book: “A Life of Friedrich August von Hayek”


“Hayek and I met quite by chance in February 1977. He had left Salzburg after having secured an appointment as Emeritus Professor at Freiburg University, and had come there a little ahead of time to see about, among other things, the acquisition of a secretary. At exactly the same time I was looking for employment in the same city after half a year’s unprofitable residence there. Having meanwhile enrolled at London University as an extra-mural student to improve upon my DipEd, it was to the students’ job centre that I had applied in February the following year for whatever paid occupation it could offer me. The interviewer had raised her eyebrows when she saw mature me and had asked what sort of employment I had in mind. Anything, I had replied somewhat defiantly, I would even consider charring. She said that she had something better to offer: a Professor “Hajak” had recently arrived in Freiburg and was looking for a part-time secretarial assistant with a good knowledge of English.
Thus our meeting came about. I was of course over the moon with joy, and Hayek, as I discovered later, must have been just as delighted for he wrote to George Pearson of the Cato Institute that he had been “fortunate” in finding “an English girl (my italics) of about fifty”! I was, however, pretty soon beset by doubts whether I would actually do, for I had very few secretarial skills. Neither had I any idea who this Professor “Hajak” was, and my researches in the library naturally brought no illumination. I did not learn about him until his go-between, Regierungsdirektor Technau, who had arranged it all, rang to enquire whether it would suit me to meet my prospective employer at the Hotel Colombi. He acquainted me not only with the correct spelling of his name, but also informed me that he was a famous economist and Nobel Laureate. This of course impressed me greatly, and the fact that I had been asked whether the arrangement suited me, as well as the elegance of the venue, did not escape my notice, so apart from being nervous I was now also curious.
On the appointed day, the 2nd March 1977, I presented myself at the hotel reception and was directed up the stairs to a group of table and chairs, where I sat and waited. I had rehearsed my replies to whatever questions Hayek was likely to ask me: Could I do shorthand? Yes, a little. I had taught myself and could easily brush it up. Could I type? Oh, yes. Education? Well, A levels, Teaching Diploma, studying now for a BA in English Language and Literature, and aiming at PhD. Any knowledge of economics? Oh, goodness no, not a clue! I prayed he would not ask. Suddenly I saw him. No mistake was possible. From a door on the opposite side of the staircase there emerged a “grand, impressive, old man”, to use words from my diary account of that day. He surveyed the area, looked at me and without apparent hesitation walked over. “Miss Cubitt?” he asked, pronouncing my name correctly. We shook hands, he settled himself so that I was on his right side and the interview began.”

From A Life of Friedrich August von Hayek: 1 (1977) by C.U. Cubbitt, Online Authors, 2006.

This entry was posted in Biography. Bookmark the permalink.