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Bill Clemens / UC Museum of Paleontology Oral History Project

Bill Clemens in his office at the Valley Life Sciences Building, 2016

Caution and Care: The Evolution of Paleontology at the University of California Museum of Paleontology: Volume I

Caution and Care: The Evolution of Paleontology at the University of California Museum of Paleontology: Volume II

The Bill Clemens / UCMP oral history project has been several years in the making. Historian Sam Redman first proposed to do a history of members of the University of California Museum of Paleontology in 2011, specifically to interview Dr. William Clemens and a number of his graduate students. The concept behind the project was novel and important: to document with long-form oral history of successive cohorts of students who were advised by a single scholar, while at the same time interviewing the scholar in depth about the evolution of his field, as well as the key transformations in the institutions in which he played significant roles.

UCMP Associate Director Mark Goodwin was the fulcrum in organizing the project, from fundraising to arranging for interviews with Bill’s students from all over the world. My first session with Bill was December 18, 2014, and my last was March 10, 2016. One of the factors contributing to the length of time spanning these sessions was the fact that Bill was caring for his wife Dorothy “Dot” Clemens while she battled cancer. There was some hope that she would live to see the project completed, but she ultimately passed before its completion. After a time, Bill resumed the project, in tribute not only to UCMP, his colleagues, and students, but also to her memory, as Dorothy Clemens was deeply committed to ensuring that Bill’s oral history was documented for the ages.

Several themes are explored in his interview. There is a longstanding concern in the history of science with the ways in which scientists establish and maintain their credibility within and beyond their communities. By the 1950s, the queen of the sciences was physics, and the public was consumed by the promise and peril of high technology, from the splitting of the atom to the electronic consumer items in the shops. In the public mind, paleontology perhaps had more in common with the 19th-century field sciences than with the burgeoning domains of digital computing or molecular biology.

When Bill Clemens started his undergraduate work UC Berkeley Department of Paleontology at the beginning of the 1950s, the modern evolutionary synthesis in biology, which linked laboratory research in genetics to field studies, statistical analysis, paleontology, and a revitalized Darwinian theory of evolution, had only just been worked out before the war. The helical structure of DNA was announced in Bill’s junior year. In other words, Bill began his career at the beginning of a new common cause in science — a better understanding of relationships between genetic variation and distribution in changing environments over geologic time — with cascades of new questions to follow in the decades to come.

This project allows us to look at how the synthesis unfolds in the 20th century in terms of relationships among and across disciplines, the deployment of new techniques and technologies, and in terms of the social and historical context of scientific knowledge production.

Sitting on Bill's Chevy Blazer. Jordon, MT, 1979 Front: Mark Goodwin, Cathy Engdahl, Mike Greenwald, Lowell Dingus Rear: Jane, Bob, and Duane Engdahl (Skinner Award honorees), Bill, Dave Archibald Photograph courtesy of Mark Goodwin

Sitting on Bill’s Chevy Blazer. Jordon, MT, 1979
Front: Mark Goodwin, Cathy Engdahl, Mike Greenwald, Lowell Dingus
Rear: Jane, Bob, and Duane Engdahl (Skinner Award honorees), Bill, Dave Archibald
Photograph courtesy of Mark Goodwin

The drama of paleontology is often heightened by the public and romantic interest in the gigantic specimens. Owing in part to the Evolutionary Synthesis, the paleontologists of Bill’s cohort were interested, not just in the structures of fossil specimens themselves, but in where and how they lived in relation to one another. To get at some of these ecological questions, these students turned for example to the very small microvertebrates which could be found with a new technique of screenwashing, basically sifting for tiny fossils. What they found in the Lance Formation in Wyoming in one season equaled the number of fossils of their kind ever discovered up to that point. The field branched away from the romance of the big dinosaurs and toward a more detailed understanding of evolutionary relationships among specimens and of the developmental characteristics that might tell the scientists something about how the creatures lived.

