Henry Cornwall, a senior art historian, is acting president of Mead College in western Massachusetts. Unfortunately, he is passed over for the presidency in favor of an aggressive younger woman. Henry expects that he will return to his department to spend his last active years before his eventual retirement. But to his surprise, he is contacted by Professor Soo-lin Lee, head of a search committee at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York City. She asks if he would be interested in becoming director of a new program to train non-traditional and minority students for careers in the commercial art world. Henry is excited by the prospect, and his wife Caroline encourages him to pursue it. He is invited to take the job, but Caroline refuses to move to the dangerous neighborhood in New York where Henry decides he must live to be credible to students. When he becomes romantically involved with Soo-lin, his marriage comes under severe pressure. The new program encounters faculty resistance and the hostility of a new director of the institute. Nothing is going according to plan, but Henry persists against heavy odds. Meanwhile, Henry’s niece Simone, a graduate student at Columbia, has become pregnant and the father is behaving strangely. Henry and Caroline confer with Simone’s parents in France, and Simone’s friend Rachel Harper steps in to help as Simone’s due date approaches. Henry then goes to Paris to help manage a crisis in the health of his older brother. Yet ultimately, issues regarding his job and his intimate relationships must be resolved before he can arrive at a significant conclusion regarding his future career.