A Clarkson Mosaic - page 372

He was appointed a Special Fellow to the National Institutes of Health at the Nobel
Institute at Stockholm, Sweden, and at Oxford University in England. He served as the 1963-64
chairman of the Ithaca Section of the American Chemical Society and was visiting scientist at
the University of California at Berkeley during the 1969 spring term. He was awarded an
honorary Doctor of Science degree from Evansville University in 1968. He retired from
Clarkson in 1985, took over as acting president of Wells College, Aurora, N.Y., in 1990, and as
its president in 1991.
When he first arrived on the Clarkson scene, he became so interested in broadening
Clarkson students' viewpoints that he and humanities Chairman Broughton sketched the
outlines for a revised first-semester freshman course: The Forum. It was not the usual freshman
composition course; it was to introduce them to some of the great ideas of the world by reading
great works of literature and philosophy. He was so interested that he taught one section of the
course for several years, and then later gave lectures on it to the entire freshmen class.
He was never formally inaugurated at Clarkson. Instead of a formal affair peopled with
visiting dignitaries attired in a dazzling array of academic robes and hoods, Bob requested a
simple welcoming ceremony in the Arena with just local dignitaries on the dais. These included
Presidents Thomas Barrington and Dale Corson of Potsdam State and Cornell; James McVean,
president of Jefferson Community College in Watertown, and also the current president of the
Clarkson Alumni Association. Other guests included North Country Congressman Robert
McEwen of the 30th Congressional District; Mayor John Hayes of Potsdam; Frank Popp,
professor of chemistry and chairman of the Faculty Senate; Stuart Preston, senior and president
of the Student Senate; and Arthur Lewis, chairman of Clarkson Board of Trustees, who
presided over the ceremonies. All had extended greetings, saving the last to be greetings from
Chancellor John Graham, whose presidential duties Bob had assumed on his arrival on campus
late in the spring. After a few introductory remarks, Chancellor Graham dropped dead. (See
next entry)
Chancellor Graham's Death.
On September 21, 1974, before an astonished crowd of 300 or
more faculty, students, fellow administrators, Trustees, and interested friends of Clarkson who
had gathered to inaugurate Robert Plane as Clarkson's 12th president. Jack Graham ended his
introductory remarks for Bob Plane by dying, and then dropping to the floor of the stage in the
Walker Arena. He had suffered from a weakened heart for several years, and had chosen to
become chancellor of Clarkson in order to raise money for the endowment while letting
President Plane run the institution. (See 1967)
The scene had all the earmarks of a Greek tragedy. Even the weather cooperated.
Teeming rain fell all morning as the spectators gathered in the damp Arena for the ceremony.
Jack Graham arose to introduce Bob for an inaugural address, and began his speech with a
simple request. He said that because his office was beside the Board Room in Snell Hall, he had
asked Bob Plane not to hang his portrait there beside the portraits of Clarkson's previous
presidents until he was dead.
Then he delivered his introduction of Plane which ended with the following quotation
from Dag Hammarskjöld's poem, "Thus it was:"
I am being driven forward
Into an unknown land.
The pass grows steeper,
The air colder and sharper.
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