At Drexel University, there are two Curtis Halls: one is a person, and the other is a building. The building houses engineering departments and administrative offices. The person is an associate accounting professor in the LeBow College of Business.
Curtis Hall, PhD, has been at Drexel since 2013. The other Curtis Hall has been on campus since 1928, after famed newspaper publisher and Drexel trustee Cyrus H. K. Curtis donated funds to build the space (as detailed in a recent DrexelNow article about the names behind Drexel buildings).
In this Q&A, Hall discussed the funny coincidence and asked what the reaction has been to finding another “Curtis Hall” — which he’s actually never been inside of!
Q: So ... what is it like sharing a name with a Drexel building? Is it annoying? Something that’s just funny? An interesting ice breaker?
A: I guess it’s a little of all three. It’s really just a funny thing. Occasionally a student will bring it up and we’ll all have a laugh. Once an undergraduate student asked and I made it sound like it really was named after my family. For many reasons, that doesn’t make sense, but I think I had them going for a bit.
Q: How did you first learn about sharing the name with Curtis Hall? Do you remember what your reaction was?
A: I think the first time it came up for me was when I was trying to give someone my office number and I didn’t know it, so I googled “Curtis Hall Drexel.” At the time the building and related links came up first, so I was a little annoyed it took a few seconds longer to look up my phone number. Still, at the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal. My wife and I are classical music fans and so we were already familiar with the Curtis Institute of Music and the Curtis family. Just thought it was cool they had a building here.
Q: Have you ever taught in Curtis Hall, or gone to visit it?
A: I’ve never taught there, and interestingly enough, I’ve actually never been inside. However, it is a point of interest for family members who come and visit. I always show them the outside and we like to take a picture of it.
Curtis Hall with his niece outside of Curtis Hall. Photo courtesy Curtis Hall.
Q: Can you give examples of the ways people have confused you or connected you to the building? It’s funny, when I was googling “Curtis Hall Drexel,” your page on the LeBow website came up first.
A: I think it’s funny that you mention that. When I found out about the building, I jokingly said to myself that my goal was to be the first link that comes up when you google “Curtis Hall Drexel.” So, I figure I must be doing something right if that’s now the case.
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a call from someone looking for the building and then calling me. However, I do get a bunch of random telemarketers, so who knows if that’s the confusion there.
I do get a lot of people looking for me and then confusing it with the building. One time I was trying to call a colleague in another department, and he didn’t pick up because he thought he was getting a call from someone in that building, and he said he didn’t know anyone from there.
Another time, we were interviewing someone for a faculty position, and he said he tried to google me so he would be able to discuss my research, and the first link was the building. We had a good laugh about it.
Q: How often would you say that the shared name thing comes up?
A: It probably used to come up once a term, but now that I’ve been here a while, I think it’s much less.
Cyrus H. K. Curtis in 1921, seven years before the Curtis Hall building was opened. Photo courtesy the Library of Congress.
Q: So with “Hall” as your last name … is this kind of a common problem in your family?
A: It actually isn’t as far as I know. I think calling a building “XYZ” Hall is really something that happens in universities more than anywhere else. Since I’m the first person in my family (that I can think of) to work in academia, I guess there were not as many chances for that to come up with other members of my family.
Q: Can you name some of the classes that you teach? Do you have an area of research/expertise that you specialize in?
A: I mainly teach and research managerial accounting. I have basically taught this subject for every type of student that you could imagine at LeBow: undergraduate, MBA, executive education, MS Accounting. My research examines many areas related to managerial accounting, but one of my major interests is examining how the need to meet certain financial reporting goals affects managers’ behavior. For example, one of my studies documents that firms may cut labor to avoid missing earnings targets. This is important because this type of behavior may be shortsighted. Cutting employees may save money in the short run, but firms may need to hire employees again when their operations recover. This may actually cost more in the long run.
Q: Is there anything else you wanted to bring up?
A: People, including me, always seem to have a good laugh about how my name is the same as the building. However, I’m glad my name comes up first when you google it, and this is not just for my ego. At the end of the day, universities and higher education are about people and the sharing of ideas, rather than places on a map.