Kathryn Tracy Rizzi: This begins an interview with Thomas Mattia, on June 3, 2020, with Kate Rizzi. This is a part of the Class of 1970 Oral History Project. Thank you so much for meeting with me again today.
Thomas Mattia: You're welcome.
KR: To continue our discussions of your undergraduate years at Rutgers College, what was your involvement with civil rights activism on campus?
TM: I honestly don't know that I had much involvement with civil rights, until we got into the last year and it got wrapped up with anti-war protests in, I guess, '69 into '70, but it was always in that larger context. It was part of the ongoing discussion about perhaps illegitimacy of government action and concern for individuals, and the fact that the folks being drafted to serve in Vietnam were disproportionately people of color. So, in that context, there were discussions for sure, but not that I was an active member of any group.
KR: As a part of your anti-war activism, what actions were directed against ROTC on campus?
TM: Nothing violent that I took part in. Although, I think there were some times where they were. There were certainly protests in front of the ROTC building protesting. Part of some of the demands going through the shutdown and the teach-ins, some of the demands were for the removal of ROTC from campus, that it didn't have a place in an academic setting and that it was feeding the war effort. To that extent, I certainly rallied in front of ROTC. I certainly attended teach-ins about it but nothing ever violent in that context. But there was a student demand for removal of ROTC from campus.
I later went on to work at Yale decades later, but I was at Yale as they brought back ROTC to the Yale campus. It had been removed from Yale in the 1970, '69-'70 protests. That was an institution that decided to remove ROTC and then--whatever it is--fifty years later, not quite--forty-something years later brought it back.
KR: You talked a little bit yesterday about academics your freshman year. What was your course of study like for the rest of your time at Rutgers?
TM: When I started, the curriculum was still one that was fairly structured, you know, your requirements your freshman and sophomore year that really ate up a lot of your credit. We had to declare a major at the end of sophomore year. At the time, there were only two majors that were coed, that were shared with Douglass. One was landscape architecture, and the other was journalism. I had two fraternity brothers who were in landscape architecture. I actually thought I'd go do that and then discovered I really could not draw a tree upside down, but I could write a little bit. So, I went into journalism. Then, my third and fourth years were pretty heavily in journalism. By then, I had [laughter] finally passed German, so I had German off the plate. The mathematical and science credits were pretty much fulfilled, so most of my classes were journalism.
Journalism, public relations, advertising, it was all in the J-School at that time. I remember my junior year was pretty focused--your first year in the school was pretty much focused on journalism, and then there was a split within the school, where you either stayed hard journalism, or you went to advertising and public relations. So, I went to advertising and public relations, and by my senior year, that's what we were doing most of. Fortunately, for me, since I was sort of drifting along, it was a good place to go, because it was more creative. So, we were doing things that were creative. Developing advertising concepts and doing layouts and that kind of stuff was fun, so it was a fun thing.
Second semester senior year, which is the one that was really impacted by the protesting and eventual shutdown, I remember I took an astronomy course, which is the only thing I remember being outside of the J-School, though there might have been something else. By the second half of second semester, I hadn't been to class much, so it was probably a good thing we went to pass/fail. I had passed the midterm, so it was good that we were moving on. [laughter] I forget what the professor's name was. He was (MacInerny?) or something like that. I'd had a lot of classes with him. I remember going to see him sort of early in that last semester, saying, "I'm feeling uncomfortable here. I'm really torn, and I know I'm not spending as much time on my academics. I'm worried about what's going to happen." I wanted to talk through sort of getting straight again, getting back on track for the courses. He sort of helped me with that, and I got refocused. Then, things got really agitated. None of us were focused anymore, or very few of us were focused anymore. So, I was glad that they called off exams and let us go our merry way.
KR: Who were some other professors who stick out in your mind?
TM: Actually not all that many. [laughter] I'd actually have to go back--there was a good advertising professor, youngish guy. At the time, and I think it's still the case today, actually, I know it's the case, because one of the things I've done in the last few years is I'm adjunct faculty at SCI, so I know how the School of Communications and Information's running. It uses a lot of adjunct faculty, and we did back in the day as well, which makes some sense, especially in journalism, to have working journalists sort of come in and teach. The academic side is really good for research and background, but really understanding what the pressures of a newsroom are and the editing process for news, it's really good to have practicing professionals, I think. It's the way higher ed runs.
It's one of my issues with higher ed, because kids are paying what they're paying. Adjunct faculty is good but really poorly compensated and not really supported very well, not only at Rutgers, I mean, even at Yale. I mean, better at Yale than at Rutgers for sure, but comparatively, still not as good as someone who's tenured or on a tenure track. Whether you get the full professor or you get the lecturer, your fees don't change depending on who's teaching class. I understand why that happens and it's not necessarily always bad, but I think it's something many people don't understand about higher ed as they come in, the number of graduate students teaching classes, especially undergraduate classes, the amount of work TAs [teaching assistants] do, how much you'll see a teaching assistant versus the real professor. It has something to do with how schools are eventually ranked.
When I was at Yale, when I first came, they said, "Oh, we're interested in communicating better, because we recognize we haven't really focused on it. But we're not worried about rankings. We're ranked number three usually, or number two, and it's us and Harvard and Princeton and Stanford, and you sort of swap around. You don't have to worry about that." About two years into my time there, some other schools like the University of Chicago, which had not been a top ten, a top twenty, but not a top ten, had really decided it wanted to be a top ten and it thought it should be in the top five. If you take a look at how US News & World Report structures those rankings, it doesn't take much to figure out the percentages that go against each one and what can move a needle and what can't. The further back you are, the easier it is, because you have more room to make improvement. It's really tough in the top five, because you're really talking very small, small percentages in a particular group or not.
One of the things that really impacts that is the amount of time professors spend teaching. It's an area in which Princeton, for example, does very well, because Princeton, while it's a university, is still far more a college than a university. The college is a bigger part of that overall mix, and so its professors teach more at the undergraduate level. That's something that Yale had to step up to in order to keep its ranking high and competitive. It's a bigger research university, so that becomes more difficult, because the professors are actually out doing research. They're teaching less and researching more, and so they don't have that much class time and that impacts that part of their rating. So, it's interesting to follow.
At any rate, I remember we had guys from The Home News and The Star-Ledger come in and teach, and those were good, active classes that I remember.
KR: Where were you taking your classes?
TM: On the quad. I forget the name. It's the building next to--what is it, the chemistry building that's there? MacArthur or Mac--whatever. It's the building next to that. I forget its name. At the time, that building had the entire journalism school, I think. There were a couple of big lab classrooms in the bottom and some smaller classes up top. It might not have even been the whole building, but the majority of my classes were there from junior year on, I would imagine. The only class I had off of College Avenue was a geology class. I think, my sophomore year I took geology. They were just opening up what had been Camp Kilmer. The class was actually in an old Quonset hut left over from the Army base, as they were building Livingston. Yes, it must've been Livingston. [Editor’s Note: In 1942, Camp Kilmer in Piscataway opened as an embarkation base to process soldiers being sent overseas to Europe during World War II. In 1964, Rutgers University acquired 540 acres of Camp Kilmer and planned to build three colleges on the tract of land, only one of which came to fruition. In 1969, Livingston College opened as Rutgers-New Brunswick's first coed undergraduate college.]
KR: Yes, that is Livingston.
TM: Yes. We went there--oh, it must have been this past fall--beginning of basketball season this past fall--or maybe two falls ago, the St. John's game, we opened with St. John's, whenever that was. We had season tickets to football, and there was some kind of deal. I was usually coming down for the game, but for some reason at work, I could stay over and go to the basketball game. Maybe it was after the football game. At any rate, the three of us who had season tickets together went to the basketball game, and it was maybe the first time we were ever on Livingston. You get there, and it's like, "Ho!" This is like, "I didn't know it existed. I had no idea." It's like its own whole campus. There's probably now more students who go to Livingston and never see College Avenue than it is the reverse, right? I think there's more students up at Livingston and the other campus, the science campus [Busch Campus].
