Up until 1978, with the exception of two and half years of military service, my professional base was in academia, although not exactly on a conventional academic career track. In my earlier career, advancing business education in low income countries seemed a promising path to the elimination of poverty. Fran and I set up the College of Business at Haile Selassie University in Ethiopia and while on the faculty of the Harvard Business School I served as Harvard adviser and academic director of the Central American Management Institute in Nicaragua.
At Harvard, I had stints on the staff of the Harvard Institute for International Development and on the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health, where Fran and I co-taught a graduate course on the management of national family planning programs. On December 31, 1987, Fran and I left our faculty positions at Harvard to take up assignments with the Ford Foundation in Manila. We were the first couple ever hired jointly by the Foundation, which presented an interesting challenge to the personnel office as they sorted out the implications for our benefits as overseas staff.
Leaving academia proved to be the most intellectually freeing experience of my life and an essential step on the path to seeing through the myths of Western imperial culture. Liberated from the narrow academic silos and its often-trivial theoretical and methodological debates I was able to look at the world afresh and to learn to know and understand reality on its own terms.
Once Fran and I engaged the world beyond the Walls of academia, we were never again tempted to chose an academic institution as our primary base. Looking back, I realize that the work I have since done would have been impossible if I had remained within those walls. I had not yet, however, parted ways with the establishment.
<Next: Defecting from the Establishment>