Emerson students sad to see popular professor leave.
By Michael Corcoran
With only a one-year contract, Mark Leccese, has kept his office essentially undecorated all year. This turned out to be a pragmatic decision for the veteran journalist, who has served as the Writer-in-Residence for the journalism department for the 2004-05 school year. Leccese had been filling in for a professor who was on sabbatical, and will not be returning to Emerson next year.
This news had been upsetting to many of Leccese's students, who would have liked the popular teacher to stay around long enough to put up a few more pictures on his wall.
Leccese, who has worked for the Boston Globe, the Fitchburg Sentinel, and was editor in chief of the Tab, made a lasting impression on many of his students. On the website, www.ratemyprofessors.com, a site that enables students to grade their teachers, Leccese was given a rating of 4.8 out of a possible 5. The anonymous student posters unanimously praised the professor with their comments, saying thinks such as "the man is amazing" and "this guy is the best teacher I had at Emerson."
Another student website, www.thefacebook.com, has two fan clubs devoted strictly to Leccese, one including the following group description. "This group is for anyone on Facebook who appreciates the greatness of Leccese, the anecdotal quote machine who will tell you how to really be a good journalist and is cool just to shoot the [expletive] with during and after class."
Jonathan Schwab, a graduate student majoring in Journalism, took Leccese's beat reporting class, and says he will miss his stories. "Leccese is a great man. I'll miss his impeccable sense of humor and the interesting stories he tells. He'd go off on tangents in class sometimes, but his anecdotes almost always kept our class's attention," Schwab said.
Leccese, a graduate of Umass Amherst, has spent almost his whole life in Boston. "I think it was great to have a professor here, who has spent pretty much his whole life in and around Boston," Schwab said.
"I have learned some very valuable lessons in journalism from the man," Schwab said. "Lessons that are priceless."
Alexandria Ellis, a junior print journalism major, is also upset that Leccese will not be returning to teach at Emerson full time. "We [Leccese's students] like him as a person, and a professor."
"His classes were always entertaining, and he presented them in a comprehensive manner," Ellis said.
Leccese's connection to students did not end with the classroom. He was also involved in several extracurricular activities. In January, he co-hosted a workshop instructing students on how to get their first print journalism job. He also served as an advisor for the Emerson chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Prior to Leccese taking over as the advisor, SPJ had been dormant, but under the leadership of Leccese the group reformed, and remained active for the entire year, hosting events and even winning a grant from the national chapter.
Courtney Gross, a junior who is president of SPJ, says Leccese's input to SPJ was integral to its success. "As the advisor to SPJ, our members certainly feel like he had the answer to all of our problems," said Gross. "If a speaker would cancel, Mark just happened to know the editor-and-chief of a certain newspaper that was willing to be a replacement on short notice."
Nathan Hurst, a sophomore print journalism major, is convinced that Leccese really liked teaching at Emerson. "The most disappointing thing about Mark leaving is that I don't doubt for a second that he honestly enjoyed working here," Hurst said. "He thoroughly enjoys teaching college students, which is something some other professors here could take away from him."
"I think were losing a valuable addition to the print journalism faculty... we're losing someone who wasn't afraid to make us work and critique us, but also be a friendly guy while he was doing it," Hurst said.
"This [the 2004-05 school year] was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding years of my professional life," said Leccese in an e-mail to JSONS.
"I knew it was only a one-year contract, but I wanted to find out what
it was like to be a full-time college professor. It was even better than
I thought it'd be," Leccese said. "Now it's on to the next thing, whatever that may be."
Leccese said he was impressed with the students here. "...They're genuinely intellectually curious. They ask questions, they challenge you, and almost every student I had was doing better work at the end of the semester than at the beginning," Leccese said. "That's a rewarding feeling for a teacher."
"I learned more in Mark's class than maybe all of my other classes
combined--about journalism and also just about life," said Meghan Neal, a senior print journalism major.
"I remember this one class at the end of the semester when he was
talking about a teacher he had that was a role model to him and that he
strove to be like. It was really touching, becuase I knew so many people in the class felt the same way about him, Neal said. "...I seriously almost got teary eyed."
"Because of the reputation Mark has garnered here at Emerson, I know there will certainly be a lot of disappointment come September," Gross said. "Again, we lose another asset at Emerson College that could have given that much more insight into the direction of our careers and our lives."
Leccese's admiring students may take comfort in the fact that he will still be in Boston. "I'll be around. I'm not leaving Boston," Leccese said. "I hope Emerson invites me back someday."
In the meantime, someone else will have to fill his shoes, and perhaps, decorate Leccese's office walls.
© Michael Corcoran