The University of Oklahoma Press recently published Confessions of a Chancellor: The Politics of Higher Education by G. David Gearhart, my successor as UA’s chancellor. It’s available at Amazon ($40.02 for hardback) and Barnes & Noble ($29.99 for hardback). After reviewing Dave’s manuscript, I submitted the following to the publisher:
“Don’t judge a book by its cover is good advice. Don’t judge G. David Gearhart’s Confessions of a Chancellor by its length is even better advice. An editor once told me no one would buy a 600-page leadership book. If you follow that editor’s advice and don’t purchase Confessions of a Chancellor, you will make a big mistake. For, it is in its length that its value is revealed.
“Parts VI, VII, and VIII of Confessions of a Chancellor address nitty gritty aspects of being the chancellor of a flagship university. They also expose the underbelly of public universities—politics, inside and outside the academy. They illustrate the depth and breadth of issues a chancellor faces, and they show that being a chancellor is not for the faint hearted. President Truman’s ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’ applies in spades to the chancellorship of a publicly funded research university.
“Gearhart’s candor shines throughout the book. Some, perhaps many, will disagree with his interpretation of events and judgments of people and situations, but they didn’t walk in his shoes during his journey. Despite Gearhart’s ability to spot and hire gifted people, he provides examples of mistakes, of people he should not have trusted. He also exposes his sensitivity by sharing situations in which actions and the lack of actions by others, including his leaders, were disappointing and hurtful to him and the people he led. He shows how lonely a chancellorship can be and how important it is to have a loving and gifted partner.
“By sharing joys and disappointments during his journey, Gearhart shows that life as a chancellor is not unlike a walk through a rose garden—it is a mix of fragrant flowers and a plethora of thorns. Lest you conclude that he has regrets about his journey, Part IX makes it clear that he would do it again, but better!
“Confessions of a Chancellor: The Politics of Higher Education is a must read for anyone aspiring to lead a higher education institution. But its readership should not be limited to those who live in academe. Leaders of nonprofit organizations will face challenges similar to those Gearhart faced. So, will leaders in government, business, and the military. Why? The challenges Gearhart faced are endemic to any organization because of a common denominator—people. The challenges Gearhart faced are not unlike those faced by Shakespeare’s main characters in his plays. They are timeless.”
In reading Confessions of a Chancellor, you will understand better the challenges I faced and why I concluded I was “dealt a better hand” than were my successors.