Connections – Episode 17

Jodie began to think of her professor as the patron saint of lost causes. So many of the memory entries were from students that others had given up on. This was one of those.

My acceptance was denied twice by the Dean of the College of Engineering but on my third try the Dean agreed to accept me if I found a Department Head willing to take a chance on a probation period. You were that person willing to take a chance on me. I was 30 years old, married with a child, my SAT score was low, and the college dean felt I would be a risk, taking a spot of another student.

College wasn’t easy for me, but you were supportive through it all. As you did with so many other students with special situations, you took me under your wing and treated me as part of the program family. You took the time to know your students’ background and understand the burdens of students like me. You knew that my wife and daughter lived two hours from campus. You understood I never used a computer and rarely used anything more than the simplest calculator. The one thing you did see in me was the strong desire to succeed. You would connect students with others you felt could help each other develop. You also allowed a student to experience failure as part of their development.

In my senior year, you gave me a project working with a company in my hometown. You apologized to me saying the project didn’t offer much of a chance to win the senior design award but it would allow me a chance to go home and be with my wife and daughter. The one thing you didn’t expect was the results of the effort with my project. That year I won the Senior Design Award. You said I not only won the award but said no one else even came close.

When I graduated, I became a civilian engineer with the U.S. Navy. I had the opportunity to use what you taught me on many of the nation’s military technologies. Late in my career, the Navy asked me to oversee the development of the new Presidential helicopter, Marine One. The Navy’s top four engineers were asked to lead this effort. I’m proud to say that I was one of the four selected. They saw in me what you had seen many years before.

Prior to my retirement, I was given the highest award that a civilian can receive in support of our nation’s military. For that, I am ever grateful that you took a chance on me.

Richard – Class of 1990

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