KR: Yes, the really nice housing is on Livingston now.
TM: Yes, yes, until they built the thing down at the top end of the street. There's actually a Mattia dormitory, not on Livingston, on the other campus over there. [Editor's Note: Mr. Mattia is referring to the Sojourner Truth Apartments on College Avenue. Mattia Hall is a residence hall on the Busch Campus that was built in 1979. It houses engineering students.]
KR: On Busch?
TM: On Busch, yes. There was a Dr. Mattia. There's a group of Mattias who we are related to. I believe they're the family of my great uncle, my grandfather's brother. My grandfather came over in 1903, and they were already here. They came over in the late 1890s. There's a group of them--there's one guy who played football and wrestled for Rutgers. I think he was captain of the football team in the '30s, and then he had a brother who became a doctor but was in the service. He had been accepted at Rutgers and at Princeton and at one other school and had decided to go to Rutgers, because he decided he didn't want to cross the color line at Princeton, because he was Italian. So, he started at Rutgers, the war started, he got inducted, and his training then ended up being at Princeton. [laughter] His classes and stuff ended up being at Princeton. When he graduated, he could choose between a Rutgers degree or a Princeton degree, and he chose a Rutgers degree. So, he had a Rutgers degree. He went on to be a pretty famous doctor and then contributed money for the dorm at Busch. That's a whole story I didn't even know until I was trying to figure out why the heck there was a Mattia dorm at Busch, but that's it. So, there were Mattias there for a while.
The only thing I have my name on--well, first of all, we endowed a scholarship at SCI, a journalism scholarship for first-generation students. We endowed a scholarship at Rutgers and then a scholarship at UT, University of Texas, where my wife graduated, both of them for first-generation students. I think, for both of them, we asked for an emphasis on LGBTQ kind of issues, certainly issues of otherness. We have three daughters, one of whom is gay and one of whom is transgender. So, we run those issues a lot in our family. We have an endowed scholarship at SCI, and we also funded--they redid the entry foyer at SCI, to make it sort of a communal workspace kind of thing, and we endowed that. So, there's a little plaque there that says, "Thanks to the courtesy of …" So, I don't have a whole building, but I have a little workspace with my name on it. [laughter]
KR: What is the name of the SCI scholarship?
TM: It's the Tom and Marti Mattia Scholarship for Journalism, or something. I think it just sits with our names, The Tom and Marti Mattia Endowed Scholarship for Journalism and [Mass Communication].
KR: What sort of interaction did you have with Douglass students?
TM: Next to none. Those, Douglass and the Ag School, are two places, that's the other side of town. I think I took a Douglass student to the Princeton game my freshman year, because everyone was supposed to have a date. I think we had had our keg party, and I had met somebody. It was a relationship that probably didn't last much past the football game. Then, after that, really not much, until I went to the J-School. It was a mixed major, so there were actually mixed classes. So, there were quite a few women in my journalism classes, and we got to be friends. There were a couple that were hipsters, and so we got along okay. But not much interaction with Douglass. I mean, I really think I was on campus once. The same thing with Cook. We went over our freshman year. The big thing was in the spring, they artificially inseminated a cow, and they'd do it in that big barn. So, being goofy freshmen, "Ooh, hoo, we're going to go watch them inseminate cows." Word went out that it was insemination day, and people got on buses and headed over to pack the stands to see the cow inseminated. So, that was my one excursion to Cook.
KR: What are some highlights from your fencing activities at Rutgers?
TM: Having an athletic endeavor was a good thing. Having something that was a counterpoint to academics and just general sort of hanging around was good. It gave me a group of friends. There was a guy from TKE [Tau Kappa Epsilon] who fenced. I showed up my freshman year with all my garb and ability to fence, and most of the other guys who showed up were not fencers, had not fenced before, or had only done it a little bit. There were maybe one or two others who had fenced some. So, it was a radical change for me, coming from a high school where it was a big team and there were a lot of folks and it was actually recognized and we had done really well, to Rutgers, where it was the smallest of the small sports.
The fencing room was on the second floor of the Barn, probably over the top of the pool, like the ceiling over the top of the pool. So, we had to go upstairs and around where the seating was and around to the backside, and there was a long big room in there. That was the fencing room. To get to an environment where Rutgers was not a great fencing school, where you're going from an environment where we won all the time to an environment where we didn't win that much. The freshman team wasn't too bad because a lot of schools had freshmen teams, where the people weren't all that good. [Editor's Note: The Barn is the nickname for the College Avenue Gym.]
I looked really great, because I knew what I was doing. Sophomore year, it got to be more of a drag. We were fencing varsity teams. The Princetons and Columbias and NYUs and Dartmouths of the world had teams with people who had fenced a long time, and so we got thumped pretty regularly. It was the first time I flew in an airplane. We actually flew from Newark to Boston to fence Harvard, so I got to get my first airplane flight. By the end of the year, I was sort of done with it, and I wasn't getting as much out of it. There was a banquet, and they gave out our letter sweaters and I didn't go. The guy from TKE actually picked up my letter sweater and brought it to me. I still have my letter sweater in moth balls here.
So, I enjoyed it. As I said, Paul Pesthy was a really interesting character to learn from. I'm very proud that I won a letter. I'm a member of the Varsity R Letter Winners Association, which my friends constantly kid me about, especially since on my jacket it says, "Fencing." [laughter] It was good. It was good to do; I'm glad I did it. As years went on, I was really glad that I got a varsity letter. It was a neat thing to do.
KR: Well, the next time there is an in-person reunion weekend, you can wear your fencing sweater.
TM: Yes, that's true. Well, the great thing about the letter sweaters themselves is that they were--I don't know if they still have them; they probably don't still have this maybe--they're big sort of bulky, woolen, red sweaters with a big black R, and it doesn't say what you got it for. It could be for anything. The added anonymity was good, and I mean, I shouldn't put it on my jacket, I guess. [laughter] Well, it's kind of fun, because there aren't that many of us left. There weren't that many in the first place. It was one of the first sports to be eliminated as the school went through budget cuts. So, the pool of members of past fencers is pretty limited. In fact, I'm on--there's a steering committee, or some kind of committee, for Varsity R, and I'm on it representing fencing. We haven't found anybody else. [laughter]
KR: How much did you follow other sports at Rutgers?
TM: We all followed football. I was there just as we started to make the turn to bigger time football, if not big-time football. My class was the first class that had an even record with Princeton, the first class in a long time. We lost to Princeton five years in a row, two of which were my first two years. Then, we beat them two years in a row my junior and senior years. I guess we continued to play Princeton for about another decade before we started running up the scores. I always thought it was kind of weak on their part. They went through fifty years of being the big power and having absolutely no trouble at all beating us fifty to nothing or whatever, but as soon as we started beating them by sizable margins, they said, "Oh, well, we're not competing at the same level anymore, so we can't play." I always thought it was kind of chicken on their part. [Editor's Note: Overall, Princeton leads Rutgers in all-time football matchups with a record of 53-17-1. From 1962 to 1967, Princeton beat Rutgers in football games six straight years. Rutgers won in 1968 and 1969, when the centennial football game was played. Between 1968 and 1980, when the last Rutgers-Princeton football game took place, Rutgers dominated, winning nine of the thirteen games and tying one.]
At any rate, we followed football. We played intramurals a lot. As I said, my fraternity [Alpha Chi Rho] was a really big intramural sports fraternity, always in the running for whatever the name of the trophy was that you got at the end of the year for intramurals. So, I played intramural flag football, and we had a pretty good basketball team, not that I was on it.
