Special Documents - COUNT ME IN (class of '69)

John J. Uskert

COUNT ME IN (the Class of ’69)   

            My academic prowess was on full display my first year at Aquinas College.  Most of the professors were unimpressed.  Two semesters were successfully completed, albeit struggling to a 2.3 cumulative grade point. Not quite the demonstration of brilliance I anticipated in May, 1966.  A “Greetings” letter from my local draft board in the Fall of my sophomore year was shocking,  unexpected, really.  Low on its draftee quota, my draft board reclassified me from 2-S student status to 1-A draft eligible.  This event precipitated a major detour in my college designs. For the next year and a half at AQ, I was plagued with mental disruptions.  Possible conscription into the U.S. Armed Forces with likely overseas assignment was in the offing.  Such was the recurring contemplative theme in 1967.  Added to this mental conundrum were the fiscal obligations of tuition, books, room and board, all the while working numerous on and off campus jobs and trying to make the academic grade.  Maintaining my 1960 Ford Falcon, of dubious road worthiness, was a further distraction; maintenance and repair drained me of any surplus cash. War continued to rage on the other side of the globe.  The persistence of obstacles finally took its toll.  My studies at AQ were concluded unceremoniously in the winter of 1968.  My official transcript recorded 67 semester hours, 1.66 cumulative grade point average.

            Avoiding the inevitable, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.  Duty commenced in the irrepressible heat and humidity of San Antonio, TX.  With basic training completed, I was reassigned to electronic and radar tech school at Lowry AFB, CO, located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Duty assignments over the next three and a half years included maintenance of the airborne weapons control systems on the F-101, F-102 and F-106 fighter/interceptors. Michigan, Okinawa, South Korea and Florida were my assigned squadrons.  Throughout my four-year enlistment, I positively reflected on, and cherished, the time spent in Grand Rapids at AQ. Pressurized by a military and adverse economic climate, I had little control.  I realized my inability to succeed as a 20-year-old college student was an overt failure.  Despite the permanence of my disastrous AQ transcript, I resumed college studies as a military veteran motivated to excel.

            I completed junior college at age 25, pharmacy school at 28 and law school at 41. The desire to excel academically and professionally was the only motivation required.  I practiced pharmacy in Florida, Alabama and Indiana and simultaneously practiced law in Florida and Indiana during my professional careers.  Although I am since retired from both professions, I do maintain active status in the Indiana Bar.

            The education received at AQ was not in the classrooms, or the library, or the study areas at St. Joe the Worker Residence Hall.  Rather, the education received at AQ was experiential, fundamental and deeply engrained in my very being.  Failure is acceptable only if one continues to strive for success.

            I must profess, I am truly indebted to the faculty, administration and religious who helped shape me and direct my life between 1965 and 1968.  When I matriculated at AQ in 1965, I was a member of the Class of 1969.  Despite not graduating from Aquinas College, my gratitude to AQ exceeds expression.  And, by the way, do COUNT ME IN (the Class of ‘69).


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