Why I Came to Work at UMass Boston

Walter McDonald



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I came to UMass Boston through a very unusual chain of circumstances, especially because I had not heard of UMass Boston until the late spring of 1966 when a letter reached me from Richard Powers of the History Department, who had been my academic advisor at S.M.U. in Dallas Texas. At the time, I was still teaching in a secondary school in Tanzania, East Africa, under the auspices of Teachers for East Africa, a USAID program (started to convince the Peace Corps to send experienced teachers to host countries.) Dr. Powers’ letter asked if I was interested in a job in “student activities.” I replied that I was interested if they could hold the position open until I finished my contract in Tanzania.

Within days of my return from East Africa, in early August 1966, I came to interview for the position of Director of Student Activities. The only job description that they gave me at the time was that student activities were not to be the typical atmosphere of fraternity/sorority/athletics. Student activities were to complement a serious undergraduate education. I took this job, in part, because there were few suitable high school teaching jobs in the middle of August, and I needed a job. I was also still eligible for the military draft, even though I was over age 26 by that time. However, most important was the chance to be part of this new venture in an urban university

Within the first two weeks at UMass Boston, Chancellor John Ryan asked me if I would be willing to take the position of financial aid officer for a while, just to get the program going. I agreed to take on the job, though I had no direct experience in these matters. The decision to enter this field led to the longest and one of the most significant threads of my work life, and it did not really end until 2010.