Chapter 6 College Days at Austin College, Sherman, Texas
My senior year in high school included the search to determine where my college education would be. My Presbyterian Father wanted me to attend Austin College, a Sherman, TX college associated with our church. It was small student body, something like 700. The drawback for us was its private school status, which meant high tuition, compared to public state colleges.
My academic achievements had not been quite adequate to earn a college scholarship based on academic merit, and our family income was not quite low enough to qualify for tuition assistance. So, we had to pay the full rate of tuition and dormitory living.
Founded in 1849 by Princeton-educated Presbyterian missionary Dr. Daniel Baker, Austin College enjoys a place in early Texas history, and remains a recognized leader in higher education for innovative programs, a strong faculty, and dedicated students. Austin College was granted a charter signed by Texas Governor George Wood in November of 1849.
Modeled after those of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, that charter remains in use today, making Austin College the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under its original name and charter, as recognized by the State Historical Survey Committee. Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, founded in 1840 by Methodist, claims to be the oldest Texas institution of education. However, it does not have an unbroken charter name. The name has changed along the way, so Austin College jumped in our claiming continuous educational antiquity!
What’s interesting is that my parents, and many of my Sharpe relatives are interred at the IOOF Cemetery in Georgetown, adjacent to the Southwestern University campus. Georgetown had been the home of my Sharpe family as early as 1882 from Ravenna, Ohio.
There is a sidelight trivia about Austin College being patterned after Harvard College, among a few others. Harvard’s first Treasurer was Mr. Herbert Pelham (1602-1673). Herbert was my 25th cousin, eight times removed! This is on my Mother's side of the family. Herbert Pelham is the father-in-law of Freelove Arnold, wife to Edward, Herbert's son through his second marriage, which was to Elizabeth Bosvile. Freelove is the great grandaunt of General Benedict Arnold of American Revolutionary soldier fame and of his great traitor role played against the Patriots. Expressed another way, Herbert Pelham is the 2nd great grandnephew of the wife of the 3rd cousin, five times removed of the husband of the stepdaughter of my 6th great granduncle!
The experience there was good for me. Making a broadening set of friends was enlightening. My first semester was lodging in an old dormitory that was slated for discontinuance after that semester. A new dorm was being competed, named Baker Hall, after the school’s founding personality, Dr. Daniel Baker.
My roommate was a boy from Idabel, Oklahoma, named John Allen Derryberry. He was a very smart student, destined to become a dentist, a career that he fulfilled later back in his own hometown. One unique experience stands out in my mind about John.
One evening as he was exiting the school library, a bat swooped down and pecked him on top of his head, drawing blood! After his having immediate medical attention, we learned of a serious decision he had to make. Rabies can be contracted from a bat bite. The problem in 1957 was that the shots available for bat bites was dangerous! In 50% of the cases administrated, the serum killed the patient! However, if you waived having the shots, and if the bat did have rabies, there was a 100% chance the patient would die! He had to decide! Ultimately, he decided not to take the shots. It was good decision, as God’s providence did spare his life. John left Austin College after that first Freshman semester to get married soon to his high school sweetheart. I don’t know where his education was completed.
Another interesting thing to me about John Derryberry is that a friend of his during their high school days at Idabel was Herbert Westmoreland. It was over 40 years after that when Herb Westmoreland’s son, Steve, married our daughter, Tiffany! Herb and I have had fun sharing recollections about John Derryberry. Unfortunately, John has a disease early in life, and died when he was in his 50’s.
Austin College did not have national fraternities and sororities, but it did have local ones. That meant they were not affiliated with other social organizations outside of that campus. One which attracted my attention was the Drake Fraternity. It seemed that most the boys who’d become my friends were pledging to the Drakes, so I, too, jointed, having been honored with an invitation to do so.
Since its founding in 1946, Drake members have always highly valued the many things that make them different from others. They have a fancy name for that — diversity. Because of this, new members to the Drake Fraternity were not expected to fit some predetermined image or pursue the same activities as Actives. New members were not under pressure to give up anything — whether their defining personal views or existing loyal friends — to become a member. But they must wholeheartedly dedicate themselves always to the high ideals to which they strove as Drakes Their colors are Kelly Green and Gold. Their mission statement is “The DRAKE Fraternity promotes social brotherhood, academic excellence, athletic achievement, and the pursuit of gentlemanly ideals.”
Though the various fraternities and sororities had their own social events through the year, each one sponsored a major dance open to any students to attend. Ours had a sea shore theme to it. It was called the Ship Wreck Dance! This photo is of our Drakes at their Ship Wreck Dance in 1958.
For the second semester of my Freshman year, the men students could move into a newly opened Baker Dormitory, named after Austin College founder Dr. Daniel Baker. My roommate was William Thomas (Tom) Flanagan. He had been in my Dallas Woodrow Wilson High School graduating class of 1957.
There was a freshman young lady named Antonette Michulka, from Houston for whom Tom developed early designs for a social relationship. A complication with that is that her high school boy friend also was a freshman with us. His name was John Malcolm Purcell. He was the son of a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Malcolm Purcell, who was a friend of my Presbyterian father!
