The Best Nest: Professor Bob McVaugh

Eliza Graham

Upon first visiting the office of Professor and Chair of Art and Art History Bob McVaugh last spring, I was immedi-ately struck by the sheer number of books lining his walls. It is an art historian’s dream. Thinking of all the pictures on all the pages had my head spinning; I was totally mesmerized. I could not definitively identify it at the time, but I knew there was something inherently right about the way Pro-fessor McVaugh’s office worked: I felt comfortable meeting with him as we discussed my term paper and, as he pulled relevant books off the shelf, I felt like he was treating me as an intellectual equal, not a student to be lectured. Small me-mentos and decorations such as a map of Colgate’s campus from 1948 on the wall and comic strips and postcards on the door add warmth and personality to his space. The beauti-ful views from the two windows in Professor McVaugh’s of-fice, on the third floor of Little Hall, add cheerfulness and brightness to the cozy feel inside. The space, in my opinion, is the quintessential professor’s office: an academic oasis.

How does your office reflect your personal style?

It’s a mess. It reflects my trying to do a lot of things. I like that I can show you the books in here that I’ve acquired from student proj-ects over the years. There’s a kind of history that only I know. Once or twice a year I try to tidy the place up and then I give up. I also like to be able to see the hall and greet people as they come up and down the hall but am lucky enough to have a window onto the lake and Willow Path, so I can also enjoy the campus view as well.

Tell me about one particularly important item in your office.

My notebooks. I’m avoiding the obvious answer, which is my computer. I’d die if something happened to my remote drive. A little melodramatic, but…

Where/from whom did you get your inspiration?

Probably the person I remember most, well, two people, are David Coffin and Bob Bergman, both at Princeton. Bob was a medievalist, but I remember he always worked with his door open, and as a graduate student I appreciated being able to see him work. David – I was privileged enough to work with him, and the way he was able to work in his five by seven inch notebooks – he had dozens – if a question came up, he could always find a point of reference. The way his office was a treasure trove of information on the history of gardens and villas. I like to think that here, when students step in for conferences, I can pull a book from the shelves and bring information to the table.

Contact Eliza Graham at [email protected]