Rutgers, at the time, it was the time of Lloyd and Valvano. We actually had a guy in my pledge class, Paul Mayurnik, who was a basketball player. He was the center. He was on the team all four years. He was captain his senior year because he was a senior; he may have been one of the few seniors. He hardly ever played. He finally got to play his senior year. [laughter] The basketball team was a big thing. Paul Greacen, I remember. We made it to the NIT, which at the time was bigger than the NCAA. We beat Princeton. Rutgers finally had a sport in which it was doing something pretty amazing. [Editor's Note: Jim Valvano (1946-1993) was a Rutgers basketball player from 1964 to 1967. He went on to coach college basketball, winning the NCAA National Championship as coach of NC State in 1983. Robert "Bobby" Lloyd also played for Rutgers from 1964 to 1967, earning All-American honors in 1967. He then played in the NBA from 1967 to 1969. Paul Mayurnik was a center for the Rutgers Basketball team from 1967 to 1970. Bob Greacen was a forward for the Rutgers Basketball team from 1966 to 1969, after which he played in the NBA and ABA from 1969 to 1972. The Rutgers Men's Basketball team finished third in the 1967 National Invitation Tournament (NIT), losing in the Final Four game to Southern Illinois 79-70, on March 16, 1967. Rutgers made the NIT tournament in 1969, losing in the first round to Tennessee.]
The Barn was an incredibly small place. People think that the RAC is small now, you should've watched a game [at the Barn]. I think the Barn can hold three thousand people; I'm not sure. You're mainly up in the rafters. I mean, the place was as loud as the RAC can be. We'd line up for tickets and wait to get into the game. Basketball got to be a big thing, and then, after I graduated, we had that run of really good teams for a while, the Final Four team and then building the RAC, and Jammin' James Bailey, and all that stuff. It was fun to watch until it fell apart, and now it's fun to watch again. [Editor's Note: The College Avenue Gym has a seating capacity of 3,200. The Rutgers Athletic Center, known as the RAC, is the home court of the Rutgers basketball teams. The RAC has a seating capacity of 8,000. James Bailey is a retired NBA player who played for Rutgers from 1975 to 1979. In 1976, the Rutgers Men's Basketball team made it to the Final Four but lost to Michigan.]
I don't think you want to change the dynamics of the RAC. I think that it would be nice to get more seating in, but as someone said, "You have that whole plaza out in the front," where you come in off the parking lots, "If you built that out and put food and lounge or whatever back in there, that would open up the space behind the other basket." It's eight thousand people; you need another [thousand seats]. Duke is nine thousand, a little over nine thousand. So, it's not like you have to add a whole lot more of seating. A little bit more would be nice, but it's good to have that team to follow. They seem a good bunch of guys, and it's fun to watch, as is the women's team. We clearly didn't have a women's team.
For us, basketball became a big thing because it was a really competitive sport. We had some guys who rowed in the fraternity, not that Rutgers rowing was all that good. I actually thought about trying rowing as a freshman, but getting up at five in the morning was just not going to make it, so we didn't even start. But I really admired the guys who did it. At the time, there were a lot of these things called one-fifty sports, 150-pound sports. So, there was like a 150-football team. There was a 150-rowing team. They were teams in which the top weight was 150 pounds, but they were actually sort of NCAA sanctioned. Lots of other schools had 150-pound teams. I guess, eventually, they just drifted away.
KR: What speakers do you remember going to see on campus? What concerts do you remember going to?
TM: As far as concerts and stuff, I have to say, once I was in the fraternity, social life centered around the fraternity so much that as far as live music and stuff, it's whatever we brought into the fraternity house. Then, as we got people to move around more, New York City was so close. So, I remember going to the Fillmore East, although that may have been after school was over. Places in the village. There's the one where Bob Dylan started, and it's still there. I can see it, and I can't think of the name of it [Café Wha]. Probably going into the city more than anything else. The Rutgers kind of concert thing, dance thing, I sort of remember as being fairly lame. So, I don't remember going much. For speakers, Berrigan, I think he came. In that last year, there were a number of folks that came, but I can't remember specifically who. At the teach-ins, there were certainly name brands, but I don't remember. [Editor's Note: Daniel and Philip Berrigan were brothers who were both priests and peace activists.]
KR: Oh, go ahead.
TM: I was just going to say, the social life, certainly up until my senior year, the social life was very much a Greek thing. It was very much our fraternity and maybe extended a bit more to Greek community events. Then, it started to really change for me, I guess, part way through junior year then.
KR: I am curious if you remember the Student Homophile League being established at Rutgers in the fall of 1969. This was the gay rights organization.
TM: No, you know, I don't, interestingly enough, I don't. It was not an easy time to be gay for certain. At least one of my friends from that time is gay and would never have thought of coming out during his time there. Yes, enlightenment was still on the horizon. I mean, I don't want to imply that people were actively or aggressively sought out or hurt, but certainly just not generally accepted. There were people in my fraternity who are gay, who didn't admit they were gay when they were there. There is this whole thing of having dates for parties and stuff, where they have to play a role and they did. They had female friends who would play the role with them, and that was fine. It was a don't ask, don't tell kind of age, I guess. People sort of either knew or assumed and just let it be. It was the kind of thing that wasn't brought up, and just let it be.
KR: Yesterday, we talked about May 1970, your senior year, the National Strike, and you talked about the occupying of Old Queens. I was wondering if you could describe what it was like academically for students as final exams were approaching and what happened.
TM: I can only speak for myself and those people I was engaged with who were also being active, which was a lot of people. There were also people who weren't that active and were just trying to finish out school and be done with it. So, there were certainly people on campus who, not that they actively worked against protesting, but sort of wished it would go away so they could finish up. I mean, there was a much larger group clearly that was actively engaged.
You have to remember, you have all these young men. In the graduating class, probably at least half of them would be concerned about being drafted. Their numbers would've been high enough up that they would've run a significant risk, working at a time when the war was not going well and troop deployments were increasing. So, if you got drafted, you were going; that was it. You had a whole life ahead of you, and you had this huge challenge right in front of you. So, it's enough to focus you. [laughter] I think it focused a lot of people on what they had to do, and there was a lot of anger and frustration and energy around stopping the war. [Editor's Note: The first Vietnam draft lottery took place during the senior year of the Class of 1970. On December 1, 1969, the U.S. Selective Service held the draft lottery, which was broadcast live on television and radio. The lottery selected birthdays to determine the order in which men born between 1944 and 1950 were called to report for induction in 1970 during the Vietnam War.]
The bombing of Cambodia, I remember being I think the trigger that really set things off big time, Nixon's decision to bomb Cambodia, and the fear is, "My God, a whole other country we're going to pull into this," and "How many more of us have to go?" and "This just has to stop." So, it really bonded you. It really engaged you. You really felt energized. There were a lot of people involved. [Editor's Note: Following President Richard Nixon's expansion of the Vietnam War to Cambodia, a nationwide student strike commenced, beginning at Rutgers and on campuses across the country on May 1.]
There were a goodly number of women involved too, who were supportive of the guys who had to go. So, it actually wasn't a bad place to find a date, not a date, but someone of similar interests. For me, I remember it being a pretty much all-consuming thing, even at the fraternity. I had any number of friends sort of in the movement who questioned why I was still in the fraternity, but they were still my brothers and they were getting far more radical, as was even the Greek community.
I remember there was a rally one day. I think it was going to be this Greek rally in support of the protest. I had told you yesterday about those big speakers we had built, that big sound system. Our job, part of our fraternity said, "All right, we'll wake everybody up. We'll move the speakers out and blast it down [the street]." They were huge, so really people heard it. I remember turning up the music, all this war protest stuff, guys from the fraternities piling out onto Union Street to go join in that.
