University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 83, Number 1 (Nov. 1981)

Fixmer, Rob
We're losing some of our best,   p. 31

Page 31

We're Losing Some of Our Best
                The grass keeps getting greener
                   a long way from The Hill.
                         By Rob Fixmer '80
                       Capital Times Staff Writer
   With around 1,500 full-time faculty
 on campus, you wouldn't think a mere
 sixty-four who have left for higher pay-
 ing jobs on other campuses or in the pri-
 vate sector would be missed all that
 much. But a quick check of which pro-
 fessors have left during the last two
 years-or are expected to resign in the
 near future-reveals that many are
 among the UW's most outstanding
 scholars, researchers and teachers.
   Nor is this so-called "brain drain"
 confined to the physical sciences as is
 commonly assumed; it affects all areas
 of the University and appears to be ac-
 celerating at a frightening pace.
   Following is a sample of some form-
er faculty whose loss will be hardest
   Matthew Holden will be leaving the
Political Science Department for a posi-
tion at the University of Virginia.
Holden, who had recently been on a
leave of absence while working for the
U.S. Office of Energy, was one of the
department's key experts in the work-
ings of the federal government.
   Nuclear Engineering Professor Ro-
bert W. Conn, one of the nation's top
nuclear technicians, has accepted a job
at UCLA.
   David Mechanic, an expert in the so-
ciology of health care, has left the sociol-
ogy department for a position at Rutgers
   Molecular biologist Robert Rownd,
whose work with gene plasmids won
him international acclaim, has left for
Northwestern, as has Larry Cummings,
who was recently named dean of
Northwestern's School of Business.
   The University of Minnesota's home
economics department has snared two
top faculty from our School of Family
Resources and Consumer Science-art-
and-design expert Mary Steiglitz and
Pauline Boss, an authority in family re-
   The Nursing School will lose two of
its best faculty-Julie Hover has ac-
cepted a position at Edgewood College,
while Marjorie White will be moving to
   Anthropologist Louisa Stark has
 moved to the Hurd Museum in New
   Peter Smith, a top Latin-American
 historian, will be going to MIT.
   Steven H. Chaffee, former director
of the School of Journalism, has gone to
   In addition to those professors who
 have actually resigned, a number have
 taken leaves of absence to try new posi-
 tions at other institutions. Many have
 been offered tenured positions and are
 not expected to return. Among these
 are: Larry Travis of the computer sci-
 ence department, who is expected to
 stay at the University of Delaware; Ray
 Bowen of the chemical engineering de-
 partment, now at the University of
 Washington; and Elaine Hatfield, who
 had dual appointments in sociology and
 psychology and is now at the University
 of Hawaii.
   (Ed. note: By late September, bio-
chemist Robert D. Wells had an-
nounced his resignation effective at the
end of the first semester, for his move to
the University ofAlabama; Timothy C.
Hall of the department of horticulture
had resigned; and bacteriologist Win-
ston Brill had gone on a half-time ap-
pointment. The two will be involved in
private industry here in Madison.)
   Some turnover of this type is ex-
pacted in academic life, but the loss of so
much quality in such a short period of
time is alarming to those administrators
who have watched the campus grow,
prosper and achieve an international
reputation in the post-World War II era.
   "This place has a long-standing tradi-
tion of finding the most promising young
people, nurturing their skills until they
have achieved national prominence,
and then hanging on to them," Vice-
Reprinted with permission from The
Capital Times for August 25, 1981.
Chancellor Bryant Kearl reflected.
"During the last few years that seems to
have changed somewhat. There's no
question that other universities are of-
fering our best people salaries and
benefits we just can't match. We aren't
keeping up."
    During a special meeting of the
 Board of Regents in July, Chancellor
 Irving Shain gave one example of the
 "benefits" to which Kearl referred. He
 told of one UW professor who had been
 offered not only a much higher salary by
 another university, but a guaranteed
 home mortgage at 71/2-percent interest.
   Perhaps the situation was best
 summed up by Max Carbon, head of the
 UW's nuclear engineering department.
 When attempting to analyze the loss of
 Robert Conn, he said: "You just can't
 replace somebody like Bob. We can al-
 ways find another body, of course-
 somebody to teach or somebody to do
 research. But it's a matter of degree, a
 matter of finding someone who is as out-
 standing, who brings equal prestige to
 the University, the kind of prestige that
 reflects on the program as a whole.
 That's what Dr. Conn gave us, and
 that's what we've now lost."
   Even finding promising young peo-
ple whose skills and talents can be nur-
tured is no easy task. Carbon estimated
that "it takes at least a year and a half to
two years to find top-notch people, the
sort of calibre we want on our faculty.
And it's extremely difficult to attract
them. In almost every case, our salary
levels are quite a bit lower than at the
schools we're competing against."
   According to Shain, the average out-
side offer being made to UW professors
is $17,000 more than their UW pay. To
that, Regent William Gerrard of La
Crosse stated the obvious.
   Pleading with his fellow regents to
use their political clout to win higher pay
for faculty, Gerrard said, "We need to
retain our best people. All the bricks
and mortar around us won't educate

Go up to Top of Page