I suppose it is only natural that when you realize you have far more yesterdays than tomorrows, you spend a lot of time thinking about the paths you have traveled in life and the people who made an impact on you.
I graduated from high school in 1961 and headed off to Auburn University that fall.
My first quarter almost ended my college career. I made an F in math and chemistry, Ds in English and Chem lab, Bs in Engineering drawing and ROTC and an A in Basic PE. It all added up to a GPA of 0.47 (on a three-point system)
Back then, all freshmen men were supposed to run in the ODK Cake Race each fall. Seems that it was about two miles long. The top 25 finishers all got a cake. Our P:E instructor said that anyone who got a cake made an A in his course. I got one. So it may well have been my feet (certainly not my brain) that kept me in school.
Daddy wanted me to be an electrical engineer. But growing up on a farm, we compromised on Agricultural Engineering. I was going to have to navigate more chemistry and math than I could handle and after several quarters of struggling I told Daddy that the only way I would ever be an engineer was if he bought a railroad.
That’s when fate and Dr. Charles Simmons intervened. Dean Simmons was the associate dean of Ag School. After a guidance counselor gave me some aptitude tests, he told me that I liked the outdoors and that I also liked to write. He sent me to see Dean Simmons.
So, one day I sat in his office while he inserted journalism classes in an Ag Science curriculum and I spent the rest of my time at Auburn studying things like animal science and photo journalism.
A few days after graduating in 1966, I was working as an editor at Progressive Farmer magazine in Birmingham.
The point of this story is that if Dean Simmons, had not gone out of his way to help me, who knows what my life would’ve been.
I dare say that most of us had a Dean Simmons. And every time I am with a group of educators I know there is a good chance that each of them has the opportunity to be a Dean Simmons. Which is why I think so highly of those who work in education. Each day they touch the future through your students. What an awesome opportunity—and responsibility.