[The Montana Professor 18.2, Spring 2008 <http://mtprof.msun.edu>]
George Madden, founder of The Montana Professor and its chief editor the first eleven years, died 2 December 2007. The acting co-editors dedicate this issue of the journal to George. The seven statements that follow--five from MP Board members, the other two from former Board members--reflect upon the friend, professor, and journal editor from several vantages. Together they provide some measure of the man without whom there would be no journal. They represent our thanks and our farewell to a dedicated faculty leader, both at Montana State University-Billings and in the Montana University System.--eds.
It is with great sadness that the editors of The Montana Professor inform our readers of the passing of the journal's founding editor, its heart and soul for so many years, George Madden. Born on February 24, 1927, in Rochester, Michigan, George was one of ten children. During World War II he served in Germany with the United States Army. After his return to the States, George spent the remaining years of his life pursuing his two great passions: family and education. He married Virginia Kage in 1949 and together they had four sons (two of whom preceded him in death). After receiving his doctorate in education from the University of Illinois in 1968, George came to then-Eastern Montana College in 1970, where he taught courses in educational law and the philosophy of education. Nearly every student who went through the teacher education program at Eastern, and then Montana State University-Billings, had Dr. Madden as an instructor. He was a gifted and patient teacher, and he never shied from teaching controversial subjects in his classes. As one student recalled, "Dr. Madden was the greatest professor. I will never forget him. I learned so much from his classes, not only from the content, but in the manner in which he taught them." Another student commented, "He changed the way I think. When I got here, my whole world fit into a box. When I left, I thought outside the box."
Beyond the classroom, George was the driving force behind establishing both the Academic Senate and later the Faculty Association at Eastern Montana College in 1975. He had an unwavering loyalty to his profession and the courage to speak truth to power, and he defended his passion for academic freedom with a legendary ferocity at MSU-Billings. "He was never shy about challenging the administration," said Alicia Lee, who served as George's departmental office manager. Yet faculty and administrators who knew George well and who worked with him closely over the years knew that, for all of his negotiating tenacity, at heart he was a consummate gentleman. In George's later years he served as an inspirational mentor to a new generation of faculty at MSU-Billings, and his legacy lives on here through a vibrant Faculty Association and a highly visible and active Academic Senate.
In 1990, wishing to provide a much-needed forum for the free exchange of ideas pertinent to higher educational issues in Montana and around the nation, George and Bill Plank at Eastern founded The Montana Professor. The first few publications were nondescript, printed on newsprint and somewhat haphazardly disseminated primarily to unionized faculty across the Montana University System. Yet for George it was a true labor of love, and he worked indefatigably over the years to ensure that this unique publication gained both state and national reputation and long-term stability. By 2001-02 when he stepped down as editor, George was enormously proud of the journal. It is an understatement to say that all of us will sorely miss George. Without his effort there simply would never have been The Montana Professor. To him we all raise our glasses and say collectively, "Thank you, George, union brother, mentor, teacher, friend, and colleague. We will always miss you."
I knew George Madden for over thirty years, and he had a decided and positive effect on my personal and professional life. From him I learned that the American education system favors certain social classes and discriminates against others. Even though the philosopher Nietzsche wrote that indignation is the passion of the weak, because of Professor Madden I developed an indignation and a desire to try to improve the system. He provided the bibliography and conversation that educated me and made me a more sensitive and responsible professor in the study, in the classroom, and on campus. For years I watched him develop his courses in school law and the philosophy of education, producing ethical and alert teachers for the public schools. His courses in the philosophy of education were not the run-of-the-mill courses, but the kind of hard-core thinking that comes out of university academic philosophy departments. His courses were the first and the only real study of philosophical issues that most public school teachers ever got.
He provided the energy, guidance, and knowledge which contributed to the unionization of EMC/MSUB, thus providing an immediate improvement of faculty salaries and an open, legal, and effective way to approach faculty concerns. His energy and experience made it possible for him to work with the AFT and the NEA, state government, the legal profession, and the faculty, yet maintain a respectful and respected relation with the University administration at all levels and with state government. Even though he was deeply involved in grievances and bargaining, working not only for the faculty but for the reputation of the local unit and Montana University System, he could not be intimidated, and he never lost his concentration or his temper. It was his idea to found The Montana Professor as the only forum for professors in the MUS (or private colleges) to write on matters of higher education both in Montana and the nation, and he was gratified to see the journal accepted by faculty and administration from across the state.