There is a lot of research in the history of science devoted to what historian of science Rob Kohler called the lab/field border. The basic question is this: given the growing disparity in prestige and resources between the field sciences and the bench sciences in the early 20th century, how did field scientists struggle for recognition, authority, and scarce resources, when the best scientific practice was increasingly defined as the controlled laboratory experiment?

Field scientists brought techniques and instrumentation into the field to increase the precision and quantity of data collected; and they also brought back from the field new questions to lab scientists and theorists about the complexity, messiness, and porosity of the data. This project shows that this process is part of the ongoing fulfillment of the evolutionary synthesis: a harmonization of the basic questions across the life sciences, with the kind of cross-fertilization that we saw in Charles Darwin’s education and work practice. We see new hybrids of paleontology and other life sciences emerging, such that some practitioners could be viewed from a distance as statisticians, or labcoat-wearing experimentalists working with the vast collections of specimens collected by Bill and others. The other piece of the lab/field border concept is that the field is also a complex social and political place. This is one of many of Bill’s soft skills that students talk about over and again in the history. How does one maintain good relationships with the property owners who are stewards of the places in which the paleontologists work?

For all of these reasons and more, place is important in the field sciences. But in few sciences is the precise meaning of place as important as paleontology, where a few feet of geological strata contain millions of years of data. Here is Bill Clemens on the trickiness of pinning down a fossil to a place, and therefore a time.

It’s important not to understate the importance of this scale and extent of fossil collection. The organized work of Clemens’ generation and the one that followed made possible newer types of data-intensive computerized research on paleontology, evolutionary biology, and climate change.

Here is Marisol Montellano on the importance of Bill’s efforts in fossil collection and characterization.

In fact, it is not uncommon for doctoral students today to conduct their research entirely with collected specimens in a laboratory, although Bill might not recommend this exclusive a course of study.

Here is Bill’s last student, Greg Wilson, on what Bill was like as teacher and a mentor.

Bill Clemens’ Students

It is here that we come to a really special aspect of this history, the second volume of this project: the thirteen interviews with Bill’s graduate students and the current Curator and leader of the UC Museum of Paleontology, Charles Marshall. Bill and his students are witnesses to the changes in the field of paleontology, the increasing use of computing to process large quantities of data, and the field’s increasing involvement in the most pressing questions of the last four decades: the resilience of species, the interdependence of organisms, and the consequences of a changing climate on the abilities of organisms to adapt to both sudden and gradual changes. Here is Bill’s former student Jessica Theodor on Reconciling Molecular and Morphological Data.

These questions are also a reflection of my initial theme about credibility in science. Through these interviews, we see how paleontology has adapted itself to a changing scientific climate, contending with the introduction of new species of ideas such as the asteroid-impact hypothesis for the extinction of most dinosaur species at the end of the Cretaceous, or through the adoption of sophisticated mathematical analyses of the surface structure of mammalian teeth to answer questions about the evolution of a particular species’ diet millions of years ago.

Here is Lowell Dingus on how he dealt with the approach of physicists Walter and Luis Alvarez to the question of the extinction of many species at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Scientists struggle for credibility, and one way of doing so is to hybridize their research techniques and programs with the dominant sciences of the day, such as molecular and structural biology. The Department of Paleontology’s integration with the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley was part of a larger effort to cross-fertilize ideas and techniques from related disciplines that focus on evolutionary processes. “Interdisciplinarity” had an early home here at Berkeley and especially at UCMP, long before Integrative Biology was founded in the 1990s. One result of this integration is that the UC Museum of Paleontology has once again assumed a worldwide leadership role in the conduct of cutting-edge research, though it has long led the field of mammalian paleontology.

On a more human level, you will find in these pages, that the engines of research and innovation are fueled by human virtues as much as intellect. Bill and Dot’s patience and empathy for Bill’s students as they navigated the challenges of graduate school and the dust and heat of the field  is well documented, as is Bill’s curiosity, meticulousness, patience and care with which he draws his scientific conclusions. It is surely a mark of his influence that his students have taken up the charge by using new techniques evidence, carefully tested, to gradually move their respective fields forward increment by increment.

