Governmental Engineer

Faculty Profile

Aftr twenty-five years of "shuttling between straight government work and organizations concerned with problems of government," Don K. Price Jr., the new Dean of the Graduate School of Public Administration, has settled down to his first full-time academic job.

He comes to Littauer with an amazingly diversified background in his field. Most recently a vice-president of the Ford Foundation, Price has worked for the first Hoover Commission, the Budget Bureau, the Defense Department, the Central Housing Committee and the Public Administration Clearing House. These activities have led to books and articles on such diverse subjects as foreign policy, the relationship of government and science, the merits of parliamentary and presidential government, and the city manager system of urban administration.

Born in Middlesboro, Kentucky--"just north of the Cumberland Gap and Daniel Boone country"--Price attended Vanderbilt University, majoring in history and political science and graduating in 1931. After a year off on the Nashville Tennessean, he continued his studies as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.

While in England, Price first became interested in the problems of the civil service career system--a question he was still exploring in a Gov 130 lecture this month. His thesis for the B. Litt. degree was a comparison of the constitutional, administrative, and sociological roles of the British administrative class of civil servant with that of its American counterpart.

Returning to this country in 1935, still set on a journalistic career, Price found himself becoming "more and more interested" in government. ("There was a great deal of excitement about government programs in that period, and I thought I'd give it a whirl.") His first job was with the Central Housing Committee, trying to formulate a national housing policy and to set up machinery for its administration. After two years in Washington, he toured the country with two others on a Social Science Research Council grant, preparing a report on the city manager form of government.


Settling in Chicago to write his report, Price remained there for fourteen years ("off and on, with about seven years of full-time government service") with the Public Administration Clearing House, studying the machinery of government and writing for the Public Administration Review. One of these articles, in the autumn of 1943, comparing the American and British systems, elicited a reply from the late British Socialist Harold Laski. A third article, by Price, completed the "Price-Laski debate," well-known to Harvard Government students.

Price was called into the armed forces in 1943 and worked in the office of the Coast Guard Commandant, planning a system for the wartime performance of the service's regulatory duties. This experience led him to the Budget Bureau right after the war, where he assisted in the preparation of legislation setting up the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Science Foundation.

Next came the first Hoover Commission, with Price serving as personal assistant to Herbert Hoover in his report on the Presidency and the Executive Branch. It was an "interesting period," says Price, "and I was around when the report was being fought over and I enjoyed watching." He probably underestimates his own role here, for he played an important part in drafting certain sections of the Commission findings.

At the termination of the Hoover Commission, Price returned to Chicago and the Public Administration Clearing House, but he soon found himself back in Washington, as deputy chairman of the Defense Department's Research and Development Board. Government and Science, published in 1954, is to an extent, the result of this experience and reflects Price's continuing concern with the relationship of the technical specialist and the general politician. Along with Professors Carl Kaysen, I. Bernard Cohen and Jerome Bruner, he is working on a seminar, Science and Public Policy, for the School of Public Administration.

With his work on A.E.C. legislation and in the Defense Department, Price says he "began to be convinced that in science there was important relevance for the future of government. In the early days of the country, scientists were in the mainstream of political thought, and it seems they will have a profound influence on future history." There are, he adds, "really intriguing problems" in the "often unexpected results of technological change."

Much as he is concerned with science and government, Price has always been intensely interested in the science of government. He is most concerned, he says, in the way executive agencies are related to the legislature and to the entire political process. This is, once again, the problem of the specialist and the general politician. Although he says it is impossible to separate the machinery for the formulation and execution of policy from the content of policy, it is plain his chief interest lies in the former sphere. His personal political predilections, unlike those of some of his new colleagues, are totally irrelevant to his work. Price and the School he now heads are in a sense mechanics and engineers of public administration.

Now 49 years old, Price is a tall, friendly man, whose voice still retains the gentle drawl of his native Kentucky. His chief current extracurricular concern is to visit his family on weekends in Scarsdale, New York. He has not been able to move them up here yet, and spends most of his spare time "real estate hunting" in the Boston area.

An unusual combination of scholar and bureaucrat, Price has remarkable credentials for his new job. It is likely he will be around at Littauer for quite a while, unless, of course, the government calls upon him once again.