Chosen To Be a Rhodes Scholar

Cecil John Rhodes

The Rhodes Scholarships were established by the will of Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902), an Englishman who made a fortune in diamonds and gold in South Africa in the late 19th century. His will established the Rhodes Scholarships for English-speaking men from the British Commonwealth and the U.S. A codicil to the will added five scholarships for Germany because its Emperor recently had made the teaching of English mandatory in German schools. Rhodes had a vision of promoting international understanding and peace by providing the common broadening experience of an Oxford education to future leaders who were motivated to serve their contemporaries. [1]

In the U.S. in 1960 an individual to be eligible for the Scholarship had to be (a) a male U.S. citizen with at least five years’ domicile in the U.S. and unmarried; [2] (b) between the ages of 18 and 24; and (c) at least a junior at a recognized U.S. degree-granting university or college. The criteria for selection, as established by the will of Cecil Rhodes, were the following:

  • Literary and scholastic ability and attainments;
  • Qualities of manhood, truthfulness, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship;
  • Exhibition of moral force of character and of instincts to lead and to take an interest in his fellows; and
  • Physical vigor, as shown by fondness for and success in sports.[3]

The Rhodes Trust in 1960 added the following commentary on these criteria. “Some definite quality of distinction, whether intellect or character, is the most important requirement . . . . The Rhodes Scholar should not be a one-sided man. Thus special distinction of intellect should be founded upon sound character and special quality of character upon sound intellect. . . . Cecil Rhodes evidently regarded leadership as consisting of moral courage and interest in one’s fellow-man quite as much as in the more aggressive qualities. Physical vigor is an essential qualification . . . but athletic prowess is of less importance than the moral qualities that can be developed in sports.”[4]

Those requirements should have been enough to scare away any young man, but many applied even though only 32 are chosen each year in the U.S. In 1960 there were selection committees in every state, and a candidate could apply in his state of residence or the state in which he had received at least two years of his college education.  Each state then nominated two candidates to go to one of eight districts for another round of competition with each district selecting four Scholars.

As I was a resident of Iowa and had gone to college in Iowa, I applied for the Scholarship in Iowa, which was in a District with Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. The application consisted of a written endorsement from the individual’s college or university; your college transcript; a personal essay; and letters of recommendation. I received counsel on my application from George Drake, a former Grinnell Rhodes Scholar (1957-59) who was teaching history at the College in 1960-61 while he was working on his B.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago. (Later he received those degrees plus a Ph.D. from Chicago. From 1979 to 1991 he was the President of the College.)

My essay reviewed my academic work and extracurricular activities at Grinnell and American University and stated my desire to devote my life to politics and government. “I believe that engagement in the decision-making processes of our nation’s government is a high purpose in life and that educated, intelligent men have a responsibility to society, to their fellow men.” Reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics or PPE at Oxford, I continued, “would contribute to my personal development and to my preparation for a possible future career in government and politics.” (The essay, when read today, is not very scintillating.)

In early December 1960, the Iowa Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee advised me that I was one of the candidates to be interviewed by the Committee on December 14th at an office in Des Moines. The Chairman of the Committee was Paul A. Thompson, who was a Des Moines businessman and not a former Rhodes Scholar. The other members of the Committee, however, were all former Scholars; they were R. B. Patrick, an insurance company executive; Virgil Hancher, the President of the University of Iowa; Dr. D. T. Nelson, Professor of English at Luther College; and Dr. Bille C. Carlson, Associate Professor of Physics at Iowa State University.

On December 14th I joined 10 or 11 other candidates for the interviews. I did not keep a journal of what happened that day, and I do not recall the details of the interview. I really regret this lacuna because this was an important piece of my life and because Rhodes interviews are often known for their off-beat questions. I only have a vague recollection of talking about my Washington Semester experience and learning about Impressionism at museums in Washington. At the end of the day the Committee met with all of the candidates and announced that Bill Hartmann from Iowa State University and I were nominated to go to the District competition.

Three days later Hartmann and I joined 10 other nominees from the other five states in the District for the final interviews. Again the interviews were held in Des Moines. The chairman of the committee and a non-former Rhodes Scholar was W. Harold Brenton, the founder of the Brenton Banks. The other members of the committee, all former Rhodes Scholars, were Mr. Patrick from the Iowa Committee, Professor Emory K. Lindquist of the University of Wichita, Professor Robert M. Muir of the University of Iowa, C. H. Riggs of Pierre, South Dakota, H. A. Gunderson of Fremont, Nebraska and Merrimon Cuninggim of St. Louis, Missouri. Again I do not recall the details of the interview other than the Committee’s announcement at the end of the day that David Ness from Minnesota and MIT,[5] Fred Morrison from Kansas and the University of Kansas,[6]Bill Hartmann[7] and I were chosen Rhodes Scholars.

Thereafter the other new Scholars and I advised the Warden of Rhodes House and Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, E.T. Williams, which Oxford colleges we wanted to attend. I believe I said I wanted to go to Balliol College, which was probably the most prestigious in Oxford. On February 20, 1961, Mr. Williams advised me that he failed to gain my admittance at my preferred college and instead had prevailed upon Worcester College to take me. Worcester, he assured me, would be a great place, and Virgil Hancher, then the President of the University of Iowa, had been there.

I advised President Hancher that I too would be a Worcester man, and he was delighted to receive that news. As I later discovered, I was also pleased to be at Worcester.[8]


[1] Philip Ziegler, Legacy: Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes Trust and Rhodes Scholarships (New Haven; Yale Univ. Press 2008)[“Legacy“]; Anthony Kenny (ed.), The History of the Rhodes Trust 1902-1999 (Oxford; Oxford Univ. Press 2001)[“Kenny“]; Office of the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, http://www.rhodesscholar.org/home.

[2] In 1965 the Rhodes Trustees eliminated the ban on marriage for Scholars in their second year at Oxford, and in 1994, the marriage ban was eliminated altogether. (Legacy at 217-19, 222-23; Kenny at 58-60.) In 1975 the Rhodes Trustees prevailed upon Parliament to include a provision in the new Equal Opportunities Act that would allow the Rhodes Trustees to eliminate any discrimination against women. Immediately thereafter the Trustees asked the U.K. Secretary of State for Education for permission to do just that. The next year, 1976, permission was granted, and women became eligible for the Scholarships. (Legacy at 217-23; Kenny at 66-69.) Before 1975, I was a member of the Minnesota Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee that held an informal interview with a female candidate and that thereafter wrote to the Trustees urging them to seek Parliamentary relief from the terms of the will regarding gender.

[3] Rhodes Trust, The Rhodes Scholarships–The United States of America, 1960 (April 1960).

[4] Id.

[5] David Ness obtained a B.A. (Oxon) in PPE in 1963. He then returned to MIT where he earned a Ph.D. and taught at its Sloan School of Management. While at MIT he worked on Project MAC, the pioneering research project that significantly advanced the development of computer operating systems. In 1973 he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance as a professor of management and later also of decision sciences. He retired from Wharton in the late 1980s and worked as a consultant until 1993. He was the author of books and articles about computer software. In 2006 he died of complications following surgery. (Rhodes Trust, Register of Rhodes Scholars 1903-1985, at 257 (1996)[“Register“]; Obituary:  David Ness, , U. Penn. Almanac (Feb. 28, 2006), http://www.upenn.edu/almanac/volumes/v52/n24/obit.html#dn.)

[6] Fred Morrison obtained a B.A. (Oxon) in Jurisprudence in 1963, a M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Princeton University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. He is a Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School after teaching at the University of Iowa School of Law. (Register at 256; Univ. Minnesota Law School, Fred L. Morrison, http://www.law.umn.edu/facultyprofiles/morrisonf.html. )

[7] Bill Hartmann obtained a D. Phil. (Oxon) in Physics in 1965. After being a Research Physicist at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, he joined the faculty at Michigan State University, where he is a Professor. Hartmann is a noted physicist, psychoacoustician, author, and former president of the Acoustical Society of America. His major contributions in psychoacoustics are in pitch perception,  binaural hearing, and sound localization. (Register at 255; Wikipedia, William M. Hartmann, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_M._Hartmann.)

[8] See Post: Sailing to Oxford (Aug. 29, 2011); Post: Reading PPE at Oxford (June 6, 2011); Post: PPE Examinations at Oxford (June 10, 2011); Post: Oxford’s Lord Franks (June 20, 2011); Post: Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011); Post: Oxford in New York City (May 17, 2011); Post: Dinner at an Oxford High Table (May 18, 2011).

My Oxford University Years

Worcester College

As a Rhodes Scholar, I was a student at the University of Oxford’s Worcester College for two years, 1961-1963. I studied or “read” Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).[1]

The University traces its beginnings to the late 12th century after foreign-born students were expelled from Paris and Britian’s King Henry II prohibited British students from leaving the country. Many of their teachers congregated in the city of Oxford. Halls like Gloucester Hall (Worcester’s predecessor) and colleges arose from the need for board and lodging for the students. The distinction of being the oldest Oxford college is usually given to Balliol College, which traces its history to 1263, when John Balliol, one of King Henry III’s most loyal Lords, rented a house in Oxford for poor students.

In the early 1960’s when I was there, the University was comprised of over 20 separate colleges. Each has its own history and endowment. Each has its own head and fellows or dons who instructed its students in tutorials. Worcester, for example, had a claim to a 700-year history.[2] Some colleges were wealthy; Christ Church College was, and still is, reputed to be the wealthiest. Others were not so well endowed. These colleges are spread out all over the city of Oxford, and their buildings are used for various university events.

Oxford’s academic calendar is very different from those for U.S. colleges and universities. Oxford has three academic terms, each eight weeks long: Michaelmas in the Fall; Hilary in the winter; and Trinity in the Spring. There are six-week vacations or “vacs” between Michaelmas and Hilary and between Hilary and Trinity Terms plus a 16-week vacation or “long vac” in the summer.

Radcliffe Camera

During the three academic terms, I was focused on preparing for, and attending, two tutorials per week. This meant spending a lot of time in some of Oxford’s many libraries. Most of my time was spent in the ugly New Bodleian Library which was built in the 1930’s and which had the collections focusing on the PPE syllabus. I also spent some time in the library in the beautiful mid-18th century Radcliffe Camera and Worcester College’s own library.

