Days in the Office, Nights in the Stadium

Seamus P. Malin '62 doesn't really lead a double life. It's just that his two main pastimes tend never to overlap. Consequently, almost none of his buddies in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid have actually heard him announce a soccer game for the New York Cosmos--although they all say, politely, that they've heard he's very good. And among people who know Malin in his capacity as the pro soccer team's official commentator, it's unlikely that more than a few are fully aware of his duties in Harvard admissions or for this year, as acting director of financial aid.

Malin has been assistant dean of admissions and financial aid since 1977--a job that involves traveling to recruit, screening the regions of Washington, D.C. and Southern California for admits, and giving special attention to foreigners. He didn't start working with the Cosmos until 1978, when a bizarre coincidence brought up his name in a New York taxicab conversation between a Lipton tea magnate of his acquaintance and the Cosmos director of television coverage. Since then, the soccer job has been what he calls his "weekend getaway," peaking over the summer with the soccer season and necessitating an intimate relationship with the New York-Boston shuttle flight. But things have become more complicated since he took on the interim post of financial aid director during a year-long search to replace Martha Lyman, who had succeeded him when he was promoted upward from the same post five years ago.

Colleagues in the admissions office--notably L. Fred Jewett '57, who has been dean of admissions and financial aid throughout Malin's tenure as assistant dean--praise his experience, his stint contributing to dorm life as a senior advisor in Grays and then an assistant senior tutor in Lowell House, and his willingness to return to the temporary post he once held. But they look nonplussed when one inquires--timidly, since a negative answer would render the query so bizarre--whether he doesn't also radio-broadcast soccer. Malin himself laughs in a startled manner when the subject is broached. "Well, I don't make a Secret of it. I guess," he says.

And yet his interest in the "weekend getaway" goes back as far as the ones that led him to his more visible career in Harvard's admissions office. As a high school senior in his native Dublin, Malin held down a broadcasting job for "Ireland's only radio station," a strictly amateur interest he expected to let slide. He would have gone on to the University of Dublin that year if his father, a journalist, hadn't unexpectedly landed a job with the Boston Globe. So Malin filed a late application to Harvard ("I know I got in no international distribution" he still says) and began developing the interest in the international student's situation which still unites the apparently incongruous facets of his work.

"It's my great passion in life--the importance of getting an international perspective on people's lives," he says now, adding, "It's frightening how totally ignorant we are, even here at Harvard where the scope is wider." In the admissions office, this passion translates into handling some of the foreign admissions load, chairing the committees that award several prestigious traveling fellowships, and co-authoring with Admissions Director William R. Fitzsimmons '67 and three others this fall's comprehensive report on the experience of foreign students at Harvard. Nationally, he will soon begin chairing a committee on immigrants' children and their adjustment to American public education. On the sports field, the situation is some what more fluid.


Even before he became assistant varsity soccer coach in 1965, a post he held for 10 years. Malin had taken his "interest in soccer to rather extraordinary lengths," studying under German coaches in American and gaining a certification as a soccer coach after classes in Britian. It was while he was coaching soccer at Harvard in '66 that Channel 2 of Boston, which broadcasted college sports events, walked onto the playing field to ask him if he'd like a job.

"I got lucky," shrugs Malin, and he repeats it about the New York taxicab incident which finally landed him the Cosmos job. The explanations he offers for his luck are uniformly sketchy people needed a good voice knowledge able about soccer, foreign sportscasters like the absence of all but a trace of an Irish brogue, and one thing led to another.

The example Malin likes to use for the way "everything keeps intertwining" is the month's leave of absence he took from admissions last fall. For the first few weeks he was in Australia announcing the Junior World Soccer Cup for 19-years-olds and under. Returning to the States, he had just enough time to catch his breath before leaving for Germany as one of nine educators invited by the German government to conduct a seminar on educational and admission problems. And while he was there, he adds almost gleefully, he found time to take a trip to Frankfurt to visit a friend, a soccer player he'd met while covering a game. Such travel and unexpected variety, he maintains, are his favorite aspects variety, he maintains, are his favorite aspects of both worlds.

"I love what I do. I'm confident in may abilities, but it's not my life," he says of sports announcing, adding. "If the league has a bad year, it could all end tomorrow." "Instead, it gives what he calls a "nice dimension" to make visits to "another world equally as unreal as Harvard."

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The officer of the director of financial aid, which is decorated with only a few modest soccer-related pictures and a large portrait photo of Malin's predecessor, has changed a good deal since the last time Malin sat there, five years ago. The "threat of impeding bureaucracy" that was one of his strong incentives to get out of the job in 1977 now is in full flood.

Operations are far more businesslike, with federally mandated interviews for every student taking out a first loan or leaving school with a loan unpaid; with the responsibility of "validating" all of students' family need information for the federal government by checking tax forms; with more directives every day from the Office of Education, which five years ago almost never interfered in an individual college's life; and, most significant, with the institution of a system of monetary penalties for lateness.

The practice of tacking monetary penalties onto financial aid students--up to $400 can be transferred from grant to self-help funds--has predictably drawn criticism, and Malin acts partly apologetic, partly defensive about the innovation. Though "we would never have dreamed" of charging penalties during his tenure, the new system has reduced later registration "vastly." down as much as 50 from a previous 100 and a ripple effect bon of the knowledge that "we've started cracking the whip" is expected to have even greater psychological influence "by the time we get the senior class out of here." Malin says--and apologizes quickly for the wording.

A far larger difference in operations, of course, is the amount of money up for distributions. Be sides the new complications of needs tests for Guaranteed Student Loans (GSLS), which must be explained over and over throughout the year, there is the constant uncertainly over how much of each of Harvard's overlapping and interlocking programs will survive each week of conflicting predictions. "We talk about it in staff meetings, says Malin, "but it's difficult, actually downright Quixotic, for even the most devoted followers to keep up with what's happening."

One development, at least, has given Malin a surprise different from most people's--if the handwriting on the wall in '76 had proved true, he maintains, the GSL program would be gone by now. "We all thought it would prove far too expensive," he says, and was "amazed" when, instead of cutting back already sprawling eligibilities, the Carter Administration expanded the program to make all students eligible regardless of income.