Sunday, April 15, 2012

Alma Mater

I traveled to Athens yesterday for a visit to my alma mater, the University of Georgia. The occasion was the Bulldogs annual spring football game, G-Day, where admission is free and the families bring throngs of excited kids attired in red-and-black. Along with 40,000 of my closest friends, we all enjoyed the game, the weather, and our unflagging expectations for another great season from our beloved Dawgs.

The daughter of one of our parking-lot regulars had been accepted to UGA and with great excitement she was looking forward to reporting to campus in the Fall. It reminded me of how I felt when I got my acceptance, and how the cycle of excited incoming freshmen has been repeating itself since 1785. The enrollment has grown by three times in the forty-plus years since I began as a student, and there are lots of new buildings that have been thoughtfully added to the lovely landscape. But there are enough of the old buildings and old trees and familiar road names to confirm to me that I am in a place I love and revere.

I was the first member of my family to have an opportunity to go to college. The first one, ever. The University of Georgia was my choice, and it was one of the wiser decisions I’ve made in life. UGA was plenty challenging, and my fellow accounting-major classmates still stand out in my mind as some of the brightest, most able people I’ve ever encountered, anywhere. I learned I had to work harder to compete with so many gifted, ambitious people. UGA left it up to me to make those choices—work hard and compete or fall behind; work hard and compete or always be prepared to settle for the leftovers; work hard and compete or just go home. They cared little about my self-esteem or my modest means, but only about my demonstrable grasp of the material. It prepared me for the Marine Corps, for graduate school, and for life in the rough-and-tumble of the business world. They gave me something that I needed far more than a mere understanding of balance sheets and income statements. They gave me a lesson in life.

And I am forever indebted.

I am deeply proud of my alma mater, grateful for what it did for me, for what it now means to me. The University will have my devotion and loyalty for as long as I live. I will never tire of returning to that beautiful space, breathing that refreshing air, and allowing the many memories of long ago to take me back to my youth, however briefly. I remember telling my late father upon my daughter’s UGA graduation that he should be proud of the legacy he and my mother began. And I could tell from the look on his face that he was profoundly satisfied that his children and grandchildren would all be college graduates. He was proud just like I was when my own kids graduated, just like my parking-lot friend will be in a few short years. It truly is a very special place.

Go Dawgs!

1 comment:

  1. As a fellow blogger and UGA grad, (I'm a proud "double dawg"!), I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading this post and visiting your fine blog! Thank you for sharing!