By Vinnie Abbatecola
A class can hear many interesting stories from professors if they are likeable enough to get the class to pay attention. Dr. Jack Sullivan, an English professor at Rider University, is one of those successful professors.
One of the reasons why his students should pay attention is because he writes for the Arts and Leisure section of The New York Times.
Sullivan’s love of writing began where it begins for most writers — at school.
“I had a really great freshman comp class in college,” he said. “I had a great teacher who was encouraging, and that’s when I realized I loved to write.”
How he got the job at The New York Times, however, is a little more difficult to explain.
“I got it simply by sending a piece of my dissertation, which was about English ghost stories,” he said. “I sent it to a lot of local places, like The Village Voice, and they all turned me down. As a joke I sent it to The New York Times, and they accepted it. It was a huge surprise and an unexpected turn in my life.”
Most readers of The New York Times know that there are a myriad of things to write about, including movies, books, concerts, television and Broadway shows. Sullivan chose the literary path.
“I fell into it,” Sullivan said. “I made the dissertation in the form of a book review. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Sullivan does not only review books, however, and feels it is important to try and write about other things if one wants to get the full writing experience.
“I review everything,” he said. “I’m working on a review for the new Clint Eastwood movie, ‘J. Edgar.’”
Sullivan is not just a favorite among his students, however, but also with his colleagues.
Dr. Cynthia Lucia, head of the Film and Media Studies Program, speaks fondly of her experiences with Sullivan.
“He’s really interested in supporting what people want to do in terms of their teaching and in terms of their scholarship,” she said. “On a personal level, he’s a lot of fun. He’s always interested in scholarly work. We always have a lot to chat about, whether it’s the latest movies or things he’s been reading.”
Lucia continued by sharing a story about Sullivan.
“One day, at an English department meeting, I was sitting at my desk with a large cup of Starbucks coffee,” Lucia said. “He blithely walks by my desk and knocks the coffee all over me. I kept yelling, ‘Jack! Jack! Jack!’ as if having him paying attention would undo what had been done. Finally [he] noticed and asked, ‘Did I do that?’ and went out to the restroom and came back with a little piece of paper towel to help clean up the mess, [even though] there was a pool of coffee.”
Dr. Matthew Goldie, associate professor of English, also shared some of his memories of Sullivan.
“He took me under his wing earlier on, partly because we’re both New Yorkers and we often travel together on the train,” Goldie said. “So he’s always been very generous with his advice helping me out with directions. He, in a way, has always mentored me.”
Like Lucia, Goldie also had a story to share about Sullivan.
“Often Jack and I share wine on the way back on the train,” he said. “It’s a little game we play together where we don’t reveal to each other what the wine is that we’re drinking. It’s a kind of test where we’re trying to guess on what the brand is, the country [it is from] and perhaps even the year.”
Sullivan’s interesting background has helped keep his students and collegues interested throughout his career, though his ability to act as both a professor and a friend has not hurt him either.
“Jack Sullivan is one of the best advisers, professors and mentors at Rider,” Brittany Sheer, a senior American studies major, said. “His passion for the subject matter he teaches is contagious . . . My college experience would not be the same without [his] encouragement and inspiration.”