Celebrating 30 years: UWC’s first president reflects

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By Emily Withnall
United World College

Ted Lockwood may have been United World College-USA’s first president, but as anyone who has read his book “Dreams & Promises: The Story of the Armand Hammer United World College” knows, he also played a critical role in the school’s founding.

Armand Hammer, charged by Prince Charles in 1978 to create a United World College in the U.S., assembled a team of people to make the vision of the school a reality. Kingman Brewster, former president of Yale and the ambassador to the Court of St. James, was a part of this team and pulled Ted into the project in April 1981.

Having been immersed in U.S. higher education for decades, Ted knew nothing of the nascent UWC movement or the International Baccalaureate. But he says he was intrigued by the schools’ description and promise and dove headfirst into the complex planning required to set up a U.S.-based UWC.

Initially, plans called for the school to be hosted within the larger campus of the United States International University in San Diego, Calif. However, Ted questioned the effectiveness of this idea. The university was failing, and the location was not ideal for the kind of focus required of UWC students. Ted says Hammer respected his opinion, but tasked him with helping to find a new site as quickly as possible.

When the Castle was discovered in Montezuma and the property was secured as the UWC site, Ted and his wife, Lu, were officially hired.

Visiting the future campus in October 1981 with Pearson’s Founding Director Jack Matthews, Ted remembers, “The soccer field was a complete dustbin and there was no grass, the telephone poles were strung haphazardly all over. We found nothing had been done although we had met with an architect and a builder to discuss what might happen.” Despite these disappointments, Ted persevered with a fast-paced renovation that would see the school open in fall 1982.

Of course, there were hurdles. Finding faculty, recruiting students from around the world, and securing the students’ clearance required relentless work and negotiation. Ted says, “In the late fall of ‘81, I discovered you had to be in operation for three years before the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. would approve of bringing in foreign students.” Fortunately, Dr. Hammer and New Mexico Gov. Bruce King were able to “pull some strings” so they could move ahead.

“New Mexico was very good because they just said ‘you’re approved.’ So there’s some virtue in being in a state where things are done a little differently,” Ted jokes.

Building the school in Montezuma turned out to be fortuitous in many other ways. Before the school opened, Ted approached all the institutions and organizations in Las Vegas to establish a relationship and to offer service where needed. Many of the school’s current services, such as volunteering at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute, owe their existence to Ted’s dedication to community partnerships.

But while it proved to be easy to forge service connections in Las Vegas, the Kurt Hahn-based commitment to Search and Rescue presented its own challenge. “Prince Charles couldn’t understand what we were going to do about Search and Rescue because all the other United World Colleges did it on the water,” Ted says, laughing. “I said I didn’t think the Gallinas River was a very good locale for that.” Working with the New Mexico state police, the school soon developed a comprehensive land-based search and rescue team — marking the beginning of UWC-USA’s integral Wilderness Program.

Ted’s previous work with U.S. universities helped him to appreciate the isolated and intimate nature of UWC-USA. “Lu and I loved the countryside and the fact that both of us could have lunch every noon and talk with people,” Ted says. “And at night I would take the collie out at 10 p.m. and walk around the campus and see the place and chat with a few people — it was such a wonderful contrast (to what I’d done before).”

Whether it was from faculty from around the world, students who took the “courageous risk” in coming, or the development of key courses like the Conflict Resolution Program, Ted says he drew inspiration and momentum from every aspect of UWC life. “We weren’t just teaching algebra and going home,” Ted says. “I think that was rewarding.”

Ted and Lu stayed at UWC-USA for 10 years — though Ted reveals that his initial plan had been “to get it going and then turn it over to somebody.” He shares, “Having been in education nearly 50 years, in retrospect, certainly our years at Montezuma were the best.”

Ted and Lu now live in Vermont, where they enjoy the proximity of their families. Considering UWC’s future, Ted says he hopes the movement will continue to expand. While there are more UWCs now than there were in 1982, he believes that continued growth will be essential in helping the UWC movement amplify real global understanding and change. “The decision to educate high school students was smart and fruitful,” he says of the movement’s founders. “Aspiration, dedication, and knowledge will continue to be crucial for students to make a real impact.”

Editor’s note: This article and the one on Armand Hammer’s legacy appeared in the summer 2012 edition of Kaleidoscope and are being reprinted with UWC-USA’s permission.