The Saga Of The 28-Hour Semester

The excitement associated with being a 26-year-old college student who finds out he is about to begin his dream is not to be underestimated.
This was the photo submitted with the Auburn application in 1976.

A couple of readers expressed curiosity about an aspect of last week’s salute of Dr. Leon Turner: the 28-hour semester. Both expressed astonishment that it was possible. One took it as evidence of my dedication to the profession.

Actually, it wasn’t quite as hard as it sounds. It was much more about being highly motivated than any capabilities I had.

Dr. Leon Turner, rest his soul, will always be one of my heroes of veterinary medicine. He stood for excellence and helping others.

1976 would be the last class of Mississippians to go to Auburn under the SREB plan, in which Mississippi candidates attended Auburn at the same tuition rate as Alabamians, with the state paying the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. By completing all of the prerequisites for Auburn’s 1976 entry class, I would be a year ahead of the first class in MSU’s (Mississippi State University) new school, which was opening in the fall of 1977. Now, it turned out that the veterinarians trained in that first class got an excellent education. I just felt that a school with an almost 100-year history would give me the best chance at a good start. So, I set fall, 1976 as my goal start date.

The rest of the story (as my late media hero, Paul Harvey, used to say) is that I attended MSU in the Winter semester and took the second semester of inorganic chemistry, inorganic lab, World history and the two nutrition courses. I’ve forgotten what else was on the plate that semester. The previous semester I had been at Ole Miss (University of Mississippi). When I arrived at MSU, I discovered that we had already covered a lot of the material the MSU students and professors still had to look forward to. So, the first half of the semester I was able to focus on the hard courses (mostly nutrition) and the chemistry and history were just reviews.  There was little to do except study all week long.

I lived in the Stark Hotel. Now, before you go downtown and see what the Stark looks like today, let me tell you that 1975 was “pre-renovation.” It was the cheapest housing in town. For a reason. Let’s just say that the rats were so big that I kept a stick by my bed all the time. When a trap would snap at night, I had to get up right then and finish off the rodent, lest he get out of the trap and be gone the next morning.

Downstairs, in what used to be a side-street foyer off the lobby, cabbies had a telephone and booklets of scratch paper to write the addresses of their fares. When the Admissions Committee’s decision came from Auburn, via Oxford, it was delivered to Starkville through that taxi station. One afternoon, after class, I rode up on my bike and a cabby said, “Jim, I have a message for you.” This was a couple of decades before cell phones. In his best scrawl, he had written the message on a piece of envelope he had torn off. It is pictured above.

I was the happiest man in the world!

Acceptance was conditioned on finishing the Spring semester courses with an acceptable grade. With so much time to study, I had a 4.0 average for every course. Multiplied by 28 semester hours, it pulled up my average after a “C” in calculus the previous semester!
Merry Christmas to every reader and every reader’s pet!
Dr. Randolph.

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