I’m beginning to sense a pattern. When University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves spoke last month at the dedication of a memorial to victims of 1966 Tower sniper Charles Whitman, he quoted the Colombian novelist and journalist Gabriel García Márquez, whose archives are housed at UT’s Harry Ransom Center and who wrote that “the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”
On Tuesday, in his state of the university address, the UT president quoted T.S. Eliot, the American-born poet, dramatist and critic, noting that some of his papers are at the Harry Ransom Center. Fenves used this line from Eliot to underscore his interest in international collaborations: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
So, is the UT president favoring figures in arts and literature whose papers have been acquired by the university when it comes to extracting pithy quotes?
Perhaps a bit. And why not? The Ransom Center plays in the big leagues of humanities research libraries.
To be sure, Fenves on Tuesday also quoted Ani DiFranco, a singer-songwriter who doesn’t have any papers at the Ransom Center. And the UT president quoted Shakespeare at the Tower memorial; I’m pretty sure he didn’t sell or donate any papers to UT either.