W. Page Keeton: An Oral History Interview 


(from pages 32-33)

BB:     Was it objected to at Oklahoma also?

PK:     Yes. Administrative officials did not want any division of the University of Texas seeking money for that division. They wanted money sought for the University at large, with the Board of Regents in charge of how that money was to be used, and you didn’t raise anything that way. Or very little. It was hard to sell the Administration on that notion. Of course, we started it here at the University of Texas, where a division would solicit its alumni, and its friends, and the industry and everything, for support of legal education. Shortly after we got it going, the engineers started doing it. They found great success in doing it. Then the business school, and so on, and so on. Of course it’s worked out real well, but the Law School started that.

BB:     I’d like to come back to this more later on, but I can’t help asking this question now. Once the Law School started raising money on its own, did you find that the administration or the regents, whoever allocates the money generally, began to take that into account, saying, “Well, look, the Law School has money of its own?”

PK:     That was one thing we anticipated. And one thing that the administration objected to, which we did, was to create the University of Texas Law School Foundation. I just didn’t run the fund-raising through the office here by appointing somebody. We created a corporation—educational corporation, the University of Texas Law School Foundation, with a powerful Board: Dan Moody, Sylvan Lang from San Antonio, and Charles I. Francis from Houston, Jim Sheppard from Bergrom’s—powerful Board, that the administration just couldn’t just brush off. And so, the funds were raised by the Board, and appropriated by the Board annually on the basis of my recommendation, through the University for certain support. That way, you see, you retain a good deal of control, and if you begin to see that they’re cutting down on your—and they did start to do it from time—I don’t think they’d try to do it any more, but they did for a while. And all I would do then was apprise my board of what was happening, and pretty soon it got stopped.

(from pages 41-45)

BB:     Can you tell me about the founding of the Law School Foundation?

PK:     Yes. See, when I came back in 1949, one of my first priorities was that of improving the financial support given to the Law School. One of the main reasons this Law School was not as good as it should’ve been was lack of financial support. Faculty salaries were far below faculty salaries of the best law schools, like Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and the like, Michigan, California. And so, one of the areas where financial support was most needed was in relation to faculty salaries. There were two roadblocks to getting that kind of support. One was the lack of appropriations, or the inadequate appropriations, of faculty salaries for the Law School from public funds. The other was the fact that we had no gift program at all at the University of Texas Law School, prior to the time I came on as dean. There was very, very little in the way of endowment, almost nothing. And what little there was in the way of endowment was for scholarships—a few scholarships for kids. It didn’t amount to anything, because there was just four, five, six, seven of them. And so that didn’t help much. I had already at Oklahoma realized that state law schools needed to raise funds just as much as private law schools—not just as much as, just as well as private schools—and the idea prior had nearly always been in most states that the private support for education should go to private schools, not public schools. A public school should depend on the Legislature for its funds.

            Anyway, that was one of the first projects that I had. And when I proposed fund raising to the University of Texas authorities, they opposed it. They wanted all funds to be raised by the Ex-Students Association for general purposes, unspecified, so that the regents would have control over where the funds and how the funds were to be utilized. And, of course, my position was that you never will raise much that way, that at least a third and now more—half—of our law students are educated at other schools, at other universities. They’re not going to give to the University of Texas at large, but they might very well give to the University of Texas Law School, as well as to A & M, or SMU, or somebody else where they attended undergraduate school. They somewhat vigorously opposed it, but nevertheless they finally consented.

            I started the annual drive about Fall 1950, for annual gifts. That led to the notion that we ought to be getting money for endowment, and not just annual gifts. And so, with the help of some of the leaders of the profession, like Charles I. Francis of Houston, and Sylvan Lang of San Antonio, and, oh, Dan Moody, somebody up in Dallas I can’t recall, Bob Hardwick of Fort Worth. They’re listed in the charter. With the help of some of the leaders of the profession, we conceived of incorporating a Law School foundation. After all, we were being offered a $400,000 gift from the former general counsel of Gulf—I’m at a loss to remember his name right now, terrible—but who wasn’t going to give it to the University of Texas. He said, “I’ll have no political Board of Regents dealing with any money I give.” He was a conservative, of course, but—“I will have no political Board, whose ideas change from time to time, deciding about my gifts. I’m not going to trust them with that money.” So, it was with that in mind that we created the University of Texas Law School Foundation, a separate corporation with a separate Board. And of course, that has worked.

            That was opposed by Jim Hart who was on the Supreme Court and who was Chancellor of the University of Texas for two or three years.

BB:     He opposed the separate Board?

PK:     He opposed that because, he said, which was true, that you’d have two Boards to deal with, and you’d multiply your problems. But anyway, I said, “Look, it’s better to have money and problems than no money. And we need money to work with, and I know that there’ll be some problems resulting from the fact that you have two Boards.” But the point was that in creating the Law School Foundation, we were going to get more gifts. People would be more of the notion that the money that they gave would not be dissipated somehow by the University by reducing the support that they would otherwise give to the University of Texas, because this Board could see to it that that didn’t happen.

BB:     How did the charter specify that the Board members would be chosen?

PK:     Well, we had some life members that organized it, that were incorporators, and the incorporators chose the Board members annually.

BB:     So it wasn’t done by the Governor, as the Board of Regents was.

PK:     Oh, it’s a separate corporation, separate educational corporation.