My memories of the time are very much nighttime memories, and I don't know why. My memories are of rallies when it was dark and being on the quad with the lights on and certainly the time around Old Queens. The teach-ins at the Barn, I think, were like afternoon, evening things, so that would've got us on the street as well. The steps going into the Commons. Still, today, people used that to setup tables and stuff. Well, that's all it was, those steps, in those days, as I recall. So, I remember it being very active, posters up all over the place, new things happening all the time. New marches for different things and different places. Groups popping up around a whole number of different issues. That gay group, it would make perfect sense; that would be a time for it to come out. People felt they had the right. They were really exercising their right to address things, and they felt they had--not permission--they were empowered to take on issues they wanted to take on.
The war was one big thing that touched a lot of people, but by taking that on, it opened up a lot of other things that could be taken on, whether it was civil rights or women's rights or gay and lesbian rights. It was a time in which people felt far more empowered to stand up for issues or concerns they had. So, that's how I remember it. I remember it being fairly electric most days and evenings for a while. Conversation about classes was actually almost a secondary thing, you know, "Oh, yes, there are classes. What's going to happen?" Then, there was more discussion about it. Targum was covering it, or the radio had it. There were discussions in the groups.
Once Old Queens was occupied and then Mason Gross came down and sort of calmed the waters a bit, I think it became kind of obvious that he certainly wasn't going to push anything physical or violent. He was going to let this work its way through. It seemed the school was not intent to force things to happen, which I think was really wise. Then, eventually, as things lost their energy, if you're not given something to push against, eventually, it sort of dissipates some of the energy and I think that's what happened. So, we didn't have to worry about final exams. I think we sort of all started going off to other things, and graduation happened and we were done. [Editor's Note: Mason Gross served as the president of Rutgers University from 1959 to 1971. On Monday, May 4, during the National Strike, two thousand protesters gathered on the Old Queens Campus, and Mason Gross addressed the crowd, calling the protesters his guests. Meanwhile, two hundred students occupied the second and third floors of Old Queens, including Gross' office, resulting in a two-day sit-in of Old Queens. That same day, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on anti-war protesters and bystanders at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine. In solidarity with the National Strike, the Rutgers College faculty voted on May 5 to make classes and final exams optional and instituted pass/fail grades for the spring semester 1970.]
Unlike today's students, the Class of 2020, we at least had the opportunity and the choice and the decision to be there for graduation, to be with whatever groups of people we wanted to see, to say a final goodbye, to do some things for the last time. I'm really sorry for the folks who are graduating now, because they had meetings sometime in early March that they didn't realize would be their last meeting, and then suddenly it was gone. They didn't get to go to the Grease Trucks one last time or do whatever it is they wanted to do, meet with friends. So, that's too bad, and I hope if things progress on the health front that the university does something for them and something for my class as well, to give them the chance to come back for some recognition of their graduation. I really hope they let us come back and do the Old Guard stuff and all that, because not all of us lived to make it to our fiftieth reunion. I really want to recognize my classmates who do.
KR: You talked about your graduation from the point of view of your parents. I am wondering if you could recreate for me your graduation day and what it was like, what happened.
TM: Well, I can tell you what I remember and also give you an idea of how little I understood about what it was that was happening. For me, at least--and I think maybe for many of us that I was graduating with--the concept that it was a university graduation--so there was something other than Rutgers College going on--didn't dawn on us, I think, until we hit the stadium. Because I agreed to do the graduation, I decided, "All right, I'll go ahead. There are clearly guys in my fraternity who are graduating." I remember we met at the fraternity in the morning and probably had a couple of beers.
I remember there's two ceremonies at Old Queens. Graduating seniors got a clay pipe, and you got to walk to the [Queens] Cannon. Is the cannon still buried in front of Old [Queens]? I don't even know if it still is. There was this cannon that had been stolen back and forth between Rutgers and Princeton for years and years and years, and we finally got it back. They put it in the ground nose first. They embedded it in the ground and just left the top half of it up. At any rate, we all lined up with the clay pipes to recognize the Dutch Reformed roots of the school, and we went and broke the clay pipes over the cannon, recognizing its colonial time. Then, we went to Kirkpatrick and had our class stone put in the wall of Kirkpatrick. I remember those events. [Editor's Note: Traditional symbolic activities at Rutgers College prior to commencement used to include graduates smoking and then breaking clay pipes on the Queens Cannon to symbolize breaking ties with the college. The Class of 1877 Cannon in front of Old Queens commemorates the Rutgers-Princeton Cannon War, in which Rutgers students stole a cannon from Princeton and then later returned it.]
I remember then walking back to the fraternity and meeting my parents and then having some pictures taken and stuff. I'm thinking maybe I went up to the stadium with my parents, and then we had a place where we met. I remember looking for the J-School and not realizing that, "Oh, we were all in the College of Arts and Sciences." [laughter] Then, walking into the stadium and realizing, "Oh, wait a minute. There's like all these graduate students getting degrees." I'm not sure if Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden came up for that, at that time, or not. I mean, that old stadium wasn't very big. That old stadium holds maybe twenty or thirty thousand people, maybe thirty. I remember we sat in the horseshoe in the back end. It was an odd little stadium. We used to say, "It's the only natural bowl stadium other than the Rose Bowl," some claim to fame. It was in this bowl, and it didn't connect. There was a set of concrete stands on one side and one on the other and then two patches of grass and then seats in the back end of the horseshoe, and then the horseshoe was open going out looking back towards the river. I remember we sat in the horseshoe and that I was surprised by all these other pieces of the university that were actually a part of it.
I remember we gave Dizzy Gillespie an honor for that year and a couple of academics. They sort of passed. I remember there was a point in which those of us protesting stood, turned our backs, and raised our hands, and I don't remember what that was for. I used to think it was when they gave a specific person their own honorary degree, but years later, I looked at them and there wasn't anybody who seemed particularly obnoxious to me. So, I don't know whether we did it for the Pledge of Allegiance, I don't know, the National Anthem, maybe the National Anthem. That may be. Maybe we did it for the anthem and then turned around and sat down. Then, it was hot. They had all these people talk that didn't make much difference to me one way or the other. We were officially graduated. I don't remember how we got our diplomas. We certainly didn't walk back to another location to get them that I recall, but I don't remember them handing them out either. I mean, I have it, so I got it, but I don't remember. Actually, the diploma I have, I sent away for like five or six years ago, because I couldn't find mine, so I got a new one. So, that's what I remember. I remember seeing my parents afterwards, and they went home and I went back to Louis Street, I think. [Editor's Note: There were a number of honorary degrees given out at commencement on June 3, 1970, including those to John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, the jazz musician and trumpet player, William T. Cahill, the governor of New Jersey, and Glenn T. Seaborg, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and principal speaker earlier in the day at the Class Day Exercises on Voorhees Mall on College Avenue. One of the graduation speakers was Dr. Lloyd Gardner, now a Professor Emeritus of History, who introduced the resolution to suspend the semester in the spring of 1970, making classes and final exams optional and instituting pass/fail grades. The Class of 1970, in the Class Day program, recognized the actions of Gardner, along with Mason Gross, during the protests taking place at Rutgers as a part of the National Strike.]
KR: Do you remember who the graduation speaker was?
TM: No. Maybe it was the speaker we stood up for, but no. I remember Dizzy Gillespie, that's all I remember. I don't know who the speaker was. Yes, I should go look, because maybe that's the reason we stood up. Maybe it was someone we had an issue with. While we're doing this, I'll look [it] up.
KR: I interviewed someone last week in your class who said that he remembered that it was Walter Cronkite.
TM: Wow. Well, I don't think we would've stood up for Walter Cronkite. I would think I would remember that. That would've been impactful for me. I'll just Google something while we're here.
KR: Okay, well, I will look into it, and we can add it to the transcript.
TM: They have, "Honorary degree recipients." Oh, Toni Morrison in 2011. Nope, it doesn't seem like they have it listed. I don't remember that. All right, I'll get off of that.
