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Abstract

Horace Mann, the father of American public education, had served as president of the Massachusetts Senate prior to becoming the state's first secretary of education. Since then, as reformers succeeded in removing politics from the sacred groves of academe, appointing a politician to head the state's educational system fell into disfavor. Relatively recently, however, there have been two abortive attempts by politicians to reach the executive pinnacle of public higher education. Both James Collins, in 1986, and David Bartley, in 1991, were defeated in the quest to achieve this goal. Historical understanding of these battles is necessary to comprehend what followed. In 1995 William Bulger, another well-known politician, sought the presidency of the state university. This article focuses on the fierce controversy surrounding his appointment. Most faculty believed that only career academics were qualified to run the institution. Others felt that while the next president should be someone who cherished and respected scholarship, such a person need not necessarily be a scholar. These conflicting propositions were severely tested during the battle that ensued. The episode reveals the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in Massachusetts school politics.

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