I am one of those people that really can say college was the best four years of their life. I had my share of ups and downs during that time of my life, but overall it was a blast and now, at 56 years old, I see how much my childhood had an impact on my life. I will not let my childhood trauma, mentioned in Week 2, be an excuse or crutch for some of the difficult times during college; I just didn’t do my best. But as I reflect on my journey of life, I am hopeful I inspire others to make every day their best day and push through the adversities of life.
It was mid-August 1974, and my parents rode with me to Atlanta, Georgia so that I could start football practice and get ready for my college life at Morehouse College. [As I reflect as I write this post, little did I know the role Morehouse and the City of Atlanta would play in my life. That is why we must always remember every decision we make in life is important.] We drove down to Atlanta in a 1970 Ford Country Squire station wagon — you know the one with the fake wood on the side. I was happy because they let me have that car in college. My parents didn’t come into the dorm; they just dropped me off, gave me a hug, asked Coach Gray to take care of me and off they went. [Those were the days of no cell phones or Internet; you wrote letters to each other.]
I entered Robert Hall; it was one of the oldest buildings on campus. From that first day at Morehouse, the college and some great friends I made at Morehouse have been a key part of my life. [For the sake of time, I will not mention each great friend; you know who you are, and I am thankful for your true friendship.] I was not the best student. I was free and on my own, and not disciplined when it came to studying. I started off getting a very poor GPA. I partied a lot, pledged Omega Psi Phi fraternity, partied some more, and hung out at Spelman, but I still had my dreams of being an architect.
In the summer of 1976, I took classes at Georgia Tech in the School of Architecture. I was feeling excited and very nervous at the same time. I was taking three classes and one was an art class of freehand drawing. [This was one of those moments I reflect back and realize how easily I was discouraged and could lose confidence.] The art teacher said I would never become an architect because my freehand drawing was not good enough at that time. I basically gave up right then mentally. It would be years later before I came to realize how easily I could be discouraged by the words of other people. My time at Tech was short lived, and I returned to Morehouse with a new sense of urgency for the next two years, and in the summer of 1977, I declared my major in psychology.
It was also during that summer that I worked as a MARTA bus driver. It was the best summer job I ever had in my life. Can you imagine a 21-year-old driving a bus with people on it every day? I must tell one of the many stories from driving a bus the summer of 1977. Remember, this was before GPS and cell phones, and I drove a different route each day. On the 4th of July of 1977, I drove a route that had many turns in the neighborhood, and the streets were tight and twisting. My direction sheet was smeared, and I wasn’t sure of the route. This nice old lady, with her groceries, sitting in front of the bus said, “Baby, I will show you the route.” I said, “Great.” She then proceeded to tell me to turn right here, then left here, then right here, then stop. She then said, “Thanks, baby. You drove me to my house, and I don’t have to carry my groceries home now.” With that she exited the bus, and I was really lost. She had completely taken me from the route. I called dispatch for help from the bus phone, and they said they had no idea where I was. I then found these four boys with bikes and got them to put their bikes on the bus and lead me out of the neighborhood. If it were not for the four boys, I would still be driving around that neighborhood. [Smile]
Anyway, during my senior year, I got mad at the new offense coordinator of the football team, and I quit. That was one of the dumbest mistakes I ever made in my life, and I regret it every day. I hurt my parents financially by giving up my scholarship, quit on my teammates, my head coach who believed in me and gave me a scholarship, and myself. I went back two days later to the head coach and asked if I could come back, and he said, “No!” That lesson turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. It taught me to never let anyone else, by their words or actions, discourage you or make you quit something you love to do, and to never quit because you might not get a second chance.
I ended up taking classes at Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, and Morris Brown College the fall of 1977 and the spring of 1978. By my senior year, I took 24 hours each semester and made the honor roll both semesters and graduated on time with a degree in psychology, on May 21, 1978, my 22nd birthday, but I still dreamed of being an architect.
By finishing on time and making the honor roll both semesters of my senior year, I was feeling pretty confident I could still become an architect, even though that art teacher at Tech told me I would never become an architect, because I couldn’t draw freehand. I was determined to prove him wrong. After graduating from Morehouse, I took architecture classes at the University of Michigan and Lawrence Institute of Technology. I found a program at Howard and met Dean Harry Robinson by mail and phone calls. I bugged him so much that he gave me a scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C. What better place to study architecture than Washington D.C., with all of the architecture in D.C. and history at Howard’s architecture school. It was a dream coming true, and I often would daydream about the great buildings I would design.
One thing about architecture school, you have very little time for partying, even though I squeezed a little partying in, but I was focused, paying my way through school and working part time. I was a cashier at the Food Giant grocery store and graduate assistant in the school of architecture. I spent a lot of time drawing, building models, and listening to some great architectural professors. I kind of knew I was not the kind of architectural student that focused on flair and elaborate designs. I was more focused on the questions such as will my design stand up? And do I have enough doors? I guess I was destined to be a contractor and not an architect.
Even though I was not the top designer in my class, the design studio at Howard is now named after me. I have been awarded the top alumnus award from Morehouse College and Howard University, and I am now on the Board of Trustees for Morehouse College. I still pinch myself in disbelief about my life and I am very thankful and humbled by it all.
To honor and say thanks to Coach Michael Gray at Morehouse and Dean Harry Robinson at Howard, I endowed scholarships in both of their names. If they had not believed in me and took a chance on me, I wouldn’t have had a chance to live my dream that I am living today.
In 1981, when I graduated from Howard with my 5-year professional degree in architecture, I was offered two jobs: one with Turner Construction as a field engineer in the D.C. office and one with Bechtel Power as a staff architect in the nuclear power group in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I decided to go home to Ann Arbor and work for Bechtel as a staff architect, making $18,000 per year. [If you get time, look up Bechtel on the Internet. It is one of the largest privately owned engineering and construction companies in the world.] Next week I will post how I went from Bechtel to starting C.D. Moody Construction.
I hope you are enjoying the blog and hopefully finding it inspiring. I still pinch myself, because this is a dream, and I know God is still guiding my steps and blessing me.
Keep going for your dreams. They really do come true, and make sure you make someone smile. See you next week!