Trip of a lifetime!

Rod and Butch -med

From student to teacher

The April visit took place just four months short of forty years since making my first cross state trip to the small town of Pullman. When the journey began, I was leaving from my even smaller hometown of Lake Stevens. I didn't know it at the time, but I was beginning one of the best trips of my life. A trip from student to teacher - a trip that doesn't end.

So much had change and so much had stayed the same. 

The first trip took place in the late summer of 1971. I was 18 years old and driving my burnt orange '68 Nova across the sun scorched central Washington wasteland and listening to 8-track tapes of Sly and the Family Stone, The Grass Roots, The Doors, and Three Dog Night. I was focused on getting beyond the orchards and wheat fields and onto the Washington State University campus where I had committed to spending the next four years of my life - without previously having ever been within 100 miles of the place. Who knew that anyone would build a major university so far away from anywhere?

It turned out to be a very tiring five to six hour drive. I remember that I started looking for the campus somewhere around Vantage - the place I later realized was only about the half way point in the trip. It was becoming quite clear that I didn't really have much of a clue about college or how far from home WSU actually was.
Cougar Logo

Right decisions - wrong reasons

I'd made my choice based on three seemingly solid criteria: 1) It had to be in the PAC-8 athletic conference because sports were important to me, 2) It had to be in the state of Washington because I was paying my own way and couldn't afford out of state tuition, and 3) The University of Washington was just too close to home. That pretty much narrowed the field to a singular choice.

On the more recent trip I drove my eggshell white 2010 Highlander about 15 miles from our home in Sammamish to a bustling Seattle-Tacoma International Airport where I boarded an Alaska Airlines flight at a little after 9 in the morning. While in route, I listened to the digital recordings on my iPad by artists like James Taylor, Journey, The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Three Dog Night (apparently some things just don't change). I was focused on getting beyond the cramped and crowded seats on the plane and into the classroom where I would be a guest lecturer in a 300 level management class later that afternoon.

It was an easy and routine fifty minute flight. I remember looking at Greek Row, Brian Tower and Martin Stadium with a sense of belonging and pride as we flew over the WSU campus and circled back from the Idaho border to land on the lonely runway of the Pullman-Moscow airport. On that day, just as it has on so many other visits since graduating in 1975, I felt as though I was coming home. Home to walk the familiar paths and among the next generation of crimson blooded Cougars. It's a feeling that all Cougars know but can't fully describe. It's unique and it's special to those who lived it.

After a lunch time visit with the Dean of the College of Education and a member of his development staff it was time to head to the classroom. From the CUB to the Mall and into Todd Hall I walked. To the offices of the Business Department and then to the auditorium where my presentation would be held. It was almost eerie to be making this walk to the classroom again after all those years.

I had gone full circle. After nearly fourty years I returned to the campus and classrooms where I once was the student and now had become the teacher. Equipped with a lifetime of experiences and stories, I walked through my material. Just as I had been filled with curiosity and confidence as a student, so were the students that were in attendance that day. For an hour, I captured their imagination and interest by sharing real world lessons and examples. The time sped by so quickly and soon it was time to close.

I moved out from behind the podium and moved closer to the students in the front row. I pushed my left hand into my pocket and pulled out a quarter and placed it into my palm, heads up, and showed it to everyone. "What do you see?" I asked them.

"A quarter - heads - a date," came the replies.

By now you must know how the story ends, and the importance of looking beyond the obvious to see what others don't. To look beyond head and tails. To see the edge of the coin and make it your advantage.  
AGR/Rod - Med
After class two young men came forward and introduced themselves. One asked me if I might be pin number 722. I smiled and told him that I was, but of course they already knew. The two young men were my Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity brothers. They had done their homework. 

For the moment, that gave them an edge in my classroom! 

Go Cougs!

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  • Rod
    Apr. 28, 2011
    I like it Patricia. Your thought compells us not only to make the best decisions we can but to get the best outcomes from the decisions we've made. Thanks for sharing.
  • Patricia Belyea
    Apr. 24, 2011
    You started right and are continuing right. I like to think that whatever we decide, our job is to make it turn out right. Happy Easter Rod.

The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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