An Old Man Furthers His Education

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Vincent Summers
Vincent Summers
As a child, I enjoyed science. I decided I’d like to be an astronomer. My mother, always the practical one, told me “You can’t make a living at astronomy; choose something else.”

I chose chemistry. Mom had a friend whose husband worked for Union Carbide. He made lots of money. It’s true he was not a chemist, yet Mom approved. So for my 8th grade career report for Mrs. Best, I wrote of my desire to be a chemist.

Education: High School Days

Very soon after I entered high school, I met a fellow who moved from Canada, named Charles. He was a year or so older than I. He had his own basement laboratory. It was pretty decent. We lived near each other, so we walked to and from school, constantly talking chemistry.

I learned from Charles, yet I was hindered because the books I signed out from the school library were 30 or more years old, pretty much useless, except to inspire.

Education: DU

Drexel University
Drexel University

My non-science grades were anything but exceptional, yet I was accepted by Drexel Institute of Technology for the Class of 1971 (it was a 5-year school). Soon after I started attending we were polled concerning a name change, and DIT became DU.

I started off slowly, partly for the reason I mentioned above, and partly because of my addiction to pinball and table shuffleboard at the activity center (the DAC). How many classes did I skip to accomplish that?

Then it happened! One trimester, I finished with a 1.601 grade-point average. If I had received just 1/1000th of a point less, I would have been on probation. That forced me to take stock of myself and do better, which I did.

I took a year of absence about 1970. For this reason I received my Bachelor of Science degree in 1973. It was in the fall of 1981 that I moved to Charlottesville and accepted employment with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (N.R.A.O.). Once I had the job, I almost immediately got married.

Education: UVA

University of Virginia
University of Virginia

Fast-forward to 1998. It was then I learned of a golden opportunity to further my education. I could attend the University of Virginia under the Citizens Scholar Program for free if I scored well on a Graduate Records Examination (GRE). But could I do that after 25 years? Most who would take the exam would be fresh undergraduates who had received current instruction. It was too good for me to pass up.

The conditions were what allowed me to take such an action. I would be allowed to attend during working hours with pay. I would also be allowed to “do” my homework on the job. It would in no way interfere with my other responsibilities. After all, I wasn’t seeking to make more money, I just enjoy learning.

Opportunity: JMU

James Madison University
James Madison University

For months I prepared myself learning what was new and bolstering my weak areas. The result? I surprised myself in equaling the average grade of new graduates! The exam was proctored at James Madison University.

How glad I am there was no Covid-19 virus during that time! The coronavirus struck JMU with great severity in August 2020. When this opportunity came my way, I was a bit low in spirit. In being successfully accomplished, I can say that I am both grateful for the opportunity and I experience a feeling of pleasant satisfaction.


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