MUSIC IS SUPPOSED to soothe the savage beast, but from a clock-radio at 6 a.m. it only annoys me. While I shave, My 8-year-old, Natasha, asks a riddle: How did the crook get the bag of money off the high peg in a room that was empty except for a puddle of water on the floor? Could this be a metaphor for the week to come?
My breakfast meeting with Washington representatives of major corporations is enjoyable and productive: it will lead to an invitation for me to speak to a prominent business-government forum. And American University, as an independent institution with high aspirations but meager resources, needs visibility before financial audiences.
Back in my office, I interview a vice presidential candidate. Then, I get in several quick phone calls before Voice of America arrives for a taping. Given AU's growing international efforts, it may help for our name to be heard worldwide.
Lunch today is Roy Rogers' fried Chicken at my desk. From noon to 1 p.m., incoming calls slow down; I read the morning mail and edit letters I drafted over the weekend. Afternoon brings a deanship interview, then the phone calls -- an angry parent about a bill, a student about a fellowship, a foundation about a grant and so on. Next, we prepare for a meeting of our trustees. Later, while I shave in my office, a staff member and I discuss next fall's enrollment projections. The standards definitely will be up, but will the numbers hold?
I dash home to change clothes, and Natasha asks, "What's the solution to the riddle?" What riddle? She reminds me. Gail, my wife, and I rush to an ambassador's dinner. Many good contacts here for AU, and we try to meet them all. Tuesday
No time for breakfast today, so I eat a protein bar while driving. It tastes dreadful but the astronauts or somebody got by on them.
A meeting at 8:30 with Lewis Mayhew of Stanford, who is assisting us for two days with our planning. Then, preparation for a speech soon in Connecticut on energy. A professor meets with me for 45 minutes (it was scheduled for 15) to ask for more financial support than his dean provides.
The monthly luncheon meeting with a group of faculty, staff and student representatives. A student's father calls, proposing that his company "solve AU's energy problems." A donor calls, asking if his nephew can get into our law school. After digging through the day's mail, I plan to rush home before my dinner meeting, but I encounter a family and their freshman son, all ecstatic over AU! Could I introduce these parents to the one who called yesterday?
At dinner, Mayhew, the deans and I talk for several hours about declining enrollments, rising costs government regulations. Afterward, I stop at the office to clear my desk. Finally, at 1:30 a.m. I get home and reintroduce myself to my wife. We talk until 2:30 and then await the damn radio at 6 a.m. Wednesday
Over breakfast, Natasha tells about colonial Roanoke, how boys are "yucky" and the solution to the riddle -- the crook had stood on a block of ice. Even though the quantity of our family time is too small, its quality is truly high, loving, caring, sharing. The family is the inviolate basic unit.
In the morning, I have many phone calls, three simultaneously; none are critical, yet they all are termed "emergencies." For an hour, I stroll the campus with no prearranged schedule and discover: a street light burning, a sophomore who "loves AU," an athlete who dislikes our gym, a professor who has a new grant and a lost cab driver.
Lunch is with Mayhew, Ernest Boyer, president of a Carnegie foundation, and several trustees. A lively discussion ensures. In the afternoon, our largest auditorium is packed for a discussion of "Higher Education in the 1980s," by Stephen Bailey of Harvard, Boyer, Mayhew and myself as moderator. Even if nothing else, the discussion underscores that AU's difficulties are not unique and that AU is in the vanguard of academic improvement.
My previously neat desk now is covered with mail and phone messages. While a professor, Gail and I ride to the Capitol, I skim the pile -- a question from a student reporter, invitations to appear on a couple of TV shows, notice of a government compliance review, a request to speak at the Psychiatric Institute and a threatened lawsuit. As guests of a congressman, we attend a dinner, followed by an informal talk by Barbara Tuchman, the historian.
