|Transcript of Donald King Interview|
|Date of Interview:||April 16, 2008|
|Location of Interview:||Greenville, NC|
|Length:||One mp3 file, approximately 83 minutes|
Okay, today is Wednesday, April 16, and my name is Marty Tschetter. I'm here to interview Mr. Donald King. Donald's going to tell us--. It's for the ECU Oral History Project of first generation graduates. Mr. King has been selected and has graciously accepted to tell us his story. Do you mind if we record this?
No, not at all.
Okay, excellent. So if you don't mind, you can just start. And if you can tell me, kind of start off and tell us, a little bit about your background, your family background, and then from there we can work into how you felt about school and your academic--.
Sure. I am from a family, there were four of us, four children, and my father was military. I was born in Abilene, Texas, and my siblings were born throughout the country. My brother was born in France at the air force base there. I'm the youngest of four. Growing up, we grew up in Alaska, New Mexico, South Carolina, and retired in North Carolina. My father retired in Goldsboro, North Carolina in 1977, and--.
Let me ask--excuse me--were your parents from North Carolina?
They are. My father was born in Skeeter Point, North Carolina, in Sampson County, and my mother was born at Bucklesberry, North Carolina in Lenoir County. But I was born in Abilene, Texas. So when we retired here--. We traveled around a lot. It was a great life, like I said, four children growing up, being the youngest of four. Even growing up it was a little bit of a disconnection for me and my siblings. I was the creative one. I really challenged myself academically and I always had kind of this--. You know, I always, even as a child, I knew there was something more to me than the four walls, the dwelling that I lived in. I always knew there was something else for me out there. I just didn't know what it was. And having a father who was military, there was an assumption that that was the road I was going to take. We oftentimes look at our family and that's the path we choose. So I thought: maybe military, maybe restaurant, maybe factory, or something like that. I really didn't know. But then we retired to Goldsboro, North Carolina, and initially it was hard, me finding my place, because eastern North Carolina now is my home, and I could not imagine living anywhere else, but at the time I was an eleven-year-old child, who lived in Goldsboro, who didn't have a country accent like I have now, and who didn't fit. I was not outgoing. I was outgoing, and shy in a way also. Not athletic like my brother. So it was just different for me. It was hard for me to get lifetime friends, because by then in eastern North Carolina you had little redneck cliques and the different cliques. They had friends they'd had since kindergarten. So then my family, my parents, we retired to a trailer park actually, in Goldsboro, right behind the high school that I later attended. And a couple of years after--my father managed the trailer park--we moved to a plot of land where my parents took
their double-wide trailer, moved it out to the country in La Grange, where they still live, put a roof on it and put the foundation underneath it, and that's where I was raised. I went to high school at Eastern Wayne High School and that's kind of what happened.
Can you tell me maybe what your other siblings did? You said you were the youngest, right?
What your younger siblings did, or decided to do. Did they stay after high school and live in that house too? How did you progress to--?
Yeah. My sister, my oldest sister, was seventeen when we lived in New Mexico, and she eloped with her then boyfriend who became her husband, whom she later divorced, and she was pregnant. So she left the home, quit high school and left the home. My middle sister finished high school, probably the brightest one of the family. I think that I oftentimes--. I don't regret the path I chose, I just wish she could have chose the same path, because she's so bright and so gifted in art. I mean she's just a wonderful human being. She didn't go to college and she's now forty-seven and has no intentions of going to college. She still lives in a mobile home right across the street from my mom and dad, and she works with 911 communications in Kinston. She's the coordinator of 911 communications there. And then my brother, a year older than I was, was a hellion of sorts. He managed to get out of high school by the skin of his teeth and lived with my parents for a couple of years after high school. And then got odd jobs, blah, blah, blah, got married, became a Mormon, moved away, left the Mormon Church, got divorced, had children, got married again, had more children, and he lives in Trenton now, lives with a woman, and his children live in different places across the country, and he lives in a
trailer in Trenton. Then there's me. When I was in high school I managed to finally find my place, my niche, I guess you could say, in high school. I ran track a little bit and got active in campus politics. I was class president my junior year and my senior year and got active in school. And I always knew that there was something for me. I really--. It sounds almost condescending. I know people don't believe this. They think I'm disingenuous when I say this, because I do have four degrees now, and they think, "Yeah right, Don, you didn't know what college was." But when I was in high school, I honestly didn't understand. I didn't know what I wanted because I didn't have that frame of reference. I honestly did not know what college was. I never knew any relative--there was never a cousin, never an aunt, never an uncle, nobody in my life ever. And back then I didn't read books like I should or watch movies. We didn't follow things. It was a different world. There was no Internet back then, so I didn't have that frame of reference, so--.
Excuse me. Do you think--? Do you recall any teachers in high school, maybe, that may have said--because if you were active in student politics, some of them may have said, "Hey--."
No, not in high school. Even though I was outgoing in high school--. It's weird--and I'm still connected to them. Because I'm class president I have to organize reunions, twenty-five year reunion's coming up soon. But because I never had--. I was class president, I was involved in campus politics, but I wasn't from--. I was from a different side of the tracks, I guess you could say, and I felt it.
Because you weren't necessarily--. You didn't really grow up there. I mean, you did--.
Exactly. And I lived in a trailer and I was not rich. My parents were very lower to middle income at the time and it was very tough. And I was a nice guy, I was pleasant to be around, I was definitely not a mean person, but I didn't have one person in high school who really said, "You should take that route." It was actually an ex-girlfriend that I had who said, "You know, there's a community college,"--I didn't even know what a community college was at the time and ironically that's where I work now--she said, "There's a community college, Wayne Community College, in Goldsboro. I think you should look into maybe going to college, Don." I had good grades, but college was just not a part of my future. My parents had saved zero dinero for college. It was not something that was talked about in the family, and it created battles between my father and I, major fights, for me to even talk about not working and going to college. My father saw people in college as the other side. Being an NCO--my father was a non-commissioned officer in the military so he was not an officer--he always had this anti-establishment, or anti-college, type attitude. And to him, and I would quote him sometimes, they were educated idiots.
So I didn't have anybody in my family that would really believe me. There was no support system at all when I was younger as far as my goal of wanting to go to college. It was just not an option. It was not an option. It was not something that I--. In fact, I was offered a scholarship to Mt. Olive College, a leadership scholarship at the time. Again, active in school, I won national awards. I was well-liked and well-known. But when you're offered scholarships your parents still have to pay something, and back then financial aid was a little bit different than it is now. I couldn't get financial aid because my father was unwilling to release his records. My father was one of those
private sorts. He was not going to do that. And I didn't have the money to pay for college on my own. The scholarship that I was offered to Mt. Olive College required additional money from family in order to go to Mt. Olive College, so I had to turn down the scholarship because my parents weren't choosing to do that. And actually, what I think I mentioned to you earlier about my basically being asked to move out of the house, it was during that time. It was during that time of my really being adamant about wanting to go to college and really wanting to choose this path that I was not familiar with. And it was creating more and more tension between my father and I. And I was very, like I was quiet in high school. Being all these class presidents, it sounds like an oxymoron, but I was not as verbal as I am now by any stretch of the imagination. I was not comfortable in my own skin back then. I was not as confident with speaking in front of large groups like I am now. So my father was an enigma who I was afraid of, and I didn't speak up against him much. But secretly he annoyed me quite often, and he probably sensed the annoyance of him, and particularly his total inability to understand or respect my wanting to go to college, his being oblivious to it. And there was bitterness, again I mentioned to you, about my brother living there until he was twenty. I was asked to move out when I was eighteen, so there was bitterness that entered into the fact that here you've got a brother who drank, and partied, and wrecked cars, and did drugs, and he's allowed to stay in the house and didn't go to college. I want to go to college, a community college--that is nine miles from my parents' home, mind you--and I was asked to move out, and it was primarily because of that. My parents will deny it to this day, but I chose a path my parents didn't support or understand.
