As he walked out of his office, I couldn’t help but notice the friendly and smiling face that welcomed me – a mere student. His firm handshake and cordial greeting made me feel at complete ease in the mysterious, yet surprisingly quaint, Office of the President.

Since taking the helm on July 1, newly appointed President Joel Seligman has clearly outlined his vision for the university. Nevertheless, in order to fully understand the potential of an administrator, one must begin by viewing the fundamental side of the person. I wasn’t interested in hearing more about his goals for the university nor hearing about his professional past. I did not want to sit down and interview him like a typical reporter would. I wanted, and eventually got, a conversation with Seligman – a short one, but a conversation nonetheless.

Sitting side-by-side with Seligman gave me the opportunity to delve into the basic components of what makes him who he is. Considering our chat was under severe time constraints – people in popular demand are usually pressed for time – I was ecstatic that I was given the chance to get to know Joel Seligman – the person.

From the moment I sat on one of his leather chairs, I noted his own excitement. Minutes before I entered his office, he was in a meeting with former Xerox CEO David Kearns, and then he was sitting with just another undergraduate student. His genial and warming demeanor made everyone just outside his office feel at complete ease.

As I continued talking to Seligman, I began to realize the immense impact his father has had on him. “If you want to understand me, you have to start by understanding my father,” Seligman said. “[He was] the most brilliant and most inspiring man I ever knew.”

Seligman, the eldest of five children, was born in New York City and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was only four years old. His father, a film producer, graduated from Harvard Law School in the 1930s, served in World War II and worked briefly at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“He had this ability to go from the particular to the general,” Seligman said. “He would tell me very precise stories about what he did.”

Listening to Seligman speak of his father was a clear indication of how much his father’s life has shaped him into the man he is now. Sadly, Seligman’s father passed away before his time, leaving a void in Seligman’s young life. He took it upon himself to complete what his father had envisioned for his son.

As the years passed on, Joel Seligman began making a name for himself, attending Harvard Law School – a vision his father had for him – and after that, working alongside Ralph Nader, eventually writing a book together. His expertise in the legal world would eventually integrate itself with higher academia.

Although our meeting was cut short, due to another meeting, I still got the chance to see and speak with one of the most influential people at the university. And what did I get out of it? Behind the fancy office with plush couches, the decorated and seemingly perfect waiting room and even the nearly obsessive-compulsive layout of the magazines, he is a man full of life, ambition, goals and perogatives – just like the rest of us.

buitrago can be reached at jbuitrago@campustimes.org



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