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Catholic Quota?

Fay Vincent ’60 writes:

In my college and law school classes, there were very few people of color. Indeed there was no black student in my class at Williams College, and only about 10 blacks in my class at Yale Law School. Women were admitted to Williams some 10 years after I graduated. The law schools had long admitted women, but few attended until the large-scale social revolution in the 1970s. Today people of color and women students constitute a major segment of most educational institutions. To me, single sex education always seemed artificial, and I am certain my social adjustment and education would have benefited from the more diverse current environment. Oddly, as a Catholic I was the diversity because the elite schools in my time had quotas for my religion.

1) Did Williams really have a Catholic quote 50 years ago? I have never read about it. Any pointers?

2) Was the quota a minimum or a maximum? The quotas — or, more euphemistically, admission “goals” — for black/Hispanic applicants today are minimums. Williams does not want to have too few. The quotas that elite schools — certainly Harvard but maybe not Williams — have for Asian-American applicants are maximums, just like the Jewish quotas of 100 years ago.

3) There is a great senior thesis to be written about this question, or about Williams admissions over time more broadly. Who will write it?


How To Go Off Stage

Fay Vincent ’60 writes:

There is something sad and almost tragic about aging public figures who still believe they have not lost their fastball. One thinks of the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., — ravaged by age and illness clinging to the speaker’s desk — while gesturing with badly trembling hand as he attempted to address the Senate.

I also remember having the same sense of sadness when Willie Mays, Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn, all long over the hill, tried to prolong their lustrous baseball careers by joining the New York Mets in the 1960s and 1970s when their skills were gone and they seemed embarrassingly out of place.

Similarly, great football players like Joe Namath and John Unitas tried to hang on long after it was obvious they were no longer able to play at a high level. Only a few icons, such as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, were able to see and accept the price age imposes and leave the game on their terms. Indeed Williams famously hit a home run in his last at bat. That is how to go off stage.

How will you go off the stage? How will I?


Fay Vincent ’60 on the passing of George Steinbrenner ’52


I knew him well. He left baseball under pressure from me in 1990 and was out for two years. Then he begged me to let him back into our game, and I did so because I thought he had made a silly deal for himself when he had asked me to let him leave baseball for life after having engaged in a vicious effort to discredit the Yankee player, David Winfield.

This is not the place to revisit all that drama, but I let him back because I thought then and still believe he did not deserve to be banned for life.

We had our battles and he did some ugly and grim things as he fought to rebuild the Yankees. But he also did some wonderfully generous and thoughtful things to help those whose needs fit his areas of concern. Let me record two such generous acts that have been unreported.

Long before I went into baseball I was CEO of Columbia Pictures. I had never met George but, of course, knew who he was. This was in the early ’80s, when he was well along in his baseball career. He and I had attended Williams College, where we both also admired the football coach there.

One day George called me to ask me for a favor. He told me our old coach was retired to Florida but was ill with Alzheimer’s disease, as was his wife. George told me he was calling those who had played for our old coach to ask for funds to help hire nurses to care for the coach and his wife.

And for several years, he called me when it was time to renew the gifts, and each year he raised the funds and supplied the vital assistance to these two needy old friends. There was never any public mention made of what he had done.

On another occasion, I called him for help. An old friend of mine was afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease and was dying. But my friend harbored one final dream of getting to Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1989, when the Yankees were planning to pay tribute to the memory of Gehrig, whose iconic farewell speech to the fans had been made precisely 50 years earlier on July 4, 1939. It also happened to be the day on which my friend had been born.

When I asked George to help me make the dream come true, George not only agreed to help but insured that every effort was made to get my friend with his hospital bed, respirator and several nurses into the upper levels of the stadium where he was able to see the game.

Somehow, with much effort and difficulty, we managed to give the ALS victim a remarkable few hours at the ballpark, and he was very grateful.

When I later gave George my profuse thanks, his only response was that he was glad to have helped. I often wondered whether he was just a bit embarrassed to be seen as having a soft and caring dimension.

Read the whole thing

Question for readers more familiar with the history of Williams football – who was the football coach that both men looked up to?


