We at Humanities Texas were deeply saddened by the loss of William S. Livingston, who passed away on August 15, 2013, at the age of ninety-three. An Ohio native and World War II veteran, Dr. Livingston earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge. He came to The University of Texas at Austin in 1949 as a government professor and spent the next six decades teaching and serving the university in various roles, including chair of the Government Department, vice chancellor of academic programs, and vice president and dean of graduate studies. Dr. Livingston served on the Humanities Texas Board of Directors from 2004 to 2009 and was instrumental in organizing our first summer teacher institute.
On September 4, 2013, a memorial service was held to celebrate the life of William S. Livingston in the LBJ Auditorium at The University of Texas at Austin. The program included tributes by William Powers Jr., Harry J. Middleton, Michael L. Gillette, Thomas M. Hatfield, W. Roger Louis, Larry R. Faulkner, and Steve Livingston.
Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us on this day of remembrance, celebration, and thanksgiving for the life of Dr. William Livingston.
On behalf of The University of Texas, I want to welcome everyone to the campus that Bill Livingston so loved. To the legion faculty members and administrators who were lucky enough to be his colleagues, and to his multitude of alumni-admirers, welcome. And finally to the Livingston family, and most especially to Lana, his wife of seventy years, whom he adored and who shared him so fully with us. We welcome you, we pray with you, and we embrace you as cherished members of the UT family.
Many who are here today knew Bill longer than I did, and that is saying something, for I knew him and served alongside and under him for thirty years before he served as my senior vice president. Nonetheless, I will leave it to others on the program today to characterize his accomplishments in more specific ways.
What I would say about him is simply this. Bill Livingston was to The University of Texas what Barton Springs is to the city of Austin: a never-ending source of refreshment and enjoyment; the essence of what is unique and best about our community; a fixture of our landscape, the time before which none of us can remember; and a treasure we cannot picture our community without.
Few besides him have given their lives so completely to the University, and none have better embodied its ideals.
For roughly the last half of the University's history, he served and guided the institution in ways that can never be fully measured. But, like you, what I will miss most is his personality: I will miss his booming voice and mischievous smile, the way he grabbed your arm while talking to you, his famous eloquence, and his humor and his integrity.
Bill, thank you for your lifetime of service and for your example. And though you no longer need luck, I would be remiss if I didn't say it too: goodbye, and good luck.
Bill and Lana were the first friends my wife Miriam and I made when we came to Austin in 1969. We were introduced by President and Mrs. Johnson.
It was an auspicious beginning to a friendship that over the following years brought so many pleasures and satisfactions and personal rewards.
Bill Livingston was known and widely recognized for qualities that prominently distinguished him—his charm, his courtly manner, his erudition among them. For us, there is also something more personal.
It is inevitable that I think of Bill in connection with the LBJ Library.
In his voluminous curriculum vitae, his association with the Library is summarized in eleven lines. But those eleven lines represent a momentous contribution which has considerably benefitted my life.
When I became director, President Johnson gave me a special charge. "Integrate us into this University," he told me. "We're pretty controversial. Make us a part of it." It was a somewhat daunting mission.
But Bill was my introduction to the University, and for three decades he was one of the principal agents of our integration. He helped develop programs of popular interest and importance co-sponsored by the University and the Library. He took part in many of them and enlisted members of the academic community to serve with him. That was the beginning. What followed was much, much more.
His counsel, his representation on our behalf, his participation in the life of the Library prompted Lady Bird to call him "our eloquent and persuasive voice in the Tower." Whatever distinction the Library has achieved rests in generous part on Bill Livingston's interest and contribution.
I have abundant reason to be grateful to him for that.
But above all, Bill was a friend—a good friend, and a friend of generous spirit.
Several months ago, on a Sunday, my children and grandchildren and I were visiting in the lobby at Westminster. Bill came by. He knew my kids, of course, and he became known to my grandchildren and they to him.
He sat with us and started talking to them about me . . . about the Library . . . about our long association and our times together . . . significant times like the occasion when we brought the Magna Carta to the Library, and another one when we brought the grandson of Winston Churchill, and the conference we had on the breaking of the World War II German code at Bletchley with its dramatic moment when a member of the audience revealed that he had been there and had been instrumental in the breaking—and the private if not necessarily quiet times like Sunday brunches around the pool with Lana and Miriam and friends. He had them captivated. Even I was entranced—and I had lived through it all.
It was not the erudite Bill Livingston, or the witty one who took this occasion to give a young rapt audience a sense of what those years had been like, and what they had meant to all of us. It was the man whose friendship and support enlarged and enriched my life. I'll not forget him.
