The painting above is based on a photo from 2007.
I am originally from Canada, a graduate of the University of King’s College (BA Honours Certificate in Sociology) and Dalhousie University (MA in Political Science). Just so you know, in her book Linda Frum’s Guide to Canadian Universities, the author referred to King’s College as “An elite club for overachievers”, and I recently learned that King’s, established in 1789 and Canada’s oldest chartered university, also the oldest English-speaking university in the entire British Commonwealth outside the UK, has produced more Rhodes Scholars per capita than any university in Canada, and she said Dalhousie is basically the best place to study on the east coast, or words to that effect. Back in the day, I remember reading that Dalhousie had produced more prime ministers than any other Canadian university. Additionally, when I last checked Dalhousie had produced 90 Rhodes Scholars, and compared with all 2,000 accredited four-year colleges and universities in America, only Harvard, Princeton and Yale have produced more. Furthermore, I read on the Dalhousie University Political Science website an important comment from another former student who said in his alumni profile: “At Dalhousie, professors—including those who hold named chairs—teach classes, not teaching assistants. This is increasingly unique in Canada and should be applauded.” In any event, I am proud of my academic pedigree, and I think the bachelor’s degree in Sociology was an effective foundation for graduate school in Poli Sci.
In my exuberant and vibrant youth, I attended the first two years of high school in the U.S., where I was Vice President of the Sci Fi Club, an announcer on the PA Crew, an award-winning debater, and Class Clown. After graduating from high school, and before university, I studied Radio & TV Broadcasting in a very selective and tough program (with less than a 10% acceptance rate) at a local community college that had the only broadcasting programme on the east coast, where among other things I watched and analyzed classic movies, wrote, produced and edited a 30 minute video documentary, and I was one of the top students. The highlight of my days as a student broadcaster was when I interviewed Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason after a speech he made at Acadia University. He was a fascinating person to speak to, and in 1997 he flew on the space shuttle Discovery on STS-85. I was proud that I was the student selected to interview him on our campus TV programme, which was probably because I was well known as a space enthusiast.
While the above is important, but most important of all is that I am a fan of Star Trek The Original Series (TOS), Star Trek The Next Generation (TNG), Voyager, a charter member of Project Enterprise, and a virtual crewmember on the spaceship NSS Enterprise. How did all this begin? My interest in Star Trek began when I moved to Nova Scotia in the early 1970s, when I was 7 or 8 years old. Star Trek reruns were broadcast every Saturday at 12:00 on our local CBC TV station, long before cable TV was available. I instantly connected with the show, its characters, and since I was still a child, all the nifty gadgets like communicators and phasers. My best friend Murray was also a Star Trek fan, and he once drew a pretty good diagram of the Enterprise, and that just blew my mind at the time. Since then I have seen every episode of TOS, TAS, TNG, and Voyager. I’ve also seen most of the feature films, and deeply disliked the three reboots that came out starting in 2009 because I don’t think they reflect Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy. George Takei agrees with me.
Fast forward with me now to the present and my class, which I have taught since 2014. I use episodes of TOS to teach the ethics of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Bentham, and other great western moral philosophers to a generation of young students who for the most part have no previous knowledge of classic Star Trek. At the beginning, I also taught episodes from The Next Generation, but my students missed Spock and since the majority speak English as a second language, they had trouble with all the technobabble in TNG, so after the first semester I dropped the show in favour of an all-TOS curriculum. My students are usually very pleasantly surprised about how a 50+-year-old TV show is still relevant in the 21st century, and they find it both enlightening and very funny. Sometimes I come to class dressed as Captain Kirk or Captain Pike, and that always gets a good laugh. And I am very pleased to report that all this paid off as Star Trek: The Official Magazine published an article about me in their summer 2019 issue.
In June 2019, I created a fictional Star Trek character based on me, Lieutenant-Commander Roger Thompson, a communications officer who served on the Enterprise in the episode “Space Seed”. My character received a letter of commendation from Captain Kirk, as you can see below, as well as a medal from Starfleet Command!
