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Boomer College Sandwich

With The Grads On Both Sides



My Dad graduated from college in 1960.

With three kids in tow and working full time.

His plan was a career in the Marine Corps like his younger brother did.

My Mom had other plans.

He took five years to finish his BS in General Studies, and made it sound like the extra year was a big failure.

Big fail?

This baby boomer started college in 1973 and graduated in 1991 and I see it as a huge accomplishment for a perennial drop-out.



My plan was to make it as a writer. Not a college educated writer, but a street smart clear vision writer with an over-active BS detector.

After I got married I learned my wife didn’t want a drop-out husband not named Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

If I’d dropped out of Stanford, or Harvard, would it have been different than dropping out of Southern Oregon, University of Oregon, and Portland State twice?

Probably not.

Yesterday my youngest son graduated from UofO with a BA in Business, an emphasis in Marketing, a certificate in Global Management, and a minor in Spanish.

He did it in five years like his Grandpa, not eighteen years taking up parts of three decades like his daddy. I used my academic career on both my college boys. It was my cattle prod against the idea of dropping out.



When my Dad graduated, I was six. My boys were younger when I got my diploma, but the pictures look eerily similar: college students in cap and gown with kids around them.

The big difference is in the father part. My Dad’s dad didn’t attend his son’s graduation. His idea was that anyone who went to school past the eighth grade was afraid of work.

My Dad grew up in a logging camp, then a small farm, in Washington. He worked on the railroad, called the job Gandy Dancing. He set chokers in the woods before joining the Marines and shipping out for the Korean War.

Whose Day

Whose Day

Then he went to college and got a degree and turned himself into a pansy in his dad’s eyes. He wore a shirt and tie and worked with insurance instead of wearing a Coos Bay tuxedo and working with a chain saw.

With Momma

With Momma

My Grandma rode the bus from southern Washington to Ashland, Oregon to see her son graduate. Nothing was going to stop her. She knew what it meant to have the first college grad in the family.

I sat in the Mathew Knight Arena in Eugene yesterday thinking about my Dad while my son waited his turn on the stage.

What would it take for me to ditch his graduation? Why did Grandpa ditch my dad’s? I asked a few of my sociology resources, not trusting academic research, and here’s what I got:

  • You’d skip your son’s graduation if you had a personality that only registered things where you were the most important person.
  • You’d skip it if you had something more important to do, which in some people means anything is more important if they’re not the central figure.
  • You’d skip if you weren’t the direct reason for your son’s graduation, like his mentor, his guiding light, or his academic advisor.

The answers for the next question were more revealing.

What benefit comes from showing up at my son’s graduation? You show him the importance of respect and decency, and what it means to participate with others who accomplish difficult tasks.

Here’s my take away from the day: My Dad and two son’s graduated from college in less time combined than I took.

That doesn’t mean I’m a moron, does it? Comments welcome.

The Family Group

The Family Group

About David Gillaspie
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