2000 Distinguished Alumni Recipient

Michener wrote in his work “Centennial” that the American, of all peoples, is the loneliest person on earth. And Michener was right. Particularly since WWII, with increased mobility, family and community ties have weakened. Sixty or seventy years ago an individual would mature in an environment of cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and other relatives galore. Most people rarely traveled more than a couple of countries from their birthplace. Not so now. Obviously, since people are social creatures, this environment is not good. Most striking, whether by deliberation or by default, is the role played by the community college in reversing this trend.

We were an eclectic community in the early seventies. One not usually associated with “traditional” college students. We were active duty military, retired folk, veterans, even people serving as “guests of the state” at the Eglin Prison Compound. In addition, we had a whole host of students from foreign countries.

Studies were equally diverse. Chemistry, English, Automotive Mechanics, Refrigeration, Computers, you name it, we had it. The divorcement of manual trades from, “traditional” college studies had not yet happened.

From what contact I have had with Okaloosa-Walton Community College in later years, this pattern of diversity and outreach continues. May it ever be so.

Make no mistake about it, the coursework at OWCC was not a cakewalk. I recall my first course in calculus. Final exams were lurking over the horizon, and since my grasp of the subject was tenuous, I bet the ranch that my instructor would center on the principles of “maxima and minima” for the exam. For once I guessed right. Two hours of study just prior to the exam paid off. Having survived the course, I signed up to tutor calculus the following semester. The student and the tutor worked together and learned the material for real. The borrowed grade was redeemed.

The most telling incident that reinforces the principle of community involved a Philosophy instructor. One weekend I was walking home from the college library and saw the instructor entering a restaurant across four lanes of busy traffic. This gentleman stopped, crossed the four lanes of murderous traffic, and greeted me with a handshake, asking how I was doing.

This incident will never be forgotten, and perhaps, best symbolizes what Okaloosa-Walton Community College has meant to me and others over the years.

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