Clyde and the Academic Job Interview

March 31, 2013
Posted by Jay Livingston

NPR’s “On the Media” departed from its usual content – stories that make you think that the full title of the show is “Outrageous Things that Make You Want to Spit On the Media” – and ran an interview Brooke Gladstone did with Walt Frazier.*  It’s mostly about two things Clyde loves – basketball and words – with a passing reference to a third, clothes.  (“I’m a shy guy that likes to walk around in mink coats and a Rolls Royce.”)

In my own mind, the mention of Frazier usually triggers this anecdote about a job interview – not mine but that of another professor in the social sciences. Let’s call him Brett.  One day he was reminiscing about his job interview at Montclair back in 1972. 
At the end of my visit to campus, I had my interview with the Dean, and he asked me why I wanted to come to Montclair.  “Well, Dean,” I said, “I want to stay in the New York area till Frazier retires.”
It was a good story, and maybe he really did say that to the Dean.**  I have no doubt as to the truth of his statement. Frazier was worth staying around for.  In any case, it was prophetic. Five years later, in 1977, the Knicks traded Frazier to Cleveland.***  And in 1977 Montclair dumped Brett, who found a non-academic job. In Ohio.

* The edited radio version of the interview is here.  A video of the full one-hour interview is here.

** In one episode of the sitcom “Family Ties,” Alex (Michael J. Fox) goes to Princeton for an interview with the Dean. The Dean, whose last name happens to be Meminger, so the episode has several references to Dean Meminger.” The real Dean Meminger was a basketball player, a Knicks teammate of Frazier in the 1970s. The creator of “Family Ties,” Gary David Goldberg, raised in Brooklyn, loved basketball, and the name of the dean was no doubt a dog whistle to other Knicks fans.

*** Clyde on being in Cleveland: “I was all dressed up and no place to go.”

No comments: