Gilbert F. White
small grant to do a study on this for which we were able to enlist the interest
of some of the people at Chicago. That was the beginning of a series of
research activities on floodplain occupance and its implications.
Q: Why did you leave Haverford?
A: I felt I had done about all I could at that time. I'd helped them reduce their
student enrollment and increase their endowment several-fold. I had enlisted
a largely new faculty and started a number of new programs. We had a
cooperative agreement with Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore. Things seemed to
be going just fine. I thought that was the right time to leave. I knew that if
I didn't leave then I probably never would leave administrative work.
Margaret Mead had been at our house for dinner the preceding year and at
some stage we were talking about my going back to do more research. She
gave mea cool look and said, "You know you're on a one-way street. You'll
never get out of educational administration. They never do. " That was the
So I began thinking about whether I could really get back to research. And
Chicago was, as I indicated, sufficiently risk-taking in outlook to appoint me.
Q: And you immediately got involved in this question of floodplain occupance.
Q: Now Francis Murphy's book comes out. I think about '56, wasn't it?
Something like '57?
A: No, it comes a little later. The main project was to find out what had
happened in the floodplains since 1936, and there were a number of issues
that came out of this. One issue was the role of floodplain regulations in
changing what happens on floodplains. Another issue was the role of
perception in looking at alternative methods of dealing with flood losses. I
had been convinced that if the kind of research we were carrying on was
going to have any influence we had to involve in it, in some fashion or other,
people who were on the firing line in the interested agencies. So from the
outset we made a point of consulting with people in the Corps, in the Soil