Remembrances: Gerry Stearns and Raymond Kitchell: The War Ends--Our Experiences at Shrivenham University
One day, while serving as an MP in Rouen, France, I read on our barrack bulletin board that the division had been offered a specific number of spaces in specified academic majors at the Shrivenham Army University and applications would be accepted tomorrow. That night, while was assigned to guard a pipeline outside of Rouen, I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to be when returning to civilian life as an adult. A friend of mine, who had read some of my long letters home while traveling cross-country on a troop train, commented that I had writing talent and should exploit it. I noticed that there were only two slots for jounalism but after four hours of cold and hard thinking, decided to try for it which turned out to be a pivotal event in my life, which is the basis of this little but perhaps not unusual story.
Some time passed and I forgot it. One night I took a lovely young French girl and her mother to our EM club for dancing and refreshments. In such cases, the Battalion supplied transportation for the GI and his guest(s). When it was time to leave the club, the driver of the small truck for visitors was dead drunk and would not give up the wheel. It finally took force to remove him, which I applied, and the next morning at chow some of my buddies were gleefully telling me he was out to get me-and as he was no slouch, I was worried--to put it mildly. Leaving the mess hall, I stopped to look at the Bulletin Board and was shocked but ecstatic to see that I had been selected for a jounalism slot and was ordered to report outside our billet right after lunch with all my baggage for immediate transfer to England. What a blessing, in two ways.
We crossed the English Channel on a ferry and were then trained to Swindon where the Shrivenham American University (SAU) was located as described in the story above. Some of own personal experiences, all positive, also appear on our website elsewhere. My sole point here is the positive impact it had on my subsequent life which would not have happened without ASTP and this adventure-plus the GI Bill of Rights.
The first surprise was meeting two of my high school good friends from Rockville Centre, NY. Through the friend of one, met a wonderful Welch young lady in Cardiff and a romance blossomed--but faded with reality when I had to return to the mainland. We had an active social life and on weekends, often traveled to London, Cardiff, and Oxford and also visited the country side. The English were very nice to us and I was proud of my English/Scottish ancestry. When returning To England for the first time earler this year (2002), not counting the many times waiting in Heathgrove Airport for a connection to the mainland, I couldn't believe the changes that has taken place in London. With my dear wife with me, I didn't dare go near Cardiff.
I selected three courses, the first in jounalism (I had dreams of being a Foreign Correspondent) and two political science courses, history and I forget the other. Our Jounalism Professor was a civilian on the faculty of the School of Journalism from the University of Michigan, one of the best in the country I was to learn. His lectures fascinated and turned me on. I told I wanted to study jounalism, lived in New York State and wanted to go to a co-ed university, not too far from or close to home, asking for his recommendations and he quickly suggested Syracuse University in up-state New York. After a story in The Stars and Stripes warned about the heavy enrollment requests that would soon bombard most universities and colleges, I wrote immediately and, consequently, was accepted and was able to secure hard to find accommodations on-campus. With jounalism at Syracuse, you were required to have a dual degree so I selected Liberal Arts, majoring in political science with dreams of being a foreign correspondent. In the end, I grew more interested in government per se than reporting on it and stayed on to earn a Master's Degree in Public Administration. From a timid boy who lived over a corset shop in town with his divorced mother, this education provided me with I had a very satisfying career with the US Government (both Civil and Foreign Service), the United Nations and, finally, as an international development consultant. Do you wonder now why I still sing the praises of Shrivenham and the wonderful people I met there?
Please also see:
Waiting for the Boat, by Geary Stearns