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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 6, 2008

Former UH leader Harlan Cleveland, 90

Photo gallery: UH Cleveland Remembered

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

UH President Harlan Cleveland

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When University of Hawai'i-Manoa students sat in protest of the Vietnam War for six days, UH President Harlan Cleveland sat with them.

When Cleveland saw that a world-class university needed a law school and a four-year medical school, he pushed lawmakers to fund them.

Those were among his many accomplishments while serving as president from 1969 to 1974. Cleveland died May 30 in Sterling, Va., at the age of 90.

"President Cleveland was very polished and a visionary," said Roy Takeyama, who served as secretary to the UH Board of Regents during Cleveland's tenure. "His thinking was way ahead of his time.

Anti-war sentiment ran high on the Manoa campus when he arrived in 1969. He struck a supportive anti-war tone, canceling afternoon classes after the U.S. bombed Cambodia on Oct. 15, 1969, so students could discuss bringing an end to the war in Southeast Asia.

"Cleveland was a diplomat by training and had limited university experience," said Dick Kosaki, who served as UH vice president under Cleveland. "In some ways, that hindered him. He was president during a very restless time. Yet, he had a lot of patience. He could sit for hours and talk to students."

Cleveland supported the existence of a Reserve Officer Training Corps program on campus, believing students should be able to choose if they wanted to be educated as military officers.

It was a deeply divisive and emotional issue, and demonstrators in April 1970 occupied the Air Force ROTC building for six days.

"The students all thought that with his diplomatic background he was a militarist," said his daughter, Melantha Cleveland. "But they were so wrong. He'd sit with them and talk to them and they caught on that he wasn't in favor of the Vietnam War."

Sometimes his strong convictions got him into trouble, Kosaki said.

"The faculty sometimes found it difficult to work with him because his administrative style was by 'creative ambiguity,'" Kosaki said. "That was a term that stuck with him. His forte really was think pieces and that was his strength."

His accomplishments before he arrived at UH were vast:

  • A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and a graduate of Princeton University.

  • Served as an economic warfare specialist and United Nations relief administrator in the 1940s.

  • In 1948, he joined the Economic Cooperation Administration, where he served as director of the China Aid Program and developed and managed U.S. aid to eight East Asian countries.

  • Was the Washington-based supervisor of the Marshall Plan for European recovery in 1952.

  • In 1953, he became executive editor and later publisher of The Reporter, a political commentary magazine in New York.

  • Became dean of Syracuse University's Maxwell Graduate School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 1956.

  • From 1961-65, he served as assistant secretary of state and ambassador to NATO in the administrations of presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

    "Harlan Cleveland was a renowned educator and global diplomat," said UH President David McClain in a statement. "He served this university and the state of Hawai'i with distinction as our president and provided leadership worldwide for the benefit of humankind right until the end of his long and productive life."

    Cleveland resigned in 1974, but retained the title of president emeritus.

    After leaving UH, he became founding dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and retired as a professor.

    Even in retirement, he wrote books and articles, mostly on leadership.

    He was president of the World Academy of Art & Science, a global think tank established in the 1960 as a nonofficial network of individuals from diverse cultures, nationalities and intellectual disciplines.

    As recently as last year Cleveland, who was writing his autobiography, kept in contact with those he met at UH, said Kosaki. Cleveland planned to dedicate a chapter to his time at the university.

    He did not complete his autobiography before he died, Melantha Cleveland said. But he did complete three chapters on his time in Hawai'i.

    "He loved his years in Hawai'i. It was a great time," Melantha Cleveland said. "It was a time when the governor would ask him what he wanted to do for the university and find the money to make it happen. It was fascinating for us and for him."

    Cleveland is survived by his wife of 66 years, Lois, of Sterling, Va.; his three children Zoe, Melantha and Alan, all of Palmyra, Va.; and a grandson in Littleton, Colo.

    Services will be June 19 at the Falcon's Landing retirement home where Cleveland lived with his wife. Donations to Volunteers of America at 1660 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314 or 800- 899-0089.

    Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.