[It's probably the...] maybe didn't understand it?
Didn't understand it at all. They didn't understand me. They didn't understand this guy. Why does he want to go to college? [inaudible] My father, "What, you want to make more money than me? I'm not giving you a good enough life?"
He would say that?
Yeah. He didn't understand why I would want to college. "Why do you want to go to college?" See my parents didn't have a frame of reference either, so in all fairness to them, not only did I not have the frame of reference, they didn't. My father was raised by depression era parents. There was no college in a depression era family. Military, my father saw college educated people as those who yelled at him and screamed at him, the officers. It was never a positive thing. College was never seen as something positive. There was no motivation to go to college. It is now, of course, twenty years later, but it wasn't then.
That's interesting, especially bringing up the frame of reference, I mean, how your parents grew up and that kind of thing. You finished high school in--?
So right around the time you finished high school, your parents said, "Hey, you know--."
My mother came to me--I was actually on a rocking chair in our living room--and I can't remember what happened that day. I don't have that good a memory. I don't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. But I remember that conversation, and my mother said, "You know, I just really--. Your father and I talked, and I just think it's best if you move out." And at the time I had befriended some people in college. I don't remember exactly the reasons of why. To this day I don't really remember the reasons. I
don't remember there being a battle. My father and I did have a large fight, and I don't know if it was during the time period of my turning down the scholarship to Mt. Olive, because I was bitter about that, bitter times a hundred, that I turned down a scholarship to Mt. Olive College, and carried that bitterness within my heart, and probably didn't necessarily yell. I never yelled at my father and called him names because that would get the wrath of a belt or a fist, but I knew that it was something that he probably sensed. And my mother came to me and she said, "I think it's best if you move out." So I ended up getting a trailer not terribly far from my parents' house, a little bit closer to the college. And my mom secretly helped me financially with the trailer. My father probably didn't know it at the time, that mom secretly helped me. I worked full-time and have been working full-time ever since.
Wow. What did you do for work then?
I worked at Leder Brothers, a department store in downtown Goldsboro--a retail store owned by a very successful Jewish family in Goldsboro called the Leder family, L-E-D-E-R--and worked there until I left Wayne Community College three years later.
Wow. So then when you--. So you started working right after high school then. And did you--?
Actually I worked in high school. I had to work in high school. My siblings didn't. None of them had to work in high school. Again there was always kind of--. I won't--. My parents loved me, and I call my mother every day, I call my father every day, but you always kind of sense, you know your role in the family, and I knew my role. I was always this--. I was different. I was academic, I was nice to people, I was
respectful, I was active in things, and so I kind of never fit in the family thing. I wanted to go places. I liked to travel. Probably what helped plant the seed, I took advantage of an American Field Study, AFS, short term exchange to Baltimore, Maryland. I went to Potomac High School and their students came here. I was seventeen years of age, had never been exposed to wealth, had never been exposed to people in college really before.
Excuse me. Was that like a short term thing?
It's called AFS, American Field Services. You can do one year or short term. I did a week. It was within the United States, state short term exchange, so we went there a week and they came here a week. I went, and I stayed with Jamie [Kacich?]. I remember his name. I remember him like it was yesterday: curly little black hair, a guy from--. He had this awesome split level home. I mean, we lived in trailers--and nothing wrong with that, it was part of my life--but he lived in a home, so to me I felt like he was the wealthiest thing in the world. And his father was a professor at one of the universities there, and his professor at one of the universities up in the DC area, and it was just an awesome experience. And I met people whose mother or father was a doctor, and I had never been exposed to that lifestyle. I probably took that back with me. I don't think I had an attitude, I don't remember having an attitude, about it, but I probably started to question things then. That probably helped to plant that seed. Never really thought about it until now, but that probably helped to plant that seed.
You were a junior in high school?
I was seventeen. I was a junior in high school when I did that, exactly.
They may have said to you, "Where are you going to college?"
Yeah, because they knew my grades. All my friends knew I was smart. I mean, I made good grades, and class president, and ran track, and FBLA, and artistic. I had that package where people--. But I never went to the counselor's office. And there was an assumption, because I was class president, "Oh, this is a guy destined for college." I never went to the counselor's office because, what was I going to say? I don't have any money to go to college, and I didn't know about scholarships. In retrospect sure, now I know. I have students every day in my office that I can help secure thousands of dollars in scholarships by just going online. Back then there was no Internet. I had to do it with paper, and it was embarrassing. My dad didn't want to release tax information. You had to know how much your parents made, and it was just, you know, so I--.
It wasn't easy then.
I chose not to do it, and I was actually graduating high school and got a job selling magazines door to door across the country. Never actually did the job, but interviewed at a local hotel. Surprisingly, my mom and dad supported it. I was really hoping they would say, "You are never going to do that. We don't want our son--. That's dangerous." But, "Okay, that's fine. We'll sign the papers." So they signed the papers approving me to go travel around the country and live in hotels with, probably, drug addicts, and sell magazines door to door. And then, fortunately, that girlfriend I told you I had at the time said, "Don, you really need to look into this community college thing," and so, boom. It happened that quickly.
So did you start that fall?
I did. And then actually I started in--. Yeah, I started in August of '84. I sure did.
What do you remember about that?
It was a great experience. It was my foundation of becoming who I am today. Without it I would not be here--there's no doubt in my mind--without the community college, which is probably why I love what I do, because I'm allowed to help be a part of that foundation for so many students when I help plant that seed. I went to Wayne Community College and had a great experience there. Started off with the intentions of--. I went the gamut from A to Z, I would tell my students, from astronomy to zoology. I really had no clue what I wanted to do when I grew up. I just knew I wanted to do something. I wanted to make my mark. Somewhere, Don was going to make his mark. I just wasn't sure how. So I started Wayne, started off in pre-business--actually business initially, then I changed it to pre-business which is what I ended up--. My associate's degree was a liberal arts degree and I used that to transfer to ECU in the school of business. But even when I was at Wayne Community College I never thought I was going to go beyond that. I never entered Wayne Community College thinking, "One day I'm going to be at ECU." I didn't know what ECU was. I'd never been here. Even though I was class president, again, I worked full-time. And I'm not trying to cop out . I had a great life, and I had good friends in high school, but I wasn't the guy invited to parties. A. I think most people thought my dance ticket was full because I was class president. They assumed I was popular, but I was probably one of the shyest guys in school and didn't do a lot, A., and I worked full-time, at least twenty, twenty-five hours a week, at a Mexican restaurant called [Nichos]. I worked at Bob's Seafood in Goldsboro
when I was fifteen and then I worked at [Nichos]. So I always had jobs, so you really couldn't do much on a Friday and Saturday night. So I didn't really come up to Greenville and party like back then people went to downtown Greenville, when they were seventeen or eighteen, with a fake ID. I never did the fake ID thing, never had the opportunity to do that.
But Wayne was a great experience, got active in student government there, and got active in an organization called Circle K, which is the collegiate version of Kiwanis, and became actually a state officer. I was lieutenant governor for the state there for awhile. And got really involved in things, and knew that this was me, knew I was meant to be involved. I liked being a part of the collegiate setting. I liked that setting. And for me it was different than some of my peers, some of my friends. They were in college--. Even students I work with today, I talked with a guy just recently, the only reason he's in college, his mom and dad wants him to be. He gets a paycheck each week, or each month, and he's in college, he gets spending money, that's his life. And he works to pay his beer bill. I was in college because genuinely I knew I needed to be and I wanted to be. It was a motivation within me. It was truly motivation. And I think I mentioned before you turned on the tape about what I even talk to my students about today, that for me--. You know I tell students who are first generation college students all the time that choosing a path less traveled is a challenge, but choosing that path that's never been traveled is an even greater challenge. So, nobody had ever traveled that path, so--.
