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Lyman Glenny

Professor of Higher Education, Emeritus




In the post-World War II years, state governments struggled to coordinate their rapidly growing public network of colleges and universities. Public institutions promised broad access and many states sought substantial expansion of their higher education systems to support socioeconomic mobility, and to bolster local economies. But it had been a largely decentralized effort.

In the first comprehensive study on state efforts to reorganize and coordinate these burgeoning systems, Lyman Glenny observed that American higher education was a “happy anarchy.” But it was a condition that would not and could not last. Published in 1959, Glenny’s book, Autonomy of Public Colleges: The Challenge of Coordination, was a groundbreaking study supported by a larger program grant from the Carnegie Corporation to the University of California, Berkeley’s new Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE). At that time, Glenny was an associate professor of political science at Sacramento State College (1950-62), but with an affiliation with CSHE. Glenny had helped organize the new center, working with its first director, Thomas R. McConnell.

In the preface to Glenny’s book, McConnell, then the director of the center at Berkeley, stated that the “literature on statewide coordination is meager indeed. Students of higher education and of public administration have almost wholly neglected to describe, much less to evaluate, the organization and operation of existing coordinating agencies.” Glenny’s study changed that paradigm, offering a rich source of comparative information that shaped subsequent research and analysis on state higher education systems. His analysis was also the result of many years of analysis and participation in the study of California’s postsecondary system.

Glenny was a keen observer and indomitable spirit. As a faculty member at Sacramento State, his energy and interest in higher education caught the attention of McConnell, a former chancellor at the University of Buffalo and a noted expert on American higher education. In 1953, McConnell, along with Hubert Semans from the California State Department of Education, and Tom Holy at the University of California, began a massive study of California’s higher education system. This important study was sanctioned and funded by the state legislature and reported to the Liaison Committee, a group consisting of representatives from the University of California and the State Board of Education—then responsible for California’s state colleges, which would become the California State University system (CSU). At that time, California had no state sanctioned coordinating agency, only this voluntary association between the two boards.

Glenny worked on the two-year study as a special assistant to McConnell, gaining insight into the state’s pioneering tripartite system and fueling his growing interest in higher education as a field of study. The subsequent Restudy Report (so named as it was the second major planning study on California’s higher education system), provided the framework for the state’s contemporary capital planning regime for higher education, and offered a model for analyzing and projecting enrollment demand and costs. Among its numerous recommendations was the proposed establishment of a separate board for the state college system, adopted five years later, thereby creating the contemporary governance system for CSU.

Glenny’s work on the Restudy Report and his subsequent research on state higher education systems made him a noted expert. By late 1959, he had completed his comparative study on state coordination. That year he gave testimony and advice to the renewed effort at statewide planning of California’s system that led to A Master Plan for Higher Education in California, 1960-1975.

But Glenny openly noted his disagreement with many of the recommendations formulated by the Master Plan Survey Team—a group chaired by Arthur Coons, president of Occidental College, and consisting of representatives of the state colleges, private institutions, the junior colleges and the University of California. Similar to the development of the Restudy Report, the Survey Team was to report its findings to the Liaison Committee. In turn, they would give their report and recommendations to the two governing boards, the UC Board of Regents and the State Board of Education, and then to the California State Legislature and the Governor, Edmund “Pat” Brown.

Glenny had advocated creation of a formal coordinating agency with the responsibility to analyze and recommend budget and capital expenditures, and to lead higher education planning efforts. California faced a huge increase in enrollment demand. But he also argued that the report’s proposal to create a new statewide coordinating agency to replace the Liaison Committee did not have sufficient power and representation to temper the competing interests of the state colleges and the politically powerful University of California. The recommendation of the Master Plan team was to have a new Coordinating Council for Higher Education governed by a board consisting almost solely of officials from the state colleges and the University of California, including the president of each segment.

Glenny argued for greater lay representation, and covertly lobbied both State Senator George Miller and Governor Brown on this point. Rumors circulated within the higher education community regarding Glenny’s influence in Sacramento at a time when UC President Clark Kerr and state college leader Glenn Dumke were urgently asking lawmakers to accept the Master Plan recommendations as a package. Miller carried the final Master Plan bill and evidently listened to Glenny. The Coordinating Council’s membership was significantly altered to reduce segmental representation—although Glenny thought Miller’s revisions did not go far enough.

Glenny’s willingness to openly oppose the interests of higher education leaders in the state exemplified his independent mind and devotion to the public interest. He did so with some risk to his career ambitions.

To some degree, this public and competitive spirit reflected his upbringing in the cold reaches of the northwest. Born on January 26, 1918, in Trent, South Dakota, Glenny spent much of his youth in poverty. His father had left the family when he was young. His mother, he, and his two younger brothers moved from South Dakota to Nebraska, and then to Minnesota in search of work. Glenny went to various schools before graduating from Central Duluth High School. There he had also initiated his lifelong interest in distance running. He placed third in the quarter-mile at the Minnesota State track meet in 1936. In the midst of the Great Depression, he then entered the state teachers college in Duluth (later a campus of the University of Minnesota) with the anticipation of a life as a school teacher.

