Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Teaching Career

LEFFLER: Of course, then after that you begin to get requests to teach for a term at different universities. You're at Drexel. You're at Pennsylvania. You're at Harvard. You're at the University of Virginia, before you take on the full-time position. How did that come about?

BOND: I'll tell you how the first one came about. I was -- all during this time I'd been hosting a television show in Washington. I would come to Washington every third week, say, and we'd do three shows in one night, three half-hour shows. A constant guest was Richard Berendzen, the president of American University. He was articulate, bright. He was the perfect TV guest. He could talk about anything. So one day we're doing a show and it's commercial break and he said "Have you ever thought about teaching?" And I said, "No, I never have." He said, "Would you like to teach at American University?" I said, "Well, gee, I'd like to do that." So he was the president. He fixed it up. I began to do it.

I enjoyed it. This is something I had not thought I would enjoy. My father had done it before he became an administrator and it looked to me like an awful lot of work. It was. It is an awful lot of work. But it looked to me like an awful lot of work. I had easily spoke to thousands and thousands of people. But as you know you can give the same speech every night. You can't give the same talk in the classroom every day. You've got to have -- you've got to have a long narrative and notes, and you've got to have -- back it up with something. So beginning at American and then at Harvard and Penn and Drexel and Williams, I began to put together -- and I'm still putting it together -- but I began to put together then, this -- several courses on the civil rights movement. But it was at American where I really started out. I'm still at American today.

LEFFLER: So that opened up that possibility and then -- so in a sense...

BOND: It made me see "I can do this. I can do this."

LEFFLER: So that was really just chance...?

BOND: Yes, oh, yes. Absolute chance. Absolute chance.

LEFFLER: ...that that opportunity came your way. It wasn't something you went out and actively sought.

BOND: No. I'll tell you something else -- how I got to Drexel. I was driving from western Pennsylvania back to D.C. Pam and I had been -- I'd been to make a speech. We stopped off in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, because a friend of mine was having a party for his wife. One of the guests was the Dean of the Business School at Penn. What's it called? Anyway...

LEFFLER: Wharton.

BOND: Wharton. Wharton School. I didn't know Wharton had an undergraduate college. He said, "How'd you like to teach at Penn?" I said, "Well, okay. I can do that." So I agreed. We drove on to Philadelphia to see the flower show. Philadelphia has a great flower show. I called a friend of mine who teaches at Drexel and I said Gil, "I'm going to be teaching at Penn." He said, "How'd you like to teach at Drexel?" I said, "I'd love it". So I taught at Drexel in the afternoon and Penn at night.

LEFFLER: So one opportunity led to the next. Then you began to be known as somebody who was available for the college circuit…

BOND: For a while it was "Have syllabus, will travel." And the more I did it the more I understood I could do it and I could do it well. I think I do it better every semester I do it.