As I see it, there are two big events within professorhood (that is, after getting hired in the first place, and before giving it up). The first is getting tenure, when the threat of being fired is removed. The second is receiving a final promotion to full professor, where the threat of not getting promoted is removed. The overall effect is one of surprising liberation. Or, as I’ve repeated a few times now: when the carrot and stick are taken away, the ass will freely roam.
The relatively new tradition at Utah State is for recently promoted full professors to give an “inaugural lecture” (inaugurating their newfound liberation, I guess). It is supposed to be an occasion on which one reflects over one’s career and says something personal and meaningful. But, in my case, these two objectives are sort of at odds with one another, so I had to come up with something a little different.
It was a grand occasion, with family, colleagues, friends, students, waiters, kitchen help, administrators, etc., held at the presidential residence. I really had fun, and it was a delight to address this audience and to amuse them (at least so far as my meager talents allow). My only disappointment is that I won’t be asked to do it again, on a monthly basis.
I wanted to somehow offer my lecture on this blog, as an audio file coupled with the Powerpoint presentation, since the overall effect turned out pretty nicely (it was a Lawrence-Lessig style presentation, with my lecture punctuated with images and phrases on the screen). But I wasn’t able to pull it off. So, for anyone interested, here’s a pdf of the lecture.