Lessons from Al Book continue to inspire alumni today

Monday, August 22, 2022 - 12:45pm

For alumni who graduated in advertising between the years of 1963 and 1990, there’s one particular professor whose name brings back classroom memories of high expectations, a demand for excellence and maybe just a hint of fear. That professor was Albert C. Book.

Jan Kreushner, 1968 alumna, remembers walking into the first day of class on the fifth floor of Nebraska Hall and seeing a professor who looked unlike any of the professors she had met so far. Book was wearing a three piece suit and puffing on a Sherlock Holmes-esque pipe.

“He was small, very slight and terribly sour looking. When he opened his mouth, he didn’t sound like the other midwestern professors I had met,” Kreushner said. “He was an easterner through and through.”

Book’s New York demeanor was made evident to 1969 alumna Sandy Dose on the first day of her freshman year. She remembers feeling intimidated when she entered Book’s classroom and saw the letters “H O G E P O G E” written on the chalkboard.

“Book was brusque at the very start. We stood there and looked at each other wondering what was going on,” Dose said. “Then he asked us to sit down and he said, ‘Don’t you know, this is a misspelling? This is supposed to say hodgepodge!’”

Book enjoyed sharing his wide vocabulary. It was a common occurrence for his students to head to the library after his class and find a dictionary to look up the words they didn’t understand.

“On my very first day of class with Book, he called himself a curmudgeon,” 1969 alum Glenn Friendt said. “Thereafter, in almost every class he’d use a word most of us had never heard and I believe that was on purpose, to get us to expand our vocabulary.”

He had such a passion for the English language and taught us hayseeds how to use language,” said 1977 graduate Mark Matousek. “He taught us about the richness of language and phrases you can turn that are the creative part of writing.” 

Book would start the first class of the semester talking about his impressive career at Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn New York, where won several Clio awards for his work on DuPont and General Electric commercials. Then he’d launch into his grading policies.

“By the second day of class, usually about 25% of the class had dropped and that’s because on the first day he’d say that he never gives out A’s and that our copy assignments would be docked half a point for any misspelling, typo or grammatical error,” Friendt said. 

“He was a good gardener,” Matousek said. “He weeded out those who wouldn’t make it in the profession.”

Book’s demand for excellence was legendary. Some students who didn’t have Book as a professor were wary of just running into him in the hallway.

“I only had one interaction with him, but I knew he had a no nonsense personality,” 1989 alum Pat Piper said. “He had a distinct personality and reputation and I think he enjoyed playing into that.”

Wayne Moles, who graduated in 1969, still recalls the phrase Book would often repeat:

“Tardiness is tantamount to absence and absence is inexcusable.”

1977 alum Phil Davis will never forget Book’s lesson on the importance of professionalism and accountability. “What Al instilled in me, and sought to instill in us, is that we get to do a lot of great stuff in advertising, but at the same time, what we do has the potential to make an impact.” 

Book’s demand for excellence sometimes overshadowed the other lessons students learned in his classroom. Years later many of his students realized his teaching tactics taught them to hold themselves to a higher standard.

“Al Book was probably the most influential professor that I had at the university and he made the most difference in my professional life,” Moles said. “ But I have to say I didn't like him during the time that I was one of his students.”

He taught us to not settle on your efforts. You can always squeeze more out,” said Matousek.

1975 grad Ed Mickells agreed, He was the best instructor I ever had. I will never forget one advising session when he told me, Mr. Mickells, invest sweat, not ego into your writing. No matter what great masterpiece you think you have created, there will always be a boss, a colleague or a client who will call it absolute dreck. How you respond to that will define your career.’” 

For 1977 alum, Mark Decker, Book prepared him for a job that didn’t even exist yet. Today, Decker is a technical writer– a career that wasn’t around until the 80’s.

“When Book would give us an assignment he’d tell us that he’s not our resource, meaning we need to go do the work to source the information and find out what we need to know,” Decker said. “That’s exactly the type of work I do in my role today.”

1967 alum J. Steve Davis took Book’s class during his first year of college in 1963. To Davis, it was clear Book had a love for the business side of advertising.

“I think he was so taken with what he was doing that it rubbed off on the people he taught,” Davis said. “At the end of the day he cared for the students he taught, he cared enough to be prepared each day of class and to really challenge them.”

Not even Book could be a curmudgeon all the time. According to Mickells, One of the proudest days of my life came when Book handed a piece of radio copy back to me with simply a small letter A at the top and not another red mark on the page.

Book helped 1971 grad Pat Di Natale get his first full-time job at Ayres and Associates. In his 10 years at Ayres and Associates–now Ayres Kahler–they even worked together on a project when Book was hired on as a consultant for one of their clients, First Federal Lincoln. 

“That transition of working with Book as a colleague where he treated me as a professional and not his student made me feel like I had finally arrived,” Di Natale said. “If I was ok in Book’s eyes, then I was probably going to make it out in the advertising world.”

Book retired in 1990 and was named emeritus professor. He died in 2008 at the age of 92. The Albert C. Book Advertising Scholarship Fund was established in 1996 to help meet the financial need of advertising and public relations students who want to pursue a career in advertising.

Professor Albert C. Book
Professor Albert C. Book