Friday, May 02, 2008

Just barely made it

I have always been the tiniest bit disappointed that, because it took me a while to realize what I wanted to do with my life, I didn't manage to get my Ph.D. by 25 (that was the age at which the Professor on Gilligan's Island got his). I know that's a silly thing, but it's true.

So, back when I realized I was going to miss the Ph.D.-by-25 cutoff by a couple of years, I set myself a new goal: Full Professor before 40.

Today the Faculty Promotions Committee voted to promote me to full Professor. So I made my goal with exactly 12 hours to spare. I turn 40 tomorrow.

I'm really grateful that my department so strongly supported my coming up a year early, and I want to thank the colleagues, external reviewers, and students who wrote letters supporting my case, and even more the senior colleagues who showed me how to be a good teacher and scholar (Bev, Paula, Sue, Sheila, Dick). Most of all I thank Sam Coale, who has been my mentor at Wheaton for ten years and was my advocate at the hearing today. I've been blessed with great mentors: Peggy Knapp in undergraduate, John Miles Foley and Martin Camargo for my second M.A., and Allen Frantzen for my Ph.D. Sam took over where Allen finished (though he and my earlier mentors really never left off), and I can't express how valuable all his teaching and support has been. Having a great mentor makes all the difference. I hope someday I will live up to Sam's example. I hope readers of this post realize how important mentoring is and continue to do the hard work of mentoring (the work is especially hard when you have to mentor a pain-in-the-butt like me).

And now let me tell a quick story about Sam. During my first semester at Wheaton, Sam was awarded his gold watch for 30 years of service (and they spelled his name wrong on it). Sam was showing me the watch, and said something like, "I can't believe it's been thirty years since I started here. 1968"
I looked at him and said, "1968 was the year I was born."
"F*** you, Mike," said Sam.
That was the moment when I really started to believe that I would be able to fit in at Wheaton.

Now I'm just waiting to be taught the secret handshake and given the keys to the special full-Professor's bathroom and the liquor cabinet...


Michelle said...

Congratulations on a fantastic accomplishment, and on its timing, and on your birthday! May your birthday be filled with yet more delightful surprises.

highlyeccentric said...

John Pryor often announces that he last taught this course/ wrote his book/ other important milestone in the year I was born. He must've been a busy man that year. I like pointing out this fact as often as he mentions it.

I've never managed to get him to tell me to fuck myself, though. That would be an achievement.

Dr. Virago said...

Congratulations and happy birthday!!

Since I'm only getting tenured this year, and I'm 39, I'm going to have to make 45 my full prof deadline. I'm pretty sure they won't let me go up next year! :) At any rate, the point is, your way ahead of those of us who really took awhile to figure out what the heck they were doing!

And the only PhDs I know who got them in their 20s were all about 27 years old. I think you'd have to do the PhD at Oxford or Cambridge to make it by 25. Or else be the PhD equivalent of Doogie Howser.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Congratulations, Mike! That's wonderful news!

And thanks for making me old and unaccomplished!

squire said...

Congratulations! But I admit I already think of you as Prof. Drout.

And Happy Birthday!

When do you get to be Herr Professor Doktor von Drout?

Karma said...


(from someone who won't even go on the market until she's 40.)

N.E. Brigand said...

Happy belated birthday!
And congratulations.

Ecce Equus Pallidus said...

Congratulations and happy (belated) birthday!

I did not realize we were supposed to have the Ph.D, in hand by 25. My personal goal is Ph.D. and a job by 30.

Jason Fisher said...

Congratulations and happy birthday. Quite an accomplishment — the professorship, not the birthday. ;)

theswain said...

Congratulations Mike! Great news indeed! And this from someone who will get his PhD at 45 and might get Full Professor by 60!

BWG said...

Congratulations from me too, this is the ultimate birthday present, not a bloody Ring of Power! You still couldn't beat Tolkien though, full professor in Leeds at 32. But I'm not saying this to spoil the fun, really; this is a great achievement, and if I took my academic career in any way seriously, I'd probably take you as a sort of model (although where I live you'd have to get a Nobel prize to become full professor before you're 50). This way I'm only happy for you and send congratulations again.

Nichim said...

Congratulations, Professor Drout! I'll be lucky if I get my PhD by 40, but that's okay. At least I gave up the "dead by 30" plan! I have to thank you, and more specifically this your internet presence, for inspiring me towards becoming a scholar in my field. You're a great example!