George Madden was not a stuffy, isolated, or unapproachable intellectual. He enjoyed life and his friends and was a great companion in the profession and over a pitcher or a "drop of the craythur."
George was an inspiration because of his devotion to his students and his passion for scholarship. He knew not only his students' names but their ambitions, in many cases their life stories, and would go to tremendous lengths to find opportunities for them that would enable them to achieve and shine. I believe it was for this reason that he was such a fierce critic of any shortcomings he perceived in the University's curriculum: he was dedicated to providing students with the best and most beneficial possible education, and continually sought ways to teach better. He read widely and constantly, with an eye toward strengthening teaching and scholarship, and was a sworn enemy to the philosophy of "good enough."
He urged his students and colleagues alike to think more deeply. I cannot count the books on my shelves, many of which, to my shame, I have yet to read, that were recommended by George as new and interesting perspectives on pedagogy and educational policy. Just before his most debilitating stroke, George had discovered a British scholar whose views on school reform he found intriguing. He had urged me to read it but since I was in the middle of a Master's program at the time, I had not yet gotten around to it. When I visited him in the hospital, he was not completely clear about his surroundings or his situation--but when I greeted him, he looked up, smiled, and immediately asked, "Have you read it yet?" That seems to me a fitting metaphor for George's legacy and continuing challenge: "Have you looked further? Have you read it yet?"
Somewhere in 1989-90 George Madden and Bill Plank of Eastern Montana College (now MSU-Billings) decided to launch an academic journal that would address issues faced by the professoriate in higher education, especially Montana; seek nationwide contributions but prefer submissions from Montana; and be run by volunteer effort. With help from two Eastern librarians, Kathleen Hall and JoAnn Meide, George and Bill finalized their plans and approached the Montana Federation of Teachers (the higher education union on campus then) for funding. George convinced the union head in Montana that sponsoring a journal would be good for its membership; indeed, it would be a first in the nation (see the MFT welcome at http://mtprof.msun.edu/Win1991/mcgarv.html). George shook hands on the deal, which would fund The Montana Professor for a decade. Publication began with the Winter 1991 issue, arriving in campus mailboxes in January 1991 (see George's inaugural editorial at http://mtprof.msun.edu/Win1991/intro.html); it was published three times a year (winter, spring, and fall) through 2003, a year after George retired as editor (see his notice at http://mtprof.msun.edu/Win2002/Edit.html).
I met George in fall of 1991 when he was recruiting potential Board members for the journal. He believed that all six units of the Montana University System should be represented on the board, and that such a membership would encourage submissions from all units, a vision that has proved workable. Still, George had a nose for important issues, and found authors wherever they were writing, as a look through past issues will show (for an early example, see Marie Wirsing's article at http://mtprof.msun.edu/Spr1991/eval.html).
George had a way of coaxing writers to submit pieces that served the journal well. Although I saw him only at annual board meetings, he seemed always calm and thoughtful, ready to provide what assistance he could for articles, reviews, even poetry. He sought all voices, believing that readers should be the final arbiters of worth among disparate views. As I have heard from other journal editors, supervising the many aspects of a serial publication is a Herculean labor; ten years is about the longest one can expect to last without physical breakdown. George lead The Montana Professor for twelve years, retiring gracefully when his health could no longer brook the strain.
He was a good man who brought to fruition a good idea, and I'm honored to have been a small part of it. Godspeed, George.
My acquaintance with George Madden only began when I was elected to the Board of The Montana Professor in 1997 or 1998. I had spoken with him by telephone once or twice before concerning pieces that I had written, but had never met him face to face. As a Board member I immediately perceived George's dedication, which extended even to his paying for some part of the Board's annual meeting expenses out of his own pocket.
I shall remember George for that dedication, his good humor, and the intelligence he displayed as TMP's Editor. But I shall remember him most for his conduct in the crisis that befell the journal following the merger of the AFT and the MEA. The AFT had funded the journal from its founding, taking a strictly hands-off approach to editorial policy. That changed drastically with the merger. George, whose field was Education, had begun planning a conference on charter schools, working with a few others, some of whom were also associated with TMP. When the MEA leadership learned of this they informed George that if he went through with the conference they would no longer fund The Montana Professor. Quite properly, George went ahead with the conference, and the funding was indeed withdrawn. I leave it to others to make whatever inferences about the MEA's conduct they feel it necessary to draw. What was apparent to me then, and remains apparent to me now, is the integrity of the man. As much as he loved the journal that he had helped to found and worked so hard to make a success, he believed that he must risk its demise rather than compromise his integrity as Editor and the journal's independence. We are, of course, pleased and grateful that the journal survived this crisis.
