Richard M. Jones

    I sometimes do a double-take when being regarded as a teacher and scholar. On the one hand I can't deny I have been a quite successful college professor at Brandeis, U.S. -Santa Cruz, and Harvard; and a prolific author of books, articles and research papers.
On the other hand, I cannot forget that I quit high school in fear and disgust during my senior year, and went to work for Armour and Co. as an office boy with the aim of saving enough money to open a haberdashery.  And at that time I had yet to finish reading a single book.

    I date the unconscious beginning of my teaching career to the summer of 1940 when, in order to get away from home, I found a job as a boardwalk barker in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. I ran one of those ball games that look very easy to win, but are, in fact, almost impossible to win. My job was to invent an extemporaneous line of patter each night which would first ease the passage of dimes from the pockets of the customers to mine, and then soothe bruised egos in large numbers. It was a job requiring an odd mixture of imagination, tact, and moxie; which I found I possessed to an astonishing degree, so long as I could perceive the clientele as no more than an impersonal crowd of more or less willing dime-spenders. But there were other boyhood jobs that I now see were grooming me for a teaching career: soda jerk, waiter, short-order cook, delivery boy and butcher. Each of these, when I stop to think of it, offered an opportunity to learn how to deliver the goods in style.   And I have yet to be quite as pleased by the response of an audience to one of my lectures as I was the day a lady in the butcher shop said to me, "Bucky, I don't know which I enjoy more, eating those pork chops or watching you cut them."

    World War II was on and I joined the Navy .They made me into a weather man (third class) and I spent the next three years on a series of isolated ships and remote Coast Guard outposts teletyping weather observations for five minutes an hour, six hours a day. The rest of the time was mine. I discovered I enjoyed reading books, as long as I didn't have to, and by V-day I had a personal library of some 600 volumes.   Everything from What Makes Sammy Run to The Decline and Fall of the Romar Empire.  I also discovered writing, which I engaged by way of weekly thirty to forty-page letters to a former high school girl friend,  who, I was later to learn, encouraged me because she thought I was cracking up.

At Stanford, after the war, studying seemed more important than learning to most of my teachers, and I learned to study so well that I graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a scholarship to Harvard, where I received a Ph.D. in 1956. Since that time my professional interests have focused on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, experimental education, and the psychophysiology of sleep and dreaming.

I came to Evergreen with the hope of continuing my education in a setting more like what I fortuitously found in the Navy than any I had found since.  So far my biggest frustration has been in failing to get Evergreen students to part with their fears of reading and writing. It isn't anything like parting with dimes; and no combination of my present qualities of imagination, tact. and moxie has enabled me
to do for my students what boredom, isolation, and gobs of time did for me.


Return to Cover«»"K"