From the Archives: CU Inaugurates New President

Faculty members protesting in front of the Foundation Building, while President Lacy’s inauguration continues in The Great Hall.
Faculty members protesting in front of the Foundation Building, while President Lacy’s inauguration continues in The Great Hall.

by John Mirabello

Editor’s Note: This article was originally featured in Volume 60 Issue 3 printed on October 28, 1980. It references a dispute between the faculty union (CUFCT) and Cooper Union’s administration. The core of the dispute was over the Yeshiva decision: The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that the faculty members at Yeshiva University are “managerial employees” and are excluded from protection under the National Labor Relations Act. Under President Lacy, the administration attempted to invoke the Yeshiva decision to remove protections and benefits for faculty.

A gala day of ceremony and celebration marked the official inauguration of Bill N. Lacy as the ninth President of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Lacy assumed the position last semester, succeeding the retired John White.

A special convocation ceremony, whose theme was “The Advancement of Science and Art,” began 10 a.m. in The Great Hall. Classes were cancelled to afford students the opportunity to hear H. Guyford Stevers, director of TRW, Inc. and former Director of the National Science Foundation, discuss the state of the art in the field of engineering. Two additional speakers, Robert Motherwell and Philip Johnson, withdrew as a result of the dispute between the Cooper Union Federation of College Teachers (CUFCT) and The Cooper Union. Instead, the audience was treated to a showing of films of Charles Eames.

In his introduction, President Lacy commented, “I can think of no other person in the twentieth century who so ideally embodies the essence of Cooper Union’s three schools.” Eames, a close friend of Lacy, was also an inventor, architect, engineer, artist, and master of communication.

The installation ceremony took place at 3 p.m. in The Great Hall. Delegates from colleges, universities, learned societies, and museums joined the students, faculty, and alumni representatives in the academic procession, led by mace bearer Richard S. Bowman, Chairman of the Department of Humanities and a professor of The Cooper Union for 41 years. The ceremony was slightly marred by the absence of featured speaker Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was persuaded to cancel his scheduled appearance due to the Union’s dispute. The Cooper Union mace, symbol of power and authority, was transferred to President Lacy by Clarence F. Michalis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who included in his remarks the following: “I believe that Bill Lacy’s presidency is going to make a lasting impression upon the future of Cooper Union.”

In his acceptance speech, President Lacy cited the inseparably unique qualities of the institution and its founder, Peter Cooper: no other private institution exists where the founder’s life and values represent such a current aspirational model for students, faculty, and administration. Lacy commented on the CUFCT’s balloon-decked demonstration, citing their well-made placards as further examples of Cooper Union’s commitment to excellence. Lacy announced his intentions to establish The Cooper Union as a viable, useful member of the local neighborhood, in addition to expanding its educational facilities. He cited a number of possible goals to be achieved through the joint effort of the Cooper community during his administration:

  • maintaining a tuition-free education for all full-time students, as well as a financially sound Cooper Union,
  • insuring the strength of the three schools’ curriculum and faculty,
  • developing the humanities to insure excellence in order to complete the education of the professional,
  • seeking ways to make current and to better use Cooper Union’s unique facilities, including The Great Hall, Houghton Gallery, the Center for Design and Typography, and the Engineering Research Labs,
  • construction of an outdoor exhibit center on the present parking lot site west from the Foundation Building,
  • building a two-storey glass-enclosed student union atop the Hewitt Building.

The day’s celebration culminated with a special edition of the Cooper Union Forum series—featuring Lukas Foss and members of the Brooklyn Chorale and the Brooklyn Philharmonia. ◊

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