That's a really great point. Just as a frame of reference, what do you do?
I teach a freshman seminar class at a community college and I teach orientation to health careers class, so both courses I teach are career development
motivational type classes to help motivate students. And then I advise a large group of pre-health science students.
Wow. Yeah, so that's the perfect crown--.
Yeah, it's just a perfect fit for me: perfect full circle of life I guess you could say. It's back to where I am now, back to the community college system from years back.
Yeah, yeah. You're probably meant to be there.
Yeah, I think so. So far it's been good, twenty-four years later--almost twenty-five it's scary to say. Wow. But it's been great.
So did you go to Wayne Community the entire three years?
And then working--.
I did, I worked full-time and lived on my own. I lived in different places. I moved out from my trailer. I had a roommate who was Pakistani and he and I became really good friends, [inaudible], and we became roommates and got an apartment together. Then, you know, stayed at Wayne and took a test called the KUDER test--it's a career interest inventory test--and then I met with a counselor. Her name was Janice Hill at the time then she changed it to Janice Fields and now she's remarried. I can't think of her name now. But she was--. You asked me was there anybody in high school who really inspired me to go to college and the answer was, "No." There were people I was close to but nobody that planted that seed. Janice, who I've actually gotten to know professionally now over the years, and probably embarrassed her over the years when I've many, many, many times given her the recognition she deserves for making this
young boy from eastern North Carolina who lived in a trailer and never thought he was going to be anything, she's the one who planted that seed of going to university in me. I would have never gone to university had it not been for her. And she was a young African American female at the time, she was young at the time, she was a former stewardess who was working as a counselor in her twenties.
At Wayne Community?
At Wayne Community College. And she met this young guy who was confused but outgoing, nice, friendly, but had no clue, totally clueless, of what life was before him and what he was going to do and where he wanted to leave his mark. So she had me do this KUDER test, this career interest inventory test, and I think it's still actually being used today. Certain colleges are still using the KUDER. I think it's K-U-D-E-R. But anyway, she had me do that and it kind of had different things pegged, and then she said, "Have you ever considered going to a university?" And at the time I was just a business major and I really hadn't considered it, because I never even thought it would be a part of my life. And she talked to me about maybe going to a university. Initially I was going to go to UNC-Charlotte--I got accepted to UNC-Charlotte--because I wanted to get away from Dodge. I needed to get away from my family, I needed to get closer towards me, I just needed to find who I was and find my place. But my grandparents were older, and I was close to my grandparents, and I didn't want to leave and they pass away and I not be a part of their life. So I chose to go to ECU.
So she's the one that maybe suggested, it must have been like, colleges in the area?
Absolutely. She was not a career--. She was a counselor, per se. She looked at colleges in the area and looked at different majors. At the time I was pre-business. I was initially thinking, like I said, lots of different majors, even speech, language and audio-pathology came into play, so I think that's why we looked at ECU because ECU had a SLAP program at the time, as they still do. Then I wanted to be the next Darren Stevens from "Bewitched." He was a marketing and advertising exec. That was my thing. I was an art kind of guy in high school, so initially when I majored in--. When I decided to leave and come to Greenville in 1987, I knew that would totally change everything in my life. Not only would it put me in a university setting, which totally made me so excited, it would totally forever--it was not really forever, but to a young person I thought it would be forever--change my relationship with my family, because nobody visited me in college.
Your parents came twice maybe?
Maybe. My brothers and sisters never came the whole time I lived here. Nobody ever visited where I lived. They didn't come to my graduation either. My mom and dad did, but my brother and sisters, they didn't come to my graduation. And it was just that--. I'm not going to go back and be bitter. I love my life, I love my siblings, I love who I am, but--.
There wasn't any effort though?
There was no effort. It's not the effort that I've made in their life. When my brother was a drummer for a rock and roll band, he was playing at a concert or
something, or when my sister was doing something, or my nieces and nephews were doing something, they don't--. And I think now they know the person I am, because my sister made a comment, she said, "You're the kind of person that really goes the extra mile for people, and I don't think I've always given you the extra mile that you deserved." And I thought, "No, you probably really haven't," but she's a good person. My other sister passed away. My older sister died two years ago. But the sister that I mentioned to you earlier was so special and really should have gone to college. She's the one that--. She and I have really reconnected. Because my older sister, the one that truly is my opposite in life as far as we all have polar opposites, Darlene was truly my polar opposite, but we connected in such an awesome way.
Now was that your older sister that died?
Mm hmm. She was the one that died. She was the one that died. I've shown pictures of her at the end. And she was the one that believed in me. It's funny, through life I would go back and look at readings and things that she wrote for me, like when I was in college she would write me. Now she was poor, real, real poor, and she genuinely tried her best in life to get somewhere in life. I told you she got pregnant young, worked as hard as she could to get by in life, didn't have any high school education, didn't even have a GED, and really struggled in life. She was the kind of person that, when she got older in life, she was the kind of person that if she walked in my office somebody would think there was a homeless person in the office. But I would hug her, and I know she was my sister, and I took ownership of the fact she was my sister. I was never embarrassed by her. I loved her to the day she took her last breath, July 4, 2006. But when she passed away, so much of me left too because of the fact that
she understood me. She didn't support the road necessarily. She didn't necessarily understand it. But she believed in me. You know what I'm saying?
It was a special thing. And I didn't feel that--. Although she didn't visit me, she didn't visit me because she didn't have the money to, and I realized that.
Was she in New Mexico all those years?
No, no, no. When she left New Mexico, I told you, she moved back here. Her boyfriend, that she ended up marrying at the time when she eloped, she snuck back to North Carolina. We lived in North Carolina when she was younger. She met this guy. My father was stationed in New Mexico, Clovis, New Mexico, and she left the home and moved to North Carolina, back to North Carolina, where she lived ever since until her death. And like I said, all my siblings now live a hop, skip and a jump away from mom and dad.
Yeah, yeah. Okay, so, do you remember what it was like coming to ECU? Did you commute?
I--. Commute from where?
Goldsboro, La Grange, or--?
No. I moved here.
That must have been something: moving here, trying to figure out where you'd live.
It was--. Well actually I had friends from high school that went to Wayne Community College and I ended up living with them that first semester. But it's funny, I always felt older than my years because I had to work and support myself, and so I never--.
I mean I did have fun in college, but not like they did. I moved in with three fraternity members--I was not a fraternity member--and it was not a good fit for me personally because they wanted to party and I wanted to study. It was just not a good fit.
So priorities were different.
Priorities were totally different. So then I ended up moving into a boarding house on Jarvis Street with Joe Garris, who's since passed away, and he and I, actually my wife became close to him in his last few years of life. He's someone who I really grew to respect a lot. He was an old cantankerous man, just kind of old and cantankerous, if you've ever met people like that. But he opened up his home to me at a time that I really needed a place to stay and needed an affordable place to stay. And it had a nice room in a nice house. Didn't have use of a kitchen or anything like that, but I could use a bathroom, and I had a bed, so for me, for a college guy--. And it was right off the campus. And when I first came here, I was going to be an art major, so that was perfect for me, because I was right there by the art school.
Jarvis and where?
Right near Jarvis and Fourth. There's a rugby house actually right beside of--. It was 410 south Jarvis Street--310 south Jarvis Street, I'm sorry.
That's the neighborhood I grew up in too.
Yeah, and we grew up next--. Do you know where the Rotary Club is?
Sure, sure, absolutely.
If you're looking at the Rotary Club, the house to the right.
So we probably saw each other.
