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It Took Him 30 Years to Become a Professor

By Wm. May
Published: 12/01/21 Topics: Comments: 0

Professor Ed Bannister

Just out of College I got a job at KJR Radio (Also known as the mother giant radio station), my dream job. But there was another story also. It was 49 years ago. Maybe I blocked it out.

I also got a few other job inquiries as I was getting ready to graduate but then one I remember was this

"Kraft Smith" was the biggest advertising agency in Seattle, very prestigious and our famous professor - Ed Bannister - loved advertising agencies because he had run a very large one in New York where he became rich.

He left that behind at age 48 because he had always wanted to be a professor. He quit, got an Masters degree from UCLA, but the only place that would hire him was this funky school in the wilderness - Washington State University.

In Pullman he lived in the "House that advertising built". In today's world it would be over 2 million and, if he decided a student was "Kicking ass" (his words), they got to have dinner at his house. I did.

Ed was irreverent and absolutely pragmatic. What counted for advertising was getting sales results. What counted for him as a professor was getting kids jobs. That was not normal for professors.

He was a linear thinker. Connect the dots push push push and maybe you'll get what you want. But going for the Gold is the fun part.

P.S. One of his passions was that he was an official at several Olympic games- line judge, time keeper, something like that. He told the stories repeatedly. He also wrote limericks about his cat.

Ed took great delight that he, a 52 year old "assistant" professor, soon dominated the entire School of Communications.

Within a few years. half of all students were majoring in Advertising (compared to the old guard of broadcasting, journalism and public relations). He smirked when he said, "the full professors are unhappy with my success, so screw em. ha ha ha."

He played it to the hilt, with tweed coasts, leather elbows and carried a pipe he seldom smoked. His shoes were always shined. and he had the coolest winter overcoats. (Well, he had lived in New York!).

One day in class, Ed announced that the sales manager at KJR radio, the top top 40 rock station, would be coming to Pullman to interview a few candidates. The KJR guy named 3 guys but did not pick me.

As a rock and roll player and life-long listener I was in a funk.

So I wrote him a letter saying, "If you are going to drive all the way over to WSU, you might as well interview the best student"

While waiting for a response, I got a few other job nibbles, one from a giant advertising Agency. So I drove to Seattle and interviewed with "Hugh Smith" a very old guy with none of Ed Bannister's glamour.

He was in a giant corner office that reeked money. I remember him as sanctimonious, had stupid questions and finally said, "Well young man, I am not going to offer you a job because I think you will never make it in the advertising agency business."

With an ad agency job at the top of my wish list I was devastated, but I was also peeved. When I told Ed. He said, "Screw 'em .Keep going. Eventually you will get what you want."

When I asked "When" he said, 'Doesn't matter, took me 30 years but here I am. Screw the doubters."

Later KJR called and I was thrilled to go to work in Radio where I was exposed to fast moving, hard drinking, get it done, push push push people. Everyone of them were far more fascinating than Hugh Smith ever hoped to be.

18 months later I quit KJR and opened my own agency. I never did steal away any of the big Kraft Smith clients, but I did get a few who had interviewed them and picked me.

Revenge is best served cold.

P.S. After I started the agency he was very proud and said, "You were one of my best students." So I asked, "So why did you give me B''s sometimes when I thought my work was better than the others."

"Because you were lazy and my way of motivating was to kick your ass." It worked.

Author: Wm. May
Blog #: 0897 – 12/01/21

Comments: 0

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