UNO thoughts – from LSU to U of L and beyond.
Lots of UNO thoughts today
So, I just donated the equivalent of a couple of weeks’ worth of Iced Chai Lattes (my afternoon go-to beverage of late) to the University of New Orleans, for “Give UNO Day.” I’m right proud to do so, because I still believe in my school’s mission. Louisiana State University in New Orleans became a major part of my life when my parents returned to New Orleans from Metro Boston in 1960. For most folks, the university years are a blip on the timeline. For me, UNO is so much more.
Big Ed and LSUNO
My old man learned electronics courtesy of the United States Air Force. After defending Biloxi, Mississippi from the Chinese during the Korean War, Big Ed married his NOLA girl and took a job up in Boston, as an engineer at Raytheon. He worked on the original Hawk missile project for the Army, earning a good salary, with a house in Danvers, the Boston suburb that was the original Salem. His NOLA girl, however, didn’t adjust well to winters in New England. After making two babies, I suspect the combination of spending the days alone in that suburban house (New Englanders don’t socialize much in the snow), along with post-partum depression, momma needed to go home.
Big Ed always did anything he could for Anne. Give up the good job? Go back South? Sure. He landed a job at the then-two year old LSUNO, as manager of its Electronics shop. The College of Science had some fantastic chemists and physicists, even in those early years. They invested in a lot of electronic equipment. It made sense to repair it in-house. Big Ed hired a team to do just that.
Big Ed was an incredible teacher. He ended his time in the USAF as an E-6, teaching electronics. I’m sure he applied those skills at Raytheon. I saw him in action as I got older. It was an absolute blast to go with him to work as a kid. In a way, I had my first “job” at UNO when I was about ten, building Heathkit DC power supplies for the electronics lab daddy and his staff set up for the Physics Department. About the same time, the college invested in a DECSYSTEM 10 mainframe. Computer Science started under Physics, before branching out into an independent department in the college. Daddy kept going with computers. He bought one of the first Motorola integrated circuit learning kids available for the shop. He was always the perfect senior NCO to the officers (professors). I think he was happy with the relationship. It didn’t pay as much as being a “real” engineer, but momma worked as well, so we did OK.
I had two choices for high school. Momma taught many of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart when she was on the Education faculty at Loyola. Being an institution operated by the Society of Jesus, she knew many of the priests and brothers at Jesuit High School. I chose Elysian Fields over Carrollton and Banks. That decision process is an entirely different story that we’ll get to at some point. While LSUNO didn’t fit into that decision, the university’s influence in my life grew.
It was so much more than hitching rides home with daddy. Brother Martin High School operated in the shadow of the university. An example: In Composition II class as a sophomore, Brother Bernie piled us all onto a school bus and took us up to the Earl K. Long Library. The university’s library used Library of Congress rather than Dewey Decimal. We learned where everything was, and that resource was just twenty-five cents away for the rest of my high school years.
The Brother Martin Debate Team competed all over the metro area, but LSUNO’s tournament was special, because a number of the guys running the tournament were BMHS grads. I don’t know if my trophies from the 1974 tournament are the last items branded as LSUNO or not, but the change became official while we were competing. We were still high schoolers, but the excitement was infectious. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I’d go to UNO at that time. Loyola University was quite appealing to me, particularly because debate-team-me harbored that desire to become a lawyer. I got accepted to both schools. My parents would have found the money to pay for Loyola, but given just how much cheaper the state school was, well, that was a no-brainer. Daddy hooked me up with a job in the Chemistry Department my freshman year. I moved on from that to selling suits at Maison Blanche. I made enough money to pay tuition for every other semester.
So, yes, I am right proud to give to my school. While many people were upset when UNO left the Louisiana State University System, becoming part of the University of Louisiana System, I was OK with it. The mission continues.
(to be continued…)