We probably--. And Joe Garris has lived in that neighborhood for forty years. His sister, Sissy, as he called her--she passed away a few years back too--she lived with him. He was single, and never had been married, and just lived there for years and rented out the room for, I think, thirty years or so to college guys. Only guys, it was really funny, and no women allowed upstairs. He was very much a traditional Southern guy from the 40s basically whenever I lived there, which was fine for me because I needed to buckle down and study and have that balance and structure in my life. So, that's where I lived. So I moved up here, and then I would live in different places along the way. He ended up having an apartment across the street from his house--right across the street from his house--come available, and that was an actual apartment, my first time living alone with a living room, and a kitchenette, and a bathroom.
Was that that duplex?
Mm hmm. And I felt like I was Donald Trump. I literally felt like I was Donald Trump. I think it was $275 a month. But see then I was on financial aid because financial aid, when I said it was different, it was different then. Now, if you're twenty-four years of age or younger, unless you've been to the military, or you're emancipated from your parents, or you're married, or you have a child, you have to claim your parents' income. That means that Don King, back then, would never have been able to go to ECU, because my father was not releasing his tax information to anybody. But back then, as long as you had been out on your own for two years, you could claim
independent status, so that's what I did. So when I came to ECU I got full financial aid plus I worked full-time, so I had enough to live a comfortable life for a college kid. I had a decent time in college. I had a great time in college in fact, got active and did things, and went downtown and got familiar with [inaudible], and Susie's Treehouse, and some of the great hangouts of that era, but still had to work full-time in order to make ends meet.
Where did you work in Greenville?
Where did I work in Greenville? I worked restaurants mostly. Best place to make money was in restaurants. That's why, I think, when I first met you I asked you if you worked in restaurants, because I still see people who I knew from restaurants. I worked at Pizza Inn as a waiter, because I worked at Pizza Inn in Goldsboro before I came here, so I transferred to Pizza Inn here. I delivered newspapers for awhile, the Daily Reflector, on weekends or at night in a really bad part of town. And it's interesting, I look back to it now and I was so naïve and innocent back then. Didn't own a gun, still don't own a gun, and I think back to parts of the community that I went through at 3:00 in the morning with hundreds of dollars worth of quarters, you know, at 3:00 in the morning. But the paycheck was good, and then I ended up having my own route part-time because the person I worked with would get sick a lot and ask me to help her run her route, so I mean really good extra money through her, and that helped me. And I would study at night. I never took--. I don't think I ever took more that twelve hours a semester. I was a twelve-hour semester kind of guy. But for me it worked out well because it was hard to take eighteen hours in a semester when you worked.
Yeah, for sure. So do you remember what it was like coming to, you know, that first weekend moving in, and trying to find a place to live?
Wow, it was surreal. It was neat experience. I'll be honest with you though--and I don't mean to harp on this--but for me this--. I think back, and I don't process it a lot because I really do love my parents. I really do, and I love my family. But I just remember the feeling of not being able to share with anybody and how hard that was for me, because that's exciting, coming to college, and I had nobody to share it with. My parents never came to Parent's Day.
So it's kind of like an empty nest I guess?
Absolutely, absolutely. And I had friends, but it was harder even for me to make friends in college because I was embarrassed by that part of my life. It was like a big--
--mole to me. I was thinking almost like a cancer, a wart. It was like this part of my life--. Not that I was embarrassed by being poor, I was embarrassed--
That your parents didn't care?
--that my parents didn't visit or care. Although, my mom was very supportive in her own way and was a strength in my life. She would meet me halfway in Goldsboro. I would leave here and she would meet me down Highway 13 going towards Snow Hill, and she'd pick up my laundry and she would take it home and bring it back and have it washed for me sometimes. She would help me with bills when times get tough. So I can't say that she took the scissors and cut me out of her life--it was
definitely not like that--but it wasn't as supportive as I wanted it to be. And I remember--.
Do you remember--? I'm sorry.
Go ahead. I was just going to say something. All I was going to say was one thing that stands out in my mind the most, that I think about often--and I try not to dwell on it because it kind of makes me depressed--I think about when my mom--. I was driving down Fifth Street, and I said, "Mom, why don't you want to come to the events in my life? I told you I was lieutenant governor for Circle K, I've been in theater productions, I had the lead in my college play at Wayne Community college, I'm active in the community. You and dad don't ever seem to want to get involved with me. You don't ever ask about me. You don't ever ask about the things I'm doing. I'm a pretty good kid. I've got good grades, I'm active." And I always respected my parents, but I reached a point I was frustrated. I just had to question why. And I'll never forget, my mother said, "We don't understand that way of life. We love you, but we're never going to get involved in that."
They were like afraid to breach that--?
They just didn't, and they never did. They never did.
What I was going to ask you, if you ever--because you seem to have a good relationship with your mom. I mean, I can understand that scenario, you know the, not necessarily animosity, but the friction with your dad especially, and just the kind of person he was. But I was going to ask you if you ever really asked your mom about that.
Just on the phone that time. Because my mom back then--.
That was on the phone?
Was when I asked her about, why, and that's when she told me it's just not something--. She didn't say "frame of reference", of course, but she basically said, "It's not something we understand. It's not a part of our life." And I said to her, "Well, Howard--." My brother had long hair down to his back, and spandex pants, and was a drummer for a rock and roll band. I'm like, "You and dad went to a rock and roll band at Atlantic beach to listen to him perform, but you can't come to your son's college event." I'm like, "I don't understand. I don't." But to this day it's still very much like that in many ways, but at this time of my life now I'm very comfortable in my skin and confident with who I am and embrace my parents for who they are. They raised--.
It takes a lot to do that too.
Yeah, because I could have easily hated and them and been bitter for the rest of my life. And many of friends questioned why I didn't. But my grandmother, who passed away, was my strength, because she never understood why my parents did that and she was the person who I could kind of bend the ear of and ask, "Why?"
Whose mom was that?
My mother's mother. She was just a neat, just a solid woman, just really a neat awesome person I loved talking to. She died last year.
Okay, wow. She lived in that area, Goldsboro?
Rosewood. Wayne County. And it's funny. I didn't grow up with grandparents because we were military and we retired later. I reconnected with my grandmother probably in my adult life in college when I was really questioning who I was and searching for this inner being like we do in life. And I didn't have that connection with my mom and dad, so I got connected to my grandmother. Never
understood my role in life, and that's when my grandmother would say things like, "Your mama just made it point blank she only wanted three children," and I'm the fourth. She's like, "She only wanted three children and she really didn't give you a lot of attention growing up. She would let you cry and cry, but they sure made sure that brother of yours was taken care of." And see my sister, the one that I grew very close to in life, she was kind of like my mom. She was my protector. She was the one that I--. She used to tell me that I was like her baby doll because she took care of me and she made sure my diaper was changed and she made sure--. She gave me the attention. And even though [inaudible] grew up and we took totally different paths in life, she's still the one--. You know the root, that one root of the tree, that gives it the most nutrients even though there's multiple roots. She was my root. She was the one person that gave me--. And also probably the connection to my family, the person I felt connected to.
Wow. That's interesting that your grandmother would share that, would confide in--.
And she did, every time I talked to her, she would confide in me. And then as we built our relationship, she and I got really, really close. She was really proud of me. Never came to my college graduation, of course, but she was my grandmother and I didn't expect her to, with her health and everything like that, but she would always know what I was doing. And my mom would brag, although she didn't understand things I was doing.
That's neat though that she could in a sense turn that corner I guess, and not necessarily understand it but be proud of it.
Yeah. My mom--. And I think it's when initially I started college my parents assumed what a college town was like and what a college person was like and I think they built within their mind who I was going to become. But I think when they saw that I was just still this caring person who was passionate about their health and would call them more than my siblings would, and even when I lived in a different city I was always concerned about them, and I was always home when they needed me, and I went to funerals when I needed to be and I was always there for them. I think they got to know my character and they felt, "Wow, he's a pretty cool person." And maybe that's how they got--. Probably had I come to college and been a snotty little college kid and looked down upon my parents because of how I was raised, it would have been sour and maybe never even had a relationship with my parents.
