Rod Library--Special Collections
Ralph Gordon Hoxie
R. Gordon Hoxie creates endowed professorship in history and political science
"Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government."
Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers
R. Gordon Hoxie once visited a conference at Jagiellonian University in Poland--the second oldest university in Europe, founded in the eleventh century. What did the assemblage of distinguished European academics wish to discuss with Dr. Hoxie? The Federalist Papers.
In Hoxie, they could not have selected a better American with whom to discuss the most influential early document of democracy. Few have a better grasp of American political history. Hoxie is founder and CEO of the New York-based Center for the Study of the Presidency, which he created at the behest of Dwight Eisenhower, with whom Hoxie served at Columbia University after World War II. To bring Hoxie's love of political history back to his native Iowa, he created the R Gordon Hoxie Endowed Chair, a new faculty position to teach in the Departments of History and Political Science. His knowledge of the American presidency--and his personal friendships with the men who have held that office--have given Hoxie insight into the dynamic of presidential leadership that few can match, an insight he hopes the new professor will pass on to UNI students. "Ideally, the University will seek someone who first and fundamentally is a great teacher, but who also is a good research scholar. That's a tough challenge, but it can be done," Hoxie believes.
"I believe the selected person should have understandings beyond the social sciences. Our future leaders aren't all going to be drawn from history and political science. Business people, scientists, mathematicians, must have some grasp of our political heritage, our political institutions," he says.
Hoxie was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and graduated from Iowa State Teachers College in 1940. His remarkable career as an historian and academic administrator spans half a century, including collaborations with some of the legends of the twentiethth century: all four living former presidents serve as co-chairs of the Center; he has retained his ties to the Eisenhower family since the 1940s.
After service in World War II, Hoxie remained for a time after the war to write a history of the Army Air Corps. He served as an assistant to (then future) president Dwight Eisenhower at Columbia University, and founded C. W. Post College in Greenvale, New York (now part of Long Island University) and served as its president. Later he became chancellor of the five Long Island University campuses, and was instrumental in the founding of the Taft Institute of Government. Among his honors are the Distinguished Service Medal of the City of New York and the Legion of Merit.
Internationally, Hoxie consulted for the U. S. State Department and served on a number of diplomatic missions. He worked extensively with the Republic of Korea in their transformation into a modern democracy, and was president of the American Friends of Chung-An University in Seoul.
Ironically, for all his achievements in our nation's centers of power, one of his seminal influences was born just twenty miles from Hoxie's birthplace: fellow Iowan Carl Becker, the eminent historian born in Reinbeck, Iowa. "I visited Becker at Ithaca, New York, where he was a professor at Cornell," Hoxie remembers. "Becker's book on the Declaration of Independence was a classic, a great mind showing a great understanding of humane qualities, virtues, citizenship.
"Carl Becker had many of the qualities I would like to reside in this professorship: lively teaching, a writer of great books. He believed in the importance of civic virtue. Our most effective presidents have had a sense of moral leadership. Eisenhower was a moral and spiritual president, a president who defined his age," Hoxie believes.
Hoxie's gift to his alma mater will also include a lectureship series. The first invited speaker for fall 1995 is none other than Hoxie himself. "I owe a lot to my alma mater, and to my parents, Charles and Ada Mae Hoxie. That's why I earlier created a scholarship in their honor," he says. "When I was an undergraduate student at Iowa State Teachers College, there were only 1800 students and a remarkable faculty. President O.R. Latham, too, was a remarkable man.
"I've always been very proud of this institution. At the Center for the Study of the Presidency, we host students from all fifty states. With this endowment I would like to share the principles and scholarship of the Center with my, alma mater."
Adapted by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson from an article in Northern Iowa Today, volume 79, no. 1 (Summer 1995), page 4.