Living in the Past: I was a pioneer in the Autumn of 1963, a member of the first and only class, entering Grand Valley State College, the newest in Michigan, walking in brand new buildings, enjoying a complete lack of rules, making the dream a reality. It was a big moment for all of us.
Normally, we think of pioneers as men and women who suffered through danger and hardships in the hope of finding a better life. While we never endured danger there were muddy parking lots, unfamiliar teaching techniques, the total absence of organized sports, limited facilities and staff. These felt like challenges. We were charting a new course. We had small group sessions as well as two and three person tutorials. We had one professor who began class by asking if we had any questions or comments about anything. We had a separate college that gave credit for union organizing. We had a brilliant philosophy professor who employed the Socratic method, always asking probing questions, constantly challenging us to think.
For me, it was a welcome change from the strict religious schooling I had gone through up to then. There were no disciplinary rules. They said they would set the rules as situations dictated. To me this was unprecedented.
I learned there is a certain risk to being a pioneer, but the challenges help us develop. It cuts us free from the comfortable moorings and allows us to paddle in the direction we are inclined to go. The day I graduated I knew I was headed into the US Army. As I stood on the front steps of the college I stared out to the horizon wondering what the future held for me. I suspected I would probably never have an experience like that again…but I have.