This is the question that a recent blog post by Ann Marie Klotz, Assistant Director for Selection and Training at DePaul University had me thinking about during Women’s History month.
I was recently enjoying the hot tub at the rec center one Sunday evening before heading back to work, when an older gentleman who was also enjoying the spa sparked up a conversation with my friend and me. He started off the conversation by exclaiming, “This is the life”, which we enthusiastically agreed, and he said “If you think this is the life now, wait until you’re older, if I knew I was going to live this long I wouldn’t have done half the stupid things I’ve done”. I quickly learned that this man was not just a talkative older gentleman, but also a firefighter in town that remembered when a friend and I delivered treats to the firehouse on MLK day, but he could have probably never guessed where my mind went with that comment about life expectancy. Then, I realized, I’ve just never really thought about that, just like I never really thought about going to college.
Yet who was Jean Klein (Goodin)? She was the daughter of a Chicago horseback police officer and an older sister. She grew up in the Catholic school system, and was told by her father that she would go to an all-girls Catholic school for the entirety of her life. I guess in this sense she was a rebel. She didn’t have the grades she says to get into Mundelein College so off to DePaul she went.
What would she major in? Education of course, her father determined that, he would tell both his daughters, when they asked if they could be nurses instead, “No daughter of mine will be changing bedpans”. So a teacher she would be. When I first heard this story I was a little saddened. Saddened because I felt my grandmother had no choice, but she reminded me the choice has always been hers. Sure if she chose a different path things may have been more difficult. She was happy. She was happy because her children were able to go to any school and choose any major. She knew her granddaughters and grandsons would have those choices – and that she would be right there with us supporting and loving us.
As I said before, I never really thought about going to college. I just knew I would. I knew I would because my grandmother had, because her father made sure she did. In this sense I consider myself quite lucky. I always knew that there were “dorms” and RAs, I knew about financial aid, and I knew I’d have to pick a major. Now that I think about this, I’m sure my great-grandfathers decision to have his daughters be teachers has greatly influenced my desire and passion for this field – it has led me to recognize that not all students view college this way. There are so many people out there who view Higher Education as an impenetrable fortress, this is what has led me to want to do this work, to be able to help students work through college. This privilege I have and have had gives me a sense of responsibility to give back. We all have something, some strands of knowledge, that we can give back, give to someone else. Who will you remember today? Who will you help tomorrow?
Ryan Bye is a graduate hall coordinator at Texas Tech University.