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Last updateMon, 18 Jan 2021 7pm

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New "Trials of the Century" Course Taught by Award-winning Journalist

New Trials Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist, docu­mentary producer, trial at­torney, and author Jack Ford joined the University as an Adjunct Professor this fall to teach his seminar, Trials of the Century, to students in the Honors School.

Ford has been teaching the course periodically for the past 14 years, starting at Yale University and traveling to other esteemed institutions, most recently New York Uni­versity.

“The course came from a series that I did for the To­day Show back when I was covering the O.J. Simpson trial. I was working for NBC News as their chief legal cor­respondent, and people were referring to the O.J. Simpson case as the trial of the centu­ry. I got curious and started to take a look at some other so-called trials of the cen­tury,” Ford said. “I thought at the time if I could ever have enough control over my sched­ule that I could commit to one day a week every week that this would make a really inter­esting college seminar.”

Ford explained that the course looks at 12 differ­ent trials spanning about 100 years. Some of the trials covered in the class include the O.J. Simpson Trial, the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case, and the Rosenberg Espionage Case. “They each have a dif­ferent approach to issues that were important at the time,” he said. “It’s a much broader picture than just looking at the trial itself. The trial is the prism through which we can learn about ourselves during that period of time.”

Award WinningFord continued, “Even though some of these tri­als might be 100 years old, in each of the trials there are still issues that resonate with us today, issues that we’re still struggling with as a nation, as a society, and as a culture. So, even though we’re looking at these instances that took place in the past, they’re teaching us a great deal about who we are today and where we might go in the future.”

Trials of the Century was initially being taught in person, but has underwent intermittent changes due to fluctuations in COVID-19 cases on campus. “I was pleased that we were able to start in person so that I got a sense of who all of the students were. We got to know each other a little bit even though we were all masked, which made for a somewhat bizarre social dynamic. I think when we shifted to remote learning for those couple of weeks, we were able to preserve that sense of intimacy and engagement that was brought to the course,” Ford said.

Sophomore biochemistry student Julian Rebelo is one of the 16 students enrolled in Trials of the Century. “I wanted to take this course because I’ve always had a strong fascination with the true crime genre and wanted to educate myself more about it,” explained Rebelo. “When [the Honors School] announced that this course was coming to Monmouth, it stuck in the back of my mind to take it if it was available despite the fact that it doesn’t really apply to my major. I don’t regret taking it, either. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the course so far and have learned a lot from Professor Ford.”

Ford isn’t new to the Monmouth University community. “I’ve always had a very strong affinity for Monmouth. I was on the board twenty some years ago, I’ve lectured here periodically about different subjects over the years, and I’m a fan of Monmouth sports,” he explained. “When President Leahy became the president, I got to know him and had great respect for him. He and I chatted about the course when he learned I had taught it at Yale, and he asked me what I would think about doing it at Monmouth. I said you know what, I have been teaching at NYU the past couple semesters and for a number of reasons I decided not to do that this fall, so this would be a perfect time to come to Monmouth. So, we set it up with Dean Nancy Mezey at the Honors School and she and I hammered out the details.”

“I know Jack Ford through Monmouth events and knew that he taught this class elsewhere, and I really wanted him to teach it for the Honors School,” said Nancy Mezey, Dean of the Honors School. “He’s been a friend of Monmouth and has been involved with Monmouth for a long time.”

Mezey continued, “When I moved into this position as Dean of the Honors School, we kept up contact and he expressed interest in teaching at Monmouth. He just wanted to make sure that the students that were taking the class were taking it because they were really interested in the subject matter. We both agreed that the Honors School would be a really good place for the course.”

“Having shifted from NYU to Monmouth, I’ve found that teaching the course here has been more enjoyable,” said Ford. “Not to demean the students at NYU or the teaching experience there, but by comparison I’m thoroughly enjoying doing it here at Monmouth. I’ve been so pleased with the quality of the students. I could not be happier about saying I would teach at Monmouth this semester.”

Mezey said that the course sparked the interest of a lot of honors students, but that many did not have room in their schedule since they were still on the 128-credit program. “With the switch to the 120 credits, that opens up quite a bit for us,” she said. “We could pretty easily run this course again and give some students an opportunity to take the class, as long as Professor Ford is willing to teach it and our students maintain interest.”

“We had set it up saying that we would do it for one semester and see how it works for me from my schedule,” said Ford. “I know that I only committed to one semester here, but I would absolutely have the intention of sitting down and talking to President Leahy about the possibility of continuing and perhaps doing it again next fall.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Stephen Lacko

PHOTO COURTESY of Anthony DePrimo

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