Paul Burnett

Berkeley, CA, 2017

New Release: Edward Howden, California Civil Rights Advocate

Today we release a very special oral history interview: Edward Howden, a pioneering advocate for civil rights and social justice in community-based organizations and early governmental civil rights institutions. Howden, who attended UC Berkeley from 1936 to 1940, was 98 years when we completed his interview earlier this year. To introduce this oral history, we’ve reprinted the interview’s “Foreword” by San Francisco State University Professor Emeritus of History Bob Cherny:

“Today San Francisco and, perhaps with some exceptions, California have reputations for diversity and for inclusion without regard to ethnicity, religion, or gender. California was the first state to elect women to both of its U.S. Senate seats. Currently, the speaker of the state Assembly and the president pro tempore of the Senate are both Latinos. The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court is a Filipina American. The last six mayors of San Francisco have included a woman, an African American (in a city where African Americans make up less than eight percent of the population), and a Chinese American. Many similar examples could be cited.

One might be tempted to conclude that this level of political inclusion has arisen naturally from a diverse population, but there are other parts of the country where diversity has not automatically brought inclusion. A study by sociologists in 1970 suggested that San Francisco had a “culture of civility” based on tolerance for what they called, in the sociological jargon of that time, “deviants.” However, their explanation for this tolerance is unconvincing, focusing on an alleged “Latin heritage,” a “libertarian and politically sophisticated” working class, and a high proportion of unmarried adults.

Such an analysis leaves out a great deal, both in understanding the development of widespread tolerance of difference, and such tolerance does not automatically lead to inclusion into the social, economic, or political mainstream. There is a difference between tolerating difference and celebrating diversity, and neither itself produces inclusion. Inclusion of diverse groups and individuals into the mainstream has resulted from long-term struggles against both outright racism and more subtle forms of discrimination. In recent decades, historical scholarship has often focused on the ways that various groups have organized themselves to seek equality and inclusion.

The history of efforts to create a more inclusive society involves more than the efforts of excluded groups to organize themselves and demand inclusion. Equally important have been the historical battles that reformers—not themselves members of a discriminated against group— have waged against outright racism and more subtle forms of discrimination and in favor of inclusion. This oral history provides essential documentation to this aspect of the history of California. Throughout his professional lifetime, Ed Howden promoted such goals by campaigning for what he prefers to call human rights: first, in advocating that San Franciscans become more inclusive, then in using the authority of the State of California to bring greater inclusion in employment, and finally as a mediator, seeking to resolve community problems over rights.

I first met Ed at Alma Via, an assisted-living facility where my mother was a resident. Ed often sat at her table during breakfast, and we got to know each other over that breakfast table. I had known a bit about Ed’s work through my research and writing about California history and politics in the mid- to late 20th century. Meeting him in person over breakfast jogged my memory about some parts of his history and reading this oral history has told me a great deal more.

As you will discover from this account, Ed was involved throughout his long career in the struggle for what he defines as human rights. In the pages that follow, he relates how some of his experiences as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1930s and in the army during World War II led him in 1946 to accept the position of director of the Council for Civic Unity (CCU). Prominent members of San Francisco’s Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, and African American communities had established the CCU, and, as director, Ed worked to develop an awareness of discrimination and to advocate solutions. He utilized public meetings at the Commonwealth Club, radio and later television programs, the city’s four daily newspapers, presentations to the Board of Supervisors, and individual contact with the city’s movers and shakers. He was centrally involved behind the scenes in 1957 in the resolution of the imbroglio over the attempt by Willie Mays, a star player on the recently arrived San Francisco Giants, to buy a house in an all-white neighborhood. Ed also took the lead in writing and publishing A Civil Rights Inventory of San Francisco (1958) that detailed discriminatory employment and housing practices.

