about where you grew up and what your childhood was like?
I basically grew up in Iowa. I was born in Iowa and went to elementary and secondary schools there in Ames, which is where Iowa State is, and went to Iowa State as an undergraduate. I had a great experience there. It’s more of a technical school than a liberal arts school, and I think it gave me a very strong background in math and science, which I promptly took and went to graduate school in economics at the University of Wisconsin. The quantitative background of those technical skills served me very well in graduate school. I graduated from Wisconsin. By that time, Lynne and I had actually married when we were at Iowa State. Our daughter was born in Madison, and then started an academic and public sector journey across America, I guess.
What are some of the places that you worked in the early years?
Well, my first teaching job was the University of Texas at Austin, and I remember getting on a plane in Madison for the interview in Madison, Wisconsin to be interviewed at the University of Texas and it was January or February, and it was below zero and the wind was whipping across the Madison, Wisconsin airport, and I got off the plane in Austin and it was 70 degrees and the sun was shining, and it hit me right then that people don’t have to live up there in the winter. We really have not gone any further north after that than Washington, DC. I was on the faculty at Austin for five years. We loved it. Lynne and I often talk about the fact that if things had turned out differently, we would probably still be in Austin. It still is a wonderful place, but it was particularly wonderful then before it was discovered by a lot of people. When I was at Texas, the fellow that had hired me when he was chairman of the economics department, was Ray Marshall, and Ray was named Secretary of Labor by Jimmy Carter when he was elected. By December 1976, I was in Washington, working for the Carter-Mondale transition team. I worked with Ray as his special assistant for a couple of years and then had told both Ray and others in the administration that I really would like to have something with direct responsibility before the end of the term. I was thinking in those days of just serving out the first term. Of course it turned out just to be one right. But…and what they visited on me was the employment and training administration of the Labor Department, which some of the listeners may remember the CETA system, which was…didn’t have exactly the best reputation as delivering efficient government services. Basically what is now called the workforce system, and my title, back in the days before they were stripped free of gender bias, was the manpower administrator back in those days. I remember one of the…well it was actually Griffin Bell, whom I had gotten to know when I was at the Labor Department. He was attorney general…said when I was named the manpower administrator, he said, “I thought Ray Marshall liked you.” It was a very controversial agency, but what it did was to give me a background other than academics and being a staff person, which I was when I worked for Ray Marshall. It was a big federal agency of $15 billion dollar budget and two or three thousand federal employees. When I came out of the Carter administration, I think I was changed by the experience that I found it, frankly I found it difficult to lock the door and write for five hours, which scholars need to do. Relatively quickly, I ended up a year and a half later as the executive vice president of Tulane. I was there until 1987, when I was selected as President of the University of Georgia.