In the Oct. 14, 1971 issue of the Collegian, then-College President William G. Caples ’30 H’61 penned a special message that ran on the front page. “To the Students of Kenyon College and the Coordinate [Women’s] College,” Caples wrote, “You are aware through the news media that President Nixon is asking me to serve as a public member of the Pay Board established as a part of Phase II of his program aimed at the control of inflation in the United States.”
Caples’ message appeared just weeks into his third year as president, the first—and, to this day, only—alumnus of the College to be officially appointed to the position. While many of Kenyon’s presidents rose through the ranks of academia, Caples took a less traditional route: After getting his degree from Kenyon, Caples completed law school at Northwestern University (Ill.) and became a member of the Board of Trustees in 1952. In the 23 years before assuming the role of president of Kenyon, Caples worked as an executive for Inland Steel Co. of Chicago, ascending to the role of vice president. Known for his business acumen, dedication to the College and outspoken critique of societal and financial racial discrimination, Caples was tasked with guiding the College through a period of financial instability and the implementation of co education.
This very experience, along with previous government work, encouraged Nixon to reach out to Caples for his Pay Board. “I don’t know how the invitation came about or who recommended me,” Caples wrote in his address. “I hope time will prove there was sufficient reason for it, but my guess is that is [sic] was from a long experience in dealing with the types of matters which will come before the pay board.”
After requesting permission from his colleagues, the Board of Trustees and, of course, his wife, Caples accepted the position and headed to Washington D.C. to serve his country while Provost Bruce Haywood H’80 acted as president in his absence. According to the Dec. 9, 1971 issue of the Collegian, Caples would fly into Washington on Monday nights to prepare for meetings that would take place from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, before traveling back to Gambier and starting the cycle over again.
While this was the only time Caples served in D.C. while working for Kenyon, he had served every U.S. president since Harry Truman in some capacity. However, Caples felt that Nixon’s Pay Board uniquely allowed him to serve the country while also advertising the College. The author of the Collegian article about the Pay Board, Steve Stettler ’74, noted that “the news media must mention Kenyon’s name along with Caples’, and thus we are receiving exposure in such international publications as The London Economist.”
“Whatever I do, like it or not, I wear a caste mark; and that caste mark is Kenyon College,” Caples told the Collegian. “Publically we are not nearly as well known as we are in academic circles. We must continually persuade young people this is a place where they should be educated. As [then-Director of Admissions] Mr. Kushan is always telling me, I do nothing but work for the admissions department.”