i just finished going through Vanderbilt, Summer, 2018 magazine. When i get them, i turn to the “epilogue” section to see if there is someone i knew who has passed away. i knew already, but Albert Noe was listed in this edition. Sad.
i read the rest of the magazine for a number of reasons.
Just to make sure you know this isn’t under false pretenses, i didn’t graduate from Vanderbilt. i started all right. On a NROTC scholarship, pretty much a full ride, Blew it big time. i finished my undergraduate degree at Middle Tennessee. Got as good as i could get in a BA in literature. Two and a half years of some of the best times of my life. PhD’s Bill Holland and Scott Peck challenged me to rise to academics heights i have never reached before or since but was definitely on a roll then. Vanderbilt. i still went there, socially, you might say.
Vanderbilt was a defining point of my life. i had a lot of fun and probably broke a few drinking records. i also met some of the best people on this planet. They became my friends for life. i had a lot of respect for them and a lot of guilt for me for flunking out — you may have read this before, but i was within one course of being the first student to flunk out without failing a course. Yep. i had 16 D’s in four semesters. But in that last semester, the spring of 1964, i flunked statics, an engineering course, majestically. i took it over in the summer and got a D. But that is another story altogether.
Yet i was tied to Vanderbilt. i have tried on several occasions to return. The first was when i had to have a shore tour (bah!). i requested an NROTC instructor billet, fully aware of the irony. i wanted to be in the Vanderbilt NROTC unit, but opted for Texas A&M to get my disgruntled wife on her way to dropping me out of her life like handling a hot skillet barehanded. She was a Texan. Her father was an Aggie. It made sense. But i regretted not going to Vandy and perhaps, perhaps getting a graduate degree while working for the Navy.
Then about a half dozen years ago, i got this idea of getting a graduate degree in writing. Stumbling through the options, the only one was a masters in fine arts for writing. i tried. i was old and what credits i had couldn’t compare to super performing, younger and current applicants.
One of the reasons i thought the old man had a chance is that a recipient of this program would also be required to participate, maybe even be the editor for…yep, the Vanderbilt magazine. Perfect. i thought. Nope, new age stuff doesn’t make an old time editor look good.
Still, Vanderbilt has always had my respect and support. Especially sports (and that’s another story involving Fred Russell and Bob Thiel and Roy Blount and Coach JB Leftwich). i was a huge basketball fan and a distant adjunct to the ’64-’65 team that won the SEC. i loved to sit on the first base hill and watch baseball on Hawkins Field. i even covered a Vanderbilt-Kentucky freshman football game while working at the Banner.
Except for some random good seasons in basketball and one or two in football, there were some rough years. Then the new age came in. Vanderbilt now has great success in all of the sports and is competitive in the two biggies of college sports, football and basketball.
So i participate in Vanderbilt events for old folks. i’m even a “Quint,” an honor for those whose class was more than a half century ago. i give a few bucks to the athletic program every year.
When i read the magazine after the obits, i am always amazed at the quality of the magazine, the incredibly diverse achievements of the alumni, and the amazing accomplishments and potential great futures of the current students. i’m proud i went there.
In this issue, Mitch Litch wrote an article about Vanderbilt athletics, “Grade A Talent.” Litch captures what i think is most important about Vanderbilt athletics and fostered by David Williams, a rather incredible asset to Vanderbilt athletics who is retiring from his Vice Chancellor of Athletics position next year. As i have noted several times, Dr. Williams endorsed success in athletics at Vandy doing it the right way, the Vandy way.
It is a tough road, this doing it the right way. That means a college student who participates in athletics is integrated into all of student life including academics, a name only thing at a lot of college athletic programs who have sacrificed the “student” part of “student athlete.”
In the middle of the article, there was a quote from Derek Mason, the current — and i hope the long range — coach of the football Commodores:
Our student-athletes have to go across campus and compete against students who don’t really care about their athletic prowess, and then they have to come back and compete against athletes in the SEC who don’t really care about their ACT or SAT scores.
There lies the delicious problem and the beauty of Vanderbilt’s quest in athletics. They are trying to do it the right way. College is upper education. It was not meant to be a contest to see who can win athletic contests by recruiting people only to play sports who are hoping against terribly long odds to make a career as a pro athlete and then keeping them away from solid academics and life on campus with ALL of the students.
So you see i hope Vandy continues the quest to not only succeed in most sports but to succeed in football and basketball as well by doing it the right way, even if it makes it a bit tougher on the student-athlete, and recruiting and competing in the SEC and big time college football and basketball. Vandy has done that in men and women’s sports.
Hopefully, they can do that in these two highly visible sports as well.
And you know what? As long as they are competitive i hope…no, i pray they continue trying to it the right way, the Vandy way, and the way it should be for all colleges and all sports.