Although I have no more than a high school diploma to show and I am very proud to have it, I have always admired those who continued to obtain higher degrees and did so against great odds. To be honest I never had to leave my home to observe what can be done if the sacrifice and pure determination drives a person forward.
I have listed my family many times but one more time won’t hurt. My sister Peg being the oldest of we three children graduated from Moscow in 1955. Along with the earnings from her tobacco crops and a grant from Wilmington College got her the finances to obtain her bachelor’s degree. There was a catch and that was she had to complete her degree in three years to receive the grant. She did so and continued to work her share in the tobacco crops and also work at any job that came up. I know she worked a summer at UDF in Cincinnati. One summer she and her cousins Pat Wilson and Carolyn Carlier spent one summer suckering tobacco. (Worst job I can think of!) They did this for most of the farmers around us as they felt it well spent money (.75 an hour for those girls to do it for them.
After she got a few years in as a teacher Peg went to night classes and summer sessions to receive her Master’s degree and finally took enough classes to earn a masters plus. This was the highest one she could go without obtaining a PHD and peg said she didn’t want that. But she set a standard for the rest of us. Maybe if I had been older it would have stuck to me better.
Now my brother Ben graduated from Moscow in 1958 and enrolled at Ohio State. Going from a class of 13 to a campus surpassing 40000 students was more than he could overcome. He did become a fraternity member and he was very good at the social life. My parents felt he had been to social and not enough studious. He returned home that spring having dropped out. That spring and rest of year he farmed with dad and decided farming wasn’t his calling. So he began attending night classes at Norwood high school and drove summers to Oxford and attended Miami main campus. As soon as he had enough hours to get certified to teach he did so. He taught 4th grade and in the spring 1966 he received his bachelor’s degree in education. Shortly after this he decided he didn’t want to be an elementary teacher for a career and he came back to the farm where he and I farmed so he could cover a lot of the expenses as he attended law school. In June of 1970 he received his Doctorate of Law degree. He took a long road to get what he wanted but he succeeded.
But the story I want most to tell is about my mom. Mom was the fifth of seven children growing up in the heart of the great depression. Mom loved education and promised herself that if she ever got the chance she was going to get her college degree. Now outside of maybe my dad none of us really were aware of her goal. All along she urged and encouraged her children to reach for as much as you felt you could and maybe even more. So when I entered second grade mom enrolled to take a night course. This she did for a few years but when Ben and others were driving to Oxford she saw the opportunity to get to the actual classrooms and speed up getting credits. When she had enough she got a teaching certificate and began teaching. The money from this was to cover the cost of the education as she didn’t want to put any drain on the farms budget.
Mom not only kept our home but she worked with us in the tobacco crops and cooked for the farm hands. She never slowed down from her feelings she should help in the church and the community. She did all this and now taught. As I recall mom did her homework sometime after the eleven o’clock news. The trip to Oxford in those days was two and a half hours. Our guess was this was when she got some sleep in. Ten years later on a December Sunday in 1966 we all traveled to Oxford and sat as close to the stage as possible so we could see mom walk onto the stage and accept her diploma for a bachelors’ degree in education. She might have been the smallest graduate there that day at 4’11” and just over 100 pounds but I can tell you she stood the tallest she ever did as she grasped that diploma. We all were not only proud but she said she was going to do it and by golly she did! I feel she set the standard for many relatives and students.
I have to guess you are all wondering about me and what did I do. In those days I was positive I was going to take over and run the farms and higher education wouldn’t be needed. That friends is more than a narrow view. Mom however continued to talk to me and encourage me to go to college. Out of one of our discussions mom ended it with don’t knock if unless you have tried it. The year after I graduated high school The University of Cincinnati opened a branch north of Russellville and one day I rode along with a friend who was enrolling. As I listened as he signed up for the classes he needed the man in charge of enrolling approached me and ask if he could help me. What mom said shot through my brain and I ask if there was one class I could take and I could use it in my daily life? He immediately said business law. I enrolled.
When I told mom she was thrilled and was ready to lay out my plans for the next four years. I loved the class and the next quarter I enrolled full time. I attended college for three years. Somehow I got this thought in my head I would take a year off. So I did and making a living and making my way through life has sidetracked ever since. Technically I have time to finish and I might just do that. I think so highly of higher education. My wife and daughter also have three years in college and my son has a bachelors and my daughter in law has a masters plus. So learning is all around me.
I got to see just what it can take to get that diploma and as for my mom she got two out of three to graduate. As for me she always said she got more out of me than she thought she would. She said I was the stubborn one. Looking back now I guess she was right.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.