John Locke, an assistant professor of strategic communication, is rarely seen around campus without a cockatiel on his shoulder. An accomplished cartoonist, Locke is involved with the Rochester Committee on Latin America and the Venezuelan Solidarity Network, attempting to end the embargo and travel ban with Cuba. Contributing Writer Cecelia Johnson spoke with Locke about his enthusiasm for teaching and his love for birds.
Cecelia Johnson: Are you related to the historical John Locke?
John Locke: Sort of. We traced it back to the captain John Locke who brought a ship over to New Hampshire around the 1600s, but John Locke, the philosopher, never had any kids.
CJ: How do you like your job?
JL: I’m convinced this is my life calling. I’ve always been an art director. I’ve always done artwork on some level for my whole career. I enjoy it, but I never ever had the feeling of fulfillment until I started working with students. I wasn’t certain [teaching] was going to click for me, but I love it. [The students are] so bright and enthusiastic and yet there’s a sense of idealism and optimism in [them] that’s just infectious. … It’s a great feeling.
CJ: Do you have any specific goals you’d like to accomplish here?
JL: The [integrated marketing communications major] has an extremely well-developed program, and I can build on what has already been established as far as the creative classes. That’s my specialty, and I’d like to expand the creative classes. … Instead of having one class for art direction and copy writing, I’d like to have a one-semester class for copy writing and another one for art direction.
CJ: What is your bird’s name?
JL: Groucho, after Groucho Marx.
CJ: Why do you keep him on your shoulder all the time?
JL: When I went to work, I’d leave him in his cage all day. I’d get home around 6, 7, 8 at night. He’d get all excited and dance around on top of his cage. I played the radio for him all day, but I thought, What a miserable life. He’s just sitting in his little room all day long with nothing to do. So I started carrying him on my shoulder and he got really attached. When I started here, I would just bring him in here on my office hour days.
CJ: Where else do you bring him?
JL: It depends on the time of year. If it’s cold, he’ll fall asleep under my jacket, so I can go grocery shopping or whatever. I can’t bring him into restaurants, but grocery stores don’t really care.
CJ: Is he potty trained?
JL: No. Another reason why I got him and not a big parrot is because it’s more manageable and my daughter made me a bunch of [spit up rags].
CJ: Does anyone ever think that you’re a pirate?
JL: Yeah, I get that sometimes, between the earring and [the bird].
CJ: What do you say to them?
JL: “Yeah, OK, I’m a pirate.” … I get a lot of people who see me from a distance and say, “Oh, is it real?” I say, “Of course it’s real. It’d be really weird to have a fake bird on my shoulder.”