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Carrol Vertrees: College gives kids a nice start

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: February 28, 2013 6:28AM



Maybe it was something in the water. Or in the wild and crazy social life, like skating parties in the old gym.

There was something special about that little church college on the south edge of Indianapolis, an unsophisticated place for unsophisticated kids away from home for the first time.

I have felt this for years, but it touched my heart again when my college roommate and his coed wife got their pictures in the paper down in Kokomo.

They have been married for 69 years, since shortly before he shipped out for his Navy duties.

Good grief! That is a great record. He was always a bit ahead of me in academics, and he beat me to the wedding altar, too — by a couple of years. That is part of the story about this wonderful place that gave kids a start in their quest for a role in life.

This campus turned out preachers, teachers, pre-med students, business majors, science majors and confused kids like me.

That story makes a profound statement about the culture that we entered when we enrolled. Dozens of our friends found mates there. For years we have been part of a group that meets for lunch and exchanges notes. Until a few years back, there were 10 of us — two have gone, and we miss them. But we remember them.

Some of our buddies went to war and never came home. We knew them — they were part of a friendly campus that accepted kids like me and my roommate — most of us poor. That was its special role, but we did not think much of it until years later, when we matured a bit and felt thankful that we were there in this little place with many rules and few amenities.

It is often that way with life, I suppose. We eventually remember the boost we got on our way to real maturity. On that campus, long ago, most of us were culturally alike, which probably helped us get acquainted, but there were also enough culture differences to expand our narrow horizons.

My roommate and I got lucky. We married girls with the same first names, both daughters of ministers. He and I needed that kind of guidance.

His wife told a reporter that living requires you to be “companionable.” She added: “You may feel like you are doing your share, but you both are doing more than your share.”

I cannot define wisdom, but that sounds like a good example of it.

Be smart, and tactful. Wives, don’t make your husbands eat broccoli under protest, and guys, do not, I repeat, do not complain about the rib transplant back there in the beginning. It won’t help.

I am not an expert on what may cause marital discord or on what helps some unions last for 69 years. But I sense a reason for joy when I read about folks like our close friends from a simple little campus that taught us some profound stuff that you cannot find in books. I hope they are around when two of their young friends — us, I mean — reach another milestone.

This, I know, is personal, but there is a lesson in that story from Kokomo. Many of us were very poor — we worked on campus — and we were not sure what we were looking for or what we wanted.

But we knew when we found it. No one knows how long treasures will last, but we surely should count our blessings while we can. The memories do not ever die.

That campus is bigger now, most buildings are new — it is known far beyond its Hoosier boundaries. For us who were there before, during and directly after a big war, the memories will never be old. We left there with more than diplomas.



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