From the Cast-Iron Shore
290 pages

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290 pages

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From the Cast-Iron Shore is part personal memoir and part participant-observer’s educational history. As president emeritus at Williams College in Massachusetts, Francis Oakley details its progression from a fraternity-dominated institution in the 1950s to the leading liberal arts college it is today, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

Oakley’s own life frames this transformation. He talks of growing up in England, Ireland, and Canada, and his time as a soldier in the British Army, followed by his years as a student at Yale University. As an adult, Oakley’s provocative writings on church authority stimulated controversy among Catholic scholars in the years after Vatican II. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Medieval Academy of America, and an Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, he has written extensively on medieval intellectual and religious life and on American higher education.

Oakley combines this account of his life with reflections on social class, the relationship between teaching and research, the shape of American higher education, and the challenge of educational leadership in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. The book is an account of the life of a scholar who has made a deep impact on his historical field, his institution, his nation, and his church, and will be of significant appeal to administrators of liberal arts colleges and universities, historians, medievalists, classicists, and British and American academics.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 novembre 2018
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268104047
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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My official college portrait. By Everett Kinstler, 1995.
In Lifelong Pursuit of Liberal Learning
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
Copyright © 2019 by the University of Notre Dame
All Rights Reserved
Published in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Oakley, Francis, author.
Title: From the cast-iron shore : in lifelong pursuit of liberal learning / Francis Oakley.
Description: Notre Dame : University of Notre Dame Press, [2018] | Includes bibliographical references and index. |
Identifiers: LCCN 2018043818 (print) | LCCN 2018050212 (ebook) | ISBN 9780268104030 (pdf) | ISBN 9780268104047 (epub) | ISBN 9780268104016 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 0268104018 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780268104023 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 0268104026 (pbk. : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Oakley, Francis. | College teachers—United States—Biography. | College presidents—United States—Biography. | Williams College—History.
Classification: LCC LA2317.O26 (ebook) | LCC LA2317.O26 A3 2018 (print) | DDC 378.0092 [B] —dc23
LC record available at
∞ This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at
To my wife,
and grandchildren
ONE The Secure Realm of BEFORE
TWO The Shadowed World of AFTER
THREE Trajectories of Fear
FOUR Ad majorem dei gloriam
Lissananny, Oxford, Toronto, Cambridge (MA), Preston, Aldershot, Catterick, Gloucester, New Haven
FIVE Poblacht na hÉireann
SIX Collegium Corporis Christi
SEVEN Oh, Canada!
EIGHT On Her Majesty’s Service
NINE Lux et veritas