Yeah, yeah. That's good. You have a good perspective on that. I think that--. I mean it sounds like you had a lot to deal with too, but--.
Oh yeah, but it was--.
Thanks for sharing that.
Oh sure. It's personal, but you asked and I want to share it.
No, no. I think that's important. That's kind of what this is all kind of about. Let's see. So I guess when you started school here and stuff, what did--? I mean you had a few friends it sounds like, but do you recall, I mean, this is a big campus, "What do I do?"
Huge campus, exciting campus--.
Big classes [inaudible].
Oh yeah. I didn't really know where to go or what to do. I transferred as a junior. I look back at is sometimes. When I transferred I had seventy-two credit hours. I was under the quarter system. I took--I know the number just because I've looked at it enough over the years--I had 126 quarter hours, which transferred in as seventy-two semester hours. So I transferred in as a junior, and I had to declare my major. So initially I was going to go into graphic design. I used to love walking across campus, as I still do. It's when the boy comes out in me every time I come on this campus because I loved walking through the mall area because it's so--. It makes me think back to that--. I was--let's see I came up here in 1987--a twenty-one year old kid who felt thirty, even though I was twenty-one. My roommates were in a fraternity. I thought I was too old to be in a fraternity. Isn't that funny? Even though I see twenty-one year old kids all the time now that I consider young kids, I thought I was--. I guess because I worked full-time and I had different responsibilities. And I didn't live in a dorm and that's a regret I had. And again, I felt too old to live in a dorm. I didn't join a fraternity, felt too old to join a fraternity. But walking through that campus and walking in the library, walking in the big buildings, it was such an awesome experience for me. I still get goose bumps when I think back to the moment of being on campus, waiting in the long financial aid lines. But I'll tell you what helped me the most, I'm a resource person and I think the reason I'm good at what I do now is I'm a resource agent. I'm not an instructor, I'm not an advisor, I'm a resource agent for my students. I'm like "Rain Man" when it comes to phone numbers, and who to ask to get to circumvent the process, and where to go to get this. So when I first started school here I needed to get to know people, and I got to know Miss Lily. Lily Ruth was her name I believe. I think her last name was Ruth, but I know
her first name was Lily. Lily worked in financial aid. She was my key to helping me figure out this process. She ended up baking me cookies and helping me in line, of the hundreds of people who had to wait in line at the old financial aid building back in the '80s. Early '90s--yeah, the late '80s.
Is it [inaudible]?
Mm hmm. Beautiful, it was an older building. She would say, "Mr. King? If you want to come up front I've got something to share with you." And she would say, "I've got some cookies for you. If you wait right here, I'll get you in line." And it was a resource that I would get to know. So I'd get to know her, and I got to know the custodians in the building, and I would talk to them about different things, and that's how I got to know Greenville. I would get to know like the--.
Plus what's really cool about that--and I believe in that kind of thing too--.
You get the rapport, and you respect them for who they are.
Yeah, and you get to know them. I mean even at the job I have now. I know Willie, our custodian, probably better than--. I'll sit there and talk with him. He's interesting. I know the police officers. Lee Bowen, one of the police officers, whose family owned Bowen Farm that the back part of our campus was built upon. He is the salt of the earth. When he comes to the building he makes it a point to come speak to me, and I like that. You know what I'm saying? It's a connection that I have.
But back then that's how I would get to know people, is kind of open up. Even though I started out kind of being shy, I knew that in order to be successful in this world and to really make my mark on this huge campus I had to jump out of that shell, and that's what I did. I got to know people, and got to know my way around, and then decided after my first semester as an art major, I decided, "You know, this isn't for me. I think I want marketing. I'm very creative and I like to draw but I don't think I want the competitiveness of having my art judged against somebody else's art. I'm an artist by the way I like to draw." So I ended up majoring in marketing.
And that's when I really found people who helped me, who believed in me. Dr. Havva Meric, who was--I don't think she's here anymore, I think she retired--and the director of marketing at the time, the chair of marketing, I would go in and talk in his office a lot--I can't think of his name--and Beth Eckstein, my economics instructor. I had certain instructors in that business program who I would talk to and really get to know. And I think that's helped me to this day when I advise students. I'm like, "The best thing you can do as a college student is to build a relationship with your instructors, to let them know the human." I wasn't out there wearing a sign, "I was raised in a trailer in eastern North Carolina and I work full-time." There was nothing like that. I'm who I am. But--.
You had a genuine interest in them.
But I didn't have a problem letting an instructor know I did have a full-time job, and if I come to school tired, or something like that, this could be the reason. I think if you let somebody know the human side of you, it kind of--. For me, I think it helped
my path a little bit more, to show that, I guess you could say, to let them know what's vulnerable.
I'm sorry, what's that?
To let them know what's vulnerable.
Oh yeah. Plus, most people won't do that. [inaudible] They don't take that effort, and so I always feel like that's the difference, you know?
And I sat in the front row, which is so weird because I'm so not a front row kind of guy now. But I did. I think back, and the little tape recorder that I had. I had a tape recorder and I would tape record certain--. Because I had--. Again, there was a language barrier for me. I'm from eastern North Carolina and hadn't traveled much further outside of eastern North Carolina except when I was younger. Since I was eleven we had lived in Goldsboro, and we didn't take many vacations that I remember. So when I moved up here I had instructors from Japan, and I had one from Iran, and I didn't know what they were saying.
Just a kind of sidebar thing: is there any food that you had up here that you didn't have before? Can you think of anything?
I don't remember much about that. I don't remember much about that. That's when I started gaining weight because I was a convenience food kind of guy.
Always had fast food and stuff?
Yeah. Because again--not making excuses, we all have things in life--but because of my work schedules and work hours and stuff. I would eat Pizza Inn at work because it was free. I would get off work from the Daily Reflector and I would go eat whatever. No, I don't remember anything. I didn't try cultural food, if that's what you're
asking. Again, it took money to do that, so I never--. I don't think I ever--. No, I never really did Chinese or anything like that. I do now.
I was just curious.
Darryl's, I remember Darryl's. Darryl's was here. That was good, oh wow, those crackers and ranch dressing. Great things, back then.
Yeah that was a neat little place. It's weird that it's not--.
It's a parking lot. I think it's a parking lot. Is it still a parking lot?
That fraternity, I think. That fraternity bought it, or maybe the University bought it, and they use it as overflow parking or something.
Yeah, there used to be those railroad tracks and people would cross the tracks to get--.
That's right. Wow.
Did you ever go to games?
Oh, I'm sure I did a few times, like I would go to Homecoming.
You probably had to work.
Things like that. Yeah, but it just didn't, it wasn't--. And also there was a little bit of expense involved. The tickets were free but then you had extra food and things like that. You know it's funny, I don't remember every, and none of us remember every, single minute of our life. So, I wish I had a TV in my head where I could go back and rewind the tape and look back on what I did back then. But I don't remember going
to a lot of games. I remember being interested in going to a lot of games, but I think because of the restaurant industry I typically worked weekends. And also because I was in school I had to kind of balance that.
That happens, definitely.
I'm definitely a Pirate through and through. I've got purple and gold in my blood.
And my son's going to--. Even if he ends up going to Duke or Carolina or Harvard or whatever, he's got an ECU jersey already, he's got an ECU football, the monogrammed football, he's got--.
Now how old is he?
He's eleven months, eleven and a half months.
What's his name?
Matthew. Matthew Aldridge King. My wife is actually a first generation college student also. It's interesting.
