Richard was a giant (in so many ways), and he will be greatly missed. On one of the walks I got to take with him he said he thought happiness was “a cow chewing grass in the meadow,”—and that that wasn’t for him. He couldn’t resist getting all worked up at anyone who so much as came near, let alone pressed, one of his many buttons. Working across the hall from him, my officemates and I would brace ourselves when we heard a fellow student unknowingly set him off—and then we would all just sit back in awe as he erupted with passion and knowledge. Richard had his moods and his moments of gruffness, but eventually he’d come looking for food to steal and a laugh. I remember him as being goofy and even awkward at times, and yet he was an absolute ace people reader, beyond politically astute, and a gifted counselor.
In choosing his students, he always went for the odd bird. For him, the less “the key fits the lock”, as he put it, the better. As an adviser, he steadfastly refused to spoon-feed you—though his influence on your work was unmistakable. The telephone we had in the office across from his had a tremendously long coil connecting the handset to the base. Richard would sit on the couch and painstakingly, patiently untwist each turn of the impossibly tangled coil until the whole length hung free. It was what he did to the research problems he tackled, and it was what he did with his students—slowly, carefully working out the knots. I keep to this day a quiz he made for me when I was struggling with beginning my dissertation research after the proposal had been accepted. He wrote out criteria, lettered A thru G (“which is easiest?”, “which is riskiest?” etc.), accompanied with 5 notecards, each with a numbered alternative (“PhD later”, “easier project”, etc.), and a grid on which I was to rank order them on the criteria and then calculate average scores. He, of course, included the formula for reverse scoring the appropriate items. It was quintessential Hackman advising, and completing his little exercise re-energized me.
I will be forever grateful to have been his student. His reach was far and wide, but to me, he will always be the huge man who signed his messages with a little “r”.
-Josephine Pichanick Mogelof