(Tallahassee Democrat) J. Stanley Marshall, a vigorous, strong-minded educator who was president of Florida State University during one of its most tumultuous periods, died Sunday afternoon.
Marshall, 91, died at about 1 p.m. at his home in the Westminster Oaks retirement community. His wife of nearly 50 years, Shirley, and other family members were with him. Marshall had suffered several cardiac events in recent years, including a heart attack in May. He was under hospice care.
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. June 16 at Trinity United Methodist Church.
Marshall was president of FSU from 1969 to 1976. After his presidency, he founded and operated an electronic security company; ran unsuccessfully for state education commissioner (1986); and founded the James Madison Institute (1987), a conservative think tank. Marshall served on the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission, the first Board of Trustees for FSU, the Bethune-Cookman University Board of Trustees and the state Board of Governors, which oversees Florida's 11 state universities
"His legacy is that he was a Renaissance Man," said Robert McClure, president and CEO of the James Madison Institute. "He was a tremendous influence and mentor. And always a gentleman regardless of the political stripe of people he was dealing with. He cast a large, broad shadow."
James Stanley Marshall's tenure as FSU president coincided with the rise of student activism at FSU — which earned FSU the title "Berkeley of the South" because of the proliferation of student demonstrations and protests.
During his presidency, FSU students held major demonstrations against the Vietnam War and Kent State shootings. They began a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and formed a Black Student Union. They marched for changes in racial and gender policies, started a student-taught "free university" and even started the craze of streaking.
Clashes with students, faculty
Marshall, a political conservative, disagreed with student demonstrators on almost all issues, but prided himself on respecting students' First Amendment rights. He listened calmly to their protests, whether they were marching on his president's house or trying to take over his administrative offices in Westcott Hall — while often infuriating them with his refusal to accede to their demands.
As he wrote in his 2006 memoir, "The Tumultuous Sixties. Campus Unrest and Student Life at a Southern University," his goal was to maintain order on campus.
"My charge seemed clear: Keep the University open and operating in a close to normal manner," Marshall wrote. "I was mindful of the disorder that had caused destruction of property, the loss of life and the breakdown of education services at other universities and I saw nothing in the picture at FSU to convince me it couldn't not happen here."
Many FSU faculty and students of the era dispute Marshall's view that FSU was close to the disorder that marred other campuses. The most famous student leader of Marshall's tenure, "Radical Jack" Lieberman said FSU was "never close to violence," and that protesters at FSU were "always a minority, unfortunately."
Marshall and Lieberman clashed often. Lieberman infamously taught a class in FSU's free Center for Participant Education, "How To Make A Revolution in the U.S.A." In fall 1970, after Lieberman led a sit-in against military recruiters on campus, Marshall over-ruled a student court and expelled Lieberman — making him what is believed to be the only student ever expelled from a Florida university for political protest.
"Though we had big disagreements and he treated me too harshly, I think he was a good person who wanted to do well," Lieberman said from Miami, where he runs a business that makes political signs and merchandise. "He did what he thought was right and I did what I thought was right. Sometimes good people have conflicts."
Marshall also had a stormy relationship with the FSU faculty, many of whom criticized his lack of communication and opposed changes he instituted. Among other things, Marshall closed the school's longtime College of Engineering; broke up the College of Arts & Sciences, the university's largest academic division, and fired its popular dean; and reorganized the administration, creating a six-provost system.
The six-provost system was later scrapped. The College of Engineering was reborn in 1982 as a joint venture with Florida A&M University. FSU continues to have a College of Social Sciences, comprised of disciplines separated from Arts & Sciences.
"The fact of the matter is he wasn't popular with the faculty; he called (meetings of) the faculty senate "the Children's Hour,' " said Leo Sandon, retired professor of religion (1969-2003) and a former president of the faculty senate. "But I suppose Stan did bring a certain amount of decency and order to campus. He was not afraid of power and its use."
Marshall's tenure covered more than student tumult and faculty dissatisfaction.
Marshall was an early supporter of computer technology and computer-based teaching. During his presidency, FSU installed a major computer system and recruited national leaders in computer-managed education.