Her parents--it's a different scenario though--her parents had money. She's from a very conservative family full of pride. She's an only child. Her parents were not military but live in the same ranch style home they lived in when they got married back in the '50s. Very maybe middle to lower income, but she knew from the minute she was in fifth grade or whatever she was going to college. The money was always there. She got a car as soon as she turned sixteen. Money was always given to her when she was in college and her parents paid for--. Even when she and I got married--she was finishing
her graduate degree--they even paid for all of her graduate degree. So it was a different scenario, although we're both first generation, it was a different walk. But her walk was her walk and my walk was my walk. I'm not judging that.
Sure. But it was a difference in the support.
Yeah, a difference in the support. Well, difference in the fact that she never thought about giving up, and I did.
Where is she from?
She's from Kinston, right down the road, but we didn't know each other growing up. We met actually in college in the community college system. We met then but never connected. It's like you and I met at Kinko's but didn't really have a conversation. Now, years later, we actually are talking. She and I met at an SGA conference, Student Government Association. She was at Lenoir Community and I was at Wayne Community. We met in passing and then years later I ran into her when she worked at JC Penny when I was in Greenville. But then we actually dated and started connecting in 1990 when the census bureau came to town. We worked with the census together and we sat across from each other, and I asked her out, and that's how it happened.
Wow. That's so funny, isn't it?
It's so funny that whole connection of how things get connected. When I first saw her I'm like, "You look familiar to me," and she said, "Well you look familiar," and then we found out we were both in SGA, we were both at conferences the same time, and we both went to the same parties the SGA had, so I definitely remember seeing her and she remembered seeing me, but we didn't hang out.
That's a trip, the six degree thing. You just mentioned a moment ago, you mentioned how your wife never had a thought of fear or quit or whatever, and you alluded to that you--. Do you remember that kind of scenario, like, "What am I doing here?"
Oh sure. Oh wow. Even before I came to the University, just being at the community college, I was going to stop, because when I was finishing up the community college my father gave me some options. "You can work as a manager of a restaurant. You can work at a gas station or a factory or something like that." And I would tell students a lot, "If I had chosen that path, there's no doubt I'd be happy." I'd be happy. I wouldn't be happy, but I'd be happy.
You'd be content.
Sure. But you know what? I wouldn't know what I had missed--you know what I'm saying?--because the path I've chosen, I walked it for twenty years. Had I chosen a different path, hell, I don't know. I might be living in a trailer. I might be living in a big house with a pool in the back yard, but I would not have taken the path that I took coming here. But I did think of quitting back then. But then when I got to the University there were a few times that it was really, really tough.
Academically, and emotionally, it just got really--. There was a dark period, I guess you could say, of when I really got depressed, when I really felt really lonely. And I had friends. I was a well liked guy. But I think it was the disconnection from my family that was eating at me. And it may have been, some of it may just be, that I felt that way. Maybe the disconnection was not as disconnected as I thought.
Maybe you just started--. Well that's a natural thing when people get depressed--.
I was twenty-two years of age--.
And you're trying to sort it all out.
I was living in that apartment across the street from Mr. Garris, and it was just really, really just a blah time. And then I kind of snapped out of it and that's when I thought, "You know, I need to finish this college thing and I need to move on with my life and figure out really, really what I want to do." And at the time I was going to conquer New York, or conquer Atlanta, or go to a big city. I always thought about big city life and taking my degree and living in a big city and being a business exec or something like that. But then when I graduated I interviewed for a position with career services, and again that six degrees of separation thing, I interviewed for lots of jobs: BB&T, Peppertree Resort. Dr. Jim Westmoreland, who was director of career services at the time, had recommended lots of different jobs, so I also interviewed with Crown Cruise Line. And the cruise director of Crown Cruise Line at the time was from La Grange, where my parents are from. So I waited in this line of hundreds of people who were interviewing. Most of them were entertainers, which I was not. Most of them could sing, which I could not, and many of them could dance, which I can dance, but not that kind of dancing. I can go to a night club and shake my groove thing but I couldn't go and do en pointe or anything like that. So I got to the front and had my college degree and wanted a career of some kind, but didn't know what I was going to do with my life. And there was a table, not quite this size, with three people sitting in front. As soon as I said, "Hello," and they said, "How are you doing today?" and I thought, "Lord have mercy,
they're southern people." And this sweet little old lady, she said, "Where you from?" and I'm like, "I'm from La Grange," and she said, "I'm from La Grange. My son, Ray, is the cruise director for Crown Cruise Line. He used to be a producer for "A Chorus Line" in New York City." And I'd heard about this guy named Ray Kennedy, who was from La Grange, who was real prominent in the theater area, and I'm like, "No way!" Anyway, to make a long story short, I got a job with Crown Cruise Line and worked as a deejay on Crown Cruise Line my first job out of college. So that was kind of where I first got my taste of travel and adventure and things like that.
So it was on an actual cruise line, huh?
Yeah, I worked on the cruise line when I first graduated from college. It was my first job out of college, my first career, so to speak, out of college.
Now where did you go and that kind of thing?
We left out of Palm Beach--we had the port of Palm Beach at the time--and then we would go from Palm Beach--. We would leave on Monday and then Tuesday we were at sea, Wednesday we were at Cozumel--. No. Monday we were at sea, Tuesday we were in Cancun--Tuesday we were in Cozumel, I'm sorry--Wednesday we were at Cancun, Thursday Key West, Friday back at Palm Beach to do laundry, and then Saturday and Sunday we were in the Bahamas. We did a weekend cruise for local Floridians--kind of like a "booze cruise" is what it was, because they just got drunk and went to Florida--but also some people who wanted to stay that full week. And actually I've recently--. The older you get you start reconnecting to your past, and I'm just really interested in that. And I worked on the cruise ship in 1990, so it's been--what, how many years ago is that now? Eighteen years, seventeen, eighteen years. And I look back at it
and--. My cruise ship burned down--not when I worked on it, but there was a fire--and Crown Cruise Line no longer exists. It was bought out by Cunard and then by another company. But when I look back at archives--it's interesting we're talking about archives--about Crown Del Mar, the ship that I worked on, we only had passenger capacity of like a little over four hundred. And I think that's why I had so much fun, because there was, what? I don't know how many staff. Maybe a hundred--no, more than that, I'm sure.
It was more personable?
Yeah. It was a great job.
So you did that for a whole year then?
No, I did it for four months. Four months, because our cruise ship was sold. In fact when I went online recently--. Google's become my friend lately, and I wanted to just figure out what happened to the Crown Del Mar. Why was I asked to leave? Why was the whole ship dismantled and sent back to Spain? I found out they had mechanical problems and it was sent back to Spain and later sold, and later burned down. Did that for four months, and then came back to eastern North Carolina--this is when the fun begins--with a college degree from East Carolina University, hoping to prove my parents wrong, but I ended up from my father just becoming an "I told you so" thing. The Gulf War made the economy very unfriendly and not very friendly to college grads because they were looking at hiring war veterans, or they were looking--kind of similar to the way the climate is now. They're looking at hiring war veterans or people with experience. And I couldn't buy a job. I couldn't buy a job back then. And so my father, I had to hear "I told you so" a lot. I had to hear, "I told you, you shouldn't have done that thing." So I chose not to move back towards Goldsboro. I stayed here, living actually in kind of a
halfway house shelter when I first came back from the cruise ship. It's actually off of Dickinson Avenue. When I ride by now and I show it to my wife--. Actually, she had met me when I was living there. She wouldn't come visit me because it was just too dangerous.
It was Dickinson and, like, Manhattan?
It was actually--. Do you know where the tire dealership is, Goodyear Tire? There's a road right in front of that, a small little road, and there was a blue building back there at one time. I think it was a church and then it became--. It's right beside of a homeless shelter. It was a church. It was different little buildings and then became a gym and became different little things. But there was a gentleman who was a Native American and he had real long hair. And there was this real eclectic group of people who lived there, like recovering from everything in life. And I just wanted a job. I just was this guy who--. Two hundred dollars a month. I saw it in the newspaper, "Two hundred dollars a month, all utilities paid," and I thought, "That sounds good." Of course I didn't realize--.
