McCormick of Rutgers: Scholar, Teacher, Public Historian

By Michael J. Birkner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

Championing a New Political History

MB: Your work dovetails into the kind of issues Roy Nichols explored, as does the scholarship of other Nichols students—Philip S. Klein and John Munroe, for example. To what extent does a mentor inevitably influence a student?

RM: Roy Nichols was not a directive person. He was much less directive, I suppose, than I am, in terms of relationships with students. I spent a lot more time with my graduate students and was a lot more directive of them than he was. I don’t say this at all as a criticism. He was a tremendous inspiration and source of support. However, strange as it will seem to you now, when I had completed my course work and exams and then stepped into a job at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, I was thinking about a possible subject for a doctoral thesis. You won’t believe what it was. I was going to do a study on the relationship between American military policy and foreign policy in the twentieth century. That’s not a Nichols subject. But that’s where I was headed. Well, that job at the quartermaster depot was so exhausting that I never really got into the thing. When I got my job here at Rutgers in 1945, I went up and had dinner with Nichols at the faculty club at Columbia that summer. He always taught summer school at Columbia. We talked about a thesis. He had put many of his students at Penn on Pennsylvania subjects….

-109-

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