In 1959, Ed moved from what would today be called an advocacy organization, the CCU, to a governmental position. The year before, in 1958, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, who had been the California Attorney General and before that the San Francisco District Attorney, was elected governor. As governor, Brown worked with the Democratic leadership in the legislature to create the state Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). Brown appointed Ed as the first director of that agency, and Ed remained in that position for more than seven years, until Ronald Reagan became governor. After leaving the FEPC, in early 1967, he joined the Community Relations Service, a federal agency established within the Department of Justice under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He began western regional director and then became a Senior Conciliation Specialist. He retired in 1986. In that agency, he sought to mediate community problems involving human rights. Much of his work in that agency is covered in a separate oral history, done in 1999, but in this oral history Ed reflects on his central involvement in bringing a peaceful resolution to the 1973 stand-off at Wounded Knee between the FBI and American Indian Movement activists.

Ed’s story is that of one who has worked tirelessly, sometimes prominently but often behind the scenes, to eliminate practices that discriminated on the basis of race and thereby to promote inclusion. At the center of his work stands his belief that respect for human rights is the basis for decent relations among all the groups that make up a diverse society.”

New Release: Wayne Feinstein, Former Executive Director, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1991-2000

The Oral History Center of The Bancroft Library is pleased to announce the release of a new life history interview with Wayne Feinstein, who served as Executive Director of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties from 1991 to 2000.

Wayne Feinstein was born Albany, New York, in 1952 and raised largely in Columbus, Ohio. He was active in his local Jewish congregation as a teenager and seriously considered the idea of attending seminary. He took an undergraduate degree from Colgate College and after graduation went to work for a series of Jewish community nonprofits, including: the United Jewish Appeal, the Jewish Welfare Federation in San Francisco, and the Council of Jewish Federations in New York. His first leadership role was as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, which was followed by years heading up the Los Angeles Jewish Federation and the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, where he was executive director from 1991 to 2000. In 2000, he switched careers, going into the private sector, eventually becoming a vice president at the Capital Group. In this interview, Feinstein discusses his childhood, education, and experiences formative in the development of his decision to serve the Jewish community for roughly three decades. He surveys the landscape of Jewish communal organizations and describes how the roles played by those organizations changed over the last quarter of the 20th century. Feinstein details, in particular, the three federations for which he served as staff executive, focusing on the fundraising and service functions of those organizations.

Wayne Feinstein, former Executive Director of the Jewish Community Federation

Mr. Feinstein’s interview adds yet another voice to our long-running interest in documenting Jewish philanthropy and community life in the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly through our “Jewish Community Leaders” oral history project. Other significant interviews from that project include: Annette DobbsPeter Haas, Samuel Ladar; William Lowenberg; Brian Lurie; Roselyn Swig; and many more.

Freedom to Marry Oral History Project

The Freedom to Marry Oral History Project

In the historically swift span of roughly twenty years, support for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples went from an idea a small portion of Americans agreed with to a cause supported by virtually all segments of the population. In 1996, when Gallup conducted its first poll on the question, a seemingly insurmountable 68% of Americans opposed the extension of marriage rights. In a historic reversal, fewer than twenty years later several polls found that over 60% of Americans had come to support the freedom to marry nationwide. The rapid increase in support mirrored the progress in securing the right to marry coast to coast. Before 2004, no state issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. By spring 2015, thirty-seven states affirmed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, with a number of states extending marriage through votes in state legislatures or at the ballot box. The discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, denied legally married same-sex couples the federal protections and responsibilities afforded married different-sex couples—a double-standard corrected when a core portion of the act was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 in United States v. Windsor. The full national resolution came in June 2015 when, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s guarantee of the fundamental right to marry applies equally to same-sex couples.

The Oral History Center is thrilled to release to the public the first major oral history project documenting the vast shift in public opinion about marriage, the consequential reconsideration of our nation’s laws governing marriage, and the actions of individuals and organizations largely responsible for these changes. The Freedom to Marry Oral History Project produced 23 interviews totaling nearly 100 hours of recordings. Interviewees include: Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry; Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights; James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV project; and Thalia Zepatos, the movement’s “message guru” who worked at Freedom to Marry as director of research and messaging. Read on for video clips of the interviews and links to complete interview transcripts.