Oh my goodness gracious. And I didn't do drugs, and drank very little, and, wow. I had a little room that was not even half the size of this--a third of the size of this. I had one window in my ceiling, actually probably that big, one of those skylights? And I had a small little closet, and I had an air mattress, and I had a refrigerator. And that's where I slept until I got a job at Bob Barbour Honda. That was fun.
And you sold cars?
I sold cars until I got a job at Red Lobster. And then I got a job at Red Lobster, and then I started graduate school.
And you were like [inaudible].
And then I started graduate school. And graduate school was--. There was irony in that. I was at Belk in the mall, with my then girlfriend who became my wife, and I ran into somebody who I knew from earlier in college life. And I said, "What are you doing now, Audrey?" Her name was Audrey. She said, "I'm in graduate school in counselor education." I'm like, "Hmm. What's counselor education?" She said, "Well I'm hoping to work at a community college or a public school system as a counselor." I'm like, "Hmm. I like helping people, but I don't have a psychology degree or a counseling degree." She said, "I don't either. My degree was in education." I'm like, "Really?" So then I found out you can get a graduate degree with an undergraduate in a different field, because I was a business undergrad. And then, again 1992, started as a non-degree, went to graduate school, and then three years later finished.
Wow, that's cool. I mean it is tough to know. Like, well just like my scenario. I had no idea--. I mean I always liked archives.
Yeah but you don't--.
I mean no one ever once suggested it. You know I've always--. I have a lot of friends who know I like this kind of thing.
Sure. But you never would have known where to go.
Yeah. It just never once dawned on me to actually, you know. I had no idea you could go enter through library stuff, so--. And it's just weird how that--. And even with my dad, you know I just never--. It just never came up.
So you must like museums a lot.
Yeah, I mean, I do like museums, but I really like the research. I like figuring out who, you know, your background and kind of--.
Yeah, it's like a CSI thing. It's almost like a crime scene investigator in its own way.
Yeah. That is interesting to me, kind of building a pathway let's say. Looking in--. Almost like--I don't want to say voyeur--but you're almost like looking into someone's life.
I'm cleaning, for example--I'm sorry, this is not really [related]...
No, I know. We're just--. [Pause, sound of static]
Okay. So let's see. We're doing really well right now. Let me ask, do you feel like--? You mentioned a few professors that were in the business school. Can you think of any other professors that maybe--?
Let's see. I mentioned none from art because I wasn't there long enough, but Dr. Meric--M-E-R-I-C--Dr. Havva--H-A-V-V-A--Meric. She was really interesting to me. She was from Albania, I believe. I think it was Albania. I talked with her a lot, and she was just really interesting. I went back to see her later in life once I got married. I'd love to know if she still works--. I need to look her up and see if she still works in the University so I can introduce her to my child. And then the dean of the marketing department at the time--not the dean, but the department chair--I can't think of his name. I ran into him in social circles a few years later, but he's since retired. He was one that I could always go talk to and really helped motivate me. Now at Wayne there were a lot of
those motivators because the teachers--because it's a smaller setting, a community college.
Yeah, yeah. Did you ever feel that you were--? You ever feel like you were academically prepared? You did mention a sense of--.
Did I ever feel like I was not academically prepared.
Did I ever feel like I was not academically prepared? Maybe I wasn't confident in thinking that I was academically prepared, probably not so much because I came from a community college because at the time I didn't understand the difference between community college and university. I never came here thinking that I was less than anybody else because I was at a community college. But probably because of how I was raised. I always carried it in my heart, and probably thought I was not good enough or something about not being prepared for this thing called college. But I did well. Undergraduate I finished up with--it will go on record, I guess, now, public record at the University--my undergraduate GPA was like a two nine. And then in graduate school I had all As and one B for two masters, so I did well. Once I found my place, once I started really putting myself into it. I only got a couple of Ds. Never failed a class, did get a couple of Ds. Lived at the University, I mean, lived at the library. I loved the library being open so late, because for me it was perfect because I'm a night owl.
You know, so--.
Yeah, this is a nice facility for sure.
I think back then it was open twenty-four hours a day. Or maybe it closed at 2:00, but of course this was before the expansion. I went in the old Joyner library, which I'm sure you remember that too.
Yeah, the old stacks.
The front door--. I can't remember where the front door was now, but came in off the mall area. Spent a lot of time here, did a lot of studying here.
Now did--? A few more questions.
Yeah, sure. That's fine.
You've talked about your parents and that relationship. How did--after you finished school and got your master's degree and all that--what's your relationship now?
You know, it's interesting. My parents love me very much unconditionally. They're very supportive of who I am. They've been on every walk, every accolade, every honor that I've received. When I get recognized for something, they're there. Recently I had two photographs that were selected for a statewide art exhibition in Raleigh, and they're hanging actually in the Presidential Conference Center of the department of community colleges, and I was really proud of that. My mom was there. "That's my son. That's my son." She's very proud. My father and I--. I end every conversation with, "I love you, dad." I didn't always do that. I didn't always do that.
Did you ever have a formal reconciliation, or did you--?
It just kind of--?
It just kind of--. I just accepted them for who they were and they accepted me for who I was, but it was never talked about. I wanted to talk about it. I'm more
verbal than they are. But it was just one of those things that I think when I really got--. You know, ECU helped give me that. When I really felt comfortable in my skin and I really took ownership of who I was, and I threw away the blame game--
That's good. A lot of people can't do that.
--and I said, "You know what? This is my path. I'm going to build it. I'm going to make it." There's a lot of great resources, from the custodians that I mentioned earlier, to the chairs of the departments, to the presidents of colleges. There are a lot of people who made me become who I am. My parents were also an integral part of that. I think, and I've said this before to people, my parents'--unknowingly, let's say, they didn't purposely, I don't think--my parents' lack of motivation towards me helped motivate me. I think back to, would I be the same person if my parents had given me a free ride to college? I don't know. Not that I'm a special person now, but I think I'm motivated, and I motivate others, because of the walk that I took. The person who I've become today is because of the path that I followed, and I tell my students a lot--. In one of my classes they have to design a mission statement, and I recently was challenged--. I did the North Carolina Community College Leadership Program four years ago, and we had to design a mission statement and I liked it, so I get my students to write a mission statement. And I tell my students a lot, "You don't know where you're going and you don't know where you've been." So that really helps me to connect me with where I am at forty-two years of age with a wonderful son and a wife and a great relationship with my parents, a loss of a life, my sister. And I told you, a year after my sister died my nephew took his life. Her son killed himself last January, which ripped my heart out. But life must go on.
Have you had any nephews or nieces that have gone to college?
No. No. I'm still the only one. I would love--. And I think for me the only--I'm not going to call it regret--the constant frustration within me that I feel sometimes is that I motivate--. When I think about how many seeds I've planted in people, people who--I don't take credit for their being, by any stretch of the imagination, I'm not that into myself--but people who I know that my presence in their life helped make them, build confidence in themselves. And because I had those people in my life and I've passed it on, I wished I could do that for people in my family, particularly my nephews and my nieces. But their walk is their walk, and my walk is my walk.
My brother's a police officer and a fireman and he's happy as he can be. My sister tried to go back to college years later, and would have done very well. She's very bright. She's far smarter than I am. I'll always say that anytime. She could have been a Harvard grad, I mean, she's very brilliant. But she's happy, and I've never once mentioned to her--. She, like all my family, they always know, and I've said it many times, "If you ever need me, I'm here. I'm a resource for you." I know about financial aid, I know about FASFA, I know how to circumvent any process in college, I know resources, I know contacts throughout the community college and university system. I've been in the system long enough. Just give me a phone. And so they know if they need me--. My sister did that. She took some courses at Pitt Community College online. She got an A in her class she took, but it was hard for her. It's a different stage in her life. She's forty-seven and she's working full-time. It's hard for her to get motivated to go back to school. And it's not for her right now, and that's okay.
