I started teaching in Columbia in the influx of GIs from World War II, and they needed extra people. So they had hired me, and I liked it there, and it turned out that they liked me, and the students liked me. So, again, I thought of this as a very temporary kind of thing.
I have kept around ‑‑ Mrs. Randall kept the letters I wrote during those years, and one of them says, “You know, I am enjoying New York a lot, and I like living here, but I can’t imagine living here for any length of time.” I assumed that when my two‑year contract was over that I’d go back maybe to Jacksonville, Illinois, but they needed people, and apparently, I filled the bill.
I still was so uncertain about the future, though, that when Smith College was looking for a professor and they wrote down to Columbia and asked if I would be interested, I said yes. So I resigned at Columbia and went off to Smith. The people at Columbia were baffled by this. They said, “Why would you leave Columbia to go to Smith?” I said, “Well, I don’t belong in Columbia. You know that. I’m very different from the rest of you. I’m going to Smith,” and they were angry that I had spurned them, so to speak.
I went to Smith, and while I liked the students individually, it clearly was not for me, and in the second year there, I was fortunate enough to be asked would I go to Princeton, would I go to Yale, or would I come back to Columbia, and I didn’t know Princeton or Yale. I thought I’ll go back to Columbia where at least they know who I am, and so I went back to Columbia and at that point decided, okay, I guess I am going to make a career as a historian and tried to do so.