I had a glimpse of scenes from Bill's earlier life when we spent a day together in Columbus before the Ohio State football game. We drove along Broad Street where Bill had once sold newspapers on street corners and where he had worked as an usher in the movie theater. We explored the leafy North Arlington suburb where he had met the love of his life, Lana, on a blind date. Finally, we toured the campus, including Page Hall, where Bill had been studying when he learned the news of Pearl Harbor. Soon after we returned to Austin, an Ohio State development officer called me to ask about Bill as a prospective donor. He did, after all, have two degrees from Ohio State before earning his doctorate at Yale. Yet, my advice was not encouraging. "Don’t waste your time," I advised her. "Bill may be a Buckeye by pedigree, but his blood is burnt orange."
When Emmette Redford and other UT Government faculty recruited Bill Livingston and Jim Roach at the American Political Science Association meeting in Chicago in December 1948, they could not have imagined that their recruits would become two of the most beloved professors on this campus or that their combined tenure here would total more than a century. No matter how large the bar tab in Chicago was, the taxpayers of Texas certainly got their money's worth from that recruiting trip.
Bill Livingston personified The University of Texas: its pursuit of excellence, its breadth of learning and vision, its embrace of innovation as well as its respect for tradition, and, above all, its spirit of inclusiveness. In his six decades on the Forty Acres, he gained a singular knowledge of the campus, mastering its labyrinths of offices and regulations and befriending its countless inhabitants. He knew just whom to call for anything, and when Bill called, the answer was always "yes."
It was "yes" because he personalized this large university as only Bill Livingston could. No student was a number to him. No employee, no matter how low in the pecking order, was beyond the grasp of his friendship. When you walked across campus with Bill, the trip took twice as long, because everyone wanted to stop and visit with him, as he did with them.
Although a recognized scholar of federalism and comparative politics, he was at heart a teacher who inspired his students. But his remarkable people skills propelled him into the leadership ranks just as the university was taking off: department chair, vice chancellor, and then Vice President and Dean of Graduate Studies, and even acting president for a time. With these portfolios, he was centrally involved in the creation of the LBJ School, the Perry-Castañeda Library, the Michener Center, and The University of Texas at San Antonio, just to name a few. Whatever the organizational endeavor, Bill's strengths were always evident, as they were during his six years on our Humanities Texas board. His positive, collegial enthusiasm energized every meeting. His perceptive analysis brought the key issues clearly into focus, while his vision lifted our sights and aspirations.
Near the end of his long career, Bill returned to the classroom to teach the freshmen seminar. After one class, a student confided that he was taking the course because his father, a former Livingston student, had insisted that he do so. Bill remembered the father and recalled visiting with him at an alumni event. On that occasion, Bill learned that the father's father had also taken one of Bill's courses and had recommended it to his son, the father of the freshman. Now how many educators have the satisfaction of teaching three generations of students?
There are thousands of us on the campus who loved and admired Bill Livingston and will miss him dearly. So will legions of his former students who owe him a debt beyond measure. We will miss his wealth of knowledge and experience, his thoughtful kindness, and the zest for life he exuded. We will miss that sonorous voice that dispensed wise counsel, charming witticisms, and naughty limericks. But most of all, we will miss the magical glow of his friendship.
Conversations over dinner with Bill Livingston were never about the weather, automobiles, money, grievances, ailments, or himself, unless others insisted. Rather, his conversations were about ideas and events, books, writers, and politics, American and British history, the war, the University, and personalities without bias, except for a few. Rather than dominating conversations, he built on his companions' observations, inserting his own comments, chuckling and spicing it all with witticisms, insights, and more topics to discuss. If someone verged on an intemperate outburst, he might utter softly, "Careful now." The words "hate" and "resent" were not in his everyday speech. If he had heroes, they were Winston Churchill and Harry Ransom, and he spoke vividly about them. Certain of Bill's friends, he called bon vivants, a French term for one with refined tastes and who enjoys life, which described himself as well. He respected quality in every aspect of human endeavor, and could be visibly awed by a truly virtuoso performance, especially of the mind.
If Bill had a hobby, it was words! He was wordstruck, fascinated by the use, misuse, abuse, and meaning of words in English and French. They were the common thread of his vocation (teaching) and his avocation. He was intrigued by the sound and appearance of words. His passion for words explains much about him, beginning with the fact that he was seldom at a loss for them and always eager to share them. Stringing them together, he could be eloquent, entertaining, persuasive, even captivating—and sometimes verbose.
