Bentley College was totally unknown to me during my job search in 1979. I had graduated with a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and taught there for one year as a visiting professor. I want to highlight the very special person, Arthur Walker, who, along with Dharmendra (Baba) Verma, was building the Management and Marketing Departments (as they were together at that time), especially in the area of Organizational Behavior. Both had come to Bentley from Northeastern University as Bentley was expanding its programs beyond accounting in the mid-1970s. Art had received his doctorate from the Harvard Business School and had studied with several luminaries of our field. He was a true humanist, and a superb innovative and dedicated teacher.
I received a call from Art at my home in Knoxville, totally out of the blue, in January of 1979. He had seen my brief five-line profile in the Academy of Management job applicant listings (this being well before websites and Google). We had a great conversation and he soon invited me to come take a look at this school in Waltham, just outside of Boston. Coincidentally, I had also received an invitation from UMass Boston, so I came to Boston two weeks in a row. The idea of working in or near Boston was very attractive to me, having grown up in the south. What struck me about Bentley was that it seemed like it was on the verge of taking off; it had such potential and I felt that I could make a real contribution to its development. It just fit. I also wanted to work with Art as we seemed to be kindred spirits, and we did indeed grow very close as friends and colleagues.
But it was a big career decision with many personal and professional ramifications, and I took my time responding to Bentley’s offer. I remember showing the one color campus photo in the college catalogue that I had received to one of my professors who knew me well both as a student and a young faculty member and he said, “You’re going to go there and become Mr. Chips. You will be a wonderful teacher…it’s who you are.”
It’s 36 years later and that and so much more (including meeting my wife, Diane Austin, who worked in Student Affairs here at the time) happened. And it all started with that phone call. Along with me, Art also hired Tony Buono and (former Associate Dean) Judy Kamm that year, with others such as Duncan Spelman, Marcy Crary, Diane Kellogg and Joe Weiss to follow in the next couple of years. Art was our mentor and set the tone for the organizational behavior area that in many ways endures to this day.
Unfortunately, Art, an avid and experienced sailor, died in a tragic boating accident in Maine only three years later. It was a great personal loss as it was so sudden and unexpected. No one really knows exactly what happened since he was alone, having just put his boat in the water for the first time of the season, as he did every year. Over 30 years later, I think of him often, and keep his memory alive teaching interpersonal relations, the course he handed over to me my first semester. I have regularly taught it ever since.