Yesterday Lucas noted that Peter Drucker died at the age of 95. Drucker and I got to Claremont in 1971; he was a prof in the business school, and I was a grad student in government. I didn’t formally study with him. I studied with Jaffa. One great man was enough. But, I did attend many of his classes and got to know him a bit. He was a tremendous character. Very wise, amazingly learned, witty, tough, but never mean. He would chastize students (publicly) for being narrow, for misunderstanding the nature of education, for not understanding the difference between training (as in what schools of business normally do) and a liberal education, for not working hard enough, for not taking advantage of the opportunity they had. The first time I met him was over dinner, with two others (I think it was my second year in grad school). In preparation I read many of his books, and found them surprsingly interesting, but, of course, wasn’t yet persuaded that this was a serious person. And, being young and imprudent, over dinner I hastened to point out to him (you know, in that supercilious tone that grad students are prone to) that his books (especially something called, as I recollect, The Effective Executive) were nothing more than watered down Machiavelli. He was surprised that I was surprised, and readily admitted the fact and then quickly revealed that he knew a lot about Machievlli. Well, still in my arrogant mode, I pushed on and started pontificating about Frederick the Great’s book on Machiavelli (which I had just discovered and was sure no one else in the whole world ever heard of, never mind read), and to my surprise he had not only read it but had some very interesting thoughts about the book and Frederick. It was after this that I started to sit in on his classes. He was asked a question about the Vietnam War and its significance for America and the world; in a class that had nothing to do with the war, of course. He responded with a thirty minute discourse on the history (not excluding the art) of South East Asia, emphasizing China and Japan in the 17th and 18th centuries, never mentioned Vietnam, yet answered the question. It was wonderful. The student didn’t get it. But by then I did. Rest in Peace, good teacher.
Addition: Matt Peterson reminded me of this interview
that me, Arnn, and Masugi conducted with Drucker back in 1984. It’s pretty good.