The Dean and I | Part 1

by Elouise


Langdell Hall, Harvard Law School 

In late September 1965 I get a call from the university. I’d filled out a job inquiry at the employment office. This was the first and only call I got. Would I please come in for an interview? The Dean of the law school is looking for a ‘junior secretary.’

I’m beyond grateful for the call. D and I aren’t going to make it if I don’t get a job with a decent wage. I don’t know anyone here, and don’t have any connections. I’m new and still in culture shock. And I need a job.

Yes, I’d be happy to come for an interview!

It takes about 20 minutes to walk from our apartment to the law school. My first impression is shaped by the building. Langdell Hall is imposing. Wide and massive, with huge columns. Constructed with stone that looks like granite.

It sits on the edge of one of the university’s yards, crisscrossed with sidewalks, well-populated with tall old trees and university students. Important people on their way to important classes in one of the most prestigious universities in the US.

I feel small and unsure of myself. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I’m aware of my non-student status, my neon-light-flashing wedding rings, and the fact that I’m dressed up, not dressed down like almost everyone else.

Everyone, that is, but the occasional professor lost in intense and important conversation as he and his faculty colleagues stroll by in professorial garb. Not too stylish, not too frumpish, definitely not blue jeans. This is the law school!

The main stairs into the building are as awesome as the building. Wide, inviting and intimidating all at the same time. The kind of stairs important people love to be seen on. The kind that can make people like me feel unimportant, if not unworthy of entering the huge front doors. Is this a school or a castle?

The reception area does nothing to reassure me. The ceiling seems to be a mile high. I hear echoes when I walk on the marble floor.

And there, in the middle, is the most gorgeous, huge, well-polished dark round carved wood desk I’ve ever seen in my life. No benches and chairs around the edges of the reception area. Just the round desk, with a woman sitting inside the large circle. She seems small compared to her surroundings.

The sign on her historic round desk says Receptionist. I notice there’s a little gate in the desk so she can get in and get out. She smiles and greets me. I relax a bit.

I explain that I’m here for a job interview with Mr. Griswold. She smiles and points to one of the hallways connected to the reception area. I have to go through that door right there, and take the second door on the right. I hope everyone I’m going to see today smiles.

I go through the first door. I can’t believe it. It looks like I’ve landed in the middle of the library stacks! Rows and rows of stacks packed with important-looking books. There are doors on either side of the stacks, just off the dimly lit passageway on each side. The doors have office names on little signs sticking out into the passageway.

I see the Dean’s Office sign and walk into the second door on the right. The woman behind the desk greets me warmly with a distinct Boston accent and asks me to have seat. She smiles, though not as sweetly as the receptionist did. Still, she doesn’t seem mean. Just official and a bit formal. Mr. Griswold will be with me in a moment.

I don’t know this, but I’m about to meet my best boss ever.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2015
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons