I am proud to be a University of Evansville graduate, class of ’94. I wear my class ring daily as a reminder. Now, I think you will agree, the 14-year degree program is not for everyone, but it worked for me (sort of). As much as I would like to shift blame to someone else, those who know me know better.
I was indeed very fortunate that I had just enrolled at UE in 1990, 30 days prior to when I was afforded the opportunity to interview for a job in the surgical business. I later found out it was just out of courtesy to my father, but I landed the opportunity with this very important caveat. As it was required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be hired, I was required to be making satisfactory progress toward my degree and a minimum of a 2.5 GPA. Damn fair, I thought as the other 166 reps at the time already achieved theirs. I mean, anyone could do it the easy way.
Along the way, UE gave me tremendous encouragement, opportunities, and some tough love. When finished, there was never any doubt as to whether I would “walk” at graduation. So, suffice to say I have long had a special affinity and affection for the university. It is ironic to me that we chose a home to live in a block from my grandparents, where I spent considerable time around the corner from the iconic Ray Ryan Home that fascinated me as a kid and now is occupied by an elderly Purdue grad (which does not help property values. I digress … again.) But one house down is the May House, the University of Evansville president’s home.
As with any nearby neighbors, you are likely going to get to know them, no matter how quickly they duck inside. When we moved in 15 years ago, the home was occupied by Steve and Sally Jennings. My favorite early memory was working in my yard when Steve drove slowly past and did a literal double take when he saw five Tucker and Haynie kids in pajamas way up in my front tree peering down at him. A stray Fourth of July firework landed on the hot dry roof of the president’s house and brought an enormous sense of relief that headlines of “Publisher Burns Down President’s Home,” would not be written. Never told Steve about that one.
A fall University of Evansville Theatre Society party during the early months of the Tom and Sharon Kazee years reminds me of Sharon wondering why she saw everyone across the street in the Tuckers’ garage raiding their beer fridge. Sharon said beer (in addition to wine) always was available at this event thereafter. Tom Kazee had a terrific sense of humor and never missed an opportunity to take a verbal shot at me. Always unwarranted. I miss them only a little.
In this issue on page 34, we give you an inside look at new president Chris Pietruszkiewicz and family in the story, “A New Chapter.” Already it has been fun to see Siobhan out digging in the flowerbeds and Chris playing ball with the boys in the front yard. I look forward to getting better acquainted (they might not feel the same) over the years. The boys have a new basketball goal up and the youngest John knows a challenge waits from the old man across the street. Keep practicing boys. Your mom and dad don’t get to officiate this!
What can I say after observing three UE presidents? If you think you work long hours with many after-hour events, all I can say is the No. 1 thing I see is to be a university president you better bring boundless energy and enthusiasm. Christopher Pietruszkiewicz has it.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Todd A. Tucker