|Forgive An Even Older Middle-Aged Man And His Memories (Part Two)
June 13, 2019
News this week of the demolition of Stansbury Hall at West Virginia University prompted me to review my nostalgic look at the building from 2011. Bathed in some of the warm memories (of my memories), I am also struck by how much I don't remember from my college days. I don't believe this is to be blamed entirely on brain cells dead from alcohol. Is it typical for many of us to forget a lot more than we remember from our college days 40 years on?
For instance, looking at my transcripts from 1980-1984 at WVU, the following represent the best of what I can remember from individual classes:
General Biology -- Vaguely remember a stereotypical fruit fly experiment in the lab section. Don't particularly remember the professor, teaching assistant, or even the larger lecture section of the course. In addition to the "C" I got in the class, this lack of memory is probably a good indication of why my choice of biology major (to be a Marine Biologist) was not a good one. (Note: I found a 1980-1981 archived catalog online. Dr. Allen's name seems familiar. I would have had a faculty advisor in that program. Was that him?)
Fundamentals of Chemistry -- Strongly remember Dr. Paul, the instructor. Not a fair indicator, however, of my class experience memory, as my sisters had talked, still talk, frequently about Dr. Paul from their chemistry classes 4 years earlier.
Composition & Rhetoric -- I think it was taught by the second wife of one of the long-time English professors. The specifics of that "second-wife" detail is only relevant because by the time I chose English as a major, and went on to do the MA degree, through WVU's Department of English, then all that kind of hushed conversation actually registered for me.
College Algebra -- I think it was taught by an Asian teaching assistant. Or else my memory is a victim of stereotyping? Shocked that I got a "B" in the course.
Introduction to Anthropology -- I should remember so much more as it was taught by Dr. Pat Rice, a family friend. Can't imagine why I didn't try a little harder in class I should have enjoyed with a faculty member I knew, but alas the transcripts show a "C." If Dr. Rice ever talked to my mom about my efforts in class, Mom must have been appalled.
Racquetball & Tennis -- Don't remember being taught anything, just playing.
General Biology 2 -- Maybe this was the semester of the fruit flies. I really don't have a clue.
Fundamentals of Chemistry 2 -- Is this the semester of Dr. Paul? Did I really have her for two semesters despite my sisters' running commentaries? I do remember a girl from either Chem 1 or 2. Took her on one date. That is not insignificant, by the way. Although there are some stories, just not appropriate here.
Composition and Rhetoric 2 -- Maybe this was the semester I had wife #2 of long-term faculty member? Who knows? Sigh.
Plane Trigonometry -- I give up. My gut tells me another graduate student. In retrospect, I marvel at another "B" in the math class.
Intro to Psych -- Now I am getting somewhere. This was a self-paced class. I remember going to the computer labs to do my exams. Whatever instructor was assigned to it was probably another grad student.
Badminton & Tennis -- When the hell did I do badminton? No memory. I don't even remember spelling badminton this way.
Creative Writing Fiction Workshop -- I remember trying to sneak Dire Straits' lyrics into my submissions. Something about "boys drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles." Clever, wasn't I? Don't remember the instructor . . . or if he or she noticed my theft.
Elementary German -- No memory of absolutely anything. Took two years of German in high school and have all sorts of memories. Bier Macht Spass.
Introduction to Geology -- Wow, had completely forgotten that I took this course. Now I have a vague memory of looking at rocks.
US History since 1918 -- Pretty sure this was Dr. Wes Bagby. Made us buy and use the textbook he wrote. Seemed like a stiff, old dude. Almost certainly younger at the time than I am now.
Nonverbal Communication -- With another family friend as faculty member, Mrs. Enid Portnoy. I remember enjoying the class a lot. Had to write a paper about a body part we were proud of (I know, if that isn't fraught with danger, I don't know what assignment is). Wrote about my legs because I walked those damn hills in Morgantown all the time. Funny how one doesn't forget that. Remember another girl in there. Didn't date her. Probably should have asked her out. Wonder what she thought of my legs.
