Walking into Professor Brock Millman's office can feel like walking into a library, with books stacked to the ceilings spanning multiple subjects. But once you understand Professor Brock Millman’s love for reading, it all makes sense.
Brock is a history professor at Western. Raised in Windsor, he attended Huron University College as an undergraduate student. At Huron he pursued a double honours degree in history and English. It was here, he started his military career. At the age of 17, Brock entered the Army Reserve program offered here at Western, known at the time as the Fourth Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, which allowed him to travel around Canada for program training.
“The saying is that change is as good as a holiday, so I would go away doing something very different and, in a way, I would arrive back at school refreshed,” Brock said.
Brock’s travels and education didn’t stop there. He pursued Islamic studies for his masters and received his MA from the School of Oriental and African studies in the United Kingdom. After that, he attended McGill and completed his doctoral degree, writing his dissertation on Anglo-Turkish relations from 1934 to 1940.
For the next nine years, Brock travelled across Canada as he pursued teaching jobs at various institutions.
“People who become graduate students often forget. They always complain, ‘I’m so poor, it’s so awful,’ and you want to remind them ‘Wait until you graduate — It’s much, much worse,’” Brock says jokingly.
Between the ages of 17 to 27, Brock moved 17 times. He has spent time in Montreal, British Columbia and London, England - just to name a few places. He noted that moving wasn’t so bad as he just owned some basics and books.
“I moved myself in a car. I didn’t own any furniture. I owned some clothes, I owned some army junk, I owned some books. I could box them and put them in my old Impala and I could go. It was full, but I could go,” Brock said.
Between teaching sessionally, Brock still served in the Army Reserve. In 2010, he was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. This would be the longest duration he would spend overseas serving for the Canadian military.
As a professor teaching military history, Brock contributes a degree of hands-on experience to his field of study.
“Certainly it was good, let’s call it professional development. But I don’t think participation in war is — it’s something that can be glamourized," Brock says. "I think most people who went to Afghanistan, I’m sure most Americans who went to Iraq, I’m sure most people who were combatants in the second and first world war, if you ask them, ‘Would you do it again?’ if they’re being honest the answer would be, ‘Absolutely not. In fact, I’m sorry I did it the first time.”
Brock was offered a full-time position at Western in 2001. Shortly after arriving, he and colleague Andrew Johnston began the new international relations program. However, the year after it was implemented, Johnston moved to Carleton, leaving Brock to take the reins. Brock is now the director of the program.
He claims to enjoy being static now, considering that his collection of books has grown considerably since his time travelling as a young man.
“As you become older and accumulate stuff, particularly books, moving becomes much less fun,” says Brock.
He gives some advice to his Western students:
“That anxiety, let it go. It’s not that important. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, but just remember that there’s a lot of life ahead of [you] and there isn’t anything that [you] can really do at 18 or 19 years old that’s going to represent a total disaster — except for treason,” he joked.
Today, Brock lives in St. Thomas with his chocolate lab Alice, his partner Dana and her two dogs. If you ever visit Brock in his book-filled office, you may even be lucky enough to stumble upon Alice, his partner-in-crime.