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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Henry G. Walter, Jr.

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Interview with Dr. Henry G. Walter, Jr.
By Ronald Doel
In New York, New York
January 10, 1997

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Henry Walter; January 10, 1997

ABSTRACT: Henry G. Walter Jr. lawyer and head of the Vetlesen Foundation that supported the Lamont Observatory and weather research discusses his life and becoming a lawyer; his involvement with Unger Vetlesen and the Vetlesen Foundation, the schooner Vema, and the foundation's support of oceanography; his relationship with Maurice Ewing.

Transcript

Session I | Session II

Doel:

This is Ron Doel and this is a continuing interview with Henry Walter, Jr. Today is the tenth of January, 1997. We're recording this in New York City. A moment ago off tape you mentioned that you had a few reflections on the founding of Lamont that you wanted to mention, and I'd be very interested to hear about those.

Walter:

Well, many things are gratuitous, including the founding of Lamont. I had some place or other run into one of the really remarkable people I've ever run into, Doc Ewing. And I well remember Doc telling me that he was a lucky man because he'd been on an expedition somewhere off Bermuda and was caught in a tremendous storm and was washed overboard. And as he said, mentally well I guess I said goodbye, he was washed back on board. So that suggested to him and to me that maybe the vessel happened to be the Vema. Now the reason I was interested in the Vema was that in my practice law practice, the Vema had been a vessel which was owned by the Vetlesen Family. And in fact, G. Unger Vetlesen had sailed her across the Atlantic and established a record at one time. The family gave the Vema to the government during the war, and a friend of mine who was the head of Moran Towing, and therefore knew what was around on the harbor, mentioned to me after the War that he'd seen the Vema, which he knew I was interested in, and that it had been somehow been picked up by Columbia University. So following up, I wanted to know where it was, and I found it was over at Lamont. So I was interested in seeing what we could do to help them along, and of course ran into Doc. And Doc as you know, probably, was a man with a rather strong mind of his own. And he didn't take too long for him and the powers that be at Columbia University to decide that they would get along better if Doc separated. And Doc left with one of his colleagues and went down to a university down in Texas. But the Vema stayed.

Doel:

Right. And you're referring to his relations with William McGill by the early 1970s.

Walter:

Whoever it was, I guess it was Bill McGill. Doc Ewing was a wonderful guy, but he had very strong ideas of his own. And I always remember him with affection and awe because he was one of the few scientists I know who had been totally wrong about an important matter. I may have mentioned this before, tectonic plate movements.

Doel:

Yes.

Walter:

And at one point, one of his assistants pointed to some of the records that they had taken on the mid oceanic ridge, the movements there, and said, "But Doc, you've been proving that you're wrong." And he was man enough to say, "By God, you're right. I was wrong." There are very few front line scientists that I know that would be man enough to do that.

Doel:

It is extraordinarily difficult to do that. Given his investment in the ideas that underlay the alternative estaces.

Walter:

Right. So he went way up in my opinion.

Doel:

Did he talk to you about that? Do you remember conversations with him about his realization that the theory of tectonics was —

Walter:

Oh yes, yes. Yes, we had many conversations with him. We were among his supporters from the Vetlesen Foundation. And G. Unger Vetlesen was a man who was interested in the sea so it was natural for us to look to oceanography as the proper field for our attention. And old Doc was quite a man. And he had his own ideas and would pick up the go along with these; I think he began with throwing grenades overboard. This is before echoing, sound echoing. And he would measure the bottom by the time it took to hear the explosion.

Doel:

I was curious how well you came to know Joe Worzel during the time that both Ewing and Worzel were still here at Columbia?

Walter:

Well, Worzel was an easier fellow to get hold of. It's as simple as that.

Doel:

Yeah.

