October 10, 1978 was much cooler than today. MJ and I had been married a little over 6 months. I had interviewed at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale for the position of Building Service Worker I…over a month previously. I was working with my friend, Brent, installing carpet. When I think of the time I spent crawling around on various floors to perform the installation work…I wonder how I did it then…when I certainly could not do so now. When I interviewed with the Superintendent of Building Services, George O’Hara, he had explained to me that he had several shift vacancies and that there were 2 openings on the 11 – 7 shift and 5 on the 5 – 1 shift. Up until that moment I felt that the interview was going very well. Mr. O’Hara was smiling and so was I. I desired to seal the deal by saying that I would enjoy being chosen for one of the most difficult work time slots. So, I said that there was nothing that I enjoyed more than getting up early in the morning and reporting for work. Mr. O’Hara’s face fell… He began to fold his papers and place them in what I was now certain was my ‘Dead File.’ He went on to say that all of the new staff in Building Services were hired for night shifts and that the senior staff held the day positions. The five to 1 shift was not 5:00 A:M:…but beginning at 5:00 P:M:. I stammered and announced that there was only one thing that I enjoyed more than getting up early to go to work…and that was working late at night. He laughed and said that the decision should be made in about a week and that he would be calling me if I was chosen. I left my telephone number with my pastor’s wife, Mickey, since I and MJ were both out of our trailer during the day. There were no cell phones. I asked Brent if I could walk down to the corner, in Carterville, Illinois, and call Mickey to see if she had any job news. When she picked up the receiver she was happy to inform me that I had been hired and that they wanted me to come in that afternoon. I was overjoyed and MJ was ecstatic!
October 10, 1978…a whole new door of opportunity opened for MJ and I. I more than doubled my pay and the University had wonderful benefits. I saw that I now had more than a job…I had a career. During my 32 years and 2 months and 3 weeks of being a member of the SIUC community…I never thought that the University was fortunate to have me…I knew that I was blessed to be a part of such a vibrant and exciting mission.
My greatest education came from the thousands of students that I worked with and met during my time at Southern. I learned that my human family was electrifying in its diversity and inclusion. There was never a dull moment…and there was always something new to learn. I was humbled and proud that colleagues from 70 nations called me…friend.