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Regents pick acting president
Victoria chancellor gets position
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Bishop selected UH Systems I
The changing of the guard:
Hoffman: No appointee, no president and a long search.
Philip Hoffman in his 17 years at UH, was an elusive figure outside the ramparts of the Ezekiel Cullen
Building. Robert Maxson, in his four-month stay as interim president, went a long way toward changing
the image of the invisible presidency.
Maxson was plucked from the chancellor's job at the UH Victoria Center after Hoffman's abrupt resignation and quickly became one of the best-known and most-popular administrators in years. It wasn't
unusual to spot him strolling around the campus. He even venturedinto the Coffeehouse, a popular dive
for students but not one normally associated with elusive administrative types.
More than one student fed up with the administration's laissez-faire attitude about the students praised
Maxson for finally acknowledging the
presence of those who pay, and
dearly,"for UH diplomas.
"A dynamo" is how the president of
the student association at Victoria portrayed Maxson. In Houston he lived up
to this image. Maxson's style of administrating was more freewheeling
than that of Hoffman, yet was well-
suited to the central campus.
After a while Maxson returned to
Victoria. He left, but only after making
the UH presidency more popular than
Maxson: A "dynamo" in the president's chair.
The Cougar and the shuffle.
Why Hoffman quit
When talking about power politics, it's always good to keep in
mind that things are not always as
they appear to be on the surface.
Such is the case of Philip G.
Hoffman, president of the UH System.
On Sept. 10, Hoffman shocked
the university by announcing his
resignation at a meeting of the
board of regents. The resignation
came after the board voted down
his recommendation that Dr.
Joseph Champagne be named
interim chancellor of the UH
The board instead chose Dr.
Allen Commander, the university's
lobbyist in Austin and Washington.
Commander was a man whom one
regent described as one who "fell
out of favor with his boss" —
Hoffman. Commander, who
hungered for the permanent chancellorship at the Downtown College, went over Hoffman's head
and spoke with members of the
board himself, and the regents ultimately chose him over Champagne.
Hoffman claimed that he could
not work for a board which did not
have confidence in him, and said
he resigned "on principle." And
here ends the story on the surface:
Hoffman exits as a hero, a man of
But there is more.
Many people at the university
were taken by surprise by the news
of Hoffman's resignation. But there
were a few who were not.
Hoffman is not an impulsive man.
He is an intelligent man who will
not take a major action unless he is
certain of what the consequences
Hoffman is also a man who found
himself quickly losing his power at
the University of Houston. This decline goes deeper than the
and has its roots in the Ginnie Mae
investment scandal of 1977-78. In
the spring of 1978, the board of regents declared its independence
from Hoffman and reorganized the
personnel in the UH System —
Dave Hurlbut, Daily Cougar fall editor
In that reorganization, Hoffman's
financial vice president (who by
that time was chief financial officer
for the Central Campus) effectively
was fired; his executive vice president was told to concentrate solely
on financial affairs; and his vice
president for development was relieved of his major responsibility of
private fund raising.
Three important events followed
that. During the last legislative session, Hoffman found himself at
odds with Commander for the first
time on the issue of financing university construction. Then, early
this summer, the regents altered
Hoffman's proposal to move the UH
System administrative offices to
the plush Galleria*area, opting instead to move to cheaper quarters
in Houston United Bank on the Gulf
And on Sept. 10, the regents rejected Hoffman's recommendation
of Champagne for UHDC interim
chancellor, which precipitated
So the question is this: Was
Hoffman's resignation in fact a
Before Sept. 10, word was circulating in the UH System administrative offices that there was a
chance Champagne might not get
the regents' seal of approval. It was
also circulated that Hoffman would
resign if the board turned against
Also, a few regents met at
Hoffman's house for dinner the
night before the meeting, and regent Charles Morino said later that
there were "rumors" after dinner
that Hoffman resign over the UHDC
Did those regents believe that
Hoffman was bluffing? A man who
plays his cards conservatively does
not bluff, and Hoffman has always
played his cards closely.
What is more likely is that both
Hoffman and the board of regents
sensed the inevitable: Hoffman had
A number of authoritative
sources have been predicting that
for a long time, and a lot of things
support the notion that Hoffman's
resignation was no spontaneous
act of principle.
Some people — regents among
them — felt that Hoffman got
caught up in the growing pangs of
change, and that the university had
outgrown his style of administration.
"When you start running a
multi-million dollar, multi-campus
system, you have to run things a little differently than you did in 1962,"
one regent said.
When Hoffman first assumed the
presidency in 1962, there were no
branch campuses, not many buildings, and only a few students. UH
was, in every sense of the derisive
term, Cougar High. But under
Hoffman's guidance, UH grew into
a respected four-campus university
system, with the responsibility for
the education of about 45,000 people. And clearly, the university's
tremendous growth was the result
of Hoffman's efforts.
But bigness brings on new problems, and in 1978, those problems
rocked the university with a short-
term investment scandal which ultimately cost the university millions
The problem with UH's short-
term investments was symptomatic
of using little administration principles to govern a big institution.
The man responsible for building
up the university's financial entanglement was allowed to do so because there was no one overseeing
what he did. The result: no one
knew there was a problem until it
was too late.
Hoffman put a lot of faith in his
"good old boys," and there was not
much accountability. This was
symptomatic of an outgrown administration, and was one reason
for Hoffman's declining power with
the board of regents.
The regents felt it was time for a
change in style, and Hoffman had
trouble adapting. It was this, rather
than the appointment of Commander, which made Hoffman's resignation inevitable.