The Guardian Poplar
A Memoir of Deep Roots, Journey, and Rediscovery
Chase Nebeker Peterson
Foreword by Cornel West
Autobiography and Memoir
When Barney Clark received the Jarvik-7 artificial heart in 1983 and Cold Fusion came under fire in 1989, Chase Peterson, as the University of Utah president, was inevitably pulled into these campus events. While these episodes may be the best known in Peterson’s professional history, they are certainly not the only stories that make his autobiography worth reading.
The Guardian Poplar tells of a man who grew up in small-town Utah and carried his pioneer and Mormon heritage to a New England prep school and later to Harvard. He then returned to Utah as a doctor, but unexpectedly found himself back at Harvard as its dean of admissions, handling issues such as the Vietnam War and racial and gender reform. The book explains how Peterson’s home state recruited him back to become an administrator at the University of Utah and how he would eventually become the university president, taking on new issues and challenges. Peterson recounts these years by drawing on anecdotes that recall the people he served and the moments that brought his life meaning.
This autobiography is a compelling account of how Peterson has managed to balance family and career, handle the tensions that have arisen between his faith and his scientific training, and remain solid in the face of his newest challenge—cancer. The book’s engaging prose and honest reflections are sure to intrigue and inspire readers who know the man well, as well as those readers who simply want to know a man who can be described as dedicated, faithful, hardworking, and hopeful about the future.
After graduating from Harvard Medical School, Chase Nebeker Peterson began a career practicing medicine, but his path took him into university administration and led to his position as president of The University of Utah from 1983 to 1991.
Table of Contents:
Foreword by Cornel West
An Appreciation by Greg Prince
Preface: An Interesting Case
Part 1: The Sun Rises in the Pioneer West
1. “The Lord Was Right”: Peterson and Geddes Immigrants
2. “There Is Always a Way”: Nebeker and Hulme Immigrants
3. Zero to Fifteen: Growing Up in Logan
Part 2: The East, A Second Dawn
4. Concord: Middlesex School, a New Culture
5. Harvard College: A Unity of Faith and Reason, Intellect and Culture
6. Harvard Medical School: Professional Rigor
7. Yale Residency to Utah Practice: Thirty-six Hours on, Twelve off to Live Happily Ever After
Part 3: From Utah, Back to Boston
8. Harvard College Admissions: Rich in the Particulars
9. Harvard University Vice Presidency: Alumni and Development, and Faith Revisited
Part 4: Back to the West, A Second Sunset
10. Utah Medical Sciences: Max, Brigham, and a Favoring Culture
11. University of Utah: “Why Did They Make You President?”
12. “They Will Laugh at You”: Cold Fusion
13. “What Am I Now?”: Medicine, Teaching, Practice, and Sick Myself
14. The Matter of Home
Praise and Reviews:
“Here is the odyssey of Chase Peterson, a man of remarkable gifts. His charming stories of the privileged places his talents have taken him reveal a man of unusual candor and humility. As he tells us, wherever he went as student, physician, college administrator, or teacher, he never left home.”
—Richard Lyman Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus, Columbia University
"It's all there, the punch lines, the subtle turn of phrase, the native intelligence, the oustide-the-box take on things, that has long made Peterson a serious contender as the most interesting man in Utah—and definitely one of its best talkers. His book reads like a really good, really long chat with Chase. Like all people who know how to tell a good story, in the end, he leaves you only wanting more."