MEMOIR: CHAPTER 16: I’m Ba-a-a-ck!

MEMOIR: CHAPTER 16: I’m Ba-a-a-ck!

Grad school was, in many ways, the happiest time of my life to that point. Yes, I was busy raising kids and working and going to school and studying…but much of my time was spent working in the large technology lab on one of the 40 or so terminals connected to a large mainframe somewhere in the building. There were no windows, so it was like what I imagine casino gambling to be: no concept of time passing. The year I spent working on my dissertation was spent largely in that big room, which I frequently had all to myself, particularly late at night. I worked with a Law professor, who mapped out the details of a class in Civil Procedure, and I developed a computer simulation which would pose an imaginary case, and let the students work their way through a variety of choices of “what to do next” at each stage, as a defense attorney would. It was fun, challenging, and eye-opening. As part of gathering baseline data, I needed the GRE scores of each of the Law students participating. And found that I had scored higher than any of them. I could have gone to Law school, after all! But by then I realized it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.

Meanwhile, my marriage was going off the rails. Again. By the time I had graduated with a PhD and was looking for a job elsewhere—as we had agreed we both would do—Ralph had quietly accepted the job of Department Chair, without telling me. I agreed to stay on one more year as a post-grad Assistant in the Tech Lab, for very low pay and little satisfaction. I was ready to roll!

When a similar scenario happened the following year, I sought out a therapist. He asked me what I would do if I knew that Ralph was going to stay at the University forever, which Ralph had told him was the case. It took only a few seconds to realize that I was going to move back to Oregon and find a job. Reluctantly, Ralph agreed to come along. But it was the beginning of the end, the slow dissolution of that marriage.

Back in Oregon, I applied for jobs, at the Intermediate Education District, universities, and NWREL (the Lab). It was 1976, and slim pickings. I reminded Larry, at the Lab, that I now had a PhD and was therefore no longer subject to the restrictions on the kinds of jobs I could do at the Lab.

“Unfortunately, we just don’t have any openings right now, at any level, Judy,” he said. “But we’ll certainly keep you in mind if something comes up.

A few weeks later Larry called me. “Still looking for a job?”

“Sure am.”

“Well, I have one for you—we really need someone who can come in and pick up this project and complete it, and there’s only one month left in the contract.”

“What project?”

“Long story…you probably haven’t heard. Duane had a one-year grant to develop and produce a long list of computer-related curriculum deliverables, but a few days ago he lit out for Central Oregon. He’s living on a horse ranch there. Raising purebred Arabs.”

Duane loved horses, and had always wanted to have a horse ranch. Later I learned he had a ranching partner, a woman with whom he was deeply compatible. His wife and kids were as shocked as everyone at the Lab.

“So what’s left to do?” I asked, still trying to imagine this responsible man just “lighting out” to raise horses and abandoning his work and family.

“All of it. He didn’t complete a single deliverable.”

“”Out of…how many?”

“Well, there’s quite a list. You actually outlined it, before you left. And unfortunately, you’re probably the only person anywhere who could actually pull this off, get this all done.”

“In a month?”

“Unfortunately, yes. But it was your program, before you left for grad school, and I know you have an attachment to it getting done right…”

Indeed, I did. “Okay, I’ll do it,” I said. I had no better offers, and was getting bored, and worried about income. “How much will you pay me for that one month of work?”

“You’d better come in and we’ll talk. You can look over what’s here and decide how you want to go about it.”

Later, at the round table in Larry’s office, he was clearly very uncomfortable. I’d said Yes, but now I was again asking about payment.

“Well, see…Duane actually spent all the funds in the budget, before he lit out.”

“So…”

“So we can’t actually pay you anything. I know it’s a huge favor to ask, but I know you were always able to do the job, and that this was important to you, so I thought maybe…”

“I’ll get it done,” I said. I already had the makings of a plan.

I completed all the “deliverables” in the month that remained, and had many long chats with the program officer, Richard, in Washington, D.C., who knew the situation and was deeply grateful that I had been willing to complete the project so that he wouldn’t look bad. But we also talked about a new one-year grant. I wrote a proposal, and submitted it to Richard.

At the end of the month, Larry called me into his office. Once again, very uncomfortable. “We’ve had a call from Richard at NIE,” he said. “He’s ready to fund a new grant for the Computer Technology Program.”

“So it’s been funded?” I could scarcely contain my glee.

“It has. There’s only one catch.”

“And that is…”

“It’s entirely conditional on you being the director of the program.”

I didn’t rub my hands together, at least not so he could see it. “So, now can we talk salary?”

“I think you have us by the short hairs.” He grimaced. “What did you have in mind?”

I named what I had in mind. He immediately conceded, without argument.

Yes!!!

In very short order, I had a nice office with windows, and a secretary, and was hiring people. Back at the Lab, with a nice bump in salary, commensurate with now having a PhD.

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