Okay fellow alumni. My question of the day is if you had to decide all over again, would you have attended the University of Evansville? I asked myself that question many years ago. Since you are a subscriber to this Facebook page, I will first assume that your answer will be yes you would still choose U.E. There are many alumni from my days at UE who once they left UE did not look back and have not returned. Now for my answer.
Prior to attending UE I grew up in the 1960s and early 1970s in urban inner city environments in Saint Louis, Missouri; Compton, California; and Gary, Indiana. I did benefit from 8 years of attending elementary Catholic Schools in Saint Louis and Compton, but my high school years were in a public school that did not have a strong curriculum designed to prepare me for college. Most of the schools I attended from grade school through high school consisted of a student population that was over 98% black students or other minorities.
My face to face interaction with European Americans was limited over the first 17 years of my life. Those interactions were mostly with teachers in school, and workers in stores. So why in 1975 did I choose UE? First, no one in my family had attended college. I had no parental guidance to assist me in making a college choice. I did all the research myself to include completing the then paper based applications. I do not recall hearing much about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) during my high school years. All I knew is I was seeking a good liberal arts school that would give me financial aid so I could attend college. Saving money for college? That was something my parents or me never thought of while I was growing up. There were no discretionary funds available for a college fund. I grew up in the 1960s when we as black people were just breaking some of the chains that still tied us down from slavery days. With all that I had seen in the era of the 1960s, I had a somewhat militant attitude towards European Americans. All I knew is that I was going to college to prepare myself for a career of some type.
In terms of Indiana colleges, for some reason my choices came down to Earlham College and UE. The University of Cincinnati also became a late entry to consider. I had received some mail from UE advertising their school. I felt that was a sign that maybe the campus desired to attract more minority students. From my research I knew that UE had a very minuscule black student population. I visited UE taking a Greyhound bus from Gary. I recall I over packed for my 2 day visit. I liked what I saw in terms of the campus and decided to attend UE. I wrote to all the incoming black freshmen in an attempt to build relationships before we even stepped on campus.
I know that my first year I came to UE with a chip on my shoulder. My attitude was,”yeah, I’m a black student at this white campus, you deal with it!” I spoke my mind and viewpoints, criticized European American Greek fraternities, posted my militant views on my dorm wall to include an American flag on which I had written the word “Caucasia”. I had no fears about being a true minority on campus and in the city of Evansville. I was often the only black student in my class. It was a precursor of what I would experience most of my life in the real world.
Life at UE to me was just practice for the real world. As Allen Iverson would say, “we’re talking about practice!” Even at that age I knew that if I aspired to a successful career after college I would need to learn to deal with a European American world. At UE I had a few friends of European American descent. But most of my friendships especially in the dining hall were with my fellow black students.
My social skills were terrible then (and not much better now). I became active in student activity organizations at UE. I interacted well with European American students and teachers for the 5 years I attended UE. I learned much about the thought processes of those I interacted with. I did an internship with a Federal agency my sophomore and junior years at UE. I applied what I learned at UE while on my internships. My time at UE prepared me for a work environment where I was the only black male in the office. That was my environment during my internships and in the real world after I graduated from UE. My time at UE made my transition to the working world seamless. Would I have had the same seamless transition if I had attended an HBCU? Maybe. I think an HBCU might have cared more about me as a person and helped me improve many of my personal skills. That’s just my guess.
One thing I do know is that I had a very successful career after UE. Rewards, accolades etc. I rose up the chain to become a supervisor and manager in Human Resources. My income was higher than what I had set as a goal during my high school years. I experienced things I never would have dreamed of while sharing a small room with my two older brothers. After I left UE I’ve never gone without a meal, never been homeless, never been without a job until I retired. I’ve been able to give back to charities via money and my time. I’ve traveled to places that were never a thought to me as a child. I was able to retire at age 55 with a very generous pension.
UE shaped who I would become after UE. It was the place I was destined to attend. I was not the smartest student at UE but I think I got as much out of the school as I could. Would I have been more successful if I had attended an HBCU? Who knows? One regret that I do have is that when I attended UE I didn’t give much thought to the black students who had preceded me. It was not until some 25 years later when I researched the history of black students at UE that I became aware of the many contributions and challenges faced over the years by black students at UE. But through UEAAA some of that legacy can be defined and passed on to black students who attend now and in the future.
So now fellow alumni it’s your turn. Would you have chosen UE if you had to decide again?