I was fortunate to have known George Madden. During my tenure as TMP's Editor I had the example of his integrity constantly in mind. I can only hope that I did not fall too far short of the standard he set.
I first heard from George Madden back in 1993, when I was an assistant professor in English at Montana Tech, and he phoned my office asking if I'd serve as a campus represen- tative for a journal he'd started. George had picked me, he said, because I taught English, and, in his experience, faculty members in my discipline were most likely to be interested in participating in an intellectual journal. Although, at the time, I had no background working on a magazine, I was an eager volunteer. Thus began a decade-and-a-half-long relationship (with no end in sight) that has been one of the richest experiences of my academic career. I love writing for The Montana Professor; I love working with contributors on submissions; I love associating with like-minded colleagues; I love holding the latest issue in my hands. I owe that profound engagement entirely to George.
The Montana Professor was George's baby. He only wrote for it on occasion but was intimately involved in every step of its production. Indeed, when assistance couldn't be found, George even carted huge bags filled with copies of the journal down to the mailroom at MSU-Billings--and this when he was in his 70s! George was passionately involved in his discipline as an often lonely, always courageous voice calling for desperately needed reforms in our educational system. But he never envisioned The Montana Professor as dealing with educational issues alone. His was a capaciously open mind intrigued by a myriad of subjects, and the journal's contents under his editorship reflected that breadth of interests.
As well, George was more than willing to continue steering The Montana Professor through stormy seas. He wasn't a man who was easily fazed. Undeterred by union opposition to the school choice conference, George simply sought alternate funding, and, as a result, The Montana Professor is now securely financed jointly by UM and MSU. In like fashion, when George no longer had the energy to edit the journal himself, rather than closing up shop he tirelessly sought a replacement, ultimately finding the eminently suitable Dick Walton.
George's life had its share of tragedies, the deepest being that two sons died during his lifetime. Once, not long after his second son had passed away of cancer, at a dinner following a board meeting in Billings, after George had downed a few glasses of red wine, he told me, clenching his fists, that he'd "like to take Death and punch him right in the nose." Years later, my own seventeen-year- old daughter died of an epileptic seizure, so I know what it's like to lose a child, though I can't imagine how it must feel to lose two. When your child dies, you carry that pain with you like a dark secret for the rest of your life. But George never let these personal tragedies undermine his goals, his joie de vivre. He never lost his sense of humor, or his intellectual curiosity, or his empathy for other people. I miss him deeply.
Like most of the other contributors to this tribute, I have been part of The Montana Professor since its beginnings. George Madden was a senior faculty member when, with colleague Bill Plank, he founded this journal. Others have described George's faculty leadership on what became the MSUB campus. With The Montana Professor, George took his advocacy of Montana faculty to a new level far beyond his own campus, one that exceeds the Montana University System. As a member of the Board of this new journal, I liked George immediately. His face suggested a classic grandfather, one well-equipped with twinkles and quips. However, it became clear, quickly, that a bedrock of tough resolve underlay this benign face.
Over the years at Board meetings, I gradually understood the depth of dedication George manifested towards his "baby." I figured out that The Montana Professor served a crucial function for faculty in Big Sky Country, and I gradually realized how hard George worked to continually improve the journal. As an acting co-editor this current year, I have glimpsed anew George's workload "off campus" for a bit more than a decade, nurturing this journal. At the meetings, George's agendas ranged widely, as his eye and heart commanded a range of issues, from the philosophical to the severely practical. George frequently wanted to talk about new directions for The Montana Professor, and his eclectic vision embraced content exceeding current higher educational issues. Yet he also knew the business of putting out the issues, and often asked for input about details I hardly knew enough to speak about. George captained the ship for a long run.
I have missed his humor and only hope the journal since his reign has further widened his generous vision. Above all, I salute our former leader for his unwavering faculty advocacy, both on and beyond his campus. That advocacy led him to found and lead a journal, an issue of which you hold in your hands. George labored, year in and year out, for all of us in Montana.
[The Montana Professor 18.2, Spring 2008 <http://mtprof.msun.edu>]