SOME academics go through their student's thesis with a fine-toothed comb.
No grammatical, factual or typographical mistakes escape their laser eyes. Such perfectionist traits are also found in the high finance world.
Niall Ferguson in his latest book High Financier -- The Lives And Time Of Siegmund Warburg describes such a character.
He was the epitome of obsessive perfectionism. As pointed out by the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus, to Warburg a misplaced apostrophe was worse than the bombing of Shanghai by the Japanese.
For some academics, punctuality is not their virtue.
In this regard, Warburg had his own peculiar way of keeping appointments. According to Ferguson, Warburg was rarely late for an appointment, unless he was trying to make a point of some less than wholly welcome visitor in his place, and he was seldom early; he believed that arriving more than a minute before a meeting was due to start gave the impression that you didn't have enough to do.
This reminds me of a former colleague (now vice chancellor of a public university), who burst open a door in the midst of an important meeting at the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN) two decades ago, startling everyone. Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Zawawi Ismail, now chairman of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's board of directors, was heard saying "what a grand entrance".
Some generous professors do pay from their own pocket for their students to present conference papers overseas.
Some even take their students along. This was also the style and practice of Warburg.
He liked to take his protégé with him on foreign trips, so that he could be introduced to important overseas clients and further schooled in the so-called haute banque arts.
The students were brought along for overseas experience and exposure. The protégés were brought along for future business networking.
At the end of a long day, when an academic clocks out, his students know he has left the office.
At Warburg's, the employees were asked to order two jackets from their tailor, so that one could be permanently draped over the back of their chair at work, suggesting that they had just stepped out, rather than gone home.