I just learned that Norman Hackerman recently passed away at age 95. Hackerman was UT President back in the day. In 1970 (or thereabouts), someone in the UT administration identified John Lane and myself as the local Yippies. Hackerman’s office somehow contacted us to invite us to lunch in his office. John and I — both non-student Rag vendors — were intrigued. We were also hungry. So we went. Hackerman told us he personally opposed the Vietnam War, but that his main interest as UT President was avoiding property damage on campus. He had invited us to lunch, it turned out, to solicit our advice on how to keep campus protests non-violent.
John was brilliant. He said that students naturally need to vent their frustrations especially toward the ends of semesters, so he should provide an alternative means for doing so. John suggested that the University fund a big blowout party on the Main Mall. I immediately concurred of course. What a great idea! I have always believed this to have been the impetus for the Fall Mall Ball. I vaguely recall Jeff Jones doubting this, but he wasn’t with us at the lunch.
Years later, I had the opportunity to meet with Hackerman again, when he was President of Rice University. I interviewed him for Pacifica about his pending research trip to the South Pole. We briefly discussed our 1970 luncheon and he recalled the difficulties he faced keeping UT from exploding during that period. Unlike many other UT administrators in my experience, I remember Hackerman as a decent, thoughtful fellow.