In 1971, Marshall negotiated two of the first major financial gifts to the decade-old FSU Foundation, landing six-figure donations of property from Miami businessman Izzy Hecht and Tallahassee philanthropist Ruby Diamond. Those donations helped boost an FSU Foundation endowment that has now grown to nearly $500 million.
A one-time high school basketball and track coach, Marshall played a significant role in improving FSU athletics. In 1972, Marshall challenged community leaders to raise money to deal with FSU's $300,000 athletics deficit — a challenge that led to the creation of the wildly successful Seminole Boosters Inc. In January 1976, he made FSU's most momentous hire: FSU football coach Bobby Bowden, a former FSU assistant who Marshall had passed over as coach when he hired Larry Jones in 1970.
"I was a student at FSU in the 1970s when he was president and under his leadership, FSU flourished," said Allan Bense, chair of the FSU Trustees. "He was known by so many across the state and nation for his dedication to the people and causes he cared about. We will all miss him dearly."
Marshall joined the FSU faculty in 1958. A former high school science teacher, he had taught physics at the State University of New York-Cortland, and was hired at FSU to establish a new Department of Science Education.
Marshall quickly rose through administrative ranks to become Dean of the College of Education in 1967. On Feb. 12, 1969, he was tapped as FSU's first executive vice president by President John Champion.
A week later, Champion resigned following a tumultuous nine months in which his attempt to censor an obscenity-filled story ("Pig Knife") in the student literary magazine brought student and faculty protests. It was followed by continued clashes between Champion and the faculty as well as student demonstrations.
Under fire and fighting fire
Following Champion's resignation in February, the Board of Regents, which oversaw state universities, elevated Marshall to Acting President. In June, 1969, the BOR chose Marshall as FSU's 9th president.
Marshall's presidency met immediate challenges. On April 27, 1969, a fire of undetermined origin broke out in Westcott Hall, forcing the administration to be housed in temporary offices all over campus for four years while the structure was rebuilt. On March 4, 1969, an attempt by the SDS to defy a court injunction and use a Student Union meeting room was quelled by Leon County sheriff's deputies carrying unloaded, bayonet-tipped M-1 rifles. The incident, known as "Night of the Bayonets," produced no violence though 58 students were arrested.
In his book, Marshall claimed the potential existed that night for FSU to become "Kent State of the South." He wrote he approved the armed resistance because:
"We were determined to see that lawful order was carried out ... (and) the sincere outreach (I) had made to the SDS over the past two weeks must not be seen as reluctance to stand behind (my) decision denying them the right to use University facilities, even if doing so meant using force."
"What I considered to be one of his hallmarks was he operated during extremely difficult times," said Marie Cowart, retired Dean of the FSU College of Social Sciences. "He just seemed to keep the university together as a whole and make it work."
He served in World War II as an Army medic.
He was married to the former Shirley Slade. They have five children and 13 grandchildren. The Marshalls own a 250-acre farm in southwest Georgia, where Marshall, an avid bicyclist and fierce tennis player, retreated for rigorous outdoor work.
Over the past 20 years, Marshall was a regular attendee at FSU symposiums, celebrations and alumni events. He spoke often of his love for the university and took great pride in having served as president.
"The last thought in my mind when I came to FSU was that someday I would be president," Marshall said in a 2001 interview. "(But) there was not a day I did not respect and enjoy the opportunity to be president of FSU."
James Stanley Marshall
• Born: Jan. 27, 1923, Cheswick, Pa.
• Education: B.A., Slippery Rock State University (1947); masters (1950), Ph. D. (1956), Syracuse University.
• FSU faculty: 1958 to 1967, Department of Science Education
• Dean FSU College of Education: 1967-1969
• FSU president: 1969-1976
• Sonitrol security company (founder/president): 1978-1987
• James Madison Institute (founder): 1987-2014
• Florida Constitutional Revision Commission: 1997-1998
• FSU Board of Trustees: 2002-2005
• Florida Board of Governors: 2004-2012.