I was appalled to read in The New York Times that Maitland Jones has been fired by New York University, and especially shocked that a major reason for his dismissal was the claim that he was thwarting students’ dreams of going to medical school, because I remember him as someone who went out of his way to help me realize mine.
I entered Princeton planning to be a physics major, but by the end of freshman year, I was questioning that decision and wanted to explore other options. With several chemists in my family, chemistry seemed like a logical option to explore. But that would require taking organic chemistry my sophomore year, and I hadn’t taken freshman chem, which was a prerequisite. So I went to Professor Jones, then the head of the chemistry department, to find out whether that would be possible.
Professor Jones was accessible, friendly, and helpful. After a brief meeting, he said he thought I could handle the course and was willing to sign the necessary permission form. (I had a much harder time persuading the head of my residential college, who also had to sign!)
I did do well in the course, but ultimately decided that chemistry was not for me. Instead, I majored in electrical engineering, then switched professions after graduation and have spent the last 30 years working in journalism. But almost 40 years later, I still remember Professor Jones’ kindness in giving me the option to pursue chemistry if I so chose, and I remain grateful for his help.