Christ Church Hall

I also went to some of the lectures on PPE subjects. These were held all over the city in different University and college buildings. I especially remember attending a lecture in the dining hall of the majestic Christ Church College or “The House” (The House of Christ). The portrait over the High Table at the end of the hall, where the lecturer stood, was of the College’s founder, King Henry VIII. On the side walls I noticed portraits of some of The House’s many famous “Old Members”(alumni): John Wesley, Charles Wesley, John Locke, William Gladstone and Anthony Eden.

Worcester College Dining Hall
Worcester College Dining Hall

My meals were in the Worcester’s Dining Hall. The food was not very creative or delectable English food. For dinner we were required to wear coat and tie and our academic gowns. When the Provost and dons marched into the hall to have their meal at the High Table, we all stood. Then one of the College’s Classics scholars said grace in Latin. There was a custom that if you talked too much about your work at dinner, you could be challenged or “sconced.” In response, you either had to give an oration in Latin or drink a pint of bitter beer in one gulping or pay for beers for everyone at your table. At most I observed this once in two years, and I was not the subject of the “sconce.” Once a week before I got to the hall for breakfast, I could smell kippers (smoked herring); I turned around and went back to my room.

Life at Oxford clearly centered around life in your college. But there were occasional social events for Rhodes Scholars at Rhodes House, and each Scholar had several one-on-one conversations each year with the Warden of Rhodes House, E.T. Williams. We would discuss how our studies were going and any particular problems we were encountering. The Warden obviously would dispense advice when needed. I often wondered what he noted in his file on me.

Turf Tavern
Trout Inn

Oxford is famous too for its many pubs, and I visited them on occasion. The Turf Tavern on Bath Street was my favorite; I went here for lunch when I was taking PPE Schools. Others in the City were the Mitre on High Street and the Bear near Merton College. Occasionally I went to the bar of the posh Randolph Hotel, which was close to Worcester. (Many years later when my wife and I returned to Oxford and stayed at the hotel, we noticed photographs in the bar of actor John Thaw who played Inspector Morse in the TV mystery series set in Oxford.) North of Oxford was The Trout Inn with views of the spires of the city from its gardens on the Isis River.

Oxford has an active sporting life during the three terms.

For the University teams, the most important accomplishment is playing against its main rival, the University of Cambridge, and earning an Oxford “Blue.” In December it was rugby with the match against Cambridge played at the 82,000-seat Twickenham Stadium in London. In the winter it is basketball. In the spring it is track, cricket and rowing. The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race is on the Thames River in London in April. The big cricket match against Cambridge is played at Lord’s Cricket Ground near London in July. I am not sure about track, but the first ever four-minute mile was run by Oxford University’s Roger Bannister at the track in Oxford in 1954.

Each college also has its own athletic teams. In Michaelmas Term 1961 I played prop forward for Worcester’s second rugby team; this position is similar to an offensive/defensive lineman in U.S. football. I was not very good.

In Trinity Term 1962 I played cricket for Worcester’s casual team that played teams from nearby villages. I was not very good at cricket either. My most vivid cricket memory concerns driving to a match in an antique and, I am sure, very expensive sports car owned by a Scottish nobleman at the College. As he was turning from the High Street (a major street of Oxford) into a side street (Marsh Lane), a pedestrian who was obviously not a university student was hesitating on crossing the street. The driver stared at the pedestrian and disdainfully said, “Are you going to cross or not?” I cringed to witness this British class snobbery.

Punting on Cherwell River

Another quasi-athletic activity was punting on the Cherwell River before it empties into the Thames River in Oxford. A rather flat boat is propelled by manual use of a long pole, somewhat like the gondoliers in Venice. The punter stands at the back of the punt, half-facing to the side (probably the right). He holds the pole vertically against the side of the punt and lets the pole run through his hands until it touches the riverbed. The pole then is pushed downwards and backwards, gently at first, then more forcefully towards the end of the stroke (because, as your stroke “flattens” and the pole becomes closer to horizontal, less of your energy is going into pushing down into the riverbed, and more into pushing the punt forwards). After Mary Alyce arrived in Oxford in the Fall of 1962, we occasionally went punting.

During the three “vacs,” Oxford students were expected to continue their studies on their own, and I certainly did that. But the “vacs” also provided time to travel. I did that as well as will be discussed in future posts.

University of Oxford
University of Oxford

After learning my way around the city of Oxford, I took special delight in just walking or biking in the midst of these glorious historic buildings and knowing how to get to different places in the lanes and byways. For two short years, I joined the thousands who can claim that they were privileged to have been students at the University of Oxford.


[1] See Post: Reading PPE at Oxford (June 6, 2011); Post: PPE Examinations at Oxford (June 10, 2011); Post: Oxford’s Lord Franks (June 20, 2011). See also Post: Oxford in New York City (May 17, 2011); Post: Dinner at an Oxford High Table (May 18, 2011); Post: Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011); Post: Celebrating 80th Anniversary of Rhodes Scholarships (May 30, 2011); Post: Celebrating the Rhodes Scholarships Centennial (June 21, 2011).

[2] See Post: Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011).

Sailing to Oxford

On September 27, 1961, almost all of the 31 other new American Rhodes Scholars and I gathered for a sailing luncheon at the University Club on 54th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Our host was Courtney Smith, the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust and the President of Swarthmore College. Mr. Smith wished us all well on this next stage of our journey, and we all met one another, most for the first time. (The only one of us who subsequently became well-known was David Souter as Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.)