KR: Before we go into your career, are there any other stories that you would like to share from your time at Rutgers?
TM: Nothing really major. I remember my freshman year living in Frelinghuysen, it became a thing to put your girlfriend's name--they had crank-out windows on either side, like a big solid window and you'd crank it--so it became a big thing to put your girlfriend's name on the crank-out window, I guess just to prove that you had a girlfriend.
I remember that first keg party, because it was such a big deal that I was in a place where I could freely drink beer and talk to girls at the same time. I remember the old quad, because it was like the closest thing to being in the Ivy League, I guess, because they were built that way. They had rooms that were actually like four-man rooms with actually a sitting area, kind of old-style kind of stuff. I had a couple friends who lived there, and Paul Mayurnik, the basketball player, lived there. When we had to do pledging things, I was running over to see him.
Pledging things, you do wonder how kids get through second semester of freshmen year while they're pledging. At least back then, it was this really all-consuming time. Balancing it was hard, because there were things that you had to do, and then the weekends, you got to go to the party, which was the whole reason you were pledging in the first place. So, you were partying on the weekends, and then, during the week, you had pledge duties and pledge assignments.
There'd always be one or two nights a week where there's activities. We were still in a time of very physical pledging, so there were hell nights that you had to go through and there was a hell week at the end that you had to go through. My friend, Bill Hughes, who was the class after me, has a peanut allergy. I remember when he was pledging, he told us all, "Don't …" because one of the big things was using peanut butter, lord knows why, I guess because we had a lot of peanut butter in the fraternity. It was a cheap thing to eat. So, a lot of things we made them eat or drink or smeared them with had peanut butter as a base. I remember Billy telling us, "You give me peanuts, I'm telling you, I'm allergic," and somebody smeared him with peanut butter. [laughter] He wasn't worried about it, but his face--we all freaked out and had to take him to the emergency room, because he had a peanut butter reaction. Yes, so, pledging was a big deal. It took a lot of energy and effort for freshmen who're still getting their feet beneath them, even to get through classes and stuff. It seemed very critical at the time, and some call it a badge of acceptance. You wouldn't do it if you didn't feel that way.
To be in a fraternity--not that everyone did; I mean, there were a lot of people who weren't Greek--but I think Greek culture was stronger then, maybe something about being an all-men's school at the time, the double bonding of Greekness on top of that. Also, it really did give me a home in a tight group of people on a campus that was getting increasingly larger and more people around. I forget how many people were in the fraternity at the time. My memory wants to say it ran between a hundred and a hundred and 120. It gave you that set of folks with some stability. You ate your meals together, played sports together, went out together.
In the summers, we still got together. I know I used to go back to school early, right, we all did, because the house opened up early. Then, once we had the apartment, we just had the apartment. New Brunswick was a different place in the summer, but it was kind of neat to be around and about. It was neat to have a group of people that knew you. That was a big part of my overall experience as well.
KR: I was wondering if you could trace your career and the jobs that you have worked and give me a rough timeline of the years.
TM: Yes. Well, I was roughly a journalist for ten years, worked for IBM for ten years, then went into the PR [public relations] agency business at Hill and Knowlton for almost five years. Yes, I'm trying to remember. Hill and Knowlton, I joined Hill and Knowlton in like 1990.
Let's start from the beginning. I graduated. I got a job at The Trenton Times. My friend Rick Sinding was working there. I was working on the night side of an evening newspaper, which was the worst place to be because anything I'm reporting is well into a day old before it could make the paper. You covered small townships and stuff, where it could wait a day or two for the cover.
I remember my night city editor came up to me when I was starting, and he said, "So, kid, why are you here? What brings you to the Trenton Times?" I started babbling something about Woodward, Bernstein, freedom of press. He looked at me and said, "Kid, you'd be better off selling condoms door to door. You'd make more money, and you'd meet a better set of people." [laughter] He wasn't far off, I guess, at the end of the day, certainly on the money side. So, I worked for The Trenton Times for less than a year, left, hitchhiked across the country.
I hung out in San Francisco with some friends for a while, came back. My father got me a job with the welfare board, as a caseworker for the welfare board, but I couldn't start right away because I had to pass the civil service test. So, I could start work, but I couldn't have the title and the salary until I passed the civil service test, which was going to take a month or two to do. So, I started this job, which was truly horrible, mainly doing intakes. People would come into sign up for intake, to sign up for welfare, food stamps, whatever. I remember one woman was there, she had like five kids, one of whom was an infant. So, we're going through their names, and she's giving their names. We get to the last one, and she says it's, "F-E-M-A-L-E." I'm writing it down, I said, "It's an interesting name. How do you pronounce that?" and she said, "Female" [pronounced "Fe-mah-lee"]. I said, "Oh, I've never heard the name before. Where did it come from?" She said, "Oh, the hospital gave it to me." It was female. They just hadn't named it, so they gave it the sex and sent it out the door.
I was doing that but not particularly happy. I was living with a bunch of folks on an old chicken farm outside of New Brunswick, a bit of a commune-ish kind of thing. I took the test, passed the test, got my first paycheck, took my paycheck. The Volkswagen my parents had gotten me for graduation had finally blown up. They forced me to buy a Toyota, which I really didn't want to buy. I just had had it. So, I got up one morning, got my dog, and hitchhiked back out to the West Coast, because I had friends who were staying in Vancouver in an encampment called Victory Park. [I] had my friends drive the Toyota back to my parents' house and told them I'd split. I took my last paycheck, and I started hitchhiking on a Sunday. On Monday morning, I got up to a payphone and called the office and told them I was quitting and went off to head to the West Coast. A guy picked me up in Seattle. No, a guy picked me up further down the coast, and we stopped in Seattle or Portland or someplace close to the border. He had friends, and we stayed the night. They had just had a party, and there was a bunch of balloons around. Without me knowing it, in the night, my little dog ate a handful of balloons. The next day, we get in the car, and we drive up to Vancouver. We get to the border, and Canadian customs stopped us. They noticed my backpack in the backseat. They said, "Is one of you hitchhiking?" and I said, "Yes, I am." They let him go; they held me, because I had long hair and a backpack. I'm standing there answering some questions, and my dog has to go to the bathroom. I said, "Can I just go outside?" "No, you can't." "My dog has to go to the bathroom." "No, you have to stay here." Of course, the dog poops on the floor, and the poop had all these balloons sticking out of it. Of course, they think it's drugs in the balloons and that I was smuggling stuff in, in my dog. So, I had to sit there and pull apart the poop and prove to them that they were empty balloons. They finally let me go, but they said I was an unwanted alien or something and I had to check in with the embassy or something when I got there. I didn't stay long enough to have to worry about it.
We drove back down the coast, and I stayed with friends for a while. Then, nothing was happening, so hitched back [laughter] and managed to get a job at The Atlantic City Press. I started walking around Philadelphia thinking I was going to get a job in a public relations firm wearing my graduation suit and my long hair and did not get a job at the public relations firm but did get a job with The Atlantic City Press. [I] went to work there and worked there for a while, first in Atlantic City and then in their bureau in Cumberland.
[I] met my first wife. I've been married three times. Fortunately, the last one stuck. I met my first wife, so it was like 1973. We were married. She had gone to college in New Hampshire. We both liked New England. So, I started looking for a job in New England and got a job at the Rutland Herald, which may be the best paper I worked for in my career. At the time, it considered itself a paper record in Vermont. It was a good little paper.