At home, Gail and I discuss a hundred things -- Natasha's school, the afternoon panel discussion, the primaries, her broken car. I then don jogging gear to run our building's long corridors. Tonight, fortunately, I encounter no one. Thursday
First, a stimulating breakfast with a visiting university president, followed by a meeting with our acting provost. After the obligatory phone calls, mail reading and staff conferences, I have lunch on campus with a reporter.
Next, a meeting regarding general education requirements, followed by a reception for business and governmental personnel, at which I give welcoming remarks. Back in my office, I have a radio interview by phone from Europe. Later, I meet with a service fraternity, to discuss how AU can build more of a sense of community pride.
At 7:30, I get home for dinner but first receive three phone calls. (Cold pork chops are inedible!) Gail, Natasha and I tell a quick three-way bedtime story, and then I return to my office to read mail, dictate memos and prepare speeches. Friday
Today, the radio starts with news rather than music. Did he say Iran's inflation is up 15 percent or that it has 15 percent more ayatollahs? At 8 a.m., Gail and I host a breakfast for new members of the Mortar Board Honor Society. I then make numerous calls regarding my alumni meetings last week in Dallas, LA and San Francisco and the ones coming up in New York and Boston. So much to do . . . where to begin? Activate alumni, raise standards, enlist new trustees, stimulate continuing ones, institute estate planning, establish parents' groups, locate potential benefactors, improve AU's image, recruit outstanding students, define our mission. But there is no time for considering the Big Picture during "work hours." This is the life of Ronald Colman?
Next meeting is with my staff regarding honors convocation, spring commencement and the September opening of the university. Then, my staff and I discuss -- between "crucial" phone calls -- long-term plans for academic improvements, new revenue and so on.
Lunch is with a professor, followed by another dean candidate interview and a meeting with students. Then the eternal mail: a check from a donor, a warm note from a prospective trustee, an angry one from a fired staff member, an invitation to the Kennedy Center, a request to write an article, an inquiry about a job, dozens of interoffice memos, etc.
After two embassy receptions, I have dinner with a prominent businessman. Gail and Natasha are away fro a wedding, so home is quiet when I arrive at 10:30 p.m. But not for long. A trustee calls and we have a long, productive talk. As I hang up, the phone rings again -- this time a student complaining that he couldn't park near his dorm. Saturday
Having overslept, I rush to the Smithsonian to talk on my professional field, astronomy. What a receptive, inquisitive audience.
Lunch follows with a prospective donor. But my plans for a haircut go awry when I stop at my office and foolishly answer the phone. Another "crisis." Maybe it isn't, but the caller, a distraught parent, thinks it is. Turns out the matter is serious, but we eventually solve it. The haircut will wait until next week. Sunday
With Natasha not home, I sleep late and miss church. Over a bowl of cereal, I attempt the impossible: to read The Post and Times while watching an old Tarzan movie.
After meeting the family at National Airport, Gail and I plan next week as we drive. Natasha completes my puzzles before we get to Rosslyn. I she's so smart, why did the crook use a block of ice instead of a ladder? "Obviously, Daddy, he wanted a cool million." Gad! Give her tenure.
I arrive at AU in time to give opening remarks at a major symposium on American Judaism. Afterwards, I wander the university library with pleasure -- nowhere else "feels" so much like a university and, on this beautiful afternoon, almost every chair is taken by a hard-working student. Quite a change from only a few years ago.
Finally, comes a cherished personal time, Sunday, 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. No phones or letters or people; just my office and me. Time to review the past week, plan the next, assess my progress, set personal goals. t
Sometimes I envy carpenters. At the end of their week, the achievements -- good or bad -- are clear, unmistakable and theirs. The management of large institutions does not permit such immediate change. What good were all those phone calls? And meetings? And business meals? And talks? Does anyone know? Or care?
The week was worth it. Now, to prepare for the next one. Perhaps I could include getting a new wake-up station, an unlisted telephone number, more staff meetings, less mail, more family times and a haircut.