What I Learned in Graduate School: Education and Scruples Are Not Synonymous

I perused the Summer 2004 issue of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies newsletter, “Home Page,” with nostalgic interest.  The photo of the 1971 faculty meeting includes at least three of my professors from 1968-1969.  Memories came flooding back at seeing their faces, most of them, for the first time in thirty-five years.

Miss McGinnis was exceptionally knowledgeable and highly admired.  A wiry, effervescent little woman, she gave her students a tremendous knowledge base for working with children and teens.  We created notecards on the hundreds of books read for her classes which were useful for years to come.  She taught me the paradigm of what the ideal children’s book is, as well as how to run a school library media center with pizzazz and perfection.
I did see her at a Syracuse University Alumni Meeting during a NYLA conference in the 70s.  We were at a bar in Rochester across from the Flagship Rochester where I was staying — also laden with memories as it was our first night honeymoon hotel. I was disappointed and disillusioned to see her drunk.  Being a student at Syracuse was an eye-opener for me, having been sheltered my entire life until then.  There were regular social gatherings of students and faculty where alcohol was served.  I could not, and still don’t understand why people would want to drink when it makes them not normal.

Dr. Nietche, was not pictured in this issue as he went to Africa following my year at SUSIS.  Memories of library school cannot exclude the hours of painstakingly typing catalog cards for his cataloging classes.  We were required to type our assignments on 3X5 cards with perfect spacing and punctuation according to AACR (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules).  I went through a forest of trees that semester in the process of creating my flawless catalog cards.  The time wasted typing those horrendous cards can today be spent in erudition.  Computerized cataloging was a quantum leap (understatement) in the field of library and information science!

Ms. Dosa taught Story Hour.  Since children’s work was my goal, and since I hated public speaking, I thought a story hour class would be beneficial to my future career.  Dean Greer called me into his office.  He thought I had made a poor choice in my selection of this course as he felt that I was intellectually capable of much more.  After explaining it was an appropriate choice for me, he allowed me to continue in the class.  We were required to write a term paper, and I choose “Mother Goose” as my topic.  My fiancé was not impressed with the level of sophistication of my masters degree program which included a term paper on Mother Goose!  But for me, it was, by far, my most difficult class.  I spent myriad hours memorizing and rehearsing the stories I was required to relate in front of my classmates.  In addition, my Mother Goose knowledge has provided countless opportunities to expound on Mother Goose trivia.

Viewing Pauline Atherton’s photo, I could hear her mellow alto voice effortlessly flowing like melted chocolate from her lips.  She assigned our Reference Services class a project of selecting a narrow topic and researching that topic in the library to find every conceivable source for information on that topic.  To assist us with our search for information, we were taken on an exciting field trip to a remote building which housed the university’s computer.  Here we expected to submit our topic to the computer and be dazzled by the amazing powers of this monstrous machine.  In 1969, I had never seen a computer.  My mind could not fathom what such a complicated, alien object could possibly be.  My eager anticipation met with acute disappointment!  We walked into a tiny ante-room of a nondescript white clapboard structure which housed this marvel.  As I recall, we typed our topic into a machine producing a punch card.  Due to the sensitivity of the computer, revered to be almost alive, Dr. Atherton was the only person allowed to enter the hallowed room containing the computer god.  We saw absolutely nothing!  My mind could only guess at what kind of contraption was beyond the wall.  The final disenchantment was the computer responded to everyone’s requests with the promised stacks of information, except mine.  They all left with a printout; I had nothing.  The almighty computer had no hits for “angels.”
I had great respect for Dr. Atherton except for her vocabulary.  She regularly used cuss words and gross slang in her lectures, mixed in with her educated terminology – all of them slipping off her silvery tongue as if they were normal words.  To me, they were shocking terms and would jolt me out of her lecture momentarily.  I was dismayed a highly educated person would use such verbal expressions.  I thought it was uneducated people who used such language.


About 9awalsh

A genealogist and writer who has uncovered legacy stories which must be told. I also write a blog, Deciphering Life, trying to figure out why life becomes so tangled -- www.9awalsh.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Deciphering Life, Memories. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What I Learned in Graduate School: Education and Scruples Are Not Synonymous

  1. mpschrauwers says:

    I was engrossed in this cool story and arrived to an abrupt end wanting more!! As with all your stories, I was gullibly reading your rendition of a different time. I simply was not prepared for the end. I wonder what was going on in Miss McGinnis’ life that night!


  2. G. Bruce Elliott says:

    Enjoyed your memories of people and places from your graduate school in SU (go Orange). I have both positive and negative memories of my graduate school days at UB but I will say that I made life long friendships from those years. I believe that you are today the person you are as a result of all your interactions and life experiences good and bad. That said I cannot regret the trials and tribulations nor the triumphs of life. We had a 45 year reunion of my diploma school of Nursing program last August and everyone reminisced about our days at Craig Colony. Some of the memories of faculty surprised me. It was a fun event!! Thanks for sharing your story.


    • 9awalsh says:

      Thanks for your comments, Bruce! Next week, I will be celebrating my 45th undergrad reunion at Roberts. Do you realize, next year is our FIFTIETH high school reunion??? Are we really that old??? LOL


  3. jack seibert says:

    Your experience with Dr. Atherton’s vocabulary being filled with cuss words, as well as gross slang, has long perplexed and disappointed many students who have come out of homes where that kind of language was not used but not allowed. Nina, both of our homes were like that. About 20 +/- years ago, there was a memorable article in Time Magazine about the psychology of swearing. After a lengthy discourse, it concluded that taking the Lord’s name in vain is an adult version of a childish temper tantrum. Profanity is used because they now, as an adult, dare not slam doors or lay on the floor to pound and kick when angry like they might have as a child. Beyond that, as a child would focus their tantrum against their parent or someone in authority over them (what good is it to carry on in front of a stranger), using the Lord’s name in vain is in essence recognizing His lordship, which they are rebelling against. So taking the Lord’s name in vain is the way they subconsciously fight back at God and acknowledge that He is in reality Lord and Savior.


  4. 9awalsh says:

    Thanks, Jack. That is an interesting take on swearing. But I’ll bet that are many who would refute that idea and insist they do not believe in deity, therefore, take no thought of trampling those names. Probably no one who reads my blog swears, so no one will respond! LOL


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