`Educator of the century'

More notable Marylanders

October 27, 1999|By Ross Jones

Over the past three months, The Sun's editorial page has published its Marylanders of the Century series -- profiles of 21 people who made key contributions to the community and society. We also asked readers to contribute their own Marylanders of note. Here is a selection of the responses we received:

A COLUMNIST for The Sun has suggested that Milton S. Eisenhower might qualify as Maryland's "educator of the century."

That's a fitting title for Eisenhower, the only person to serve twice as president of the Johns Hopkins University, first from 1956 to 1967, and again for a 10-month period in 1971 and 1972.

During both terms, he was the driving force in bringing vision and renewed energy to one of Maryland's premier educational institutions.

Yet he also touched the lives of countless students in a remarkable, deeply personal way. He was a mentor whose influence endures.

Budget problems

Having previously served as president of Kansas State and Penn State universities, he arrived at Hopkins in October 1956 to find a university in the doldrums, running a chronic deficit.

In the next decade, he oversaw a doubling of the endowment and a tripling of the budget, with a surplus every fiscal year. Under his leadership, some $76 million in new construction was completed.

During his first tenure, more than $100 million in private gifts was raised, doctoral production increased 40 percent, graduate enrollment doubled, and undergraduate enrollment also grew. Hopkins was back on the move.

When he was recalled from retirement in April 1971, he tackled a deficit that had grown to $4.2 million, slashed administrative bureaucracy, attacked waste and raised funds. Within 10 months, he raised $4 million from dozens of corporations and foundations, obtained $1 million from the state of Maryland, and inspired alumni to contribute $1.2 million.

Buildings, budgets and administrative decisions were only a part of Eisenhower's impact on Hopkins. He probably was the best friend the university's undergraduates ever had. He gave them his full attention in ways none of his predecessors could have imagined and set standards by which all of his successors have been measured.

For example, when he first arrived at Hopkins, Eisenhower found a quaint but chaotic degree-granting system. He saw to it that Hopkins established regular credits for undergraduate courses.

Returning from retirement in 1971, he reaffirmed his commitment to undergraduates by establishing the procedures by which recent graduates were appointed as "young trustees" of the university.

He also insisted that women be appointed to the previously all-male board of trustees.

Any student could drop by his office, and many visited his home. Part of their fascination with him stemmed from his incredible background and career.

Youngest son

Born on Sept. 15, 1899, in Abilene, Kansas, he was President Dwight D. Eisenhower's youngest brother -- and a living history text himself, thanks to encounters or personal relationships with William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle.

In nearly 50 years of government service, often as an unpaid adviser, he provided invaluable assistance to eight presidents, from Coolidge through Nixon. He was unquestionably his brother's closest confidant during the Eisenhower administration, and he often served as chairman of major presidential commissions.

Eisenhower remembered the Abilene of his childhood as an isolated place where kindly, insightful people would help a bright young person reach the world beyond. He never forgot that experience, and years later he would counsel many students in the same way.

Those Hopkins undergraduates who got to know him well have referred to that friendship as one of the greatest learning experiences of their lives.

In their 1983 biography of Eisenhower, historians Stephen E. Ambrose and Richard H. Immerman dedicated the book to the students of Kansas State, Penn State and Hopkins, declaring: "You are his legacy."

Ross Jones, vice president and secretary emeritus of the Johns Hopkins University, was an aide and adviser to Milton Eisenhower.

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