Better (or, at least, browner) Umpires

The below post will be quite upsetting and controversial. If you did not score at least 1400 on the SAT (combined math and verbal), then you should not read it. You are unlikely to be smart enough to follow the argument. Needless to say, that doesn’t mean you are a bad person or any less an Eph than I am, but there are certain essays that will be difficult for you to understand. This is one of them.

Those of adequate intelligence should feel free to click below.
Read more


Fay Vincent ’60 on Umping

Fay Vincent has an Opinion piece in yesterday’s NY Times, titled “Building a Better Umpire” . Citing missed calls in the first round of playoffs, he’s come up with a few suggestions on how to fix “a few fundamental problems with professional baseball’s umpiring system”.

WITH the American League and National League Championship Series under way and the World Series looming, the baseball world is buzzing with criticism of the umpiring during the first round of the playoffs. In a game between the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins, for example, an umpire called foul a ball that hit the glove of the Yankees left fielder in fair territory — a mistake that may have cost the Twins the game. Such missed calls have led to a renewed outcry for the wider use of instant replay to ensure better officiating. But before we turn to the intrusion and delay that additional use of tape reviews would cause, a few fundamental problems with professional baseball’s umpiring system should be fixed.

Read more


Fay Vincent Donation

Check today’s tremendous media coverage of Fay Vincent’s $7 million donation to Williams.  Williams is still waiting for that $50 million donation to top off the Climb Far campaign …

In related news, Pete Rose today announced that he was donating all of his gambling proceeds to Amherst.  (If only Vincent had been commissioner during the steroid scandal instead of Bud “Milquetoast” Selig, but that is a rant for another day …). 


Vincent Op-ed

Thought that Herb Allen’s ’62 op-ed was the worst by an Eph in December? Perhaps. But Fay Vincent’s ’60 effort in the Wall Street Journal is almost as bad. (Previous discussion here.)

On Monday Harvard said that next year it will substantially increase its financial aid to middle-class students, bringing its actual tuition costs down to or even below that of some state universities. This is possible because of Harvard’s–and other universities’–growing financial success, and it is a signal of far-reaching changes that will ripple throughout higher education.

Calling families who make $180,000 per year “middle class” is, uh, not the standard usage. Although, if you are as rich as Vincent, it might look that way! How do folks live on only 180k anyway?

Superb investment returns have been generated by managers of the endowments of some of the elite private universities, including Harvard, Yale, and even of small liberal arts colleges like Amherst and Williams. The endowments of these four institutions range from $1.7 billion at Amherst to $35 billion at Harvard, and the investment managers are getting annual returns well in excess of 20%. This is more than the alumni of any of those institutions could possibly contribute, and by an enormous margin.

Thanks to Vincent for mentioning Williams in the same sentence as Harvard and Yale. The more that this happens, the better for the Williams brand. The increase of endowments is an interesting story, one that I should spend more time on. (See here for some thoughts.) Keep two things in mind. First, high investment returns will not continue for ever. If the Williams endowment grew at 20% for the next 1,000 years while global GDP increases at 3%, Williams would own the world. (The exact date when Williams would own the world is left as an exercise for the reader.) That is an unlikely outcome. Second, the College will always find things to spend the money on. For starters, tuition will soon be zero for non-millionaires.

In 1970, when I became a trustee of Williams, the endowment stood at about $35 million. Even using constant dollars, the growth in the endowment since then has been astonishing. At June 30, 2007 it had reached approximately $1.9 billion.

There is a great senior thesis to be written about this rise. You could interview many of the people behind it. Look at specific investments. Dive into the details. Such a thesis would be the perfect start to a career in finance, if only because you would have a perfect excuse to network with rich and powerful Ephs.

Much (but not all) of this growth is due to the major diversification in the investment mixture adopted by trustees of these schools, who realized some 30 years ago that sticking with the ancient formulae of stocks and bonds was no longer prudent. The change came about because the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett, persuaded Grinnell College in 1976 to invest some $13 million in a local TV station that he had identified as a golden opportunity.

