Lawrence K. Pettit has had a dual career in politics and academia. After teaching political science at both Penn State University and Montana State University, he spent over twenty-five years as a university chancellor or president in Montana, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. His career also has included stints as legislative assistant to two U.S. Senators; Washington representative for higher education; campaign manager, head of transition, and staff to a Governor; and running for Congress. He writes knowledgeably about the sometimes contentious interplay between politics and the public university, and about the psychological, political, and career consequences for leaders who straddle that divide between often warring camps.
In If You Live by the Sword, the author speaks honestly about the human struggles of the university presidency, and how that seldom discussed aspect of the role is intensified by the intrusion of partisan politics. In order to distinguish this from the usual such memoir, Pettit takes the reader behind the scenes. He shares highlights of his own political and intellectual development and discusses how his formative years and his time as a university leader were affected by the evolving political history of the country from 1937 to 2003.