Friday, October 21, 2016

Flashback Friday - Iliff Part 1

After college graduation at Iowa Wesleyan,  Marj approached me and said that parental support would be there if I wanted to continue in my studies.  I gave it some thought and weighed the pros and cons of continuing.  Flush from graduating with honors I guess, given the opportunity, I decided to continue.  I really enjoyed the classroom experience; learning was something cool to me and I liked the field of philosophy/theology.  The endless ideas intrigued me and ultimately felt I wasn't finished with that world.  Given the support from the folks and my willingness to commit to two more years I chose a small grad school on the grounds of the University of Denver.  It was called Iliff and I enrolled in classes that would lead to a Masters of Arts in Theology.  

My 2 years in Denver at graduate school was notable for a few reasons.  It was the first time I had ever done something on my own - school up to this time was always done in the shadow of older bro, Phil, and side-shadow twin.  Even entry in the college fraternity was with the Wombie.  Everything, and I mean everything, for the first time, was up to me.  After a summer working with Ed on the farm I packed my bags in my blue VW and headed out to a great unknown.  The first night out I stayed in Kearney, Nebraska mostly because there was a Phi Delt chapter there.  I thought I might stop by and see another chapter other than my own.  In college a few frat bros and myself went to Jacksonville once to a Phi Delt Summer Conference.  I was still very much in the old college bubble.  I remember stopping but I don't recall any events of that night.  

Once I saw the mountains for the first I was amazed.  They sure as hell don't have those in Seaton or Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.  I pulled out a map and found a small faint road going into town that surely would keep me away from all the city traffic.  Ore-Garmin days you took your chances.  That faint little road turned into the major Interstate that winds through the city.  Okay, that didn't work out, did it?  

I found the school at the corner of East Iliff Avenue and South University Boulevard.  I arrived and had about 4 days worth of orientation ahead of me. It was a horrible touchy-feely experience where we were all encouraged to...gulp...share.  I recall one session starting with Cat Steven's Morning Has Broken coupled with some other inane exercise and just about bolted at that, but since I had nowhere else to go, I rightly decided to stick around a little while longer.  Thankfully orientations eventually end.   And, thankfully, classes begin.  

Once we got the sappy opening few days out of the way, I was given an advisor, Dr. Jean Miller Schmidt.  She was a pioneer of sorts for the school.  In the stuffy old academic halls populated mostly by males, she was the first female professor of that school. Beautiful, with dark black hair, she was an alluring figure but tough as nails.  She would be the one to oversee my thesis and eventually approve it for submittal, and there were times I became a bit frustrated and probably pissed off when I would hand in the latest revision and have it back in hand for more.  

I was a bit of an oddball in my class in that I was not a theologian or looking for a ministerial career.  I was concentrated specifically in the philosophy side of things so I was the only one in my group of friends or acquaintances that was in a whole different program.  

This is David, a hairy hippy type.  Nice guy, quiet and liked to toke up every so often.  More buddies I hung out with were the Calhoun Boys, siblings from Alabama who were attending together.  Eddie Valverde was my closest buddy and I have written about him before.  More on him in subsequent posts. There was Jan,  Jennie, some guy I've forgotten his name who was obsessed with Elvis Presley.  I thought he was going to die of laughter when I told him the joke "What's green and sings?"  Elvis Parsley.  There was my Filipino friend who was a freshman at the University of Denver.  Maybe more on her later but maybe the less said the better.  Like the old saying goes, "Not everyone reads aloud every chapter of their life."

This is where I went to classes.  For the most part they were fun and challenging.  Small class sizes prevented me from melding into the background but the academic windbags generally liked to hear themselves talk so I don't recall too much stress.  

And of course, Colorado itself was very pretty and on weekends we hit the road.  Mostly Jan and I would go places which I'll talk more on later.  Sometimes we'd have a car load.  Colorado Springs, Sheridan, Pikes Peak, a meadow with cold Coors and cheese tray, the infamous Colfax Avenue and other places.  First time on my own a long way from home.  I pretty much did the solid Midwestern work-ethic thing:  I graduated the next year, didn't skip classes, took my studies seriously, missed home, and more importantly, somewhere in those couple years gained the confidence necessary to navigate life.  

So there you have it - I'll be doing Iliff off-and-on the next few   Fridays.  

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