An Ode to Marc Massoud
"The College pursues [its] mission by providing a professoriat that is dedicated to effective undergraduate teaching," reads part of CMC's Mission Statement, "a close student-teacher relationship that fosters critical inquiry." Honoring this pursuit is one of the things that makes Claremont McKenna a great liberal arts college. In discussions of faculty members that help CMC achieve this goal, it is common to have Professor of Accounting Marc Massoud's name mentioned. But we wanted to unravel what makes Massoud tick, to reveal what exactly his role at CMC has been, and to examine how he demonstrates the College's lofty standards it has for academic community.
Professor Massoud has been at CMC for 31 years. He joined in 1980 after short stints at Indiana University, NYU, and the University of Buffalo. A scholarship from the Ford Foundation allowed him to pursue accounting as a student in 1967 at NYU, and he put himself through school when the same scholarship was revoked due to his refusal to return to Egypt to fight against Israel in the same year.
Massoud admits that he held preconceived notions of students in the West Coast, who he believed would lose focus when surrounded by "the beaches and fun of California." 31 years later, he remains fascinated by the focus and determination of CMC students to succeed academically. The relationship he has developed with students over the years demonstrates his teaching talents and presents itself as his most defining characteristic. Massoud explains that, initially, when he joined CMC, students called him the 'class coach' as he viewed the make up of a classroom to be a team, as opposed to an incoherent unit. Oftentimes he would state, "if the class wins, we win together, and if we lose, we lose together, as both success and failure is ours." Over the years, Massoud's nickname shifted from that of the "class coach" to "Dad." And in that spirit, he has come to treat each student as he would his own sons and daughters. Massoud seeks to translate the relationship between parent and child into an academic and intellectual context. This is Professor Massoud's legacy - the special bond he shares with students and alumni. He encourages the alumni to give back to the school, shares his advice on careers and life, receives Christmas cards from them, and also attends some of their weddings.
Massoud feels that CMC has taught him the value of relationships and networking. As he says, "having the personal card of somebody is like money in the bank." For years, Massoud has honed his abilities as a teacher and challenged students, but he has also been able to comment on CMC's development like no other. He finds that through the years, CMC students have become increasingly academically focused. This, according to Massoud, has negative implications too - fewer students turn out to support varsity sport teams. Massoud also laments that he has noted less faculty interaction with students as the faculty have become increasingly involved with their research. When asked of retirement, he states that CMCers have a unique go-getter attitude which allows the entrepreneurial and professional spirit to pervade the student body. This atmosphere has always made him dismiss plans of retirement.
It is difficult to quantify Massoud's value to CMC's growth, campus, and legacy. It is perhaps in one small agreement that we can understand the weight of his character. At President Pamela Gann's request, Massoud has promised to notify the school and student body a year before he plans to retire.