Before then, boards at such places worried that nontraditional investments might raise legal issues, or subject them to criticism from alumni. But when the Buffett suggestion turned into a significant windfall of some $36 million for Grinnell in about five years, the rest of the endowment world got the point. I once asked Warren if he had planned to cause such a major switch in strategy. He assured me he had not. “I just saw it as a good buy,” he said.

Hmmm. Color me skeptical. I realize that it is fun for Vincent to tell a me-and-my-buddy-Warren story, but I have never seen a claim that this event (which I had never heard of) was a key in changing the behavior of places like Harvard and Yale. Was it?

Now, however, these enormous endowments are beginning to raise some fascinating issues for all of higher education. The most obvious issue is whether these schools can seriously claim to have any further need for donations from alumni and friends.

They will always want/need more money.

And if, as seems likely, there is much less need for additional giving, does that not mean the administrations of these institutions can operate without the traditional checks and balances of informed alumni? The boards and administrations of the well-endowed schools can safely and proudly proclaim their independence.

In the past, it would have been impossible to ignore alumni. Perhaps an early indication of what I am raising is the recent tussle at Dartmouth over the number of trustees the alumni will be permitted to elect. There the administration has instituted a by-law change that will result in an increase in the number of trustees to be elected by the board, thereby decreasing the power of the alumni.

This is just blather. How many “checks and balances” do the alumni at Williams currently provide? Almost none. The College doesn’t even allow us to get someone on the ballot for trustee without its approval. Now, it is true that the 24 alumni who are trustees keep an eye on things. If Morty screwed up enough, they would fire him. But that role would still be there even if the College stopped fund-raising.

In the present circumstances, the administration and boards of these schools now control the money because the endowment is managed by internally controlled entities. Accordingly, the most important voice at Yale would have to be the estimable and much-respected David Swenson, who has managed the Yale endowment to astonishing annual returns of over 20% for 10 years. Yale’s endowment is about $22.5 billion. What does this mean for the future of governance at Yale? I wonder.

There is no need to “wonder.” Elite colleges in the US have been 90% controlled by their faculties for more than 300 years. Why would that change now? You think that the faculty at Yale care what David Swenson thinks? Hah! Do the faculty at Williams care what Collette Chilton thinks? No. The vast majority have never even met Chilton! Even if Swenson left Yale tomorrow (as Jack Meyer left Harvard two years ago), he leaves the money behind.

Similarly, these powerful investment returns will change tuition pricing and financial aid–and not just at Harvard. A scholar who follows these matters closely recently told me that he anticipates that the elite private colleges and universities will, in the not-too-distant future, stop charging tuition to any student whose annual family income is below the top 5% of all American families–currently around $200,000.

I have been saying this for years. And what “scholar who follows these matters closely” is most likely to have chatted with Williamstown resident Fay Vincent. Hmmm. Could his initials be MS?

By the way, the next big shoe to drop will be from Yale, later this month. At a minimum, they will match Harvard’s generosity: no student loans, no house equity in financial aid calculations, radically lower expected family contribution for those making less than $180,000. But will they stop there? I doubt it. I bet that Yale does something dramatic. How about free for families making less than $200,000?

We already have seen a competition among these schools as of late, with “Free to $30,000” replaced by “Free to $40,000” and now “Free to $60,000.” In fact, a recent announcement at Phillips Exeter Academy, that they are offering a free boarding school education to admitted students whose families earn $75,000 or less, raised the stakes for higher education.

If a “Free to $200,000” policy were to be enacted at my alma mater, Williams College, it would cost them only something like $15 million in net tuition revenue out of an operating budget of $200 million.

Only President Schapiro has the authority to give out these sorts of financial details to an outsider. He was almost certainly the unnamed scholar above. Other possible candidates would be Cappy Hill, Gordon Winston, or David Zimmerman.

And, if I had more time, I would provide a proper analysis of those numbers. Isn’t total tuition around $60 million? So, $45 million comes from the 1,000 students who come from families who make more than $200k? Lots of rich people at Williams . . .

