Bob Dylan, The Selfish Gene,
and Shannon Ferguson;
Update on the Dreher, Suczek Scholarship
Links in a Chain
Buried deep in my collection of LP records, on some obscure liner notes, Bob Dylan observes, “We are all just links in a chain.” He says how important Woodie Guthrie was to him, and how younger, up-and-coming musicians come to him for inspiration. This idea of “links in a chain” stays with me.
I have done Ancestry.com to learn about my lineage. My great grandfather fought at and was wounded at Gettysburg. He was born in 1839 (100 years before I was born) and died in 1901. My grandfather with his Irish protestant wife born in Belfast, settled in Spokane where my father was born. He worked in the insurance industry and married my mother in 1933. She was a talented poet and writer, and an alcoholic in her later years. She committed suicide while dying of cancer. I respected her for that.
Born in 1939, I was an only child. Growing into adulthood, one thing was clear, I did not want children. Then I met Mary McGlynn. People change. Fortunately, we had Katy McGlynn Gilbert. Can’t imagine my life without her. She is the product of two chains: the Gilberts and the McGlynns.
The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins’ book, The Selfish Gene has had a huge impact on my thinking. Dawkins suggests that the purpose of life is nothing more than the replication of our genes. Who remembers my grandparents? Zero people. Why did they even live? Who cares? So what? Well, they produced my parents who produced me. I then produced my daughter. The genes survived from generation to generation. Dawkins says our bodies and our lives are just the vehicles to support gene reproduction. When our genes are through with us, sometime in our forties or fifties, our bodies deteriorate and we die. Our genes move on. It is almost a predator – prey relationship.
So this business of gene reproduction is the backbone of us being “links in a chain.” The chain is, of course, biological. More, though, it is also social, economic, artistic, intellectual, etc.
As I grew into adulthood, left my family, and discovered what to do with my life, I found people who helped mold me into the “link” I would become. I brought certain genes with me, but also was shaped by social forces along the way.
My first therapist, Ib Harris, was huge in this process. I went on to SF State and met professors who continued to mold me into the “link” I would become. Bob Dreher taught me general psychology, but more importantly gave me the boost I never got from my father. Responding to an article I wrote and showed to him, he concluded his very supportive letter with, “…so it goes without saying, I love you very much little brother.”
I Needed You
Later, as a graduate student, I met Bob Suczek who taught me clinical psychology. He also mentored me through the three-year process of writing my PhD dissertation. When it was all done, he sent me a letter evaluating this 400-page monster. As a therapist, and reserved by nature, he did not show a lot of his inner self. But, he ended that evaluation with this sentence that I will never forget, “What you may not have known, Rick, is that I needed you as much as you needed me.”
Now in the declining years of my life, I ask myself, “What did it all mean?” I look back and try to connect the dots of my life. I am grateful beyond words for all these influences in the kind of “link” I became.
SF State University
When Amanda Todd from SF State approached me about donating to the university, (today only 30% of their operating expenses comes from the state), I said “I’m listening.” She explained that I could create an “endowed scholarship” in the name of my professors. Thus the “Dreher / Suczek Endowed Scholarship” was born. I took $10,000 out of my IRA to fund it.
Shannon and Sofia
In the spring of 2019, I had 15 essays to review from students interested in the scholarship. About five were either so poorly written or were about work in areas I did not care about, for example, “physiological psychology,” or “game theory,” they did not make the cut. Five essays were visionary and concerned the kind of things I wanted to support. Two from that group were recommended by the faculty committee. Bingo. Thus I met Shannon Ferguson and Sofia Ortiz. (I was sorry to learn that after her first semester, Sofia had to drop out of the program due to family issues. Hopefully, she will be able to return soon.)
Shannon’s application included:
As a child I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Consequently, my interest is in helping people with neurodevelopmental and mental disorders. After getting my masters at SF State, I want to get a PhD that will allow me to work in education in the area of Special Ed at the high school or college level.
