A small thing can make a big difference
In the fall of 1957, I was in a pickle. Because of summer school, I had limited time to work. This left me with only $1,000 and I owed all of it for last year’s student loan. But I had a plan. I would pay my debt and a week later re-apply. Getting $1,500 with the new loan would take care of tuition and go along way with living expenses because I had a very cheap room and a meal job.
With a clean record, I approached the student loan office with confidence. I had repaid my loan on time. I knew a lot of people were having trouble because summer jobs had been hard to get. I should be at the head of the line for acceptance. I approached the clerk seated at a desk and asked for a student loan application. Then it hit!
“I am sorry, we aren’t taking any new student loan applications at this time”. The young lady maintained a neutral gaze.
I blurted, “why”?
Matter-of-factly she said, “We have had so many failures of re-payment for last year’s loans that we have no funds. You can come back next semester and by that time new loans could be available.”
Only half seriously I said, “OK then, can I have my money back and be like the rest of them?”
With this the young woman looked up, said no with her head and that was it. The conversation was over.
Now for plan two. Since I had never been asked if I had paid tuition, I would attend classes and figure out how to get the money. Tuition for Medical school was only $275.00 and I should be able to come up with that some way. I told no one. As the days passed, my sense of urgency diminished but a healthy concern remained. Then it happened.
I was called to the office of the Academic Dean. I knew he was a retired Methodist Minister and a classmate’s father-in-law. This would be the first time I met him.
He greeted me cordially and said, “I understand you have been attending classes but have not paid your tuition.”
“Yes sir”, I said and then shared my plight.
His face clouded with concern and he said, “I’m sorry but you must pay tuition or you will not be able to continue attending classes. I am not in a position to make any exceptions, but I do have sympathy”.
“Will I be kicked out now?”, I asked.
“No”, he said.
“Thank you, I will do my best” I said and left.
Two weeks later I received a letter from the WK Kellogg Foundation. “Why”, I thought? It said, “Congratulations on being a Kellogg Scholar”. With it was a check for $375.00. I had not applied for this and my academic record at the time was not that good.
“Why this money” I asked myself. It had to be the Dean acting immediately to accomplish this in two weeks.
I paid tuition and had $100.00 left. A month later I received the loan that had been denied and all was well.
This compassionate act by a person I met only once and for not more than five minutes was one of the finest gifts I have ever received – a life shaping event.
Contributed by: Gene Helveston
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