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Robert Huttenback Oral History Interview with Shirley K. Cohen

 Digital Record
Identifier: 2016-02-17-000093


  • Other: 2016 February 17


Interview in two sessions, September and November 1995, with Robert A. Huttenback, chairman of the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences from 1972 until 1977, when he was appointed chancellor of UC Santa Barbara. He begins by recalling his childhood; born in Mainz, Germany, in 1928. Since the family was Jewish, they were anxious to leave Germany when Hitler became chancellor; they emigrated in 1933, first to Italy, then to England. In 1939, they came to San Francisco, thence to Los Angeles. Matriculates at UCLA 1947, BA in history, 1951. Drafted during the Korean War, posted to Fort Bliss, Texas. After two years' service, returns to UCLA for graduate work in history (PhD, 1959). Fulbright Scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London for a year, then a year of research in India. Comes to Caltech as Master of Student Houses (MOSH) and acting lecturer in history. Recalls his activities as MOSH (1960-1969) and early teaching; his opposition to invitation to Gov. Ronald Reagan to speak at Caltech's fund-raising kickoff. Becomes dean of students, 1969. Recalls his deanship and the unfortunate involvement of psychotherapist Carl Rogers, of the Center for Studies of the Person in La Jolla. General dissatisfaction with division chairmanship of Hallett Smith and search committee for a new chairman; Huttenback becomes acting chair. Establishment of graduate program in the social sciences. Discusses his efforts to professionalize the division; recalls battle over tenure for literature professor Jenijoy La Belle. 1972, becomes division chairman. Recalls anti-Vietnam War demonstration on campus. Comments on presidency of Harold Brown and on the admission of women to Caltech in the early 1970s. Discusses his academic research on British imperialism in India; his work on consortium advising on development of technology institutes in India; 1962, consults at Kanpur. Six months' research in South Africa on Gandhi. Research on racism and imperialism worldwide. Comments on his love of teaching; his work with Lance Davis on Mammon and the Pursuit of Empire, both at Caltech and after his move to UC Santa Barbara; recaps the establishment of the social sciences in the division. Discusses his part in setting up the Baxter Art Gallery at Caltech. Concludes by voicing disappointment in general quality of Caltech's English and philosophy faculty during his chairmanship.

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