A Remembrance of Luther Gulick

Date01 November 2014
AuthorScott Fosler,Dwight Ink
Published date01 November 2014
Scott Fosler worked for the Institute of
Public Administration from 1969 to 1973,
was president of the National Academy
of Public Administration from 1992 to
2000, and is currently senior lecturer at
the University of Maryland School of Public
Policy. He contributed a foreword to Lyle
C. Fitch’s biography of Gulick,
Democracy Work: The Life and Letters of
Luther Halsey Gulick, 1892–1993
(Institute of Governmental Studies Press,
University of California, 1996).
E-mail: scottfosler@aol.com
Dwight Ink held key executive
positions in state and local government
and in the Atomic Energy Commission,
Off‌i ce of Management and Budget,
General Services Administration, Off‌i ce of
Personnel Management, and U.S. Agency
for International Development, and he
led several presidential interagency task
forces. He helped create the Department of
Housing and Urban Development and the
Environmental Protection Agency. He also
served as director of continuing education
at American University from 1976 to 1980,
as president of ASPA from 1977 to 1978,
and as president of the Institute of Public
Administration from 1989 to 1993.
E-mail: dwightink@aol.com
A Remembrance of Luther Gulick 691
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 6, pp. 691–692. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12257.
Scott Fosler
University of Maryland
Dwight Ink
Luther Gulick was an American visionary
pragmatist. His contributions to government
covered so many arenas and eras that people
are constantly surprised when yet another one pops
into view.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gulick collabo-
rated on a wide range of federal issues. For example,
Luther instructed the president on administrative
options for the new Social Security system, and the
president instructed Luther on the importance of
the apparently superf‌l uous Social Security “personal
accounts,” disabusing him of stripping politics com-
pletely from administration. “ at account is there,”
FDR explained to Luther, “so those sons of bitches
up on the Hill can’t ever abandon this system when
I’m gone.
Gulick was a consummate institution builder, help-
ing create the Maxwell School of Citizenship at
Syracuse University, the Brookings Institution, the
Public Administration Service, the National Planning
Association, and, of course, the American Society for
Public Administration. He transformed the New York
Bureau of Municipal Research, the pioneering local
government reform organization, into the Institute
of Public Administration (IPA), which he headed for
most of his career, starting as its f‌i rst president and
chair in 1931, but even earlier as director of its pred-
ecessor organization in 1921.
Luther did not spend time reminiscing about the
impressive record of the IPA or his own remarkable
role in the development of public administration,
although he took pride in having been involved in
the drafting of Roosevelt’s stirring “Four Freedoms”
speech. Until he was 100, Luther was always looking
forward and challenging us to try new ideas.
In his mid-nineties, still on its board, he found the
Institute of Public Administration facing a serious
f‌i nancial crisis.  e discussion centered initially on
whether the IPA could survive. However, Luther
urged us to talk instead about whether the IPA should
survive, suggesting that if we no longer had the capac-
ity to plow new ground in public administration, he
would vote to close shop. Luther said that a nonprof‌i t
organization should not look upon mere survival as a
justif‌i cation for existing. Only if the IPA could con-
tribute new knowledge to the f‌i eld of public admin-
istration should it try to climb the dif‌f‌i cult road back
to solvency. Another board member, Alan K. “Scotty”
Campbell, agreed.
e IPA met Luther’s test by providing technical
assistance to the newly independent countries formerly
dominated by the Soviet Union, whose leaders needed
immediate help to avoid political and economic chaos.
Despite poor prospects for funding and skepticism
from several board members who thought this venture
foolhardy in view of the IPA’s sharply reduced capac-
ity, Luther thought the stakes were so high that we
should try, and we did. As this gamble began to pay
of‌f , Luther also supported the IPA’s leadership of an
equally formidable United Nations Development
Programme initiative to help the People’s Republic of
China design a huge civil service reform and massive
government decentralization. He was fascinated by
the creativity required to achieve the results sought by
the Chinese. Models were to be avoided because they
assumed a static society and discouraged innovation.
IPA staf‌f in Bolivia in the 1970s found palpable
evidence of Gulick’s inf‌l uence: POSDCORB (the
acronym standing for planning, organizing, staf‌f‌i ng,
directing, coordinating, reporting, and budgeting) was
being used to instruct students of government man-
agement on the principal roles of the public execu-
tive.  is was a shorthand that Luther had cooked
up for the President’s Committee on Administrative
Management (the so-called Brownlow Commission
on which he served), an FDR project to redesign the
federal administrative structure.
For some, POSDCORB and its associated principles
of public administration (articulated in his “Notes on
A Remembrance of Luther Gulick

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