Walter:

His heart and his mind were in the right place. And you could talk to Worzel. Whereas Doc was usually off on his own, lost in his own ideas. I don't mean to denigrate him in any way. He was a complete scientist and he didn't have much time for the rest of the world. Including people like ourselves. Worzel was an easier man to talk to, and the work was so important that we kept supporting him. You might be interested to know that many years later, I guess, it's decades later, my successor as the head of the Vetlesen Foundation, George Rowe, with my enthusiastic approval, has been spending about a million and a half a year on weather research. And the benefactor, the people to whom the funds have been awarded, have been Lamont, Woods Hole, and The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. We feel very strongly that if you've got an important area to explore, you really ought to back it up with adequate funding. And that's what we've been doing. And George Rowe who succeeded me as president of the Vetlesen Foundation has taken the lead on this and we're very happy with the results.

Doel:

In philanthropy, there's a critical mix between the strength of the ideas that are worth supporting and the individuals, the institutions that are capable of carrying it out. I'm curious in a general way how, when you were looking at Lamont, maybe back in the earliest days, what you saw that gave you confidence that Lamont could do what it wanted to.

Walter:

Well, first we thought the field was important. And the field had been neglected. We thought that weather is influenced by chaos. Chaos is a major principle in life on earth and the universe. Because it is not linear most people tend to ignore it. We thought also that Lamont had very able people to pursue that. And also, of course, Woods Hole as well. Each of these units had their own specialty. We got a better result by spreading our support over several units. Woods Hole takes an approach to the sea, which is different from that taken by Lamont, and both differ from that taken by Scripps.

Doel:

When you think back on it, what were those principal differences between what Lamont sought to do and Woods Hole and Scripps?

Walter:

Well, Woods Hole was dedicated to instrumentation. They set out buoys that would sink and then record information on the oceanic rivers (both horizontal and vertical) and air messages up to be collected by satellites. They were tinkerers and were very good at it. People at Lamont were, had a different approach, as did the Scripps staff. Scripps had a man who was an expert on the role of clouds over the Pacific. As you know, the Pacific is the biggest single expanse of water, and it has a tremendous effect on weather. We couldn't get that data from either Lamont or Woods Hole. We couldn't get it just by giving it to Woods Hole. So that's the reason we spread out our support.

Doel:

One of the things you'd mentioned off tape which was interesting was that in the search that brought a key scientist to out to Scripps that one of the strategies that the institution had done was by contacting his wife as well as him.

Walter:

She explained that her husband was a terrible driver. Harvard had been making a big pitch for him, but she was afraid that he would never survive the horrors of Boston traffic. She thought that the La Jolla area, would be safe. And with a little pillow talk that proved to be decisive.

Doel:

When do you remember first going down to Lamont, to the campus that was emerging in Palisades, New York?

Walter:

Well, it was I think rather early on. Because Doc Ewing needed a place to set up his instrumentation which would be free of the vibration of the subways here. So he picked the cellar of Lamont house, atop the Palisades.

Doel:

Exactly, yes.

Walter:

And I remember asking Doc, "my God, what are you going to do with all these cores? All you're doing is getting more cores." He used to say, "Well, it's a big earth you know." [Laughter] And he was so right.

Doel:

Yeah. Did you go out there fairly often as the buildings began to emerge and as that campus began to develop?

Walter:

We'd go out at least once a year and maybe more often. We were more interested in the science than in the buildings. And that continued to be, I think, a great disappointment to them. We said, "Look, this is very important. Why don't you push the science and get somebody else cooking on the buildings?

Doel:

When they had organized the Industrial Associates group to help.

Walter:

Yeah. And I think they got eight or ten million bucks for services of various kinds. I don't remember the details, but the science involved a new way of identifying important substances below the surface. I believe the work is still is continuing.

Doel:

Right. Had you or anyone else in the foundation played a role in helping Lamont people to think about doing this kind of organization?

Walter:

No, we just said, "You can't live on us alone. You must try to interest others as well." And they did.

Doel:

Did you wish that Lamont had more of an advisory structure in its earlier years than it actually did?

Doel:

Of course things are changing rapidly now with the development of the Earth Institute.

Walter:

How is that going?

Doel:

As I'm sure you know.

Walter:

Is it Peter Esterberg?

Doel:

That's correct. He's been appointed.