Marc Solomon (left) and Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry in front the US Supreme Court (2015)

At the center of the effort to change hearts and minds, prevail in the courts and legislatures, win at the ballot, and win at the Supreme Court was Freedom to Marry, the national campaign launched by Harvard-trained attorney Evan Wolfson in 2003. Freedom to Marry’s national strategy focused from the beginning on setting the stage for a nationwide victory at the Supreme Court. Working with national and state organizations and allied individuals and organizations, Freedom to Marry succeeded in building a critical mass of states where same-sex couples could marry and a critical mass of public support in favor of the freedom to marry. This oral history project focuses on the pivotal role played by Freedom to Marry and their closest state and national organizational partners, as they drove the winning strategy and inspired, grew, and leveraged the work of a multitudinous movement.

Freedom to Marry Oral History Project Interview Transcripts:

Richard Carlbom, “Richard Carlbom on the Minnesota Campaign and Field Organizing at Freedom to Marry.”

Barbara Cox, “Barbara Cox on Marriage Law and the Governance of Freedom to Marry.”

Michael Crawford, “Michael Crawford on the Digital Campaign at Freedom to Marry.” 

Scott Davenport, “Scott Davenport on Administration and Operations at Freedom to Marry.”

Tyler Deaton, “Tyler Deaton on the New Hampshire Campaign and Securing Republican Support for the Freedom to Marry.”

Jo Deutsch, “Jo Deutsch and the Federal Campaign.”

Sean Eldridge, “Sean Eldridge on Politics, Communications, and the Freedom to Marry.”

James Esseks, “James Esseks on the Legal Strategy, the ACLU, and LGBT Legal Organizations.”

Kate Kendell, “Kate Kendell on the Legal Strategy, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and LGBT Legal Organizations.”

Harry Knox, “Harry Knox on the Early Years of Freedom to Marry.”

Amanda McLain-Snipes, “Amanda McLain-Snipes on Bringing the Freedom to Marry to Oklahoma, Texas, and the Deep South.”

Matt McTighe, “Matt McTighe on the Marriage Campaigns in Massachusetts and Maine.”

Amy Mello, “Amy Mello and Field Organizing in Freedom to Marry.” (forthcoming)

John Newsome, “John Newsome on And Marriage for All.”

Kevin Nix, “Kevin Nix on Media and Public Relations in the Freedom to Marry Movement.”

Bill Smith, “Bill Smith on Political Operations in the Fight to Win the Freedom to Marry.”

Marc Solomon, “Marc Solomon on Politics and Political Organizing in the Freedom to Marry Movement.” (forthcoming)

Anne Stanback, “Anne Stanback on the Connecticut Campaign and Freedom to Marry’s Board of Directors.”

Tim Sweeney, “Tim Sweeney on Foundations and the Freedom to Marry Movement.”

Cameron Tolle, “Cameron Tolle on the Digital Campaign at Freedom to Marry.”

Thomas Wheatley, “Thomas Wheatley on Field Organizing with Freedom to Marry.”

Evan Wolfson, “Evan Wolfson on the Leadership of the Freedom to Marry Movement.”

Thalia Zepatos, “Thalia Zepatos on Research and Messaging in Freedom to Marry.”

 

Freedom to Marry staff, July 2015: (left to right) Marc Solomon, Scott Davenport, Thalia Zepatos, Michael Crawford, Evan Wolfson, Jo Deutsch, Kevin Nix, Juan Barajas, Richard Carlbom

Spring Oral History Workshop

We are thrilled to continue to offer our expanded educational programs through our one-day introductory workshop. On February 25, 2017, the OHC hosted our third annual Spring Workshop at the MLK Student Union. Designed for anyone interested in learning more about how to bring oral history to their work, the workshop provides participants with the tools to plan their own oral history projects, conduct and record interviews and preserve and share their interviews. This year, our Spring Workshop participants included independent researchers, journalists, representatives from the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, undergraduate and graduate students, genealogists, and professors from across the United States.

