With the exception of physicians, most people end up in their life career path more by accident than carefully well thought out planning. Think about that. When you got ready to graduate from high school, the really first big decision you had to make in life was “what am I going to do now”? Those men and women who had decided they wanted to be a doctor knew that decision had to be made early because their grades, which school they got into, whether they were accepted for medical school, etc., were all dependent on a lengthy focus and drive that finally got them into the right medical school. But for the rest of us, what happened after leaving that senior year in high school is anybody’s guess.
Take me for example. I graduated from high school in 1954. For those of you who can remember, the Korean war was just ending. Papers and magazines were full of talk about the economy and how the United States needed more engineers to keep up with the arms race and also to meet the manufacturing requirements of our rapidly growing economy. Since I had been pretty good in math and physics, being an engineer seemed a logical choice.
I applied for entry into our state university, the University of Illinois, and was promptly admitted as the entrance requirement in those days was: not being in the bottom 10% of your class, have $50 for tuition, and be an in-state student.
However, now the quirk of fate settles in. In those days many of the state universities were “land grant schools.” This meant that each entering male student was required to enroll in two years of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). We were issued uniforms, taught how to march and drill, and learned some of the basic subjects about the military.
Registration day came where each student had to physically walk around to the various buildings where each department was located and sign up for the particular desired course. As you might expect, it was not a friendly environment and the day became longer and longer as one trudged from building to building trying to get the right classes at the right times.
Finally all courses were signed up for and it came time to go all the way to the other end of campus and sign up for ROTC. It also is noteworthy that the ROTC sign up was in the same building where you paid your tuition and fees and completed the registration process. There was some urgency to “get it all over with” and go do something more fun.
When signing up for ROTC, a student had two choices: the Army or the Air Force. For some reason, when enrolled in the Air Force ROTC, they provided each student shoes to go with their uniform. With the Army ROTC you had to buy your own shoes. Well, since the intent was to only spend the required two years in the program, it was an easy choice … go with the Air Force and get the free shoes.
But you should have seen the line to sign up for ROTC. The Air Force line stretched all the way around the building where the Army line was hardly a line at all. Just sign up for the Army and registration is over and no more standing in lines. Easy choice. All I was going to do was spend my required two years and then go on to be an engineer and enter the work force and make “lots” of money.
Long story short. I really liked the Army ROTC, signed up for the additional two years and was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps on graduating. Twenty years later I retired from the Army, and based upon my engineering degree and Army experience became a VP in MCI Telecommunication. I retired from there after 20 years, got dissatisfied with some of the local politics, knocked on 3,500 doors and was elected county judge.
Three separate professions, none of which I would ever have planned. But everyone of them was a great job and a great experience and I would go back in a heartbeat to any one of them.
Jerry Hogan is a former Rockwall County judge and can be reached at 214-394-4033.