So fond was he of discussing words with good company that he inspired a group for that very purpose. The group was called the Verbophiles, not a proper word, but one signifying a love of the language. Bill described the Verbophiles as a dozen or so fellows, who "met a couple of times a year to talk about language, share biases, and exhibit intolerance of philistines." Within the Verbophiles, he said, "ignorance was never a bar to the assertion of authority." He encouraged Verbophiles to collect limericks, epigrams, and interesting facts about words as he did. Occasionally, you would get an envelope from him stuffed with clippings or notes about what he had found. On August 3, 2004, for example, he sent us a handwritten note addressed:
From: Lovable Tyrant (that's him)
Here is a potpourri of stuff that I have been accumulating with you in mind. WSL
Enclosed were several reports, some scholarly, and some not so scholarly. There was a new computer analysis of Shakespeare's vocabulary that he used 17,677 different words in his plays, as compared to only 5,642 in the Old Testament. Another concerned the winning entry for the worse opening sentence in a novel in the past year, as well as a list of the top one hundred English-language novels of the twentieth century.
Verbophiles and other friends of Bill might be invited to gather in celebration of a major historical event. The gathering would typically occur on the anniversary date of the event, like the destruction of the Spanish Armada on August 8, 1588, the Norman Conquest of England, or, most memorable for me, on the two-hundreth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 2005. We discussed the triumph of the British navy over the combined fleets of the French and the Spanish. Too bad that Admiral Lord Nelson was killed in the battle, but we could still gossip about his affair with Lady Hamilton and the whereabouts of her husband when the undercover work was in progress.
Bill took merciless delight in finding words that had been ludicrously misused in headlines and advertisements. He sent us this ad for a retirement home: "For the sick and tired of The Episcopal Church." And this headline: "Queen Mary having bottom scraped."
There was, however, one memorable instance when words failed him, or more exactly, Bill's voice failed him. It occurred in 2001, when he received the Texas Exes Distinguished Service Award. His acceptance included an expression of his affection for the University. But, if you were there, you didn't hear it because, overcome with emotion, he could not complete his last lines. For my closing I will read what he planned to say:
"I feel tonight as though I'm walking on a cloud, and I want to tell you the view from up here is spectacular. Some of you have suggested that I should write a history of the University or prepare my memoirs. I will leave that to others. But if I were writing a history, I would speak of a great institution growing into grandeur, one with a remarkably rich past, an exciting present, and a future without bounds. This special place, this home of intellectual triumphs and of storied memories has proven to be remarkably adaptable—surviving and transcending tumult and tragedy, tranquility and turmoil, the eccentric and the egocentric, and personalities both noble and perverse.
"Over the years, as the University has got bigger and better, I have progressed from the callow to the mellow. And I have come to view my commitment to the University as rather like a successful marriage. You keep falling in love again and again, but always with the same woman—and always with the same University. So tonight, let me say it one more time, I love you all."
Goodbye, sweet prince.
I'm Roger Louis from the Department of History, British Studies, and in a national context I suppose I should say the American Historical Association.
When I began to think about what I might say about Bill, I went to the most obvious place to refresh my memory—the collection of autobiographies that British Studies published in 2005, some sixty full autobiographies in a book of 942 pages called Burnt Orange Britannia. I thought to myself, here is the place where Bill would have bared his soul and told us things that would otherwise have passed unnoticed in his life. So I picked up the book, only to find that it wasn't there.
Then it all came back to me. Bill and I had had a very long discussion over a period of weeks in which, unlike his usual self, he was evasive. He finally said to me, "Roger, I can't do it." "What do you mean, Bill, you can't do it, that's an absurd statement." "No, it's isn't. I would have to tell the truth." "Bill, you always tell the truth, I can't imagine what you are talking about." And his reply, "I would have to say things that might hurt Lorene's feelings." That is to say, he might hurt the feelings of Lorene Rogers. Well, I knew Lorene and thought she was pretty tough old bird, quite capable of taking on criticism. But Bill said, no, "not in her lifetime." Well, Lorene lived to be ninety-four and she, thus, didn't give Bill much time to publish his thoughts about her. I believe that this reveals a gentle, kind, and generous personality, but on the other hand, I think it's important to bear in mind that Bill would, whenever necessary, make bold and firm decisions.
There is no doubt that the disappointment at not being President of UT rather than Acting President was a bitter moment for Bill, but I remember the day everyone got the news. That evening Bill's sense of humor and good nature prevailed over a gloomy discussion. I remember him roaring with laughter when someone said, "You will always be remembered as the best President that UT never had." I think this episode confirmed Lana's view that Bill might have done better as a lawyer or a doctor. Then they wouldn't have had to put up with academic politics. Yet, by not becoming president, Bill was able to give the University years and years of guidance and experience as Vice President that far surpassed a term or two that he would have had as President.
