Comments on: Richard Baker and Me Sat, 06 Apr 2013 22:50:45 +0000 hourly 1 By: Mervyn Kaufman Mervyn Kaufman Tue, 12 Jun 2012 18:37:29 +0000 My fondest memory of Prof. Baker was of an incident that took place in his office. I was applying for a grant that would give me a little pin money—perhaps enough to mean fewer meals of crackers and ketchup during the second semester of my school year. For some reason, I had to get Dick Baker’s signature on my application, and I did not relish making that request. Till then, I’d found him intimidating. After all, I’d not only come from California but also had briefly sustained a career in PR rather than journalism. I’d felt his disapproval from day one.

He nodded briefly when I appeared in his doorway. He gestured for me to enter and pointed me to the chair beside his desk, though he seemed deeply engrossed in reading what looked to me like student work. He read the piece, page by page, then abruptly plunked it in front of me. I saw that is was a play review I’d written for what was then a course in critical writing. The instructor was an adjunct—his day job was at the NY Herald Tribune. I forget his name, but I know I’ll never forget what he wrote:

“This is the finest piece of critical writing I’ve read in my 17-year association with this school.”

I’d barely had a chance to digest this message—the first words of praise I received in the school—when Baker snapped, “Now, what is it you came in for?” He never mentioned my piece or the comment, but he readily signed my application. I think I was sweating bullets by the time I left his office.