Walter:

Well, he has a big assignment. I don't know whether he's produced any results, has he?

Walter:

Yeah. I'm sure he's a good scientist. We think he assumed it was an existing operating unit that just needs to be maintained. Not so. He's got to build it. I've tried to tell him this in a nice way. George Rowe and I are the same opinion about this. I don't think he regards this as unfriendly criticism.

Doel:

That's interesting.

Walter:

But it is criticism. We say, "Hey, you're walking when you should be running."

Doel:

Yeah. Those are good points. I wanted to know a little bit more about George Rowe. How long have you known him?

Walter:

I recruited him for the law firm when he was going to Columbia. So I guess I must know him for at least forty years.

Doel:

I thought that it was about, yeah, about that long.

Walter:

And he runs the law firm. Fulton is dead, Duncam is dead. Here I am. And I'm not. When I left, I went to help out with IFF for five years and then the man died and five years became twenty-three. So I naturally then retired. I had a five-year arrangement with the firm that I forgot I had to give it up. So George took over.

Doel:

What sort of person is George as you look back on the years that you've known him?

Walter:

Oh, I think he's a remarkable man. And I think he's extremely bright, works hard, has got good vibes, good. He's well sensitive to what's going on in the world, and he's very effective in getting things done. I have the highest admiration for him. I have no connection with his law firm. But no, I think he's first-class. And I think that he's doing an excellent job as, he succeeded me as head of all these foundations.

Doel:

Yes.

Walter:

I am very pleased. He talks to me about what he wants to do.

Doel:

It sounds.

Walter:

More of noblesse oblige than. I told him he doesn't have to. But we have a good relationship.

Doel:

I had the impression from what you said a moment ago that you've generally been in concurrence on many of the decisions the foundation had made for funding.

Walter:

Oh yes, absolutely.

Doel:

One of the things I wanted to ask you that you do mention in your "Random Leaves from a Traveler's Notebook" that you produced in 1995, that one way in which you were learning about science was reading textbooks in biology and chemistry, physics. You were beginning this already in the 1960s to get a better feeling for the work that was being done. What were the more memorable of the books that you recall reading?

Walter:

Holy Christ.

Doel:

That may be a big question.

Walter:

I can't remember. These were standard works. You have to remember that I was raised in history and economics, as a fellow going into law school.

Doel:

Indeed. Indeed.

Walter:

I didn't know my ass from my elbow in science. And then as so often happens I was thrown by accident into science. So I began reading standard works on physics, chemistry, and biology. Except for quantum mechanics, which I found difficult, I could get on with particle physics. But when I got into biology, holy Christ! World without end. Finally a wise man told me, "You have to remember that biology is never static. It's constantly going. If a toxin develops, an anti-toxin is likely to develop in time. It's like building winning navies. So don't be concerned if you don't know the answers because no one ever will. "You have to keep working, Walter. Stop crying." This was very good advice. My work on smell and taste had already brought me into parts of the brain. I then had the good fortune to meet and then get to know very well a Nobel laureate named Jerry Edelman. And although his laureate was in immunology, he's been very active in the brain. I've been lucky in finding people I could discuss science with because one needs to discuss one's readings with a knowledgeable person. Jerry is a fountain of knowledge in many subjects. So I've been very fortunate. He usually has an interesting comment in any query of mine.

Doel:

Yeah. And clearly you had many connections with biology as chair of the Neuroscience Research Foundation for instance.

Walter:

Yes and also with Monnel Chemical Sensors Center.

Doel:

You're pointing back to the book.

Walter:

I've been fortunate to have been with people who were smarter than I am. And I'm not fishing for a compliment. But if you're seeking to extend your knowledge in any field, you've got to deal with people who know more than you do. I don't resent it. And I think I refer in the green book to a chance encounter with Einstein.

Doel:

Yes. You do.

Walter:

Which meant a lot to me. The point about when you say you don't know, you've taken the first step toward learning. That was worth a lot. I realized that the byproduct of that is learning is lifelong. To fill in the gaps that everyone has. Also there are new gaps as technology develops. So you don't have to be ashamed about saying, "Gee, I don't know." What you have to be ashamed about is if you say, "I don't give a damn."