I want to say something briefly about Bill's intellectual interests especially as they became clear in the British Studies seminar. I would like also to mention that he steered the government department towards more representative governance and away from civil war, thus making the Government Department something that resembles a normal department. In passing, I want to also say that he played a key part in the creation of the LBJ School, the Michener Center for Writers, the Clark Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies, and of course British Studies. It is with British Studies that I want to place my emphasis.
Yet, since I began in a certain vein I can't resist mentioning a couple of other episodes that reveal not only his sense of humor but his sense of the absurd that played in and out of British Studies discussions. When he thought about his wartime experience he didn't spend much time talking about his Bronze Star and Purple Heart but about the order he received everyday to sit on a toilet seat to warm it up for his Commanding Officer. It was this sense of the absurd that was part of an analytical and perceptive mind. And I can't help but say that, again, Lana's sense of humor ran parallel but in a different way. I always tried to sit next to Lana at official university dinners where at least I would be assured of an interesting conversation. At one of them, listening to a speaker who was excruciatingly boring, she leaned over and said to me, 'Isn't he a fraud!' I laughed so hard that everyone looked at me as if I had discovered something interesting in the quite boring speech.
I'll give some examples of his intellectual curiosity and breadth of interest simply by reading the titles of some of the talks he gave to the British Studies seminar:
"Federalism: the Comparison of the British and American Systems of Government." (The idea of federalism—the distribution of power in government and the tension between central authority and the constituent units—was at the heart of Bill's academic research.)
"The British Legacy in Contemporary Australian Politics"
"Britain and the Future of Europe"
"The Author, His Editor, and Publishers: Problems of University of Texas Press"
"The Wartime Reputations of Churchill and Roosevelt" (with Alessandra Lippucci, Harry Middleton, and Walt Rostow)
"A Reassessment of Britain and the Partition of India Thirty Years After"
"Margaret Thatcher and the Future of British Politics"
"Joan of Arc and the English"
These topics convey some idea of Bill's intellectual sweep and give a hint, at least, why he was regarded as a dedicated teacher as well as scholar. Bill was warm and generous, with a sharp mind and a dedication to UT that was, and remains, unsurpassed.
My name is Larry Faulkner. I am honored to have been invited by the Livingston family to offer some remembrances here today.
To Lana, Steve, David, and members of the larger Livingston family, let me express my sympathy over your deep loss. Bill lived long and very well. All of us can celebrate the great successes of his life, but a family's love and loss cannot be compensated by ceremony or by words. The loss remains and requires healing.
In the next few moments, I hope to draw Bill Livingston back among us, at least poetically, through a few recollections and observations. In a career extending over almost exactly sixty-four years, from his start as an entry-level faculty member in the Department of Government, William S. Livingston became a central figure in the life of the The University—one of its indispensable personalities and leaders. President Robert M. Berdahl memorably extolled him as "the conscience, the soul, the memory, the wit, and the wise elder statesman of this institution." Let's think for a moment about how Bill Livingston made such an extraordinary journey.
Out of the blue, a young man once asked me, "You're an institution guy, aren't you?"
Without hesitation, and without thinking, really, I replied, "Yes, I am. Institutions are the means by which civilization is conveyed across generations."
This brief exchange happened, not here at The University, but just three or four years ago with a quick and able colleague at Houston Endowment. I have turned it over in my mind many times since. Was I right in my, surely reactive, claim about the role and effect of institutions? Upon every revisitation, I have decided so. Institutions do indeed seem to me to be the principal means by which civilization is conveyed. And at the core, that is why they merit our care, and why dedicated people care for them with lavish commitments of their lives and treasure.
Over the past couple of weeks, since we lost Bill Livingston, this little story has pushed itself into my mind repeatedly, for Bill was "an institution guy," if there ever was one. And he cared lavishly for this institution.
We have heard today of Bill's great belief in The University of Texas. I recall a speech in which he once said—strikingly simply—that he loved "what it is, what it does, and how it does it."
But Bill's dedication to institutions did not stop at this university. His scholarship was focused on institutions of self-government in America and elsewhere in the world.
And as everyone knows, Bill had exceptionally warm spots in his mind and heart for things British, especially British institutions. Why, he even gave regular lectures on the kings and queens of Britain. Surely Bill loved Britain because of its ancient and venerable institutions, but I suspect that also figuring into his regard were his unabashed fondness for style and ceremony, his pleasure in the proper use of the English language, and his ability to recognize—and very likely even to appreciate—British humor.