We moved to Vermont, ended up getting divorced. I left the Herald and took a job as the state campaign director for Jimmy Carter, when he was a small-time mayor from Georgia, somewhat down on the list of probable nominees. But we did well. We won the Vermont primary. I stayed with the organization for a bit longer working around New England. I thought I might get some job in Washington after, but being the campaign director in Vermont did not carry a whole lot of weight. [laughter]
After the campaign was over, I was sort of at ends. I moved back to Rutland and ended up bartending at Killington, skiing in the morning and bartending at night. [I] met my second wife. When the springtime came and the skiing slowed down and there weren't as many bartending jobs and I realized there weren't going to be anymore bartending jobs to get, she was from Bridgeport, Connecticut and we went back to Bridgeport. I started looking for work and got a job at The Bridgeport Post, which ended up being the worst newspaper I ever worked for.
It was the point in my life when I really actually started to focus a bit on being an adult and being real, so it was like 1976, '77, something like that. I was the [reporter] for federal court and state court. There were two newspapers owned by the same group, the Telegram in the morning and the Post in the evening. Most people worked for one or the other, but because I was covering courts and the time frame covered, I worked for both papers. I was one of the only people who did that. Maybe the police reporters did.
It was this old disgusting newsroom, but the federal courts gave me a great opportunity to cover a bunch of stuff. Had a new federal judge, James Daly, who was very sort of Kennedy-esque. A lot of mafia kind of cases came through, a lot of RICO cases came through. I got to do investigative reporting. So, there was this whole big thing with the jai alai fronton. It got me connected with the guild, and I was actually--there was a guy who sued us, because I wouldn't give up my sources on the story about this jai alai fronton. So, I got my little moment of fame for standing up for First Amendment rights. The paper ended up settling with him for a dollar. So, we were okay. [Editor's Note: Thomas Francis Gilroy Daly served as a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut from 1977 to 1996. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, is a 1970 federal law passed to curb racketeering carried out by organized crime. Revelations of game fixing at jai alai frontons in Hartford, Milford and Bridgeport arose in the late 1970s, along with probes into corruption in the sport, which operated in Florida, Rhode Island, Nevada and Connecticut under those states' legalized betting guidelines.]
It was a newsroom. We had these old standard type writers, non-electric, you know, Royal, heavy typewriters, you'd pound away at them. I really can only type with these six fingers, three on each hand. I have to look at the keyboard when I type, but I'm pretty fast with those six fingers. At any rate, the cap on my F key came off one day, and so I went in to the managing editor, Lenny, Lenny--can't think of his last name--Lenny. Lenny was one of the few people that had an office. He had like a little glassed-in office, and he wore like a green eyeshade. He'd sit in his office like editing stuff or doing crosswords. So, I went into his office, and I said, "Hey Lenny, I need a new F key. I don't know what happened to it, but the F key is missing." The issue was, everything was shared, because it was two papers. So, people shared desks, the morning paper shift, the afternoon paper shift. Even though I was there most of the time, so, theoretically, no one should use my desk, sometimes people did. At any rate, the F key went missing. So, I said, "Lenny, I need a new F key, because I have an indentation in my finger every time I hit the F." Without taking off his eyeshade, he just sort of raised his eyes and looked at me and said, "Write words without an F" and put his head down. So, I went back to my desk, stuck in a piece of paper, and typed a note and said, "Dear Lenny, uck you," and I slid it under his desk. That's the kind of place it was. It was weeks before I got a cap for the F key.
It was a place where there would be flies in the men's room in the summer. It was really horrible. I went to the city editor and said, "Can we really do something about cleaning up the men's room? I have people that come for interviews and ask to go, and I'm embarrassed to tell them to go use it." He looked at me and said, "It's August. September is coming. The fall is coming. The flies will die," and that was the extent. So, that's the kind of paper that [was], The Bridgeport Post I'm talking about. But I did a lot of work. It got me focused on really working, being an adult. A couple of AP awards and stuff, and so it sort of got me established in a professional way. I really took on the idea of actually doing something, producing something, but I got tired of making so little money. The pay was really peanuts every place I had worked.
There was a publication called Editor & Publisher about the industry. It had classified ads in the back. So, I started answering out ads in Editor & Publisher, looking for an editing job that paid more money. There happened to be a big ad for business writing, editing, reporting, which really wasn't much of a thing, but I answered it. It ended up being IBM, who, at the time, recruited journalists very heavily. Coming from this sort of hippie background with longhair--by now, my hair was full but not long; I still had a beard--kind of an odd place for me to go for an interview. The only suit I had was the suit I had been married in, which was this sort of pink and orange oatmeal kind of thing with big lapels. It was my suit, so it's what I had to wear to interview. So, I interviewed and eventually got the job with IBM.
They hired journalists, and they had a set of field bureaus. Our job was to talk to all the salespeople, find out who was buying computers, because everything was big back then and no one could see a computer. So, the idea was, "Let's write about what computers do, so people start to understand how important they are to their everyday lives." So, that was our job.
I was sent to the field office in Chicago and started running around the Midwest, interviewing clients who were using computers to do one thing or another and then writing stories and getting them placed. It was like 1980. IBM was, at the time, certainly one of the most affluent. It had a really big communications group, surprisingly big, when I think back on it now. There was a lot of room for growth. It was a kind of place that if your career was moving, you were getting a new job every fifteen to eighteen months. Every year and a half, you were moving on to something else. Yes, I sort of landed in this hierarchical structure that rewarded people who were working hard and fast. I felt like I was little bit behind the eight ball, because I had sort of screwed around my first ten years out of college and hadn't really applied myself all that hard. I had enough of a journalistic background to get in but felt I had to work harder than other people because I was ten years behind and I wasn't coming over from Time magazine or something. I was coming over from The Bridgeport Post, for heaven sakes. [laughter]
On one hand, it was really fun, but it was really competitive and I really locked into that for whatever set of reasons, again, kind of odd given where I had come from. I didn't lose my liberal tendencies, but I showed up to IBM still with a little goatee and it was gone pretty soon and my hair was trimmed pretty soon. I remember a friend of mine came to work one day wearing a blue shirt, a suit and a blue shirt and tie. Some vice president walked past him and said, "Hey, Joe, nice shirt!" "Thanks!" Then, the guy said, "You driving a bus when you're done?" and it was like Joe never wore a blue shirt again. You wore your white shirt. You could wear French cuffs, but you couldn't wear a color. So, I dove into it. All my suits were black or grey. All my shirts were white. All my ties matched blue and grey. All my socks were black. For the longest time--I have to admit--I wore wingtips, which are really horrible shoes, I don't know, but it was like the shoe of [choice]. I mean, literally, everyone wore wingtips.
I did the job in the field for a year and a half. I got a job back at headquarters for one of the big divisions. I started working there, it was 1981, late '81, and IBM had decided to create a personal computer--to build its personal computer--but no one really thought much about it. It was like this, "Apple is out there doing this little thing. We need to go do a little thing. We'll just get a bunch of people, throw some parts together. We'll make something, so we have something, but it's never really going to amount to much of anything. We need some people to do it, and you could go down ..." So, I ended up writing all the press materials for the original IBM PC, which, as we all know, along with the Apple Mac, ended up driving the birth and growth of the PC industry. So, somewhere in the archives, the original press kit still has my name all over it.
I came back from doing that, thought I'd get a corporate job and didn't, ended up in a group level job, which pissed me off, but I did it and worked hard and got out of that and got to a corporate job, where I met my wife. They had a job that was called--you were information rep, because the big job, the marketing guys were sales reps. So, we were information reps, and I was an issues manager, which means I didn't have any people, but I had [an] area that I had to manage and then get people to help me with. My area was health and safety, and Marti, my wife, at the time, was working at the plant here in Austin. They had an issue with people getting sick in one of the clean rooms. They'd come down a lot with a lot of diarrhea, which is an issue, because it means the clean room isn't clean. It's making chips. At the time, we had to be really focused. So, she told me and said, "Don't tell anybody because my plant manager doesn't want people to know, but I just need some guidance on how to handle this." So, I gave her some guidance on how to handle it, and I said, "'I've got to tell you, there's no way I can't tell people. My job requires me to do that." So, we had this long argument about, "I came to you in good faith." I mean, we didn't even know each other, and I'm trying to say, "Listen, kiddo, I can't help you. I have to do this." So, she called me an asshole and hung up, and I had went and told them. She got into a little bit of trouble, but they got the issue solved.