Although I am a Star Trek prof, I am also much more. I sponsor a dog kennel every month at the Toronto Humane Society and am a monthly donor to the Royal Canadian Air Force Association Trust, for example. I have also paid for several women in developing countries to have cataract surgery through the SEVA Foundation, and furthermore I have donated to the United Negro College Fund to assist black students to get the same educational opportunities that I had, plus I have donated to the Peace Corps, and to HeForShe, a UN-sponsored movement to encourage men to support gender equality. I am also a member of the NAACP, America’s oldest civil rights organization. Here is a list of my other major achievements:
- I was selected to be the first foreign professor to teach civic education at Kyung Hee University, which made me the first in Korea as well. By the way, according to the QS World University Rankings, Kyung Hee University outranks more than 95% of the accredited four-year colleges in the US, and the current President of the Republic of Korea is a Kyung Hee graduate to boot. I focused on John F. Kennedy’s patriotic idealism, and I was honoured to receive a letter and gift from JFK’s daughter, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, for doing so. Later I received a “well done” from former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Admiral James Stavridis, for contributing to civic education in Korea. Admiral Stavridis was reportedly considered for the position of running mate for the Democratic presidential candidate in the 2016 election. I have been told by several former students that my class was the top-rated civics class on campus. I taught the class from 2013-2020.
- I have the distinction of being elected as a Fellow of Great Britain’s Royal Society of Arts, which has been around since 1754, and has included such movers and shakers as Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie, Adam Smith, Stephen Hawking, and Peter Ustinov. I have also been elected as a Fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (established in 1823) as of May 28, 2017. And for many years, on and off, depending on my interest in my former discipline of military sociology, I have been a Fellow of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society.
- I was awarded a 24K gold medal from the Chancellor of KHU for 10 years of service and for helping build the Kyung Hee spirit in 2016.
- I was also awarded a medallion from the Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy for accomplishment in naval combat motivation research when I was only in my twenties. In addition, I was commended by the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and the German, Spanish, Australian, Chilean, Canadian and New Zealand chiefs of naval staff. The Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Navy also had my research paper translated into Spanish and published. I also received correspondence from the late Admiral Sir John “Sandy” Woodward, GBE, KCB, RN, the officer who commanded the British Task Force that retook the Falklands, and the #1 New York Times Bestselling author the late Tom Clancy, who both took the time from their hectic schedules to write to me and offer their insights on my combat motivation research. By the way, I liked The Hunt For Red October, which had a character named Roger Thompson, but quickly began to dislike Clancy’s jingoistic non-fiction books on the US military. Even New York Times Bestselling Author and libertarian icon the late William F. Buckley, Jr. sent me a nice note about my work. In addition, I received praise from British, French and Korean senior naval officers, and Dutch, Argentine and South African naval officers also contacted me and asked to see my work. Finally, the CO of Long Beach Naval Station liked my paper so much that he invited me to come to the base decommissioning ceremony.
- My first book Brown Shoes, Black Shoes, and Felt Slippers was endorsed by the youngest four-star admiral in American history, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt. (The first edition I suppose could be considered a monograph as it was abridged by the USN and 65 pages long, but the second edition, published two years later, was unabridged, 150 pages long, and clearly a book.) In any case, Admiral Zumwalt considered it a book, and his portrait once appeared on the cover of Time magazine, back in 1970. Acclaimed author Larry Berman also endorsed my book, and then thanked me for helping him understand both Zumwalt and the USN in his excellent book Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud Zumwalt, Jr. In 1997, my book earned me an invitation to present a paper at the Naval History Symposium at the US Naval Academy, although sadly I couldn’t go. My book was also selected as required reading for grad students in a political science course at MIT in 2005. Even better, the book was praised by the late Admiral Pete Galantin, USN, who said my conclusions deserved serious consideration. The public domain photo by the US Navy below shows Admiral Galantin chatting with President John F. Kennedy during a test firing of a Polaris missile.
- I was declared “The leading scholar in the sociology of naval institutions” and a “most remarkable scholar” by the late Dr. Charles Moskos, former Chairman of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society. Moskos was called “The dean of military sociologists” by The Economist.
