Friday, June 16, 2017

A bit more autobiography

Sixty years ago a band conductor ruined my possibility of a journalistic career, or so I thought until recently.

As a freshman at Willamette University in 1957, I signed up to be a reporter for the student newspaper instead of joining the band. Since I knew something about music, the editor sent me to interview Willamette's band conductor about his plans for the year. Maurice Brennan was an old friend of my father, who had been a band conductor himself before going into electronic engineering. Brennan talked me into joining his band, which meant I didn't have time to be a reporter. If I had continued with the newspaper, who knows what it might have led to?

As this story suggests, careers can hinge on incidents that have influence way beyond their immediate significance. I entered Willamette hoping to join the U.S. Foreign Service, but my senior year some faculty persuaded me to shoot for a college teaching career. However, the foreign languages I took because they would be helpful in diplomacy were an asset when I entered the doctoral program at Johns Hopkins University in 1961.

The JHU political science degree required a reading knowledge of two modern languages. Several of my fellow grad students got hung up on this requirement. One unfortunate young lady had studied only Latin and classical Greek, which didn't count. I passed both tests within two weeks.

After finishing at Johns Hopkins in 1964 I accepted a position at Adrian College where I remained until retiring in 2000. While there, I started writing occasional op-ed columns for the local daily and a few other papers. During an emergency in the mid 1970s my wife and I wrote all the editorials for the local paper for three months. And I wrote a college textbook, published in 1981.

After retiring and moving to Corvallis, I continued to write occasional op-ed columns. But one couldn't exactly call that a “career.” Dabbling, perhaps, but not career.

Recently, though, another twist of fate may have given me a new a journalist! I read in the New York Times that one Christopher Ruddy, an old friend of President Trump, has been urging Trump to endorse a single-payer insurance system to replace Obamacare. I sent Ruddy nine of my op-ed columns arguing that conservatives need to get over their knee jerk hostility to single payer insurance. I suggested these might be ammunition for his commendable campaign to get Trump to sign on.

Mr. Ruddy turns out to be founder and CEO of , which among other things publishes an on-line journal with major readership. Three days after I contacted Ruddy, the opinion editor at invited me to write a weekly column. I have been doing this since early April, and it has been great fun.

Maybe at age 77 I am finally a journalist. Take that, Professor Brennan!

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