Rick Kinnaird holds an unusual record as yearbook editor at the Johns Hopkins University from 1972 to 1973. Usually, graduating seniors don't get their books until the summer. He managed to get the 1972 book out in time for spring homecoming. It was the earliest publication date in the school's history.
The 1973 yearbook was different.
It came out this year, 19 years late.
"I kind of pushed both edges of the envelope," grinned the '73 Hopkins grad over lunch in Bethesda near SQL Solutions Inc., where he is an educational specialist.
There was only one appropriate follow-up:
Q: Uh, what happened in 1973?
A: It was university policy then that the yearbook had to raise its own money. We got ready to publish but we were about $2,500 short. I saw the president of the university, Steve Muller (since retired), at a gas station during the NCAA playoffs and I told him my predicament. He kind of looked at me like I was from outer space. I gave him my card and said please call me. He took my card.
Q: You're still waiting for him to call you?
A: Yes. I went to the dean of students in 1974 and thought we were just about ready to roll. By then we only needed $1,825. He said, 'I'll get right back to you.'
Q: Still waiting?
A: Uh huh.
Q: Meanwhile, people had given you money for the yearbook?
A: Yes. We had patrons and sponsors and we had people who paid for the yearbook.
Q: Did they complain?
A: I heard that the president of the university and the dean of students had to respond with letters.
Q: They got back to them but they didn't get back to you?
A: Right. I said that I would at some point get it published. I figured I would make a million or something would happen. Any time I got a note from Johns Hopkins asking for money I would respond saying, 'I would be glad to send you money as soon as you publish the yearbook.'
Q: Did they ever respond?
A: No. About five years ago I met Doug Warren of the alumni association. At least he didn't say he'd get right back. In fact, the alumni association sent out a letter to all 1973 graduates saying, 'If you become a member of the alumni association this year, we'll get you a yearbook.'
Q: Did the university pay for the printing?
A: No, it came from the alumni association. The school never paid anything. If it hadn't been for Doug Warren, it would still be sitting in my basement.
Q: How does it look to you?
A: Not that good.
Q: A typical editor's reply.
A: Well, whole sections were lost and had to be re-created, and that took its toll.
Q: Was it a relief to get it done?
A: The relief finally came when I actually got the book in my hand. There's a nice irony though. I put a letter in the back of the book explaining the delay. Unfortunately I signed the letter 'sincerely,' and when it came out I saw I'd spelled sincerely wrong.
Q: How do you feel toward the old alma mater?
A: I went to my 10-year reunion and I remember standing in the stands at the lacrosse game at homecoming and seeing some guys I'd played freshman lacrosse with. And I remember thinking as I looked at them, 'You know, these are the same jerks they were 10 years ago.'
Q: I would think that would make you want to forget the whole thing.
A: Well, you put a lot into doing a book. So what was I gonna do, just throw it out? There was an anger there. I wanted to see it out just because the university wasn't doing anything to put it out.
Q: Unfinished business?
A: Yeah, but there was definitely anger. If they just said, 'Rick, I know it's a problem, sorry we can't help you.' But it was always, 'We'll get back to you,' and my naivete was to think that they would and I didn't press them on it.
Q: Are you bitter?
A: Call it intellectual disappointment. I was kind of surprised that there wasn't more interest by somebody in the administration to publish the yearbook to keep it alive.
Q: Do you wish you'd done anything differently?
A: I wish I'd written a few letters directly to people and followed up. Some of the skills you learn as a manager in an organization, like how you get the job done -- well, if I had more of those skills in 1973 I wouldn't have decided they'll beat a path to my door. Which, I think, was part of my attitude. Yeah, I wish I'd done some things differently.
Q: What has this whole experience taught you?
A: It's certainly taught me that the way you think the world should be and the way it actually is are two different things. And to bridge between those two worlds takes a bit of effort and humility and, well, maybe had I applied the effort in a little more humble way and not assumed people would get back to me, maybe we could have had it out a lot sooner. The funny thing is, when I graduated, Steven Muller gave me a special mug as an award for my work on the yearbook.
Q: So he did get back to you?
A: Yeah. A mug at graduation. He congratulated me, I guess, for not finishing the yearbook.