The OHC staff led the day’s various sessions, which mirrored the cycle of an oral history project. Martin Meeker started the day with an overview of oral history and was followed by Paul Burnett on project planning and Shanna Farrell’s incisive dissection of the interview process. The day also included a session by David Dunham on recording techniques and a new presentation by Todd Holmes and Cristina Kim on the various ways to share oral history interviews with a wider audience. The OHC staff was, as always, excited to share their skills to expand the field of oral history practitioners and to learn about the innovative projects workshop participants proposed.

A packed-house at our Spring Oral History Workshop

The OHC is committed to the University of California’s teaching mission and as such, we are always striving to improve our workshop. Each year we provide our participants with evaluations, which we take very seriously. This year we are happy to report that all of our participants stated that they felt ready to start conducting their own oral history interviews upon completing the workshop. As one participant triumphantly wrote in her evaluation, “I feel like I have much more clarity on my project, know what questions to ask myself and how to proceed.”

The OHC staff is already looking forward to next year’s Spring Workshop. However, until then, we are keeping busy and already deep in the throes of planning the Advanced Oral History Summer Institute.

Although we currently have a waiting list for the 2017 Summer Institute, it is never too late to ask yourself: Did you miss us this past February and want to learn more about oral history? Do you want to workshop your project with other oral history scholars? Do you have a research project that could benefit from the application of oral history methods?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, think about adding your name to the waitlist for the 2017 Advanced Oral History Summer Institute, or set a reminder to apply for the 2018 Summer Institute! For more information on our week-long oral history intensive course visit our website. Applications are online and available here. We hope to see you this summer!

Oral History Center Director’s Column — March 2017

Director’s Column March 2017: “History as a Retreat”

The year 2017 is certainly off to a tumultuous start with the words uncertainty, acrimony, and conflict in regular circulation throughout the body politic. As such, there is good reason that so many of us are glued to our news feeds, anxiously awaiting what sensation story might come next. But there is also good reason, I think, to step back from the flurry of ‘the now’ and retreat a bit into the past. I’ve never been one to accept the notion that by studying history we can inoculate ourselves from repeating the mistakes of the past. I think that the present is not only a different time, but also a different place, so we would be asking too much of history to play such a preventative role. Still, as a historian, I am convinced that knowledge of the past can help us better understand the present and perhaps suggest a range of options for how we might respond (or not) to the contemporary scene. I recently finished reading Chernow’s tour-de-force biography of Alexander Hamilton. If there is one point to glean from this remarkable book it is that “uncertainty, acrimony, and conflict” have been hallmarks of our nation’s political life from its inception, resulting even in that infamous duel in which a Vice President mowed down a Treasury Secretary in a bloody duel! Yet, the union persisted, lived another day to provide a home for men and women to attempt to improve the lives of their fellow citizens.

In recent months, I have found myself engrossed in many of the excellent interviews conducted by the Oral History Center over the past 63 years in an effort to gain insight into the challenges of the past and how people — often people whose names would have been forgotten if not included in our collection — responded to and rose above those challenges. See, for example, the post in this newsletter about our “Slaying the Dragon of Debt” oral history project, which provides great insight into federal budget battles of decades past, including an account of how the two parties managed to compromise and thus bring about budget surpluses by the end of the 1990s. This compromise, please recall, happened amidst bitter political fighting and a salacious presidential sex scandal. Also check out our recent podcast season, produced and written by OHC historians Todd Holmes, Shanna Farrell, and Cristina Kim, that traced the evolution of women’s participation in politics from the battle for suffrage to the “Year of the Woman” in 1992. This series puts our most recent election into necessary context and, perhaps, provides some ideas for how to move forward and guarantee full political equality for women. And, finally, in the coming days (on April 10th to be precise), keep your eyes peeled for the release of our brand new project documenting the movement that won the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in the United States. The 100 hours of interviews of this project basically propose a blueprint for social change in this era in which extremes win and positions seem ever more calcified. I think you’ll be surprised to learn all that happened behind the scenes and just how a quick and profound change in public opinion took place.