As it turned out, Tom won the affections of Antonette, and they dated all our freshman and sophomore years. Tom and I would enjoy socializing together, and Antonette had a high school friend, from Lamar High School, Houston, Texas, who was Kay Jack. I believe the both also were members of First Presbyterian Church there. Kay became the usual date with me, as the two of us enjoyed social life with Tom and Antonette.
After my transferring to the University of Texas for my junior year, I lost track of Tom, Antonette and Kay. However, at some point, Tom and Antonette went in different directions, and Tom began to date Kay
Ultimately, Tom and Kay married, and I believe gave issue to two sons. Tom suffered a terminal illness in his mid-thirties. Kay married a man named George Bones. George died in 2011. I’ve had some communication with Kay in later life. She served a time on the staff of First Presbyterian Church in Houston. Her Facebook name is Kay Jack Bones. Early in 2017, Kay told me about her new marriage to Mr. Allan (Al) DuPont, a widower whose family at FPC had been friends for years with Kay’s family.
James William (Jim) Walls was a guy I met in 1957 who was a sophomore. He was to play a part later in life after my graduation from college and his assisting in meeting Suzanne Boggess, who was to become my wife! During Austin College days, Jim dated Sue Schoeneck, a freshman class student from Dallas whose prominent family were members of Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church there. Sue was elected to be the Secretary-Treasurer of her Sophomore Class in 1958-59.
In my sophomore year, 1958, Sue’s younger twin sisters, Anne and Carol Schoeneck entered Austin College as freshmen.
Later in life, during 1962, Anne and Carol would have a role of humor associated with the very unusual first date that I had with Suzanne Boggess, my wife to be! That story is in Chapter 10.
Another pair of students at Austin College who would have relationship with me later in life was Anna Doggett, the daughter of a Presbyterian Pastor, and Lindy Mack Cannon. Anna was a freshman with me, and Lindy Cannon, a senior student, chosen as the Male Class Favorite his Senior year! Lindy was destined to become Dr. Lindy M. Cannon, a Presbyterian Pastor. Suzanne and I would enter their married lives and friendship as residents of St. Louis County, Missouri, when we were there 1972-1982, and years later when they resided in Montreat, North Carolina.
Tom Guin was President of the Austin College Student Assembly in 1958-59. Not only was he a fellow Drake Fraternity member with me, his family were members of First Presbyterian Church in Ballinger, Texas in the 1930s. In documenting about when I was baptized as an infant, I learned that he was baptized by my father the year before my baptism!
Here is a photo of Tom presiding over the ACSA and a photo of that group of elected student leaders:
I was reminded in reviewing the copies of the “Chromascope,” the name given for Austin College school annuals, that there were student groups organized around political parties. Here are the Democrats (on the left, of course), and the Republicans!
One of my fond memories were during my sophomore year (1958-59). My roommate was Tom Flanagan in Baker Hall Dormitory. Our next-door neighbors were Freshmen Tom Brown, from Camden, Arkansas, and Ronnie Stevenson from Fort Smith, Arkansas. Paths have crossed with me and Tom. Tom Finley Brown graduated from Austin College, then Austin Presbyterian Theology Seminary in Austin, TX. He became an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church. I don’t know where all he served, but he retired as a Pastor member of the Grace Presbytery here in North Texas, an area generally encompassing the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I understand he and his wife, Carolyn, reside in Bedford, Texas. That’s only about 35 miles from where we now live, so maybe our paths can cross again.
Here’s a photo of Ronnie Stevenson from the Austin College year book. I don’t know what paths Ronnie followed later in life, so don’t have any current information about him.
Some of the faculty members returned to my fond memories, as cited below.
Dr. Clyde L. Hall taught my Economics class. In early 2017, the Dow Jones Industrial stock market averages surpassed the 20,000 points mark, I am reminded how closely Dr. Hall had us follow the movements of the DJ Industrial Averages in 1958-59. The index was increasing, and the speculation was whether the DJIA would reach the magic number of 600 that year! WOW! See what inflation has done over almost 60 years! That is a 33 times multiplier. The average price of a Chevrolet sedan in 1959 was $1,800. Today, a similar Chevrolet is $28,500. That’s only a 16 times multiplier! So, the nation’s stock market values certainly have prospered greatly!
Dean Rollin M. Rolfe was the legendary teacher of math at Austin College. He taught the five-hour advanced math class intended for students headed for engineering or technical fields. You should recall that most classes were three hour classes (meeting Monday, Wednesday and Friday for an hour each time). In our math class, we assembled five times a week!
Dr. Walter W. Steffey taught my Physics class. This again was for technically bound majors. In my early years at college, my vision for education was to become an engineer. My career did finally focus on a lot of technology, but my direction developed in the direction of administration, rather than engineering.
Dr. James B. Storey was the Professor of Religion. I confess that in those early collegiate days of my life, religion did not manifest itself the way it surely should have. However, there were some things Dr. Storey taught us, and I am grateful for the spiritual development that came later in my life, partly influenced by the prodding of people like Dr. Storey.