I can understand that too.
It's like I tell people: this is the path I chose. I have a son now, eleven months old, love him dearly. He will have, because his parents chose to have a child later in life. It was totally choice. It was a great time in our life to have a child, and we have a child. No regrets about having the child later in life. This is exactly when I wanted to have a child. Yes, his parents are both educated. We're going to be in a position financially that we can afford the opportunity to send him to college and we'll be able to offer him many opportunities that neither one of us had growing up. But, it's like I tell people, if he decides to put on a red nose and big floppy shoes and join the circus one day, I'll be as happy as I can if his heart's in it. If he decides to be a welder, if he decides to join the Peace Corps, if he decides to pick up a gun and join the military, his heart will be his heart. He's not going to follow the path that I want him to follow, but he's going to have the resources available to him if he chooses to.
That's pretty, I mean, that's real profound, and that's--.
Yeah, I mean, I sense a genuine opinion on that and feeling. What's interesting is how you feel versus how, for example, your parents didn't necessarily accept that path. They didn't understand it, where you don't really care. It's just like every parent wants the best for their child. I mean it's just kind of interesting.
But my parents, I don't think they did, for me. I mean my parents, they didn't understand me, and then they didn't want me to be better than them. You know what I'm saying? They didn't want me to move beyond them, particularly my father. We've moved beyond that now by not talking about it and by just accepting how things
are and things you cannot change. You know the old saying, "God give you the strength to--."
Accept what I can--.
What I can. I can't remember. It's an old quote but I've read it many times. And that's true. But with Matthew, my son, I want to be--. It's a different relationship I want to have with him than I had with my father. I don't want him to be--. He's not going to be afraid of me. He's going to respect me. I'm his father. I'm not going to be his best friend. But I want him to respect me and I want him to never fear me. I feared my father. I was afraid of my father. And that's probably why I never said, "Help. I want to go to college. I want to go college." But I didn't. I finally ended up, like I said, getting away and moving on and doing that. But like I said before, I look back at it now and I have no regrets. Because truly I'm the man I am today, and I made the decisions that I did and had the great life that I had at the University, because my parents, if they planted anything in me they put the seed of, "You've got to do it on your own and make it in this world." So maybe they, without knowing it, they gave me that strength that I never gave them credit for years back. But now I work with students every day and I think, "You know, if my parents hadn't cut the strings, if they had doted on me and did all those things, I may have been the kid still searching for himself." I don't know.
It's hard to say.
No, no. That's really interesting. I really do appreciate, on behalf of the University, that you're willing to share a lot with us.
It's hard to get comfortable with my feet here, but--. [Laughs]
[inaudible] Is there anything else offhand you can think that you might want to share?
I can't think of anything. I really can't.
You sure? I think that was really good, and I appreciate your candidness.
Probably more than you needed, but you asked for an open book and I gave you an open book in my own little way. Only thing I will share is that after I finished graduate school--just to kind of put everything together in two minutes--when I finished graduate school, worked at Craven Community College as a counselor. Then I left that and I worked for a career development computer software company based out of Ottawa and I worked out of my home until 2000. From 1997 until 2000 I worked out of my home as a sales rep for a computer software company. Then--.
Did you like that?
I loved it. In fact, I just got an email today that they're having a reunion. Every five years we have a reunion in Ottawa, the sales reps, because we were just all like--. It's funny, I was telling somebody today, even though we worked in different parts of the country, and many of them are from Canada, and we never saw each other except at these sales meetings in Ottawa twice a year--we went to Ottawa in February during the Winterlude Festival and in July during the summer--but when we were together it was like a magnet, a force of nature. We all just had so much fun in the big city of Ottawa. So we're having a reunion June 28 in Ottawa again. It was great. But I left there--.
Yeah, it was great. It was really neat to have that. It was almost like "The Breakfast Club" in a way, these people, this kind of a hodgepodge of people, real eclectic group of people, probably--. I don't know how many--.
Especially--excuse me--I mean that's a--. You were all colleagues but you don't work for that company anymore.
I left in 2000. I started working in 1997. They had a reunion, like I said, it was in 2003 or 2004. It must have been 2003 because this is five years and so they were going to do it again in 2008. In fact when I was driving over here I had just got my passport out of my safe deposit in the bank, and the reunion is June 28, 2008. My passport expires--this is no lie--June 28, 2008. So I've got to get my passport--
--what do you call it?--renewed. But I left Careerware, it was a career development computer software company. I had sold Pitt County schools and Pitt Community College the contract for Choices, the career development computer software product that I worked with at the time, and it was through that connection at Pitt Community College that I learned of a position that was coming available on March 1, 2000, which was my birthday at the time. And my wife and I were closing on our home in Ayden on March 1 of 2000, and I started my job. I actually interviewed for it around Christmas time and left Careerware in February and migrated and starting working at Pitt. So I've been at Pitt for eight years.
Actually, this is my--. In the state of North Carolina, as you probably know, you get longevity checks once you've worked there ten years, and I've actually worked at
Pitt for eight years and then I worked at Craven for two, so June of this year, my first longevity check. Ooh whee! It's like one percent of your salary. It's not much, but it's just--.
Extra money to go to Ottawa.
It's kind of like--. Yeah, exactly, exactly. It will be a nice thing when I go home and tell my wife about this reunion that I just got an email on today. I can say, "You know what honey? I am getting that longevity check." That longevity check can be my trip to Ottawa. I'm hoping that works out. I'd love to go. But other than that, that's it. I've got a good set of supportive friends, eclectic friends. Very few of my friends actually went to college. It's funny. I still am that guy that never chooses friends based on your social upbringing, or whatever. Most of my friends have either high school educations or just good old hard workers. I think then, the Don then, really judged people based on character, and the person I am today really judges the people that I choose to circle in my life based on character rather than--. You know, who you are. In fact, I will end it on this. Monday night, greatest class I've ever had a chance to be a part of is this group--. I teach a group process class. It's a separate contract this semester to get some extra money. It's through the human services division of Pitt. And Monday night's class the chapter was on, I think I told you earlier, was on building relationships with diverse individuals. Well, I brought in the movie "Crash" which is a great movie. The chapter was just so related to the movie it was almost scary, that you had a chapter in a book that you had a movie that could truly teach the lesson far better than I could in a PowerPoint. Well there was a quote in the book that I left my students with. At the very end of class, the lights were off, the TV was coming up with the credits, and they said,
"Turn on the lights, Mr. King, before we go so you can talk to us." I said, "No, I'll leave the lights off so you all can leave in the hallway and not be shocked by the bright light." And I said, "I want to end it on this note." I said, "This is quoted from your chapter," and this is truly, I think, the person I try to be, and I hope to be anyway. Ralph Waldo Emerson, it's a quote from him, and it goes, "What lies before us and what lies behind us is small compared to what lies within us." And that is so indicative of that movie, when you look at the movie "Crash." And it's really how I try to be now, is to not look at what someone has from the past to bring me, or what they might have in the future, but what they have from within to bring to the equation.
Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
I'm not that deep. It's too deep for 7:30 in the afternoon on a Wednesday, but it's true. And we really looked at life. And that's the reasons those custodians, that you talked about too, those people who impact your life, you know? That little old lady at the gas station you talked to. And it's kind of like you're an archivist, so in a way that's archiving when you get to know these people who have really interesting backgrounds and stuff, and just getting to know them. Like Joe Garris, the old man I lived with, he was a fascinating person when you really got to know him and it was really interesting. And so I think, to me, that's the best way to kind of connect with people.
Yeah, yeah. Well this has been great.
Well I appreciate it, and I've probably talked far too long.
[End of Interview]