6 weeks later I walked earning my B.S. in History, Religion/Philosophy, and Political Science. However, even that was contested as the Registrar who had known me fairly well (and wasn’t really a fan) insisted up and down that there was no way I would be awarded three majors. She kept protesting and I just kept responding with … “Gee, Sue, you’ll have to take that up with my Academic Advisor as he’s the one who is guiding me in all this.”
Each time I responded with that phrase she became more and more adamant as seen in the increase of the volume and the pitch of her voice. One would have thought that we were negotiating over the possibility of her losing her virginity.
I finally received my three degrees with a B- average but she was so bitchy about it she had to scrawl the word “unique” on my record. I always laugh at that because I seriously doubt that anyone ever saw her scribble of “unique” on my records.
Finally, there was Seminary. This became another skin of the teeth moment in terms of Graduation. Grades or credits here were not the problems. I graduated with plenty of credits to spare and I had a solid 3.4 GPA. Because of taking on employment with United Airlines in Columbia, SC I added an extra semester to my three years taking two easy/cheesy courses that last semester. I filed all the requisite papers and I was all in the chute to graduate that following May.
However, I hit a snag. It wasn’t chapel this time. I had got a signed excuse from the Dean of Students because of my work schedule. (Chapel in Seminary wasn’t a lick better than Chapel in undergrad.) The snag I hit this time was named Dr. Jay Sensinig. Dr. Jay had shown up my final year to take over what is now called the practicum program of Seminary. When I was in seminary it was called “Field Education.” Here was a course that wasn’t a course. One did not pay for the credits of Field Ed. One did not have assigned classes for Field Education but I found out too late that, due to Dr. Jay’s improvement of the system when he took over one did have to turn in paperwork. Now, in my defense, I did not spend very much time on campus after the 1st year and as such, I wasn’t really tuned into new requirements. Therein lie the snag. I had turned in zero Field Education reports and without those Field Education reports, I was told, I could not graduate.
So, I did the natural thing. I went to see Dr. Jay. Dr. Jay was adamant that I turn in three years of Field Education reports. Now, you can ask my wife, but trust me when I tell you I just don’t have a memory for the kind of busywork that the Psychologist Dr. Jay was asking of me. I had been busy in the Church I had attended but in terms of providing the lesson plans for three years, and the detailed work explaining my going door to door evangelism, or teaching children’s Sunday School, or serving on the Church’s steering committee well that was completely gone.
So, I had to write a novel for Dr. Jay. You know, historical fiction? I made up lesson plans (who remembers what they taught in children’s Sunday School from three years ago? For that matter, who makes up a lesson plan when teaching 8-year-olds?), I gave the highlights I could remember from my door to door Evangelism Explosion work, I gave what info I could for other things but some of those things were still pretty sensitive as the Church I served went through some very hard times and I didn’t want to be spilling that stuff everywhere …. especially for the shrink Dr. Jay.
I finally put it all together and set up a time for a meeting up with him. I sat it all on his desk and he let me know that it wasn’t satisfactory and that quite without looking at it. It seems he didn’t like my attitude. I know … hard to believe right?
And so there I was ready to walk in May of 88 but Dr. Jay would not approve and so I didn’t graduate in 1988. Nor in 1989 as he was still holding it and I was now 6 months into being called to Pastor a church. Finally, in 1990 he relented and gave his stamp of approval.
Later I found out that there had been a confab meeting about what to do about my status and my degree. I found out because the chap who had been the Dean of Students (Dr. Joe Parker — a great bloke) had taken the Southern Baptist pulpit 9 miles up the road from where I was serving in an Independent Presbyterian Church. Joe and I worked together on joint community projects and services along with a chap from the Episcopal Church and a fellow from the PCA work up the road. Joe was also still working as the Dean of Students when my case came up as to whether or not they were going to give me my sheepskin. There was a great deal of anguish coming from Dr. Jay (did I tell you he was a shrink by trade?) and from a chap named Lee Toomey who ran the work service program on campus. Lee complained that I was less than enthusiastic and cooperative when it came to my giving the school free labor that I was informed existed after I moved from Maine to South Carolina. Lee was also in charge of parking and I had a bad habit of parking in the wrong spots. Lee didn’t like that. Mea culpa, mea culpa, maxima mea culpa.
So, those were two strong voices speaking out against me being conferred. However, I had the office of the Dean of students speaking for me. Dr. Earl McQuay was the senior guy in the office and Dr. McQuay had been part of a student small group that I led for one year in Seminary. Dr. McQuay was a dear man who had suffered the loss of an adult son years prior. Some of that loss came out in our small study group and we wept with one another. Both Dr. Parker and Dr. McQuay were genuine friends though each was a generation older than me and they stuck with me though Joe Parker told me that “it was a close call. I didn’t know if you were going to make it.”
So, in 1990, 30 months after I completed my course work I was finally given my Seminary degree.