Like many other bright Iowans, I never took the SAT. The U of Iowa accepts scores from the American College Test (based in Iowa City, like the U of I itself) for enrollment–and you could go a long way without finding a better university than Iowa. (Incidentally, ‘educators’ in states like North Carolina claim Iowa’s low rate of taking the SAT means that the state’s ranking is artificially raised. The evidence is that the 5% of Iowans who do take the SAT are in fact a fully representative sample; but if you’re an education bureaucrat from NC, you grasp at straws.)
I had wonderful teachers at Iowa. They taught me not only how to learn but to love learning. Moreover, I worked in the Main Library as a book page, an education in itself. In the course of reshelving everything that came through the library, I learned of the existence of all sorts of subjects that I’d never have run into in my normal classwork. I pursued some of them, on my own and in classes, and broadened my range of knowledge and interests enormously.
It was at the university that I met my wife, Jo. Though she’s from Dubuque, we didn’t meet till our freshman year. (I attended her 40th high school reunion in August and knew over 10% of the attendees from my grade school days.)
I was a history major, but because I wound up taking some thirty hours of Latin also (mostly for fun) I got a double major. My interest in both subjects has continued to my great benefit as a writer and as a citizen.
Thanks to the suggestion of my webmaster, a former librarian at Iowa, there’s now a considerable quantity of my books and papers in the Iowa Authors Collection. (The guide to the manuscript collection is available online: MsC592 and the books are listed in the University of Iowa Libraries online catalog.)
I visited it in October, 2003, and found to my delight that they’d added a copy of my Honors Thesis (“New York Times Reporting of Atrocities on the Western Front, 1914-18″). There were also copies of two of my books in the library’s book drop vending machine. It’s amazing and wonderful to be part of a university and a library which were so important to my becoming who I am.
There’s one other aspect of the state and the university which I want to mention. When I was an undergraduate there was a tree in front of the Old Capitol (it was an elm and died soon after from Dutch Elm Disease) with a bronze plaque noting that it had been planted by the woman who was the sole graduate of the Class of 1864. Southerners tend to claim the Civil War for their own, but Iowans under Sherman were still standing on the Shiloh battlefield after the southern forces retreated.
Iowans are raised to take their citizenship seriously. When my draft notice arrived, I went–because that’s what a citizen does, however much he may loathe the cause for which he’s being drafted to fight.