History, then, can be a place of retreat. Not retreat as in “escape” or “surrender” but in the sense of a place to go to rest and to be nourished and to prepare oneself for the challenges — and opportunities — that surely will rise before us.

Martin Meeker
Charles B. Faulhaber Director
Oral History Center

 

Out from the Archives: Slaying the Dragon of Debt

Slaying the Dragon of Debt: OHC’s Look into Federal Budgets from the 1960s into the 2000s.

Debt and deficits, budget reconciliation, CBO scoring. These arcana have again appeared at the forefront of social media feeds and on the front pages of newspapers as Congress and the White House attempt to pass the new President’s agenda while figuring out how to pay for it.

Back in 2010, OHC director Martin Meeker and then-postdoc scholar Patrick Sharma embarked on a brief but intensive oral history project — that we called “Slaying the Dragon of Debt” — exploring the recent history of federal debt and deficits. The central question asked at the beginning of the project went something like this: how was it that after running deficits for over 25 years, the federal government was able to produce a budget surplus in 1998 and every year until 2001, when we returned to deficits? As the project progressed, plenty of other questions were asked as well: Can the surpluses be attributable to President Clinton’s fiscal policies? To the belt-tightening mandated by Congressional Republicans? To the monetary policies of Alan Greenspan’s Fed? To broader economic trends, such as the dot.com boom? To something else entirely? To all of the above?  

As we enter into a new fiscal regime, we think it is useful to return to our project on debt and deficits and attempt to seek insights into the complex workings of federal fiscal and monetary policy and how those policies are influenced by profound political shifts , warring parties, and memorable characters. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is now brought under criticism by the White House Office of Management and Budget, we want to know how have those offices worked together — or against one another — in the past. Has the work of CBO always been politicized and if so, how? Is the kind of rhetoric we hear today something entirely new or is it just another chapter in the decade’s long battles around government spending?

This project featured interviews with several former directors of the CBO, including Douglas Holtz-Eakin, June O’Neill, Rudolph Penner, Robert Reischauer, and Alice Rivlin. The project also includes interviews with a handful of former OMB directors, including: James McIntyre, Jim Miller, and, again, Alice Rivlin. Perhaps among the most revealing interviews are those with key staffers who worked behind the scenes, crafting legislation, and making policy. We recommend reading through the oral histories with Bill Hoagland, who served as staff director for the Senate Budget Committee from 1986 to 2003, and Joseph Minarik, who was the chief economist at the OMB throughout Clinton’s two terms. Let us know what you think!

Cliff Dochterman: A Rotarian’s Pursuit of Happiness through Service

It’s with great pleasure that we announce the publication of Cliff Dochterman’s oral history; Cliff Dochterman: A Rotarian’s Pursuit of Happiness through Service.” A former Rotary International President (1992-1993), Dochterman is best known for jumpstarting the PolioPlus program that immunized over 2.5 billion children around the world and his ability to raise millions of dollars for refugees during the Yugoslav Wars. Dochterman is credited as for helping Rotary International realize its potential as a global philanthropic and service organization. His decades-long dedication to Rotary International, Boy Scouts of America, higher education administration both here at the University of California and at the University of the Pacific demonstrate his gift for fundraising and his unwavering commitment to service.

Given everything Dochterman has done for the Rotary world, it’s hard to believe that Dochterman was initially rejected from the Berkeley Rotary Club. A young University of California administrator and assistant to UC President Clark Kerr, Dochterman finally gained acceptance into the Berkeley Rotary Club after a third nomination. Shortly after joining the club, he became Berkeley’s Club President and then the local District Governor and member of various international committees. Of course, his meteoric rise comes as no surprise to those that know Cliff Dochterman personally.

As the current Rotary International President, John Germ, aptly notes in the introduction to Dochterman’s oral history, “Cliff is an individual who is a role model for individuals who desire to create a better world.  As a Rotarian, Scout leader and a dedicated American, he has led by example always putting others above himself. His joyful disposition has brought great success in motivating others to community service. We are all better because we have had the opportunity to serve with him and to know him.”

