I have been planning to write this post for a long time. Today is the day. As I mentioned in my previous post, my major professor is Dr. John C. “Jack” Brigham. As hard as it is for me to believe, I met Jack in 1980, 40 years ago, when I was trying to decide which graduate school to attend (I was accepted to several). I will never forget the first time I met Jack and, based on meeting him, I knew I would attend graduate school at The Florida State University. By the time I met him, Jack was famous, very famous, in my area of study, social psychology. In fact, I had read one of his books during one of my social psychology classes in college. I had never met a famous person until I met Jack, but meeting a famous person, such as a celebrity or athlete, is far different than meeting, then working for, a famous person who is extremely intelligent. I learned a lot from Jack during my graduate school tenure. In addition to learning from Jack and working for him as a research assistant on some of his many grants (from prestigious institutions such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Justice), I became his friend. People who know me will recognize that, for me, the distinction of “friend” is one of the highest accolades I ever confer on another person, thus, the friendship that Jack and I formed 40 years ago is one of the most important connections in my life. Jack’s work is impressive: over 100 publications, over 5000 citations in social psychological literature, and considerable groundbreaking research in the area of cross-racial eyewitness identification. In recent times of racial turmoil in our country, I am particularly thankful to have known Jack for the past 40 years and thankful to have learned from him the impact of intolerance on society as a whole. I am often unable to “engage” in meaningless debates with ignorant, uneducated people regarding racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice, not because I don’t know what I’m talking about, but because, thanks to Dr. Jack Brigham, I know exactly what I am talking about. To quote Jack, “Looking backwards, we have made progress. Looking forward, we are not where we should be.” Thanks, Jack, for 40 years of friendship and mentoring. I would be a different person today if I hadn’t met you on that lovely spring day in 1980.
One never knows the future impact of making connections. Jack has been a great mentor to Melissa, and others, for a long time. In the academic world, these connections are like family trees. I didn’t always know that, but I learned it years ago by getting to know Jack and many others in Melissa’s psychology “circle.” It is a fascinating world to me in that I’ve long been interested in psychology – which might have been my 4th college major if I wasn’t scared of the statistics classes back then. Of course, for me, getting to know Jack was because of Melissa, not because of psychology, and while I’ve attended psychology conferences, I was the “plus 1.” Jack is clearly respected within this field, but beyond that, I’ve enjoyed getting to know him through our shared interest in photography. Learning about his travel adventures has also been fascinating. I’ve traveled more than most people, but I know few who have traveled as extensively as he has. Jack – I’m glad to know you!