Allen, Raymond Bernard (1902-1986)

  • By Frank Chesley
  • Posted 5/18/2005
  • Essay 7305

Trained as a medical doctor, Dr. Raymond B. Allen served as president of University of Washington (UW) from 1946 to 1951. Although his time at the UW was a relatively brief stop in a career that took him to the highest levels of academia and government, it was one of the most controversial periods in the school's history. Allen recommended the firing of three professors in 1949 for suspected Communist associations, which kindled a rash of similar dismissals at universities and colleges across the country.  After leaving the UW, he served briefly as director of the U.S. Psychological Strategy Board before becoming chancellor of the University of California at Los Angeles from 1952 to 1959. He then served as Indonesian director for the U.S. International Cooperation Administration and later with the World Health Organization in Washington, D.C.  The Seattle-King County Association of Realtors named Raymond Allen First Citizen of 1949.

Midwest Roots

Raymond Allen was born in Cathay, North Dakota, on August 7, 1902. His father was a Methodist minister. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1924 and his medical doctor degree in 1928, both at the University of Minnesota. Allen practiced briefly as a country doctor, but entered medical school administration in 1933, serving successively in New York, Detroit, and Chicago. He practiced for two years as a family physician in his home state and in 1930 won Mayo Fellowship, with which he earned a Ph.D., again at the University of Minnesota.

His specialty was urology, but he went into medical administration, beginning in 1933, when he became director of graduate studies at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and associate director of New York Post-Graduate Medical School and Hospital. In 1936, he was named dean of the Wayne State University College of Medicine in Detroit, and three years later became executive dean of the Chicago Colleges of the University of Illinois and its College of Medicine.

Allen's views on medical care were conservative-establishment. The American Medical Association at the time was campaigning bitterly against "socialized medicine" and "quacks," that is, alternative healers such as chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, and acupuncturists. Allen was on their side. In an undated speech, he said, "There is no need, in my opinion, for a national health scheme. We have fine programs of voluntary health insurance. We have industry providing medical services."

Allen was gaining credentials in public service as well as in academia. In February 1945, six months before the Japanese surrendered and World War II ended, he served on the National Commission for Mental Hygiene, formed to determine what psychiatric and general-medicine resources were available to meet the needs of service personnel returning from war with psychiatric disabilities. He also served on the first Hoover Commission (1947-1949), which was asked to shrink the federal government and improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

University of Washington President

In 1946, after a meteoric 13 years in medical school administration, Allen was appointed president of the University of Washington at a salary of $18,000 a year. He replaced Lee Paul Sieg (1879-1963), who had been president since 1934. Allen was a "youthful" six-feet tall (Stewart), could be "one of the boys in the back room," said one hagiographic writer, but also admitted to a temper. "Allen is a boyish, brown-eyed man who likes to make friends, talks in easy, unaffected language, enjoys a good story and is without pretense" (Miller). With Allen came his wife, Dorothy, and their four children: Raymond Jr., Charles, Dorothy, and Barbara. Dorothy had graduated from Northwestern University and also enjoyed an active civic life.

Allen would need all the managerial skill and wisdom he could muster. The university came with a volatile, often-politicized past and it was a long way from prestigious schools back East or in the San Francisco Bay Area. He took over a university that also was exploding, its enrollment virtually doubling overnight with returning World War II veterans. His view of the returning veteran was as follows: "Though interested in the needs of the veteran, he believes that a university's first responsibility is to meet the needs of those qualified for a higher education" (Stewart).

Post-War Years

The war had frozen the UW's physical expansion, and after the war the university sprung into a $31.5 million building binge to accommodate the influx of new students. The university opened its school of dentistry in 1945 and launched its medical school in 1946. Despite Allen's medical background, those schools would not be his primary focus.

Allen's vision was global. The Atomic Age had debuted the previous year with the first atomic bomb test at Alamogordo, New Mexico (July 1945), and the fallout from World War II was everywhere. In an interview published in the March 1946 Washington Alumnus, he said: "Time is running out. I would say we have but 15 years to attain the kind of world we want. We face complete destruction unless we develop the true values of life" (Stewart).

True values were sorely tested -- for Allen, for the university, and for the country, shortly after he moved into the president's office. Radicalism runs deep in Washington state history and the 1930s Great Depression had revived interest in the need for radical reforms. Communists had gained power on the left wing of the Democratic Party, won a half dozen seats in the state Legislature, and were active in some unions.

Washington State's Cold War

But if the state was one of the most fertile in the country for reform, it also was in the vanguard of the Red Scare and sparked what would become a national obsession. Republicans regained control of Congress in 1946 and the Washington state Republican Party also rode a virulent anti-communism platform to a landslide victory, recapturing the state Legislature.

State Rep. Albert Canwell (R-Spokane) and his joint investigative committee, immediately dubbed the "Canwell Committee," zeroed in on the University of Washington, where there were, it was alleged, "probably no less than 150 on the faculty who are Communists or sympathizers with the Communist party" (Lange).

The resolution creating the committee carried a dire warning from no less than J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and it set the tone:

"[Communist] propaganda, skillfully designed and adroitly executed has been projected into practically every phase of our national life. The Communist influence has projected itself into some newspapers, books, radio and the screen, some churches, schools, colleges and even fraternal orders have been penetrated, not with the approval of the rank and file, but in spite of them…." (Lange).

Allen's Red Scare

In July 1948, the Canwell Committee called 11 University of Washington professors to its hearing, which was a hearing in name only, since the professors could not cross-examine their accusers or make statements in their own behalf. Following the hearing, the university administration was ready to fire six professors but a Faculty Senate Tenure Committee voted in December 1948 to dismiss only Ralph Gundlach, associate professor of psychology, and to retain the other five. The final decision was up to the university's Board of Regents. Allen advised the regents to dismiss three -- Herbert Phillips, associate professor of philosophy, and Joseph Butterworth, assistant professor of English literature, as well as Gundlach.