Well, six months or so later, she gets promoted to corporate and is working around the corner from me doing financial stuff. She wrote the press releases when we did quarterly earnings and all that stuff. This was back in the day when there was no way to electronically send it out. So, the deal was, it had to go to both wire services at exactly the same time. It had to go to AP and UPI at the same time, and then The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal demanded to be getting it at the same time that the wire services got it. So, the only way to do that was to physically take it down there. So, they'd work all night to get it all set; they'd write it up. Then, they'd have four limousines. They'd put four guys in cars that would drive down to New York City. They'd walk in; the AP, UPI, Times, and Journal would have people waiting for them by phone. Our guys would stand there with the press release in [an] envelope, and when it was time, those four phones had to be called at the same time. So, four phone calls were made; the phones are picked up. They're told they can hand over the press releases, and they hand over the press releases. Then, journalists go off and write the stories. Incredibly weird to have to do that, but that was her job. Her job was getting all that done.
My second wife and I had divorced. Marti had just gone through her second divorce. There were 250, three hundred communicators just in corporate alone. I mean, it was a very big staff. Most of us were in our late twenties to early thirties, and many were single. So, it ended up being a really social place. We did a lot together. At the time, IBM also did a lot of athletic stuff, so it had a big softball league, which I played in with a couple of guys for several years. There were coed things, softball or soccer or whatever. So, we saw each other an awful, awful lot, at work and out of work, a lot of drinks after the softball game or drinks on a Friday. We got to be very social.
Marti and I--she invited me--there was a thing in the '80s, young women would have a party, to which they would invite their female friends and ask them to bring a male they knew that they would never date but who other people might like. So, she asked me to go. I agreed to go, but I sent her a note, because we had email back then, a system called PROFS, I sent her a note and said, "Yes, I'm happy to attend, but it's too bad that the only reason I qualify is that I haven't had the good sense to ask you out," to which she said, "Aw." So, we started dating.
We eventually got married and had our first child while she was working, and she took a leave. We stayed with IBM and then had a second child. She took another leave, and I left IBM. I had been at IBM for ten years. I had made it to manager, I got the corporate job, and then I got a job as manager for communications for the real estate and construction division. Then, from that, I went back to corporate staff to manage environmental issues, which had gotten to be a bigger thing, but now I had people management background. Then, I think I had another staff job.
At any rate, I had put ten years in, and IBM was just starting to hit its big crash. John Akers was out. They were spinning around trying to figure out what to do. They were losing money. The opportunities for advancement were looking thinner and thinner. I had a big project managing the roll out of a high-powered work station. It was the first time that they had combined public affairs and marketing and communications in one group. I got to lead it, which was really a lot of fun, but I expected coming out of that, I'd get a director's level job and I didn't. So, I started looking around.
Then, I got a job, Hill and Knowlton hired me, originally, because they needed someone to run their technology business on the East Coast. It ended up that East Coast office was outside of Boston, and the Boston office was in Waltham. So, I took the job, and when I got there, we opened up all the books. They had a downtown office doing regular PR stuff, they had this technology office out on Route 128, and they had a new, sort of environmental group, but they all reported different places. When we looked at the books, they were all losing money. I was there like a month. They were ready to close down, just close it up. I said, "Well, come on, give me a break. I just left a great job at IBM to move up here. My family's moving. You can't just close it up. Give me six months. I mean, we'll take cuts now; we'll get our costs down. Give me six months to see if we can't start making progress." In fact, we started making progress in three. By six, we were breaking even. In nine months, towards the end of that fiscal year, we turned a profit at the end of that fiscal year, and it was for a variety of reasons.
They had just started some work for digital for DEC. Having me come in from IBM, DEC was great on technology. It was horrible on marketing and communications. That was its legacy. [Editor's Note: Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC, was a computer manufacturer that was in operation from 1957 to 1998.] To have someone come from marketing and communications at IBM, I gave a presentation before I left IBM, I gave a similar presentation at DEC. At DEC, they applauded, because they hadn't seen anything [like that]. So, it helped us. The convergence was really nice. We got to be pretty successful. The reputation around Boston really grew.
Another firm, which was a firm that had been built by acquisitions, had a company in Boston that was a pretty good technology company, but its founder--they had purchased it from the founder--the founder was now reaching his earnout and they didn't think that he was going to stay. So, they approached me about taking over his business, which I actually agreed to do. I just sent a note back to the guys at Hill and Knowlton and said, "I've decided to take this job." The president of Hill and Knowlton said what people usually say, "Sorry to lose you, goodbye and good luck." The chairman called me up and said, "I don't want you to go. Do me one favor. Hold off for the weekend. Tell me what it is you really want, and if I can do that for you, you'll agree to stay. If I can't do that for you, we'll shake hands and part as friends." I said, "Fine." We decided we really wanted to work overseas. I sent him a note and said, "I want the London office, Tokyo office," or someplace else. He came back and said, "I can give you Hong Kong." I said, "Okay, that's good enough."
So, we went to Hong Kong and spent nearly three years in Hong Kong. Our last child was born there. Business went well, but the thing they always said in Hong Kong is, "Three to five years is really a critical decision point. If you don't leave by then, you're probably not going to leave." People who hit five years just stay. The two older ones were getting a little bit older. We were just having a new baby. We weren't sure that we wanted to commit really long term to Hong Kong.
H and K was going through a bunch of trouble. They'd lost like three CEOs in a row. People were getting ousted all over the place. So, the one guy who was running it said, "Come on back and I'll give you New York," which is the biggest office, and I said, "Whoa, I could do that." He got ousted. A new guy came in and said, "Ah, I can't give you New York. We could do LA." LA was the second largest, so I said, "Okay, we can come back to LA." The problem was there was a guy who was running LA, who had been running LA for a long, long time. They had convinced him to go and handle the biggest account, which was Mazda, and let me run the office. This is an office he had built, and now he has to watch someone come in. I mean, I totally understand it. He was fine about it. He wasn't horrible about it, but it was uncomfortable for him and it was uncomfortable for me.
We got there. We bought a house. We totally remodeled it, and six months later, a guy who had been at Hill and Knowlton, who was now at GCI, which is part of Grey, called me and said they had purchased a company in San Francisco, and they needed someone, would I be interested in joining the founder, because he was a great market analyst but horrible communicator, to build the business. So, we agreed to do that.
We moved everybody to San Francisco, and Joe Jennings, whose business it was and whose name was still on the door, partially, viewed me as an opportunity to make sure of his earnout, to make enough money so that his earnout in three years paid off. I was doing it to build a long-term business. So, our investment decisions were very different. Our outlook on the world was very different, and so we really grinded. We grinded against each other for a year, and it was getting very tough. I was approached by a headhunter, who I knew, about a job with Ford, and I ended up taking it.
We moved to Detroit, and I did five years in the car business, the first two years doing international PR. It was like 1990. Is it 1990? No, it was 1995, 1995, because we came back from Hong Kong in 1993. 1994, half the year was LA and then half San Francisco, and then half of 1995 was San Francisco. Then, I went to Ford the middle of 1995. At any rate, they were reentering that international market more aggressively. They needed to build a team and an organization, so I got to do that. I was on the road all the time, not too good for the family, because my wife and I figured out, one year, there was not a single weekend that wasn't impacted in some way by travel, either gone completely or coming back on a Saturday or leaving on a Sunday. I'd go out on the road and it just made sense, if I was going to go Asia, you fly on the weekend and you get there so you can start working on Monday. You work at least through the week, and you probably go through the weekend into the next week and make multiple stops before you come back. It just makes sense to do that. Same thing in Latin America. The same thing in Africa. So, I traveled an awful, awful lot, but it was great fun. I enjoyed the work, and we did well. Then, I came back and took over North America for a while, and then I went out to California.
