Work Now and Prosper Later

On the trail to graduate with honors in college I sat with what Sister Mary Margaret called the “front row ladies” in a literature course.  Four women with serious academic goals.

This particular class, Sister motioned that she was unable to talk and nodded towards a television monitor and VHS cassette.  The word “quiz” in large letters was written and underlined twice on the chalkboard. After a couple of moments, a pitiful, grainy picture appeared.  One of Shakespeare’s plays was being performed by what sadly appeared to be overly emoting actors.  A groan rippled throughout the classroom, however, being serious students, the front row proceeded to watch, carefully making notations in dedicated notebooks.  I’ve been exposed to Shakespearean literature before but was not even versed.  I struggled and lost my way through Act 1.

As the performance droned on, a clear baritone voice announced a new character. The voice was appealing, the acting was much better than the co-stars.  The actor, though, seemed familiar.  The character came alive and drew me in.  I still grappled with the dialogue but the believable actor helped me come away with enough understanding to manage the quiz with a passing grade.  I searched the credits and found the familiar voice belonged to Patrick Stewart, the famed Captain Jean Luc Piccard in the series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I’m not a Trekkie.  Far from it, but, being my husband is a sci-fi fan I had been exposed to the series and was familiar with the character.  Stewart’s voice was still a distinctive baritone with outstanding enunciation and diction.  His portrayal of the Captain was spot on, his acting being neither over the top or lacking in such a series.  Before this, the only Star Trek series I had seen was the original late ‘60s version.  Much ado about nothing it seemed (sorry for the pun and no insult intended Trekkies).

It was years later while on an Illinois freeway that I was listening to a radio talk show when I heard the familiar baritone voice.  Patrick Stewart was the guest and the host was encouraging listeners to call in with questions for the actor.  Not surprising, all the calls for the first twenty minutes or so were regarding Stewart’s role as Captain Piccard.  There wasn’t a single mention of his other work.

As the show went on, I became more curious why the focus of questions was solely on Star Trek.  Didn’t listeners realize the man had other credits?  I thought I would take the chance to call in and ask Stewart about other experiences.  My chances of getting through were slim as the host said the show was inundated with calls.  Suddenly, I heard ringing!  The call had gone through but I knew my chances of, “Hello Caller! What’s your name?”.

My call was answered! Dumbfounded, I quickly stated my name to which Stewart replied, “Well helllllohh Yvonne!” in a genuinely happy voice.  “What would you like to know?”, Stewart asked.  I blurted out that I was curious on how he came to perform Shakespeare for educational literature film recordings.  He let out a clearly amused guffaw.  The host quickly thanked me for the call and obviously prepared to disconnect the call.  “No, no,” Stewart said, “I’d like to talk to Yvonne a bit more.  Where did you see this atrocity of my work?”.  More laughter.  “In a college literature course,” I replied.  “Oh, you poor thing!  That is still out there? Well, I was a beginning actor needing experience and a paycheck.  I had some training in Shakespearean acting and answered what’s deemed a cattle call for such.”.

He went on to explain how he worked to give the impression he was well experienced and quite comfortable with Shakespeare.  “In reality, I knew squat!”, again the amused chuckling. He continued that he had apparently performed before an easily impressed casting agent and was cast in subsequent Shakespearean and similar roles.  “I would have given nearly anything to have some range, comedy even!  Buuut I spent a great deal of acting in serious roles.”

He found it quite amusing that I had seen this performance and asked if I had seen the other tapes in the series.  I had, as Sister Mary Margaret had been without her voice the entire week.  “What torture!” Stewart amusingly responded with more chuckling.  He proceeded to ask my opinion of the performance and overall production, still amused.  “We need to take one more call,” the host interjected.  “No, no, I’d like to continue talking to Yvonne.  Now, where were we? Oh…”.  We had been talking for nearly ten minutes!

“Thirty seconds,” the host announced, annoyed.  “I have to ask one Star Trek related question Mr. Stewart,” I interrupted, “would you say my favorite line?  The one when you approach the food replicator?”.  He cleared his throat and in his best Captain Jean Luc Piccard voice said, “Earl Grey, hot.”.  We laughed in mutual delight. “Oh, thank you!” he exclaimed.  “This has been such fun!”.

That day I learned that it’s okay to be a little star-struck, ask the unexpected questions, and not to be a Trekkie to appreciate a Star Trek character (no offense Trekkies).

Recently, I was half-heartedly listening to an animated show my daughter was watching when that baritone voice sounded.  It was a good-for-nothing but hilarious CIA boss.  I guess Stewart did get his wish.

Bricks and Mortar, Beds and Books, Classrooms and Dorm Rooms

Enrollment at The University of Texas – San Antonio has exceeded the thirty thousand mark and shows no sign of dwindling. The result begs the need for more teachers, more classrooms and the big, and most important question is, where to put all these people.

More students are opting to live on campus than ever before. Upon enrollment, returning students and Honor students have the first choices in on campus living accommodations. The choices range from two student per room dorms, four students with separate bedrooms, shared living and bathrooms apartment style suites to on campus, privately run studio, two and four bedroom apartments. Every last space was taken this year well before enrollment deadlines with waiting lists. Off campus properties have sprouted like weeds offering various types of units, competitive amenities including up to eighteen hours daily of property to on campus buildings shuttles. The rents are heavy duty because of demand but the University has long been planning to meet these needs by having had engineers develop a master plan. Actually, a “college town” to address space for residence issues, retail services, and classroom and administrative office space.

The idea is to develop additional living accommodations, green park type spaces, retail spaces and much needed classrooms and administrative buildings. Plans for additional parking, walkways, interaction paths and more have been in step with original architect O’Neil Ford’s vision in mind. Committees comprised of students, faculty and staff have been formed and consulted over the years to reassure that the 6.5 million gross square feet will be movement in the right direction and truly fulfill the academic population’s needs.

All this planning for the ideal university community is right on track – on paper. In reality, funds are needed. A great deal of funding, to the tune of a million dollars. To start. So the question has shifted to how to encourage current private and business donors to continue giving and to find new ways to bring in donations, including the encouragement of student donors with the idea of being able to invest in an environment that should make their academic experience better. The decided solution was to create a Capital Campaign and kicking it off bigger and better than any fundraising campaign the University has ever had. Fireworks, banquets, bands, t-shirts and school pride freebies, a new football team, romancing athletics interest donors, and appealing to the general San Antonio population under the idea of city pride. Wait, what? A new football team? How did that figure into the master plan?  And if funds for the “college town” community is struggling to get past paper only plans where did the funds come from to rent out the Alamodome for tens of years because the University has no football field? Which, by the way, is in the master plan (but why build a football stadium if there’s already an inked contract with the Alamodome?).