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Ad venture

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Photo: Dean Hashimoto, holding the TIAA-CREF ad in which he appears. By Gary Wayne Gilbert

A law professor and physician becomes a familiar face. An interview by Nicole Estvanik

In August 2000, TIAA-CREF, a retirement fund with a
customer base among the academic community, began advertising its services under the tag line "Managing money for people with other things to think about." Among the investors profiled in the long-running campaign have been Albert Einstein, Kurt Vonnegut, and BC law professor Dean Hashimoto. The ad featuring Hashimoto has appeared in more than 50 national magazines, over a dozen major newspapers, and hundreds of college publications.

How did you react when you were asked to be in the ad?
I told my two kids, and we agreed we'd keep it a secret from my wife. Our hope was that she'd open some magazine and just see my face. But the ad team called and said, "The first thing we want to do is look at your wardrobe." I had to bring my wife into it.

What was the photo shoot like?
There wasn't a lot of coaching. They were interested in an "authentic" pose, although they spent a lot of time on a shot of me looking through an opening in the bookshelves. I appreciate the playfulness of the final picture--it pokes fun at my blurry eyes and thick glasses. The appealing thing about these ads is they're about real people.

What sort of attention has the ad brought you?
I got several long, excited voice mail messages from people I barely know. My kids loved it. They're 10 and 12, and a lot of what I do is mysterious to them. They didn't even ask what TIAA-CREF is. They were just thrilled to see my face in an ad.

Prior to this, what was your closest brush with fame?
In 1986, Life magazine did a pictorial about the people who worked on Edwards v. Aguillard, involving a Louisiana statute that required the teaching of creationism alongside evolution. I was the law clerk for Justice William J. Brennan, who wrote the Supreme Court majority opinion overturning the law, so they took a lot of pictures of me.

How did you end up with an MD and a JD?
I always knew I'd be a lawyer. The detour occurred in college, when my advisors suggested I combine a legal career with science and medicine. Being very naïve, I didn't take into account the lengthy apprenticeship periods associated with each degree.

How do you split your time between law and medicine?
Half and half. At BC, I do writing and research, and I teach law courses in which there are significant scientific issues. My medical specialty is occupational and environmental medicine. I spend about a half-day a week seeing patients, but much of my job at the Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's hospitals involves supervision of nurses and other physicians.

TIAA-CREF says its clients have a lot on their minds. These days, what's on your mind?
I gave a talk to the State Supreme Court recently on functional brain scanning. It's a technology that's not quite here yet, but in the next five to 20 years, you're going to have a nearly perfect lie detector. These scans can differentiate between false and true memories, or even love and lust, apparently, because they're stored in different parts of the brain.

Have you got plans to star in more ads?
I'm afraid I'm a one-hit wonder.

Photo: Dean Hashimoto, holding the TIAA-CREF ad in which he appears. By Gary Wayne Gilbert

 

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