BB:     So it definitely takes it out of the realm of politics, as much as possible, anyway.

PK:     Takes it out of the realm of politics as much as possible. You had the politics of the profession, no doubt, but even the profession couldn’t select the Board members. The life members selected the Board. In fact, most of the life members were also on the Board, and they selected people who could help us raise money. Select people who would also give, and who would also help to raise money. But you had your control in the hands of this six-member group. And when one of them died, his replacement would be filled by the remaining members. So you had this life board that would control the business board, who made the decisions. And moreover, the Board was not supposed to judge as to the soundness of my recommendations, except insofar as they were to make sure that I was using the money for the purpose for which the donor left it. If he left it to support a professor’s teaching a certain course, they were justified in seeing that the person that I nominated was teaching in that area. But they were not to evaluate my recommendation. That was for the Board of Regents. Worked.

BB:     So, let me get this straight. You were getting the money from the Law School Foundation. But your use of the money was not directly supervised by the Law School Foundation?

PK:     No. It was not supervised, except insofar as they wanted to know what I was doing. And they wanted to be sure that I was using it for the purpose for which the donor left it. But they were not supposed to make a determination about whether the professor I appointed was one that they approved or not.

BB:     Well, sounds like they had a good deal of confidence in your judgment.

PK:     Well, I hope they did. I think they did. And it worked. I made recommendations to the Foundation as to what the money was to be used for and requested an appropriation to the University of Texas to support my salary budget. And in my salary budget that I proposed to the University of Texas, I indicated the professor, what was to come from the budget, and what was to come from the Foundation. So I made a budget composed of public fund recommendations, and private fund recommendation. But the whole payment, like the payments to people now, are made through the University of Texas. For example, all the professors that are appointed around here just get a check from the public fund, and then they get a check from the Foundation. But, the Foundation doesn’t issue the check to them, so that no monies are spent by the Foundation, except that which is approved by the Board of Regents. And that’s sound. I always agreed with that, that this separate corporation ought not to be allowed to do as it pleased with the money that it gets, contrary to the policies and ideas of the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents is in charge, and they have the right to know how I’m being paid, or how every member of the faculty was being paid, or how the employees were getting paid—how the money is to be spent. Whether it comes from gifts or not, they’re entitled to know that, and approve it.

            Now we had a few problems along the way, which has proven the value of the Law School Foundation as a separate entity, because there were two or three times in my deanship where there’s no question in my mind but that the University was about to withhold support for our salary budget, because of the success we were having in raising money to supplement the salaries of faculty. And I told the Foundation Board about it, and they went to the president of the University about it. And they got it straightened out.

BB:     I guess it helps to have influential people on the Board.

PK:     That’s right. It pays to have a power structure of your own. (Laughs.)

BB:     (Laughs.) How long did it take the Foundation to build up an endowment?

PK:     Took it a while. Right off the bat, we had 10 or 15 percent. But 10 or 15 percent then wasn’t over a million or so dollars. (Laughs.) Of course, we got $400,000 right off the bat. And now it’s $30 million.

BB:     That’s the endowment?

PK:     $30 million, now, is the endowment. I looked it up before I went to the Bar meeting. Let’s see, I would be remiss if I did not direct your attention to what has happened as a consequence of instituting a program of obtaining annual and endowment gifts to the Law School. This program was first started in 1950, and has culminated in an endowment of nearly $30 million. The total endowment for faculty is about $22 million—from virtually nothing in 1950 to $22 million. That has an enormous impact on the ability of the Law School to recruit and keep scholars of distinction. There are funds of over a million dollars to support research appointments during each academic year—giving appointments to one or two or several members of the faculty for time off, a whole semester off, to do nothing but research like quick sabbaticals, which the University of Texas could not do.

            So it took a while, but I think it’s the greatest contribution perhaps I made to the Law School—namely, to get fund raising started, and to get it recognized as an important way to go about getting excellence. Now, look at what happened all over the University. Engineers have been very successful. They followed our lead. The business school followed the engineers. Now, even in the liberal arts area the University is succeeding, pretty well, through some good decisions made by the Board of Regents about matching funds. For example, if somebody gives $500,000 to the Law School, it’ll get matched by the Regents to support a similar professorship in the academic school. So I don’t think there’s anything that’s happened to help the University of Texas at large more than what first happened at the University of Texas Law School. That’s bragging, huh?

(from page 52)

PK:     Yes. Yes. You know, the people on the Foundation that I picked were mostly conservative people, but they were what I would call progressive conservatives. And they were necessarily conservative because they were top lawyers for business. And they were in the money area where you could get the money, but they were sound people. People like Sylvan Lang, and Charlie Francis, and Hines Baker. I should never forget Hines Baker, because he did more than anybody else. He was president of Humble Oil. He always took the position that they should not occupy the position of the Board of Regents, that they should only be concerned with whether I was using the money for the right purposes that the donor was granting it for, and they should be concerned about whether the University was withholding gifts, but their main concern was raising money. His main concern was raising money, and he raised a hell of a lot of money—going to people, and asking them to do what he’d done, by way of getting $100,000 for a professorship.

            But they were people that I could always talk to, get comfort from and help from, when we got issues of this kind. Now Hines would sometimes disagree with my decision, but he wouldn’t question my right to make it. And he would support the Law School vigorously, even when in disagreement—and the same thing with the University of Texas in general. Hines was a friend of the whole University.