Dean's Blog: The 35 Year Promise

by William Clements, PhD on 8/22/16 3:14 PM

The end of the academic year on most campuses is rather frenzied and packed with deadlines, meetings and lots to keep one busy. Turn the clock back 35 years and you would find me neck deep in completing two seminar research papers as I was wrapping up my first year in graduate school at the University of Delaware. As the spring term of 1981 ended I was three years away from having a personal computer (a Zenith) and on good terms with my Smith Corona “portable” typewriter, which probably only weighed about 8-10 pounds. Today I have almost forgotten the fatigue that came from writing on a manual typewriter; it takes some serious muscle to crank out more than a few pages in one sitting. As an aside, I had an electric typewriter for a short time but traded it in for a manual because the noise of the motor was distracting when I tried to compose on the keyboard, not to mention the need to be near an electrical outlet. In any event, the stage is set for the rest of my account if you can imagine what it took to get a single research paper of 20-30 pages transformed from written notes and drafts into a properly formatted final product. Due the next day. And for two seminars.

So there I sat in May of 1981 with one draft ready for final typing and a second nearing completion and not far from final typing but requiring editing. This juncture is also where my quandary arose, knowing full well it would be an all-nighter and not knowing whether that would be enough to make my deadlines. The math on hours remaining didn’t work out for me to conquer this problem alone so I sought the assistance of my soon to be spouse, knowing that our wedding date was three months away and I was venturing far out onto a limb with my request for her to type paper number one while I worked to finish paper two.

The gravity of this ask was made heavier by another fact directly relevant to a burden I would carry for 35 years. James Taylor was playing that evening at the University of Delaware and we had tickets for the show, primarily because he was and still is the favorite recording artist of my significant other. Without getting into the detail of my pleas she reluctantly agreed to forgo the concert that night to help with my papers, on the promise that I would take her to another show in the future. I made the deal and we set about completing the papers with me pulling an all-nighter, but making the deadlines. I don’t think I even have those papers in my files anymore and vaguely remember what they were about, but I recall in great detail my promise to get to another James Taylor performance.

The years passed and life’s challenges always seemed to preclude going to any musical performances or large venue concerts, particularly once children arrived and we made the move north to Norwich. I never forgot the promise I made in May 1981 and periodically would look for James Taylor performances and his tour schedule but was never able to find one close enough or in sync with our increasingly packed family schedule. I tried but could never close the deal!

deansblog_jtaug.jpgThen it happened. As I was preparing for the day while attending an education meeting in Boston last fall I happened to turn on the television, something I don’t often do since e-mail and other office duties start my day when I’m on the road. And there it was, an advertisement for the James Taylor-Jackson Browne performance in Fenway Park the following August. Surely with a nine month lead time I could make this finally happen, coincidentally 35 years after the fact and within days of our wedding anniversary. The rest is history as we made the trip to Boston last week and enjoyed a wonderful performance with perfect weather and a packed but mature Fenway Park audience.

The burden has been lifted a few years after the curse of the Bambino left Boston, and as the old adage goes – better late than never. Now I suppose it is time to hit the books and get back to work. That hasn’t changed since 1981!

Norwich University Online
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This post was written by William Clements, PhD

William “Bill” Clements, PhD, wears several hats at Norwich University. In addition to serving as Dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS), he is the College’s Vice President of Academic Affairs and a professor in the undergraduate criminal justice program. Prior to becoming Dean in 2005, he was the founding director of the Master of Justice Administration program and the executive director of the Vermont Center for Justice Research, an institutional research partner of Norwich University. Dean Clements began his Norwich career in 1987 as a criminal justice professor and was among the first Norwich professors to integrate online instruction and web-based resources into his teaching. In 1999, he piloted a mobile computing initiative with undergraduate criminal justice majors and was subsequently involved in developing the online graduate program model, which today serves several thousand students across 12 master’s degree programs, five bachelor’s degree completion program, and a variety of certificate and enrichment programs.