TEN Williamstown and Its College
ELEVEN Encountering the Old Williams
TWELVE The Transformative Sixties (i): The New Williams
THIRTEEN The Transformative Sixties (ii): The Second Vatican Council
FOURTEEN Vita contemplativa : Teaching and Research
FIFTEEN Vita activa (i): Matters of Governance
SIXTEEN Vita activa (ii): The Administrative Turn
SEVENTEEN Presidential Years (i): The Job: Nature, Range, and Variety
EIGHTEEN Presidential Years (ii): Organization, Appointments, and Initiatives
NINETEEN Presidential Years (iii): Principal Challenges Confronted
TWENTY Aftermath
Somewhere or other as I recall—I don’t seem to be able to find it in his autobiography—Edward Gibbon, describing his feelings when he had completed the sixth and final volume of his great The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire , wrote: “I walked under the lindens with lassitude and elation.” Having recently, at the age of 83, turned into Yale University Press the manuscript of the third and final volume of an attempt to reshape the way in which we have characteristically understood the unfolding of Western political thought from late antiquity to the mid-seventeenth century, I thought I could lay claim to having acquired some dim sense at least of what he was feeling. But lindens are few and far between in the northern Berkshires and elation I was keeping on a nervously short leash until I had heard what the more astringent of the scholarly reviewers might have to say about my earnest efforts. As for lassitude, it proved to be very short-lived. Even while I was going through the dreary business of assembling a bibliography and checking up on the accuracy of my footnotes, memories of my childhood came pounding imperatively on the portal of consciousness and demanding some sort of expression. Without having planned to do so, then, I ended up backing into the writing of a species of memoir.
Although I have enjoyed writing it, it would be disingenuous for me, as it was, in fact, for Gibbon, to claim that “my own amusement . . . [was] my motive.” I have to acknowledge, rather, that I don’t fully comprehend the nature of the urgencies that produced the effort involved. It was not simply, I think, the nostalgia of old age peering back affectionately at the sometimes strange doings of one’s younger self and at the concatenation of developments and events that shaped one’s earlier years. Instead, I think, it was something more anxious than that, a compelling urge to detect some sort of pattern in the complex and intricate doings that filled long years characterized above all by their persistent busy-ness, to discern, if you wish, some coherent shape and direction in the gradual unfolding of a life. We all, I suspect, are moved to engage in such an effort. We tell stories of our past and in so doing edge unwittingly towards the shaping of some sort of narrative of the trajectory of our living overall. But comparatively few of us are moved to commit that narrative to writing and to risk sharing it with others. If I do that, it is probably because I love to write and have characteristically done most of my thinking with pen in hand and a readership in mind. If I have certainly thought in order to write, I suspect that I have also written in order to think. At the same time, conscious as I am of the degree to which, in our day, the promiscuous composition of memoirs has become something of a tired cliché, it was not without some foot-dragging that I allowed myself to be drawn into writing one of my own. I did my best, in effect, to resist the urgencies of the personal past. But in vain. What follows, then, is the fruit of my shamefaced capitulation. The unaccustomed freedom from the tyranny of the footnote has been one of the unexpected joys attendant upon this sort of writing. But recognizing that the reader might conceivably be interested in going to the source of words quoted in the text, I have appended at the end of the book a listing of such sources, each cued to the particular page on which it is invoked.
The Secure Realm of BEFORE
“Oh God, oh Jesus, oh Sacred Heart. Boy, there’s two gentlemen to see you.” These are the words that the Brendan Behan of Borstal Boy had his landlady screech up the stairs when the hard men of Special Branch showed up on the doorstep of his North Liverpool lodgings to take him into custody. In so doing, they moved quickly enough to preempt his frantic attempt to rid himself of a suitcase crammed with gelignite, detonators, and other incriminating paraphernalia associated with the Irish Republican Army’s 1939 bombing campaign in England. This launched him, at the age of sixteen, on the trail that was to lead him to time in Walton Jail, arraignment in court, trial, sentencing to several years in Borstal (juvenile reform school), eventual expulsion from England, and the launching of a successful literary career. That 1939 campaign is forgotten today almost as totally as is the subsequent IRA campaign of raids in the 1950s on British military installations in England and Northern Ireland with the object (sometimes embarrassingly successful) of seizing arms and ammunition for use in future assaults on the hated imperial establishment. And yet, as I now realize, it was a remarkably extensive campaign, generating apprehension and alarm in a whole series of English cities from London to Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Coventry, and inevitably stirring up, so far as English attitudes towards the Irish were concerned, a renewed wave of anger, fear, and loathing. Tear gas bombs precipitated panic in cinemas; in London, railway and Tube stations were damaged by explosions; in Manchester and Liverpool, power lines, bridges, jails, and other public buildings were targeted. Among the worst incidents were a bombing in Coventry that went awry, injuring some sixty bystanders and killing another five, and a massive explosion in Liverpool that totally destroyed the Central Post Office on Mount Pleasant.
In 1939, at the time the sixteen-year-old Behan was apprehended, we were living across town in the South Liverpool suburbs and the post office incident is firmly embedded among my early memories. It is so less, I think, because of the event itself, however dramatic it must have been, than because of the sotto voce anxiety my parents unwittingly conveyed to their offspring, worried as they were about the degree to which such unhappy goings-on could stir up rancid anti-Irish sentiment once more. And their anxiety, as I was later to discover at elementary school, was wholly warranted. For we were an Irish family, perhaps the more self-consciously so because we bore an English surname. My siblings and I had been fated to grow up in England rather than Ireland simply because my father, at a time of high unemployment in both Britain and the Irish Free State, had been fortunate enough to have been offered the job of assistant foreman in the packing and shipping department of a bobbin and shuttle factory that served the needs of the Lancashire and Indian cotton mills. He knew a lot about timber and was a known quantity because his father’s sawmill had earlier shipped timber to that factory. It was situated in Garston, at the most southerly end of the complex of docks stretching along the tidal waters of the Mersey estuary navigable by ocean-going vessels. To that factory he rode his bike six days a week, and they w

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