S.S. United States
Duane Krohnke on S.S. United States

The next day we all boarded the S.S. United States for our voyage to the United Kingdom. For the next five days we met one another one-on-one and in group social occasions and enjoyed the ocean-liner experience.

After a short call at Le Havre, France, we disembarked at Southampton on the south coast of England. We were met by E.T. Williams, the Secretary of the Rhodes Trust and the Warden of Rhodes House in Oxford. He directed us to the motor coach that took us to Oxford where we were dropped off at our respective colleges. Bob Orrill, a Rhodes Scholar from Purdue University, and I were the only ones for Worcester College.

On a beautiful moonlit night the College porter escorted me to my room in the Nuffield Building. He proudly said that Worcester was one of the oldest colleges in the University. This was my introduction to the Oxford and English respect for (and worship of?) antiquity, real or imagined.

Worcester College's 13th century cottages

I was amused by the porter’s comment because I knew from books that Worcester was not one of the oldest colleges. Yes, it still used 13th century Dominican monk cottages, but they were from Gloucester Hall, which was dissolved by King Henry VIII, and only later incorporated into Worcester College when it was founded in 1714.[1]

In Nuffield Building, which was built in 1950, I had a small room on the third floor. The next morning I met my “scout,” the college servant assigned to the men in the rooms on one of the staircases of the building. I now was situated in my home for the first academic year at the University of Oxford.


[1] See Post: Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011).

Celebrating the Rhodes Scholarships’ Centennial

In July 2003 the Rhodes Trust[1] hosted gala celebrations of the centennial of the Rhodes Scholarships. My wife and I were privileged to be there.

Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall
Palace of Westminster

The main event was held in London’s Westminster Hall, which is part of the Palace of Westminster. Other parts of the Palace are the Chambers for the House of Commons and the House of Lords. When it was built in 1097, the Hall at 240 feet by 68 feet was the largest hall in Europe; in the reign of King Richard II it obtained a clear-span wood-beam roof. Here were held the trials of King Charles I, Sir William Wallace, Sir Thomas More, Guy Fawkes and the Earl of Strafford, all of whom were condemned to death. The Rhodes event in 2003 was the first (and, I think, still the only) time it had ever been used for a non-state occasion.[2]

As we were standing in a queue to go through security to enter the Hall, a BBC reporter quizzed me about the significance of the relatively few Rhodes Scholars who were in the George W. Bush Administration. I, however, declined to see any significance to that fact other than to note that Scholars usually were interested in trying to improve people’s lives through government programs.

The audience of over 1,000 Rhodes Scholars and their spouses were treated to interesting speeches from Lord Waldegrave, the Chairman of the Rhodes Trustees;[3] “Nicky” Oppenheimer, the Chairman of DeBeers, the diamond mining company started by Cecil Rhodes in South Africa in the 19th century;[4] Bill Clinton, the former U.S. President; Tony Blair, then the Prime Minister of the U.K.; and Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa.[5]

Lord Waldegrave commented on the recent creation of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, a joint venture of the Rhodes Trustees and the Nelson Mandela Foundation to support aid and education in South Africa. An overarching theme of the centennial was the closing of the circle by joining together the controversial 19th century white entrepreneur (Rhodes) and the 20th century post-apartheid black South African leader (Mandela).[6]

Oppenheimer drew chuckles from the audience when he said that he was confident that the Founder (Cecil Rhodes), looking down from above, or perhaps looking up from below, would be proud of the accomplishments of his Scholars.

Tony Blair & Bill Clinton

Clinton joked that it was a sign of progress that all of the politicians that day felt safe in the Hall where King Charles I and Sir Thomas More had been tried and condemned to death. He and the other Scholars, he said, had been “enriched, enlarged and changed” by their time at the University of Oxford, and many of them had made “great contributions across the globe in public service, the arts, the sciences, business, the military, religion and other fields.” Clinton also applauded the new Mandela Rhodes Foundation to “bring some of Rhodes’ wealth back to its origins to help build a new South Africa.”[7]

Blair, putting his glasses into his breast pocket, said that President Mandela had just told him that he never reads a speech so Blair reciprocated by saying he would not read the speech that the Foreign Office had written for him. Blair recalled that when he was a student at Oxford, an Australian or New Zealand Rhodes Scholar had encouraged Blair to go into politics. Blair said that Mandela “is a person who, probably more than any other political figure, certainly in my lifetime, establishes the triumph of hope over injustice.” Blair also challenged the international community to do more to tackle the scourge of HIV and AIDS in Africa and the developed world to lift tariffs to help African exports.

Nelson Mandela

Mandela gave the concluding speech. He noted that Rhodes had made his fortune in South Africa and imagined that he would endorse the “decision to develop human capacity in modern-day South Africa, enabling that country to continue being a competitive presence in the world as it was in those fields within which he operated during his times.” Indeed, Mandela said, he was “certain, Cecil John Rhodes and I would have made common cause.”[8]

When all the speeches were finished, everyone on the speakers’ stage walked the over 200-feet length of the hall through the audience. Mandela, then nearly 85 years old, was frail, and to help him make the long walk, his right arm was held by Tony Blair; his left, by Bill Clinton. They brought tears to our eyes as they passed six feet from us on their journey through the Hall.

