SECOND CAREERS CONTINUED [ 3 OF 3 ]
Jim Mummery '65 studied history at the College and never gave up
his love for the subject. But after serving four years in the
Marine Corps, including piloting a helicopter in Vietnam, he
started a family, and his top priority was to make a stable
Mummery took advantage of the GI Bill to earn an M.B.A. from NYU
and then entered a management training program at New York
Telephone Co. (now Verizon). His business management career, which
included a stint at Blue Cross in Chicago and then 16 years in
customer service at The Bank of New York, took him right up to his
25th college reunion. "There were periods when I really got into
it, but ultimately, I'm not a business personality," Mummery says
of his first career.
Around the time of that silver reunion, Mummery did some
reevaluating. He told classmates that he was thinking of switching
careers and becoming a teacher. Alan Fenton '65, who is a teacher
in Texas, encouraged him to make the switch. With his youngest
child, daughter Alex Mummery '95, going off to college, Mummery
went back to school to earn a master's in history from Queens
With a nest egg from his years in the business world, Mummery
was able to quit his job and start over as a student teacher at a
high school in Brooklyn. With his fresh credentials, he sent out
his résumé, and the first call came from a school
district in Farmville, Va. Mummery was assigned to teach government
at the public high school. "One of the teachers said, 'These
students will eat you alive!'" Mummery says. "But of course, he's
small-time. I may not have been a top student at Columbia, but I'm
Mummery got on well with the students and coached the soccer
team. Unfortunately, his wife, Joan, was finding it harder to
embrace conservative Farmville. "After two years, she said, 'I'm
leaving. You can stay with this job you love so much, or come with
me,'" Mummery says. "So I went to Washington, D.C. You have to keep
your priorities straight."
For the past three years, Mummery has taught government to
seniors at The Lab School of Washington, a private school for
learning disabled children.
"I've always envied people who know what they want to do,
because I never did, and I finally found something rewarding," he
says. "I like having my own classroom and doing my own thing. I've
been far more respected as a teacher than I ever was as a
businessman. It doesn't pay as well, but I don't need as much money
From the beginning, Charles Jacobs '52 wanted to be a
newspaperman. While in high school in Paterson, N.J., he
contributed to the local paper, and while at Columbia he was
managing editor of Spectator.
But after graduating from the Journalism School in 1953, Jacobs
served two years in the Army, and then was asked to join the family
business, a small soft-goods store in Paterson that was opened by
Jacobs' grandfather. "My family pleaded with me," Jacobs says. "I
agreed to come in for six months to a year to help out, and that
turned into 20-something years."
During his time in retail, Jacobs watched his friends and
roommates from Columbia rise in journalism: Max Frankel '52 became
executive editor of The New York Times, and Larry Grossman
'52 became president of NBC News and PBS.
"I hated retailing all the time I was in it and envied my dear
friends who were in the field that I loved and were so successful
at it," Jacobs says, noting that he also felt a lot of pride in
them. "But it was family obligation, and I felt that that took
precedence over everything else."
After many years at its helm, Jacobs had transformed the family
store into a 225,000-square foot department store and considered
his duty fulfilled. In the mid-'80s, he sold the store and turned
back to newspapers, first as a publisher, then as an editor and
finally as a freelance writer.
How did he make the transition? As head of the department store,
Jacobs had gotten to know Dean Singleton, the publisher of numerous
newspapers including the Paterson News, where Jacobs
advertised. Singleton arranged for him to go to California for some
training. Then, because of Jacobs' business background, Singleton
offered him the job of publisher at the Alameda Newspaper Group, a
cluster of newspapers in the San Francisco area.
"I waited for a long time and always dreamed about getting back
into the field," Jacobs says. He broke into writing by, as he says,
"dribbling out freelance stories with small newspapers, even
weeklies - anywhere I could get published - and building on
His business and travel stories have since appeared in
newspapers such as The New York Times and The Los Angeles
Times, and he is under contract for a nonfiction book about a
"I realized I'll never catch up to the kind of success
[classmates such as Frankel and Grossman] had in the field, but I
had a late start," Jacobs says. "I'm very pleased and happy with
the way my career has gone so far."
Shira J. Boss '93 is a contributing writer for Columbia
College Today and other publications.
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