Today, the list of Hoover Institution fellows is loaded with VIPs—Condi Rice, George Shultz, Milton Friedman and Edward Teller, to name a few. Four decades ago, however, the institution was little more than an obscure library. The man who made it one of the nation’s most influential conservative think tanks was a contentious economist named W. Glenn Campbell.
Campbell died of a heart attack November 24 at his home in Los Altos Hills. He was 77.
Since he arrived on campus in 1960, the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and Peace has never been the same. Lauded by colleagues as “an advocate of freedom and a contributor to our nation’s well-being,” but also notorious for his “easily antagonistic” style, Campbell tripled the institution’s size and saw its endowment grow from $2 million to more than $125 million.
Born on a farm in Ontario, Canada, he graduated from the University of Western Ontario, then earned his PhD in economics from Harvard, where he taught until 1951. After three years with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he became research director of the American Enterprise Association.
In 1960, Herbert Hoover (Class of 1895) handpicked Campbell to run his campus-based library. Over the next 29 years, Campbell’s flair for fund raising and creative recruitment—he established joint appointments between Hoover and Stanford to allow for higher salaries—attracted some of the nation’s top scholars.
“He was the man who built the Hoover Institution, and he was an early founder of think tanks in the United States,” Hoover senior fellow Melvyn Krauss told Stanford Report. “He was a terrific fund raiser, and he brought outstanding people to Hoover.”
Campbell was a longtime supporter and confidant of Ronald Reagan. Gov. Reagan appointed him to the University of California Board of Regents in 1968, a post he held for 28 years. As president, Reagan often asked Hoover scholars to fill positions in his administration.
But Campbell’s conservative views clashed with those of campus liberals. In 1987, University trustees obstructed his efforts to bring the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Public Affairs Center to Stanford. They were concerned that the public affairs center would become another conservative think tank. Later, Reagan established both facilities in Simi Valley, Calif.
The year after the Reagan flap brought Campbell’s mandatory retirement at age 65. He continued to serve as counselor to the institution’s director and was named director emeritus in 1994.
Campbell held seven appointments under five U.S. presidents, including the chair of Reagan’s Intelligence Oversight Board and membership on his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. As a UC regent, he supported reform proposals to force professors to spend more time teaching and to increase aid to needy students. In the San Francisco Chronicle, former California Gov. Pete Wilson spoke of Campbell’s sense of duty in advancing education. “Beneath that gruff exterior, there was, I think, a great goodwill and a great feeling of obligation toward the public.”
Campbell is survived by his wife of 55 years, Rita Ricardo-Campbell; three daughters, Nancy Yaeger, Barbara Gray and Diane, ’77; four grandchildren; and two sisters, Marjorie Wyatt and Evelyn McClary.