As it happened to so many of his generation, World War II radically changed his life and his ambitions. He served in the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1946 as a cryptographer in the Signal Corps. With his wife, Joy Ballou, he returned to Duluth where he completed his degrees in political science and English in 1947 under the G.I. Bill. That year he traveled to the University of Iowa to teach in the political science department on a half-time basis, while also working on his M.A. from the University of Colorado (1948), and his Ph.D. at the University of Iowa (1950).

Beginning a 12 year association with Sacramento State College in 1950 in the department of government, Glenny actually spent most of his time on leave. He was employed as a coordinator of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Schools in Washington, D.C. (1951-52), then as an assistant to McConnell on the Restudy Report (1954-55), and then worked at the CSHE at Berkeley on his study of state coordination of higher education.

In 1960, because of his work in California, Glenny became the director of a state-sponsored study of Nebraska’s higher education system, before becoming the associate director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (1962-65). In 1965, he became the executive director of the Illinois board for three years. During this period, Glenny helped to complete the study on Nebraska’s higher education system, and in 1964, A Master Plan for Higher Education in Illinois, in part based on an analytical approach similar to California’s Restudy Report and its pioneering 1960 plan, if not its content. Glenny clearly understood the need for statewide approaches to coordinating and planning higher education, and that states were different in their historical collection of institutions, and in their political culture. He sought a balance between the need for public accountability by higher education institutions and systems, and a sufficient level of autonomy to manage their affairs and to avoid political intrusion.

His professional experience with both Nebraska and Illinois, and his productivity as a scholar and observer of state systems, brought an offer for him to return to Berkeley as a professor of higher education. In 1968, he joined Berkeley’s School of Education, which then included McConnell, Leland Medsker, Dale Tillery, and affiliated faculty such as Burton Clark, Robert O. Berdahl, and Martin Trow. At the time, Berkeley had a thriving higher education program built by McConnell that was among the best in the United States. Glenny also became the associate director (1969-72) of the center, renamed the Center for Research and Development in Higher Education in 1965, in part because of its broadened research program funded by the relatively new phenomenon of large grants from the U.S. Department of Education. A large research staff populated the center, including Janet Ruyle — long affiliated with the center under its many reincarnations. In the midst of the Cold War, federal interest in higher education as a tool of socioeconomic mobility and cultural development was at an all-time high.

During this period, Glenny coauthored with Leland Medsker, Ernest Palola, and James Paltridge, A Survey of Research and Perspectives on National Planning for Higher Education: A Report to the Academy for Educational Development (1969), and a number of articles on higher education planning, state coordination of financial aid, coordination of doctoral programs, and quality in higher education. From 1972 until 1976, Glenny served as the director of the center at Berkeley while also expanding his research interests and publications in areas such as higher education law, finance, and leadership. Often the themes in these works returned to the issue of the appropriate level of autonomy for public colleges and universities.

Expanding on the work of M. M. Chambers, Glenny published with coauthor Thomas K. Dalglish, Public Universities, State Agencies, and the Law: Constitutional Autonomy in Decline (1973). Other important works included: Trends in State Funding for Higher Education (1973) for the Education Commission of the States; Presidents Confront Reality: From Edifice Complex to University Without Walls (1975); and a large number of center-affiliated publications on state budgeting.

By the late 1970s, Glenny had stepped down from his position as director of the center. He continued his position as a faculty member in the School of Education until 1983. The once robust higher education program, however, was beginning a decline as the school refocused its academic interests away from the area of higher education policy.

Glenny remained productive as a scholar, both completing works on California’s higher education system and expanding his interests in international systems. With the long-term decline in state funding for California public higher education, and the difficulties of a national recession, Glenny developed with Frank Bowen a set of “stress indicators” that resulted in a number of studies published by the California Postsecondary Education Commission. This included Signals for Change: Stress Indicators for Colleges and Universities (1980) and Uncertainty in Public Higher Education: Responses to Stress at Ten California Colleges and Universities (1980). Glenny and Bowen also collaborated in an evaluation of program review procedures at California’s higher education campuses.

Glenny continued to act as a consultant and mentor after becoming professor emeritus at Berkeley in 1983. His clients included the National Education Association and the U.S. Department of Education. On issues related to state budgeting, UC Berkeley Provost George Maslach noted that “there is no question in my mind but that Glenny is Mr. Higher Education-Budgeting within the United States.... When I discuss the School of Education and who the stars are within it, usually the first name that comes out is Glenny.” Glenny completed a study on Australia’s higher education system and continued to provide his thoughts and advice on California’s vast network of colleges and universities. Glenny and his wife Joy had three children together, but divorced in 1977. A year later, he married Helen Thompson and embraced her four children as his own; Helen died in 1986. Glenny died on September 6, 2001.

Lyman Glenny was an engaging and learned figure who influenced a generation of doctoral students at Berkeley and helped build Berkeley’s higher education center into a premier research unit.


John Aubrey Douglass

John Cummins