Last week when I was in California, I ran into a rather talkative philosopher sitting on top of a hill. I know what you are thinking and it is not true, but exactly where I was, is not important. We talked about life and then we talked about education. Then he looked right into my eyes and asked me what the mascot of my college was?
I stuttered a bit and I said they are called the Redhawks but when I was there, 25 years ago they were the Redmen. We never really had a mascot and I wasn’t even sure if it was a Native American reference or not. I didn’t even know we had a school song until Al Jarreau (Class of 63) sang it on graduation. He frowned, “such a degrading term.” His voice trailed off, conversation over, he stopped talking and depressed, he excused himself and went to bed.
On April 11, 2013, I will be going to Ripon College to do a guest lecture at Ripon. This will be the first time I have spoken at Ripon since 25 years ago to the day, I stood up in a Senior Seminar in Art, “Woman in Art” and gave a two hour presentation on Women in Wildlife Art.
I was not an art major and I was only in this class as I needed the fine arts credit and this was the only class that fit my schedule. I was the only male in the class and during the entire year I was always con, since I represented the male dominated world. In essence I got emasculated on a bi-weekly basis.
The chairman of the art department introduced me. “This is Mr. Olaf, he has the very difficult task of enlightening us as to Women’s role in Wildlife Art. This will be a very difficult task, since first I don’t consider Wildlife Art as art and secondly, I cannot beleive a male can adequately describe a woman’s perspective in such a way as to impress me enough to pass this class.”
With that ‘wonderful’ introduction I stood before my toughest audience in silence, no clapping, no nothing, the entire department just starred at me, a Science major hopelessly out of place. I had given speeches that March of 1988 at the National Oratory Championships at Arizona State, I had given sermons, I had given eulogies at funerals but nothing compared to that speech, or that feeling. I had no choice but to go on. It was my final performance of an otherwise probable four years in which nobody much knew I had even been there.
The class of 1988 is a rather odd class at Ripon, in my opinion. I have always felt like an underachiever. The validictorian of my class was a Rhodes Scholar, the second also got a scholarship for study in England, both of them were so intellegent that no major at Ripon adequately even fit them and they had self-designed majors, in leadership, but with cool catch phrases only they understood. One of my drinking buddies is a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, and even the last person in my class (my estimate), graduated from Hamline School of Law. He always got Cs, and had no interest in law, but life changed, I guess.
I was just that forgetable science geek and although I did guaduate in the top five of my class, recieved a summer research fellowship to study leaf-cutting ants at the University of Iowa, got my fourth year paid for in a scholarship, developed my own projects with hawk nesting and chemical isolations. Despite this and my acceptance into Medical School these others had done so much more, and were those everyone paraded around and as such pretty much figured I was a forgetable footnote. I had ignored any calls from my class agent as figured pretty much, everyone else had done so much more and were so much better than I…as I’m sure no one cared…this was my thought until I had recently returned to Ripon during my son’s college tours.
Surprisingly, my professors remembered me. I guess filling up the entire science building with flies one spring break when my pupae hatched early would lead one to be remembered but then I looked into these brilliant people. The Rhodes Scholar…she is a house mother at a girls school…as her brother works for me. Everyone else, they are any better or worse than I and maybe, just maybe I might even consider returning for my 25th reunion. My drinking buddy the Judge….my other friends, state politicians and an appeals court judge despise him like no earthly human being should be hated. I do not mind not being liked but I don’t want to be dispised. His life is not so wonderful.
You know we are what we are, we did what we did, nobody is better nobody os worse, we all just are….Then something odd happened…I was invited to do a presentation of my business successes and ideas to a business class at Ripon. I am not a candidate to be the most interesting man for nothing. I always have something to be say. So come 10am on April 11, I wll be giving my eight laws of business, and hopefully keeping young buiness minds focused for two hours. It will be fun to give a little back. They will be a much easier audience than those art majors and faculty so many April’s ago.
Ripon should have changed their nickname to the “Red Squirrels” and some of the college students invented a new mascot…Rip the Squirrel, see him here on a Christmas greeting. Change to the SQUIRREL!
I’m sure the philosopher would find Rip so none offensive that he would forgive us of our past offenses and maybe break out in song just like him.
so after singing…be happy who you are, my friends, there is only one you.