the eleventh
president:
his first year
|
25
served as the first coordinator of the College’s interdisciplinary
honors program. He was known as a particularly thoughtful and
sensitive colleague, with a lively and infectious sense of humor and
an integrity and kindness that brought him respect from all quar-
ters of the campus. He had a rare gift, almost intuitive, for select-
ing, from candidates being interviewed for a teaching position, the
one person best suited for a place at Wake Forest. He and I would
collaborate on academic affairs—in harmony and with pleasure—
for more than two decades.
With his administrative staff firmly in place—both those who
were newly appointed and those who were continuing—President
Scales was ready to assume the governing responsibilities of his
office. He was a more relaxed, a more casual, a less apparently orga-
nized person than his predecessor, nor was he inclined toward a
bureaucratic or managerial approach to his handling of University
issues. He was, rather, sometimes impulsive, acting quickly and
suddenly toward a possibility that caught his attention. As he him-
self noted, he would occasionally, in the middle of an arranged
meeting, begin to “chase rabbits” and leave the topic at hand to go
somewhere else. And yet there was, inevitably, some goal or some
attitude toward which he was striving, even if he was the only one
who knew precisely what the goal or the attitude was. His style
was, ultimately, reflective, speculative, even professorial.7
Scales was perceived, both by the faculty and by the students, as
a “liberal.” Certainly he was a political liberal, a convinced Demo-
crat whose views on national issues had been formed during the
New Deal years of Franklin D. Roosevelt and who never wavered
in his loyalty to the party.8 In his home state of Oklahoma he had
been recognized as having potential, if he chose to use it, for politi-
cal office in Washington, and friends said about him that he would
have made an excellent Senator, his part-Cherokee ancestry bring-
ing him appropriate status as a spokesman for the “Sooner” state.9
In Scales’s conversations with faculty, staff, and students he
suggested, usually by indirection, that he was prepared to accept
changes in campus life that would have the effect of liberalizing
traditional policies. He showed himself willing to take a new look
at Saturday classes, at compulsory chapel, and at parietal rules.
One historic prohibition was lifted: dancing on campus would now
be allowed, not as the result of some public declaration but simply
7
In order to illus-
trate Scales’s cre-
ative gifts as a writer
and as a speaker,
I have included in
Appendix C a speech
he called “Regional
Differences.” It was
given to the Wake
Forest University
Club at the Club’s
Thanksgiving dinner
in the Magnolia
Room on November
20, 1967. It captures
much of his person-
ality and style, and,
as far as I know,
it has not been pub-
lished anywhere else.
8
In 1956 he had
been a member
of the Oklahoma
delegation at the
Democratic Na-
tional Convention.
9
Scales was the co-
author, with Danney
Goble, of Oklahoma
Politics: A History
(Norman: Univer-
sity of Oklahoma,
1982).
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