My mother will tell you that I fell in love with Georgetown the minute I saw the Southwestern University campus as a high school senior. There was no going back. In a move that would be considered radical today, it was the only college I applied to. The University has grown; Georgetown has grown even more. The love affair still continues.
There were more bluebonnet sightings as I drove here less than a week after my trip to Warrenton. In fact, some of the route was exactly the same. I take 290 out of Houston, but turn off on 95 just a half hour before reaching Austin avoiding the perpetually congested I35. My drive takes me through Coupland, Taylor, and past Jonah finally reaching Gtown driving west on 29. (You have to love an area of Texas where the mascots are named Ducks and Hippos.) I cross a tollway now and go past Georgetown’s new and second high school, but there is something about that last 40 minutes of the drive that takes me back in time. I know I am “home” when I see the President’s house on the top of the ridge.
Any excuse will work for me to come to Georgetown. This time I have a couple of really good ones. I am attending the Shilling Lecture series with Jane Goodall as the featured speaker and the retirement dinner for the University’s current President Jake Schrum. My student days long over and no longer able to stay on the campus, my home for the next few days will be my favorite Georgetown B & B, the San Gabriel House just across the street. Too early for check-in, I parked at the University and walked the campus. Jake Schrum has been instrumental in the many facilities enhancements to the University campus and I always need my walk to catch up on any new buildings.
Nice to see Neil and Dee again at the B & B. I settled into my room in the late afternoon. The lecture will be in the Robertson Center rather than the usual Alma Thomas Theater. I knew they must be anticipating a huge crowd, so walked over to pick up my tickets as soon as will call opened. Big Mistake. There was a tremendous storm and in spite of a raincoat and umbrella, I was soaked upon arrival. I can now tell you all the places the campus floods in a flash rain. I walked back to my room and changed and dried my hair. (I was wearing a hooded raincoat and used an umbrella and my hair was wet. How did that happen?)
By the time I walked back for the lecture over less than an hour later, the rain was a mere drizzle and most of the flooded areas were clear. Of course there was no line at will call either. Oh well, all was worth it. I fished my completely soaked ticket, now in pieces, out of my pocket. I was afraid the student ticket-taker was going to deny me entrance the way she looked at it. Then she announced that I had a green ticket and should go see the ushers at the center aisle. I was afraid that my earlier appearance had caused some serious security concerns, but was pleasantly surprised to find that I had somehow scored reserved seating. I took my seat in the 5th row, two rows behind the former President Roy Shilling for whom the series is named.
Jane Goodall was an amazing presenter. A day shy of her 79th birthday, she spoke for over an hour with no notes and followed that with a question and answer session lead by current students. She was charming, engaging, and funny, all while delivering a very serious message. She credited her mother with encouraging her love for animals and not imposing upon her the limitations society would have put on her because of her sex. She told a wonderful story of her mother discovering earth worms in Jane’s bed one night. Instead of the expected reaction, her mother reminded her that these creatures needed the earth and would die unless they were returned.
Unable to pay for college, Jane worked to raise money to visit friends in Kenya to pursue her dream of working with animals. When she had raised the money, her mother put her on a boat bound for Kenya in spite for the heavy criticism her mother received for letting this young woman in her early 20s travel alone to the “dark continent”. It was not until after her work with the Gombe chimpanzees that Jane was able to return to England to receive her PhD-having never obtained the underlying degrees-encouraged by her mentor to get the documentary background to insure her credibility. At Cambridge, she was told that she had done everything wrong in spite of being the one person in the room who had actually worked with the chimpanzees that closely.
Her first love is working in the field to collect the data, but you also see the sparkle in her eye when she talks about the lab time spent analyzing that same data. She fell naturally and unintentionally into activism. Today through the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots and Shoots program, she promotes environmental awareness and preservation, the protection of animals and their habitats, and prevention of the inhumane treatment and slaughter of animals.
After the lecture, the student panel posed some interesting questions. These students, Animal Behavior, Environmental Studies, and Physics majors, were perhaps chosen more for their extracurricular activism than anything else. The most surprising comments came in response to a question by one of the students, a citizen of Rwanda, Africa. When asked if the death of Dian Fossey made her reconsider her work in the field, Dr. Goodall replied that Dian’s death was her own fault. Both woman had the same mentor, Louis Leakey. Dian was a San Francisco zoologist who worked with the gorillas in Rwanda. Her life and mysterious death was popularly documented in the hollywood movie Gorillas in the Mist staring Sigourney Weaver. Weaver received a nomination for an Oscar for Best Actress for the role.
Dr. Goodall said that she and Dian had spoken many times. Fossey’s mistake, according to Goodall, was to not let the local people near the Gorillas. Jane employed the local people and engaged them in her research and paid they (making it a better option than supporting poaching). Jane also argued with Dian that the locals need not be kept from the animals because the animals were smart enough to distinguish a local who was part of the research from a poacher. Jane argued that the animals were smart enough to run away from a potential poacher. Fossey’s death was her own fault according to Dr. Goodall.
There is no way I would have been able to attend college, much less a private one such as Southwestern University, without the academic scholarships I received. SU continues this practice today offering generous financial assistance to its students. I am unashamedly proud of my education and my alma mater. To learn more, check out http://www.southwestern.edu. For my personal insight, just send me a note. –Natasha