We had a situation where the head of PR retired. There was a group of four or so of us who were senior enough to consider ourselves logical replacements. They didn't take any of us. They took a guy from marketing, which really upset everybody. A guy by the name of Jacques Nasser, who was then a CEO, the one thing I can say about Jacques is he was very approachable. I told him I wanted to talk, and we went out for drinks and cigars, which was his thing. I told him I was upset and didn't think it was right, and he said, "Let me work through this. I needed to put this guy in a place for a year or so. That's going to end. Let me see how it goes. You do me a favor. Go with--I'm moving Lincoln, " at the time, we were buying all the luxury brands, "Lincoln and Jaguar and Land Rover and Volvo. I'll headquarter them all on the West Coast. Will you go set that up? Let's see where we are in a year or two." I agreed to do that. [Editor’s Note: Jacques Nasser served as the president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company from 1999 to 2001.]
I had a great run in California. It was wonderful, and I got headhunted for a job at EDS, Electronic Data Systems, Ross Perot's old company. It was corporate vice president of communications. It was what I wanted. It was my head of the function job. I started out reporting through the head of marketing but eventually convinced the CEO, I saw the CEO all the time anyway, and I said, "It doesn't make sense to come through marketing. That function needs to come straight up." He agreed. I spent most of the time reporting directly to the CEO. It was a wild ride. The company had great success the first couple of years. The CEO who hired me had come over--a guy by the name of Dick Brown, had been with AT&T and then Cable & Wireless in the UK--came over and he clearly wanted to run AT&T again, and doing well at EDS was going to get him in that door. So, he had a short-term view of how long he thought he'd need to stay, and so he was very broad but very thin on the business. [Editor's Note: Richard Brown served as the CEO of EDS from 1999 to 2003, following his time as the CEO of Cable & Wireless from 1996 to 1998.]
The business did well, except it's the kind of business that you have to keep winning new business, because you win business, it's a computer servicing business, so you have to invest, you have to, in essence, take on all of the staff of the company that's going to give you their business and all their equipment and fund all that and then figure out a way to provide that service cheaper, because you have a critical mass. So, it's largely letting go of a lot of those people, farming out some of it, selling that equipment. Every account runs like that. It's a big sine curve. You have a lot of investment going in, you clear it, you make a lot of money coming up. Then, the back end, it starts to tail off. The idea with that business is you have to have a whole series of sine curves going, so that when one business is coming down, another business is on the upswing.
We got to a point where the whole industry ran into problems, and IBM, who was the major competitor, actually started losing money in its consulting business, and we weren't. We looked really good, but we had a bunch of contracts that faltered. After 9/11, we had airline contracts defaulting. They had major issues, and so some of the stuff that we counted on didn't come through. We had a couple of very big accounts that were starting, that took a lot of money. At any rate, we looked really bad. Our stock was at a high of like seventy-two or seventy-seven. It started to come down, and then we kept saying that, "Our earnings are going to be okay. The earnings are going to be okay." Inside, we knew the earnings were not going to be okay.
I started talking to the CEO saying, "Dick, I can see we're not going to come close to making it." He said, "No, no, we'll be okay. We'll be closer. It'll close. It always closes towards the end. We'll be off, but we won't be that far off." We were off by ten cents, which is huge, and our revenues were way off of forecast and we got killed. We went down to like twelve bucks, just evaporated. Huge pressure on the company, huge pressure on Dick. A bunch of people left or got fired. Dick stayed. We got a couple of the contracts back on. The stock crept up a little bit. He made it through to the next year. He got through the fiscal year.
Then, Easter, I was leaving the office to take my family, we were going to canoe up the Rio Grande. We had to drive up to Big Bend, which is, from Dallas, a twelve-hour drive across Texas to get to Big Bend. Then, get in canoes and canoe up the Rio Grande River. We were going camp out for a couple of nights, and my middle daughter's birthday we were going to celebrate. As I'm leaving, the chief counsel grabbed me and said, "Are you going away for Easter?" and I said, "Yes." He said, "Where are you going?" I said, "Big Bend," and he said, "Take a satellite cellphone, and I need you to call in several times a day, whenever you can get a satellite." We were canoeing up the Rio Grande, and the walls are like eleven hundred feet tall. I mean, the palisades on both sides, it's gorgeous, but they're gigantic. So, the only time I can get a satellite is when the satellite happens to be making the transit, it's a couple minutes from one side of the gorge to the other. So, we'd stop. I'd stand in the middle of the river. I'd punch up the cell phone, and I'd wait. As soon as I saw the satellite, I'd call back real quick. We made it through a full day and a night and started out the next day. I called, and they said, "You've got to come out right now. Get to your car." We had to get somebody to come and get us. We had to get back to the car. I had the family, so we had to drive, but at least I was on my cellphone.
Driving through that part of Texas is like The Wizard of Oz. It's like tumbleweed and dust and old gates flapping. I got on the phone, and I had to manage the communications around one CEO being let go and a new CEO coming, a new CEO who didn't know me and so I was hugely at risk. Robert Enrico, from PepsiCo, was on the EDS board. He got the guy who was going to come in and run the company, Mike Jordan, who had worked at Frito Lay and had worked at CBS or had run them, and so Enrico was bringing in this guy that they knew from their days together at Pepsi, I guess, a communications person, to help the new guy come in. Well, I clearly saw that as a challenge to me, and I'm stuck in this Chrysler minivan in the middle of a dust storm with a flip phone and three screaming kids, trying to work with the senior team at EDS and my team to make this all work right. I had to talk to Dick Brown first, so he could tell me that he had decided to leave, which made him feel good, but I had to get him on side. [Editor's Note: Michael H. Jordan (1936-2010) served as the CEO of EDS from 2003 to 2007. Prior to EDS, Jordan held the post of CEO of PepsiCo Worldwide foods from 1986 to 1990 and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Corporation from 1993 to 1998, during which time Westinghouse acquired CBS Inc. and became CBS Corporation.]
By the time we got back to Dallas, the team had done a really good job, and we had the announcements set. We had everyone in agreement. We had briefing materials being produced. We had briefing books ready. We had an announcement set. It worked out fine. Mike Jordan ended up being very comfortable with me, and I ended up working for him for the next two-and-a-half years or something like that. I think I have my other call coming in. Let me just check.
TM: There's something happening on Skype.
KR: Sure. Tom, should we end for today? I will email you, and we will schedule a third session.
TM: Yes, I think that's going to be the best thing, if you don't mind.
KR: Sure, that sounds great.
TM: Let me just check. I can tell you my schedule. I have something at eleven A.M. my time tomorrow, eleven to like twelve-thirty, I would think, but then free after that and I am free Friday morning.
KR: Would one PM your time tomorrow be okay?
TM: Yes, I can do one PM tomorrow.
KR: Okay, that sounds great. I will send you a link.
TM: I am sorry for going on for so long.
KR: Oh, no, it's great. I have enjoyed it a lot. Thank you so much.
TM: All right. So, we're up to me leaving EDS for Coca-Cola, oh boy. Okay, we're making progress.
KR: Okay, I cannot wait to hear it.
TM: Okay, bye-bye.
KR: Okay, I will talk to you tomorrow, bye-bye.
---------------------------------------------END OF TRANSCRIPT------------------------------------------
Transcribed by Jesse Braddell 6/17/2020
Reviewed by Zach Batista 8/26/2020
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 9/23/2020
Reviewed by Thomas Mattia 10/16/2020
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 11/9/2020