Career Decision

7 June 1975

Portions of the scene are still clear in my mind. I had recently been going through the changes of life which present themselves at the end of high school, and was feeling very confused with what I wanted to with "the rest of my life." I went to my father, to ask where he thought I should go for college. He told me I should go to my school' s counselor. I went to my mother and said she didn't care, but that she thought I would get along better at a school which was not "up north."


College in the '60s had been a wild social situation. Riots, demonstrations, sit-ins, had all been common and not very well thought of by conservative intellectuals like my parents. It is no wonder that it leased Mom would like me to stay away from the northern colleges where demonstrations had seemed to be so common during the last five years.


I went to the counselor provided by my high school for these purposes and found she was glad to give me the names of any number of colleges she thought might be valuable to my education and were distinctly conservative. I finally settled on a list of six or seven, wrote them, and received replies that any one of them would be glad to take me into their fold. I decided that my education would be best served by leaving family and friends, "untying the apron strings," and going to a new locale. My choice was Duke University, which I heard was a good solid school with adequate facilities and good faculty. I didn't visit as I thought that a foolish waste of money and I knew of no one else going there. Nevertheless, I made the commitment that I would begin taking classes there at or near the beginning of September 1971.


Soon after being excepted, I received a series of forms which required me to list the courses I would be taking. They sent booklets describing the college requirements and suggested courses for several of the more popular degree programs. I again went to my father and asked his opinion of what sort of requirements I should try to meet.


It might seem strange to some, but I had never given very much thought to I would be doing in college. All through high school I operated on the assumption that I would be going to college. The "academic program" was offered by Holmes High School in Covington, Kentucky and my goal for many years had been simply to make the best grades I could while following the prescribed course. Where choices were allowed, I took the courses that I enjoyed most. Sciences seemed to predominate. History, English, and the languages I shied away from. In retrospect, there is little wonder why I liked the sciences so well. Having 2 parents trained in the medical sciences naturally inclined me to try to emulate them in their love of the precise and the measurable. As I gained competence in sciences I was given praise, an off-lavished reward in my family. No doubt I was told that some people do well in the sciences and others do well in the soft disciplines of language and emotion.


I entered the decision, knowing my competence in the sciences and my in competence in the rest. But what science? The heroes of my scientific world were spread as thinly as the entire scope of science allowed. It was my father to the rescue (with questionable motives) who said that if I didn't know what I wanted to do been beginning by fulfilling pre-medical requirements would leave meet with the widest range of further choices a few years later. Taking the advice, I entered college with the same motives I had for entering the "academic program" in high school: it still allowed me to be interested in everything. I could legitimately not decide and not know what I was going to do with my life.

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