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery, London

My wife and I then joined many others walking down Whitehall to the National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square. In the Gallery’s Tudor Rooms Rhodes Scholars from the early 1960’s gathered for conversation, drinks and music from a string quartet.

Other groups of Scholars met in other parts of the Gallery and in the Banqueting Hall on Whitehall.

Dinner at Worcester College

We then went by train to Oxford, where each college held special black-tie dinners honoring their Rhodes Scholars.

Worcester College put out all the college silver and crystal for its Rhodes Scholar dinner. Everyone had an assigned place for the main courses and a different place for dessert. For the main course I was seated across the table from Julian Ogilvie Thompson, a South African Rhodes Scholar who was a director and former executive of DeBeers and the Anglo American gold and diamond mining company.[9]

After dinner I talked with David Kendall, who was at Worcester, 1966-68, and who in 1993 began legal representation of President and Mrs. Clinton in various matters, including the 1998-99 impeachment proceedings against Mr. Clinton.[10] David and I had met in the Spring of 1966, just after he had been elected as a Rhodes Scholar from Indiana’s Wabash College. Illinois Governor Otto Kerner had studied at Cambridge University and that Spring hosted a Cambridge-Oxford Boat Race Dinner at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield. I joined a group that bused to Springfield from Chicago for the dinner, and David was a special guest on the bus and at the dinner.

Conclusion

These spectacular events reminded me of how fortunate I was to have been selected as a Rhodes Scholar and to have had the amazing experience of an Oxford education. Thank you, Cecil Rhodes.


[2] Wikipedia, Palace of Westminster, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_Westminster.

[3] Wikipedia, William Waldegrave, Baron Waldegrave of North Hill, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Waldegrave,_Baron_Waldegrave_of_North_Hill.

[4]  Wikipedia, Nicky Oppenheimer, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicky_Oppenheimer; Wikipedia, DeBeers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Beers.

[5] Russell, Mandela celebrates 100 years of Rhodes, (July 3, 2003), http://www.independent.co.uk; Johnson, Mandela, Clinton Celebrate with new Rhodes-Mandela Foundation (July 6, 2003), http://africanamerica.org.

[6] Earlier the Rhodes Trust had held centenary celebrations in South Africa.

[7] Bill Clinton, Speech: Rhodes Trust Centenary Celebration (July 2, 2003), http://www.clintonfoundation.org. I previously noted Clinton’s acknowledging his family’s embarrassment that he had not earned an Oxford degree in his two years at Oxford while congratulating his daughter Chelsea’s Oxford degree that summer. (See Post: Reading PPE at Oxford (June 6, 2011).

[8] Nelson Mandela, The Patron’s Founding Speech (July 2, 2003), http://db.nelsonmandela.org/speeches/pub_view.asp?pg=item&ItemID=NMS1073&txtstr=westminster.

[10]  David Kendall Biography, http://www.wc.com/dkendall

Oxford’s Lord Franks

Lord Franks

In February 1962, Sir Oliver Shewell Franks was installed as the Provost of Oxford’s Worcester College. Three months later he was awarded a life peerage as Lord Baron Franks, of Headington in the County of Oxford.[1]

As a Worcester student at the time, I soon learned that Franks was “Mr. Establishment.”

After a brilliant performance as a Classics student at Oxford with a Congratulatory First in 1927, Franks immediately was elected a Fellow in Philosophy at Oxford’s Queens College. There he helped to establish the new degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). In 1937 Franks moved to Glasgow University to hold the Chair in Moral Philosophy, a post once held by Adam Smith.

With World War II on the horizon in 1939, he was conscripted into the U.K. Civil Service to work in the Ministry of Supply, which was in charge of production of war material and equipment. His successful efforts to replenish the British military equipment after the forced withdrawal of forces from Europe at Dunkirk in 1940 drew praise, and by the end of the war Franks was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry. For this exemplary public service, he was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1942 and a Knight Grand Cross in 1946.

After the war in 1946, Franks returned to Oxford’s Queen’s College to be its Provost. He was able to hold this position for only two years, but thereafter was a lifetime Honorary Fellow of the College.

The reason for his 1948 departure from Oxford was his acceptance of a request by Prime Minister Clement Atlee to be the U.K. Ambassador to the U.S., a position he held until 1952. During these years he headed the British delegation for European discussions about what became the Marshall Plan for U.S. aid to Europe. He helped to found the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and became Chairman of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation.

In 1953 Franks had many offers of important jobs in the U.K. and Europe. The one he chose in 1954 was Chairman of Lloyd’s Bank, one of Britain’s largest banks, and he held this position until 1962, when he became Provost of Worcester College. Franks also headed many important commissions of inquiry and was on the board of trustees or directors of other important institutions in the U.K.

