Nine Words

Ben H. Swett
Durham, NH
September 1965

Inspiration is strange. It makes itself scarce when you pursue it most desperately and pops up when you aren't expecting it. It also appears in a variety of forms, some of which are less than classic. For example, this is how I got into graduate school--which was a major turning point in my life.

Every year for seven years, I had applied for the Air Force Institute of Technology program that sends people back to college for a Master's Degree. Every year the application came back disapproved, with a statement that meant: "No navigators need apply in the foreseeable future."

After I was transferred off an aircrew into maintenance, my application was approved. I was notified that I would be sent back to college in the fall of 1965, with full pay and allowances, and all expenses paid, provided the Air Force could find a college that would accept me.

That proved to be a problem. My college grade average was high enough for most graduate schools, but the grades in my major field of study were not so hot. As a result, I was turned down by the Political Science Departments of three colleges.

By late August, the Air Force was running out of time and patience. They sent me a letter saying that, if they couldn't place me by the time school started in September, the whole deal would be called off--permanently.

I prayed for guidance but didn't receive any. Maybe I was so churned up inside that I couldn't hear it. Anyway, I decided I had to do something even if it was wrong, so I bundled up my transcripts, drove eight miles to the University of New Hampshire, and went to the Political Science Department.

The Department Chairman was on vacation, but his secretary said he was in the area and might come in to check his mail. So I sat down and waited. Two hours later he arrived. He said I was lucky to have caught him, because he was leaving the next day and wouldn't be back until the day school started.

He looked at my transcripts, and was not thrilled--too many "C's" in Political Science. Just as he started to tell me he was going to turn down my application ...

... I heard myself say, "Well, after all, professor, I did marry the girl."

He stared at me for one full second and then burst out laughing. "Good for you! Where's that paper you want me to sign?"

So that's how I got into graduate school ... by nine words ... but I would not have come up with those nine words if I thought about it for a million years.