Sabbaticals and Publications

Over his 41 years as an educator, Dr. Palmer went on a number of trips to various places.


Only a year after he arrived at Davidson, Dr. Palmer went on a trip with fellow faculty members to India.  It was not a sabbatical, but it was an exciting trip nonetheless.

“1971 – it was the first year after I’d gotten here.”

“We were there for 8 weeks.”

Visiting such a different country was very eye-opening for Dr. Palmer.  A number of cultural differences especially struck him.

“That was really very informative, and in a lot of ways, very shocking, because we were coming into a setting that was very, very different from anything we’d ever experienced.”

“The thing that hit me about India was… it didn’t have any particular system to it, it didn’t seem.  I mean traffic – you could have goats and sheep and all kinds of herds of something going across the road.  And you’d have people with pushcarts… you could have motor scooters.  It was just kind of pandemonium.”

“Another thing that struck me about it… would be the contrasts.  And one thing that I saw was the people dying, living and dying in the drainpipes outside the… hotel where people were living lavishly.”

Here is Dr. Palmer discussing the biggest shock of the trip:

As a bonus to the trip, the group got to stop at a few different places as well.

“We saw different cultures along the way – we began in Istanbul, and then we went to Beirut.  And it was such a beautiful place back then.  It was just idyliic.  And then it got all decimated… I hated to hear about that.”

“And we went to Nepal as well on the way out for a week.”

Dr. Palmer will admit that there were drawbacks to going on the trip, especially since they had just settled in Davidson.  It was, however, a trip he valued.

“It wasn’t the optimal time to go. It was a time when Jennifer was coming along.  In retrospect, I probably should have been here.  But it was a tremendous experience.”



For his first sabbatical, Dr. Palmer decided to pursue research related to children’s television.  His inspiration was his family.

“The first sabbatical Was 1977, and I realized that Eddie, who was then maybe 5 years old – something was happening when he watched television.  And I thought, man there is something going on here, I need to learn more about it because it’s in my field.  And so I decided to go to the Center for Research in Children’s Television at Harvard and spend a sabbatical there learning about this area.  And the head of that research center was kind enough to invite me.”

“What I discovered was that the field was very fractionated… so I decided that it would be important to develop a work that would bring all these [ideas] together.”

As one might expect, the process of creating and publishing a book can be very difficult.  Eventually, however, Dr. Palmer and his colleague Aimée Dorr finished the work, titled Children and the Faces of Television.

“It’s a tough job.  The head of the center there said that kind of project is a hellacious job.”

“That was the first publication that I had.  It was well received.”

Here’s Dr. Palmer on the process of publication:

Looking back, Dr. Palmer draws inspiration from some of the difficulties that he faced in going to a new place on his own.  Here he is telling the story of his arrival:



Rather than taking a bus, Dr. Palmer opted to drive cross-country for his second sabbatical, which became somewhat of an adventure.

“The second one was 1984 and that was UCLA.”

“It was kind of a neat drive.”

Here is Dr. Palmer on the drive:

“The Chevy did just fine.”

“On the way, I did the canyon.  I pulled into the Grand Canyon at about 9:30 or 10:00 at night.”

Here is Dr. Palmer on his stop at the Grand Canyon:

During his time at UCLA, Dr. Palmer again worked on a book about television and children.  This one was titled Children in the Cradle of Television.

“That one I wrote.  My goal on that one was to find out what the process was by which an idea for a children’s program became an actual children’s program on the air, and to do that… I was interviewing the vice presidents… broadcast standards… producers, and that gave me the picture of what went on and how it sort of came together.  So I wrote that book.”

“Basically, the planning gets lost on the shelf, and the hot property [i.e., available celebrity or star] gets on the air.”

“I wanted to find out things like their backgrounds – did anybody have a childhood development background?  Did they have an educational background?  And basically the answer was no.”

The first book written by Dr. Palmer; courtesy of Ed Palmer

“It’s not now in print.  And they gave me the rights to it.  I may think about doing something with it again.”


Other Sabbaticals:

Dr. Palmer took three subsequent Sabbaticals.  The first was to Chapel Hill, the second to Exeter in the United Kingdom, and the third to Alabama.  Though he didn’t talk much about his time at UNC, it was during that trip that he received the Watson professorship.

“In 1999 I went to the UK.”

“In the UK I worked with somebody that I had not met before… what we did was to basically redo that book we had done at Harvard.  This was a different author.”

“It was well received.  It took a lot of work too, but it was well received.”

Outside of academia, Exeter was a place that he could enjoy, both for its location and its people.

“I enjoyed my time in the UK.”

“The University of Exeter –[it was] beautiful on the south coast”

“I looked for a church, because I figured I could sing in a choir.  And that would allow me to get to know townspeople rather than just being in the university setting.  And that happened in Exeter.”

“One of the families might invite me to their home for dinner.  It was fun.  They were very kind.”

The last sabbatical before his retirement was at the University of Alabama.

“That was great, because there was actually a student here [Davidson - his name was Jennings Bryant], who is very well known in the television field, a history major.  And he had developed a strong communications department there.  So, he invited me down.”

“The person that invited me down there – his name was Jennings Bryant… he’s a great guy.”

Again, the work that Dr. Palmer did there was successful.

“It was a pretty well-referenced kind of work.”


On His Publications:

Dr. Palmer published many more works than those mentioned here, continuing his research on television.  In addition to his scholarly works on that topic, he also wrote a number of editions of a GRE preparation guide published by Barron’s Education Books.  When asked about how much he had ultimately published, Dr. Palmer exhibited typical humility.

“I’m not a big counter of what I’ve done.”


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