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There's No Place Like Home

Former Chancellor, Smithsonian Director Michael Heyman Returns to Campus

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
Posted April 12, 2000

After running the Smithsonian Institute for five years, former chancellor Michael Heyman returned this January to a Berkeley campus very different than the one he left in 1990.

The most dramatic change, said Heyman, currently serving as interim director of the Center for Studies of Higher Education, is the decrease in minority students.

"There is a distinct paucity of black kids and brown kids on campus," said Heyman. "This change is not for the best."

Heyman said he worked hard during his decade as chancellor, 1980 to 1990, to integrate the student body. These efforts were successfully continued by his successor, Chang-Lin Tien.

"I feel undercut in a personal and political way by this," said Heyman of the effects of Proposition 209, which banned the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions. "It's very disappointing to see what's happened."

This trend is unlikely to get turned around soon, he said. Though outreach efforts by the university are helpful, it will do little to increase minority representation, said Heyman.

"We have to help those who historically have had no share in positions of authority or affluence, or society will be a mess," he said. "The university is perfectly positioned to bring together and support people from all backgrounds. If we don't capitalize on this, we blow a wonderful opportunity."

Heyman said his term as chancellor helped ready him for the top post at the Smithsonian. But nothing quite prepared him for the explosion of controversy surrounding an exhibit of the Enola Gay, the B-29 plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II.

The original exhibit, centered around the fuselage of the famed bomber, was considered by many to be anti-American and biased. In response to the outcry, Heyman took over the curatorial reins and changed the exhibit to a smaller, less complicated display. This move upset curators and historians who wanted the exhibit to invite critical thinking on the part of viewers.

"As a national, public museum, the Smithsonian has special responsibilities, but that doesn't mean we should avoid controversial issues," said Heyman. "I tried to make sure the show was balanced and showed both sides of the issue so viewers could make their own decisions. If a good faith effort is make to show all sides of the argument, I think it's pretty hard to criticize that."

Not all Heyman's work at the museum was controversial, however. Other priorities included increasing exposure to the collections -- by mounting travelling exhibits, expanding Internet presence and promoting affiliations with other museums across the country -- and setting up mechanisms for improved fund raising.

During his time in Washington D.C., Heyman, like other government administrators, made the rounds of dinner parties and social gatherings. On several of these occasions, he happened to run into the most powerful leader in the free world.

"Bill Clinton is an incredibly magnetic person," said Heyman. "He's very articulate and extremely charming."

Before going to the Smithsonian, Heyman served as deputy assistant secretary to Bruce Babbitt in the Department of the Interior. While there, he worked on overhauling the Endangered Species Act.

Heyman, a native of Manhattan, taught on campus for 31 years before leaving for Washington D.C., in 1991. But he was no stranger to life inside the Beltway.

After graduating from Yale law school, he worked as a legislative assistant to Senator Irving Ives, a liberal Republican from New York, from 1950 to 1951.

"I remember one day delivering something to Senator Ives on the Senate floor. I was in such a hurry, I ran smack dab into someone, falling to the floor, papers flying everywhere," recalled Heyman. "The gentleman was kind enough to help me, and when I looked up to thank him, I was staring straight at Joseph McCarthy. I was stunned to say the least."

Heyman also was chief law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren in 1959. Later that year, he came to Berkeley to teach at the law school.

When his directorship at the Smithsonian was completed in 1999, Heyman said he and his wife didn't think about going anywhere else but back to Berkeley.

As interim director of the Center for Studies in Higher Education, Heyman hopes to "enthuse faculty at Berkeley, and UC in general, to regard the center as a place to locate their intellectual efforts."

"The selection of Mike Heyman is an inspired act," remarked Neil Smelser, chairman of the center's advisory committee and director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. "I can imagine no better person for the job. He brings an unparalleled combination of experience, wisdom and commitment to higher education to the position."

Heyman also is teaching a first-year property law course at Boalt this fall and is editing an oral history for the library. As a Presidio trustee, he is working to bring a Smithsonian-affiliated museum to the former army base in San Francisco.

Of the current chancellor, Heyman said he thinks Robert Berdahl is impressive. "He's a thoughtful and intelligent man."

When asked if he has any advice to impart as a former chancellor, Heyman laughed. "If he wants to talk, I'm around. I'm not about to impose my thoughts on him. When I'm done with a job, I walk away."



April 12-18, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 28)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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