On the eve of his last commencement at the university, Stanley Gabor, dean of the School of Continuing Studies, who will retire on Sept. 1, sat down with Neil A. Grauer to look back at his years at Hopkins for SCS's Alumni News. The highlight? The School of Continuing Studies' first commencement.
Why did you leave NYU to come to Hopkins in 1982?
Well, basically, my interest was in leaving New York after many years as a native New Yorker and 22 at NYU. Our daughters were off in college, and my wife is from Baltimore. I discovered the Hopkins deanship opening on a flight to Madrid for the Spanish government. I called my wife as soon as I got to Spain and said, "I'm going to apply for the Johns Hopkins job." And she said, "Do you know it's 4 o'clock in the morning? Do you mind if I go back to bed?" I said sheepishly, "No, no, that's OK" and hung up. That was in December. That July I started at Hopkins. As I went through the interview process, I became more excited about the possibilities and the future in Baltimore--which clearly was a fairly decent perception because I've been here 17 years since. In fact, I've only had two jobs in my life--NYU and Hopkins.
What was the school like here then?
I think that the then Evening College in 1982 had the makings of being a very fine school, but it required a great deal of work. I think the first two years I was here--sometimes in disillusion and despair--were the two hardest years of my professional career. To be sure, there were some good people, but they were mismatched for the positions. I knew there was a good foundation, but there was no way of reaching the expectations of excellence and success that Hopkins offers without change.
What was the first major change you undertook?
I think important moves were made in several leadership positions. For instance, the person handling the division of liberal arts did not have a liberal arts background and couldn't relate well to Arts and Sciences faculty. And he realized that and said something I've always remembered: "If this was computing, I can do it. But in the liberal arts, it takes a lifetime of learning, and I don't have it." So he left for a very good job. He's a very fine guy, but it was an example of a mismatch. Since then, I think the liberal arts division--and other units with new leadership--have done exceptionally well.
Under your leadership, how has Hopkins better served the Baltimore-Washington market?
I think when you have programs in academic disciplines like business and education, you're dealing with probably the largest potential audience you can imagine. Most people work or are in business, and most people have children in education. We play a considerable role in these areas, so when Hopkins goes before the state legislature, it does not just point to the significant work it does in medical research, engineering, biotechnology, but [it] also can say that Hopkins serves the community through our school's programs in business and in education. For example, we are the largest provider of master's degrees in education in Maryland.
What is your secret to identifying winning programs and opportunities?
The New York Times. In this position you have to be flexible and responsive to trends or needs--a sort of curiosity. Reading the Times has been a tremendous help. For instance, in April 1991 the front page talked about how the number of police officers with bachelor's degrees rose from 6 percent to 23 percent from 1970 to 1990. Well, 23 percent of more than 500,000 police is about 100,000 potential graduate students, but there was no mention of such a program for police. So we got in touch with Sheldon Greenberg to head the program and, with police executives in the region, we designed an innovative master's degree curriculum. Today, the Police Executive Leadership Program is a national model, [has] won several awards and is also significantly involved with the Secret Service and the Justice Department. So the answer is, in fact, keeping current and always looking for opportunities to design cutting-edge programs. Two other national award winners are the Leadership Development Program for Minority Managers and the Business of Medicine, with the School of Medicine.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments at Hopkins?
The biggest achievement here is basically to demonstrate to the university that part-time programs for working men and women can play an important role at a research university. It adds a dimension by serving a wider community. It brings to them the resources of a university, the opportunities and advantages that Hopkins can provide. Almost all Hopkins divisions are involved in part-time programs, and it's become a very serious enterprise. More than half of all Hopkins students--16,000--study part-time, and two-thirds of all master's degrees awarded by the university are in part-time programs. It's an excellent development. What this means overall is that, more than anything, this school has shown the university that part-time programs can be rigorous, effective, high-quality and serve a real regional need. I predict that there will be a significant presence of Hopkins' part-time programs in Washington in five or 10 years. And I like to feel that our school conducted the first part-time program in Washington and showed the way.
Any disappointments over the past 17 years?
No, it would be almost natural to think of something, but I can't. I have been incredibly lucky, with tremendous support from a talented faculty and staff and an incredibly supportive central administration. It would be the envy of anyone in my position at any other school nationally.
The school is celebrating its 90th year in '99 and in July will change its name to the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education. Sort of casting your eye in a crystal ball, what do you see as the future of lifelong learning at Hopkins?
You know, I grew up in continuing education all of my career--39 years--and it's strange to say that it's no longer a name that accurately reflects what we have become in the past decade. We have developed in large measure as a post-baccalaureate school through lifelong learning in graduate business and education, and an emerging undergraduate program. It is what we are and what we do. And to reflect this, the name of our school has been changed to the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education. We are setting the foundation and establishing a national model for new levels of excellence and success in part-time business and education programs for professionals.
What do you consider the highlight of your years at Hopkins?
Remarkably it came early and was our school's first commencement, in 1984. Before then our diploma ceremony in May was not differentiated in any way but was part of the larger university ceremony. A number of us then agreed that we would have our own ceremony and we debated where we'd do this. I'm afraid I was sort of voted down by some of the staff, who said we'd need a big place, while I was saying, I'm not sure people will show up. Well, we took the tent in which the university held its morning commencement for the same evening. And I have to say we probably had there more than 1,500 people--as large as the morning ceremony. And I got up on the stage and said simply, "Welcome to the first commencement of the School of Continuing Studies." And people recall--as do I--that such a wave of approval reached up from the audience that my wife said, "You literally fell back about eight inches, moved back by the shout of seeming joy and recognition." And I knew at that point that we were on our way to becoming our own school. I've never forgotten that moment. And I have to tell you that this commencement coming up, which is my last, will be an emotional evening as well, because I remember that first commencement and what promise and hope it provided at that time, of changing the school for the better, knowing that it would all work out--as indeed it has.