November 28, 2021
When my father passed away, he left an unfinished project that I so wish I could finish for him. He had planned to write a history of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology under his leadership at West Virginia University, 35 years captured via five themes. He had been writing them out on yellow pads, then feeding them first to my mother, then later to my wife, Pix, to be typed into word documents. Sadly, he never got much past the "personal" theme, a general recounting of his professional life through his personal life. I'm not sure my sisters and I found any papers that would have allowed any of us to even pretend to recreate the non-personal themes.
I have been thinking about that unfinished project this long weekend while I have cleaned out some files. Folders from my professional life contain a hodgepodge of my 35 years in higher education, granted not at one institution like my father, but four (counting WVU and IU for grad school and teaching assistant work). No themes especially appear, but when I think about the 800 or so blogs that I have written, plus all of these old papers, I chuckle in thinking about what Lincoln might do with all of this material. If the blogs had ever been printed out (a few had, especially by my mother before she passed away, but the majority haven't), he could have a fire that might go on for years.
What are some of the highlights I found from the files this weekend:
My GRE scores from October 12, 1985. Oh boy, someone must have taken pity on me. Scores sent to Indiana University, Michigan State University, and the University of Georgia. Wow, if I had chosen the other two, football season would have been a heck of a lot better this year. The funny thing is that I thought I had also considered University of Maine and University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Wonder why they weren't graced with my mediocre scores?
A program from April 14, 1986, for the WVU English Department Awards Luncheon where my paper on John Milton's Paradise Regained for Dr. John Racin's class beat out my paper on Alexander Pope's "To A Lady" for Dr. Sophia Blaydes' class for first place in the graduate division. I can still identify the books in my library that I got with my gift certificates.
A brief note from Dr. Blaydes, my favorite faculty member, April 30, 1986, as I leave West Virginia to go to Indiana University for my Ph.D. Did I really appreciate her line "Stansbury [Hall] will be even less attractive than it is right now"? (See "Forgive a Middle-Aged Man And His Memories" to understand how under-supported Stansbury Hall was.) I also wish she had admitted that Racin had bullied his way to get my Milton paper recognized over my Pope paper. (See "Restoration" for my tribute to Dr. Blaydes.)
Pictures and letters from my "study abroad" in Adelaide, Australia, summer of 1987. Very little else to memoralize how significant Dr. Albert Wertheim was for me at Indiana University. He turned me onto Australian (and generally world) literature and offered me the intellectual safety Dr. Blaydes had done for me at WVU.
Edited drafts of my dissertation on tenement houses and American literary imagination. I have no bound copy and the electronic copy is on an original floppy disc, never to be retrieved. Handwritten comments on post-it notes by my dissertation director, Dr. David Nordloh, still cling to the margins, although I seem less able to read those comments now than I must have then.
The certificate of registration for the dissertation with the Library of Congress showing that the dissertation is permanently located in the University Microfilms in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ugh! Anywhere but U of M.
A flyer for an April 5, 1991, talk about tenement-houses, along with my notes, including a great quote by Jacob Riis criticizing a policeman for not admitting he had to light a match to confirm the living conditions in a local tenement room.
An article for the Detroit College of Business student newspaper (and later published in the WVU Eberly College of Arts & Sciences' magazine) about "fostering teacher/student relationships," trying to implore students to develop the kinds of relationships with their faculty that I had with Dr. Blaydes and Dr. Ruel (Woody) Foster at WVU. A few did with me (see Artifacts & Assessment: The Award).
Copies of Faculty Notes, the Detroit College of Business Faculty Association Newsletter, a fascinating artifact given my eventual transition fully to the dark side of administration. Every month I wrote a column (I was President of the Association) and usually one or two other articles, updates on the 2000 Accreditation process (some things never do change), sometimes book reviews. A remembrance that all of the work was done by Dr. Darby, Dr. McPherson, and myself, no matter how many times I tried to beg or shame Association members to step up.
Several poems embedded into emails to a few Davenport colleagues expressing boredom at meetings, frustrations with payroll, and inanities of policy.
Several letters from Davenport's President congratulating me on conference presentations or articles written for the the Davenport University newsletter.
A Center for Creative Leadership Benchmarks Assessment from May 2008, a 360-degree report looking at my leadership within the context of information from my direct reports and from my bosses. Unfortunately, not easy to interpret all these years later. Perhaps intentionally, stuck within this report is a receipt for a Davenport University Golf Outing, $3000 I gladly spent to have 11 faculty and staff members join me for the best kind of work day: golf for a cause.
A copy of an application to Bluefield State University in West Virginia to be their Provost from September 2010. It was a position I really wanted and an interview that I thought went very well, if you don't include the hour with the president, who didn't seem very interested in me. Things worked out. I got the position at SMC 6 months later and within a year or two Bluefield was in some major problems.
A November 2010 correspondence with a lawyer, the highlight (or perhaps "lowlight") is his reference to someone's complaint about It's All Academic encapsulated at one point by "they don't like page 173." My snarky reply, "perhaps, I can number it page 172a if that makes them happier."
I have almost nothing from SMC in these folders, almost certainly because I have 6-8 file cabinets of stuff at my office that I will have to decide if I ever want to bring home. If that does happen, it will be more stuff for poor Lincoln to have to sort through. I suppose his eulogy to me may be simple: "Jesus Christ, the dude wrote a lot."