Doel:

Yes. And one of the things you do make clear in the autobiography is that you’re reading and your dedication to keeping up with the new fields allowed you to continue to ask questions, including those that others weren't asking.

Walter:

Yeah. Well, I have found it's useful to say, "May I ask you a child's question?" Children ask very fundamental questions. And with that cover, you can penetrate into "common knowledge." It ain't necessarily so.

Doel:

I'm very curious about what sorts of child's questions you were asking in the earth sciences.

Walter:

In the earth sciences? Well I wanted to know about gravity. Everybody tells you that gravity is universal. And I said, "You've got to tell me more. And isn't it a very thin force that may have a real gravitational force of the moon, but nearly the way the tides do, water does. And, then you go from gravity to magnetism. By children's questions, you expose things that people either assume or have never thought about.

Doel:

Do you remember asking questions of that sort to Doc Ewing or Joe Worzel when they were at Lamont?

Walter:

Doc was a great guy, but he didn't have much time. He was so busy and so tied up. Well, of course what he was doing was developing background for tectonic plate movement which he thought was totally wrong. Finally one of his staff assistants told him, you know, about this. "Doc, you got all the stuff. You don't put it together. And what you found is exactly the opposite of what you said. Doc was constantly looking for something new. He was constantly at sea as you know. God, he must have taken the Vema for over a million miles at sea. And then he'd be on and off the ship as you know. And he was not the kind of guy who would give me the answers to my children's questions. But I got some of those from those who worked for him.

Doel:

Is that right? Which people are you thinking about?

Walter:

Oh, the one in particular was the one who convinced him that he was wrong. He was getting all this data, but he wasn't taking the time to correlate and analyze it. Leaving that to the staff. The staff is saying, "Hey Doc, you know, take a look here." "What do you mean, I'm busy. I don't — No, no, no, no. Look!"

Doel:

But those are the people that you remember having contact with?

Walter:

Yes. And they had the time and were willing to talk. Frequently there's a marvelous opportunity in talking to people down the line because many feel that nobody ever pays any attention to them.

Doel:

No one's asked their points of view or asked them these questions.

Walter:

I find this is extremely useful and it was fascinating. Lew Thomas who I knew always said, "You know, if you want to find out what's going down in the lab, it's nice to talk to the director, but it's better to walk down the aisle, walk down and stick your head in." And that's what I try to do. And that's the way to finally get the answers to children's questions.

Doel:

Right. Lewis Thomas was of course here in New York at the Rockefeller?

Walter:

Yes. He was such a lyrical writer. I got him to chair one of the foundations working on smell and taste in Philadelphia. So we used to ride back and forth. Marvelous man. He always said, "If you ever want to find out what's going on, what happens in the lab, just walk down the corridors."

Doel:

It's good advice.

Walter:

He was well liked. Of course he was a poor administrator. It wasn't his style. And he'd been dean of the Yale Medical School and he was running Sloan Kettering. He hated the administrative work. But he was a wonderful guy. I used to ride with him and talk to him about other things. And he was very interested in smell and taste because his field was immunology, and he thought that there were analogies there because immunology involved such a huge field of interactions. And, of course, the same thing is true about smell.

Doel:

And you could perhaps see these at the same time, going on when you were with him. That's interesting.

Walter:

I used to ride between New York and Philadelphia with him. And I would try and get him talking. And he was always trying to get me to talk. And he was a marvelous man.

Doel:

How did you feel when Doc Ewing left Lamont to go to Texas?

Walter:

Well I felt very sad. His was one of the most questing minds I'd ever run into. He never had enough information. So I thought his leaving a great loss. I could understand it, because he and the powers that be at Columbia were at odds. It was a great loss, but there it was. Joe Worzel was easier to deal with. And there was another knowledgable researcher named Nelson Springsteen. Have you run into him?

Doel:

At Lamont?