I was a latecomer in Bill's life, so I cannot be entirely sure how he became "an institution man," and how, in particular, he became so committed to The University. But I do know some important things about him.
Bill's service in the United States Army during the Second World War seems to have been fundamental in forming his worldview. He was impressed as a young man by the enormously consequential achievements of the democratic allies, and he was proud, too, of having had a personal part in the effort. Bill's war experience seemed to fuel a lifelong optimism about what can be accomplished by well-led, open communities.
And then, too, Bill Livingston came of age as a citizen of this community when Harry Ransom was ascendant—from Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1954, to Provost in 1957, to President in 1960, and to Chancellor in 1961, with service to 1970. In these years, Ransom, more than any other figure, formulated a brightly ambitious vision for the future of The University. Surely it resonated with a young Bill Livingston, for it was about graduate education, great libraries, special collections, quality in learning, and academic standards of the first order. Besides, Ransom seemed to have a gift for expression that could match up to Bill Livingston's love of the language. And then, to boot, Ransom laid out, in a well-remembered speech, a vision for a Bibliothèque Nationale of Texas. Not only was the very idea fascinating—and truly Texan in essence—but Ransom's choice of phrase also gave Bill Livingston a chance to translate the vision to his fellow Texans from the French.
Actually, Bill and I never discussed in any detail his personal reaction to Ransom's proposals and leadership—but just look at the matchup between the priorities advanced during that time and those of Bill's own career as an academic leader. It was an exciting era here, and Bill's dedication to the institution must have been reinforced by his natural optimism that great things—these very things—could be achieved.
In fact, Bill played a very strong hand toward achieving them, especially directly in the life of the British Studies Program and the founding of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Michener Center for Writers, and the Normandy Scholars.
Bill's commitment to Texas was surely augmented, in a different way, by serving as the voice of "TEX," the telephone registration system used by every student for quite a few years. Bill was blessed with a wonderfully warm voice, and he cultivated diction and timing. Someone in The University years ago had the courage to ask a vice president to become the "anonymous" voice of the new registration system. And Bill had enough of a sense of humor to agree. He grew to love the new identity. Of course, students did not actually associate him, in any personal way, with their automated, telephonic friend, for students do not know who the vice presidents are. But they would perk up when they heard Bill speaking to them in groups, especially if he ever uttered the phrase that closed every telephone session with TEX: "Good-bye and good luck." If ever those words left his lips before a crowd of students, a quick wave of recognition, then a cheer, would pass through the group. I loved to watch the little game, and Bill relished it indeed.
There is no time here to recount the long list of specific contributions that William S. Livingston made to this community. Let me just say that in the councils of leadership, he was, for half a century, a marvelous advocate for ambition with style.
All of us here feel sadness because we have lost our great friend, a chip from the very bedrock of The University. But the Eyes of Texas sparkle, even today, with the recollection of a son who lived with verve, with ambition, with style, with good will, and with fine humor. Bill Livingston pushed us, his colleagues, toward greater heights, but also helped us to have some fun on the ride. I think I see him still smiling broadly on us. And in a quiet moment this morning, I thought I heard, "Good-bye and good luck."
I am Steve Livingston, one of Bill Livingston's two sons. On behalf of my brother David, our mother, and our families, I thank you for coming today. We thank the speakers. Their participation in today's service is a very high honor to Dad.
We've heard some wonderful sentiments about my father and his life at UT. Speaking for the family, we agree. Sounds like the same man we knew at home.
Home was a house full of books and ideas and talk, nurtured by Mom and Dad and their love and support for each other. Dad was a great father. His personality disarmed those around him very quickly. Even his two-year old great-grandchildren sensed early on that this was a man who could be teased and played with. My family is grateful to have had him as a father, a husband, a grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Dad officially retired in 2007. I read where Supreme Court Justice David Souter, after his retirement, said this: "For most of us, the very best work that we do sinks into the stream very quickly. . . .We have to find satisfaction in being part of the great stream." This struck me as a humble thing for a Supreme Court Justice to say. It made me think, I never heard Dad talk about his legacy, but I think—in Justice Souter's terms—Dad believed his best work was not going to sink quickly into the stream.
His life was spent educating in the broadest sense. And he believed all his adult life that in our society the good works of educators live on. And I know he found satisfaction in being part of the great stream. He enjoyed it immensely. And many of the rest of us in that stream are very happy he was with us. For us, his presence was certainly life enhancing.
