Hail to thee, our alma maters…

School’s back from summer and with it, memories of our own textbook and bleacher days. Our alma maters cut a wide swath across the country. Read on to find out where the Chicks picked up their university diplomas.

(The winner in the GIVEAWAY for a copy of Against the Claw by Shari Randall, who was our guest Chick this week, is Kristin Lundgren. Congratulations, Kristin!)

Marla Cooper

CotC Marla Cooper

When I toured different colleges my senior year of high school, I loved them all. After all, they were colleges. All of them out of state and away from my parents. But when I got to Austin, I fell ridiculously, passionately, madly in love with it. Did I care that the University of Texas had 48,392 students? Hardly; what better way to find my people? Did I care that my dorm was so big it had its own zip code and was designed by an architect who was known for his work designing prisons? Well, I met my future husband there on the very first night of school, so no. Not even the nightly swarm of grackles that congregated in the tree outside my dorm each night at dusk could dampen my enthusiasm for what would have to be, hands-down, the best choice I ever made in my life.


Lisa Q. Mathews

CotC Word balloons

I went to a very small, ivy-covered New England liberal arts school: Williams College. There were 500 students in our freshman class, same as my high school class. I chose it for all the right reasons: gorgeous, Revolutionary War-era campus in an equally picture-perfect, arty little town (Williamstown, MA); lots of cute boys (the first class of women had been admitted only 10 years earlier); very broad majors (hello, English and Psych!); good dining hall food (a rarity in those days); and the “frat”-type party I’d attended on my campus visit. And oh, yeah: I got in!

On campus I taught figure skating gym classes, dragged my friends out of the Sawyer Library at 11 pm sharp to hit the ONE college bar on Spring St. (beer and wine only), and was a regular on WCFM radio, Voice of the Berkshires! (Pretty much a captive audience in the mountains.) My specialty: reading the news. I thought about becoming a female Ron Burgundy, but that required acting classes and maybe even a journalism or communications degree (see “broad majors,” above). But a Williams Winter Study class was where I met a visiting Russian-children’s-book-illustrator-defector, and decided to give publishing a whirl. My life education got a bit of a jolt when I hit Publishing City, aka The Big Apple, after graduation.

 Ellen Byron


As a freshman, I was accepted into Boston University’s BFA Acting Program, where my classmates would have included Geena Davis. On a last-minute whim, I applied to Newcomb College of Tulane University, where I was also accepted. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to either, so I sadly trudged off to SUNY Binghamton. Being a huge Tennessee Williams fan, I’d fallen in love with NOLA and Newcomb/Tulane but when family finances improved, I felt obligated to get back in touch with BU about that stellar acting program. Yes, I’d be re-accepted – but my SUNY theatre credits wouldn’t transfer. Problem solved! In the middle of sophomore year, I made the best decision of my life and transferred to Newcomb. My passion for south Louisiana has transferred to our daughter, who just started her freshman year at Loyola University, right next to my alma mater.

BTW, my high school grades were not great. Newcomb wanted me for geographic diversity; they were trying to up their profile in the Northeast. They did such a good job of it that now NYC  boasts one of the largest alum groups in the country. And Tulane has become so tough to get into that these days my application would trigger an instant “thanks but no thanks.”

Cynthia Kuhn

cynthia I went to the University of Kansas to major in their wonderful journalism program. Only when I arrived and tried to sign up for their wonderful journalism classes? Screeching halt. Turns out I didn’t have any of the right pre-reqs, having spent my first year of college at SUNY Potsdam. So I swerved into studying literature and creative writing. (And thank goodness because although I didn’t know it then, two grad schools later, I would end up happily teaching those subjects.) Loved the beautiful campus and the people and the classes…and my sister decided to attend KU too, which was the best.  Rock Chalk Jayhawk! 

Leslie Karst

Leslie graphic

I was fortunate enough to attend UC Santa Cruz (home of the Fighting Banana Slugs) back when it was still small (5,000 students) and awarded narrative evaluations instead of grades. We had no football or baseball teams, instead focusing on more individual sports such as tennis and fencing (I’m no hard-core athlete, but did manage to make it onto the women’s foil team my senior year, and actually won a couple medals—et là!)

