All the presidents men

August 26, 2012
| By Pete Daly |
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Members of the Eisenhower family are among those opposed to the selected design for a memorial for Dwight D. Eisenhower being planned in Washington, D.C. — and Ralph Hauenstein doesn’t like the design that’s being pushed, either.

Now the Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University is offering advice to the family members, including Susan Eisenhower, as they try to cancel the design she believes is out of keeping with a man who emphasized the importance of humility.

In 1999, an act of Congress established the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to honor the former president and military commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. Eisenhower family members attended most of the commission meetings over the years, and one — David Eisenhower — was a member of the commission for more than 10 years, according to retired Gen. Carl W. Reddel, executive director of the commission.

Susan Eisenhower told the Business Journal that the Eisenhower family “has been involved over the years (with the commission) quite extensively, but really to no avail.” She said they wanted at the start, and still want, “something simple and extremely elegant, something that would capture the basic nature of the man himself.”

As designed by Frank Gehry, founder of Gehry Partners in Los Angeles, the monument would encompass four acres enclosed by 80-foot-high metal screens. Susan Eisenhower said it would be a monument of “enormous scale” that “looks progressively out of keeping with a man who emphasized the importance of humility as a guideline for his own conduct.”

She also mentioned the design is “way over budget already.”

“He made people in all stations of life feel like they were important,” she said of her grandfather, but rather than “elevating the individual” who would see the monument, it would make visitors “feel small.”

Gehry’s design was publicly criticized in February by Chicago investment manager and philanthropist Richard Driehaus, who established the annual $200,000 Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture through the Notre Dame School of Architecture.

Ralph Hauenstein jumped into the fray in early August with an opinion piece he published in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Noting the four acres enclosed by 80-foot metal screens and a price tag of $142 million, Hauenstein said Dwight D. Eisenhower “would want a simpler, more modest memorial, especially in the difficult economic and budgetary times in which our nation finds itself.”

Hauenstein, a retired business leader and philanthropist from Grand Rapids, was an Army colonel in World War II, serving as chief of the Intelligence Branch (G-2) for the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, from 1943 to 1945. He served directly under Eisenhower and worked with him.

Hauenstein wrote that he agrees with those who are calling for a competition to select a new design for the monument.

The Gehry design also was criticized in a February Washington Post column by George Will, who said it is “more a monument to its creator, Frank Gehry, practitioner of architectural flamboyance.”

Matthew E. McLogan, vice president for university relations at GVSU, said Gleaves Whitney, the executive director of GVSU’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, is now serving in an advisory capacity to the Eisenhower family. Whitney was unavailable for comment last week.

McLogan said GVSU and the Hauenstein Center are being represented by Steve Carey, an Ada native who owns Potomac Strategic Development Corp., a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. Carey indicated his assistance is being funded by Driehaus in Chicago.

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