Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sheldon Hackney: A Truly Great Penn Man

Sheldon Hackney, Penn's president 1981-1993, recently passed away. See the fine coverage in the Almanac and Daily Pennsylvanian.

In my younger days as a Penn undergrad, Hackney took a lot of abuse. People felt that he didn't have much backbone. Exhibit 1 was always his failure to stand up to the water buffalo thing, letting political correctness run amok. I too felt that way.

But now, with the benefit of more information providing breadth and depth of hindsight, I see that I was wrong. Yes, he botched the water buffalo thing. But now I see that as just a small detour in a heroic career.

Thanks, Sheldon, for seeing things clearly in Alabama, for taking your case to Penn, the nation, and the world, for testifying to the truth, day in and day out. Thanks for relishing the joy of being a professor first and always. Thanks for engaging Penn's neighbors, and for laying the groundwork for Penn's eastward expansion. And thanks for your famous civility, your stunning grace under pressure, a model for us all. I recall the Fleetwood Mac lyric, from just slightly before your Penn arrival, "Can I sail through the changing ocean tides, can I handle the seasons of my life?" May I do half as well as you.

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