- My authorship was praised by novelist Capt. Edward L. Beach, author of the bestseller Run Silent, Run Deep, which became a major motion picture starring screen legend and Academy Award winner, Clark Gable. Beach also commanded the first ship to circumnavigate the world submerged and was the Naval Aide to the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower.
- I had the great honour to receive a letter of appreciation from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, for my research on combat motivation.
- My second book Lessons Not Learned was endorsed by Pierre Sprey, father of the A-10 Warthog aircraft and co-designer of the F-16, and by New York Times Bestselling Author Andrew J. Bacevich. It was also endorsed by acclaimed author Major Donald Vandergriff, whom the late Dr. Charles Moskos called “the most well-known Major in the Army,” and military reformers Colonel Douglas MacGregor, author of Transformation Under Fire, Winslow Wheeler, author of The Wastrels of Defense, Lt. Col. David Evans, former defence correspondent with the Chicago Tribune, Major Richard A. Gabriel, author of Military Incompetence: Why The American Military Doesn’t Win, Commander Kerry Gentry, a former skipper of a ballistic missile submarine and by the internationally known writer Dr. Michael Parenti, author of 18 books. The book is also listed as recommended reading in the monograph Let US Lead Toward Ability to Fight (2011) by Captain Daniel S. Appleton, USN (Ret.). Capt. Appleton was a Pearl Harbor survivor, and served in “a battleship and two cruisers followed by command of a destroyer, an amphibious assault ship, a division of four destroyers, and a squadron of eight destroyers. Assignments involved seven wartime campaigns and fourteen overseas deployments.” He said Lessons Not Learned “Provides compelling evidence against the USN’s preference for big aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines”.
- An article I wrote on the weaknesses of American airpower was endorsed by noted defence analyst Chuck Spinney, who once appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
- I obtained an autographed copy of the late Colonel David Hackworth’s book Brave Men in which the New York Times Bestselling Author thanked me for helping his research staff with his 2002 article “Got to Get Tougher in a Hurry.”
- I also received a letter from Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, the highest ranking military officer in the country, in which the general thanked me for my service in the reserve force and as a civilian researcher at National Defence Headquarters.
- I have been consulted as an expert on the frailty of the US Navy by several media outlets, including Stars & Stripes and Reuters, and I was also honoured to receive a request for my assistance in doing research on the weaknesses of American aircraft carriers by whistle-blowing officer Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, the man whose explosive report on how the senior brass had lied about US military performance in Afghanistan made headlines across the US in 2012. He was the focus of the Rolling Stone magazine article “The Afghanistan Report The Pentagon Doesn’t Want You To Read.” Colonel Davis said my second book was “Eye-opening and disturbing!”
- I was honoured to write the foreword for P. Andrew Karam’s acclaimed book about his days as a nuclear submariner aboard the USS Plunger, Rig Ship for Ultra Quiet.
- I have published articles in The Defense Monitor, Canada’s Navy Annual, Canadian Defence Review, The Defence Associations National Network News, The Conference of Defence Associations Institute Forum, Esprit de Corps, Airforce, The University Life, International Insights: A Dalhousie Journal on International Affairs, and St. George for England. I have also been a peer reviewer myself, for the prestigious military journal Armed Forces and Society.
- Finally, although the following achievement was not earned by me, it was by my most famous ancestor, Captain Fred McCall, a fighter pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and later, the Royal Air Force, in WWI. He was Canada’s fifth highest scoring ace, with 37 confirmed kills to his credit. Author Shirlee Matheson says that McCall held the “highest six day bag” of any WWI ace: 14 kills. On April 25, 1918, he was decorated by His Majesty King George V at Buckingham Palace, and in 1919, the Prince of Wales decorated him in Canada. Below is a painting of Captain McCall, his plane, an Se5A, and the decorations he received. Per Ardua Ad Astra.
Thanks for reading this! Now feel free to read my blog and drop me a line on subspace e-mail if you’re so inclined.