College

When I was 16, well into my senior year of high school, I went to see my guidance counselor – Floyd Hillman.  Mr. Hillman told me (the words are etched in my brain) “I think I can get you a job as an assistant plumber.”  I sat.  And wanted to cry.  An honorable profession.  But I didn’t want to be an assistant plumber.  I left his office.  Sad about my impending future.  But some of my friends talked about “college.”  College sounded pretty good. 

My father never finished high school and my mother never went to college.  So we never talked much about college at home.  I would finish high school and then go to work.  Even so, I mentioned “college” to my father.  “College?” he said.  “The only guy I know who went to college is Bill Swanson.”  He looked at me.  “You wanna talk to him??”  I nodded.

So we went to see Mr. Swanson.  He said “I went to Augustana College.  Maybe I could get you an interview.”  My dad said “you want that?” and I nodded. . . . not entirely sure what that meant.  My parents and I drove out to Rock Island, Illinois — home of Augustana College — and I had an interview with Mr. Henning, the Director of Admissions.  It was April or May — around the time of high school graduation.  Mr. Henning said that the class was full.  And my grades were not great.  But he liked that I was an Eagle Scout.  He had a couple of discretionary spots.  So he offered to admit me on academic probation.  If I didn’t have a “C” average first semester, I was out.  So I signed on.  A few months later, I was in college.  My first semester – of 6 courses, I had 5 “C’s” and one “B” (in swimming).  I was in.  The second youngest freshman in my class (I’d skipped 2d grade).

This fall, I will have my 50th reunion.   I owe Augustana College for taking a flyer on a just turned 17 year old kid with mediocre grades.  I was given a chance.   It will be good to be back.  See old friends.  My fraternity brothers.  And visit. . . my college.           

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