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I had a good four years at LFC. I was in the pilot group of Program II, the independent studies program sponsored by the Ford Foundation, and I wound up being one of the five starters (out of 25) who finished the program. I received a great education and was looking forward to a career in academia.
As it turned out, that was not to be. After some ups and downs, and three and half years as a college counselor (which I loved), I decided to reorient completely and find a career in high tech. I took some computer courses, didn’t enjoy them and wasn’t particularly good at them, and chose to enter this huge field through office automation rather than IT. I had touch typed well since eighth grade, so I registered with some office temp agencies and, in the course of a year, took 12 assignments on 12 different dedicated word processors, the (very expensive, at the time) predecessors of applications like Microsoft Word. Then I found a job as a word processing specialist with a company that automated law offices, and then another as an operations analyst with an insurance company where I mostly explained to computer operators how to use the systems to do their jobs.
I came to realize that I was good at technical writing and training, so I applied for jobs in both and accepted the best one I was offered, which happened to be in tech writing. It went well, and I wrote a tutorial on Microsoft Word for McGraw Hill on the side. Around this time I began seeing Celia, the wonderful lady who became my wife in 1998. She’s a child development specialist.
I stayed with tech writing until the mid-nineties. Then, something exciting happened. A lot of tech writing was explaining how to use computer systems that were just plain hard to use. A movement formed around making software easier to use, and I jumped in with both feet. I joined task forces exploring different ways to do this where I worked and then switched companies to help bring this perspective to a small software firm that liked the concept. I helped redesign the company’s software and won national recognition for it by publishing articles and lecturing on what we were doing. I even built a website that was selected as one of the top resources on software usability on the web. I maintained it, with monthly updates, for 14 years.
In 2002 I switched companies and joined a consultancy that shared my perspective on software design. It started out great: I was put in charge of a project that turned out to be successful beyond anyone’s expectations, continued to write and speak about the work, and won national recognition for this company, too. I was proud to be making people’s work more enjoyable and increasing their productivity, and my new career really seemed to be taking off – when another event changed my life.
In early 2004 my mother, who was living in Florida, had a serious stroke. Celia and I were living outside Washington, DC, and it became apparent that she would need help with her recovery. My father had passed a few years before, and my only sibling a year before that. Celia and I decided we needed to relocate. (Her stroke was such that relocating her would not have been a good solution.)
So we did, and we became care givers. I didn’t know where I’d be working – there weren’t many opportunities in my field in southwest Florida at the time – but good fortune intervened. The phone company was putting high speed internet in place. I told my employer about it, and they asked me if I’d like to become their first telecommuter. Apparently the work I had done for them was quite well regarded, and they didn’t want to lose me. Gratefully, I said sure.
So from 2004 until 2010 I worked essentially from home and traveled about twice a year to assignments in other areas. During this time my mother recovered far better than the doctors told us she would and we had a wonderful helper for her. My wife became a teacher locally and I worked on my computer and the phone. It was far from optimal but it worked.
In 2010 I decided to retire, 18 months from age 65 – so I was able to use COBRA until I was eligible for Medicare. Her care giver decided to retire too, so Celia and I stepped in. It required more and more of our time, especially after a medical setback in 2014. She passed, living with us in our home, in October of 2018, four days short of her 97th birthday.
Looking back, those were five of the richest years of my life. During our time down here I’ve become involved with the Sarasota Institute for Lifetime Learning, which brings speakers and musicians into our area. https://www.sillsarasota.org/ I’ve been on their board for five years. I’ve also become the moderator of our local Great Decisions discussion group. This is a national program that treats eight timely issues each year in depth. I’ve been involved with our synagogue, too, and have given a number of commentaries on the Torah over the years.
I don’t know what to expect from the reunion. I haven’t kept touch with anyone from LFC. But as I said, I had a wonderful experience at Lake Forest and am looking forward to returning.