CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (650) 723-2558
Lewis Mayhew, outspoken critic of higher ed, dies at 75
STANFORD -- Stanford education Professor Emeritus Lewis B. Mayhew died Wednesday, Sept. 30, at his Stanford campus home of a massive heart attack. He was 75.
Mayhew, who joined the Stanford education faculty in 1962, was always controversial. During much of his career, he was an outspoken critic of higher education, which he said too often abandoned its primary role of teaching, and instead was becoming overwhelmed by research demands and a corporate-style bureaucracy.
He commented in 1969 that, aside from a few of the sciences, "the number of professors actively engaged in significant research in even the greatest of research-oriented universities is painfully small. . . .
"Yet the arrogance of research is so overwhelming that faculties generally demand and expect reduced teaching loads, and ponderously proclaim that teaching and research are inextricably intertwined and that the production of knowledge is the essential role of the universities."
Mayhew practiced what he preached. Education Professor Ralph Tyler, who knew Mayhew during their early years in Chicago, once commented, "He gave unstintingly of his time and effort to students. He always realized that education was not a business but a human undertaking."
Acting Education Dean Nel Noddings praised Mayhew's "widely recognized contributions to education - particularly higher education," and also noted his affection for his students. "He was an adviser to a large number of students - and many of them kept in touch through the years," she said.
Although he was not uncritical of students, Mayhew had often backed their concerns during the protests of the 1960s. "These students, whether the adult population wills it or not, will be heard, and there are a number of cogent reasons why they should be heard," he wrote. "It is just possible that out of the extracurricular activities in which the militants engage . . . can be found the elements which several decades hence will comprise the collegiate curriculum."
He noted that "students have become skeptical and resistant to course routine, which they see as largely unrelated to real life. . . . Not finding courses linked to reality, students have gone underground and created their own curriculum," he wrote.
"Students do need considerable help in developing social presence or intelligence. Students, especially in large institutions, need help in understanding and coping with bureaucratic and institutional life. They also need assistance in understanding their changing relationships with the major institutions of society. And evidence of all these is found covertly in the language and acts of student dissent."
Nevertheless, he warned of the perils of continued protest for both students and faculty: "If campus disorders do not end, political power will assume control of colleges and universities, and higher education will have lost its freedom - which is the genius of its past achievements."
Mayhew lambasted university faculties also for their "arrogance" in imagining they are capable of governing a modern university, "a complex organization requiring highly specialized people to make critical decisions."
"The faculty senator, who would be the first to criticize a generalist or popularizer, will meet for a dozen hours, skim reports and vote to abolish a $60 million research installation or discredit a president's handling of a student uprising."
In one of his more controversial public moves, Mayhew, as consultant to the state legislature, proposed the elimination of the University of California as a major research institution in 1973, arguing again that teaching had suffered because research had been overemphasized.
"There's no question," he said, "that a lot of university research is carried on at student expense."
"He was wellknown as a historian of higher education and a prolific writer," recalls Professor Patricia Gumport, deputy director of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research. "He was the primary person in higher education research here at Stanford for a long time. His passing marks the end of an era in higher education."
Gumport had been a research assistant to Mayhew during her graduate career at Stanford. "He knew more stories about campus life and campus governance than anyone I ever met. He knew amazing things about past leaders of higher education."
Mayhew received his doctorate in history from Michigan State University in 1952. From 1957 to 1974 he served as part-time director of research at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. He had a reputation as a prolific writer, even by academic standards: He had written more than 20 books and more than 200 articles on higher education in the United States.
Sociology, political science and Graduate School of Business Professor James March, a friend of Mayhew's, once commented, "He writes faster than I read."
Mayhew was a consultant to more than 500 institutions, and served on many regional and national committees, including the Educational Testing Service Board Committee on Test Development and the Senior Commission of the Western Colleges Association. He was also consultant to the White House Conference on Education during Lyndon B. Johnson's administration and a former president of the American Association for Higher Education.
He is survived by his wife, Estelle, and his children, Lewis Mayhew of Modesto, Madeline Mayhew of Sunnyvale, Robert Mayhew of Pleasant Hill and an informally adopted daughter, Trudy Growe of Sunnyvale.
The School of Education will hold a memorial service at a future date. The family has asked that donations be made to the Lewis B. Mayhew Scholarship Fund at the Stanford School of Education.
This is an archived release.
This release is not available in any other form.
Images mentioned in this release are not available online.