On March 25 and 26, we held a two-day Celebration and Reunion to mark the 75th anniversary of the Plan II Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Friday kicked off with a luncheon for alumni, faculty and friends at the Connally Ballroom of the Texas Exes Alumni Center.
The luncheon was followed by tours of the campus jewels, including: the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the Blanton Museum, The LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, and the Nettle L. Benson Latin American Collection. Each tour was led by Plan II Honors students interning at those facilities. Jim Nicar of the Texas Exes also led an Architecture Tour of campus.
Later on Friday afternoon, we held a Joynes Literary Event, featuring four Plan II alumni:
Robert Schenkkan, class of '75, playwright
Schenkkan won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for The Kentucky Cycle. In 2010 he was nominated for two Emmys for his screenwriting for the HBO miniseries The Pacific.
Robert Draper, class of '79, journalist and novelist
Draper has authored two nonfiction books, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, and Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History. He has also published one novel, Hadrian's Walls. Recently, he wrote a cover story on Sarah Palin for the New York Times Sunday Magazine and appeared as a guest on the NBC program Meet the Press.
Joanna Fuhrman, class of '96, poet
Fuhrman is author of four books of poetry, most recently Pageant, published in 2009 by Alice James Books. She teaches at Rutgers University and in public schools and libraries through Poets House and Teachers & Writers Collaborative.
Betty Sue Flowers, class of '69, poet and scholar
Flowers is not only a graduate of the Plan II Program, but is also a former Plan II Professor, Plan II Director, and Plan II parent. She was director of the LBJ library from 2002-2009. She has published three books of poetry as well as several scholarly texts on Rosetti and Browning.
Friday’s finale was a terrific BBQ dinner under the stars on a perfect spring night at Scholtz’s Garden, where current City Councilwoman Randi Shade, (another Plan II alumna!), read the proclamation previously read at Austin’s City Hall on Thursday, March 24, proclaiming Plan II Honors day in Austin, Texas. The UT Tower was lit orange with the numbers “75” in honors of the Plan II 75th Anniversary/Diamond Jubilee.
On Saturday, former directors, current and former faculty, alumni from the class of 1940 through 2010 gathered again to experience “Plan II in a day.”
After a big breakfast at the Ballroom of the Texas Union, several professors offered Voltaire’s Coffees to begin the day on Saturday. The Voltaire’s Coffees included:
Carole MacKay: "Writing a (Wo)man's Life"
David Oshinsky: "Justice Delayed: Tracking the killers of Civil Rights Martyrs Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman"
Tom Palaima: "The History of War Songs"
John Silber: "Obedience to the Unenforceable"
Steven Weinberg: "The Dark Side of the Universe"
Then alumni and friends chose among an exciting roster of world literature classes that included:
Douglas Biow:"Petrarch's Mountain"
Larry Carver: "Voyaging to Ithaka, Revisiting Tertan"
George Christian: "'The Trial" and Tribulations: Kafka and the Debilitated Self"
Elizabeth Cullingford: "The Afterlife of a Poem in Popular Culture"
Alan Friedman: "A Midsummer's Night Dream"
Kurt Heinzelman: "How Does Poetry Speak To Us?"
Charles Rossman: "E 603 Readings: Homer to Joyce"
Marjorie Woods: "Boys being Women: The Long and the Short of Composition Exercises in Premodern Schools",
The world literature classes were followed by an array of philosophy, math and social science classes:
Robert Kane (Philosophy): "Ethics and the Quest for Wisdom"
Paul Woodruff (Philosophy): "Eros Philosophos"
Ruth Buskirk & Moon Draper (Biology): "Land Use Issues in Rainforest Conservation"
Michael Starbird (Math): "Flatland, the Fourth Dimension"
James Vick (Math): "The Mathematics of Apportionment"
David Kendrick (Economics): "Monday Morning and Economic Policy for the 2008-2010 Downturn"
After a luncheon honoring the former directors of the Plan II Honors Program, featuring current Plan II director, Michael Stoff (History), and former director, Paul Woodruff, Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies (Philosophy), Professors H.W. (Bill) Brands, Hans Mark, Sanford Levinson and Admiral Bobby Inman discussed national security. Professor Gleeson held a physics circus and we screened Flatland, The Film, which was introduced by producers Seth Caplan (Plan II, ‘99) and Dano Johnson (Plan II, ‘01). Students again led tours of the campus jewels.
Concurrent to the class sessions, current Plan II students offered information/poster sessions on Plan II outreach programs and Plan II study abroad programs:
Global: Study Abroad
Rome and Costa Rica Maymesters
Ligon-Lansam Travel Fund
Rowe-Koehl Travel Grant
Local: Civic Engagement
KIPP Education Partnership
Praxis Curriculum Initiativ
John Silber's departure from the University of Texas at Austin in 1970 is the stuff of academic legend. A popular dean of UT's now-disbanded College of Arts and Sciences, his views on education and the university's future clashed irreconcilably with those of powerful Regent Frank Erwin. Ultimately, Erwin remained and Silber headed to Boston, where he served for more than three decades at Boston University, first as president and later as chancellor.
It has been a long time since Silber worked at UT. He began as a teacher of philosophy in 1957, and by 1962 he was chair of the department. In 1967, he assumed a position second only to the president in power and scope. He was dean of a school that included the majority of UT students — a combination of what, since his departure, have been separated into the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences.
At Boston University, he grew the school's reputation by recruiting high profile faculty members like Nobel Prize winners Saul Bellow and Elie Wiesel. He blossomed into an academic celebrity in his own right, and even attempted to convert his status into a political career. In 1990, he ran for governor of Massachusetts as a Democrat, but lost to Republican William Weld, who some viewed as a more liberal option.
He has never been in the habit of holding back. At every stop along the way, Silber's outspoken views have stirred controversy and met with opposition.
This week, Silber returned to the Forty Acres to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the school's prestigious Plan II Honor's Program, in which he says he encountered the best students of his career.
He took some time out of his trip to talk to the Tribune about the past, present and future of the University of Texas and higher education in general — including U.S. News & World Report rankings ("bogus"), Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States ("incompetent and inaccurate") and online degree programs ("fraudulence").
Do you have a new or updated email address? Please update your contact information at Texas Exes Alumni & Friends
Check these alumni pages to find information about anniversary plans and events, to read alumni news, and to keep in contact with the program and fellow alumni. We welcome your comments and questions, your memories and stories, and your continued support.
Just as you have in the past, we hope Plan II alumni and friends will support the program as we move toward our diamond anniversary. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in helping organize, host, or participate in upcoming events.