I cannot ever remember a time that I haven’t extolled the virtues of having a degree from the University of Michigan.
First, it was high school classmates asking why I would leave the southwest to go to the land of snow; then it was, why would you pay out-of state tuition? Lastly, it was just, what did that place ever do for you that some other school couldn’t do?
I’ve always been flip about the answers, and they usually revolved around receiving a superior education. When my tax clients would ask, I would reply that I learned how to be a top-flight researcher. (A real necessity when dealing with the Internal Revenue Service.) When conference attendees would ask after hearing me “pontificate” for six or eight hours, I would say my degree gave me a way to organize my thinking so that I could share my passion for learning with others. When trainees would ask, I would reply that it gave me the impetus to understand whether my goal of imparting knowledge, or a process was working.
Now, more than forty years after I received my Master’s Degree, I have finally come up with a solid example of how that training taught me to think outside the box.
First, I must set the scene: Rostock, Germany, summer of 2012. Our ship had just docked in Warnemünde, while waiting our turn to transit the Kiel Canal. Since we were going to be in port for eight hours, many of us signed up to tour Rostock and see more old churches, especially the one with the working astronomical clock, St. Mary’s. (Read between the lines; always a desire to learn something new.) Our first stop was in the old town of Rostock. St. Peter’s Church had survived the allied bombing, not entirely intact, but it had been rebuilt. The streets in this area were very narrow, and we were on a coach that seated forty, with enough space for all twenty of us spread out. Then, the unthinkable happened: we were stuck. We were transiting a one-way street, and the cars on both sides of the street were so poorly parked (no wonder the Germans have invented park assist) we couldn’t pass through. Our guide was horrified, the driver was walking the area we needed to transit, and attempting to eyeball whether we could get through.
The U-M graduate had an “a ha” moment…“remember the days when frat boys would just lift a car and move it?” At first there were guffaws, then the guide translated, and the driver smiled. The next thing I knew, the men on the bus were rocking cars, and moving them sideways up onto the sidewalks so that we could pass through. Yep, my world-class education from Rackham, aka U-M, taught me to think outside the box. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. And if you don’t believe me, I’ve got the pictures to document the event.
Rostock, Germany, summer of 2012
About the Author
Published in: Rackham Centennial