Of the 703 professors on campus, 103 signed a letter criticizing the hearings as "guilt by association" (Lange). Student leaders such as Brock Adams (1927-2004), who went on to a career in Congress and the Carter administration, and Wing Luke (1925-1965), who became the first Chinese American elected to the Seattle City Council, rebuked the proceedings. The (University of Washington) Daily also criticized the Canwell Committee's tactics, but the three professors were fired and never held academic posts again.

The University of Washington hearings became a template for similar actions elsewhere -- loyalty oaths, the tarring of any Democrat or progressive with the Red brush, and the McCarthy era. According to one writer, "Perjured informers became public heroes. A vicious anti-intellectualism was the dominant mood, and universities were naturally the first objects of attack" (Costigan).

Anti-Communist Spokesman

Allen defended his stand and became one of academia's -- and the country's -- most outspoken anti-communists in speeches, monographs, and newspaper articles. In a Washington Post op-ed piece on March 27, 1949, titled "Abysmal Fear Is Fuel of Communism," Allen was unintentionally ironic when he wrote, "Man must be free to work and play and pursue his destiny without fear of any man or government." If abysmal fear was the fuel of communism, his jingoistic rhetoric echoed the pervasive fear-mongering that characterized the anti-communist crusade.

In an open letter, "Communism and Education," dated October 7, 1948, Allen wrote, "Academic freedom has not been abridged.  ... Similarly, civil liberties are not abridged [by the Canwell Committee]." Perhaps making his point, he refused to ban visiting professor Malcolm Cowley (1898-1989), a leftist writer and critic, which rankled conservatives, and he refused to provide the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee with a list of textbooks used at the university.

In another of the many ironies generated by the Red Scare, the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR), a business-academic organization founded in the early 1930s, came under scrutiny of a U.S. Senate anti-communist subcommittee in 1952. The IPR board included Raymond B. Allen and among the IPR's several Seattle-Republican members was Mike Dederer (1905-1995), a Chamber of Commerce stalwart and, like Allen, a recipient of the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors First Citizen award (1960). No one was safe from the inquisition.

A Man of Many Parts

Allen wanted the university to excel in every endeavor, including sports. During his tenure, the athletic department grew, Husky Stadium was expanded to seat 55,000 fans, and "Washington's program now compares with Minnesota's or Southern California's" (Miller).

Raymond B. Allen was indeed a man of many parts, and he exercised some of them in various governmental posts, often in efforts to streamline, to improve organizational efficiency -- in institutions that had successfully thwarted reform in the past. In 1949 he took a three-month leave of absence to attempt unification of the Army, Navy, and Air Force medical services, though the three services today remain separate.  In 1950, he participated in a conference of the Pentagon's Research and Development Board to discuss a further increase in the Pentagon R&D budget. The gathering, a who's who of academics and representatives of what would become known as the military-industrial complex, was introduced by Defense Secretary George C. Marshall (1880-1959).

In May 1951, President Harry Truman (1884-1974) called on Allen to be director of the U.S. Psychological Strategy Board, a job that required a pay cut to $16,000 a year. The board oversaw the country's psychological warfare efforts around the globe, planned and coordinating activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other involved federal entities. One of its basic functions, however, was to prevent turf battles around the world, a goal that went unrealized, as history has shown.

UCLA Beckons

Allen did not last long at the Psychological Strategy Board. The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in March 1951 had been granted autonomy and tapped Allen the following December as UCLA's first chancellor, at $20,000 a year. He took office in June 1952, again at a time of great promise. UCLA was in the midst of its own boom and was establishing a medical center and schools of medicine, dentistry, and nursing.  Allen appeared to be a good fit. The search committee had considered more than 50 candidates, but Allen had been the choice of Robert G. Sproul (1891-1975), the legendary -- and later controversial -- president of UC since 1930. UC-Berkeley, also consumed by the communist threat, had imposed a loyalty oath in 1950, and Sproul banned communists from speaking on campus in 1952.

One Los Angeles Times sports writer, aware of Allen's commitment to sports at the University of Washington, called Allen "the best thing that's happened to UCLA since the single wing" (UCLA website). But football, ironically, wasn't the best thing to happen to Raymond Allen. An investigation uncovered a practice of illegal payments to football players at UCLA and throughout the Pacific Coast Conference, which ultimately prompted its dissolution. Allen was encouraged to resign in 1959.

Last Endeavors and Awards

He was 57, but did not remain unemployed long. He became Indonesia director of the International Cooperation Administration, predecessor to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Later he joined the World Health Organization in Washington, D.C.

Allen was awarded honorary degrees from seven universities. During his Seattle tenure he was absorbed by matters at the UW, but nevertheless found time to be affiliated with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Foundation, American Cancer Society, Seattle World Affairs Council, Community Chest, and other organizations. The Seattle-King County Association of Realtors named Allen its First Citizen of 1949.

He retired to Virginia in 1967. He died on March 15, 1986, in Fredricksburg, Virginia. He was 83 years old.


Joe Miller, “Washington’s Prexy,” Portland Oregonian Sunday Magazine, July 9. 1950, p. 6; Anne Stewart, “Dr. R. B. Allen Elected University President,” The Washington Alumnus, March 1946, p. 5; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “University of Washington sees Red and fires three faculty members on January 22, 1949,” (By Greg Lange), The (University of Washington) Daily, October 28, 1969; p. 9; “Facts and History, Past Leaders: Raymond B. Allen,” UCLA website accessed February 20, 2005 (http//

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