Seeking My First Job

Having graduated in 1961 with honors and earning a Master's degree in Sacred Music from Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music and studying with some of the finest musicians in New York City, I was disappointed when I was not immediately hired by a college or university. I applied to a small college in Kentucky, Lindsey Wilson College, which was located not far from my hometown of Somerset. Other than Vassar (which, at the time, only admitted female students), Lindsey Wilson was the only response to my many applications. I was delighted they expressed interest but was very disappointed when they decided not to pursue me further when they learned that I was not a life-long Methodist.

Phyllis and I decided to remain in New York City where I took a job as a cataloger in the New York Public Library. Our baby daughter, Cheri, had been born at the end of August (see this story) and I began my new job in early September. In addition to my NYC Library job, I was a paid chorister at The Church of the Incarnation, Associate Conductor of New York City Cantata Singers, Conductor of the Summit New Jersey Chorale, and a professional chorister and/or soloist for various performances in the area. We moved into a 2-bedroom apartment on the 20th floor of a low-rent housing project for which we paid $35/month in Morningside Heights, near Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary, Juilliard School of Music, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Barnard College, Riverside Church, Grant's Tomb, and the 125th street subway (15¢ per ride - currently $2.75). Needless to say, I was very busy both day and night and spent very little time "at home."

General Grant Housing Projects
General Grant Housing Project

The following year, I once again sent applications for teaching jobs but, once again, there were no offers. My dear grandmother Ramsey suggested that I needed to go back to school and earn a doctorate. I was somewhat surprised at her suggestion because, at that time, the Master's degree was considered the "terminal" degree for music. She offered to help support us if I would enroll in the doctoral program at Columbia. I enrolled but continued my full-time job at the NYC Library and all my other music jobs and also became a full-time student at Columbia University Teachers' College. Although I do not remember precisely the schedule, I was at work at 8:00 AM and attended classes in the late afternoon and/or evening and rehearsals and performances virtually every night and weekend.

During this period of busy chaos, we discovered that only 13½ months after the birth of our daughter, we would be welcoming twin boys into our family while continuing to live in the roach-infested low-rent public housing. We are, to this day, thankful for diaper service. We had three children in diapers and this was many years before disposable diapers were available. As Phyllis would walk to the laundromat while pushing 3 children in a stroller, she would often hear, "you poor thing" or "God bless you." Although both Phyllis and I were constantly busy, our lives were full and we were very happy. After less than three months at Columbia University, I was offered a teaching job at Kentucky Southern College in Louisville. This was a new school (only in existence for a couple of years) and the administration insisted that all faculty possess an "earned" doctorate. I had begun classes at Columbia in late September and had secured an interview in Kentucky in mid-December.

In an interview with the President of the College, I was asked when I anticipated completing my degree. I responded that I had only just started. I was told that I was expected to complete the doctoral degree before coming to KSC but that they wanted me to start at the beginning of the next academic year. I was asked if it would be possible for me to finish in the next 6 months. I shuddered to even consider that possibility. I was then asked for the name of my major professor, Harry Robert Wilson. While still being interviewed, the president asked his secretary to get Dr. Wilson on the phone. In a matter of a few minutes, the president asked Dr. Wilson if completing the degree in the specified time would be possible. The answer was, "it might be possible, but highly unlikely."

When the interview was completed, I was offered the job as Chair of the Music Department and was expected to arrive on campus in September as "Doctor" Ramsey. To my astonishment, I completed all the requirements for the degree which was awarded in late August, just before beginning my work at Kentucky Southern College. Family, school, a full-time job, and multiple singing/conducting performances prepared me for a lifetime of great experiences and I have been blessed and thankful.

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