The Contentment Chronicles

In Notes on October 3, 2013 at 12:11 am

Earlier today, I posted this on Facebook:

The Stew needs a few tablespoons of Contentment, so consider emailing me ( your answer to this question: 

Have you ever had a moment on the job that made you supremely happy? We’re talking spring-in-your-step/song-in-your heart-type happy. If so, can you describe it?

Work Stew MugI’ll publish your answer on the site and, as a small thank you for chiming in, you’ll get one of these fine mugs (unless you already have one, in which case you can choose something from one of the four major food groups: white chocolate, dark chocolate, red licorice, and black licorice).

A little while later, I received this happy reminiscence from historian (and wildly popular Work Stew contributorRonald J. Granieri:

“In May 2010, the spring semester at Penn was coming to a close. As it happens, I had been informed two months earlier that the School of Arts and Sciences Personnel Committee had rejected my tenure application for the second consecutive year. There were appeals and protests and whatnot in the works, but I was facing up to the very real possibility that this would be my last semester teaching at Penn, maybe my last semester teaching anywhere.

During that spring semester I had been leading a seminar of more than a dozen senior history majors writing their capstone honors theses. We had been together since the spring of their junior years building those projects, and I had taught some of them even before that, so we were a pretty close group. I was very proud of them.

After classes ended, the Penn History Department holds a special reception for seniors who completed theses, where they offer posters describing their theses, and make brief presentations. It is a fitting event for them, and I knew I had to go, but I was feeling rather ambivalent about attending an event that would also be attended by administrators of the school that was effectively kicking me out.

With distinctly mixed emotions, I left my office and walked down the hall to the ornate lecture hall where the event was held. As I walked in, I noticed something odd. My students all appeared to be wearing identical t-shirts over their outfits. As they turned and grinned at me, I saw that the shirts were modified versions of the “Jesus is My Homeboy” shirts that you can find on most snarky t-shirt websites. The students had taken a snapshot of me (one I vaguely remembered having posed for in response to a cleverly contrived ruse) to replace the original headshot and the shirts said instead, “Ronald J. Granieri is my Homeboy” on the front and “Granieri’s Greats” on the back.

I can only imagine my expression; I had to fight back both tears and laughter. In spite of every disappointment up to that point, and in spite of the disappointments that were to follow, nothing can take away that moment when I felt such a connection to my students.

Some people think that time spent teaching and advising is wasted time, but that moment reminded me that human connections mean more than any papers ever could. I was already proud of them; ever since that moment I have loved them all.”

Click here for more ‘Contentment Chronicles,’ and to add a memory of your own to the collection, please send me an email at 

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