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Looking at the paper

Looking at the paper. The young man peruses the want ads while his mother beams.


3. Into the Work Force

Just because you have a degree in music does not mean that there is any money in it. So direct from the University of Alabama I went off to graduate school in Memphis and studied Greek.

When I finished, I discovered that there was not exactly a lot of money in Greek, either. So for the next two years I worked as a campus minister at the University of North Alabama and as director of Christian education at a local church. Both of these positions were ephemeral. The joke you crack to help you get through the dismissals is that anyway, you knew something was up when they put your name on your office door on a blackboard with an eraser hanging by it.

The next job stuck. Here is how it came about.

When I was in campus ministry, one of the guys I hung out with was a staff psychologist at the university. When a new private college was getting started in town, someone came to this friend of mine and asked him if he would teach a course in philosophy. He said something like this: “Well, no. My field is psychology—Oh, don’t think twice about it. Lots of people get it mixed up. Both start with p and end with that ology kind of thing. No, I can’t teach philosophy, but I know someone who can.”

So he gave them my name. They came around to me, and of course I thought I could do anything, so I agreed to teach philosophy for them.

I held the position for seventeen years. It was a small college, and we started with almost nothing. In the early years, it really was the kind of place where you had a teacher on one end of a log and a student on the other.

Because we were small, we sometimes had to teach outside our field. Besides teaching Greek and philosophy, I taught world literature, too. After a few years I decided that if I learned Hebrew, I could teach it. So that is what started me on my second master’s degree.

What I loved about my work was the students. As time passed, I was given more and more administrative responsibility. But the pleasure I took in my job was always the students. I never felt like I was actually teaching them anything. It was more like I was looking on while they learned.

Our students were capable of wonderful things. I will always remember the time when Scotty Harris recited John Donne’s sonnet, “Death, be not proud.” Or when Bobby Valentine was the first amateur astronomer in our area to observe Halley’s Comet. Or the chapel service when the singing was so intense, so beautiful, that I cried like a child.

I do not wish to make things sound more perfect than they were. Not everything was ideal about the way we conducted our college. What is, in this world? In a perfect world, a faculty meeting would have an agenda and result in decisions. The mission of a college would be to educate, not to sustain itself financially. And education would be a little bit dangerous, instead of always taking the safe route.

But all in all, those were good years, and I am grateful that I was able to do so many things I loved.


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    Copyright © 2002, 2007 by Stephen E. Broyles. All rights reserved.
    Created November 5, 2002. Last updated January 6, 2009.