“March 15, 1990
Dear Ms. Hammond:
We are pleased to advise you that you have been selected for a position in the 1990 entering class of the Washington/Oregon/Idaho Program in Veterinary Medical Education. You should take great pride in this significant achievement since many more applications are received than can possibly be accommodated in the entering class.”
They meant it too. The year I applied there were more than 400 applications. There were 120 people interviewed and 60 were accepted.
The letter was signed by the dean of the veterinary school and by the dean of student affairs.
I had applied to the veterinary medical program at WSU in the fall of 1989. My application process had a dark cloud over it from the very beginning.
My application was late. I didn’t receive the application packet until the day before it was due. I had received an extension, but it looks bad, y’know? Needing an extension on the initial application to graduate school.
And because I applied late I didn’t know that I needed to register for the October GRE. Because it was freakin’ October before I learned that I needed to take the October GRE it was, of course, too late for me to register for the preferred test date. I had to take the GRE in December so WSU wouldn’t have my GRE scores before mid-November as they required. Strike two! An application extension is one thing, making them wait for test scores on top of that? I’m screwed!
I didn’t have a GPA so I had to take the Veterinary College Admissions Test. The admissions committee needed another number with which to evaluate me. And, of course, I wasn’t in time to preregister for the VCAT so I had to register at the door which meant that my test scores (you guessed it!) would be delayed by two weeks. Oh I’m screwed! I’m screwed screwed screwed screwed SKROOD!
Then January came and I got a call from Barb Robbins at the Student Affairs office. My faculty evaluation for fall quarter had been due at WSU by the 5th of January. Where was it? A side note: Never trust a brilliant nebbish to do ANYthing on a timetable unless you stand over him with a stick. During my senior year at Evergreen I had an individual contract that got me credit towards graduation for picking up a couple of classes I needed — physics and genetics — and for doing volunteer work at a wildlife rehabilitation center. My faculty advisor, a brilliant molecular biologist by trade and ornithologist by avocation, was one of the most absent minded little nebbishes I’ve ever had the misfortune to depend upon. I put a BIG note in BIG LETTERS OF FIRE on my advisor’s bulletin board, I put a note on his door, I reminded him at every bloody opportunity I had that my fall quarter evaluation HAD to be in Pullman by January 5th. When I got the call from Barb ON January 5th, I went racing to my advisor’s office. The notes were still there, but he vaguely said “Oh, was that supposed to be this month? I guess I overlooked that.” This was 1990 remember. No e-mail. There might have been a fax machine on campus, but the students didn’t have access to it. I burned rubber to the post office and probably blew $20 in super fast, supersonic postage to get the evaluations to Pullman by the next day. I am still grateful to my then advisor for helping me put together a contract that year that allowed me the freedom to do basically what I wanted and get college credit for it, but DAMN he’s flaky as a snowstorm unless you’re microscopic or have feathers!
A week later I got a call from (you guessed it again!) Barb Robbins at the Student Affairs office. My GRE scores were supposed to have been at WSU by January 7th. Where were they? When I registered for the GRE I had checked the little box on the registration form that said “I need my results sent to:” and I’d provided them with the address. But apparently they didn’t believe me (or, perhaps, the people processing the registration forms were brilliant molecular biologists/ornithologists) and while *I* had my results, WSU did not. And WSU couldn’t, of course, take my word for it. I incinerated several hundred miles of phone line talking to the testing organization, got them to agree to send my “official” test scores to WSU the next day, then ran for the post office and spent another $20 on super special extra supersonic postage to get my copy of my GRE scores to Pullman by the next day.
I started to make plans to move to Seattle after graduation, get a job as a veterinary technician, learn to play the piano (something I still haven’t done) and re-apply for the next year. Oh I’m screwed. I’m so, so SCREWED!
Then, in late February, I got a letter. A skinny letter. Skinny letters are bad, right?
I think I screamed when opened the letter that was inviting me for an interview. I know I called my parents. I may have thrown up.
And I made plans for a whirlwind trip to Pullman. My friend Cynthia, bless her for a kindly soul, agreed to come with me to share the driving and to keep me from wandering into a corner and getting lost. We left Olympia at a little after 6 p.m. and hit Pullman sometime around 1 a.m. I was awake at *five*.
To say that I was a babbling idiot during my interview is giving babbling idiots a bad name. I don’t know if they’re still doing it this way, but when I interviewed they were pulling all the little psychological tricks in the book. The interview-ee sat in a soft chair in the middle of the room. Nothing to hide behind, nothing to hide your fidgety hands or nervously twitching feet, and shorter than the interviewers. The interview committee, all wearing white coats, many with stethoscopes around their necks, and all with engraved name plates reading “Doctor” sat behind an ENORMOUS polished wooden table. I could recognize the tricks, I do have an Evergreen education after all, but I could do NOTHING to defend against them. I was a nervous fucking wreck.
And the first question out of the first interviewer’s mouth was “Who is Helmut Kohl?”
I can laugh now. At the time I didn’t find it as funny because I was too overwhelmingly grateful that, as I had been sitting in the hotel room while Cynthia french braided my hair for me, we had been watching the television. The television *news* to be exact. The television news that was detailing some or another doing of the Chancellor of West Germany, Helmut Kohl.
I think the interviewer was a little disconcerted when I popped right out with “He’s the Chancellor of West Germany.”, but since the interviewers were only allowed one question per, we had to go on to the next white coated sadist.
I don’t remember who was on my interview committee except the last interviewer. Dick Westcott. Dean of Student Affairs, professor of parasitology, and all around great guy. A passionate educator, superb at wrangling stressed, lunatic students, and a wicked sense of humor. Dick was prone to walking around campus with a walking stick that was made of a plasticized bull’s penis. During my interview Dick sat at the end of the table (camera left) with a largish stack of papers in front of him. When all the other interviewers had asked their questions and I, stumbling, babbling, and ending an inordinate number of sentences with a trailing off “so…..”, Dick looked at me and started leafing through the stack of papers.
“I see here in your self evaluation from your freshman year at Evergreen that you mention the book “A Town Like Alice”. What did you think of it?”
And the first thing that popped into my mind was “Oh thank God you chose to ask me about a book that I actually finished reading!” (unlike about 2/3 of the other books that I had been assigned to read during my freshman year at Evergreen.
You all know the end of the story so I’m not giving anything away when I go on to mention that for the next four years, every time I saw him in the hallway, Dick Westcott would say to me “You know, I read every single page of that Evergreen transcript of yours!” He gave me a hard time about that academic transcript pretty much until the day he died. Dick was a superb educator and I miss him.
I got back to Evergreen limp, entirely disenchanted with Pullman (February is gravel season in Pullman and anything that isn’t still covered in muddy snow is covered in the gravel that is spread on the streets for traction in the snow. Pullman in February is a pretty revolting place.) and convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was double down, hopelessly, S. K. ROOD.
A week later I got the skinny letter quoted above. Skinny letters are bad, right?
My hands were shaking, I was nauseated and hyperventilating. I opened the letter and my life was changed forever.
Four years. God, four years. Especially in Pullman, which, to a good liberal, western Washington, football neutral hippie girl and her good liberal, Oahu and Olympia, football neutral hippie boyfriend, four years can be forever. Certainly at the time I was pretty much convinced that four years would never pass and I’d be stuck in that dusty Hell forever. But it did, and I wasn’t. And four years later they gave me a diploma and a stethoscope and told me I could call myself “Doctor”.
May 7, 1994