Walter:

He was at Lamont and then he set up his own outfit down in Texas somewhere. He was a very knowledgeable fellow.

Doel:

I'm curious how well you got to know Ewing's successor, Manik Talwani?

Walter:

Disaster. The great problem with Lamont was that it took a hell of long time for them to find anybody who could run Lamont. Talwani was not the man. He was succeeded by Gordon Eaton.

Walter:

Gordon Eaton was not the kind of man to run a research outfit. He was a perfect head for the U.S. Geological Survey.

Doel:

What was the difference as you saw it between running a place like USGS and a place like Lamont?

Walter:

Well at a place like Lamont you're supposed to encourage new ideas that threaten the existing data bank. Hey is this right, is this wrong?

Doel:

But his vision was one, in your view, of just keeping things going without really looking for new directions? Wilson: Yeah. I'm reminded when you say that of something that Cecil Green from Texas Instruments once said to me. That the provost job is to save the university and the university president's job is to make the university worth saving. It sounds like you saw something similar in this situation at Lamont.

Walter:

That's absolutely right. Barry Raleigh was something in between. If you were ranking people from one to ten in which ten was the highest rank, I would say he was about a seven. And he left to Columbia to go out to Hawaii, where he has done a good job.

Doel:

On that same scale, where would you put Manik Talwani?

Walter:

He's the Indian?

Doel:

Yes.

Walter:

Two or three. The difference between his predecessor and him was night and day. He was preserving the status quo. His was a bureaucratic approach. Nothing wrong with that. Supply corps are very important for an army.

Doel:

It sounds as if you didn't have much contact then with Lamont during the rest of the 1970s when Talwani was director.

Walter:

That's right. I did not have an intimate relationship at all. It seemed to me to be going downhill. One of the problems was a dispute within the structure of the university. The department of geology felt that Lamont was part of their domain. Of course the Lamont people felt contrary. It rocked back and forth for a while, which was not good for either Lamont or the University.

Doel:

Did you discuss this with [William J.] McGill or any of the subsequent leaders of Columbia?

Walter:

At some point I told Bill, and Mike Sovern who was then the president, that one of our foundations was prepared to give a million bucks to Lamont over a four-year period provided that they matched it. And he said, "Well, that's great, but what for?" And I said, "For weather. We need to study it." And he said, "Okay. I don't know whether we'll get the matching money." I said, "Well try the oil companies. You won't get it unless you match it because a million isn't enough." He told me later that he was overwhelmed by the offer, but didn't understand it. And he said, "You were really way in front of the game. Crowd on weather." Not too many people believed that you could learn enough about the weather to make it worthwhile to make a big investment. So the initial reaction was, "Well it's a crazy idea.” But in time we got the research on track.

Doel:

It seems as if your role there was one of leadership in educating the university about the value of supporting this research.

Walter:

Absolutely. I was interested in weather but they had a million other projects on their plate. I don't say that, you know, well you know what universities are. All these pieces each saying, "For Christ's sake give me the ten million dollars." "Weather? Who knows anything about weather?"

Doel:

This of course was in the 1980s that you really began to sponsor weather research, wasn't it? Or had that actually come earlier?

Walter:

No, it was in the mid to late eighties. Then of course in time it became clear that that was important. And someone was kind enough to say, "Well, Walter you were way ahead on that." I was unconsciously echoing Einstein's comment that when you say you don't know anything about it, it's the first step to learning, find out, that's all. Very simple.

Doel:

Was it at that time that the foundation first began funding efforts at Scripps and Woods Hole? Or had the foundation also been giving funds to them for other work prior to that?

Walter:

Only minor things. Actually the man who was my successor at the foundation, George Rowe, who said, "I think this is right and my criticism of you, Walter, is that you didn't provide enough money." With a fortunate investment policy the funds of the foundation grew. And so George Rowe said, "Well, let's go give these guys a million and a half a year." During my time, I gave them two hundred thousand a year. Big difference. So I give George full credit for that. Needless to say, I was delighted.

Doel:

Yeah. There's also a strategy involved that you're clearly aware of in asking for matching funds which brings in more commitment from the university.

