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It may sound bad, but honestly I wasn’t thrilled about going to Morehouse. The only things I knew about the school were that it wasn’t in the best part of town and that it was a school for all dudes! As time approached I learned more and more about the school and it’s history. I didn’t even know Martin Luther King, Maynard Jackson, Samuel Jackson, Spike Lee and David Satcher went there. I had no idea how respected the school was, how talented the students were, how much of a history it had. I couldn’t fathom how many powerful, African-American leaders (in all disciplines) came from that very campus in downtown Atlanta. I was still sore about not getting into the colleges I wanted to. I needed a serious attitude adjustment.
Despite the “Morehouse Mystique” and the prestige surrounding the school, the day I went to college I was pretty disappointed. For my two elder sisters, who went to Emory, (and later my younger brother who attended the University of Georgia) going to college was like a big family event where everyone drives to the school with you and helps you move. I guess because Morehouse was so close home my whole family didn’t come that first day. Only Erica and my younger brother went with me. I was sulking all the way to the school, one-because all of my family wouldn’t be with me, and two-because I was expecting the worst.
We parked near my dorm (Dubois Hall) and started unloading. On my way to the dorm, I stopped dead in my tracks, mouth agape and I nearly dropped everything. I kid you not…standing right in front of my dorm was none other than the Greatest of All Time, and a personal hero of mine…Muhammad Ali! I was so happy to shake hands with him and watch him do magic tricks for my sister. I hope that some of the fighting spirit soaked in after shaking his hand. Attitude adjustment succesful.
As time went on, I made friends and became accustomed to school and my surroundings. I made the decision to stay at Morehouse instead transferring elsewhere.
I went into college knowing that I was going to be the best cardiovascular surgeon to ever walk the face of the earth. My oh my how things change. For some reason I went to college and I just wasn’t performing…not that I wasn’t trying…I was. In all of my liberal arts classes, I was able to attain pretty high marks. But the classes in my major were a different story. I was in the Honor’s program for my first year and I remember having Dr. McCray for Biology 101. He was an excellent teacher . But you really…REALLY had to know your stuff to pass those exams. I figured if everything in high school went fairly smoothly, college would be a breeze right? Wrong! COLLEGE BIOLOGY KICKED MY ASS!
I ended up getting a C in my first semester and was shocked. I had never gotten grades like that in high school. I remember the Honor’s Bio class having about 20 or so students the first semester and by the time the second semester rolled around, there were only seven people in the class. I decided to stick it out, and I was one of the seven. In so many ways I felt like the least talented person in a group of whiz kids. I was so humbled by how talented all of these guys were. I was honored just to be in class with them. I finished the second semester with a B, and I have never been happier in my life. At the end of my first year, I was still over the grade point average I needed to keep my scholarship. YAY! In my mind, getting through Dr. McCray’s Honor’s Bio class meant that no class could stop me, right? Wrong…again. Morehouse seemed to be a breeding ground for my mistakes).
I remember my sophomore year of college being the worst of my college career for a number of reasons. The freshman year had been so good. My roommate Victor (from St. Martin) was incredibly smart and incredibly easy to talk to. We were even in the same situation. We were like the only freshmen Honor’s Program students who weren’t staying in the Honor’s Program dormitory. He was cool and just a good guy.
On the flip side my sophomore roommate was always being, please pardon the expression, a dick to me and I didn’t like being around him. He was a year ahead of me and just thought he knew everything about everything. It seemed as though he would take every possible opportunity to get under my skin. I am not a mean-spirited person by any stretch of the imagination but I wish I had tried to change roommates early on, it would’ve been a better year for me.
I started off my sophomore year in high spirits, too high if you ask me now. I didn’t know my roommate well enough to form an opinion about him yet. I got that invincible feeling and overdid it: Calculus, Honors Biology, Organic Chemisty, Physics, and I think I took Art to “balance things out.” It was too many hardcore classes at once and I crumbled under the pressure. I had to drop Organic Chemistry to prevent from committing academic seppuku.
Cell Biology, with Dr. JK Haynes, was the first class (the only class) in life that I would have to retake (I never did, though). You have to get a C to move to the next class, I ended up with a C- after final exams…there was nothing I could do about it either. It was really discouraging because Dr. Haynes was a good teacher…I just wasn’t pulling my own weight. I remember having studied really hard for that final, and when we got the grades back. I sat in the classroom in disbelief. Everybody left, and I sat there in the lecture room, alone…wondering “What am I gonna do now?”
I didn’t know why I wasn’t cutting it. I was studying as hard as I could, I wasn’t partying, I wasn’t dating…things just weren’t going well. It seemed as if my interest in science began to wane by the minute. To drive the knife a little deeper, by the end of my sophomore year my grade point average had fallen below the 3.0 that was necessary to keep my scholarships. I lost both my Hope Scholarship (granted by the State of Georgia) and my full tuition scholarship. I changed my major to business and kinda felt like a superhero losing his powers. I respected the Biology crew so much, and though I still had my sights set on a health profession I was going to take another route to get there. Every time I would see those seven guys (don’t get me wrong, they were always nice to me) I felt like a failure. Academically I couldn’t hold a candle to them.
For some reason the business classes came much easier to me, but then again I think some aspects of business are easier to grasp than the science ones. But I can’t say for sure. All I know is that I wasn’t falling asleep reading the books anymore. I went from being a substandard student to being one that my teachers actually recognized. It felt good not to feel like a failure…even if only for a brief moment.
After losing my scholarship I was able to get by on loans for a while, but when I maxed out how much loan money I could take out on my own, things got hard. I don’t remember exactly when I left school but I want to say it was at the beginning of my senior year. Disappointment can’t even begin to explain how I felt…I was devastated. I worked for my karate teacher, lived with my parents and eventually got back to school. My Dad co-signed for my final loan to help me finish my last year.
I graduated cum laude from Morehouse College in December of 2003.
Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
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Not only did you graduate cum laude, but you also attained your 2nd degree black belt WHILE pledging our Fraternity…I still marvel over how you were able to balance those competing interests, plus get good grades that Fall semester. You’re the man, Donald (and “The One”).
CHARLIE!!!! I marvel at how you are doing your freakin’ thing, you and the other BOBI. I’m so proud of guys I don’t even know how to put it into words. I hope to see you guys again one of these days.