As a dropout, am I still a Virginia alumnus?

The University of Virginia went into the NCCA Tournament as the number one seed nationwide.

Their hoped-for run for a national championship lasted one game as number 16 University of Maryland Baltimore Campus wiped out the Cavaliers by 20 points.

As a one time Virginia student, I had a moment of cheering for my old University. I also had a brief two-years as a student there.

I entered Virginia in the fall of 1965 with a four-year academic scholarship but chose to spend my first two years at what was then the “Roanoke Center” on Grandin Road so I could also work full-time at The Roanoke Times.

The Times hired me as its youngest full-time reporter at age 17 with the understanding that I would earn a college degree in at least five years.  In 1967, I would transfer to the Charlottesville campus to complete my studies in Political Theory and English.

But the Times gave me a weekly column at the beginning of that year and I was having too much fun working as a reporter who also shot pictures for the paper.  I asked Virginia if I could delay my entrance as a junior in Charlottesville for a year and received an extension.

In the summer of 1968, I just didn’t want to take a two-year break from my reporting job and considered attending Roanoke College or perhaps Virginia Tech but I did not have a full scholarship at either.

I also didn’t get around to letting my employers at the Times know about my dropout status until they asked for an updated transcript in early 1969.  I had to admit I wasn’t still in college and would not be obtaining a degree within five years so they gave me notice to find another job.

In the late 60s, open newspaper jobs often outnumbered those seeking positions and I landed a reporter/photographer post with The Telegraph, an award -winning afternoon newspaper on the Illinois side of the St. Louis metro area.

The managing editor at The Telegraph spent nearly two hours interviewing me, examining my clips before offering me the job on the spot at $55 a week more in salary.

He never asked me about a degree and my plan remained to find a way to go back to college and finish my studies for a degree but never got around to it.  It never came up in any job offered in the rest of my career.

Which raises the question:  As a dropout, am I still considered an alumnus of The University of Virginia?  I guess so, since I still get mailings for fundraising and alumni newsletters.

“Those who are able to achieve such success often rely on a set of skills already developed before they get to college,” writes Robert J. Zimmer of The Atlantic, but he also says “the vast majority of America’s 30 million college dropouts are more likely than graduates to be unemployed, poor or in default.”

On the other hand, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Eric Zuckerberg of Facebook are both billionaires and Harvard dropouts.

I’m nowhere near being a millionaire but have been employed for my 55+ years in the workplace and still manage to work as a newspaperman at a time when most feel it is dying profession.

At 70, I do regret not completing my college education but the only time I ever lost a job for not have one was my job at The Roanoke Times.  I had a nice reporting job there but did not obtain a degree in the time required to keep it.  That was my fault and mine alone.

A mixture of luck, good timing and — hopefully — some talent kept me working for five decades plus.


© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse