If you go to UC Santa Cruz you will lose your motivation–WHAT?

This was a quote from one of my high school counselors. I attended a 4-year high school and was assigned a different counselor each year. Because my family was working class, I was counseled (as a 9th grader) to take business or home economics in high school; I registered for college prep courses. I was cautioned that where I was headed in life, I wouldn’t need those courses. I was a very poor listener. 

I heard about UCSC from a friend of my mom, Helen Vardon who was a counselor at Notre Dame High School in Belmont, CA. Her description of this grand university experiment captured me. I had no idea how I was going to get to college – or pay for it, but she did.

I arrived on a foggy, wet day in the fall of 1967. Driving up to Crown College my dad said this was college in the redwoods just like camping! My mom said that this was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Construction was not quite complete. We students had to watch where we walked and use flashlights at night. We managed not to lose anyone. I was excited and scared.  I was the first in my extended family to attend college. I didn’t know the hidden rules for this. I was afraid I would not fit into this college world. 

It took about a week for me to come to grips with the fact that I was surrounded by really intelligent students who had attended huge forward-thinking high schools. I knew I was going to have to work hard to compete. As the weeks passed it occurred to me that not one of my classmates asked me what my grade point was or what my SAT scores were, or if I was a National Merit Scholar. Our conversations were about our families, our high school experiences, our interests, our politics, our concerns about being away from home. I was no longer afraid of not fitting in. 

I believe it was the Crown Core Courses that fostered these conversations: personally, academically, and globally. My fears of not being able to compete were replaced with collaboration, cooperation, and comradery. We all had a chance to help and be helped. This was a lot more than just magical thinking.

I spent 4 years living on campus in Harvey House, and my last two as a Resident Assistant. I loved that job. Over that time, I developed a wonderful friendship with our provost, Dr. Kenneth Thimann and his wife Ann. The blue porch light on the provost’s house signaled that they were receiving visitors. I’ll bet I dropped by once a week just to chat.

I matriculated as a math major but soon discovered there were lots of areas of study I wanted to know more about. I had taken a couple of courses in a brand-new field called Information and Computer Science. They were taught by Dr. David Huffman. At the end of my second course, he asked me if I had considered majoring in this area. My response must have been hilarious to him, although he didn’t let on. My response: “No, I haven’t because when I graduate from college, I have to get a real job.”  I decided to change my major to Psychology – more job prospects. When I returned in the early ’80 to complete a second Bachelor’s Degree in Information and Computer Science, Dr. Huffman remembered; “Well, I see you have returned.”

My time at Crown College was transformative. I believe that to be true for many of us. I enjoy a life both personal and professional that I could have never dreamed of. So, please come to our 50th Reunion so I can thank you and we can share our stories before we forget them.