Write Columbia's History
Richard Cloward
Robert Solomon
School of Social Work 1976

The years have passed quickly since my first day as a young graduate student at Columbia's School of Social Work, but I can still see every detail of it in my mind's eye.

I was so scared! I was the third person and second generation in my family to do graduate work at Columbia University and had the family honor to uphold. I couldn't believe that I was actually sitting in a classroom in Butler Library, the sun streaming through the windows, waiting for some professor named Richard Cloward.

At 9:00 AM, a tall, middle-aged man with silver/blond hair, a kind of Clint Eastwood gunslinger's slouch to his shoulders and squint to his eyes, entered the room. He surveyed the class as he slowly walked to the front of the large conference table around which we all sat. The silence was deafening. With a fairly slow delivery and a deep, low voice, we heard the first official words as graduate students in a Columbia University class: "Hi. I'm Cloward. People often accuse me of being cold and aloof."

My heart began to sink and panic to rise as I imagined him concluding with something like, "and that's just tough." Prof. Cloward then continued: "Actually . . . I am extremely shy." He went on to reassure us that we will always be to stop by his office, even to chat, and how much he enjoys speaking with students. I began to breathe again. "Maybe you'll survive here at Columbia," I thought, "at least this one class."

Well, two years later, and after two more terms of classes with Professor Cloward, I found myself sitting in the sun waiting to receive my master's degree and listening to then-Governor Carey address all of us graduating that May 12, 1976. I had made it. I was now a Columbia alumnus. And I can still see and hear Professor Cloward on that first day.

Thank you, Professor Cloward, for the warmth and the caring I always experienced in your classes—and any time I took advantage of your offer and stopped by your office.

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