Taking a hike on sabbatical

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.


I was given another chance at a sabbatical leave and unlike India I had things to do. One was trying to teach faculty how to teach on television and the web. One session was held at the posh studios of the New York State Lottery in Schenectady.

There was a bit of a problem obtaining the sabbatical. I naively thought that taking a full year at half pay would present no problem to the department or the school. Wrong.

One of the things I included in my proposal was hiking. In the early ’80s I joined a hiking club that maintained a trail that stretched from Allegany State Park to the Catskills with branch trails going to Niagara Falls, Rochester, and Utica. The trail was also a link in the 4,600-mile North Country National Scenic Trail.

I thought that walking the trail and producing a media presentation would be a worthwhile project. Given the negative reaction from some faculty and administrators I got the feeling that I should have suggested living in some study carel and turning out a tome that nobody would read.

Now I think I have done my share of “respectable” academic work but a lot of it was media based and even at this writing there is some suspicion of faculty who use cameras and microphones. (I was once told by the media director at Plattsburgh where I was invited to evaluate his center: “Well, I’m a scholar and you’re a salesman.” )

I remember my dissertation on Chautauqua. It followed the standard formats but added, unusual at the time – 1972, a tape-slide presentation. I was able to convince my adviser but he warned me that the written part would have to stand on its own.

Fortunately there were other parts to my sabbatical including trips to Russia and England.

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.