An Improbable Life: My Sixty Years at Columbia and Other Adventures

Hardcover | February 18, 2014

byMichael I. SovernForeword byWalter F. Mondale, Lee C Bollinger

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Columbia University began the second half of the twentieth century in decline, bottoming out with the student riots of 1968. Yet by the close of the century, the institution had regained its stature as one of the greatest universities in the world.

According to the New York Times, "If any one person is responsible for Columbia's recovery, it is surely Michael Sovern." In this memoir, Sovern, who served as the university's president from 1980 to 1993, recounts his sixty-year involvement with the institution after growing up in the South Bronx. He addresses key issues in academia, such as affordability, affirmative action, the relative rewards of teaching and research, lifetime tenure, and the role of government funding. Sovern also reports on his many off-campus adventures, including helping the victims of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, stepping into the chairmanship of Sotheby's, responding to a strike by New York City's firemen, a police riot and threats to shut down the city's transit system, playing a role in the theater world as president of the Shubert Foundation, and chairing the Commission on Integrity in Government.

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Columbia University began the second half of the twentieth century in decline, bottoming out with the student riots of 1968. Yet by the close of the century, the institution had regained its stature as one of the greatest universities in the world.According to the New York Times, "If any one person is responsible for Columbia's recove...

Michael I. Sovern is president emeritus of Columbia University and the Chancellor Kent Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.

other books by Michael I. Sovern

Of Boundless Domains
Of Boundless Domains

Hardcover|Dec 20 1994

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:312 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:February 18, 2014Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231167628

ISBN - 13:9780231167628

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Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsForeword by Walter F. MondaleForeword by Lee C. Bollinger1. A Shared Story2. Riot3. Rebuilding4. Aftermath5. Condoms and Wrinkle Cream6. Becoming a Dean7. Litigating: Tuskegee and the Supreme Court8. Provost9. Building an Administration10. Beginnings11. Columbia College12. Columbia Law School13. Minnesota14. Coming Home15. Publishing and Moonlighting16. Climbing Out of a Hole17. Ceremonies18. Doing the Right Thing: Coeducation, Charter Revision, and Columbia Football19. The Pulitzer Prizes20. Reagan Versus Mondale21. Disappointing My Peers: Divestiture and Earmarks22. City Corruption and Columbia Unrest23. A Sabbatical Leave and a Return to Celebrations24. Remembering Malcolm X and Working with the Community25. International Guests, Anniversaries, Dedications, and a New Campaign26. Closing a School27. Salman Rushdie at Risk28. Hail and Farewell29. The Last Year30. A Backward Glance31. There Is Life After a Presidency32. Shubert-a Great Gig33. Almost a Justice34. Sotheby's35. America's Challenge36. What Next?AcknowledgmentsNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

Although the peak of his career was as president of Columbia University, Michael Sovern was first and foremost a teacher. His memoir certainly demonstrates this fact. All readers, whether Columbians or not, will find something to learn from his remarkable life story. From his childhood in the South Bronx to becoming the youngest full professor in Columbia's history to almost becoming a Supreme Court nominee, Mike's life story is riveting, illuminating, and educational.