My weekend was one that I would never have imagined when I began college at Eastern Illinois University (EIU) in the fall of 1962.
Before going to college, I didn’t go to the movies a lot, but I did see two films that became significant in the way I saw the world at that time.
In 1961, the year before going to college, I went to see West Side Story with my boyfriend. The film moved me like none before; I thought it was the best movie I had ever seen and was emotionally drained after seeing it. My boyfriend laughed at the movie and thought it was silly. Although we had never had a cross word between us before, I broke up with him that night. He even called my mother to let her know that he could not understand that I broke up with him because he didn’t like the movie. To me, we were incompatible if he didn’t feel anything for West Side Story.
The year I began college, I saw the film To Kill a Mockingbird. That film touched me to the core. It showed me the depths and the heights of human nature—from the most unjust to those who held justice as a high value. West Side Story helped me understand conflict and love and To Kill a Mockingbird broke my heart and gave me hope.
My generation reflected some of what these films meant to me. We were passionate idealists who would fight for social justice whatever career direction we chose. To me, making higher education accessible by recruiting students and retaining them in college was the road I would take to make my contribution.
To receive recognition as an educator with an honorary doctorate in pedagogy from EIU is the height of my achievements, and I will forever be grateful to the vice president of student affairs Dan Nadler and dean of the School of Education Diane Jackman for all they did to support my selection. It had to be a huge effort on their part when one considers that some of the other honorees were billionaires (yes, literally) and a Superbowl-winning coach.