British Literature 1 -- No memories, which is sad because by now I have declared English as my major,
American Literature 1-- A few more memories than for Brit Lit, including an image of the instructor as a sweet rotund man. Forget his name. I even went back to the 80-81 archived catalog and no name sticks out. I do remember reading James Fenimore Cooper's "The Prairie" in a weekend cramming for a test.
Creative Writing -- Maybe this is the course where I plagiarized Mark Knopfler. I don't remember taking 3 creative writing courses at all (third one, most memorable, to come), but clearly I did.
German 2 -- Still no gedächtnis.
Science, Magic and Religion -- Only the faint wisp of a memory lurking somewhere. Maybe it is just the remnants of an incense stick. Should have been a course that fascinated the hell out of me.
British Lit 2 -- No memory. Could one of these Brit Lits have been taught by Dr. William Fitzpatrick, the department caricature in a field where most of us are caricatures to begin with? Somewhere in these classes I had Dr. Fitz, pony-tailed rugby-loving character that he was.
American Lit 2 -- As opposed to these other sequential courses, for once, I can be sure my memory of the earlier class is (relatively) more accurate. There is no way one reads Cooper for an American Lit 2. However, I don't remember what we read in a class whose subject ultimately became the focus of my graduate work. How sad is that?
Pop American Culture -- Carolyn Hampson, lipstick-stained cigarettes on the floor, Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, The Doors. It was a memorable class, even if not always in the way educators like to believe we provide such memories. Note: Until I just now reviewed the archived catalog, I remembered her name as Hansen. Mmm-bop.
German 3 -- No memory, although I am starting to wonder if this was self-paced by then.
English Social History 14th to 18th Century -- Not sure about the whole time span given the abbreviated title on my transcripts. Nothing for faculty member or readings.
Creative Writing Poetry -- Lloyd Davis . . . and a lot of crappy poetry I submitted. Poor Lloyd.
The English Language -- Really? I took this course? I got nothing.
The Romantic Movement -- Dr. Byron Nelson, the introduction to the romantic poets. This might be the beginning of my intellectual calling. Sorry, Byron, to lay that on you.
Intermediate German Reading -- I am pretty sure this is the self-paced course.
Western Civilization I: Civil Antiquity - 1600 -- Wow, I so wish I could remember something here.
Short Story -- A survey class, not another creative writing. At least I think so. No memories again.
Shakespeare -- I remember finally being able to actually read Shakespeare. A real breakthrough. WVU had several characters teaching Shakespeare, but I don't remember which I had. Dr. John Racin? I know I had him for Milton when I went to Graduate School and was amazed at how much I enjoyed the class (and I think it was the paper I wrote for him that won me an award . . . and lots of cool stuff from the gift certificate to the bookstore).
Literature of 18th Century -- At this point, the gaps in my memories are pretty much humiliating. Nothing.
Western Civilization 1600 - Present -- Zip. Nil. Nada.
Personal and Social Adjustment -- Wow! I took this? Clearly none of it took hold.
London Theater Tour -- Spring Break credit. Dr. Nelson leading, Mark Hartnett, Arsenio Ortega, Becky something, looking for punk records. Ah the kinds of memories that set anchor. Not always the kind to share publicly, though.
16th Century Prose and Poetry -- Dr. Byron's credit-bearing class associated with the spring break trip???
West Virginia History -- Went to the wrong final and ended up having to go to this one without studying. Still managed a "B".
18 Century Britain -- History was my minor. My memory barely remembers any of these classes. Sheesh.
American Federal System -- Not much memory but it was Pass/Fail so I probably did the minimum.
Introduction to Social Psychology -- The sad thing is by the last two semesters, I was applying myself to all my classes and getting my best grades ever . . . and I still can't remember anything about this class. . .
Human Communication in Contemporary Society -- . . . Or this one. How did I not mock the "human communication" part of the title. Was there a comparable "animal communication in contemporary society?"
So that's it. About 40 classes worth of a college education, done well enough to propel me onto graduate programs, and there's less than 1 class worth of memories. Is this just me? Have I killed too many brain cells? Or is this typical of many of us 35 years after we graduate, barely remembering the bulk of our educational journey?
I am not sure I want to solicit feedback from others. What I can't remember can't hurt me.