To the Editor:
After over two decades of teaching at Yale, I have accepted a position in the political science department of the University of Pennsylvania, beginning July 1, 2001. I write to express my appreciation to all my Yale students, past and present, for the support and stimulation they have always provided me.
Let me first note that I leave Yale strictly for family reasons. Though I look forward to new challenges, I will profoundly miss many aspects of life at Yale, not least what I have always regarded as the extraordinary privilege of teaching Yale students. When I came to New Haven as a very green 26-year-old assistant professor in the fall of 1980, it was the response of students that first gave me the notion I might be doing some things right — as well as some things clearly wrong.
That boost was a big help; since then many former students have gone on to become valued, enduring friends. I trust that will remain the case, and I will always be glad to hear from any of those with whom I have worked — yes, even when contacted for that one more letter of recommendation. Note to all Yalies who never worked with me: Sorry, this letter promise doesn’t apply to you!
I am confident your counterparts at Penn will be terrific students as well, but the debt I feel to those I have taught and advised here at Yale is far greater than I could ever repay. You see, you spend your whole life trying to inspire students, and then you find it was the other way around all along.
But now, like Al Gore, it’s time for me to go. And so, to paraphrase Michael Caine: Good night — and goodbye — you princes and princesses of Connecticut — kings and queens of New England.
Rogers M. Smith
March 19, 2001
The writer is the Alfred Cowles Professor of Government.