I majored in English lit, had the obligatory freshman crush on one of my professors, and quickly discovered I was far more interested in simply reading and enjoying books than composing scholarly critiques about them. Humanities majors at UCSC were required to take at least three science classes, so I wisely enrolled in wine chemistry—which included a wine tasting component (yes!). Not surprisingly, that course ended up being one of the most useful to me in later life.

Readers, did you park a backpack at a university? If so, where? If not, what were you up to instead?

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24 thoughts on “Hail to thee, our alma maters…

  1. Like Marla C, I attended a large university, University of Florida. I recall lots of lecture halls filled with hundreds of students. Back when I was there (mid-’90s), the Gators were ranked pretty high in football. It was the only time in my life when I actually followed any type of sport. Maybe the Gators are still ranked high, but I wouldn’t have a clue because I haven’t seen a game in 20 years!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Marla, I went to my first college football game on a date. Something happened on the field and a bunch of our guys ran off and a new bunch ran on. I said to my date, “Do we have two teams playing today?” He looked at me and said, “No. We have Offense and Defense.” First and last date with him.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I knew from my sophomore year in college where I wanted to go for college – St. Bonaventure University. Small, Franciscan liberal arts school in WNY, where my dad went. Fell in love with it the minute I stepped on campus. Majored in English, thought I was going to law school, then discovered lawyers did a lot more paperwork than courtroom presentations. Thought about teaching, fell into technical writing, and now here I am.

    I was sad that my girl (a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh this year) did not have that magic moment of “this is where I belong” in her college search. My husband, who commuted, thinks that feeling is a lot of hooey, but he’s wrong. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

      1. We had no idea our daughter had that magic feeling about Loyno. She kept saying to us she wanted to go in the NYC area, where I’m from. But her college advisor said it was Loyno from the day Eliza showed up at her office.

        And yes, here’s hoping that the magic feeling sprouts for your daughter!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I went to San Francisco State, where S. I. Hayakawa was president during the 1968-69 student strike. That was a few years before my time. When I was there, the TV show Streets of San Francisco routinely shot scenes on our campus. There was Karl Malden in his raincoat, casually talking to students. There was Michael Douglas trying to hide from students. One time I caught him coming out of a hall, he was a couple of steps above me so we were eye-level, and I told him I loved him. He was horrified.

    I majored in television and learned, after several frustrating months sending out resumes that went unanswered, that if you were serious about working in TV news, a degree from that school wasn’t going to help. At the very same time, Mary Shriver, who is five days younger than me, was anchoring on a network.

    And, I thought: law school.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. I left Northern California to attend The Master’s College (now Master’s University) in Southern California. And I liked it so much I worked there for 15 years. I was a business major and went to work in the accounting department, so I was never teaching. Even though I don’t work there any more, I still live in the town where it is.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s so cool, Mark! I would LOVE to go back and work at Tulane now. I did give a talk to their theatre students: “How to Launch and Land in the Entertainment Business.” Great fun, AND I got to eat in the faculty dining room! Where the food was disappointing, especially considering it was great when I went there.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My college experience was quite different. I went to the University of Maryland’s University College at night while in the Navy. I didn’t have a campus experience, but took classes at some very interesting places like the library in the American Embassy in London, at the Pentagon, at small bases through England. I have to confess that after a day at work I used to sleep through a portion of each class until I got my second wind.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. It’s fun reading about your college choices! Leslie — fencing, wow! And Cynthia, we’re so glad you “swerved” into creative writing! (Me: University of Memphis. Go Tigers!)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Leslie, Love the Banana Slugs! We had a freaking Purple Cow. (Our sports teams are known as “Ephs” for the college’s 1700s-era founder, Ephraim Williams. Brutally tough and sexy, or what?)

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Like Ellen, family finances weren’t great so I went to West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. It was at the time the only pharmacy school in WV. My high school class was 751 so the size didn’t bother me. It was spread out on two campuses with buses ( now there’s a PRT based on Disney World’s) so I got lots of exercise. I still blame my fat calves on those hills! I met my husband freshman year so it was a good choice of schools

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Randi, re: your husband, just like Marla Cooper! Although she did meet her husband the actual first day of freshman year.

      And LOL re: the Ephs. That’s some Yankee obnoxiousness Williams got goin’ there.

      Liked by 1 person

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