Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 20, Number 4 (Fall 1974)
Batt, James R.
Vis-à-vis: on executive streaking, p. 27
Vis-a-vis On Executifoe Streak inq By James R. Batt My wife and my son and daughter must envy those of their friends who can answer the ques- tion "What does your husband (dad) do for a living?" with a simple response of doctor, lawyer, plumber, professor, or what-have- you. Let's face it, being the executive director of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters is several rungs up on the semantic ladder of abstractions. But then, I don't know that things were any clearer three years ago when I was assistant director for academic programs for the State of Wiscon- sin Coordinating C o u n c i l for Higher Education-on leave from a position as assistant to the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Center System. The question opens a mono- logue of some duration, no doubt more than bargained for by the innocent inquirer. First comes the explanation of the Wisconsin Academy. That can't be done oral- ly in the equivalent of a short paragraph. If attempted, it invari- ably leads to secondary questions: "Where are you located?" "What kind of programs do you spon- sor?" "Who belongs?" That kind of thing. When we get our new general information brochure, I fully intend to carry a number of them in my breast pocket for impromptu distribution. It's either that or throat lozenges at this stage. But resolving the identity and nature of the Academy is only half the job; the other half being a ver- bal excursion into the responsi- bilities of executive directorship. Frankly, I wish they wouldn't press that point but, rather, would stand back and let the aura of a title of such magnitude quietly overwhelm them. Those who do react in such fashion provide me a harmless little pleasure. Although employment of full- time staff is a relatively recent Academy innovation, the action by the Council in 1971 fulfilled a century-old intention. From the outset, and for the course of the next one hundred years, the elected officers of the Academy had to give more of their time and talents, by necessity, than might normally be expected of such positions. Ded- ication of the highest order was called for, and obtained, but not without the voicing of an occasion- al call for relief. Founder and first president J. W. Hoyt, writing in the 1870 Bulletin No. 1 of the Academy ("published . . . as oc- casion requires"), was constrained to observe the following in his description of a "Plan of Opera- tions": No institution of this or any other kind can be efficiently maintained without the means to employ and fairly compensate one or more competent and efficient offi- cers, so that their whole time and energies may be conse- crated to its work. The under- signed feels the more free to emphasize this declaration for the reason that his own services, as well as the serv- ices of a large majority of those who are now laboring, and who expect to labor, for the upbuilding and success of this Academy, are gratuitous- ly rendered. It is manifest, however, that this gratuity of service cannot be expected of the two or three officers of whom constant and exclusive service will be demanded. And so aspiration finally evolv- ed into reality. An executive direc- tor was retained and the responsi- bilities and authority of the posi- tion were incorporated as Article IV, Section 7 of the Bylaws. It reads: The Executive Director shall be appointed by and respon- sible to the Council and shall perform his responsibilities in cooperation with the officers of the Academy. He shall be (Continued on page 33) 27
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