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Stanford Oral History Collections

Drekmeier, Charles.

Title:
Drekmeier, Charles.
Author:
Drekmeier, Charles and Steinhart, Peter
Corporate Author:
Stanford Historical Society
Description:
Charles Drekmeier is Professor of Political Science, Emeritus at Stanford University. He came to Stanford in 1958 and spent forty years teaching at the university during an era of great social and political change. In this interview, Drekmeier discusses his academic training with Talcott Parsons and others, his interests in political theory and social thought, the development of the Stanford Program in Social Thought, and civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activism on the Stanford campus during the 1960s and 1970s. Drekmeier touches briefly on his hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin where his parents owned a drugstore. He describes his first exposure to college at the University of Chicago where he was admitted to the innovative two-year bachelors degree program conceived by Robert Maynard Hutchins. Drekmeier describes meeting communist political activists there, his struggle to acclimate, and his eventual transfer to the University of Wisconsin. He discusses his induction into the army towards the end of World War II and relates stories from basic training and other postings. Upon returning to the University of Wisconsin after the war, Drekmeier’s interest in political science and sociology grew. He explains how he took an internship with the State Department to study the European Recovery Program and details his travels through Europe. He relates his decision to pursue a master’s degree in history at Columbia University and describes some of the professors he worked with there, including Henry Steele Commager. Drekmeier discusses his early academic career, first at the University of Wisconsin where he taught economics and political geography in the Integrated Liberal Studies Program (ILS), and then at Boston University where he taught human relations and political economy before receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study the history of law and politics in India. He relates stories from his time in India and explains how he came to enroll in a graduate program at Harvard where he worked as a research assistant to Talcott Parsons. Drekmeier describes the circumstances that led him to join the Stanford faculty. He couches the discussion of his teaching experience at Stanford and his reputation as a “liberal” professor in terms of the social and political movements of the time. He describes the twenty-four hour teach-in hosted by the campus Peace in Vietnam committee in 1965 and discusses the ideas and impact of Bruce Franklin, a tenured professor of English who was fired from Stanford for his role in anti-war campus protests. Drekmeier discusses the development and evolution of a social science honors seminar called Social Thought and Institutions. This long-running program studied a single topic, such as “community,” for an entire academic year. Drekmeier credits his students with sharing fresh ideas that affected his perspective. Drekmeier explains his first public appearance as a “political figure” during a campus event about the civil rights movement. He recalls the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the emotional address he gave to students that evening, and he describes how he became involved in the Resurrection City program at the request of students who desired to participate in the encampment in Washington DC. He concludes the interview with reflections on Stanford as an institution and the story of the Drekmeier Drugs bowling team.
Topic:
Charles Drekmeier, Stanford Historical Society, oral histories, interviews, higher education, professors, Franklin, H. Bruce, Stanford University--campus culture--Civil Rights Movement, Stanford University--campus culture--John F. Kennedy assassination, Stanford University--campus culture--Vietnam War, Stanford University--courses--Social Thought and Institutions, universities and colleges--activism, and universities and colleges--faculty
Imprint:
2016-04-06
Collection:
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program Interviews