I recently asked Shannon for a summary of her first year at SF State. She described some of the highs and lows. She also talked about how her research has become more focused, and there is even a possibility of publication. But, what was most gratifying to me was her final paragraph:
I again want to thank Rick and SFSU for choosing me as the recipient of the Dreher and Suczek Memorial Scholarship. Both Dr. Dreher and Dr. Suczek inspired Rick in the field of humanistic psychology, which is an important perspective that focuses on holistic approaches to studying the human experience. My interests in autism and disability awareness has garnered me an understanding that we must see individuals as whole beings deserving of respect, and all individuals are part of a spectrum of human experiences. With the messages of Dr. Dreher and Dr. Suczek transmitted to me through Rick, I hope to keep that perspective with me during my research and life pursuits.
Golden Gate Bridge Speech
In my November 25, 2019 blog, I described a gala SF State dinner honoring the scholarship students and the donors. Shannon attended. Afterwards, I gave her a ride to the Golden Gate Bridge where she catches a bus to Petaluma where she lives. Just before she got out of the car, I gave her a little speech – right from the heart. This is what the whole thing has been about:
Shannon, I hope you will remember this night. Please imagine your professional life, 30 years from now. Most likely you will have earned a PhD and will be doing research, and maybe teaching. I hope you will think back to this evening and the professors you never met, but whose scholarship helped you get through your graduate studies. You will be of help to many young students. You will be an inspiration to those students. Their futures will be, to some extent, shaped by you, and by those wonderful professors, Dr. Robert Dreher and Dr. Robert Suczek, through me and this scholarship.
Shannon, you will make a huge difference to students not yet born.
We are all just links in a chain. Let ‘er Rip!
Footnote: If you have mentors who helped shape who you became, stay in touch with them. Take them to lunch. It will mean the world to them. One of my greatest pains is that I failed to connect with my mentors in their final years.
The $100 Cheese Omelet
Talk of Broadway
This is one of my favorite Redwood City restaurants. They have been closed for about five weeks. The owner, John Lee, told me across his three restaurants, about 30 people have been laid off. He is keeping ToB open for “to go” orders only.
This is a restaurant of such warmth and quality (though not fancy) that it attracts a wide range of customers: the suits from the city and county offices; the iron workers; the 30-something software engineers, and the retired people like me. I’ve always thought of it as a kind of church.
Today I decided to take advantage of their “to go” orders to help support them. I gave them $100 for my omelet and hash browns. It’s not much, but it helps – and it made me feel good.
Our Cleaning Lady
Fearing people in our home who could unknowingly be carrying the virus, we told our cleaning lady, Vilma, not to come. She about burst into tears. All her customers were saying the same thing. She perked up, though when we told her we would continue to pay her until this is over. Now I do the laundry and change the sheets. Good thing my mother taught me how fold the corners of sheets.
The other day Mary tipped our postwoman $20.
The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay is, far and away, the best jazz venue I have ever been to. When the owner, Barbara Riching, had to cancel some of the spring programs, we did not ask for a refund, but made it a donation. The Bach runs on a very thin budget. I fear this downturn could kill them. Mary and I donated $500 – again, not much, but it helps and makes us feel like we are doing something.
The Brubeck Brothers at The Bach
What Needs to Change
Let’s stop banging pans and calling front line workers “Heroes.”
They are not heroes, they are victims. They are paid minimum wage, often have no sick leave or healthcare, and certainly no savings or retirement. How would you like to be that single mom living in a two-bedroom apartment with three children under ten going to your minimum wage job scrubbing floors at the local hospital, putting yourself and your kids at risk. Does that make you a “hero?” Fuck no.
How about we pay these folks a decent wage (way more than a “minimum” wage)? Oh, oh, that means less for the people at the top. Isn’t that the dreaded, “wealth redistribution?” Actually, yes. You see these “heroes” would trade places with us in a heartbeat. Let’s at least make their lives a little more bearable.
On the Lighter Side…
April 12, 2020
Mama waits patiently
This nest is tiny
April 24, 2020
April 28, 2020
May 2, 2020
May 3, 2020
May 4, 2020
Could leave the nest tomorrow.