At Harvard, the percentage contribution would be even less. Given the endowment performance at places like Williams and Harvard, they could easily adjust to the loss in tuition revenue. But what about all the lesser-endowed schools that are much more heavily dependant on tuition to maintain their financial stability? How can Fairfield University–where I have served as a trustee–possibly forego tuition to that extent?

What this means is that the cost of the educational Mercedes will be less than the educational Ford. And when Harvard is cheaper than Fairfield, how can Fairfield increase tuition each year, when it will no longer have the umbrella of similar tuition increases being announced by places like Williams and Yale?

Uh, how about supply and demand? Has Vincent not noticed that Mercedes has been raising prices every year since 1960 as well? Vincent believes that it is a bad thing that the College uses its wealth to convince very smart students to choose Williams over Fairfield. Why is that a bad thing?

I suspect many of us have viewed a four-year college education as a commodity that is priced within a reasonably narrow range. In the past, the Fairfield cost was close to that at Williams. If, as is likely, the big guys drop tuition for all but the richest students, all this will change.

Isn’t competition a wonderful thing?

There is another aspect of the financial aid universe that will be affected by these changes in pricing. Currently, there are universities and colleges granting what are known as “merit scholarships.” These are financial grants to students who have no demonstrated need.

The Ivies, and many well-endowed institutions, profess only to grant aid based on need. But in the present circumstances, merit grants are being used to tempt talented students away from the Ivies. Some students accept these grants, and decline admission offers at the very elite schools in order to save money for graduate school costs. Thus, Harvard and Williams may be losing attractive students for largely financial reasons. In those cases, the merit offers make money a solid reason to go to a school down the food chain.

Glad to see that Vincent has stopped mentioning Amherst.

If, as is likely, the big guys drop tuition, all this will change, too. And who can blame the elites for using what they have the most of–money and huge endowments.

Because there are so few of these super-rich schools, the effects of their changes in policies will be felt slowly. But like the change in investment strategy Warren Buffett innocently suggested some 30 years ago, the size and growth of their endowments will have significant and not easily anticipated consequences. The ripples of moves made in Cambridge and New Haven will be widely felt.

It really isn’t hard to see where this is going over the next 30 years. Elite schools will make tuition free and then they will start offering other incentives (research stipends, graduate school funding) because they are competing for students. Their student bodies will grow more international. They will search out talent wherever it might be found. And, given the incentives to all concerned, there is nothing we can do to stop this future. More on this some other day.


Probably not from reading EphBlog…

But former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent ’60 echoes some of the concerns elaborated by Wick Sloan ’76 about academies’ massive accumulations of wealth (and which we discussed last January during CGCL III) in today’s Wall Street Journal.


Vincent ’60 Interview

Great interview with former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent ’60. Best part:

Q: President Bush was one of your main supporters when the owners forced you out. What do you recall from that time, and would he make a good baseball commissioner?

A: He was interested in being commissioner at one point.

I lived in his house one summer when I was a kid, working for his father in the oil business. I knew George President 43 when he was nine years old.

I wrote about his being very supportive of me in a book I published. He read the book and called me and said ‘it was a very nice chapter I did on him.’ He said, ‘but you weren’t even in the room. The things they called you, the names they used about you.’ He said ‘Fay, I could write the chapter better than you did because I was there.’ I said, ‘I have a feeling you’ll do a book someday Mr. President, and you can straighten it out.’

I think loyalty is a great asset. He was enormously loyal to me and I’m loyal to him. He was a very good owner, he cared a lot about the game. I told someone a great story about him and Palmeiro. One day I was in Texas with George Bush watching the game. We were seated in a box next to the dugout, Palmeiro was a big star for Texas in those days — they had (Ruben) Sierra, they had a bunch of Hispanic players, Juan Samuel, they could all hit. The game went into extra innings, it was about 120 degrees, it was just brutal. In the 12th, Palmeiro was coming up, and George said to him ‘Raffy, the commissioner is tired, he wants to go home. Let’s get this game over. Why don’t you hit one out and we’ll all go to bed.’ Raffy goes out and, don’t you know, he hits a home run. He comes around and comes by the dugout and the now-president says ‘Good job, we’re all out of here.’

Baseball fans should read the whole thing.


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