Kansas State Teachers College

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I started my venture into higher education at what was then Kansas State Teachers College at Pittsburg in January, 1948. I had no interest in becoming a teacher. I chose to enroll at KSTC (now Pittsburg State University) rather than at Kansas University because I had a couple of friends there and felt socially somewhat uncomfortable around the “in group” from my home town who were going to KU. Actually, when I began at Pittsburg I was thinking about psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Not for any good reasons but out of some adolescent romantic notions that I had picked up from reading a little, but only a very little, of Freud.

I quickly made friends with another student, a slightly older veteran, who was also much interested in Freud and with whom I spent a good many hours discussing in a superficial way the depths of the human mind and predicament. I do not know what ever became of that friend; he drank a lot.

Obviously, a career in psychiatry required completion of medical school, and I declared myself a pre-med student. I began almost immediately to become disillusioned with the pre-med curriculum—not because of grades but because of nearly interminable boredom. During my first semester in college, I signed up for Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class, a summer program aimed eventually toward a commission in the USMC. That summer was important for me in one way: it did a lot for my personal self-confidence. Most PLC trainees were “boots,” whereas I, with 18 months of USMC experience behind me, and most especially boot training, was already a seasoned “vet.” That put me in a position of leadership, which I enjoyed and learned from. I was also reasonably adept at a variety of military tasks, and I relaxed right into competence. Among other things, although in my tour of duty in the regular USMC, I had been an indifferent, although qualified “Marksman,” in PLC, thanks I believe to my relaxed attitude, I qualified as “expert” with the rifle and would have qualified as expert with two other weapons if scores for them had been recorded. Successes such as that were important in fostering my self-confidence and willingness to undertake new activities.

Upon my return to KSTC in the fall, I found myself in a biology class of some sort that drove me a bit crazy. I learned that the college had a “counseling center” for veterans to help them with vocational and career plans. I went to the center to see whether I could find something to do that would relieve me of the miseries of the comparative anatomy of vertebrates and the need to memorize all those bones. The center was directed by R. Wray Strowig, and a older (26 years old!) vet, a former Air Force captain and pilot, William H. (Bill) Lyle. Based on a rather extensive battery of tests, including, I do remember, the Strong Vocational Interest Inventory and the Kuder Test of Vocational Interests, they concluded that I should consider becoming—a clinical psychologist! I did not know much about psychology or psychologists, although I had had one class in that subject, but I did find that psychologists did not have to take the pre-med curriculum. I immediately switched my allegiance.

Strowig,[1] whom I came to admire very much, and Lyle,[2] who became a sort of personal hero and mentor to me, were sufficiently impressed with me, with my intellectual ability I think, not with my wide-eyed but brash personality, to offer me a job in the counseling center administering and scoring the very tests that had already changed the course of my life. So, as a first-term sophomore in college, I was already employed as a psychologist—well, a psychologist of sorts, at least a “psychological technician.” I learned how to administer all score all sorts of tests, including tests of motor ability such as the Minnesota Rate of Manipulation Test and the Purdue Pegboard. I even administered the card form of the MMPI and scored it. I was fascinated, and I began then to acquire some rudimentary knowledge of such important terms as reliability, validity, norms, correlation, and so on. Both Strowig and Lyle were tolerant, encouraging, and helpful to me.

Out of my experiences with my peers, being younger, being somewhat less secure, not having such a strong sense of belonging, I developed a strong interest in other people and a desire to be liked by them. Undoubtedly my genetic disposition contributed to that interest also, but it has always seemed natural to me anyway that people would want to be liked by those around them. I also came to realize that probably the best way to be likeable is to like other people. It would be absurd to claim that I like everyone; I do not. But I like most people most of the time, and there are very few people for whom I have a positive dislike. I discovered also that a good way to get along with people is to stay away from those persons you really do not care for, and that is what I generally try to do.

Unpleasant emotions are unpleasant to those who experience them, as well as for those to whom they are directed. Anger is certainly one such emotion. I have known a number of people who were chronically angry, and often plotting somehow to get even. None of those persons was happy. I have tried not to let anger blight my life. On the other hand, a little righteous indignation now and then is good for the soul. One just should not take one’s own indignation all that seriously.

[1] Wray Strowig eventually ended up in the School of Education at the University of Chicago, where I visited with him on one or two occasions. We did co-author an article together, which always pleased me. Unfortunately, he died quite prematurely of a heart attack.

[2] Bill Lyle completed his Ph.D. at Ohio State under George Kelly and took a job at the Federal drug addiction treatment center at Lexington, KY. He died somewhat prematurely of a heart attack.