Finally, a few years ago, Dad mentioned that he would like America the Beautiful to be sung at his memorial service. We are going to honor that request with the help of this fine quartet from [The Sarah and Ernest] Butler School of Music. We have asked the violinist to play the first verse as a solo allowing each of us silently to reflect on the life of William Livingston. After the solo, we'll all stand, and when the quartet joins in the second time through, we'll join together in singing the hymn.
Dad would love this.
In addition to the eulogies delivered at Bill Livingston's memorial service, we have invited a few current and former Humanities Texas board members to share their own remembrances.
When I heard the news of the death of William Livingston, I cried. I knew that Bill could not live forever, but I was hoping for one more lunch or dinner, one more opportunity to enjoy his sharp insights, wit, good humor, and wisdom, one more chance to tell him how much I appreciated his guidance and friendship. I know many in our community share these sentiments. As one of his students fortunate enough to take his legendary class on British government and politics put it, Bill "changed many people's worlds, and all for the better. . . ."
In 2001, the Texas Exes honored Professor Livingston with its Distinguished Service Award. At the time, Bill was only the second person to be chosen for this distinction, the other being a fellow member of the famous class of professors who began their careers at UT in 1949, Peter Flawn. In accepting the award, Bill spoke of his two great loves, his wife, Lana, and The University of Texas at Austin, or as he so felicitously put it that evening in his peroration: "I have come to view my commitment to The University as being like my marriage of fifty-eight years. I keep falling in love again and again—but with the same woman. Tonight, let me say it one more time: I love you all."
All who knew Bill are aware that he had a third great love, the English language, written and spoken. In his now famous advice to freshmen ("And One Last Thing," Alcalde November/December 2007), Bill, having dispensed with getting "your physical and personal affairs in order" and getting to know professors, zeroes in on the advice he clearly thinks most important, learning to write. "You are going to be expected to write and write well." Bill's "Advice" contains 747 words; he devotes 481 to the importance of writing, telling the students: "The one thing I have found is you typically don't know how to write properly," while assuring them that, "You can write better than you do." He admonishes them that "you have to make it clear. You can't just say, 'Oh, well, I talked about it, so what I have to say is obvious.' It isn't obvious. When you turn an essay in at the University, you are saying to a professor, 'This is absolutely the best work of which I am capable.' And he will judge you on that basis." Bill himself wrote beautifully, and when it came to speaking, William Livingston, like Barbara Jordan, had been touched by the Gods.
We want to share our passions, and Bill was no exception. Like many, I was fortunate to be on Bill's mailing list, and rarely a month would go by without a missive about language. He loved puns, passing along this first place winner from the 2006 International Pun Contest: "A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'" Bill relished his role as founder and leader of the Verbophiles. We met irregularly, over lunch, each member charged with bringing to the table something interesting about the English language, the wittier and more erudite the better. On April 24, 2008, each of us received a hand written letter, which began: "To Verbophiles, I'm afraid our once-cherished little club has fallen on hard times, and I'm writing to ask whether you think it worth reviving. Two things would be necessary: (1) someone will have to take on the role I used to play—arranging the meetings, sending out notices etc., and (2) we'll have to find an agreeable way (and place) to gather for lunch." William Safire never answered Bill's Verbophile inquiry as to why Republican states should be "red," those predominated by Democrats "blue." "The Verbophiles would meet just one more time, Harry Middleton hosting the group at the Headliners Club.
Why the Vice President of the Graduate School should reach out to an Assistant Professor of English, I will never know. Part of it may have been that Bill was interested and more than a little amused by my work on John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. Then, too, we shared a passion for all things English. It was an inquiry from Bill in the mid-1980s as to why our students were not competing for Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships that started me on what would become a mission to make sure our students did compete—and win. And then there was always that love of language. When Bill became Acting President in September of 1992, he asked me to be his Special Assistant. "What will I be doing?" "You will write speeches and help me with my correspondence." On his first day as Acting President, we felt a bit like kids, playing in that elegant fourth floor office in the Tower. Bill's first official act had been to order The American Heritage Dictionary and The Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus. In those six months I wrote letters and some twenty-five speeches. Being able to write for someone as knowledgeable about and in tune with language as Bill Livingston was a privilege, a most enjoyable one. "Larry, the ablative absolute does not exist in English, and I wish you would stop writing as though it does." He liked humor; some of his I thought dated and tried to take it out. But this example of the decline of literacy kept cropping back up:
More recently one can cite the original catalog of The University of Texas, which waved a minatory finger at all applicants, saying: '"It is the experience of our higher institutions of learning that a large proportion of the candidates for admission are deficient in English.'" That was 1883 and the struggle still continues.
