My family was first generation immigrants from Poland and Ireland with my grandparents all coming through Ellis Island to the New World. Although I didn’t feel it, my parents often reminded me how their parents were discriminated against in the early 20th century and how they had banded together in small ethnic pockets in upstate New York even practicing their religion at a “Polish Catholic Church”.
I moved in 9th grade about 20 miles away to a bigger town and never felt discriminated against by my new friends. Being in a college town, there were many “strangers” from the faculty that came to teach and the wide variety of students that were attracted to a top-notch State University in Geneseo, NY.
When it came time for college, I took a turn the summer after graduation and knew I wanted to be a pharmacist. Instead of going to my intended school (St. Bonaventure), I decided to work as a pharmacy clerk and attend SUNY@Geneseo where I was a chemistry major for two years with the intent of transferring to SUNY@Buffalo, the state school that had a pharmacy program.
When the rejection letter came from SUNY@Buffalo, I wasn’t totally shocked. I’d had a mediocre freshman year in an accelerated 3-year baccalaureate program and had not realized that SUNY@Buffalo had changed their pre-requisites to prepare to offer a Pharm.D. program. My GPA met the minimum but could have been better. And I lacked one class in anatomy that was a prerequisite in the new curriculum. There was some good news: they had agreed to take me in “University College” where I could make up my deficiencies and then potentially be a shoe-in for entrance into pharmacy school a year later.
My mother was disturbed at the rejection letter and the possibility that I would need to go out-of-state if I wanted to start my pharmacy schooling that fall. So, she did what she felt was best: she called our State Legislator to complain that our family had paid taxes for over 50 years in the State of New York and she wanted him to place a call to SUNY@Buffalo admissions to get me admitted to the pharmacy school.
I was appalled when she told me what she had done. If I didn’t meet the requirements, I didn’t want to go.
As God’s perfect plan unfolded, I don’t know if the call was never placed or ignored, but I didn’t get into SUNY@Buffalo with political intervention. Instead I was recruited by out-of-state schools that turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened.
I was recruited by the University of Oklahoma for pharmacy school and they were holding tryouts for a new Women’s Varsity Golf Team (under Title IX).
So, being not-so-privileged has its advantages when we are called to follow God’s plan instead of our own.
I made life-long friends at the University of Oklahoma.
I got to play Women’s Varsity Golf and was named Most Improved Player my last year.
I’ve had an incredible career in pharmacy in Oklahoma, Texas and now in Tennessee.
And moving from New York to Oklahoma brought a diversity to my life I would have never known if I had spent all my time in New York. I learned to talk slower, to trust people a little more, and to honor the value of diversity, especially honoring the Native American population.
I’m thankful that my Mom, even with the best of intentions, couldn’t get me into SUNY@Buffalo Pharmacy School.
Blessings, my friend,