It’s springtime!

Warmer weather time, vacation-planning time, graduation time.

It’s also that time of the year when high school seniors find out if they’ve been accepted at their college of choice.

Going off to college is a big deal. With freshman enrollment limited to a small percentage of applicants, letters of acceptance are the grand prize.

Acceptance depends on grades, class ranking, SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test) scores, finances and scholarship awards.

When I realize how it is now and recall how it was when I attended Marquette University, my, oh, my how times have changed. How many times have I said this in this column when comparing life in the modern world to my experience “in the ol’ days”?

Takes me back to 1953 when I entered MU … no cap on enrollees, no SATs. Enrollment was based mainly on high school grades and class ranking. I was an average student in high school. Today, I would not be accepted.

After graduating from Saint Francis Minor Seminary High School in 1947 I worked in the office of a small shoe company in South Milwaukee. When the Korean War broke out, I was greeted in January 1951 with a familiar letter from Uncle Sam: “You have been selected by your friends and neighbors to serve your country, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”

So, like many friends and neighbors my age, I was drafted and off to war I went. After a year of training stateside and a year in Korea, I returned home in February 1953.

Six years had elapsed since high school graduation. I had no financial/scholarship support. But being a Korean War veteran, I was eligible for a college education under the GI Bill.

To enroll at Marquette I filed an application, completed an entrance test and applied for GI Bill benefits. Test results were discouraging.

The admissions counselor told me I’d be wasting my time. She suggested I try a lesser-demanding academic schedule … perhaps a trades school or vocational training.

She emphasized that at Marquette I would be competing with much younger high school grads, sharp kids, top-notch students. I told her I would be competing only with myself.

Challenged, I was determined to succeed. With a nagging interest in news reporting, I became a freshman in MU’s College of Journalism at age 24.

Tuition was $1,200 per year. What is it today … $30-$40,000? The GI Bill allowed for $110 a month, enough to cover tuition. Living at home, expenses were minimal. I had a car and drove to and from school. Parking near the campus was no problem. Getting back to the classroom was.

In addition to requisite journalism classes, English, botany, history and theology filled 16 credits for my freshman year. Philosophy, political science, Spanish and more history were added in ensuing years.

While teen students dominated classes, meeting other Korean vets with similar goals was encouraging. We bonded, not only on and off campus, but created lasting friendships.

We attended MU basketball games at the arena. Jack Nagle was coach. Friday night poker games strengthened our friendships. Classmate Gordon Brehm and his family are still close friends. Many others are deceased.

As a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, class by class, course by course, day by day, month by month, year by year I studied hard and persevered, collecting As, Bs, and Cs along the way.

One memorable incident occurred in my sophomore year. One day while walking on campus near the J-School office building a buddy yelled from across the street asking who I had as English professor.

I yelled back, “The same jerk I had last year.”

As I turned around to continue my journey, guess who was standing behind me? Yup, “the same jerk I had last year.” Can’t imagine why that was such a tough course.

At the beginning of my junior year, I stretched myself a bit, getting a part-time job at the old Milwaukee Sentinel. I worked about 20 hours a week, mainly afternoons and evenings, for $2.50 an hour updating radio and TV listings for a Sunday magazine section. As I stayed on, my hours and duties increased.

Proving the admissions counselor wrong, I graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. As I recall, some of the counselor’s highly-touted younger freshmen had dropped out along the way.

However, every class has some members who excel in their chosen profession and ours was no different. Among those who achieved celebrity status were the late Tom Snyder, of late night television fame, and retired Green Bay Packers president Bob Harlan. Obnoxious Snyder was BMOC (Big Man on Campus). Working as a roving radio news reporter for WRIT, he often drove around the area in a station lettered car. Harlan was a sports reporter for the Marquette Tribune, the campus newspaper.

After graduation, I continued working at the Sentinel as a general assignment reporter at a whopping salary of $100 a week. After five years at the Sentinel I landed a public relations job at the Milwaukee plant of International Harvester. A secretary in our office was Dorothy Nowicki, who currently lives in Greenfield and has remained a friend over the years. A year later my job was eliminated in an economic move.  

Subsequently, I had learned of an opening for a news writer/editor at the Catholic Herald and in November 1960 began an unforgettable career in the Catholic Press that lasted 38 years. (Millie and I were married in 1959; she died in 1998.)
It’s been 60 years since I enrolled at Marquette and at times I still wonder if I really graduated.

Could I have done this today? Never! Grade-wise I would not be accepted; financially I could not afford it.

But, here I am, still writing and reminding myself, “Wow, times have changed.”

(Out and About is a regular feature of Mature Lifestyles that looks at issues affecting the older adult community. Horn, a retired Catholic Herald reporter, is a member of St. Roman Church, Milwaukee.)