And as a final illustration of that continuing struggle, I will share with you an experience I had not long ago in a meeting with a student group. Someone remarked that Gloria Steinem these days was a bit out of fashion. My quick and I thought rather clever rejoinder was, "Sic transit Gloria." But nobody laughed. The struggle continues.
We had great fun, and whatever I wrote, Bill, with his infectious personality and baritone voice, turned to gold. I will always look upon that six months as one my happiest times at the University.
Memories are all we get to keep from our experience of living, and while Bill was proud of being the voice of TEX, the 1990s telephone registration system, and signing off each call with "Goodbye and good luck," he worried that he would be remembered for that alone. You need not fear, good and faithful servant. The Livingston oak, which the Association of Academic Advisers planted in your honor, thrives in its handsome location just south of the Dorothy Gebauer Building, its many leaves representative of memories so many of us will have of the countless ways you touched and shaped for the better each of us and the campus we love.
I think of him as "WSL" because in the days before computers, when I was one of his associate deans of graduate studies, his handwritten notes and comments were always signed "WSL." Somewhere I've saved a file of these notes—elegant, humorous, and full of a spirit of joy. I looked forward to receiving the "circular file" as it made its weekly round, filled with carbon copies of his distinctive letters, to graduate students, to the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral concerning the visit of the Magna Carta, to James Michener about establishing a Michener Center for writers, to his friend Dennis Thatcher, husband of Prime Minister Margaret.
WSL created a culture around him of decency and respect so that anything less than gentlemanly behavior was unthinkable. His was the racy elegance of a bygone era—and yet he also encouraged innovation, looking on with tolerance and amusement as his associate deans brought in the office's first computer. Was it an Apple Lisa? Long before there was any women's studies program on campus, he allowed mail addressed to "Director of Women's Studies, University of Texas" to be delivered to the Office of Graduate Studies.
Attention to high standards went along with the general integrity of the man. When we had discussions with departments that were admitting too high a percentage of applicants, his conversations with the chairs and graduate advisors were gentle—not so much critical as explanatory. The numbers would be better the next year. He was a pleasant man who did not avoid unpleasantness but somehow managed to bring the discussion of difficult issues to a higher level.
Whenever his image comes into my mind, it is always smiling. WSL was full of zest even late in life. His benevolence was like a form of sunshine under which all things flourished.
In July of 2009, I attended a birthday party for WSL hosted by Mike Gillette at the Humanities Texas house on Rio Grande. I recorded some of his remarks that day on my iPhone. Anyone who knew that remarkable man would recognize his voice, which I shall dearly miss. (WSL would have noted the "shall.")
[The recording begins just as Bill Livingston is talking about what you do when you move to Westminster Retirement Community.]
". . . you spend your time and your social security benefits on vitamins . . . vodka . . . Viagra. Too many of your friends seem to be thus triply disposed.
"I have these notes here that I plan to use, but they're garbled. I want to talk to you about two or three things here. For one thing, John Dollard [a UT mathematics professor who was associate dean of graduate studies] responded to my invitation by saying he wanted to come because he understood it would be an orgy of some sort. That's a Greek word, and I had to look it up. And I was astonished at what he said. And you and you and you and you—I want you to watch John Dollard very carefully. He may get out of hand before we finish here.
"Now I don't have a long speech here, but I do have one or two remarks. The first real remark—are you all listening? I have a little jingle to share with you. I've forgotten who I stole it from—I mean, whom I stole it from. Here's the way it goes:
And middle age ends
The day your descendants
Outnumber your friends.
"Think about that. It's a short speech, but everything is very important.
"I'll share one other thought with you. This is equally significant and important. It comes from George Burns. And I know where I stole this one from—I know from whom I stole this one. He said it on his one-hundredth birthday. [At that point some staff members came into the room.] These people have no cake, and they are not one-hundred years old!
"I'm about to recite an aphorism—or at least a confession—that George Burns made on his one-hundredth birthday. Ready? You're not ready, I can see that! That one is smiling. He said, 'I find myself these days thinking more about food than about sex. Yesterday I had a mirror put up in the ceiling over my dining room table.' Think about that.
"I want you to think about something else and that is that Mike Gillette, bless his heart—where the hell is he? Hellooooooo...is responsible for all this. [Mike then credited Julia Aguilar, who said, 'It was our pleasure.']
"It's your pleasure? No, it's my pleasure, what the hell!
"There's one final thought I wish to leave with every one of you and that is . . . Goddammit, Happy Birthday!
Because in one way or another we are all unique, I hope that I may be permitted the illogicality in saying that Bill Livingston was more than unique. Though gifted in many ways, he was also endowed with a natural modesty that cloaked his many other virtues. Such modesty, for instance, allowed him to accept the position of acting university president instead of holding out for president and perhaps causing a minor administrative scandal that would hurt the institution.
Livingston was an academic who would not limit his abilities to those of a scholar. Convinced that an institution of higher learning requires an administrative arm for its organizational functions, he dedicated many of his active years to various areas of university administration, including department chair, government being his academic field, vice chancellor for humanities, dean of graduate studies, and vice president.
I first came to know him when we were both relatively young and, as an associate professor, I was elected as a member of the Faculty Senate. At that time Livingston was chairing that body. Thus I soon became aware of his wisdom and good judgement, his sense of humor, his gentle manner, and his effective supervision of the Senate's activities. I never will forget his amazing perception of each member's contribution. Every time I raised my hand to offer a comment, there was a smile of acceptance on his face.
As the years went by there were frequent opportunities for our paths to cross. He was very kind to me on the occasions of the demise both of my first wife and, later, my mother, the latter coinciding with a serious eye operation I had which saved me from loosing my sight. Bill then continued to enhance my tenure at UT. He recommended me to Dean Robert King for appointment as an associate dean of Liberal Arts. He practically forced me to become a founding member of the Faculty Seminar on British Studies (I, whose academic field was nominally Spanish and Portuguese). And, much more recently, he recruited me as a Board Member of Humanities Texas, impressing Mike Gillette, the Executive Director of the organization, with what Livingston claimed were my intellectual qualities.
Today the strong and yet gentle qualities of William Samuel Livingston have been left to us as a beacon of light. To say that he will be missed is a gross understatement. He will be missed, of course, as our mutual mentor Harry Ransom is missed. But he will also be remembered as the man who continued to represent the halcyon days of The University of Texas in the first two decades of the twenty-first century.
Bill Livingston has been a University icon for decades. He was a good friend to Cyndi and me, and we both remember his wise and thoughtful advice as well as his vibrant and outgoing sense of humor. Bill, though a distinguished teacher and administrator, exemplified the axiom that students learn much more from their experiences outside the University's classrooms than they learn in them. He is one of the major reasons that The University [of Texas] continues to hold a deeply emotional tie many years after we were students.
William S. Livingston was an icon in the world of political science, whom I first encountered in graduate school through reading his insightful writings on American politics and the American polity. I was never associated with The University of Texas and spent a long time out of the state and, therefore, was unaware of his multiple accomplishments and contributions to that institution. Yet, I was thrilled to meet this extraordinary person when I first joined the board of Humanities Texas. Bill must have been near ninety by then, but his wit, his insights, and his intellect were sharper than most people's at age thirty-five. He obviously cared deeply about the humanities and the fate of Humanities Texas, critically appraising candidates for the board and candidly offering guidance for projects and programs. I was privileged to know this special gentleman through his scholarship and later through his wisdom; I am a richer person for those encounters.
I first met Dr. William Livingston in 1963 when I signed up for his lower division government class. He already had a sterling reputation as one of the best teachers at the university. He was, without question, the best teacher that I had as an undergraduate student. He was engaging, witty, and persuasive. It was not by accident that many in the administration referred to him by his nickname, "Silver Tongued Bill." He had an engaging personality, and you never wanted to miss his lectures. He also had a passion for teaching, something that his students—undergraduates and graduates—appreciated. He made learning not just interesting, but exciting. He worked hard at teaching us, but he also thought it was important that students make their own discoveries in how our government evolved over time. He taught us to be critical thinkers and to look at issues and political outcomes from many different perspectives. Years later when I joined the faculty at UT Austin, I confided in him that I took an interest in pursuing a doctorate at UCLA because he had inspired me to think about college teaching.
William Livingston was not only a truly remarkable teacher and scholar but also an excellent administrator. He served in various leadership posts under many presidents over a thirty-year span. As Vice Chancellor, he was instrumental in selecting the site for our campus of The University of Texas at San Antonio. When I joined the administration in 1992 as Vice Provost, Bill was serving as Graduate Dean. Bill was a gentle man, and all the younger colleagues could count on him to mentor and steer them in the right direction. I often went to him for advice, and he made sure we knew that he had plenty of time to discuss whatever matters concerned you. When I think of all the great developments at UT Austin over the past fifty years, I think first about people like Bill Livingston, a scholar, a leader, and a gentleman.