Neither of my parents went beyond grammar school so the concept of college totally foreign to them, except they realized it was important for me to get a college education. Lord knows how they were able to afford RPI, although they never brought it up with me. It was a financial struggle in retrospect–a combination of ROTC, working in a Troy gas station, summer jobs, and a student load covered the costs. RPI at the time was one of the most expensive colleges, but my folks to their credit never raised the possibility of me attending either a less expensive institution or commuting to a NYC area school to cut the costs. I guess they felt it was important for me to be on my own.
Why did I choose RPI or engineering (mechanical) for that matter? In the early 50’s engineering seemed to offer a steady career with lots of opportunities. I also did well in math and science courses in high school which led me in that direction, as did some high school friends who were going to RPI. A family friend’s son was then attending RPI so that was another incentive.
Freshman year was overwhelming when I realized that my high school didn’t prepare me well enough, at least compared to classmates who attended the NYC super schools–Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, etc. I further loaded myself up with playing lacrosse and pledging a fraternity.
The latter had, and still has had a great impact on my life. My closest friends at school were fraternity brothers and several are still to this day. It’s amazing that we still talk about coach Ned Harkness’s championship lacrosse and ice hockey teams.
Because of a course in nuclear engineering my senior year (there weren’t many institutions offering them at the time), I was able to parlay that into an assignment in the Army while fulfilling my ROTC obligation. That experience led to a job with the Atomic Energy Commission, and an eventual career in energy/science, mostly with the Federal government.
As time passed I realized my interests (and skills) were more in the administrative/management areas and led to an MBA and a year’s fellowship at Stanford University. I had a fortunate career in government and held many senior positions.
I would be remiss not to mention I met my wife of 60 years at Skidmore, a frequent destination from the fraternity house to “check out the new freshman”. We hung on to each other through my military service and completion of her English degree–we were married on her 20th birthday. And of course we are proud parents of three kids and two grandkids.