The Story of Clinton Rossiter – by Julia Petricevic


While rummaging through the Enquiry Desk Collection I came across what I regarded to be a hilarious antiquity: a small, slim book called The American Presidency by Clinton Rossiter, first published in 1956. A blurb declared the illustrious position to be “the world’s biggest job!” The pages yellowed, the cover tatty, a faded price tag reveals it was originally bought for ten cents. It was last borrowed in 1996.

What was this book doing in the overnight loan only collection? It seemed hideously outdated, the tone far too idealistic to be objective, and the historical facts in dire need of updating. Not suitable for the precise information needs of the VCE students.

I removed the book from the collection, but there was something about it that made me hold onto it. The adoring tone captured a glimpse into another time and place, a different set of ideals, and it made me curious to discover more about it.

During the 1950s and 1960s Clinton Rossiter was the Senior Professor of American Institutions at Cornell University (in the state of New York), and was a highly regarded educator on American political history. Rossiter served in the US Naval Reserves during World War II, as a gunner in the Pacific theatre. He began teaching at Cornell from 1947, made full professor in eight years, and was acknowledged as an important academic and engaging teacher.

Sadly, Rossiter committed suicide in 1970 at the age of 52. He suffered from dehabilitating depression throughout his life, and at the time of his death was particularly upset by stance of the university in regards to racial conflicts. He was shunned by some of his colleagues for urging understanding of the plights of the African American students facing discrimination.

His books on American politics continue to be used in educational intuitions, with some revisions and amendments. They are valued for their interpretive analysis of American history, and admired for his optimistic and inspirational tone.

What do you think – does The American Presidency have educational value in our collection?

This investigative experience has reminded me of the truth behind the old adage, to not judge a book by its cover. Additionally Rossiter’s compelling story made me think of a book I read recently, Stoner by John Williams. The story is about the life of farm boy turned academic professor in 1940s American, and ruminates upon a life of decisions made and not made. The prose immediately sets you at ease in knowing you are in the hands of a masterful writer. Simply perfect.

Julia Petricevic has recently started working at Melbourne High School as a casual teacher-librarian.

References and extra reading:

Holbo, John (2012). Who remembers Clinton Rossiter? Out of the crooked timber humanity, no straight thing was ever made. Retrieved from:

Crawford, Franklin (2007). A beloved professor to be remember with Clinton Rossiter Professorship. Cornell Chronicle. Retrieved from:

The American Presidency Kirkus Review (n.d.) Kirkus Review. Retrieved from:

Mayer, A.J. (1970). The tragedy of Clinton Rossiter. The Cornell Daily Sun 87 (7). Retreived from:——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——

Clinton Rossiter. (2014, May 30). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:33, August 7, 2014, from



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s