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F. Skiddy von Stade

Dean of Freshmen, Harvard College

By Peter Shapiro

YOU might see him walking through the Yard in a gray three-piece suit his back stiffly erect from a polo injury three years ago. His name is Francis Skiddy von Stade Jr., and for most of the Class of '76, he is the most direct link with the overlapping jurisdictions and tangled paths of command that make up the Harvard Administration.

As dean of Freshmen, he will serve in loco parentis for the 1000 first-year men and 200 first year women residing in the dormitories in and around the Yard. He is the Harvard administrator extraordinaire, having sat in a University office since 1940, when he was chosen as an assistant dean. "With the exception of three and a half years during the War. I've been in University Hall ever since," von Stade noted last week, looking out an ivied window of Harvard's main administration building.

Although Skiddy, as his friends call him, is Harvard's senior administrator, he is not nearly at the top of the University's ladder of power. He is a third echelon administrator, a step below men like Charles P. Whitlock, the dean of the College, who is in turn a step below the upper echelon of men like John T. Dunlop, dean of the Faculty, and, of course, President Derek C. Bok.

Von Stade's influence over incoming freshmen is likely to be small, and even then in most cases only indirect. The only times most freshmen see his office is in the beginning of the year when they submit their study cards showing what courses they have enrolled in, and at the end of each semester, when grades are issued.

DESPITE the limited scope of von Stade's power, a small storm erupted last year when students learned that the freshmen women brought into the newly coeducationalized Yard would fall under his jurisdiction. The objections stemmed from a private letter which von Stade had written to the director of Admissions at Radcliffe. In the letter, which The Crimson obtained and published, von Stade said that he opposed any change from the former 4-to-1 ratio of men to women undergraduates at Harvard. "I said I thought that the world in the foreseeable future was going to be primarily run by men," he said. "And I still think so, quite honestly." From this contention, von Stade draws the conclusion that the University should place a greater emphasis on the education of men than on that of women.

Although he concedes his feelings on the question are "perhaps more emotional than rational," von Stade believes there is a certain biological inevitability behind men having a role of greater leadership in our society. "My argument is speculative," he contends. "But it's also based on a certain amount of experience. I know a number of very able women who've gone to college and graduated very high, and gone on to professional school, but an awful lot of them take themselves out of circulation from between ten and twenty years--through motherhood and family and this kind of thing."

"Now, women are a hell of a lot more liberated than they ever were," he continued. "And I think they ought to be liberated more, at least in terms of their intellectual pursuits, but I don't think that most of them want a childless marriage."

Von Stade sees daycare as an unfeasible alternative. "Everything I hear about daycare is that a child needs a parent during those years in which daycare would be needed," he said. "And I always read 'parent' to mean 'mother.'"

VON STADE likewise stands opposed to the most emphatic demand of women students: equal admissions to Harvard and Radcliffe. "If we go one-to-one, you've got to think what's going to happen to the women's colleges," von Stade argues. "There aren't enough women to go around that have the academic measurements that we and the Seven Sisters use."

Von Stade appears to have little fondness for student activism in general. He termed the period of the student strikes in 1969 and 1970 "hyperemotional."

"I didn't particularly like those years," he recalts. "All the yelling and everything made things very uncomfortable."

He says he thinks the students picked the University as a target for many antiwar protests simply because it was convenient. "The University was tangible. The problems were intangible," he explains. "What the hell we had to do with the policy in Vietnam is still very difficult to understand."

On the war itself von Stade comes out sounding closer to President Nixon than to Democratic nominee George McGovern. "My own feelings, at least now, are that it is a disaster that we ever got into the war," he says. "But my feelings even today are how do you get out."

"I don't think you could just send a bunch of ships over there and all of a sudden decamp. I don't think that many of us are qualified to say anything more than Let's get out as last as we can. And fast is not as speedy as I lot of people would like."

But von Stade is not like a lot of people. Born of an old German Irish New York clan (the Skiddy is Irish, the von Stade German), he was brought up on Long Island, "the world immediately following the world of the Great Gatsby," as he describes it. His home town was Old Westbury, a New York suburb that he says "used to cut a lot of mustard in certain novels."

He prepped at aristocratic St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., and went on to Harvard where he graduated in 1938. "I was going through college because that was the thing to do," he recalls. "But I enjoyed myself immensely." One of his greatest joys was polo, which, he says, "even then was regarded as esoteric."

THE von Stade family are renowned horsemen. Skiddy's father, who was also named Skiddy--"He was what you called in those days a gentleman jockey," Skiddy Jr. says--founded the Museum of Racing in Saratoga, N.Y., along with Averill Harriman.

When the young von Stade arrived at Harvard, he brought two polo ponies with him. Needing more horses for a match, von Stade joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and trained some of the field artillery horses for polo. "That was my drill," he says.

Von Stade was thrown out of ROTC when he took the first term of his senior year off to tour South America with an international polo team, which, he recalls, "turned out to be pretty much of a flop." Returning to Harvard to graduate, he was offered a job as a master at St. Paul's. He accepted the job, and then two years later, took another offer to come to Harvard.

And judging from both the amount of time he has spent here and his pronouncements, von Stade likes Harvard the way it is. "I wouldn't like to see the University reorient itself in any significant way," he says. "I wouldn't like to see it turn out a lot of Democrats or a lot of Republicans--certainly not a lot of SDS."

"I'm all for evolution rather than revolution," he commented. "That's partly to do with my age, and partly to do with my make up."

The process of evolution he believes in is not a rapid one. "Take a step and see how it works out," he says. "But I don't mean take a step this year and take another step next year. You've got to think in generational terms, which is only four years here. You've got to go slow."

Asked why he thought students wanted the process of change to go faster, von Stade said that he himself was equally impatient in his youth. "Students are taught to have ideas," he said. "But they have to learn how to feel about them."

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