“Memory” is the signature ballad of the musical Cats which opened on Broadway in October of 1982. It ran for eighteen years and is still one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. In June of 1982, I started my first ‘real’ job as Assistant Dean of Students at McMurry College (now McMurry University). This means I’ve had a longer professional run than even Cats.
It was a different world in many ways then. Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” was topping the music charts. ET The Extra-Terrestrial and Blade Runner were both released that month. (Also “Annie”, “The Thing”, a whole bunch of titles I’ve never heard of or don’t remember, as well as “Grease 2” which most people don’t want to remember.) M*A*S*H was in its tenth season and Little House on the Prairie was in season eight. Prime time soaps were popular with Dallas, Dynasty, and Knots Landing going strong.
The only computer we had was a machine in the backroom. We could print out a list of every student enrolled – on large green and white striped paper that fed through the machine. But we couldn’t do much more than that, but we were glad to have it. I needed that list because part of my job was to manage the College Series. It had replaced mandatory chapel a few years before and every student was to attend four events each semester. Convocation counted, guest speakers and major university events, plus anything I could manage to program or organize on a year budget of $3,000 which wasn’t much of a programming budget even then. At each event we handed students a two-part ticket. At the end of the event, they handed us one half which they had signed and kept the other for proof. Student workers took those stubs and marked attendance by hand on that huge computer sheet. And at the end of the semester, I went through the list student by student to see who had not met their obligation. I can feel a tension headache beginning just thinking about it.
Email, which I understand is slow and for ‘old people’ now, didn’t exist then of course. We all had landlines on our desks and at home. I knew a lot more phone numbers by memory then.
Much has changed since I began my career, but the basics haven’t. Our work supporting students is still critical. We work with a wider variety of students now than I did then. More students with disabilities are making it through high school ready for college now. Students from a wider variety of backgrounds populate a wider range of colleges and universities now and while there’s still work to be done, we are more effective at meeting students where they are across that wider range.
In honor of my 40th anniversary memories, you might take a moment to think back to your start in your career. What’s changed? What’s stayed the same? What memories do you cherish? What technology were you glad to have that is nearly unimaginable to people who are starting their careers? I hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane!