Classes at American University

In January 1958, a few months after our move to Greenbelt, Maryland, I decided to return to college to pursue my PhD in history.  There would be several advantages to me in doing this.  First, it could help me advance in my career at NSA.  Second, someday I might wish to return to academia and teach college classes.  Third, the GI Bill would provide my family with a bit of extra income.  With these considerations in mind, I enrolled in a PhD program at the American University in Washington, D.C.  Over the next two years I pursued this program vigorously.  By the spring of 1960 I had completed virtually all courses required for my doctorate in history.  Of course, I would still need to pass two foreign language examinations and write a dissertation.  I was not concerned about the dissertation, but I knew I would need time to prepare for the language exams.

Classes were conducted on the American University campus in northwest Washington, and I had to drive into town two or three nights each week.  In addition to the classes there were the usual term reports, reading assignments, etc.  That cut down on our family time and put a much greater burden on Ann.  Finally, after Harold’s arrival in March 1959, and Robert’s birth in May 1960, it became too much.  I suspended my work on the PhD so I could spend more time at home.  I’m glad I made that decision.

We moved from Greenbelt to nearby Berwyn Heights, Maryland, in the fall of 1959.  Riding from Greenbelt (and later from Berwyn Heights) to my classes in Washington, D.C., was always hectic and sometimes a true adventure.  It was a close thing for me to get home from work, eat a quick supper (the family always ate together), grab my books, and speed off toward school in time to make my class.  I remember one occasion when I was scheduled to take a final examination in one of my history courses, and, as fortune would have it, I was caught up in a terrible traffic jam that caused me to be a full twenty to thirty minutes late to class.  I wrote fast and furiously, but I could not make up the lost time.  It was a timed exam, and there were no extensions.

On another occasion, I was driving home on Kenilworth Avenue from my evening class and someone heaved a brick or a rock at me from a pedestrian overpass.  The automobile had a safety glass windshield, but the force of the missile caused shards of glass to fly all over the interior of the car.  If it weren’t for my eyeglasses I would have been blinded and possibly killed.  A few other drivers had been injured or killed on Kenilworth because of a similar experience.  A few years after that time the city of Washington enclosed pedestrian overpasses with a type of steel mesh, and Kenilworth is now much safer.

I never received that PhD in history, but I benefited from some excellent course work at American University.


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