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A corporate easy chair By Roger Baker I would advise any manager who lives in a community where there is a college to get the professor of economics . . . interested in your problems. Have him lecture on your subject to his classes. Once in a while, it would pay you to take such men . . . and give them a retainer of $100 or $200 a year for the privilege of letting you study and consult with them. For how in heaven’s name can we do anything in the schools of the country with young people growing up if we have not first sold the idea of education to the college professor? Merlin Aylesworth, NBC president in a 1920s address to electric power executives Austin Big business has always been on the lookout for ways to buy into academia. The motives vary, ranging from old school ties on the part of industry moguls and a sense of charitable duty, to more forthright desires for competitive advantage of some kind or intellectual, legitimization of corporate views. Merlin Aylesworth, the man who led the attack against public broadcasting 50 years ago, is quoted here from a pep talk he gave to private utilities executives worried about the growing interest in publicly owned power systems. The tactic he suggeststhe use of colleges to peddle corporate Truth to school kidsis time honored and currently enjoying a resurgence in Texas. As any reading of business publications in recent months will make clear, the country’s top executives have adopted a siege mentality as a response to the assaults of consumer advocates, environmentalists, women, civil rights activists, disgruntled shareholders, plaintiffs, lawyers, and the like. Rather than re-evaluate their firms’ proper place in the scheme of things, big-firm executives have typically dismissed these challenges as the poisoned fruits of public educationthere would be no hue and cry, they tell themselves, if the schools would get around to teaching a proper respect for America’s eco nomic system. It’s free enterprise that they profess, even if they don’t practice what Adam Smith had in mind, and they want the schools to By God teach it right. In Texas, firms are sinking millions of dollars into various institutes, chairs, and other collegiate gimmicks, so that professors might carry the gospel to public school teachers for the ultimate enlightenment of the young. Consider the missionary zeal to be found today in the college of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Businessmen have long been directly connected to the college through the advisory council of UT’s Engineering Foundation, which “tries to bring the real world into the classroom” according to engineering dean Ernest Gloyna. The “real world” translates as money for the college’s instructional program \(about a half million dollars a year, though neither the dean nor top UT officials are able or narrow, businessman’s perception of reality. Of the 34 advisors, all are men, ten are from the major brand-name oil refiners, five represent oil production supply firms, and five are from national chemical corporations, No interests besides large business are represented on the council. One firm claiming council membership is especially active in the college’s affairsHalliburton, Inc., the parent of the giant construction outfit, Brown & Root. In 1976, Brown & Root president Foster Parker began clamoring for a UT course on the private enterprise system. In an Austin speech, Parker said that “An entire generation is growing into adulthood with grossly distorted views of profit margins, corporate taxes, and corporate responsibilities.” He urged the university to establish a course that would set students straight, especially those majoring in journalism, education, and arts and sciences. “In establishing such a course,” he told UT faculty members, “you could count on virtually unlimited help from the business community in subject material, guest lecturers, movie and other visual aids; I myself would welcome the chance to participate. ” An untimely death denied Parker the opportunity to help out, but. his idea had already taken root in the engineering school. Early in 1976, the engineering foundation’s advisory council issued a proposal to establish an Academic Chair of Free Enterprise in the college. The printed proposal sermonized that “the continued growth of America and the well-being of its citizens largely depend upon maintaining and advancing concepts of free enterprise at the academic level, thus acquainting those who will be tomorrow’s leaders with a dynamic view of competitive capitalism.” A million dollars was sought from corporations and individuals to endow the chair. By March of 1976, solicitors had raised half of the amount, enough to satisfy UT requirements for the endowment of a special chair. According to Dean Gloyna, the million-dollar goal has now been nearly met, though he had not made a precise reckoning of cash in hand, and would not make a list of donors available. “Go to [UT president] Lorene Rogers for that,” he told the Observer. It turns out that no complete list is currently available from any UT official, but a search of the minutes of meetings of the board of regents uncovered a list of contributors good for $10,000 or more: Gulf Oil Foundation $100,000 Halliburton Education Foundation 35,000 W. R. Davis 25,000 LTV Corp. 25,000 Phillips Petroleum Foundation 25,000 Sabine Royalty Corp. 25,000 Ethyl Corp. 20,000 Houston Oil and Minerals Corp. 20,000 Dow Chemical U.S.A. 15,000 GCS Foundation 15,000 L.B. Meaders 15,000 Texaco, Inc. 15,000 Pennzoil Co. 12,500 Sedco, Inc. 12,500 Tenneco Corp. 12,500 Dresser Industries, Inc. 10,000 Earth Resources Co. 10,000 Harris Corp. 10,000 W. F. Roden 10,000 Schlumberger Well Services 10,000 Scurlock Oil Co. 10,000 Texas Commerce Bancshares, Inc. Texas Oil and Gas Corp. Texas Power and Light Co. Tyler Corp. Willco Foundation TOTAL 10,000 10,000 10,000 10,000 10,000 $481,500 8 MARCH 17, 1978