In 1960 Franks, with the support of influential heads of several Oxford colleges, was a candidate for the Chancellorship of the University of Oxford, its titular head. His main opponent was Harold Macmillan, then Prime Minister. I recall reading in Anthony Sampson’s Anatomy of Britain (1962) that the Chancellorship was an office elected by the holders of Oxford M.A. degrees, who were physically present at a meeting in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theater. Sampson also reported that Macmillan thought that losing this election to Franks would be a political embarrassment and so ordered or persuaded the many government officials and civil servants who held Oxford M.A. degrees to go by train to Oxford that day to vote for Macmillan. With that special effort, Macmillan won the election by a narrow margin and became the Chancellor. He still held that position in 1983 when he attended the dinner to celebrate Worcester College’s 700th anniversary.[2]

In 1962 when Franks became Worcester’s Provost, he turned down an offer from Prime Minister Macmillan to be the Governor of the Bank of England. He retired from Worcester in 1976, but remained active on the boards of various important institutions and government and university commissions until his death in 1992.

Through this life of remarkable service, Franks gained a reputation as the “Divine Authority” or the “Headmaster of Headmasters.” At 6’2″ with a high brow, he gave the impression of all-seeing omniscience. It was said that if you managed to break the ice with Franks, you would find a lot of cold water underneath.

With such a record and reputation, Franks was an imposing figure for a lowly Oxford undergraduate like me to encounter. I, therefore, was surprised to discover a shy, engaging human being.

At a sherry party in the Provost’s Lodgings at Worcester, Franks once asked me, “Krohnke, do you know why The Times (of London, of course) has advertisements on its front page?” I did not know, so he told me that in the great houses of Britain the butler ironed The Times before the head of the house read the newspaper. I thought that was a bit silly, but there is a scene in the movie The Remains of the Day in which the butler played by Anthony Hopkins is ironing the newspaper. And in the 2011 version of Upstairs, Downstairs a fuss is made when the newspaper arrives too late for the butler to iron the newspaper. (The Times many years ago ceased the practice of front-page advertisements only.)

In the Spring of 1963 Franks lead a “revision” session on political philosophy for Worcester students who were taking PPE Schools that year.[3] Franks mentioned “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” from the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  One of the English students who had attended Eton College, the preeminent English “public” school, interrupted to say, “I am sorry, I did not get that all written down. Would you repeat that phrase, please?” (Perhaps it was just my American background, but I always thought it odd that an Oxford University student, in PPE, would not know that phrase.)

In June 1963, after I finished PPE “Schools,” my fiancée and I were married in Oxford’s Manchester College Chapel. As a wedding gift, Lord and Lady Franks gave us a beautiful colored print of the Worcester Provost’s Lodgings.

After I had obtained a First in PPE, Franks sent me a short typed note with his “warm congratulations” and announcement of my receiving a “College Prize for your performance in the examination.” (The prize was “books to the value of ten guineas.”) Another short typed note at the same time stated that he  was “glad to give you the College Grace to take your B.A. degree.” (This undoubtedly was a form note that gave the college a lever to force you to pay all of your college bills.)

My best Franks story, however, took place earlier in one of Worcester’s Senior Common Rooms when my philosophy tutor gave an oral “report card” on my performance to Franks as the head of the College. All of us were in suit and tie, of course, and covered by academic gowns. My tutor must have given a positive report on my performance although I do not recall what he said. Franks responded, “Krohnke, your tutor says you are doing very well. But I do think there is more time for devilry.” I was caught totally off-guard by this note of levity from the august personage of Lord Franks. The word “devilry” was not in my vocabulary, but it sounded mischievous. I had no response.


[1] Wikipedia, Oliver Franks, Baron Franks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Franks,_Baron_Franks; Middlemas, Obituary: Lord Franks, The Independent (Oct. 17, 1992), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-lord-franks-1557796.html; Lambert, Lord Franks, Diplomat Who Led Marshall Plan Effort, Dies at 87, N.Y. Times (Oct. 18, 1992)(http://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/18/world/lord-franks-diplomat-who-led-marshall-plan-effort-dies-at-87.html?pagewanted=print&src=pm; Alex Danchev, Oliver Franks: founding father (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1993);Michael Hopkins, Oliver Franks and the Truman Administration: Anglo-American Relations, 1948-1952 (London: Frank Cass 2003); Smethurst, Oliver Shewell Franks, 139 Proceedings of the American Philosophical Soc’y 83 (1995); Franks, Britain and the Tide of World Affairs (London: Oxford Univ. Press 1955); Somerville, Oliver Franks, hsommerville.com.

[2] See Post: Celebrating Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011).

[3] See Post: Reading PPE at Oxford (June 6, 2011); Post: PPE Examinations at Oxford (June 10, 2011).

PPE Examinations at Oxford

As indicated in my discussion of “reading” PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at Oxford,[1] the examinations were given at the end of a student’s time at the University. For me, that was early June 1963.

Examination Schools Building

For the examinations, University statutes required the students to wear sub-fusc (Latin: dark/dusky color) clothing. For men, this meant dark suit and socks; black shoes; white shirt and collar; white bow tie; and academic gown and cap. Riding my bicycle to the exams with all of this regalia made me feel special, for most of the people you passed knew from your garb that you were “taking Schools.” The examinations were given in a late 19th century University building called The Examination Schools on High Street in the city. Thus, the exams colloquially were called “Schools.”

The examinations were prepared, and evaluated, by a university-wide committee, and if one of your tutors happened to be on the committee, he or she was barred from grading your answers.

