I attended my second APSA meeting way back in 1977. The conference was held in Washington D.C. that year. Jimmy Carter was president, and in fact, Willie Nelson had visited the White House to give a concert for the President, then flew back to Austin in the same plane as me and several of my grad student pals. We rode coach. Willie and his entourage flew first class.
I was ABD then–on the job market– and had a few interviews, but Ohio State was collecting applications for jobs on two of its regional campuses, one at Mansfield and the other at Lima. In November, I received an invitation to interview for the Lima position. Dave Perry, Al Watkins and others on my dissertation committee were approached by Randall Ripley, the Chair of the Political Science Department at Ohio State, who wanted to determine how close I was to completing my dissertation. “Very close,” they each assured Rip, then told me that they had stuck their necks out for me and said that I had better be ready to defend the dissertation by Spring. In fact, I wrapped up my dissertation shortly before Christmas 1977, managed some revisions and defended the dissertation in February 1978.
By then I had gone through interviews both in Columbus and in Lima, and had started teaching in Lima while putting the finishing touches on my dissertation. The organization of OSU’s regional campuses–specifically their relationship with the main campus in Columbus–was quirky and difficult to explain to my advisers. Tenure would be on the Lima Campus, but my tenure would be decided by colleagues in the department on the Columbus campus. Funding for the campus came through a separate line-item in the state budget (that has changed.), meaning that OSU/Columbus had no financial stake in the operation at Lima, although the Department of Political Science certainly had an academic stake in who taught on any of the regional campuses. Still, even with the confusing structure of the position, along with the messy financial and academic links between OSU/Lima and OSU/Columbus, I did not hesitate to take the job when the offer came.
It was a great decision. I later discovered that the position held certain advantages. For one thing, I shared space with colleagues from a variety of disciplines–English, history, philosophy, mathematics, biology, geography–creating an environment that awakened a strong liberal arts perspective in my research and teaching. Furthermore, I could pick my own schedule, team-teach with colleagues from other departments at Lima, and teach courses–including one entitled “Science, Technology, and Human Values”– that I would never have had an opportunity to teach had I been a member of a “real” political science department.
Besides, I had grown up in Ohio and had family there. I also had earned BS and MA degrees from Ohio State, and even had worked for Randall Ripley as a graduate research assistant. I eventually earned tenure on the Lima Campus and have stuck with OSU/Lima right up until the present. Although I retired in 2012, I have continued to teach as an Assistant Professor emeritus (merely a fancy title for an adjunct), and on August 21st will begin my 40th year on the Lima Campus of The Ohio State University.
Retirement has given me more time to work on a new research project, a book tentatively entitled; “A City in Revolt: Frank Lausche and the Political Transformation of Cleveland, 1928-1948.” The book describes political realignment at the ground level, analyzing the transformation of Cuyahoga County from a reliable base for the Republican party to becoming the strongest Democratic county in Ohio.
Bottom line: I am still enjoying a career at OSU/Lima. Course load is lighter now–Ohio State’s conversion to a semester-system in 2012 had a devastating effect on enrollments in political science courses–but enrollments are strong enough to allow me to teach 3 or so classes a year. I am still the only political scientist at OSU/Lima, just as I was in January 1978 when I walked into a classroom there for the first time.
I continue to be grateful the University of Texas and to my friends in Burdine Hall, including the faculty, who helped and inspired me along the way.
Ph.D, Class of 1978