Walter:

Yes.

Doel:

I was wondering if that was something that you were consciously designing when you were working with Lamont and its relationships with Columbia? Walter Well I've had a long relationship with funding. If you want to get somewhere in funding, you have to have multiple sources. For example, I'm a trustee of the Morgan Library. People used to say, "Get off my back Walter, for Christ's sakes, you've got all these Morgans here. Why are you asking us for money?" I say, "The Morgans spent all their money." And so you have to get out and sell, and you cannot do it by yourself. You cannot do it with just one thing. Carnegie spent his whole fortune on establishing libraries around the world. But he was an extraordinary man and today you need to get other people involved. And my own criticism of Lamont was you believe in the research, you're giving these prospective donors an opportunity. Don't go with a begging bowl. Say, "Here's a chance to be part of something that's important. This is the way!"

Doel:

We were talking about some of the post-Ewing directors a moment ago, and you'd also mentioned Barry Raleigh briefly. Did you have much contact with him during his administration?

Walter:

Yes. He was a seven as I told you.

Doel:

And Gordon Eaton?

Walter:

He was an administrator. He shouldn't have been on the list at all. It's like getting a good outfielder and say, "Well, maybe you can be a fine catcher."

Doel:

We spoke about the lack of what you felt was a suitable advisory structure for Lamont in the earlier days. Did you feel there was a point at which they had developed an effective advisory structure?

Walter:

In my opinion, they don't right now. They've got something historically that's been there. Well, that's fine. You know. They're not moving. And they need to.

Doel:

One of the other things I'm very curious about is the Vetlesen Prize which was awarded in the late 1960s, and Maurice Ewing, of course, was the first recipient. How did the idea of the prize come about? You're pointing to yourself.

Walter:

Yeah. And I thought it was important to have some substantial prize for the field granted in the field and that this was the way to do it. We'd put up the dough. And fund a dinner to focus attention on the broad field of oceanography.

Doel:

Did it take much convincing on the part of others that your idea was a good one, or was there pretty quick support for it?

Walter:

There was complete lack of interest in the university. "Why do you bother?" Because they didn't think that much of the field.

Doel:

That's a very interesting observation.

Walter:

That was absolutely true. I said, "We'll put up the money and we'll have a dinner." And so it happens every three or four years.

Doel:

Were you consciously looking at other models like the Nobel Prize as the model for the way in which the Vetlesen would be awarded?

Walter:

Well we were looking at Nobel and other awards to call attention. And we said we'll put up the fifty thousand dollars.

Doel:

Did you set up the structure that would advise on coming up with nominations as well?

Walter:

Well I said, "We will put up the money. But the university has to set up a committee, a panel, to select the winner, the awardee. And we'll do this about every three years."

Doel:

Have you felt satisfied with the way the prize has been awarded and handled?

Walter:

We're a little disappointed. Mostly, I think because we don't have a Ewing running it up there. President Rupp is a nice guy, but he's got a lot of other things on his plate. Both Rowe and I felt that the prize dinner was not given sufficient attention. Didn't have star quality to it. Again, unless you've got somebody on the premises like a Doc Ewing very little happens. We've said, "We're not going to give you any more money unless you really do it properly next time. President Rupp, this means you." I find you have to be rough about some of these things sometimes.

Doel:

Was his reaction satisfactory to you?

Walter:

Oh yes. He invited Rowe and me to lunch. "We've got about half a billion dollars in assets that we can give away."

Doel:

How did Ewing react to the idea of the prize? Did you have discussions with him about it?

Walter:

No. I just said, "Doc, this is something that's important. And we're not going to discuss it with you because you're the first guy."

Doel:

Puts it in a good way.

Walter:

So, he said, "Well you shut me out of it." I said "We certainly have." I think that the fault probably lies with us. That we haven't put enough pressure on the university to say, "God damn it, if you don't do a good job on this, we're going to cut you out."

Doel:

Indeed. There's one name that I simply wanted to ask about that appeared in certain Lamont records. Was there a Barrett Brown who was affiliated with the Vetlesen Foundation?

Walter:

Yes.

Doel:

Who was he and what role was he playing?

Walter:

Barrett Brown was a financial man. And he had started at Bankers Trust Company, and then he had a financial firm of his own. And he was an advisor to the Vetlesen family, headed by a very wealthy lady named Mary Maude Monell Vetlesen. And they had some unhappy experiences, and he became their financial advisor. And he also set up some of these funds. And he brought me in subsequently and then he died. And then I took over.

Doel:

I was also interested in the startup of the Palisades Geophysical — when, in the late 1960s, that branch that came to handle some of the military contracts that could no longer be carried —

Walter:

That was down in Bermuda wasn't it?

Doel:

Later it went down there indeed.

Walter:

Well I can tell you, the reason for that was that the Columbia University Senate was very sensitive about military efforts. It was: "What do you mean, are you going to defend our country?! You crook!" That was the reason for the Bermuda operation.

Doel:

Had you spoken with any of the university presidents at that time? Grayson Kirk?

Walter:

Kirk was another Nicholas Murray Butler. He stayed on too long.

Doel:

There were just a few questions in addition that I wanted to ask and I realize we're getting very close on the lunch hour here. Did you actually support Ewing and Worzel and others when the new center was being established in Galveston, Texas?

Walter:

No.

Doel:

It didn't seem to you the kind of organization that you felt that you wanted.

Walter:

No, I was very disappointed.

Doel:

In the way that it developed down in Texas?

Walter:

Yes. We did not do anything. And we kept up contacts with Worzel and also Nelson Springsteen. But Doc had kissed us goodbye. He also ended up by marrying his secretary.

Doel:

Harriett Bassett.

Walter:

Some of us felt that she carried pillow talk pretty far.

Doel:

Graduate students at the time remember that they had much more difficulty in simply talking to Ewing at that point.

Walter:

Oh yes. She interposed herself, I'm sure feeling that she was helping her husband or protecting him from these "people" who were usurping his time which she felt should be hers or theirs.

Doel:

One question I wanted to ask as you look back on Lamont in the past, in all the years that you have had association with it, what have you regarded as the greatest strengths and what do you think are the challenges that Lamont has in the present? I realize that you may have already mentioned this, but I wanted to be sure.

Walter:

Well, I think that Lamont is sitting pretty. The importance of weather has now been generally recognized as being the major factor of crops all over the world, and droughts, floods. As we've seen on the west coast, these can be major problems. So that I think that the importance of weather is now generally recognized as a matter of major concern.

Doel:

The only other question I wanted to ask at this point, and you've already spelled it out, I think, quite well in The Green Book, but let me ask it anyway. Are there any particular religious or philosophical beliefs, principles, that you feel that have been extremely important in your life?

Walter:

Well the first one I think is curiosity. Find out. And one never knows enough. It's simple, but it's very rewarding. Because it's always satisfying. There is always more to learn and at eighty-six I can tell you, that the more you know, the more you realize you need to know. And that is actually very rewarding because life is never dull. There's always more to do, to learn. And at eighty-six I have been exposed to so many things: I've been in business, I've been in the law, I've been in charitable work, and all kinds of things in science and history, in running things, that it's, it's never ending. And there's always more to know. Because I know that no one will ever know it all. And that's very good. As far as religion goes, one thing that I have found, and I used to have a good friend who was a Jesuit — I got along very well with Jesuits — is that, when you look at the intricacies of life — the commonality of DNA for example and everything and the interactions and the way evolution works — it's almost impossible to escape the view that somehow, somewhere there must be some force that is over and beyond just cause and effect. And that, if that is so, then we should recognize it and we shouldn't ask for miracles or so on. And I've discussed this with a couple of Jesuits, and they say, yeah. One Jesuit said, "Well, I got this from all of my exposure to so many things." He said, "First Jesuit Thomas Aquinas was a big boy, I found a reason for believing in a divine essence in the many references to beauty in the course of Aquinas's work." Over and out.

Session I | Session II