Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When You Become Successful Always Remain Approachable

Princeton Professors Cornel West & Al Raboteau

Princeton University with a host of impressive faculty in the history department and African American studies was one of my top choices as place to do my doctoral studies. At the time they had Cornel West, Al Raboteau, Tony Morrison, and Neil Painter-if these profs were lacrosse players consider them 2 x first All Americans, world team players, and hall of famers. Their names typed into a good college online catalog will pull up twenty books or more between them. I sought out Painter, an historian, as a possible advisor and contacted her. She invited me to sit in on one of her graduate seminars. As I drove to Princeton I was as excited as any NCAA playoff game I played in as a Syracuse lacrosse player. I briefly met with Professor Painter who was warm and gracious. However when sat in on the seminar my rush deflated because felt like a cultural outcast among a group of elitist acting grad students trying to impress the prof. At conservation at the break in the class with a cool Latino brother in the seminar confirmed what I suspected. He could tell was not comfortable and said that his colleagues were indeed trying to impress Professor Painter. In addition he said, “Look man I hear you. I’m married so I don’t hang with these folks outside of class; I don’t have anything in common with them.” I also contacted Eric Foner at Columbia University in Harlem. Although he was and still is one of the premier historians in the world, he made time to talk to me and showed that he was an approachable unlike other profs I have met over the years with much lesser reputations. I’ve gotten to know Eric over the past couple of years and I can say he is a quality person with a wealth of knowledge about the profession. But most important I’ve learned that even when you become successful in your field always be approachable. I also contacted Ottey Scruggs at Syracuse and we hit it off; more tomorrow.

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