For PPE there were eight three-hour exams given over two weeks. Six of them were in the required subjects. The other two exams were in the student’s optional papers.

Each of the examinations had the same format. You had to answer four questions on a printed sheet of 13 to 16 questions. At the time, I thought they were the fairest exams I had ever encountered because they eliminated the chance that even though you knew the subject and had engaged in diligent preparation, you would be hit with a question for which you were not prepared. As I look back on the experience 48 years later, I could see how this format could be nerve-racking and force a student into wasting a lot of time figuring out which four questions to answer. This, however, was not my plight. I believe that I quickly read the complete list of questions and first picked the question for which I was most prepared and answered that one. Then I looked at the remaining questions and picked another question for which I was prepared and answered that one until I had answered four questions. As I reflect now on that experience, I can see a tactical problem of pacing yourself so that you did not spend too much time answering the questions for which you were best prepared.

Here is a sample of the 32 questions that I answered on the PPE examinations in June of 1963:

  • General Philosophy (from Descartes to the present): “Is there anything wrong with Hume’s definition of cause?”
  • Moral and Political Philosophy: “Is a retributive theory of punishment the only safeguard against condoning the punishment of the innocent?”
  • Theory and Working of Political Institutions: “Has the British Parliament anything to learn from the U.S. Congress?”
  • British Political and Constitutional History Since 1830: “Why was the second Parliament Act so much like the first?”
  • Principles of Economics: “‘Monetary and fiscal policies should always work in the same direction.’ Should they?”
  • Economic Organization: “How would you judge whether there is a world liquidity shortage?”
  • Public Finance: “Compare the merits of an annual capital tax and an expenditure tax.”
  • Currency and Credit: “‘Debt management is monetary policy.’ Discuss.”

(I do not remember what my answers were and could not intelligently answer these or the other 24 questions today.)

After I had finished the written exams, I told my philosophy tutor what I had done. On the Political Institutions paper, I said I had written about the U.S. and the U.K. In response, the tutor said, “Krohnke, you should expect to be called back for a ‘viva‘ [viva voce or oral examination] to establish ‘spread’ or breadth. So get out the Political Institutions examination paper and develop an answer about France or the Soviet Union.”

This was an example of how your tutors were also your coaches. That relationship was celebrated when Worcester College’s PPE tutors gave a dinner for their students who were “taking Schools” that term in one of the College’s senior common rooms.

In any event, I did as my tutor suggested and prepared an answer about France or the Soviet Union for the Political Institutions examination. It was time well spent for indeed I was called back for a viva by the full examination committee of six or so dons. It took place in a large room in the Examination Schools building. The dons were wearing full academic gear (robes, caps, etc.), and again I was in sub-fusc clothing. The chair of the committee said, “Mr. Krohnke, please tell us something about France or the Soviet Union.” I said something like, “Question No. 4” and then delivered my memorized answer. The committee chair then said, “Thank you very much,” and I left the room.

Sometime in July the examination results were posted on the University bulletin boards and published in The Times of London. I was greatly surprised and pleased to discover that I had obtained a First, which was awarded to the top 7.5 % of the 240 taking the exams.

Sheldonian Theater

All that was left was to obtain the B.A. degree in a ceremony in the Christopher Wren-designed Sheldonian Theater. The entire degree ceremony was conducted in Latin by the Classics (Greek and Latin) don from my college, who held the University position of Public Orator. Although I did not understand what he was saying, it was difficult to keep a straight face because the university newspaper that term had referred to him as “the Pubic Orator.”


[1] Post: Reading PPE at Oxford (June 6, 2011).

Reading PPE at Oxford

Once I knew I would be going to the University of Oxford in the Fall of 1961, I had to decide what I was going to study. At the time, most American Rhodes Scholars read for a second bachelor’s degree that involved Oxford’s traditional tutorial style of education. (Today, more choose to seek advanced degrees.)

I rejected “reading” Jurisprudence for a B.A. degree because at the time that required translation of Roman law from Latin into English, a skill I did not have and did not think I could acquire “on the side” while doing everything else at Oxford.

Instead, like many American Rhodes Scholars, I chose Philosophy, Politics and Economics or PPE.[1] It was also known as “Modern Greats” to indicate that it was designed in the 1920’s to replicate some of the features of Classics or Greats or Literae Humaniores (Greek and Latin), one of Oxford’s traditional and famous courses of study. PPE, on the other hand, was designed to be a well-balanced course of study of the social problems of the modern world.[2]

PPE was organized in two subjects in each of the three PPE disciplines: General Philosophy (from Descartes to the present); Moral and Political Philosophy; Theory and Working of Political Institutions; British Political and Constitutional History Since 1830; Principles of Economics; and Economic Organization. The student also selected two additional subjects to study; I chose two in economics–Public Finance and Currency and Credit.

During Oxford’s three eight-week terms of the academic year, you had two tutorials a week in these subjects. For the six required subjects there were usually only two students with tutors from your own college. For the optional subjects, you usually were alone in the tutorial and sometimes with a tutor from another Oxford college who specialized in those subjects.

Each week the tutor would set the problem and suggest relevant readings for the next week. The subject would always be put as a question that required you to come to a conclusion and marshal the evidence and arguments for your conclusion. Here are examples of such problems:

  • “The Left was never right.” Discuss this verdict with regard to British foreign policy between the world wars. Was the Right ever wrong?
  • What do we mean by “James who now does this is the same person who did that?” How do we know we are correct?
  • Is the City [London’s financial industry] vital to the U.K.’s role in world trade?
  • Can it ever be justifiably claimed that a tariff is imposed for revenue purposes only?
  • Is infallibility a pre-condition for knowledge? If not, why do we often think it is?

During the following week, if you were doing your work, you would read at least the suggested readings and prepare an essay analyzing the problem. At the following tutorial one of the students (if there were two) would read his essay, and the tutor would comment, ask questions and start discussions about the problem. The tutorials, by the way, were held in the tutor’s rooms in the college, and the students were required to wear their academic gowns. (Although I was a Rhodes Scholar, I was not a scholar of Worcester College and, therefore, was not entitled to wear a scholar’s longer gown. Instead, I wore a skimpy “commoner’s gown.”)

The philosophy tutorials were the most difficult and frustrating for me. Oxford was then in the throes of linguistic analysis with its emphasis on careful examination of the language of philosophical argument.[3] We frequently were assigned very abstruse articles in British philosophical journals —Mind and Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. One of the articles that I recall had a title like “What do we mean when we say this is a Grade A apple?” I kept wondering  why I was spending my time reading these articles. Usually, however, during the tutorial I would say to myself that this was a worthy activity for someone like the tutor who was really good at it. But it was not for me. The tutor probably would say to himself, “Oh, these pragmatic Americans, they don’t get it.”

In addition to preparing for and participating in tutorials, the students could, if they wished, attend university-wide lectures on the PPE subjects (or, if you wished, on any other subjects that interested you.) I attended some and heard some of the famous Oxford dons of the day: J. R. Hicks (economist), Gilbert Ryle (philosopher) and A. J. Ayer (philosopher) are ones that I remember.

Finally during your “vacs” (vacations) and especially the “long vac” (the four-month summer vacation), you were encouraged to study independently. During one vac, for example, I spent several weeks at St. Deiniol’s Library (n/k/a Gladstone’s Library), a residence library near Hawarden, Wales[4] where I had room and board and a quiet library in which to study. (The Library was founded for “Divine Learning” by William Ewart Gladstone, Britain’s 19th century Prime Minister, and is close to Hawarden Castle, which was Gladstone’s estate.)[5]

At the end of each term, as I recall, your tutors gave practice exams, which were evaluated and returned with comments. Also at least once a year one of your tutors would give an “oral report card” on your performance to the head of your college.

The only “real” examinations were those given at the end of your time at Oxford. This memorable experience will be described in a subsequent posting.

As I reflect on this educational experience, I especially value the way that the subjects were presented to the students. You were forced to come to a conclusion and justify that conclusion, rather than saying a lot about a subject and avoiding coming to your own conclusions. You also had great freedom. You could look for, and read, resources beyond those suggested by the tutor. You could attend lectures if you wanted to. Given the one-on-one nature of tutorials, a student could not hide and never say a word.


[1]  Two of the more famous American Rhodes Scholars, Pete Dawkins and Bill Bradley, for example, read PPE. (See Post: Oxford in New York City (May 17, 2011).) Bill Clinton, who was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, 1968-70, started in PPE, but soon abandoned the program because he thought it was too repetitive of his U.S. undergraduate education. Clinton first switched to a graduate degree program (B. Litt. in Politics) that did not involve tutorials, but required a 50,000-word dissertation. His tutor, however, persuaded him that was a mistake and to switch instead to a graduate degree (B. Phil. in Politics), that had tutorials, essays, exams and a shorter thesis. Clinton made the switch, but did not finish this program and did not earn an Oxford degree; his memoir says he chose to go to Yale Law School rather than finishing the Oxford degree. (Bill Clinton, My Life at 141-43, 171 (New York: Knopf  2004); Ralph Evans (editor), Register of Rhodes Scholars 1903-1995 at 306 (Oxford: Rhodes Trust 1996).) In 2003 my wife and I attended a celebration of the centennial of the Rhodes Scholarships at Westminster Hall in London where Clinton was one of the speakers. He said his family was always embarrassed he had never earned an Oxford degree, but that year his daughter Chelsea redeemed the family honor by earning such a degree the prior day. (Bill Clinton, Speech: Rhodes Trust Centenary Celebration, July 2, 2003, http://www.clingtonfoundation.org.) Other American Rhodes Scholar-politicians who read PPE are U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and former Senators David Boren and Paul Sarbanes. (Register of Rhodes Scholars 1903-1995 at 201, 203, 269.) The current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, also read PPE, as did other prominent U.K. politicians (Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Shirley Williams, Edwina Castle). (Wikipedia, David Cameron, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Cameron; BBC News, Why does PPE rule Britain? (Oct. 31, 2010), http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11136511.

[2]  Handbook to the University of Oxford at 147-50, 158-60 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1960); Wikipedia, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy,_Politics_and_Economics.

[3]  Wikipedia, Analytical Philosophy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic_philosophy.

[4]  Wikipedia, Gladstone’s Library, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladstone’s_Library.

[5]  Wikipedia, William Ewart Gladstone, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ewart_Gladstone.