Cliff Dochterman’s oral history is part of the OHC’s larger Philanthropy collection. We highly encourage all those interested in learning more about the dynamic history of Rotary International to read Cliff Dochterman: A Rotarian’s Pursuit of Happiness through Service.”

 

New Research In Oral History – Lunch Lecture: Exploring The African American Experience In the 19th and 20th Centuries through Oral History

Shirley Ann Wilson Moore, Professor Emerita of History, California State University, Sacramento
March 20, 2017 | 12-1:15 p.m. | 267 Bancroft Library

Professor Shirley Moore, an alumna of UC Berkeley, is the author of numerous works on African American history in the West, including “To Place Our Deeds: The African American Community in Richmond, California 1910-1963,” and most recently “Sweet Freedom’s Plains: African Americans on the Overland Trails 1841-1869. In the lunch lecture series, “New Research in Oral History,” Dr. Moore will discuss her use of oral history in these two books, as well as its overall importance in documenting the African American experiences in California and the West. Her research has been an invaluable resource for our Rosie the Riveter / World War II Oral History Project.

Professor Susan Ervin-Tripp: 2016 Class of ’31 Interviewee in University History

Professor Susan Ervin-Tripp

One of the great joys of being an oral historian is getting to talk to people you otherwise wouldn’t have known. We have the privilege of asking people about their lives, putting their experiences in context of the larger historical landscape, posing questions that others don’t have the opportunity to ask. I had the opportunity to do just this when I interviewed Professor Susan Ervin-Tripp in 2016.

Professor Dan Slobin puts it best in the introduction he wrote for Ervin-Tripp’s oral history:

Throughout her long and productive career, Susan Ervin-Tripp has repeatedly been a path-breaker. And the paths that she helped explore have become well-traveled roads. I is remarkable to see so many innovations in one life story: psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics, embracing new directions in the study of first-language acquisition as well as bilingualism; repeated applications of new technology: computers, tape recorders, video recorders, wireless microphones; design of new methods of transcribing and documenting the many layers of speech interaction; cross-linguistic and cross-cultural research, with attention to both individual and interpersonal dimensions of language. Along with these contributions to the scientific side of her profession, Ervin-Tripp has given equal attention to the institutional and political dimensions of academia, focusing on the treatment of women and minorities. Wherever possible, she used her academic skills as a psycho- and sociolinguist to provide a scientific foundation to her advocacy.

Slobin is not the only one who values Ervin-Tripp’s many contributions. Her interview was part of our Class of ’31 series, in which faculty and staff, both current and retired, are nominated by admirers to the subject an oral history. Ervin-Tripp received numerous, passionate nominations which conveyed a resounding eagerness to document her work in academics and equity, knowing that we could all benefit from learning about her trailblazing work.

I sat down with Ervin-Tripp for our first interview in May of 2016. It was immediately clear that she was a practiced speaker, having taught for many years, with a healthy sense of humor. She was poised and articulate, prepared with her notes. Over the course of our six hours of interviews, we discussed her childhood during the Great Depression in Minneapolis, Minnesota, her undergraduate education at Vassar College, her doctoral work at the University of Michigan, and her career at UC Berkeley, which began in 1958. She detailed her work on the Southwest Project in Comparative Psycholinguistics studying the connection between language and cognitive performance, her time as a professor in the Psychology and Speech Departments at Berkeley, her early adoption of technology in her research, her participation at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences and with the 1985 Scientific Exchange program in France. She talked about the significant advances that she made for women’s equality on campus and the multiple efforts she made to create such change.

It was a pleasure to have interviewed a woman whose career has impacted Berkeley so greatly. There are many lessons to learn from this interview, particularly the courage and persistence it takes to create an equitable environment. Professor Susan Ervin-Tripp’s oral history is one that is rare for her generation and one that should be celebrated.

Shanna Farrell, Interviewer, Oral History Center

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