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.           

For Want of a Nail. . . . .

(A repeat from December 3, 2015)

If there was a pivotal moment in my life, it was becoming an Eagle Scout. I owe a lot to that boyhood achievement: going to college; going to law school; getting a job; meeting my wife; having a daughter and grandchildren; and knowing how to deal with different “situations.”

The sine qua non for my acceptance to Augustana College was that I was an Eagle Scout (see post of 10/13/13). It sure wasn’t because I was a scholar. At Augustana, I chatted with a couple of pals who talked about law school. Soooo, I went to law school. At Augustana, I met Diane — who a year after my graduation introduced me to Donna (“Scott I have a girlfriend from New York I think you should meet“). And because of Donna, we have Lauren and her family. When I interviewed to be a State’s Attorney, the first 15 minutes of conversation was about Boy Scouts (I’d put “Eagle Scout” on my resume). And I was offered the job.

Being an Eagle Scout taught a lot – including first aid (see 10/21/11 and 10/31/15). That knowledge has saved the day on more than a few occasions. An Eagle trajectory got me a job at age 14 (for three summers) on staff at Camp Napowan — a Scout camp in Wild Rose, Wisconsin. That experience provided a major education and provided friends I have to this day.

All in all, I’d have to say that being an Eagle Scout was the “nail” (Poor Richard’s Almanac 1758) that made all the difference in the world for yours truly. And you know what? That achievement has made – and will continue to make — all the difference in the world for a universe of young men.

Semper Paratus

As a Boy Scout (I am an Eagle Scout), I learned to live by the Scout motto “Be Prepared.”  I should’ve taken that motto more to heart when I went off to college. . . .

The first week of my freshman year — I was in a beginning political science course with the dour and very serious Dr. Erickson.   Dr. Erickson had assigned the class to review something-or-other for the next class.   However, given the newfound freedom of being away from home for the first time at the age of 17 (I had skipped a grade), and given the wide world of temptations that lurked, I walked into class that day without having read a word of our assigned project. 

Dr. Erickson droned on – and on – walking back and forth – as I stared out the window on a warm September afternoon.  Pondering my freedom and possible exploitation of it.  Suddenly I was distracted when I heard my name.  “Mister Petersen” he said.  “Please explain [yadda yadda].”   I hadn’t a clue.  So I spoke up easily “I’m not prepared” and I went back to looking out the window.

Mister Petersen . . . . stand up.”  Huhh??  “Stand up Mister Petersen.”   I stood.  “Soooo. . . .you’re not prepared.  You’re not prepared today.  So you probably won’t be prepared tomorrow.  Or next week.  Or perhaps ever.”  Sweat began dripping down my neck . . . . “I feel sorry for you Mister Petersen.  You might try . . . at least try . . . to be prepared.”  

Lesson learned.  From that day on, I was prepared.  Oh and Dr. Erickson?  He became my mentor and faculty advisor.  Poly sci was my major.   Semper paratus. . . . .  

First Aid

One of the best courses I ever took in college was a year-long (two semester) course in first aid.*  We started with the American Red Cross beginning course, moved on to the intermediate course, then moved into advanced.  We concluded the second semester with the Civil Defense Emergency Responder course which included clear instruction on a wide variety of serious emergency medical situations. 

When I signed up for the course I thought “I’m an Eagle Scout.  This will be a snap.”  Truth be told – it wasn’t as easy as I thought.  My point is that it is of great value — and could save a life — knowing how to deal with medical emergencies.  You will learn that the first response to any emergency is to call “911” or call your medical professional.   But when that’s not possible or help is delayed, know CPR.  Know the Heimlich Maneuver.  Know how to quickly respond to bleeding, pain, fever, and trauma.  Know the basics.  And perhaps know a little more.  All it takes is that one day – that one moment – when everyone stands around.  And you answer the call.      

*My best high school course was typing.